March comes in like a lion – Episode 23

March comes in like a lion returns more with a whimper than a bang, dutifully walking us through two low-key chapters at the newly founded shogi/science club. This material was charming enough, and was certainly executed with plenty of visual flair, but felt totally misplaced as the first episode of a new season. It’s unfortunate that the show’s grand return is kinda undercut by its long-term structural issues, but as far as execution goes, these were definitely some nicely animated chapters. I’m sure the show’s production will fall apart again soon, but I’ll savor this while it lasts!

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

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Just Because! – Episodes 1-2

The first two episodes of Just Because! were straight-up phenomenal, and I’m very excited to be writing about the show. As per usual for a first post, I focused this writeup more on sketching the overall style and goals of the show, rather than prioritizing an examination of the actual narrative events, and I’m pretty happy with the results. I hope you enjoy the piece!

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode two notes below.

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Chihayafuru – Episode 13

Let’s get right the heck back to Chihayafuru! Last episode covered pretty much the entire transition from the end of the club’s first tournament to the beginning of the second one, bringing the whole gang closer together and proving their dedication to their faculty advisor along the way. Chihaya’s breakneck pacing is certainly one of its greatest strengths, and I’m actually even more excited for this tournament than the last one. The club’s first tournament was largely dedicated to actually proving their ability to function as a team – with that soundly accomplished, I’m guessing this next tournament will be the first one that hews to a more traditional sports structure, full of ominous opponents and thrilling faceoffs.

The thing I’m most looking forward to seeing is the show demonstrate that karuta really can support a sports narrative’s dramatic weight. I know that’s an odd thing to question twelve episodes in, but the show so far has leaned heavily on personal drama over sports drama, and in spite of that, has still burned through a worrying number of easy tactical setups. The show’s done a great job keeping karuta interesting so far, but I’m still worried the sport just doesn’t have the complexity to offer fresh-feeling conflicts all the way through. But everybody loves Chihayafuru, so I’m excited to see just how it solves that problem. Let’s get to it!

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Flip Flappers – Episode 3

Flip Flappers’ second episode saw Papika and Cocona entering the fanciful world of a rabbit’s mind. From their rabbit ears and tufted tails to the world around them, everything echoed the internal world of Cocona’s rabbit Uexkill, and even the girls themselves were not immune. An urge to chew on everything reflected both Cocona’s personal repression and the desires of Uexkill, while the landscape around them undulated vaguely, offering no more definition than Uexkill could conceive. After that wild adventure, the girls quickly jumped into another Pure Illusion – but unlike episode two, it seems like this world reflects Cocona’s own psychology. So what is Cocona’s mind like?

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Ojamajo Doremi – Episode 22

Let’s get back to Ojamajo Doremi! Our last episode didn’t really see the story moving all that much, as Ruka’s diabolical magic goods didn’t actually result in any negative consequences, at least for her personally. We’re still at the point where Rika is acting as an annoying freeloader, the girls are trying to figure out some way to beat Ruka, and the moral lessons are temporarily on hold. I’ve enjoyed this change of pace well enough, but Ruka’s story frankly hasn’t been interesting enough to measure up to the show’s usual episodic fare. I’m ready for Ruka to get her just desserts, and hope one of our heroes has a real plan this time. Let’s get right to it!

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Casshern Sins – Episode 24

At last, it’s time for the final episode of Casshern Sins. Casshern’s long journey has taken him through countless miles of wasteland, and introduced him to dozens of people who’ve all shaped his view on the world. From not understanding his past or his purpose, Casshern has come to terms with his own nature, and learned to appreciate the beauty of our finite existence. Casshern has met and rejected Luna, and gained friends who’ve come to love him for who he is. Outside of Casshern himself, Lyuze, Ringo, and Ohji all seem to have found a kind of peace in this world, while even Dio and Leda have come to understand themselves. The final figures of the old world, Luna and Braiking Boss, now stand as sentinels over the new. Let’s see where this story ends.

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Chihayafuru – Episode 12

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Last episode saw Chihaya’s whole team win their first tournament, defeating Nerdy Minor Character and his Merry Men in order to advance to the regional competition. Chihayafuru worked mightily to make sure that last episode in particular felt like a team effort, in spite of the fact that it was ultimately the team’s three ringers that actually won and pulled them through. The episode before that was chiefly dedicated to making sure Tsutomu felt valued in spite of his current, er, non-value, so I’ll be interested in seeing how the show does right by its weaker teammates going forward.

That said, I’m guessing that the last few episodes’ total focus on the new team means we’re likely to get caught up in Chihaya’s Arata fixation soon, and I’m also hoping the show can find a way to make that thread a bit more interesting. I’m not invested in Chihaya’s obsession with Arata, but Arata himself seems like he’s grown into a more well-rounded and endearing character, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him again. Let’s find out what’s in store!

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ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 7

Let’s get back to ef – A Tale of Memories! It’s been quite a while since we ran through an ef episode, but the show is always a fine thing to return to. Marrying Shin Oonuma’s wild visual flourishes to a story that constantly contrasts romance against creative ambition, it’s a messy but consistently rewarding experience, the kind of strangely personal production anime is renowned for. The show also seems to be hitting its stride at the moment – with Kyosuke having been fleshed out in the last episode, basically all the pillars of the narrative are now carrying their own weight. I’m invested in all three of ef’s potential couples, and would also be happy to see the show contrast the creative visions of Kyosuke, Hiro, and Chihiro. Whether it focuses on romance or art, ef always finds a way to keep things interesting. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 11

Alright everybody, it is TOURNAMENT TIME WOOO. Technically last episode was actually the start of the tournament, but in practice, that episode was mostly about figuring out how Chihaya’s team will deal with the fact that Kana and Tsutomu are so much worse than their other team members. I’d been worried the show would essentially just push them off to the side, but thankfully, Tsutomu’s feelings of rejection and inadequacy were given almost a full episode’s worth of focus, and the idea of using them to waste their opponent’s best players was raised and rejected. Even Chihaya was forced to acknowledge she hadn’t been accounting for her teammates’ feelings, and considering Chihaya has the emotional intelligence of a large rock, that’s a pretty major breakthrough. But with all that very necessary emotional material settled, the team is now in a position to SLING SOME GODDAMN CARDS. I’ve been waiting for Chihayafuru to fully stretch its sports muscles, and I’m guessing this is the time. Let’s get right to it!

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Classroom of the Elite – Episode 12

Classroom of the Elite actually ended pretty well this week, tying a satisfying bow on its most generally effective arc. The series of betrayals and counter-betrayals made for a very propulsive watch, and we even got some decent character moments with a few members of the secondary cast. In the end, Classroom certainly wasn’t a very good show, but it only really fell into terrible territory for its middle act there. Thank you Classroom for not being worse than you were.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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