Chihayafuru – Episode 18

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! It’s been a full one and a half episodes since the show’s last tournament, so given our prior pace, I’m guessing we’ll be getting back into the action soon. Last episode was necessary, though – Chihayafuru has established Chihaya’s play as binary in a very specific way, and interrogating her speed-focused play was a smart way to provoke her into growing as a player. Illustrating a sports hero’s weaknesses is just as important as illustrating their strengths, since if we’re to invest in their growth as a player, we need to see a solid progression from stage one to wherever they end up. In a show where the tactical mechanics of competition are critical to the stakes of the drama, characters can’t just grow in an emotional sense – they have to level up in a clear tactical one as well. I’m excited to see how the show illustrates Chihaya balancing out her skill set, and can’t wait for her next confrontation with the Queen. Let’s get to it!

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Just Because! – Episode 7

Why the heck did Just Because have to go and make the Mio-Eita pairing just as compelling as the Ena-Eita one. I was all set to have a definitive ship for this show, and then this episode had to come along and just totally sell the warmth of their bond and the power of Eita’s feelings. This was a very good episode outside of its visual failings, but seriously, show. You can’t be doing this to me.

You can check out my much more informative review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

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Yuureitou – Volume 3

After two volumes that layered exploitation sleaze and shock-horror twists over meditations on gender identity and the commodification of women in society, Yuureitou’s third volume opens with a conflict that seems embrace its most schlocky tendencies. Continuing last volume’s cliffhanger ending with a chapter called “The Value of Life,” volume three sees Yuureitou’s protagonists rushing around in search of a person to harvest for their body parts, all to appease the desires a mad scientist in an iron mask known only as Doctor Tesla. With a deadly virus running through their veins, Tetsuo, Amano, and their officer friend must race against time to find a suitable sacrifice.

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Simoun – Episode 3

Today we’re returning to Simoun! The first two episodes of this show were very good and very different from each other, and I’m eager to see where it goes next. The premiere itself was a pretty stunning affair all around, demonstrating a terrific balance of worldbuilding and narrative movement while introducing us to a very unique world. The second episode further illustrated some of the specific tenets of that world, putting concepts like the inevitability of visiting the Spring in stark personal terms. This world feels like both a fully realized fantasy and a clear parallel of many of our own world’s charged topics, and I’m excited to see where this story goes next. Let’s get right to it!

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Kuuchuu Buranko – Episode 1

Alright, let’s start on an entirely new project! Today we’ll be exploring the first episode of Kuuchuu Buranko, also known as Trapeze. I’ve never watched any of Trapeze before, but I do know it’s an original project by Kenji Nakamura, he of Gatchaman Crowds/Mononoke/Tsuritama fame. I also know it’s focused on some sort of clinic where people go to get their life sorted out, that the central doctor is a little girl in a ridiculous bear costume, and that it’s possibly Nakamura’s most visually experimental work, incorporating live action footage and dramatic style digressions and all manner of other weird tricks. My own experience with Nakamura has been limited to Gatchaman Crowds, which was certainly visually compelling, but more noteworthy for its piercing exploration of modern society. That show’s political laser focus makes me assume this show will be using its episodic cases to poke at society in different ways, but I won’t know until I watch. Let’s get right to it!

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Flip Flappers – Episode 6

Flip Flappers’ sixth episode is about Iroha Irodori, Cocona’s painting-inclined classmate. It’s also likely the most emotionally searing interrogation of any of Flip Flappers’ mindscapes, and also one of my favorite episodes of all time. I can’t watch this episode without crying, consistently, at every new revelation and emotional blow. It’s about childhood neglect and the contradictions of self-expression, about the fragile necessity of loving and being loved, about the forms we contort ourselves into to survive, and the lingering scars those contortions leave behind. It’s for anyone who finds their heart in the things they create, and learns to love the damage that made them who they are.

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Flip Flappers – Episode 5

Flip Flappers’ third episode introduced us to the barren world of Cocona’s psychology, an inhospitable place defined by the dichotomy of fierce self-denial and total hedonism. Cocona escaped that place, with the help of Papika, and seemed by the end of that episode to at least be able to acknowledge Papika’s friendship. In its fourth episode, we turned from Cocona’s world to Papika’s, where our two leads learned to trust each other far more completely than ever before. By the end of that episode, it seemed like Cocona was ready to accept Papika’s love, and perhaps even reciprocate.

Here in episode five, Pure Illusion offers a vision of what society has to say about all of that.

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 27

This week’s March comes in like a lion wasn’t an aesthetic marvel on par with last week, but it was just as emotionally harrowing in its own way. Actually getting to see Akari’s perspective was a welcome shift from the show’s usual focus, and the show’s articulation of her assumed parental insecurities as as thoughtful as any of its other beats. I hope we keep getting to see her and Rei support each other from here out!

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

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Chiyafuru – Episode 16/17

Let’s keep on chugging with Chihayafuru! Last episode represented the conclusion to another of Chihayafuru’s mini-arcs, as both Chihaya and Taichi found themselves defeated in the team’s first major tournament. That arc also introduced Shinobu, who is awesome, but I’m guessing we won’t be seeing her for a little while. Chihayafuru is fast-paced, but it still generally obeys the tenets of its genre, and concluding a tournament means it’s likely we’ll be cooling down with either training, character development, or some kind of lighthearted segue material. I’m guessing we’ll be shifting gears to focus on Arata’s return to karuta, but without a clear next goal already established, the show could go in a variety of directions from here. Wherever things end up, I’m having a great time with Chihayafuru, and am excited to continue. Let’s get right to it!

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Just Because! – Episode 6

Just Because! pulled off a nicely focused episode this week, essentially using Haruto as the central pillar to contrast Mio and Hazuki’s experiences of young love. While Mio is coming to realize a long-held crush might not be the strongest basis for a relationship, Hazuki is starting to believe that not really knowing Haruto isn’t necessarily enough of a reason not to date him. Both of their experiences felt valid and well-articulated here, continuing Just Because!’s sturdy trend of incredibly well-observed adolescent romance.

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

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