ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 9

Let’s return to ef – A Tale of Memories! The show’s run through a battery of dramatic twists over the past couple episodes, as Kei has fought to keep Hiro away from Miyako and the Renji/Chihiro relationship has run up against the limitations of Chihiro’s disability. Miyako has revealed herself to be the deeply scarred child of a broken home, while Renji has finally witnessed Chihiro at her most vulnerable. Considering the ways Kei has worked to keep Miyako out of Hiro’s life, I’m not sure it sounds terribly healthy for him to end up with either of these girls, but I’m certainly still invested in their drama. And the Renji-Chihiro story has risen from seemingly contrived origins to stand as a smartly articulated and very compelling romance. I’d frankly be happy if this episode focused entirely on the two of them establishing a relationship beyond the constraints of Chihiro’s diary, but I’ve got a feeling Miyako will be taking center stage this time. And hey, I guess Kyosuke still also exists? Either way, I’m excited to get started on one more episode!

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Flip Flappers – Episode 8

It’s time for Flip Flappers! Let’s explore… what is unfortunately, undoubtedly the worst episode of the series. Sorry to be a bummer, but episode eight just does not match the standard set by the rest of this altogether wonderful show. But exploring how things go wrong can be just as illuminating as exploring what they get right, and it’s not like this is a bad episode by general anime standards, anyway. So let’s get started on Flip Flappers’ biggest flop, and see what we can glean from its mistakes.

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 36

We were stuck in transition mode for this week’s March, as we segued out of Hina’s story and into Rei’s match with Meijin Souya. That meant this episode didn’t really have much of a chance of being a highlight, but it was still entertaining on the whole, and actually one of the funnier episodes in recent memory. So-so March is still a very fine show.

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

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Chihayafuru – Episode 23

Alright, let’s get right back to Chihayafuru! Chihaya suffered a pretty crushing defeat last week, finding herself beaten by the eternal Rules Lawyer Queen and prior Actual Queen. Chihaya has begun to internalize processes of reading her opponent, and
moving beyond her wholly speed-based play, but this battle demonstrated that she’s still not mentally strong enough to avoid being easily rattled. Our heroine’s natural focus has thus become its own kind of liability – Chihaya is generally so competitive that
she doesn’t really need to work on settling her nerves, but when her confidence is actually shaken, that means she’s also not really equipped to handle it. We may spend some time attempting to overcome that hurdle now, or we may jump over to Arata’s own struggles. Either way, we’ve only got a few episodes left in Chihayafuru’s first season, so we’re hopefully building up to something. Let’s see what episode twenty-three brings!

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Simoun – Episode 7

Let’s continue our journey through Simoun! Episode six was one of the most important episodes so far in a viewer-investment sense, as it gave us some desperately needed insight into the feelings of Para, Kaimu, and even Neviril. After several episodes of feeling stranded in something close to a dramatic stasis, we now have an emotional understanding of not just those three, but also Limone and Aaeru, meaning we can meaningfully perceive the dramatic push and pull of their various desires. On top of that, Para is actually working on the same side as Aaeru now, and has given Neviril her blessing to find a different pair. Simoun has been a slow burner ever since its dramatic first episode, but it feels like things are finally coming together now, and Neviril may actually come out of her shell. Almost all of these characters bear some kind of trauma that inhibits their freedom, but now that we actually understand their feelings and goals, it’ll be much easier to sympathize with their struggles. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 22

Let’s dive right into Chihayafuru number twenty-two! Last episode turned out to be one of my favorite episodes of the show so far, with both Chihaya’s development as a player and Ririko’s story as her opponent offering strong and emotionally charged drama. “Creating opponents that you also want to cheer for” is pretty much a given when it comes to strong sports drama properties, but by the end of last episode, I was actually tearing up over how Ririko’s efforts reflected her coming to love herself. Ririko’s appearance also made for a clear parallel with Chihaya, her own former play weaknesses embodied in the play style of her opponent.

It was also just very satisfying seeing Chihaya legitimately grow as a player, internalizing the lessons of both her teachers and former opponents, and turning that into a more well-rounded approach to karuta. Chihaya has earned this level up, and I’m excited to see how Chihaya Mk. II plays against her upcoming challengers. Let’s get right to it!

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 35

Though Trump’s active presidency has reduced some of the humor of dril’s “Trump has no time to fuck” tweet, rest assured, I am feeling exactly that tweet at the moment. Still buried under preview week work, still got many projects to do today. What’s this post about? March! Right, March had an episode. It was fine. Here’s my review, and you can check out my notes below. I’M OFF!

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Simoun – Episode 6

It’s time to return to Simoun! Episode five represented a key turning point for the show, in that it was the first time one of our protagonists actually decided they want to do something. It initially seemed like Aaeru would be the driven, goal-oriented character who pulled the rest of this team along with her, but as episode four revealed, the reason she was actually so insistent on becoming a Priestess was because she too was trapped by uncertainty, and unsure of who she wanted to become. With Neviril also paralyzed in the wake of her former partner’s death, the show was left with essentially no one to push the narrative forward – fortunately, Limone was able to step up and remember the passion that sent her down the path of a Priestess in the first place. Limone doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d care that much about shaking other people out of their insecurities, but with Chor Tempest now back on active duty, I’m guessing at least her and Aaeru will continue to keep things moving.

That said, I don’t know if this is the kind of show that could comfortably transition into a quasi-monster of the week mode. The plain fact is, this show’s two biggest weaknesses are its CG ships and its generally poor direction (along with some misguided music cues). You can construct an action sequence to minimize the awkwardness of questionable CG, but I don’t trust this director to manage that. Episode five demonstrated the problems there: Limone’s character turn came off well enough, but the actual fight was almost incoherent. We’ll just have to see how Simoun handles itself as Chor Tempest returns to battle. Let’s get right to it!

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 34

March comes in like a lion returned this week, offering some welcome narrative progression in Hina’s school bullying arc. I was kinda hoping that Akari would really let the bully’s mom have it, but in retrospect, having this be the moment where Hina steps up to care for her sister was pretty much the only way this could have gone. Hina’s actions here were a perfect progression of her growing strength, while Akari clearly needs to learn that her promise to her mother doesn’t mean she has to do everything herself. A fine episode on the whole.

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

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Chihayafuru – Episode 21

Let’s get the heck back to Chihayafuru! Our last episode saw Taichi at one of his lowest points so far, vainly scrambling to catch up to Chihaya and then promptly being sidetracked by Arata’s return. The episode demonstrated a real danger of slipping back into mopey Destined Karuta Buddies territory, but Taichi fortunately realized that he’s actually happy to see Arata returning, meaning I’ve got reasonable hopes we won’t be returning to the romantic sulk-fest tone. Chihayafuru’s shoujo romance plot is far and away its weakest material, and Arata has unfortunately not gotten much of an opportunity to do anything outside of that particular dramatic mode.

I’d love to see Arata himself playing in a challenging match, but I get the feeling we’re still some distance away from allowing Arata to show competitive vulnerability. Arata’s demonstrated plenty of emotional vulnerability, but as a karuta player, he remains more a summit to aspire to than an active competitor with his own strengths and weaknesses. But even if strong Arata material is still some distance away, with last episode having represented something of a cooldown from the previous tournament, it’s likely we’ll soon be gearing up for our next big matches. Let’s get right back to Chihayafuru!

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