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Final Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

Apr 12 // Nick Valdez
One thing I could never fault Phantom World for, thanks to Kyoto Animation's style and love of fluid animation, was its visuals. Regardless of where the story didn't go, the show remained watchable due to how pretty everything was. KyoAni isn't necessarily at the top of the production game, but most of the time their style is a saving grace. For example, one of the main gags was how many times Haruhiko found himself flung across spaces. A common trope, for sure, but these throws rarely looked the same twice. It's just a shame that the fights never quite lived up to their potential. Phantom World was never really focused on fights, so when some of them end up looking super great I was starved for more. But in the same breath, anime adaptations can't rest on visuals alone.  For the entirety of its run I couldn't quite figure out what Phantom World wanted to accomplish. At some times it seemed like a show that wanted to tell a story about kids dealing with Phantoms (and to a lesser extent, deal with the destinies unwantingly placed upon them), then it became a monster of the week show, then a few episodes focused on a singular gag, and then in some sort of last ditch effort, it tried a serious and emotional arc toward the end. Like I had been fearing all along.  In the final three episodes, a super phantom named Enigma began attacking ability users and stealing their powers. Since phantoms weren't successfully built into a credible threat through the season, it seemed weird to suddenly ramp up the tension this way. It's a clearly rushed endgame ringing hollow as we're told that this particular phantom poses a threat when others were clearly treated as jokes before. But the major through line of this final arc was Haruhiko's missing mother. Apparently she walked out on him years before and suddenly Haruhiko's depressed. Even when the show had multiple opportunities to bring up this backstory (such as the episode where Izumi was afraid of what her parents might think of her phantom hunting) or invest any time in Haruhiko at all (so he could at least develop beyond the guy who delivers exposition). Anyway, as Enigma wreaks havoc across the town she accumulates all sorts of neat abilities. Including the ability to pose as Haruhiko's mother.  In the midst of all this, as the rest of the phantom hunting club believes they're talking with Haruhiko's mother, they reveal they all had a bit of a crush on Haruhiko. Once again, there was very little build up to this little development but thankfully that never quite becomes the focus. In fact, the series ends without any of those cliched romantic entanglements anyway. The final battle itself passes by without much fanfare and Haruhiko saves the day by fully summoning the cutesy phantoms he's used in the past. So I guess all the character evolution I've wanted from the series was saved for Haruhiko himself. I'll admit I'm being a bit harsh since KyoAni is at least trying to salvage the series at the end, but it's such a disappointing foray overall. Each week things just kind of happened. It's even hard to summarize the final couple of episodes because there's not much more than a logline's worth of material in each. Everything is so hollow, it's like the series wanted to embody the textbook definition of "Phantom." A lingering spirit of a good premise.  When all is said and done, there's no real reason to search out Myriad Colors Phantom World for yourself. It never quite figured out what kind of series it wanted to be and that confusion kept it from becoming something truly engaging. You can try and argue that it's some sort of "turn off your brain" entertainment without a real message, but it was clearly trying to tell a story at its end.  Besides, why would you seek out a form of entertainment that offers you nothing but background noise? If you're looking for cheap entertainment there are plenty of anime that provide that already. Shows that know you're watching them because of stuff like cool visuals and do their best to provide just that. We as an audience deserve something better than a show with an identity crisis every week. 
Phantom World photo
Myriad of rushed conclusions
If you've been following along with my occasional thoughts on Myriad Colors Phantom World, you've no doubt noticed how many times I've gone back and forth on the series as a whole. While folks in the comments suggested that I...

Annotated Anime: Myriad Colors Phantom World episodes 7-9

Mar 15 // Nick Valdez
Episode 7 Each episode of Phantom World starts with Haruhiko elaborating on the episode's central idea. Some episodes it's a scientific theory, and others it's some sort of philosophical idea. As he explains Schrodinger's cat experiment (where a cat is stuck in box with poison and is technically both alive and dead until someone confirms otherwise), subtly all but goes out the window as a loose phantom turns everyone in the school into cats. Well, anime cats (so just cat ears and tails) anyway. As the series amplifies its cute premises and character designs, the stakes aren't as huge. And while this was a negative at first, it ends up being a comfortable groove for the series to settle into. All these cat ears also tie into the mission of the week, finding a little girl's lost cat. The Phantom Hunting club then heads into an abandoned school building where cats used to hang out in search of the Phantom and then Kyoto's affinity for crazy visuals kicks in. Crazy hallucinations, the myriad of colors the title's been promising since inception, and an awesome Phantom design (leading to a literal interpretation of "house cat"). Then the episode ends with none of the characters growing or learning anything. But that's okay for now.  Episode 8 When a hot spring suddenly appears in the middle of the school, we get a continuation of the fun from last episode. Instead of weighing itself down with things like story or character development, Phantom World decides to amp up everything that's actually working. Unfortunately that comes with a bit more perverse jokes (and finally dipping into the harem trappings), but to balance it out we finally get a look at something I've wanted from the beginning. When the show started, it said the new generation of kids got powers through mutation and I've wanted to see more of those powers since then. As student after student fights the phantom-of-the-week (a gang of perverted monkeys), it's both visually interesting and humorous. Some of the jokes were clumsy, but I laughed quite a bit. It's a shame that it took eight episodes for me Phantom World to finally feel like a complete show.  Gags were influenced by character quirks, and I finally got a good grasp of who each of these characters were. It's not a lot, to be honest, but I'm happy to even have something here. With all of that, however, Mai is developing feelings for Haruhiko and that's what I didn't want. The show's been avoiding this stuff entire series and has been great for it, so don't drop it on us now.  Episode 9 Continuing the trend of using the monster-of-the-week formula to its fullest and just having fun with it, a girl we've never seen before says she needs the Phantom Hunting Club's help with the drama club's latest play (a samurai tale). As they practice, they realize that a phantom's been lurking by. On the day of their performance, the new girl suddenly reveals she's a phantom and transforms the stage into the actual Edo era. The gang figures out they have to successfully finish the play in order to satisfy the Phantom completely. The gang finishes the play, and everything kind of goes back to normal. No big developments here like in the last few episodes, but it's still and entertaining enough story. It's just not as gripping as the past two episodes. That's alright, but we can't really afford to waste time anymore. If KyoAni wants to swing for the fence, they've got to land it. We've gotten some good examples of a lighthearted, fun romp so I definitely want more of it. Either way, it's been okay so far. 
Annotated Phantom World photo
Myriad of actually interesting stuff
I've been hard on Myriad Colors Phantom World since its inception because I went in expecting more from Kyoto Animation's effort. Their past shows have been great when they work, so I was hoping this too would be one of the b...

Hibike! Euphonium photo
Hibike! Euphonium

Hibike! Euphonium trailer shows off all that nice brass

All about that brass
Mar 08
// Red Veron
Kyoto Animation's adaptation of the manga Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium) is set to air this upcoming spring season on April 7, 2015. While this anime seems similar to K-On!, another KyoAni anime about girls playing mus...

Week Ender - Kyoto Animation Edition

Jan 31 // Red Veron
[embed]33475:4419:0[/embed] "Hare Hare Yukai (Sunny Sunny Happiness)"Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaYear: 2006 We start off these videos with their first big hit with the ending for the monster success that is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The ending song Hare Hare Yukai became as popular as the show and the featured dance routine also became a familiar sight at anime conventions.   [embed]33475:4420:0[/embed] ZZZAnime: NichijouYear: 2011  I love Nichijou and if you haven't seen it, you need to go watch it as soon as possible. Some KyoAni fans might find this little tune familiar because it was originally background music in Lucky Star and rearranged by Kenichi Maeyamada also known as Hyadain (Who also made the openings for Nichijou). Nichijou is simply the most criminally underrated work by KyoAni and deserves to be recognized. Zzz is an appropriate happy little tune to cap off all the wild and wack iness.If you like outrageous slice-of-life comedies with just so much polish and care that is the perfect example of  the fine work of KyoAni, then this one should be your next favorite.   [embed]33475:4421:0[/embed] "Don't Say 'Lazy'"Anime: K-On!Year: 2009KyoAni's monster hit, K-On!, a multimedia franchise whose movie adaptation in Japan alone made over 21.5 million US dollars has a great soundtrack to back up its (sometimes) music-themed slice-of-life anime. K-On! has a superb soundtrack that is uncommon most anime on TV and this one ending is just one of their many solid songs. Just look at that great music video level of production in that ending, it's all part of the marketing brilliance put into this show.This is the show that made the "cute-girls-doing-cute-things" anime into a standard that many have tried to replicate its success. Yes, Lucky Star came first but this one was much more successful in both the mainstream and in otaku audiences as well.   [embed]33475:4422:0[/embed] "Kimi ni Fuku Kaze" (The Wind Blows to You)Anime: Full Metal Panic? FumoffuYear: 2003KyoAni's debut anime after taking the reigns from Gonzo, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a spinoff of sorts to 2002's Full Metal Panic that focuses more on the high school romantic comedy aspects of the series. Boy, does this show really hold up. It's fascinating to see how much great work they put into a show from 2003, a time where I think a lot of anime studios were still trying to get the hang of using digital tools in animation.This one is a great song to wind down to the crazy antics of comedy in this show that played to the strength of the Full Metal Panic series. I highly recommend this any anime lover even if they haven't the first season, it's just that fun.   [embed]33475:4423:0[/embed] Shikkoku ni Odoru Haobushi (The Melody of Conqueror Dancing in Jet Black)Anime: Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions LiteYear: 2012Here is an odd one. This is from the short standalone internet episodes Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions under the "Lite", these are meant to be a companion to the series and are mostly comedic in tone. Really cute and simple, this just shows off the adorable side of the heroine Rikka Takanashi. Totes adorbs. Even with those lyrics. Wait, those lyrics are also adorbs. Totes.I swear to not use the word "Totes" again.   [embed]33475:4424:0[/embed] "DAISY"Anime: Beyond the BoundaryYear: 2013A favorite of mine that sparked the idea of choosing KyoAni for this first edition of this feature, DAISY performed by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION, just strikes the mood perfectly to end each episode of Beyond the Boundary. Echoing the sadness, pain, and regret in the show with a tinge of bitter-sweetness, (and even works in happier episodes) this song is great for some easy listening and is on my workout run playlist. Yes, I work out. It's fun.   BONUS:  [embed]33475:4425:0[/embed] Minoru Shiraishi, a great voice actor who has been in a lot of KyoAni shows (Taniguchi in Haruhi, Sakamoto in Nichijou) did a bunch of live action endings for Lucky Star and they are just the best. In this video above, Shiraishi sings and dances the Hare Hare Yukai from The Melancholy Haruhi Suzumiya. There are more of these live action Lucky Star shenanigans but I've already put TOO MANY videos on here.What are your favorite KyoAni endings? Share them on the comments below. I totes want to hear about them. Totes. [embed]33475:4419:0[/embed] "Hare Hare Yukai (Sunny Sunny Happiness)"Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaYear: 2006
Week Ender photo
More than a decade's worth of endings from KyoAni
Welcome to start of endings extravaganza here at Japanator, this is Week Ender and here to give your weekend some great anime endings. This week's spotlight goes to Kyoto Animation, commonly referred to as "KyoAni", one of the most popular and prolific anime studios in the last ten years.

Annotated Anime: Chuunibyou Ren episode 5 and 6

Feb 17 // Chris Walden
In episode five, we see the club having to defend themselves from the student council, needing to prove that they are legitimate and aren't just goofing around when the room could be put to better use. Not wanting to be found out, they enter...a sleeping contest? I had no idea these existed (actually, I still don't know if they exist) but sign me up. That is, sign me up for the club; don't sign me up for an episode on napping when we could just be progressing the plot. You know, the plot. Ah well, at least it means we get to see more of Kumin, which is fine by me. The K-On! reject is pretty adorable when she's sleepy. But there was a point in this episode where I thought we were going places. While preparing for the sleeping contest by staying up all night, we get to see Shichimiya join in for a little bit. We even get to see Rikka getting jealous when she's singing and dancing with Yuuta. Are we heading towards the inevitable Rikka explosion? We then skip to the morning, where everyone wakes up to find Shichimiya has snuggled up to Yuuta while sleeping, and when she wakes up, she does that nose rubbing thing with him. Adorable, but also pole-vaulting right over the boundary of what's acceptable. What does Rikka do? Nothing, and Shichimiya leaves. Scooting forward to episode six, we join Rikka, Yuuta and Nibutani on a school trip episode. Going away from home with a romantic couple in the ranks is just an open target for the other kids' teasing, and even Rikka and Yuuta are not exempt from some playful pestering. It also makes the state of their relationship painfully obvious, with the unlikely partners shying away from even the mere mention of romance. It's nice to see Nibutani so concerned about them, even if her slightly tsundere personality means she'd never admit to it.  The highlight of the episodes comes towards the end. No, not the close encounter under the sheets between Rikka and Yuuta that results in your typical cliché interruption before their lips meet, but when he sees her back to her room. Sure, I bet it melted a few hearts when Rikka runs back and pecks Yuuta on the cheek, but what's great about it is how it shows she is adapting to their relationship, slowly but surely. Rikka wants this relationship to work more than anyone, but she just doesn't know how to go about it. This simple peck on the cheek of Yuuta, while in the presence of a friend, is enough to clearly show her feelings for him. Like I said, this new season has its moments; the problem is that they are few and far between, with each episode so far feeling like filler. Even then, filler for what? There's no meaningful progression, and new girl Shichimiya, who could be the one to shake things up, is just sitting idly by. The first season of this show concluded with a powerful ending; the conclusion to a plot that developed across the whole season. A sequel was always going to be tough to design, but romance tips with Rikka and Yuuta is not what it should have been.  I have no further interest in covering this show. Sorry, KyoAni.
Chu2Koi2 Ep. 5 and 6 photo
Sorry, KyoAni
It seems my worry that this show would be unnecessary may been legitimate, as we're now halfway through the new season with nothing to show for it. Sure, there's been some relationship business with Rikka and having her final...

Annotated Anime: Chuunibyou Ren episode 4

Feb 06 // Chris Walden
While everyone except Dekomori (and possibly Rikka) believes that Nibutani used to be the famous chuunibyou known as 'Mori Summer', we had some rather conclusive proof appear from Shichimiya in the form of an old photo of the two girls together. I mean, come on. Dekomori may have referred to her as the fake Mori Summer since season one, but even she must have known deep down that Nibutani was the real deal. However, this mere photograph transforms Dekomori; her obsession with Mori Summer causes her to actually start being nice to Nibutani. Ho boy! These two are great because of their constant bickering and silly antics, but it's also pretty interesting to see them get on with each other for a change. It couldn't have come at a better time either, as Nibutani has decided to run for student council president, something she's wanted to do for a while now. While Dekomori had originally decided to try and block Nibutani by embarrassing her in front of other students (which is a real dick move, by the way), she's now actually helping her with the campaign. I think this is a case of being starstruck, except it's meeting with an ex-delusional schoolgirl. Nibutani isn't even using her Mori Summer persona to get her to help, Dekomori is just kind of...doing it? Perhaps one of the strangest moments I've seen in this show so far (which is quite the statement in itself) was seeing Dekomori getting emotional at 'meeting' Mori Summer. Dekomori's belief that Nibutani couldn't possibly be Mori Summer has been mentioned several times over the course of both seasons, but with this new-found acceptance that they are the same person, it's not too surprising that she would be nervous just by being in her bedroom. Not only that, but when Nibutani actually dons her Mori Summer persona just for her, Dekomori bursts into tears.  This whole scene is pretty crazy for a few reasons, mainly because of Dekomori's complete trolling behavior around Nibutani in more or less every episode. It's because of this and Nibutani constantly rejecting her own past that makes it so effective. Looking at it from Dekomori's point of view, she's finally met with her idol: the chuunibyou that caused her and Rikka to become chuunibyous themselves. The feeling of meeting this idol, and perhaps the guilt of not believing in her for so long, completely overwhelms her. Hey, you could even say it was heart-warming!  But you know, Dekomori's head works in mysterious ways. The candidates running for student council president are having their campaign supporters give speeches to the school, and of course Dekomori has got some strange ideas. It seems that her infatuation with Mori Summer is coming back to bite Nibutani, because the speech turns very pro-chuunibyou very quickly. Nibutani has a breakdown, as you might expect, and Dekomori is left absolutely dumbfounded. The odd thing about this is that it wasn't done maliciously, but rather it was a flawed method of showing devotion to Mori Summer. I couldn't help but feel awful for Nibutani though, even if it was just a gag and not something that'll make a difference to the rest of the series. Do you remember this image from the second Annotated Anime post on the new season of Chuunibyou? You can see there's a stalker at the back with a camera, though she hasn't been called out or mentioned in the show so far. In this episode she appears again, this time in the restaurant peering over some seating (see the picture above). You can tell that she is the same person due to the hair clip she's wearing, but what is she doing? Another chuunibyou? A member of a journalism club that wants to shame them all? Actually, you know what, there's a more important question: Did I miss her in episodes 1 and 3?
Chu2Koi2 Ep. 4 photo
Check out this phone I found!
I think I've spent the past quarter of an hour playing over the new Chuunibyou opening in my head. It's becoming borderline maddening, but it's a pretty great tune so I'm not sure I mind. Anyone that has a problem with turnta...

Cosplay photo

Cosplayers reenact Beyond the Boundary idol dance

Who said Beyond the Boundary was pointless?
Feb 01
// Karen Mead
Hey, remember that crazy filler episode of Beyond the Boundary where the whole crew tries to take down a monster by distracting it with an idol dance number? I seem to recall spending way more time writing about that inciden...
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club photo
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Hello, Next Summer: Free! gets a new season

Boys, Be Wet
Jan 26
// Josh Tolentino
Are you ready to get wet? I'm always ready for a frolic in the water, and Kyoto Animation's betting that you are, too, because they've just announced that Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, the premier animated place to see a gaggle of...

Annotated Anime: Chuunibyou Ren Ep. 3

Jan 23 // Chris Walden
Well, that sure was an interesting way to start an episode. Seeing Rikka naked and clamouring over Yuuta is probably the biggest delusion we've seen in this series so far, and even Yuuta knows that it has to be a dream. It does give us a tastr of what's to come in this series, as while we're not going to be concluding the show with anything that raunchy, I think Yuuta will find himself torn between Rikka and the lunacy that comes with her, and a more normal relationship. Holding hands will only get you so far, and I think he's becoming increasingly worried that it's feeling a lot more like a close friendship. But I'm jumping the gun here, and if we're to see Yuuta evaluating his relationship, we need a third party. Kumin to the rescue! We get to see their relationship take an unconventional turn when Rikka attempts to get Yuuta to wear the customized magic-circle T-shirt she made for him. Instead of agreeing just because she's his girlfriend, or declining and potentially upsetting her, he challenges her to get a better test score than him in exchange for wearing it. It's almost like a fatherly reaction to the situation, as he knows that her chuunibyou tendencies distract her from studying. We also get to see that Yuuta will just roll over and submit to rule changes, as the T-shirt somehow gets replaced by a full-blown magical girl outfit. Looks like this show is giving Is this a Zombie? a run for its money.  But all of that stuff is rendered unimportant because the new girl from the opening has just showed up, and she's looking mighty fabulous. Her chuunibyou status is quickly confirmed not only by using the PA system to challenge Rikka to a 'fight', but with yet another full-blown special effects sequence for their battle. That these two who barely know each other can roleplay a big fight like this, including the reactions to their opponents attacks and what all of their random attack names actually mean, is genuinely quite impressive. Rikka's rival is firmly on the scene, so expect there to be plenty of competition between these two over the rest of the series....especially because Yuuta knows who this mystery girl is. Satone appears to be a friend from Yuuta's previous school (surprise!), but is actually the whole reason why he became a chuunibyou in the first place. Satone having seen Yuuta in his true chuunibyou state is enough to make Rikka incredibly jealous, but there are plenty of questions that have yet to be answered. As Nibutani points out, who's to say that there wasn't some kind of romance going on? After all, Yuuta was intrigued by this girl enough to start copying her crazy antics, so could it have gone further? Did he want it to go further but moved away before it could happen? They could apparently rub noses together without much of a care in the past, so I'm not dismissing it. Having Satone over for dinner seems reasonable, especially since Yuuta's sister knows her. Rikka is understandably a bit peeved, but it's how Satone acts that is really intriguing. Her reaction when she discovers that Rikka and Yuuta are dating only seemed positive, yet even though she was aware of their relationship, she felt it was okay to rub noses with him before bolting out the door. I mean, if we'd seen her with those typical shaded-over anime eyes, I'd have assumed that Satone was upset over losing the Yuuta of old. Even their conversation outside the apartment made no indication of there being any past or present signs of romance. So you can consider me well and truly baffled. I'm sure that there's going to be some sort of love-triangle situation, but as of right now, it just doesn't seem like it's there. Perhaps Yuuta did used to like Satone, and that's enough to have him reconsider his relationship with Rikka, but all I can do is continue to speculate. We still seem to be setting up at the moment, so I don't think we'll truly see sparks flying for a few episodes yet. In the meantime, we're getting a pretty enjoyable show. 
Chu2Koi2 Ep. 3 photo
Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII just rolls off the tongue.
A new challenger approaches! We finally have our new character, and it looks like she'll fit right in with the rest of the cast. That is, assuming she's going to invite herself into their school every day, or she gets herself...

Annotated Anime: Chuunibyou Ren Ep. 2

Jan 17 // Chris Walden
Have you ever gotten suspicious that your friend might be having a sexual relationship with their other half, then decided that it's worth stalking them to find out? Sure, a few times, but never with binoculars, because that's absurd. But hey, who am I to knock the hobbies of curious high school students? It seems that Yuuta would rather spend his time with Rikka pretending to be one of the Ghostbusters, and spanking her butt as a punishment. Wait a second... Along the way we learned that Kumin is actually great at making curries, but Yuuta doesn't see a need for her. Dekomori is also convinced that there's a herb named after her, and I become further convinced that she's cheated on her tests. Did I mention that Nibutani has already reverted back to her brown-haired form? Seems like the Nibutani kamikuro-ver. is already becoming a rare find.  After a few hours of Kaga Koko-levels of stalking, the trio of girls decided that the relationship wasn't quite at the holding-hands level, so Nibutani decides to take some action; said action involves getting some random girl involved to 'spice up' the relationship between the two oddballs. Maybe this would have worked with a different crew, but considering that Rikka doesn't seem to really know what a relationship even involves, all does not go according to plan. Needless to say, I'm firmly in the 'leave them to it, they'll figure it out eventually,' camp. But you know what? Aquariums are cool places for dates. Not only did Rikka get a great day out, but she even managed to make a few dolphins jump for her. Or maybe it's just the dolphins making her think that they're jumping for her? I can't remember what their agenda is, but it's probably something terrible. [Editor's Note: Wait, this show has evil dolphins? Why am I only finding out about this now?!] Chalk this up as the most adorable moment in the new series so far, as Rikka's side-stepping to take Yuuta's hand had me squealing. The two holding hands shouldn't be that big a deal, but somehow it is, and I'm somehow reverting to an eight-year-old.  But that's exactly what we've signed up for, and it's what I want from this show. Rikka and Yuuta are one of the strangest yet most adorable couples out there, and KyoAni are doing what they do best: further redefining the moeblob genre. Yuuta isn't making strides in his relationship with Rikka just by taking the initiative, and he realizes this. But it's totally okay, because they're a pretty good couple and they don't really need to take any big steps just yet. Also, because too much progress in their relationship could bring this season to a rather abrupt end. Hey, it's the new girl from the opening sequence! Indeed, she lowers herself onto Yuuta's balcony from Rikka's old apartment, and we finally have our new chuunibyou. If this show is going to throw in a bit of drama, she's going to need to be an old acquaintance of either Yuuta or Rikka, right? We've got to get a bit of competition thrown into this romance, and it can't be Dekomori doing all of the work. Tears, complex fight scenes and Rikka being herself: That's what this show is about. Bring it, episode three!
Chu2Koi2 Ep. 2 photo
Someone please buy me a sheep pillow
Another episode deep and I'm wondering if my concerns about this show are actually justified. That's not to say that this latest episode is an animated masterpiece that knocks it out the park, but Rikka and Yuuta's extended a...

First Impressions: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Jan 10 // Chris Walden
This show, unsurprisingly, is all about the humble chuunibyou. While they appear to be seemingly ordinary eighth-graders, they actually battle swarms of demons and protect humankind from supernatural disasters that you aren't even aware of...or at least, that's what they think is happening. You and I would just consider them very imaginative kids; the kind that run around with sticks battling invisible hordes of bad guys. In the first series, Yuuta was a notorious chuunibyou, which forced him to attend a high school far away to make sure no one knows about all the embarrassing things he did. While enjoying a fresh start, he met Rikka a girl in his class who very much hasn't outgrown the 'phase', and who was dead set on drawing Yuuta into her fantasy world. While the previous series was an absolute treat with its sense of humor and colorful characters, it also finished with a solid conclusion. This was great, but it also meant that a sequel was completely unexpected; unnecessary, even. With the story all wrapped up, where could the show go from here to keep up anywhere near the same levels of interest? As funny as the main cast and their antics are, I don't think it could get very far without something of a plot to carry it along. So, do we have one? Quite frankly, it's too early to tell. The first episode of Ren was a typical reintroduction episode. Well, I say typical, but I suppose a high school student who believes her right eye wields a terrible power that can "vanishment the world" is a little atypical. We quickly discover that Rikka is the same adorable girl she was from the first season, though she's temporarily shacked up with Yuuta after the rent wasn't paid on her old room. This seems like a typically ditzy Rikka thing to do, though I wonder if she was even the one responsible for paying the rent. With all of the hints that someone significant has moved into her room already, I've no doubt that there will be screams of foul play-- even if it's the chuunibyou in Rikka shouting them. My bets are on the interloper being an old friend of Yuuta's, back from when he was a chuunibyou at his previous school.  Everyone that matters is back for the reintroduction, including both Nibutani and Isshiki sporting new looks. Interestingly, Nibutani's previous look is what shows up in all of Rikka's delusions, in particular when she is fighting with her sister. There's still the great rivalry between Nibutani and Dekomori, which doesn't fail to make you crack a smile. But let's be honest, the star of the show was definitely Kumin: not only for getting clobbered by a ladle several times, but for her constant eagerness to participate with the others. Her attempt at fighting Rikka's sister made the episode for me.  So, all in all, this was a pretty good reintroduction. We're still lacking the plot to keep us going through the whole season, but I believe we're due to get some proper story in the next episode. My only complaint thus far is with the sheer absence of Rikka's vertical butt-wiggle, with her past efforts ousted from the opening sequence, but thankfully we have Kumin making up for it in the ending. The new opening is actually really good, and I'll admit that I laughed after seeing Rikka fall over on the revolving platform. The accompanying music is a little odd, but I think we'll get used to it within a few episodes. Oh, and if you were after some fanservice, be sure to check out the ending-- I'm glad it was kept out of the show proper.
Chu2koi! Ren photo
Astonishing lack of Rikka's butt-wiggle
Wonderful, wonderful Chuunibyou, what a surprise conclusion to 2012's slate of anime you were. It's no secret that I'm quite fussy with the shows that KyoAni pumps out, but this slice-of-life/science fiction/romance/comedy wa...

Chūnibyō leaked photo
Chūnibyō leaked

New Chūnibyō's first episode leaked online

This sounds too familiar.
Jan 08
// Chris Walden
In an all to familiar story, the first episode of Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren was leaked before its official debut. It appeared briefly on, a region locked and Chinese-owned website, rather tha...

Final Impressions: Beyond the Boundary

Dec 19 // Karen Mead
Actually, I stand corrected: the show did deliver on exactly one thing I wanted. Remember how I said last time that I wanted Hot Catgirl Mom to beat up Izumi while wearing a bunny outfit? Well, look what happened! I like my new power to warp reality to my will. Okay, granted I asked for a pink bunny suit and HCM is donning a fine black bunny suit, and it was less of a fight between Izumi and HCM and more of a kerfuffle, but I'll take what I can get. First, the good about episode 12: it was nice to see Akihito finally be able to cut loose with his Mighty Fingernails of Death, since he's been relegated to the sidelines for most of the series. I like Akky, and I appreciate him getting to do something badass without having to be in a near-death fugue state to do it. It also made for a powerful moment when Akihito said "Do you think I even want a future without you?" to Kuriyama, and she realized that her feelings were reciprocated. Sure, it's a kind of melodramatic and stupid thing to say, but it's stupid in exactly that authentic, teenaged Romeo and Juliet sort of way. Say what you want about this show, but it is quite romantic. I also had no problem with the way BtB was taken down, since it seemed natural to me that being inside Akihito for 15 years had shaped the way the entity functioned. You almost get the impression that BtB prefers being dormant inside Akihito than having to go through all the effort of creating monsters and pocket dimensions and nonsense like that. Also, the cameo by Ayaka and Ai during the massive monster beat-down was a nice little touch. Now for the bad; this episode answered exactly zero of the important questions provoked by the story, including, but by no means limited to: 1. What exactly is the deal with Akihito, the "immortal half-youmu?" We never got any explanation about where he came from, either regarding his father or Hot Catgirl Mom's past or whatever. We just know that Akky is a very special being that has never existed before, there apparently is an explanation for why, and we aren't getting it. 2. What exactly was the point of anything Miroku did in the entire series? We find out that he has a youmu inside him, but that doesn't mean anything; just because he's part-youmu doesn't mean he automatically serves BtB. After all, Ayaka is a full-youmu and she helped fight BtB. There's no explanation for why the series' primary villain even gets out of bed in the morning. 3. What was Izumi's' motivation? Her whole deal seemed to be finding a way to kill BtB because otherwise, BtB was definitely going to destroy the world, right? But it turns out that BtB is perfectly happy to reside somewhere in Akihito's lower intestine and not bother anyone ever again. Was she just wrong, or was there more to the story? 4. What was the deal with the feud between the Nase family and the Spirit World Warriors Oversight Committee (or whatever the hell they are), and how did BtB fit into that? Why were they feuding? Was it all just a power game, or was there some fundamental disagreement about how the business of being a Spirit World Warrior should be conducted? Was any of that even relevant to Miroku? 5. Finally, how did Kuriyama come back to life at the end? Now, I can theorize some reasons why that might have been possible-- those blood magi are hard to kill for good, after all--but we don't get any explanation whatsoever. Just POOF, she's back to life at the end, because otherwise it would be sad. For all we know, what appeared on the roof is just a Kuriyama-shaped golem, or a shape-shifting Spirit World Warrior who's decided to be an absolute dick to Akihito by getting his hopes up. Now, the finale didn't have to answer all of these questions; hinting at some things, to be further developed in an OVA or a later season, isn't a terrible thing. But the fact that the series didn't answer any of them at all-- and thus ignored the main aspects of the show that actually made the series interesting beyond the pretty animation--just seems like a cop out, a bait-and-switch, a swindle, flimflam, shell game, etc. It's just not fair, dammit. I don't think I'm being unreasonable here. Moving forward, even if the series puts out a fantastic OVA, with the most beautiful smooth-as-butter animation you've ever seen and tons of Hot Catgirl Mom flashbacks, I still don't know if I'll be okay with it. It's just not right to drop hints all season long and then fail to deliver on anything you've been promising during the finale, only to milk the series by delivering the answers you should have delivered all along in another title. Maybe there's a statement on the ethical pitfalls of the current anime industry in there somewhere, but I'm not even thinking about that; I'm just pissed. Right now, I'm not even sure whether I would recommend this series to anyone. I definitely had fun while I was watching it, but a totally unsatisfying ending can do a lot to sully everything that came before it. Add that to the fact that Kuriyama was a heroine I tolerated rather than loved, and I just don't know if I can call this a good series in good conscience. I guess if you like watching characters with supernatural powers throw down, and you don't tend to get that terribly invested in the story, BtB was pretty good. For me though, I abide by Checkhov's rule that if you show a gun on the mantelpiece in the first act of a play, someone damn well better get shot by Act III. This show was dropping guns all over the place, then at the eleventh hour, forgot that guns existed and settled everything with a tactical nuke instead. It's just... annoying.
Beyond the Boundary photo
Who needs answers to questions?
I'm kind of at a loss with Beyond the Boundary right now, to be honest. There are some great characters and the animation never disappoints-- in fact, sometimes it's hard to get a good screencap from this show because the act...

Chu2koi2 Trailer photo
Chu2koi2 Trailer

Chūnibyō sequel gets a new trailer

I am pretty excited for more Chuunibutts.
Dec 16
// Chris Walden
It might be a case of 'blink and you'll miss it', but hey, it's enough to get me excited! It's almost time for the delusions to return, so we've been gifted with the finest seventeen seconds of video from Kyoto Animation in ...

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Ep. 11

Dec 12 // Karen Mead
Before getting to the important issue of Hot Catgirl Mom's first appearance in town, I suppose other important stuff did happen in this episode. Akihito wakes up after a three-month coma only to find that Mitsuki has been genuinely concerned for him while he was out of commission. Seriously, she looks shocked and happy to see him awake and runs to embrace him, like a normal human being with feelings and everything. Guys, I think I'm going to have to call it: I no longer hate Mitsuki. It's the end of an era. Answering one of my questions from last time, we learn that Akihito is no longer immortal; it's not directly stated, but I'm assuming the fact that he was in a coma for three months was due to Kuriyama's toxic blood in his system-- it probably took that long for his body to recover from the damage. Meanwhile, Akihito can see dead people hear explosions that no one else can hear, and it quickly becomes obvious that he still has some kind of a connection with BtB; I mean, you can't be the host body for a metaphysical monster for 15 years and then cut all ties, just like that! There's got to be some inertia there, right? Let's random cosplay because I DON'T KNOW Naturally Akihito has a ton of questions, which several people tell him only his mother is likely to have the answer to. Now, I like Akky and all, but he's kind of an idiot sometimes, and doesn't do the obvious thing here and just call his mom. Fortunately, he doesn't have to, because Hot Catgirl Mom blows her way into town like nobody's business. Welcome, Hot Catgirl Mom! We've been waiting for you; that costume makes no sense, and you are wonderful. Sidenote: Hot Catgirl Mom is the only person on the show who addresses Izumi without an honorific, I think. This means that HCM and Izumi are on the same level; which may mean that they're on a par as Spirit World Warriors, which may mean that HCM can kick Bitchface Izumi's ass. Not only do I really hope this happens, but I hope HCM is wearing a particularly embarrassing outfit when it goes down. Stick it to Izumi by beating her up while dressed as a giant pink bunny, why don'tcha? I should only look this good after giving birth to a demon baby made of crystallized human hate and despair. For some reason, Hot Catgirl Mom has a youmu stone (with some of BtB's power inside it) which Akihito apparently emitted sometime during episode 4. Err, why did that happen? And why does she have it, of all people? Anyway, I guess it doesn't matter, since having the stone means that even powerless Akihito can make his way to Kuryama's pocket dimension and, presumably, bring her back to the realm of the living. Akihito takes the stone and then tells his mom that someday, he's going to ask her to explain everything to him. Umm, Akky? This is in the same category as, "I'll tell you all about your mother when next we meet, Jon Snow," and "I'll tell you everything about what I'm keeping in the basement sometime soon, Eren." You should get that info now, while you're both still alive and even on the same continent. Oh well, I guess Akihito is in a rush to save his girlfriend, so he doesn't have time for what's sure to be a long story of how Hot Catgirl Mom seduced some completely abstract concept and gave birth to an abomination of epic proportions. Meanwhile, poor Kuriyama has been stuck in her own frigid pocket dimension, battling with the BtB's consciousness. I could question how she's been successfully fighting for three months, but considering that we're dealing with another dimension, it's not that much of a stretch to assume that time probably flows differently where she is. Anyway, the BtB is having such an issue taking over stubborn Kuriyama's soul that it's draining power out of the world's Spirit World Warriors to help sustain itself. I'm assuming this detail was put in there to explain why the other Spirit World Warriors aren't in a position to help Akihito rescue Kuriyama. Meanwhile (yes that's the second time I used Meanwhile in two paragraphs, deal with it), Miroku is complicating things by using that bizarre glaive weapon and his car(?) to somehow power up BtB from afar. Not only do I not get how he's doing this, I also don't get why he's doing it. Why is it in the interest of the Spirit World Warrior Society to support BtB, an entity that could potentially destroy the world? Or has Miroku gone rogue and he's just helping the ultimate bad guy because he's like the Joker and just wants to watch the world burn? I hope the one episode remaining allows enough time to explain all this, because so far, his whole role in the story has just been to act mysterious and chuckle to himself a lot. The episode ends with Akihito jumping through to Kuriyama's dimension with the aid of the youmu stone, and maybe kind-of-sort-of-merging with the soulless golem of himself that Kuriyama's desperate consciousness created for company. It's really unclear what exactly happened (other than the fact that Akihito successfully dimension-hopped), but I'm pretty sure the confusion was deliberate and it will all be explained next episode. I mean, this isn't freakin' Diabolik Lovers, surely they will explain something at some point. With one episode to go, wrapping everything up seems like it's going to be an awfully tall order, and I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get the story of Akihito's dad on top of everything else. Still, episode 10 taught me that this creative team can deliver when it wants to, so I'm cautiously optimistic for a good closing episode next week.
AA: BtB photo
Hot Catgirl Mom sure knows how to make an entrance
After last week's surprisingly satisfying outing with Akihito and co., this week's episode felt a little rushed and underwhelming. I was kind of expecting more of an epic struggle on Akihito's part to get to where Kuriyama is, and Miroku's actions continue to baffle.  However, none of that matters because HOT CATGIRL MOM DESUUUUUU~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Ep. 10

Dec 06 // Karen Mead
Man, where to even start with this episode? Okay, you know how last week we were all complaining that it was dumb that Kuriyama was trying to kill Akihito since a)she should know by now that she loves him and can't kill him and b)the audience knows full well it isn't going to happen? Well, as this episode explains, she wasn't trying to kill him in the first place: she was trying to take advantage of the Calm to take the Beyond the Boundary (hereafter known as BtB) monster out of him, and into herself. This is a good use of the unreliable narrator since, while we didn't see the conversations with Izumi previously that made this possible, there was no indication that we were seeing *everything* Kuriyama was doing. Instead of feeling like a cheap trick, the twist feels earned, since there were hints all along that something was going on with Izumi that we weren't privy to. Hell, the reason for Kuriyama's actions are foreshadowed in the OP, for crying out loud. The revelation that Kuriyama was summoned to town as basically a hired gun to kill BtB doesn't really change anything major, but it does make certain scenes from previous episodes make more sense in retrospect. Sad girl in snow In any case, taking the monster into herself seems to have killed Kuriyama, but the scenes we see of our heroine trudging around in a snow-covered world imply that she isn't dead so much as banished to her own personal hell dimension. As far as I can tell, merging with the monster took Kuriyama to some other plane of existence, where she's constantly battling with the BtB entity (symbolized by a barely-conscious Akihito). Meanwhile, the real Akihito is dreaming of Kuriyama, thanks to the magical properties of her blood, which is still inside him. The structure of the episode-- which meanders between Akihito's summer dream world where everything is (almost) normal, Kuriyama's snow-covered personal hell, and the real world where autumn has taken hold, is confusing at first, but everything falls into place once you realize what's going on. It's kind of brilliant when you sit back and think about it, because the winter setting puts Kuriyama symbolically "ahead" of Akihito, with the assumption being that he has to move forward to reach her. I'm not usually one to talk about episode direction (since to be honest, I'm never quite sure what's the purview of the director versus the writer), but I found this episode incredibly well-directed. It's one thing to make a mindscrew episode that's all over the place, quite another to make a mindscrew episode that makes perfect sense on the second viewing. The scene between Kuriyama and Akihito in the club room is particularly well done; the viewer is surprised when she turns down his offer of a date, only for that surprise to shift into slowly-building dread as you begin to sense what's actually going on. Really the only negative thing I have to say about this episode is that I don't think I was moved the way I was meant to be. I appreciate the structural achievement of this episode, but in a kind of distanced, clinical way. I wasn't moved to tears or anything, and I think that's what the writers were going for. I don't know if it's because the writers have squandered too much of my goodwill with maid outfits and siscon bullshit, but I just don't have the level of investment in this show for it to really move me. It could be because the whole point of the episode was showing that Kuriyama loves Akihito to the point that she's willing to sacrifice herself for him, but I think we've known that ever since the infamous hug in episode 4; this isn't really new information. As it stands, I lift my hat to KyoAni for pulling off something I really didn't see coming, but it's with dry eyes. What are you doing just sitting there, Akky? Go find your girlfriend's snowy pocket dimension and rescue her, silly! Lingering questions: If Akihito is no longer a half-youmu, does he still have any powers, and if he doesn't, how is he going to get to where Kuriyama is? If Akihito's youmu-half was BtB, a.k.a. the strongest monster ever, what does that make Akihito's dad? Who is the mysterious Nase patriarch that Izumi reports to? Did Izumi plan for Kuriyama to absorb BtB (because from her dialogue, it sounded more like she's was manipulating Kuriyama to think she was doing that, while actually killing it)? Was Izumi so set on killing BtB because it almost killed her baby brother, which might mean that Izumi has, gasp, FEELINGS? Finally, are we done with the stupid maid costumes now? In any case, I for one am eagerly looking forward to episode 11.
AA: BtB photo
We need to go deeper
Just when we thought we knew exactly what to expect from this show, it goes all M. Night Shyamalan on us. The twist in this episode doesn't completely transform the show, but it does shed some light on some of Kuriyama's baffling behavior. I don't know if this new direction makes 100% sense, but I know I wasn't expecting it and I'm pleasantly surprised to see the show do something different.

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Episode 9

Dec 01 // Karen Mead
Mitsuki and Hiromi fight an unrelated monster early in this episode. It has nothing to do with anything, but at least their force fields are pretty. A fair amount of stuff happened in this one, even though it doesn't feel like it for some reason. First, we get confirmation that Izumi is the one who's responsible for Akihito's reversion to his monster form. We don't know her motive, but it probably has something do with the fact that Spirit World Warriors R' Us (represented by Miroku) seem to want Akihito so badly. I don't know if she's trying to dispose of Akihito to keep the Society from being able to use him as a weapon, or if has some more mysterious reason, but in any case, poor Akky's life is a chess piece in a much bigger game. Hiromi actually finds out that big sis Izumi is trying to arrange the murder of his (sort-of) friend, but will he take his attention away from his Mitsuki-obsession long enough to do something about it? This is interesting, since I don't see Hiromi outright turning on his family any time soon, but he's obviously going to do something. I'm wondering if he might lie and tell Izumi and the Society that Akihito is dead, while secretly helping Kuriyama to hide him and help him regain his human form. Then they could call Hot Catgirl Mom and get her to help; I could live with that. Izumi may be a conniving meany, but she's got nice legs. Now, before you accuse me of being a perv, go ahead, try to find a good screencap of her from this episode that doesn't feature her legs. I dare you. Also, title drop! We learn that Akihito may be one of those "Beyond the Boundary" monsters that all the Spirit World Warriors love pontificating about, which...doesn't make a whole lot of sense based on what we know so far. Apparently BtB monsters are these huge, amorphous beings of energy that take years to form and cause negative emotions in the humans around them; how does that track with anything Akihito has ever done? His monster form seems to be darn good at blowing things up, but we haven't gotten any sense that he exists on a higher plane of existence or anything. This is going to need more fleshing out before it makes sense-- assuming the whole thing isn't a giant red herring to begin with. All that housekeeping info aside, the upshot of all this is that Kuriyama has to kill Akihito during the Calm, while he's (presumably) not immortal. She doesn't know about Izumi's machinations, but I'm not sure it even matters-- if he's turned full-monster, the only viable option may be to kill him while they have the chance, no matter how he got that way. Of course, Kuriyama is less than thrilled with having to kill her best friend....again. We know she's really distraught about it because Sakura, the Exposition Fairy, creates a contrived situation in the bathroom to demonstrate that. Thanks, Sakura, you shouldn't have. No, really, you shouldn't have in the slightest. Kuriyama gets clean before battle; you don't want to kill your second-ever best friend with dirty hair, what would the neighbors say? I know the climactic scene of Kuriyama fighting Akihito is supposed to mirror their earlier confrontation in episode 4, but I'm not sure if it that gives the scene more resonance, or if it just feels repetitive. I don't believe for one second that she's actually going to kill Akihito-- even if she does temporarily, I'm sure he'll magically come back to life somehow--so I didn't feel emotionally invested in the situation. I did like the detail that Kuriyama takes off her glasses before she goes in for the kill: she doesn't want to kill him as his beloved, bespectacled beauty. She wants to kill him as Mirai Kuriyama, the Spirit World Warrior. I really appreciate it when shows add little touches like that without feeling the need to belabor everything with dialogue. Despite the fact that this episode didn't inspire the poignant feeling for me that I think the writers were going for, I'm still quite interested to see where they take it from here. According to Mitsuki in the next episode preview, Akihito is dead as of episode 10, but you all know that she's a horrible person that can't be trusted, so who even cares what she says.
AA: BtB, Ep. 9 photo
When a hug is not enough
The battle of the Calm, which is not in the least bit calm, continues. The most notable thing that happened in this episode was the fact that Izumi knocked that smug look off of Miroku's face for a whole two seconds, so go Iz...

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Ep. 8

Nov 21 // Karen Mead
Mirai helps Sakura get ready for school, since they're glossing over that awkward "sorry I tried so hard to kill you" phase of their relationship. The Calm is apparently a time when all youmu (monsters) lose some of their power. You can tell when it's the Calm because the moon turns bright red and all the Spirit World Warriors are partying like it's 2099-- and by "partying" I mean "having way too much fun plowing through heaps of weakened monsters." Of course, a normally immortal half-youmu hybrid like Akihito might be slightly less immortal during the Calm, and everyone except Akihito himself can see why this might be a problem. It seems beyond dumb that Akihito wouldn't realize that some unscrupulous Spirit World Warriors might take advantage of the Calm to take him out, but well...I like Akihito. Let's just say he's in denial. Of course Mirai gets another fetish costume in this episode-- sigh. KyoAni, the otaku base is already going to buy the shit out of this show, you can stop trying so hard. Meanwhile, Miroku (that shifty guy from Spirit World Warriors R' Us who's been manipulating Sakura behind the scenes) seems to be set on both killing Akihito and pissing off the Nase family; at least one, and potentially both of those things seem like really terrible ideas. Izumi Nase, who until this point has been a kind of icy, distant figure, jumps forward to defend the semi-conscious Akihito-- but is she really defending him? See, it's her fault that he's unconscious because she cast some kind of weird spell on him earlier in the episode-- is she on his side, or not? Izumi looks so untrustworthy, it has to be a fake out and she's actually a good guy, right? Right? Back at the photo studio of Gravure Exploitation, Akihito seems to be reverting to his youmu form-- which is weird, since logically, the Calm should weaken his youmu half, not draw it out. Maybe it was Izumi's meddling that roused the youmu within Akihito? Maybe he's such a super-special demon that the Calm actually has the opposite effect on him? Maybe this has something to do with Kuriyama and her cursed blood? Aaaargh for once I really don't know quite what's going on with this show and I just cannot deal with it right now. Oh Noeees the youmu is awake hallllp. Mirai might have to hug him back to humanity again! Miroku also attacks the younger Nase siblings, and other than providing some info-dumping, it's unclear what he's accomplishing. I will say this for Hiromi Nase: at least he OWNS his sister complex. As sick as I am of the whole siscon thing, it was kind of amusing that when Miroku implied that the boy seems to have a complex about his sis, Hiromi was all like, "Seems? I know not 'seems!' I DO have a sister complex!" In news no one cares about, Sakura and Mirai have a conversation about Mirai's feelings for Akihito, which was quite possibly the most unnecessary conversation in any show this season. The connection between Mirai and Akihito is totally obvious to everyone, and I have trouble buying that Sakura went from Mirai's mortal enemy to her super-bestest-friend in five seconds. It was just a dull, forced scene that dragged down an otherwise solid episode. Miroku's powers are just this close to being tentacle attacks, and that's one of many reasons why he's probably going to die. Finally, we learn that "Beyond the Boundary" refers to special, super-powerful youmu that take years to form, and are thought to be the source of human angst and suffering, or something like that; it got all metaphysical there for a second and I'm not sure I get it. Frankly I think humans manufacture enough of our own pain and suffering without getting elemental monsters involved, but whatever, I'm not writing this show. It sounds like Mirai has some connection to one of these Beyond the Boundary youmu, which leads me to wonder if her bloodline descends from one of them or something. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that all Spirit World Warriors are actually human/youmu hybrids, despite all the talk of Akihito's condition being "rare." Overall I guess this episode must have done its job, since I'm looking forward the Izumi vs. Miroku battle it looks like we're about to get-- add an awakened youmu-form Akihito, Ayaka in her giant fluffball form, and Kuriyama's exploding projectile blood, and that sounds like all the ingredients for a fun Saturday night. Now if only Hot Catgirl Mom would show up in the flesh, instead of just in magical-postcard form, episode nine could just be awesome. I can't be the only one who's dying to find out what her powers are.
AA: BtB, Ep. 8 photo
Calm Night is alright for fighting
This kind of felt like half an episode of Beyond the Boundary. Granted, what we got was fairly interesting, but when the end credits started to roll I wasn't satisfied. If Mirai and Sakura could have skipped their interminabl...

Beyond the Boundary photo
Beyond the Boundary

First Beyond the Boundary short features idol dancing

I don't even know where to start with this
Nov 18
// Karen Mead
Okay, so, you want your hot-off-the-presses Beyond the Boundary news? Very well, I shall oblige. Kyoto Animation has just started streaming a short called Idol Trial! Even as You Waver, The Nation Judges You, where super...

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary Ep. 7

Nov 13 // Karen Mead
Enjoy being intimidating while you can, Sakura, that will all be over in ten minutes. Then you can get back to making sandwiches for the real Spirit World Warriors. We knew Sakura was coming back, but we didn't know that her "arc" was going to be completely concluded as of this episode. Basically, Sakura tries to kill Kuriyama yet again, but once our favorite bespectacled Spirit World Warrior can give the upstart her full attention, its not even a contest. Without the Hollow Shadow taking up most of Kuriyama's energy this time, Sakura isn't even a threat. This is a little anticlimactic after Sakura was foreshadowed as THE opponent that Kuriyama would have to face, but I can't say that it doesn't make sense. I have really mixed feelings here: on the one hand, I was afraid they were going to drag out the Sakura/Kuriyama grudge match for several tedious episodes, and to have it be done-in-one is kind of a relief. On the other hand, the whole thing does feel more than a little rushed. We never really get a handle on whether or not Sakura truly blames Kuriyama for her sister's death, or was manipulated into feeling that way by the man who gave her the weapon. It's also not entirely clear whether Sakura truly forgives Kuriyama at the end of the episode, or if she just figures "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." "What's that, little sister? You can't see the purple light in the sky? That's because you don't have powers like me an Mirai-chan, wow sucks to be you." Was PDBF Yui always this insensitive? In major-plot machinations, we find out that Sakura's scythe (which I guess I can stop calling a glaive/grenade launcher thingy now) was given to her by the fellow who visited the Nase family a few episodes back. This could mean that either the Spirit World Warrior oversight people want Kuriyama dead, or that this guy is going rogue and using underhanded means to try to off her without the council's permission. I guess I'm interested, kind of? I'm just not that curious as to the exact reason why someone would want to kill Kuriyama; she has super-cursed acid blood. It's not exactly a shock that some people would prefer it if she were gone. The battle between Kuriyama and Sakura in the sewers was a fun watch, especially because Kuriyama has stopped doing all that clumsy moe nonsense and is now carrying herself like the proper badass she is, but I found other aspects of this episode a little tiresome. The whole sequence with Akihito trying to lie to Kuriyama about Sakura being in his apartment was so predictable, it wasn't even funny. I don't know if it's me or the show, but the humor that worked so well last week seemed stale this time. Don't even get me started on the whole "Mitsuki as an idol" thing, I hope that was a one-off joke that doesn't come back. Sakura's scythe absorbs power from the monsters it defeats, making it just like the Psypher weapons from Odin Sphere. This has nothing to do with anything, except for the fact that Odin Sphere is awesome. On the plus side, we learn something new about Akihito when he picks up Sakura's weapon and takes out a monster, then expresses surprise that he was able to do it. Apparently, other than his immortality, Akihito doesn't have access to his youmu powers when in human form-- otherwise, he would hardly have been surprised that he could kill a monster by himself. I had been assuming that he just chose not to use his youmu powers because he was afraid of losing control, but it seems like he may not be able to use them at all unless he loses his mind completely. Poor guy. Despite my lack of love for this episode, I'm glad that Poor Dead Best Friend Yui has seemingly been cleared off the board, and new pieces seem to be emerging. Now there's talk of "the Calm;" I thought that was what was supposed to happen in Spira when High Summoner Yuna defeated Sin, but I guess this might be a different kind of Calm. I hope it's not the kind of Calm where the whole episode is really slow and talky and no one does anything, because I can't go too long without seeing Kuriyama's cut something nasty in half. What can I say? I'm a blood sword addict. Beyond the Boundary Episode 8: The one time where "Kill it with fire!" just didn't live up to the hype.
AA: BtB, Ep. 7 photo
The plot both thickens and congeals
After the delicious buffet of crazy that was last week's episode, pretty much anything would have been a let down. However, even going into this episode with my expectations lowered appropriately, I still found it rather lack...

AA: BtB, Ep. 6 photo
AA: BtB, Ep. 6

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary Ep. 6

It reeks so good
Nov 07
// Karen Mead
This week, Kuriyama and friends decide to take on a monster that explodes into a super-stinky fluid whenever it senses a threat, and the crew can only hope to defeat it by forming an idol group and harnessing the magic of sin...

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Ep. 4

Oct 23 // Karen Mead
Are we past the jump now? We are? Yaaay! Kuriyama and Akihito start off this episode trapped in some kind of weird M.C. Escher-inspired hell dimension based on Kuriyama's regrets over killing Yui "Poor Dead Best Friend" Inami. PDBF's sister Sakura is still running around shooting grenades at the pair, but our intrepid heroes mostly ignore her, so I did too. Kuriyama manages to defeat the Hollow Shadow-- twice in fact--with an assist from Akihito and his immortal body. Unfortunately, before we can start celebrating, Akihito decides to get his Dark Phoenix on, and everyone else is like "Oh, did we forget to mention he was the Antichrist? This happens sometimes." Hmmph. I bet Kuriyama feels really dumb now for all the times she complained to Akihito about how tortured she is because of her immense power. Even though he always nodded politely, inside you know he was just like, "Bitch, please," the entire time. Anyway, all that happened and as the icing on the cake, Mitsuki was barely even in this episode; it's like Christmas came before Halloween this year! Seriously, this episode, was a rollicking, bloody good time. The fact that Sakura was running around with her ridiculous glaive/grenade launcher thing, seemingly oblivious to the threat of the Hollow Shadow, was absurd, but the action was so over the top that a little bit of absurdity didn't really hurt it. While it wasn't anything new, the nightmare world of escalators-and-trains was well done, and the bloody battle with Shadow Yui gave me some serious End of Evangelion vibes. The one thing that confused me was how Akihito shocked Kuriyama back to sanity by throwing her ring at her, because I have no memory of him taking her ring in the first place. That said, it probably happened sometime during episode 3 and I just missed it. I have to give credit to KyoAni here, because I was actually a little surprised by Akihito's transformation. Sure, I thought we'd see his "inner youmu" eventually, but I thought that probably wouldn't happen until the end of the series. Until then, I thought his Wolverine-like regenerative abilities were going to be his main feature, so watching Demon-Akihito go nuts throwing fireballs at everyone was unexpected and cool. It also somewhat excuses the fact that the Spirit World Warriors, including the Nase siblings, act like such assholes to him. I have a feeling that those scars on Hiromi's back actually date back to the last time Akihito went on a rampage, but the crew can never actually kill him-- just wait and hope that he stays sane most of the time. You can't really blame them for resenting him for it. Even so, I still hate Mitsuki, but that's mostly because I've just decided that I like hating Mitsuki; it stopped being rational a long time ago. Kuriyama's realization that Akihito faces the same problems that she does-- and that, in fact, his situation may be worse-- was totally predictable, yet still satisfying on some level. I was expecting the outcome of the pair's "You don't understand how I feel!" "No, it's YOU who doesn't understand how I feel!" argument to amount to a lot more needless expository dialogue, so to have Kuriyama realize the extent of Akihito's problems in such a brutal, visceral way instead was a pleasant surprise.  I guess you could call the resolution, with Kuriyama basically hugging Akihito back to himself, a bit corny. Personally I was okay with it-- I felt like with all the interplay between the two in the first few episodes, the show had somehow earned it. Besides, fighting the other Spirit World Warriors had presumably sapped the monster's strength, so it was easier at that point for his human consciousness to take over again. It was expensive, but I bought it. The one element I really didn't care for was Sakura, who can absolutely go die in a fire, except she left right before Akihito started attacking people...with fire. Oh well. As of right now, I'm pretty happy to be covering this show, and I hope that the remaining episodes keep up the quality of this first story arc. I have to say though; as entertaining as Beyond the Boundary is, wouldn't a show about the courtship of Akihito's parents be even better? How did Hot Catgirl Mom seduce Demon Lord Baal, or whoever the hell Aki's Dad is? If that doesn't get the spotlight episode it richly deserves, I demand a bonus OVA.  
AA: BtB, Ep. 4 photo
You wouldn't like him when he's mad
I try to keep the very beginning of these posts relatively spoiler-free, because I don't want someone just casually browsing the front page to be spoiled on a show they may not have even started watching yet. However, because...

Annotated Anime: Beyond the Boundary, Ep. 3

Oct 16 // Karen Mead
The PDBF (Poor Dead Best Friend). Speaking of Akihito, while he got a fair amount of screen time this week, he didn't actually do very much-- mainly, a bunch of people just talked at his face for a while. The main point of this episode was to fill us in on Kuriyama's tragic past, which I'm of two minds about: on the one hand, I'm glad they got it out of the way rather than teasing it indefinitely. However, the fact that Kuriyama killed her best (and possibly only) friend when said friend was being possessed by a monster is exactly what we all expected, which is kind of a let down. If she had killed someone in a fit of anger, or even as a complete accident, it would be more interesting than the old "I had to kill my possessed friend," schtick. It gives the character something to feel conveniently guilty about, but we know it wasn't really her fault, so she can easily be absolved. It's just a meh development. Kuriyama is poor, so obviously that must be funny! Except it's not. There was also a weird bit of misdirection in this episode concerning Kuriyama's motive for going after the Hollow Shadow, or the big monster that everyone's making a fuss about. At first, it seemed like Kuriyama was interested in fighting the Shadow because it's a huge bounty and she desperately needs the money, only later we find out that she has a grudge against the thing because of the whole "Wah you made me kill my best friend" factor. The whole thing was kind of fudged though, because it seemed like Akihito was set up to assume that Kuriyama was after the money, and there would be drama later when he discovered her true motive-- except he finds out her true motive immediately, from another character. The whole thing was just strangely scripted. Moving on to other characters, if KyoAni is trying to make me like Mitsuki Nase by giving her some kind of cute chinchilla-thing for a magical pet... well that's actually a damn good strategy, but no. I've convinced myself that I hate Mitsuki so much that such trifles don't effect me. It figures that her Spirit World Warrior power would be to sit on her butt and do nothing while a pet does all the work, though. Oh, and we find out her brother Hiroumi has a sister complex, because of course he does. I know the "of course he does" thing is kind of played out, but...come on. Of course he has a sister complex, how could there be any anime without a guy with a sister complex? When will this God-forsaken trend die off? Come back and talk to me when you're as cute as Kero-chan, mascot-thingy. That said, I will admit that I did find Akihito's "I've made your sister wear glasses...and she liked it!" montage somewhat funny, which is the only thing involving the extended Nase family that I have remotely enjoyed so far. And yet, as much as I pick on this series, it gets a few moments per episode so dazzlingly right that I have to let it all pass. That moment when the Hollow Shadow enters town and all the monsters start coming out of the woodwork, completely invisible to the ordinary people even though they're all over town, was masterfully done; creepy, yet also somehow playful. And the fight scene that ends the episode was brutal in a good way-- I don't know what the hell that gun/sword/chainsaw hybrid that the mysterious Sakura wields is supposed to be, but it's pretty fun to watch. This newcomer is still only my second-favorite character named Sakura for this season, however; the first is the horse from Walkure Romance. The fact that chainsaw-Sakura probably hates Kuriyama because of Poor Dead Best Friend isn't helping her case. Kuriyama didn't really kill Poor Dead Best Friend, Sakura! The monster you're ignoring did! Besides, do you think this is what Poor Dead Best Friend would want?! In other news, Akihito tries to stop Kuriyama from taking on the Hollow Shadow herself, so she drives him off by giving him the classic "You don't understand how much my life has sucked!" speech. It  amuses me that Kuriyama basically accuses him of having half-monster privilege, which is a pretty nervy thing to say to a guy who you've stabbed in the heart half a dozen times...and there's probably a moral in there somewhere. Anyway, I assume the next episode will resume with Akihito giving a "No, it's YOU who doesn't understand how much MY life has sucked!" speech, and maybe the battle between Kuriyama and Sakura will conclude. Or maybe Akihito will hold off Sakura while Kuriyama fights the Hollow Shadow, because it's not like that's a total waste of everyone's time when they could just be fighting the damn thing all together. Sigh. Oh well, at least the preview for the next episode looks action-packed. I'm pretty sure Akihito gets fatally stabbed, but doesn't know how to die when he is killed, so look forward to that.    
AA: BtB, Ep.3 photo
Here's a major baddie, so let's waste energy fighting each other
I think we're at the point where we can tell what BtB does really well, and what it does badly. The show continues to excel at creating a creepy supernatural atmosphere-- like when the invisible monsters started popping out o...

Beyond the Boundary photo
Beyond the Boundary

Simulcast GET! Crunchyroll grabs Beyond the Boundary

Crunchyroll is ready to bleed for justice!
Oct 01
// Salvador G Rodiles
I don't know about you, but I think that Crunchyroll is going all out with their new simulcasts for the Fall Anime Season. Now that they have announced that Kyokai no Kanata will be streamed under the name of Beyond the Bound...

Final Impressions: FREE!

Oct 01 // Karen Mead
First of all, an important point of correction: too many people seem to think that the main purpose of this show is to provide fanservice for girls. It does do that (and that is a worthy goal, considering just how often things are skewed in the other direction), but that's really secondary to the show's real purpose: providing soft porn for people who love swimming pools. To me, there are few things more beautiful in this life than the reflection of the sunlight on the bottom of a crystal-clear pool, and Free! captures that effect perfectly, every time. In fact, water in general looks downright gorgeous on this show; it makes you want to pour yourself a tall glass of the stuff and just ogle it for a while. One of the main ideas of Free! is that series' poster boy Haruka loves swimming, but has little interest in swimming competitively, or even doing any other strokes besides freestyle. This was perhaps easier for me to buy into than for a lot of other people, because I love swimming but never really cared much for "strokes" or "form" or any of that stuff. I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid as a kid and spent entire summers trying to stay under water for as long as possible, in the hopes that it would somehow turn me into mermaid. So I grew up being extremely comfortable in the water, to the point that friends and relatives called me "the fish" and other cutesy things, but I never swam competitively, nor did I care to. For this reason, I completely related to Haru from the very beginning, which made it much easier for me to get emotionally invested in the story. Like any good sports anime-- and, and despite the KyoAni pedigree, Free! is a proper sports anime-- the show deals with the paradox of athletic competition. On the one hand, caring too much about winning poisons the activity and defeats the purpose of team sports, but not caring enough means you're not giving it your all, also defeating the purpose. It's almost impossible to hit that sweet spot where you care just enough about winning. I found that Rin's whole character arc explored this theme very well without dumbing it down, or glossing over how difficult this can be to deal with in practice, and that's the backbone of the show right there. Granted, Rin's self-centered whining got a little grating, but on the whole he remained a sympathetic antagonist whom you could never really hate, even when he kind of deserved it. Watching him smile the same smile he had as a little boy before diving in the pool for his leg of the relay was fantastic-- such a tiny moment, but great emotional payoff for the audience. Once I spied Rei sitting in the stands during the preview for Episode 12 I predicted the series' ending, but hoped that I was wrong. It seemed terribly unfair to Rei for Rin to take his spot in the relay, after taking the entire season to establish that Rei really was a valued part of the team, despite being the weakest swimmer. I still feel kind of bad for him, but now after seeing Episode 12, I can't imagine the show ending any other way. Having Rin swim with the guys again and ultimately lead them to victory, yet having the team disqualified for screwing with the tournament format, struck just the right bittersweet note. It's like the show answered the question of whether or not friendship or success was more important, but didn't oversimplify it-- you'll notice that once friendship with Rin had been re-established, everyone gets right back to training again. They didn't cop out and say "Tee-hee, friendship is all that matters!", which would have killed it for me. The fact that the four boys basically have spiritual experiences while swimming their respective legs of the final relay is another thing that might strain credulity for some viewers, but I dug it; it was the release of a whole season's worth of tension. That euphoria that you sometimes feel while giving it your all isn't easy to capture in visuals, so I appreciate the show taking some poetic license to show us what the boys felt like. I mean, I don't think that Nagisa literally hallucinated a dolphin in the pool with him, but then again, he's Nagisa; it's possible. Circling back to the whole "fanservice for girls WOOT" thing, given that the show is about swimming and the boys have good reason to be in swimsuits much of the time, it's kind of debatable if the show has much fanservice at all; it comes down to whether or not you think watching really in-shape guys practicing swimming constitutes fanservice in and of itself. The few times the boys disrobe when they aren't swimming (including Haruka's proclivity to strip down to his swim trunks and dive in the pool at any opportunity) are played more for humor than anything else. There's probably an interesting point to be made about how so-called "fanservice" for girls is relatively unobtrusive compared to what we usually see in shows targeted at a male audience, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. The show ends with a "See You Next Summer," and while a second season has not been confirmed as of yet, given the show's reception, chances look good. I have mixed feelings about this-- on the one hand, I am totally down with another season of KyoAni making swimming pools look sexy as hell. Yet, the first season really succeeded in telling a complete story in a way that few 12-episode series do these days, making this one of the few shows I really like where I would be okay with it if it never continued. I guess it's fortunate the decision is completely out of my hands. On second thought, if the series does come back, I can recap it and then end my recaps with "See you next water time!" So yeah, get on that KyoAni. More imaginary dolphins for everyone, please.
Free! photo
Relays make you hallucinate dolphins
Free! was the show we were all kind of making fun of, right? Instead of Kyoto Animation's typical "Cute girls doing cute things" formula, they switched it up with cute boys who kind of act like girls, except for the fact that...

Kyokai no Kanata promo  photo
Kyokai no Kanata promo

Have a bloody good time with Kyokai no Kanata's new promo

I'm not kidding, there is some good blood in this trailer.
Sep 04
// Salvador G Rodiles
I'm probably the worse person to ask when it comes to Kyoto Animation related things, since the last KyoAni related thing that I saw was the first episode of Chuunibiyo and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumia. Instead of mak...
KyoAni KnK photo
KyoAni KnK

KyoAni's Kyoukai no Kanata airs this fall

This fall is shaping up to be Sakuga heaven
Aug 05
// Elliot Gay
Kyoto Animation announced yesterday that their next TV anime, Kyokai no Kanata, would be airing this October here in Japan.  The series is shaping up to be an supernatural action kind of deal, which is exciting for a num...

First Impressions: Free!

Jul 08 // Elliot Gay
Let's get this out of the way first: there is a lot of fanservice in Free!. I'm not talking female breasts or panty shots either. I'm referring to bare chests, man ass, lots of slow shots of the male form and things along those lines. The show wears this stuff on its sleeve with pride, which made it easy, at least for me, to accept it, chuckle to myself, and move on. Characters dramatically flip their hair, and rip off their clothes with extreme prejudice. It's as goofy as it is well animated, and I have absolutely no problem with that. Never before have I seen the act of taking a shirt off handled so seriously in an anime. Thank you KyoAni, thank you. In my opinion Hyouka is KyoAni's best looking series, and while Free! doesn't even come close, it's definitely not lacking in the visual department. The opening sequence featuring Haru swimming elegantly through the water is absolutely gorgeous. The way the water moves and deforms around the swimmers never stops being a marvel to watch. Small moments, like when Haru's friend Makoto stops to pet a kitten while on his way to school, are detailed in ways that most TV anime are not. If KyoAni can keep up this level of visual quality for the entire run, they'll have yet another beautiful series to put into their portfolio. I'll be the first to admit that the main character's have some odd looking muscles however. The story here isn't anything special, playing off of sports anime tropes. The main characters are all archetypes, but their friendship is what makes it fun to watch. They bounce off one another with the kind of playfulness that the K-On! cast shared, doing a good job of mirroring the kinds of friendships you see at that age. The women and men at KyoAni are experts at evoking nostalgia through their work, and Free! is no different in that sense. Much to my surprise, there does in fact seem to be a strong focus on actually swimming, so those of you expecting a more slice of life approach might be a bit disappointed. It's also worth pointing out that no, it is not a cast of all male characters. There are women in the show, each with their own little quirks. I'm looking forward to seeing how they end up interacting with the core cast, especially Gou, Rin's little sister.   My one big complaint with Free!, at least in this opening episode, is the weird soundtrack that seems to lack any kind of flow. This is by no means a quiet show; music is playing during just about every single scene, and it feels odd. I get that they're trying to elicit a sports anime kind of feel by keeping the upbeat music pumping, but it's unnecessary. Additionally, the opening theme and accompanying animation are something of a disappointment. Fortunately, the closer picks up the slack with a weird-ass desert setting and a hilariously goofy song that sets just the right tone for the series. So I guess the main question is whether or not Free! is worth a watch for folks not coming in for the upper body fanservice. At least as of episode one, I certainly think so. The cast is charming, the premise is goofy, the direction is solid, and the show looks great. No, the story isn't doing anything special, but if you like sports anime, this could very well be the series for you. I'm looking forward to getting my feet wet. [Free! Iwatobi Swim Club airs on Crunchyroll!]
FI: Free! photo
Free at last, free at last.
Kyoto Animation's latest TV anime, Free!, is a bit different from the studio's standard output.  While KyoAni is clearly aiming this latest project at female anime watchers, that doesn't necessarily mean Free! can't be e...

Chuunibyou 2nd season photo
Chuunibyou 2nd season

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 2nd season confirmed

Looks like it won't just be an OVA!
May 08
// Elliot Gay
Thanks to an early Newtype leak, we now have confirmation that KyoAni's wacky romantic comedy, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, is in fact getting a second sequel. While we knew a new project was underway, there was some specu...
KyoAni FREE! photo
KyoAni FREE!

KyoAni's next TV anime is FREE!

High school boys swimming and being bros.
Apr 26
// Elliot Gay
Kyoto Anime announced during a live Nico Nico broadcast that their next TV anime will be FREE!, a series about high school boys on the swimming team. If this sounds familiar to you, that's because you probably saw KyoAni's a...

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