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First Impressions: March comes in like a lion episodes 1-3

Oct 29 // Red Veron
March comes in like a lion introduces us to Rei Kiriyama, a teenage professional Shogi player who happens to be really good at it. Though that setup sounds like he has it good but he has no real family and very few friends. The show starts out pretty quiet and a bit dreary when we first meet Rei. He lives by himself in a new town where he just moved to and lives a rather lonely existence in his apartment with a nice view of the river. The first episode begins as we follow him as he starts his day and he goes to a shogi match. As we get to know more of Rei, we find that his life isn't all bad but not exactly perfect. Rei is in that self-discovery part of his life (like most teens his age), trying to find his place in the world and figuring things out. These things are explored as Rei plays shogi, the one thing Rei is good at, which makes Rei feel conflicted with each win he makes takes something away from someone else. The second half of the first episode has a dramatic shift in tone that really came out of nowhere. Everything did feel dreary and sad but once that shift in tone happnes, I felt like I was getting hit with a train. Except that train was made of rainbows and happiness. This very much sets up the show, there will be plenty of quiet and sad moments punctuated by some happy and funny moments to break it up. It's much like real life, where even if everything isn't going well, people will try to find something to break that up with something happy to keep their sanity intact. We get to meet more characters in the first few episodes and we find that Rei isn't exactly alone. There are people around him, he has a bit of a problem with connecting with others because of his past, which we learn more and more. The characters we meet are an interesting bunch, providing a lot of comedy and contrast to Rei's more reserved nature. The secondary characters are given some development early on and most of them probably will much like in Honey and Clover. Shogi plays a minor part in the show, with Rei being a professional Shogi player but the viewer doesn't need to know the game at all to enjoy. The Shogi playing is a backdrop and more a plot device used more to show off the nature of the characters playing Shogi. I really want to talk about everything in the show but it would spoil all the good stuff that can surprise viewers. Visually, SHAFT does an excellent job in bringing Chika Umino's art to life and I honestly thought I was watching more of the author's previous work with Honey and Clover, which was made by J.C. Staff, an entirely different studio. While SHAFT made this show, the first episode was much more subtle than their usual work and their trademark motifs and touches are only noticeable to those very familiar with their work. SHAFT faithfully recreates Umino's pretty character designs and even her watercolor pastel art style from her artwork very well.  SHAFT's fingerprints do show up more often with each episode. The very SHAFT moments do make things better in this show, as it perfectly lends itself to the comedy while adding more to the dramatic moments. This is all due to the director, Akiyuki Shinbou, who worked on popular SHAFT productions such as Hidamari Sketch and the Monogatari series, and March comes in like a lion is full of those elements from those shows. Those worried that SHAFT might screw this up or take it too far should be rest assured that SHAFT has had experience with slower paced slice-of-life anime. The songs they chose to start and end the show are by Bump of Chicken and they are just superb. Not quite as diverse as Honey and Clover's soundtrack, but the songs that bookend the show and insert songs go really well with the show and set up the mood just right. Fans of Chika Umino's work will find familiar themes from her previous work, a slice-of-life story with drama that can get heavy at times. It's a coming-of-age story in trying to find a place in the world and not knowing how things will turn out. No actual romance in yet this early in the show, but there might be some down the line. The first episode is a good example of what to expect, and the following two prove that there is more to the show with comedy and not just gloomy teenager stuff all the time. I highly recommend this show for people to watch if they want a grounded and solid slice-of-life drama to balance out all the action and waifu/husbando shows from this season. [Catch March comes in like a lion on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.]
First Impressions photo
Game of Life
It's been almost a decade since the first time I watched the anime adaptation of Chika Umino's Honey and Clover. I was hooked right from the first episode; from its beautiful art and animation to the memorable characters, it ...

Let's break down the Kizumonogatari movie trailers

Jan 04 // Anthony Redgrave
Before we start, Kizumonogatari is actually the first part of a trilogy of movies. The first one coming out is called Tekketsu-hen, second is Nekketsu-hen, and finally Reiketsu-hen. Or to put it in English terms; Iron-Blooded, Hot-Blooded, and Cold-Blooded referencing Kiss-shots full name and title Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, cold-blooded vampire.  If you thought the trend of splitting the last book of a series into two movies is bad, they're doing a Hobbit here by splitting a 344-page book into three movies.  [embed]34670:5332:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer (10.10.15)  One of the first shots is of a tree with narration in the background. The tree isn't actually referenced in the book at all, or at least in any significant detail. However, we do know that there is a massive tree that grows out of the Cram School which is featured heavily throughout the series and that includes Kizumonogatari. The tree grows out of a hole in the roof of the cram school that was created by Kiss-Shot once she regains her true form.  Oshino and Araragi are sitting down in a sparse room that looks like a station. While the two of them are seen conversing with one another alone it is often done in the Cram school rather than any other location so that leads me to believe that this is still the cram school. However, the cram school has always been described as abandoned and unused. This being Shaft I can always suppose it holds a cinematographic purpose more than an accurate one.  Kiss-shot is shown bloody and limbless on the floor of a train platform. While this is the basis of Kizumonogatari the location differs from the book. In the book Araragi finds her on the street illuminated by a sole street light and is able to identify her as a Vampire due to her lack of shadow. 'You aren't going to save me' is a reference to Araragi's initial hesitation to help Kiss-shot. Ah yes, the panty scene. During Araragi's initial encounter with Tsubasa, a gust of wind blows up her skirt while she is adjusting her braid causing her panties to be revealed to Araragi. The book takes a long time describing the situation in great detail for something that takes a few seconds in the trailer. Earlier in the trailer, you see Tsubasa catch up to Araragi. This takes place after Araragi sees Tsubasa pants. I know this compared to any other times Araragi meets Tsubasa throughout the book because of the line 'You walk fast, Araragi' as Araragi was trying to get away without embarrassment from seeing her pants.  Araragi inspecting a young blonde girl on the ground surrounded by chairs is just after he awakes after saving Kiss-shot. The location is supposed to be the cram school which I can see through the use of the plastic school chairs. Araragi running crazily to the right in a sort of frenzy is when he attempts to save Kiss-shot. In the book Araragi internally debates whether or not he should save her and ultimately abandons his humanity to do so hence the crazy running. Some of the last shots in the trailer have people engulfed in fire. This is because vampires are weak to certain things and sunlight is one of them. The first figure is Araragi having just discovered this weakness and the second is Kiss-shot in her now 10-year-old form saving Araragi from burning to death. [embed]34670:5331:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer 2 (12.24.15)  The second trailer doesn't have a lot more to add that hasn't already been seen in the first. But we do get a glimpse of the three vampire hunters that are after Araragi and Kiss-shot throughout Kizumongatari.  Araragi's first bites of dialogue follow the novel as he pleas with the Vampire Hunters not to kill him because he is human. Despite at this point having just turned into a Vampire by Kiss-shot. The first Vampire Hunter shown is Dramaturgy, as described in the books to be a seven feet tall man with unkempt hair held back with a hairband.  Next is Episode. Now he has already made a reappearance in the latest Owarimonogatari as part of Shinobu Mail and also earlier in Tsubasa Tiger as part of Monogatari Second Season. For the most part, he looks the same as his TV anime counterpart including the giant cross he slings over his shoulder.  Last is Guillotine Cutter. The trailer has a glare behind him so it shadows most of his clothing. In the book, he is described to be wearing priestly robes, docile face, and hedgehog-like hair. The light shining from behind him may be a reference to his holy background. Another interesting point is Araragi's duds. Araragi is never described in the books and it was character designer Akio Watanabe who had made him the way he looks now. What's interesting is that Araragi has the same sense of style as he does in the anime; hoodie, vest, and jeans but he is also rocking a peace medallion. Could this be referencing the lie he tells his sisters that over the holidays he is on a journey of self-discovery? One of the last shots is Araragi holding Kiss-shot in his arms with blood spray across the ground. From the pose and Kiss-shot's lack of limbs, I think this is just as Kiss-shot feeds on Araragi to save herself.  [embed]34670:5333:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari Movie Trailer (2012)- VERY MUCH SPOILERs This is a little bonus. Before Kizumonogatari exists as we know it now, there was a lot of talk about releasing it as a stand-alone movie in 2012. There were a lot of delays and radio silence about the project before 2015 finally revealed the trilogy. They were able to bring out a trailer for Kizumonogatari before all this uncertainty and it shows a lot more of the story than the previous two.  This section will include massive spoilers for the whole book since there are scenes from the finale featured in the trailer.  First it is more accurate than the more recent trailers having Kiss-shot actually being found on the street illuminated by a sole street lamp just as it's described in the book.  Next is Araragi's first confrontation with the Vampire Hunters. Dramaturgy is seen in the left lane, Episode can be identified in the right fork with his massive silver cross. And Guillotine Cutter appears from behind Araragi just as it's described in the book. The character designs for the three Vampire Hunters look a little rougher than their other anime counterparts. Episode looks a tad older and without his white school uniform and is instead in a generic white shirt.  Dramaturgy doesn't even look human here although his hair and physique still match his description. It could be a reference to his true form as a Vampire. We get a better shot of Guillotine Cutter here as it's obvious that he is in a priestly garb, still with a calm demeanor. No better shot of his hedgehog-like hair, though. Next we see Meme Oshino intervening against the three vampire hunters taking down Araragi. This is very faithful to the book as he adopts the same weird pose to block all three simultaneous attacks.  Episode's cross is seen connecting with Araragi with a splash of blood emitting from his shoulder. This is from Araragi's battle with Episode where Araragi discovers another one of his vampire weaknesses.  Tsubasa watches the fight from the background. This is either from the first or the second fight as she is witness to both. However judging from the previous shot referencing Episode's fight with Araragi I'm thinking it's from that fight also. Tsubasa faces away from a pair of hands inching creepily towards her. From the background, I know that it's the scene where Araragi asks to touch Tsubasa's breasts. Next is Oshino Meme holding up Kiss-shot's stolen heart moments before he returns it to Araragi. The corpse is Guillotine Cutter after he is eaten by Kiss-shot in her newly regained perfect form. The next few scenes are fairly chronological. Kiss-shot arrives on the school sports field to do battle against Araragi. Her landing destroys the ground due to her leaping from the Cram school to Araragi's school grounds. Then Araragi and Kiss-shot fight each other, completely decimating each other with each hit. Again very similar to the novel as their vampire strength is able to destroy the bodies but their healing factor can regenerate the lost flesh. Overall this trailer is very faithful to the novel it is based on. It also retains the anime style that Shaft had been using for the past few seasons compared to the style being incorporated into the films now.  Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer (10.10.15)
Kizumonogatari photo
Did something good happen just now?
It's a very interesting time for English literate Monogatari fans. With the first officially translated Monogatari light novel coinciding with the often delayed and heavily anticipated Kizumonogatari movie set to re...

Kizumonogatari photo

The new Kizumonogatari trailer goes back to where it all started

Won't you help a fallen vamp?
Dec 08
// Josh Tolentino
It's finally happening. The now venerable and celebrated Monogatari Series may be coming to a conclusion with Owarimonogatari, but it won't really be over until we return to the beginning with the movie adaptations of K...
Shaft photo
I'm sooo happy right now
Shaft has to be one of my favourite anime studios just because they made the Monogatari Series. I love that anime to pieces; from the extremely witty dialogue to the contrasting colour art style. The studio is coming up to it...

Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors episode 7

May 27 // Dae Lee
Once again skipping the typical opening credits, we jump right back into the action. This is a very dialogue driven episode, casting a new light on the members that make up the Mekakushi-dan, of the past and the present. Ene's past self, Enomoto, comes to terms with her feelings about Haruka after a pep talk with Ayano, only to be rewarded with a sudden fainting spell that initiates Enomoto's mysterious conversion to her digital self.  There really isn't much in the way of action or even scene progression, as the majority of the episode takes place in the graveyard the Mekakushi-dan walk into at the end of episode 5. Even though this is the juncture where I desperately want to see the fall out from various currently running plot points, I appreciated the change of pace because it allowed for more lengthy and interesting conversations. Kano, who played a comedic role in the show as a sub-leader of sorts, is given a more interesting role here. He teases Ene about a similar case where someone was transformed after a black out, a plot point that is conveniently put on hold when they are notified that Shintaro is in trouble. When the group leaves to meet up with Seto and Shintaro, Kano stays behind with Ene to exchange a few more words in secret. He shows a much more sympathetic and thoughtful side, but when Ene further questions Kano about what he said earlier, he slyly reminds her that Haruka died the same day Ayano did, breaking Ene's pretense and making her face the truth she tried to bury. There is definitely more to Kano than meets the eye, and with the power of illusion and deception, he uses it well here to a chilling effect. We're finally left with a final scene involving Haruka, who seems to be the "other person" who went through what Enomoto did. His mortality is pushed into a corner, confined to a hospital bed and waiting for inevitable death. A mysterious female voice offers him a chance to be reborn into a new, stronger body at the expense of losing his memories, a cruel offer that he can't refuse. It's also worth noting the presence of professor Tateyama before Enomoto and Haruka collapse, and the strange figure of a girl with long black hair that we recognize as the heroine of the post-credits storybook sequences makes a clear appearance in the show proper as well. It's easy to think she is some sort of a mastermind behind everyone's unique abilities, but the fun part comes from trying to figure out how and why. While we can start to see through the once solid wall that separated us from understanding the weave of stories and characters, much of it are still undefinable blurs of moving objects; beautiful but ominous gestures behind frosted glass. The intrigue builds and builds, and the more I watch, the more I wish shows would embrace a storytelling format that invites speculation in a playful and creative way that doesn't feel like a frustrating plot hole that the writers forgot to fill in, but instead feels like a playful invitation to try to build bridges on your own.  I'm sure there will be more than enough information revealed between now and the end of the show, but a part of me wishes that they will leave some things unknown for the fan base to theorize and contemplate long after the show is over. [Follow this show on Crunchyroll!]
AA: Mekakucity Actors photo
The red-eyed man is king.
In typical Mekakucity Actors fashion, they once again subvert my expectations by actually picking up where the last episode left off. The story seems to be taking a more recognizable form now; having thoroughly explored the tip of the iceberg, this episode suits up for the deep plunge below the surface to give us a glimpse of what this show is really about.

Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors episode 6

May 20 // Dae Lee
Here we get another self-contained story with some very clear ties to characters in the current storyline; this time focusing on Ene and Haruka, two characters who seemed completely unrelated. The past exposes that at one point they were functioning, normal (to an extent) students, albeit placed in a special class taught by none other than Tateyama, Momo's current tutor. 'Ene', as we know her as, is a internet handle she uses in video games; a name that is now infamous for reaching second place in the nation at a competitive game tournament. Unable to cope with the attention that brings, Ene surprisingly seems to lead a very closed lifestyle, not unlike Shintaro -- who, speaking of which, shows up later in this episode, implying that this was before his shut-in days. More surprising perhaps, is that he is accompanying Ayano: the girl who the Mekakushi-dan revere as their founder. We have surprise appearances by Tsubomi and Shuya as well, for some fun cameo antics. The episode focuses on the high school cultural festival, where Ene and Haruka's classroom plays host to a competitive shooting game that Tateyama whips up practically overnight. Ene's idea for this backfires when people catch wind of her as a championship finalist, a fact that she desperately tries to hide from Haruka in fear of being judged. Haruka bears resemblance to his more eccentrically designed counterpart, exhibiting a bottomless stomach, ultra-pale complexion, and his signature air-headed voice. But here he's also shown to be more lively and personable, compared to his white-haired self later on who seems much more lackadaisical and naive. When the cat's out of the bag and Haruka discovers Ene's infamous gaming career, he praises Ene for her great talent, to her surprise. The regular credits sequence is taken out and we're treated to an extended ending and extra song which purposefully ends with a cliffhanger tease that seems rather ominous. We get a nice little story here with its own arc and a narrative that's easy to follow. With continuous layering of stand-alone narratives, the overlaps are becoming much clearer. We still have massive gaps to fill, but maybe this anthology-styled show doesn't need to tell us everything we want to know. As I look forward to more connections and revelations, it's been just as fun speculating on how these stories and characters connect. [Catch this show on Crunchyroll!]
Mekakucity Actors photo
Before the apocalypse
This week's entry starts with a bang, passing on the usual OP and going straight into a action setpiece, where a black-haired Ene races down the metropolitan city blocks that seem to be collapsing all around her. The high tension beginning is followed by a trip to the past which lays down yet even more enticing circuits in this labyrinth of a chipboard that is Mekakucity Actors.

AA: Mekakucity Actors episode 5

May 12 // Dae Lee
After the flurry of introductions, Shintaro gets inducted into the Mekakushi-dan and the group promptly plans a trip to the amusement park, at Ene's delight. Unfortunately, the vacation is cancelled when Shintaro's paranoid-ridden self breaks off unannounced, walking around the city aimlessly by himself. There he crosses paths with Konoha, our white-haired mystery man from the previous episode. As expected, Konoha's been wandering about the city, looking for the two lost kids Hibiya and Asahina, and solicits Shintaro's help. When Shintaro reluctantly agrees, they witness two children being kidnapped that look exactly like our two lost leads from episode 4. Here we get our first look at Konoha's power, which seems to be superhuman strength, prying open the locked van and saving the children in the nick of time. But before we can even get a handle on what's going on, we're jerked around for another disorienting loop. Bizarre imagery and an abrupt cut end that thread suddenly, snapping us back to the Mekakushi-dan; making their way to visit the grave site of their beloved former leader who committed suicide years ago. An extra wrinkle of intrigue closes out this episode when Ene of all people recognizes the deceased commander as Ayano. It seems like the pieces placed on the board are beginning to shift around, giving us more connections and theories to play around with. The playfulness of the early episodes is back in full force here, only more enjoyable now that everyone is more familiar with each other. Ene was a sight for sore eyes as the cheeky digital mascot, brought to life by fantastic voice acting by Asumi Kana (also voicing the eccentric Tensai from this season's Nanana's Buried Treasure). Ene's presence alone encourages humorous situations, with ludicrous imagery and unpredictable gags catching me completely off guard. While a purely transitional episode, it was an entertaining jaunt, taking us deeper into the Mekakucity world. We get a good bit of back-story and exposition through casual dialogue, shaping the universe further and getting us more acquainted with the sizable cast of characters. With large ensembles it's inevitable that not everyone will be fully fleshed out, but they should take care to establish enough for us to care about them, which I think this show is well on its way of accomplishing. On the narrative front, invisible threads are starting to take color, already revealing a few unexpected connections and having us try to guess how all the pieces laid out so far will intersect. As we see our multiple stories take shape, I'm sure there will be more than enough questions and mysteries to obscure the full picture -- whether they plan to reveal it all by the show's end or not.
AA: Mekakucity Actors photo
Mom, I've made friends!
The events from last episode, I'm afraid, will have to be resolved at another time. We're transported back to follow the events from episode 3, after the gang return to hiding, dragging the unconscious Shintaro behind them. Waking up in a unfamiliar room, he gets introduced to the Mekakushi-dan in the most awkward and chaotic way possible, as is the norm with our fellow band of misfits.

Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors 4

May 05 // Dae Lee
The episode seems to start out normal enough, as it picks up the dropped string from episode two, when Momo and her young bratty acquaintance, Hibiya, get separated in the mob chase. Never catching up to Momo, he ends up getting what he came to the city for: a keyring with a cartoon mascot figure, a present he hopes will please his schoolmate crush, Hiyori Asahina. Immediately following shows Asahina coldly rejecting his present at her uncle's house, a place both of them lied to stay at for a small vacation. We see the disparity and how one-sided the attraction is in the way she treats Hibiya like a lackey, sending him on errands and insulting him whenever she finds the opportunity. One has to wonder why Asahina invited Hibiya if she didn't enjoy his company, but it can easily be answered by her archetype as a tsundere. She brings Hibiya to stay at her uncle's place in the city, a house he barely lives in, making it practically an empty house for the two to crash in. They do however find one occupant living there: her uncle's supposed foster son. A soft-spoken, tall young man with white hair named Konoha, who has a bottomless stomach, and quickly becomes the subject of Asahina's affections, to Hibiya's continual dismay. Feeling the mounting pressure to confess his feelings to Asahina, Hibiya falls asleep, hoping for his luck to change around. Things couldn't be more wrong. The episode takes an abrupt left turn from the moment Hibiya wakes up the next day, taking the audience through a austere sequence of what can only be described as a mix of David Lynch, End of Evangelion, and Bill Murray's Groundhog Day. After failing to save Asahina from a terrible automobile death, he wakes up, reliving the same day over and over again. Each time he tries to save her using different methods, but it seems that death is inescapable, resulting in Asahina's death every time. Discordant guitar notes with the morse code rapping of electronic noise makes up the sparse sountrack, while the visuals also take a turn for the surreal, creating a properly hellish dream-scape made up of flat concrete, twisted wires, and harsh color. After realizing what he must do, he and Asahina trade places, throwing himself in front of the oncoming truck, and appearing to thwart fate's plan. I did a bit of homework with this episode, watching the original music video that this story was drawing from called 'Heat Haze Daze', of which the episode is also named. Watching it through this medium, I could start to understand where some of the very vocal complaints were coming from. The story is delivered well in the music video, completely told through the lyrics, describing the events in a very straight-forward manner with a very frenetic pace, making it a thrilling and emotional experience packed into four minutes. When having to create context for the story and delivering on the main narrative in a full length episode, it loses that kind of frantic energy, which can disappoint fans of the original work, especially when they're subjected to Shaft's abstract visual storytelling, the very opposite of the music videos. While I believe it could have been presented better in the anime, I still found myself entranced with the episode, watching it multiple times to make sense of deliberate visuals that were shown during the latter half. This could very well be the most contentiously debated episode as 'Heat Haze Daze' is among the most beloved works from the Kagerou Project, making this episode the hotbed of criticisms and praise from both sides. I find myself in the middle, as I still think there is plenty to like here for those who are only watching the anime. I enjoyed this hypnotic trip, and understand why they had to make the certain story changes they did -- though there is such a thing as being too subtle and obscure. It seems like there's still quite a bit more to be explained as far as what happened and why, and I hope the extremely abrupt cliffhanger ending is followed quickly by a satisfactory resolution. [Watch Mekakucity Actors on Crunchyroll, and read the previous episodes' impressions here!]
AA: Mekakucity Actors photo
"Screw you, cat."
Words like "fate" or "destiny" are often associated with victory and love, but it can also be a horrific concept. It's not only the most confusingly presented episode of Mekakucity Actors, it seems to be going straight for Shaft's "Most Abstract Presentation" award.

Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors Episode 2 & 3

Apr 29 // Dae Lee
Where do I start? Studio Shaft's visual sensibilities run rampant throughout Mekakucity Actors: head tilts, abstract representations, lavish patterns, inhumanly pristine environments, extreme angles and superb animation. Specifically, it shares much of its stylistic makeup with Shaft's Monogatari series. There's a deep current of unbridled visual creativity at work that runs beneath the clinically immaculate presentation. The way that only essential players are given the full animation treatment (background characters often represented by stand-in objects), mixing flat and static backgrounds with colorful and lively characters give it a distinct atmosphere captured in Monogatari, capturing the feeling of complete isolation from the rest of the bustling world. It's a theme that runs in both Mekakucity Actors and the Monogatari series: the feeling that you are different from the rest of the world, as if what is happening is only doing so in a bubble that no one else sees or understands. Episode two takes an abrupt narrative switch from the first episode, throwing you into hectic life of Momo: a beloved idol whose popularity is alienating her further from society and sees her gift as a curse. Cutting between her current dilemmas and events from her past, episode two provides a comprehensive character study. Momo is shown to have a very optimistic personality, but her armor seems to be chipping away as she finds herself at a breaking point, yearning for a normal life. Ironically, it's revealed that she is the younger sister of Shintaro, the complete shut-in from the first episode, and it seems that they share a few things in common, despite their opposing personal motives -- Momo has no friends, trapped in her own figurative room with no way out. She also seems to consume quite a bit of otaku material and risks her own well-being for nonsensical, limited edition trinkets (paralleled by her brother risking his mental well-being for a keyboard, prior). Episode three is where all the pieces are put in place. A distraught Momo finds herself sought after by a group of misfits calling themselves the Mekakushi-Dan (translating to "Blindfold Gang/Organization"), an eclectic group who each have very specific powers, ranging from invisibility to mind-reading. Momo finds out that her ability to draw attention is a result of her being a "mutant" like them. The eyes seem to be tell-tale signs, as they begin glowing red whenever their power is being used. With the promise to teach Momo how to control her power and buy her a new phone (which was accidentally dropped into a pitcher of tea), Momo sticks with the gang and heads to a popular department store -- the same department store that Shintaro walks into in search of a keyboard (which was also destroyed by a drink... coincidence?). So here we see the events from the first episode come around full circle. We are given context and an alternate view of the same terrorist event that occurred in the beginning, now with the knowledge we just learned about the characters and their abilities. It was a satisfying wrap-up to this introductory subplot, and I eagerly await what happens from this point on. Shaft's visuals are something I've taken a real liking to, employing their own unique arsenal of animation-saving techniques like nobody's business, utilizing quick cuts and interesting compositions to effectively mask animations while still giving you a stylish presentation with controlled explosions of great animation. It's obviously not going to stand toe-to-toe with Shaft's bread-and-butter series, but it shows how effective their methods are. Shaft seems to have taken the source material and run away with it, making something uniquely their own -- something I like seeing studios do, but I also understand that it's been a source of ire from fans of the music videos and manga it's adapting from. But as someone who isn't familiar with the source material, I found myself thoroughly engaged with what they've shown so far. The cast is lively and deliciously dysfunctional, creating a ragtag group of misfits you can't help but like. If the source is as superior as everyone says it is, I'm very excited to check it out -- but for where the series is right now, I would say this is still a impressive show by itself. Also, be sure to check out the post-credits scenes for each episode. Presented in a stop-motion storybook fashion, they seem to be weaving a back story for something significant coming up in the series. It's a whirlwind of a show so far, and I'm happy to discover that Shaft is bringing their distinct brand of quirk into this season (as well as creating a polarizing audience, as it seems to be Shaft's special superpower). [Get your dose of Mekaku extreme close-ups on Crunchyroll]
AA: Mekaku City Actors photo
Actors, assemble!
I volunteered to pick Mekakucity Actors up because Chris is currently handling many fulfilling challenges in the real world, and found it difficult to follow the show on a regular schedule. I will try to capture the madness in his stead, so jump in for the screenshot-laden Shaft-isms after the break!

First Impressions: Mekakucity Actors

Apr 14 // Chris Walden
The world that Mekakucity Actors paints is an interesting one. For the most part, it looks like present day Japan, with a little bit of Shaft's creative license to spruce some of the locales up a bit. A major difference between Mekakuland and the real world is the existence of Ene, a very Hatsune Miku-looking computer program who likes to joke around with her 'master', much to his annoyance. Her master is a NEET shut-in, who is devastated to discover that he has to leave the house in order to buy a new keyboard, after spilling a drink on his current one. Besides that mini-explosion, he seems like a pretty laid back kinda guy.  Unfortunately, as far as the first episode is concerned, that's about all there is to say about these two. You could say that this episode is setting the scene, but I'd counter by saying that I'm still none the wiser as to what this scene actually looks like. This is a Shaft show through and through. The art is as stunning as always, with plenty of their iconic architecture livening up what I presume to be Mekaku City. In fact, this episode seems awfully familiar, as it seems to follow the same basic structure as the first episode of Bakemonogatari. We've had strange, nonsensical scenes, dull dialogue and a very light introduction to a few of the characters. However, as much as I wasn't a fan of the first episode of Bakemonogatari, the show soon became one of my all-time favorites. Perhaps we'll have a better sense of how this is all going to play out by the end of the second episode.  To be clear, I didn't hate this episode. It's a visual treat at the very least, but it also showed that it plans to go somewhere. However, it ultimately fails as a first episode, as it doesn't make any attempt to rope viewers into the story. Ene's existence is a mystery, and while I'm sure that'll be explored later on in the show, we don't even know the name of her 'master' yet [Edit: As was pointed out in the comments, his name is mentioned by Ene at one point in the episode, albeit indirectly. It's Shintaro, in case you were wondering!]. This very same guy, who may or may not be the main character in this show, was kidnapped and perhaps shot at the end of the episode. It's incredibly strange to have to refer to him by description after Golden Time's Tourettes-like screaming of the name Tada Banri.  So why didn't Mekakucity Actors rope people in with its story? Well, perhaps because so far there's no story to speak of. I know the general gist of what's going to happen in this show, thanks in part to seeing the conversations of a few KagePro fans, but what does this episode offer for those that have no prior knowledge? It's all very disappointing, especially as I have to toss my love for Shaft to one side while I say all of this. Shaft is staffed by very competent animators and I'd put money on this show coming together by the end, so it's just puzzling why we were served so much fluff in the introduction. I just hope that Shaft's decision to favor uninspiring dialogue over any meaningful exploration of the plot doesn't drive away a good portion of its audience.  Ene seems like a fun character, and the dynamic between her and 'master' could become really interesting. The setting seems fun, and the two guys that 'master' meets at the end may also be pretty interesting. Unfortunately, this is a good example of why I found it so frustrating, as I have to use words like 'seems', 'could' and 'may' to describe what this show 'might' be like. The first episode of a show is meant to tease the world and give you an idea about what it's all about; Mekakucity Actors 1 is a conversation between a NEET and a computer, which isn't much to work with. But as I mentioned previously, this isn't the first time a Shaft show has had awkward pacing, so I'll be sticking around for a few more episodes. I don't doubt that it'll all kick off next Saturday.  [Act quickly and catch this show on Crunchyroll]
FI: Mekakucity Actors photo
"Oh hey, a Shaft show! I didn't end up watching Nisekoi, so I'll be sure to watch this." This was the only reason I decided to pick up Mekakucity Actors. I had no idea that I was diving into what seems like a reasonably well-...

Aniplex photo

Aniplex announces Mahouka and Mekaku City Actors simulcast info

Put ya simulcast on!
Apr 05
// Brad Rice
Aniplex just dropped some news announcing the simulcast dates of its shows: Mahouka, also known as The Irregular at Magic High School, and Mekaku City Actors. Mahouka will air starting from today, while Mekaku City Actor...
Hanamonogatari photo

Hanamonogatari gets its first teaser trailer

It's Kanbaru flavor.
Mar 25
// Chris Walden
Nothing is going to slow down Shaft's Monogatari train, especially when you consider how popular the franchise has become. Heads would roll if people couldn't get the next available dose of Mayoi getting beaten up by Araragi...

First Impressions: Nisekoi

Jan 14 // Elliot Gay
Raku Ichijou is the son of a Yakuza leader, but he has no intention of following in his father's footsteps. Instead, he's determined to live a normal, stable life in which he eventually works for an average company and has his own family, unconnected from his criminal roots. Ten years earlier, he made a promise to a young girl who gave him a locket: one day they would open it together and eventually get married. Years later, and Raku is mostly living out a normal life in high school-- that is, until Chitoge Kirisaki enters the picture. Two knees-to-the-head later, and Raku finds his life forever changed by a surreal series of events that shake up his everyday life. The first episode of Nisekoi doesn't tell a remarkable story; in fact, it's the same sort of stuff that romantic comedies have been throwing out there for years and years now. However, the big gimmick of the series, the yakuza angle, undoubtedly keep things feeling fresh and entertaining; the scenes of thugs going crazy in the background were good fun. It also helps that the three leads (?) Raku, Chitoge, and Onodera all have attractive designs and decent chemistry. Raku doesn't come off as a complete idiot, and actually seems like a relatively capable young man. Maybe it's just that I've been away from the genre for so long, but I quite enjoyed his perspective on things in this first episode. Likewise Chitoge seems like a solid female lead. Her athleticism caught me by surprise, as did her attempts at coming off as normally as possible to the people around here. Her back and forth with Raku was fun if only because of their Yakuza backgrounds. I'm looking forward to seeing how that relationship evolves (or doesn't) in the coming episodes. On the flip side, Onodera struck me as the more typical heroine; here's hoping she doesn't just run in place forever. While Nisekoi's first episode didn't really shock me in any way regarding its narrative, its visual style did throw me for a loop. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I heard that Shaft would be handling production on the series. Yes, Shinbo was confirmed to be "directing," but most people know what that amounts to: he's just a name attached to the project. As it turns out, the real mastermind behind the production is the same man who served as the assistant director on Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, a show I have a great deal of love for. This becomes super obvious with one quick look at the visual flourishes in Nisekoi. Chitoge even does a quick "I'm in despair!" pose beat for beat in line with Itoshiki-sensei's signature pose. So what you end up with is a fairly by the books (but charming) romcom with a unique visual style and proper attention to detail. Characters are constantly moving around, and even dialogue is framed in unique ways that allow the show to feel like more than the sum of its parts. Things just feel more alive and colorful than you average romantic comedy, and that really does elevate Nisekoi in some interesting ways. Shaft seems committed to injecting it with their unique style, so I can only cross my fingers that things work out in the long run. It's been a long time since I sat down and enjoyed a romantic comedy, and while it's no Double Arts (sad face), Nisekoi got me to laugh more than a couple of times in its first episode. That has to count for something. I'll be sticking with this one.
FI: Nisekoi photo
Shaft gonna Shaft
Once upon a time there was an awesome Jump manga series called Double Arts by a man named Naoshi Komi. A wonderful little story about a pair of people who had to hold hands at all times, Double Arts would go on to be canceled...

Madoka Third Movie photo
Madoka Third Movie

Third Madoka film to have English subs in Japan

Perfect if you have deep pockets.
Jan 13
// Chris Walden
Are you getting Madoka withdrawal symptoms? Want something to cure that itch? Well, assuming you've got some money to play with, you could consider putting in a pre-order for the Japanese release of the third movie, Pue...
Madoka Magica photo
Madoka Magica

Final Madoka Magica film gets a 90 sec trailer

Bad things will probably happen
Oct 24
// Elliot Gay
Some of you might not be aware of this, but Madoka Magica The Movie -Rebellion- hits Japanese theaters on Saturday. It's hard to believe that we finally seem to be reaching the end of this long, dark magical girl journey.&nb...
Turn off your phone! photo
Turn off your phone!

Madoka Magica x Monogatari shorts coming soon

New shorts before 3rd Madoka Magica film.
Oct 07
// Ben Huber
Looks like the third Puella Magi Madoka Magica film in Japan will get something extra! SHAFT has announced they'll be releasing four Madoka Magica x Monogatari shorts that will air prior to the movie encouraging courtesy and ...
A new Madoka character  photo
A new Madoka character

More Contracts! A new character joins Madoka's third film

Kyubey is getting those papers ready.
Sep 03
// Salvador G Rodiles
It looks like I missed Kyubey's memo earlier during the day, but that doesn't mean that this is going to be huge! So what's this big event that's been getting me intrigued? Well, Madoka Magica the Movie III: Rebellion will be...
Kabukimonogatari photo

See the next chapter of the Monogatari Series

Kabukimonogatari incoming!
Aug 16
// Josh Tolentino
I have to say, it feels almost weird to be posting this trailer. Not that this new trailer for the next part of Monogatari Series Second Season is at all "weird", but that the show is still going. I usually expect Shaft...
Madoka Movie 3 trailer photo
Madoka Movie 3 trailer

Madoka Magica Rebellion's confusing trailer gets subbed

Now you can see what everyone is saying.
Jul 17
// Salvador G Rodiles
If you weren't able to understand the dialogue during the last trailer for Madoka Magica The Movie -Rebellion-, Aniplex USA has uploaded the current trailer with English subtitles. While it gives us a chance to rea...
Madoka Magica photo
Madoka Magica

Third Madoka film gets a confusing teaser trailer

The whole movie is spoiled I tell you! Spoiled!
Jul 15
// Elliot Gay
Anime fans have a whole lot of love for Shaft's Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime series. It's not hard to see why either. Hell, I personally enjoyed the ever living crap out of it. The most recent two films were basically all...
Madoka Movie 3 showings photo
Madoka Movie 3 showings

YES! Madoka Movie 3 gets a US, CAN, and France showing

My prayers have been answered!
Jul 08
// Salvador G Rodiles
Kyubey has made his verdict at Japan Expo 2013, and Madoka Magica the Movie III: Rebellion will be shown in the United States, Canada, and France! In other words, you can thank good old Sal for offering his soul to Kyubey to ...
Madoka Movie 3 info  photo
Madoka Movie 3 info

Home Run! New details about Madoka's third movie surface

Homura's hitting those home runs in October!
Jul 04
// Salvador G Rodiles
The magical climax that we've been waiting for is transforming again, and Mezamashi Terebi has taken a step into Shaft's studio to scope out the latest stuff about Madoka Magica the Movie Part III: Rebellion! During the segm...
Nisekoi anime photo
Nisekoi anime

Nisekoi adaptation being handled by SHAFT

Prepare to get shafted. Again.
Jul 03
// Elliot Gay
Well that's kind of unexpected. The anime adaptation of Naoshi Komi's Nisekoi manga is being handled by SHAFT (Madoka Magica, Bakemonogatari, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei), a studio that has quite the assortment of TV series...
Crunchyroll's new animes photo
Crunchyroll's new animes

Simulcast GET! Crunchyroll grabs Monogatari S2 and more

Simulcasts Assemble!
Jul 03
// Salvador G Rodiles
I have a feeling that Crunchyroll has developed a new fetish for the summer season, since magical girls, dolls, and airsoft guns are joining their summer lineup. With that being said, Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen and F...'s new shows  photo's new shows

Streaming GET! adds DBZ, One Piece, and more

Toei is finally adding things!
Jul 03
// Salvador G Rodiles
I'm not sure what the hold up was with Toei in the past, but has assured us that Dragonball Z and One Piece have finally landed on Daisuki's turf. As they say, better late than never. Hopefully, this is a sign tha...
Monogatari S2 on Daisuki  photo
Monogatari S2 on Daisuki

Brush your Teeth! to simulcast Monogatari S2

Will they get the streaming quality right?
Jun 22
// Salvador G Rodiles
This is going to make me into a big target, but I could never get into the Monogatari series. However, I will admit I did enjoy the relationship between Araragi and Hitagi, along with the fact that Karen made a reference to D...
Aniplex Monogatari GET photo
Aniplex Monogatari GET

Toothbrush time! Aniplex licenses Monogatari S2, Nekokuro

Streaming and discs to follow
Jun 14
// Josh Tolentino
Rejoice, fans of licensing acquisitions, for another one of those has happened! In a move that's sure to delight fans of the Monogatari franchise, Aniplex of America has announced their pickup of the latest two Monogata...
A Haiku about Sasami-san photo
A Haiku about Sasami-san

Final Impressions: [email protected]

[email protected]
Apr 01
// Chris Walden
Sasami, the God, High school girl issues and stuff, Not quite Madoka.
Madoka Movie 3 photo
Madoka Movie 3

Do we learn Homura's fate in the third Madoka movie?

Embed fixed!
Apr 01
// Hiroko Yamamura
Entropy can't stop, Homura's face gets scary, This I am hype for!  

Prism Nana's sixth pilot promo focuses on cleavage shots

Magical girl fanservice galore!
Mar 11
// Salvador G Rodiles
Beach episodes are something that always pop up in most anime, and Prism Nana is ready to show viewers a broader sample of the beach segments from its first trailer. Overall, I find it silly that Red and Green's bo...

Error fixed: Madoka's third film to premiere in the fall

Even big magazines can make mistakes from time to time.
Mar 04
// Salvador G Rodiles
Well, that was a bit embarrassing (not on my behalf), because Smart, the magazine that revealed the summer premiere for Madoka Magica's third movie, has made a huge miscalculation in their post. Thanks to a report b...

It keeps on going: Sandy gets a taste of Madoka's magic

Will we see more showtimes in the US?
Feb 28
// Salvador G Rodiles
Oh snap, the contract express is still on course, and the people of Sandy, Utah are next on the list of places that will be showing the first two Madoka movies. Will this be the last that we hear from Kyubey's collaborat...

Witness the band unite in Prism Nana's fifth pilot promo

Could this be the birth of a magical girl anime music video series?
Feb 27
// Salvador G Rodiles
It looks like I was wrong about my two predictions for Prism Nana's pilot promos. First of all, the newest video has nothing to do with the project's villains, because the current video focuses on the three girls r...

Ending complete: Madoka's third film gets a premiere date

The Puella Magi movie trilogy comes to an end.
Feb 23
// Salvador G Rodiles
As Kyubey's massive contract spree comes to a close, a new listing appears in the form of the ultimate closure for becoming a Puella Magi. In accordance to this new piece of information, the final part of the Madoka Magica mo...

Kyubey is back: Madoka takes a right turn in Albuquerque

April has nowhere to run.
Feb 03
// Salvador G Rodiles
Making Puella Magis is some serious business, and Aniplex's contract has yet to diminish. Kyubey is lucky that he's not a gray rabbit, because his next destination is one that most underground travelers tend to miss. Thanks t...

Friday Night Fights: Homura vs Kiritsugu

Jan 25 // Salvador G Rodiles
Friday Night Fights photo
Will the gun wielding Puella Magi triumph over the Magus Killer?
*ding, ding, ding* It's over! Red XIII is taking quite a blow from Repede's swift knife attacks -- very impressive, Repede. And right as Repede readies one of his Artes, Red XIII attacks with Cosmo Memory. Luckily, ...

Promoted: Breaking down [email protected]'s symbolism

Jan 14 // Jeff Chuang
Shintoism. Even if you’re not a huge fan of country-life anime Kamichu, you probably might still know that Japan’s cultural baseline for spirituality is Shinto. Rather trying to explain what that is, the main thing to understand that one of its core beliefs is animism, where everything that exist has a spirit or essence (often colloquially called "god"). That’s partly why there’s all this anime and manga with little ghosts walking around as if they’re your pals. (By the way, do watch Kamichu, it makes understanding all this a lot easier. Plus it's great.) The three sisters, from largest to smallest, are Tama (jewel), Kagami (mirror), and Tsurugi (sword). They are named after the “Imperial Regalia of Japan” and it’s probably better to note that the virtues represented by their respective namesakes reflect their characteristics, than what it really means via the Shinto myths. Tama is benevolence; Kagami is wisdom; and Tsurugi is valor. Of course, it would be best to know both the lore and the significance, but it’s not necessary to know who gets slain by blah blah-no-Tsurugi blah how blah given to blah blah hung up what blah blah blah; not yet at least. The eldest sister Tsurugi also used a sword when she went into battle with the chocolate, but you already know this? Maybe the one thing to know is that the bearers of the sacred regalia are Amaterasu’s descendants. Amaterasu is the sun goddess in Japanese culture, so she’s super-important. Sasami Tsukuyomi and Kamiomi Tsukuyomi (the lead pair) are obviously also divine-referenced in some way. The OP includes a bit where Sasami and her brother are in traditional priest-y garbs (also there was another awkward looking couple), and that’s a huge clue. The kanji for Kamiomi (Onii-chan henceforth) indicates that he, in some way, is some kind of priest, a minister actually, an intermediary before gods. This is important but I’ll get back to it later. Their family name indicate they are probably divine in some way–it is the name of the moon god, Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto. You might want to know this because Tsukuyomi married his sister, Amaterasu. Chocolate. There was a lot of chocolate, wasn’t there? I think that’s kind of the point. If we allow ourselves to ignore episodes 2+ and the source material for just a minute, it is fair to say that Sasami-san episode 1 turns Japan’s obsession with the rituals of its modern Valentine’s Day into a thing that it fights via its imperial regalia. What? How? Let’s do this baby step by step. First, I trust you know what St. Valentine’s Day is. We are westerners right? But what you may or may not know (if you do skip to the next paragraph) is White Day, and how that turned a catholic tradition into a commercial holiday in Japan. White Day is a tradition started by savvy businesspeople to encourage people to buy and gift chocolate. In some ways that has also transformed Valentine’s Day into mostly just a commercial venture in spirit. If you understand all this, you might assume Sasami-san doesn’t celebrate White Day. That’s because, welp, Sasami-san is a god of sorts in this show. (Although she probably does celebrate it.) And she is probably not just some minor god (not all gods are created equal). Onii-chan’s friends at school are harder to figure out, but they are in a way her agents, her gift to mankind. Her deity can even explain her Onii-chan Survellience Tool. What I don’t know is which god she really is. Not that it matters. Gods survey the world, naturally. Unfortunately it’s not quite clear if she has god powers at this point. What happened when Sasami’s computer got overloaded by chocolate? This is up to interpretation, because it's where the anime got SHAFT'd. It is now visually interpretive; a visual figure of speech. One interpretation is that this is when gods get hosed by human intervention. Remember the first river god in Spirited Away (you really should watch Spirited Away if you don't know what I'm talking about), that took a nasty bath? I think it’s suppose to be the thematic point of the episode–Sasami got confused because of earthly customs–customs Onii-chan isn’t aware of. When he is, he is all up in chocolate, and I guess that is when the entertainment begins in episode 1. It says something about Onii-chan that I’m sure some of you might have already figured it out–think about the dance he was doing. Why did the chocolate turn into a dragon? The answer can be gleamed from watching Spirited Away, again. I’m not sure why it’s a dragon–it could be something else, but I guess they were going with the river motif with liquid cocoa, and rivers traditionally are represented by dragon gods. So that’s why there’s a dragon. Or maybe it has to do with Sasami’s godhood? Why was there a chocolate coated statue of naked Sasami? Shinbo. But it’s also clever symbolism. Why did guns and missile launchers come out of Kagami? Beats me. Why don’t you ask about why Tsurug’s got a sword? We know that one. That whole action set piece, I’m just going to chalk it up to a visual interpretation of how Japan’s traditional deities fight against invasion of some new crap. New being consumerism? I don’t know. The three sisters are embodiment of the regalia, not actually a piece of rock, a mirror or a rusted piece of metal (as interesting as that may be). They could be spirits themselves for what it is worth. Why does Onii-chan cover his face this whole time? I’m guessing it’s because he is not suppose to show his face. Actually this is a huge guess, but if we stick to Shinto, there aren’t too many occasions why people wear veils, and I’m guessing Onii-chan is no bride-to-be. The other mechanic left is that the faces of gods (the deity kind, not the earth spirit kind) are not to be seen by man. Remember about the point I want to get back to earlier? It explains why Onii-chan is covering his face the entire time, if he is the priest unto Sasami-san’s existence. It definitely partly explain why he dotes on her and serves her in a way a priest-servant does. Alternatively, Onii-chan could be Tsukuyomi (and that means Sasami is Amaterasu). Well, that would make a lot of sense–in that case Onii-chan having problems with chocolate might lead to also the chocolate madness, since he would have god-powers. In that case Onii-chan covers his face to indicate Amaterasu banishing Tsukuyomi (thus creating day and night in the Shinto creation myth). One can play around with the ideas here and come up with some other options; the above are just two examples. But that’s really just the building blocks under the paved road of incest, romance, comedy, anime/game references, otaku entertainment, postmodernism and “what is this I don’t even.” I just hope people realize there’s something under all of that and it does hold up. Yea, we are engaged with Sasami’s feelings, both as a hikkikomori and as a girl giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Well, personally I engaged with her shopping jokes the most, but that’s just me. Enjoy this show how you like. Hate it how you like. But engage it for what it is–a Shintoist reboot of the 21st century life. Someone on the internet wrote that if [email protected] were to continue with the religious knocks like it did in episode one, it would rival Evangelion in terms of religious symbolism. I dared not to doubt that claim. TL;DR: Sasami is god, Onii-chan is her servant-subject and/or god, the three sisters represent traditional virtues, and Valentine Day is a commercial corruption of Japan’s culture. All of the above are just my notes to try to make sense of it. It’s most likely not correct/inaccurate, but hopefully it is close enough to help you do your own sleuthing. [[email protected] airs on The Anime Network]
When life gives you SHAFT, make SHAFT-AID
[Did you find [email protected] as confusing as I did? Well, don't drop or bash it just yet, because Jeff's got an expert breakdown of the first episode's deep-rooted symbolism. It's an enlightening read straight fro...

First Impressions: [email protected]

Jan 12 // Chris Walden
The titular Sasami-san is a hikikomori. For those of you who haven't managed to come across that term before, hikikomori are shut-ins, refusing to go outside or socialise for one reason or another. In the case of Sasami, bad things seem to happen when she tries, though luckily for her she has a doting brother. This guy adores Sasami, pretty much taking on the role of a butler-come-parent as he obeys her every command. He also doesn't seem to want to show his face, which is pretty odd in itself. He works as a teacher at the school Sasami should go to, but he teaches her at home to make up for her not turning up. Then things get even weirder. We meet the three Yagami sisters, who seem to be just as strange as Sasami and her brother, if not more so. The first one we meet is the youngest sister, Tama, who bursts out of a river and announces that she has become a frog. We then see the oldest of the trio, Tsurugi, who is also a teacher at the school. She apparently enjoys playing eroge in the staff room. Then there's Kagami, who doesn't seem to impressed when the older brother does the Haruhi dance, but she makes up for that mistake with ROCKET BREASTS. Yeah, this is a Shaft show all right.  This is all fine and dandy, but this doesn't seem like Shaft's typical slice-of-life anime. It certainly has a good selection of crazy characters, and there's also things like the 'Brother Surveillance Tool' that are introduced early on to make you think otherwise. It keeps up a nice pace of showing oddity after oddity, and then, without much warning, everything turns into chocolate.  The entire world becomes chocolate. The chocolate starts attacking. I have no idea what happened even now, but the chocolate wasn't happy. It seems Sasami has something to do with it, especially with the first episode being about Valentine chocolate, but what happened and how isn't made clear just yet. What I do know is that even though the world was changed into chocolate, there's not too much to worry about. See, the three crazy girls we met earlier have magical powers and manage to save the world. Forcefields, magic swords and ROCKET BREASTS.  Yes, this isn't your run of the mill slice-of-life, as there's likely going to be a nice chunk of battle action going on. It's crazy, super random, and I love it. It's easy to say that it's a typical Shaft show, but remember that this isn't an original creation. The beauty of it all is that they know exactly what to pick and how to handle it, and something like this is incredibly refreshing from the feel-heavy season that just ended. The music thus far has been pretty great, too. The opening is performed by ZAQ, who you may remember just recently did the opening for Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, and it certainly serves its job well. Something that I don't normally mention is the insert music, but it made such an impact in this show that I think it deserves a mention. I mean, any show that plays the saxophone during battle scenes gets my seal of approval.  I haven't had a chance to really get stuck into the anime offerings of this season, but I think I'm pretty safe in saying that this is absolutely one the shows you need to pick up. I guess if you don't like most of Shafts other work it might be another story, but this one is going to entertain just as much for the next eleven episodes, I'm sure of it.  [Sasami-san airs on The Anime Network!]
Shaft out of 100.
Is it possible to fall in love with a series after just one episode? Okay, let's backtrack a little. It's a Shaft offering, so of course one of us was going to pick it up. Did I know anything about this show before going in? ...

Final Impressions: Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb

Jan 05 // Chris Walden
The show follows six female students and their antics inside and outside of school. That's all for a synopsis of the story, as I feel I'll only be regurgitating what I've mentioned already in the First Impressions article three months ago! The differences between this season and the three that came before it are few and far between, though there are some changes worth a mention. The biggest, I think, is that characters outside of the main six plus Yoshinoya-sensei and the principal were getting a lot more screen time than usual. Perhaps this was due a natural transition with Ume Aoki's manga and how the jokes have evolved with time, as it is certainly noticeable. Even older characters were stopping by for a joke or two. This is by no means a criticism, as it was quite refreshing to see some different faces mixing things up a little. I still feel that Nazuna and Nori still aren't getting enough screen time to themselves, and I was a bit disappointed to see them feature most often in the 'full group' scenarios. Yuno and Miyako, as the main duo, get plenty of time to themselves and as a couple. Hiro and Sae also featured plenty, as a lot of the story in Honeycomb focused on their final year of school and their future plans. Sure, there were a few scenes here and there where Nazuna and Nori were centre stage, but it really didn't feel like it was enough. I certainly enjoy their characters, and it seems that their lack of presence has been a problem since back when they were first introduced.  These last few episodes seem to have been gearing up to the end of the school year, meaning that Hiro and Sae don't have too long until they graduate and leave the school and apartment behind. Perhaps it was due to this that the episodes actually appeared to be chronological this time around. Who knows if they will ever leave, though, especially when Ume Aoki can keep placing scenarios into her already established timeline. That probably sounded way more complex than it is, but she really hasn't touched more than perhaps a month or so of the two years the duo have shared the apartments with Yuno and Miyako.  It was interesting seeing the return of Natsume in the final two episodes of the season, as she'd only briefly been involved in Honeycomb before this. Strange, really, as she seems to be more of a character than most of the irregulars. That, and she is also meant to be graduating, so you'd think she'd be around more often. Having her little tsundere moments make for some pretty funny scenarios, that's for sure.  And of course, what better way to ring out the series than with another visit to the bath house? Shaft seem to be pushing the boundaries on nudity with this series, and while I maintain that these scenes are largely in good taste rather than to push Blu-ray sales, they're certainly getting a bit more... detailed. Not enough to sell the series, nor put you off, so it's pretty inoffensive.  While I really do like the new opening music, I still feel that the departure from the clap-centric whistle heavy cheerful tunes that came before it wasn't a great decision. Opening music is the best way to get a mood set for an anime, so it sounding like a character song wasn't helping out. I love the song, I really do, but I'm not sure it was a good choice of opening music. Season five needs more whistle! The art has seen a few changes itself this time around, and while you could argue that the art was fine as it was, it is certainly turned out to be a positive. The most basic scenes are now a lot more striking with art that resembles the manga a little more, and the pastel colours stop it looking like every other slice of life you've already seen. You can also expect a little more Shaft lunacy, as their habit of dropping in photographs and crazy-looking still frames is certainly there to be seen. It makes it a little more lively, so it's very welcome. As I stated in the First Impressions write-up, Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb is the same old show we've come to love. Sure, there are a few issues here and there if you're looking for them, but at the end of the day, you already know whether you're going to be enjoying the show or not. The opening may have been an odd parting from what we're used to, but if you enjoyed the last three instalments, it's not going to be a massive issue. Just grab your own whistle and go nuts during the opening if it's a huge concern! [You can attempt to handle the wideface on The Anime Network!]
The festivities at the end of December seem to be at fault for putting off the finale of this show so long, but hey, the Hidamari Sketch ladies didn't appear to be all that fussed about it. It may have been our fourth excitin...


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