Animini: Natsume Book of Friends -Episode 2- The Dew God’s Small Shrine

I had a lot of reactions to my first review of Natsume, my dear Island Guests. After telling I thought it was very good but a fairly predictable first episode I was told the good stuff would start a few episodes in.. so I was fully prepared for this episode to be even a bit bland.. as usually Episode 2’s of series are my least liked episode (exposition and such)… I was not prepared for what I was about to see when I watched the second episode of Natsume!

The Summary

Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei  are growing a bit closer together as Natsume continues to deal with Yokai in his daily life. We begin the episode with what I assume is a potential romantic interest for the boy asking him for a signature to do a Trial of Bravery in the old School building.. a ghost hunt of sorts! A hunt that I am sure will be one of the next few episodes!  There Natusume sees a Yokai that chases him and attacks him thinking he is Reiko again. Nyanko-Sensei saves him because the spirit trying to kill the boy wants the book for himself.  We see that Natsume’s daily life has changed since he became his lucky cat “pal” . There are two types of Yokai in his life. Those trying to kill him and those who come and talk and ask for their name back.  One of these is the tiniest cute little Yokai guy who is described as the “Dew God” A former rain god that has shrunk in size after losing followers. We also discover Nyanko’s real name is Madara. 

When Natsume tries to give the little guy his name back, he discovers his grandmother did not take to great care of the book and two pages are stuck together.. if he tries to peel the apart and give Dew’s name back.. he might cause him imense pain or even death.  So the only way to solve this is to find this other Yokai that is stuck to his page as well. Natsume lacks time at the moment and will visit the shrine of the guy later. On his way there he meets and old Lady named Hana who is nice enough to give him a peach. She turns out to be Dew God’s only follower.. his lore is told and she experienced it and is thankful for the mircale a man has caught still. Praying devoutly every day.. even though she is sick and doesn’t have a lot of time left on this earth. Natsume searches for the other Yokai..which turns out to be quite hard because the Dew God only gives him a poor drawing to go by.. this causes the hunt to go on for several days but eventually the little guy tracks the Yokai down and Natsume can give them back their names.. the Dew God thanks him.. but tells he is dying. Hana died and with his last follower gone.. a god will die as well. Natsume tells he will be his follower and worship him but the Dew God refuses.. telling Natsume that they are friends.. those should not worship each other… he then fades.. finally coming eye to eye with Hana in a form of afterlife.  Thankful for what she has done for him. Reliving their missed  opportunity encounter.

The Positives

I did not expect this episode to impact me already!  That was such a sweet but also heartbreaking episode.  I mean there is still a lot to be established here but as far as second episodes go I have never been as deeply emotionally affected like this one. I went misty eyed! I managed to not cry.. .but I really came to like that little guy in the span of a single episode.  The idea of a god dying without worshippers was something I was quite familiar with by playing the game Sacrifice WAAAY back in the day.  I beat that game with every single god and had a blast!… So when I heard Hana had died.. I was afraid for the little guy.. and without remorse he was taken from me!  I liked the message he left with a lot too.. friends do not worship each other , they are equals. Even though I am not familiar with Shinto religion and the idea of shrines and paying offers, the end scene of Natsume leaving an offering for something that someday might be in the now empty shrine was a nice little sentiment.  If we do not appreciate things they might be gone before we know it.. so let’s already be thankful for whatever blessings might be bestowed upon us in advance!

I like how we are exposed to Natusme’s social life in a rather organic way. Tired from all his adventures and releasing a spirit he ponders over his relation with his legal guardians, telling how much he appreciates them and can not bother them with this little quest of his. It does feel like a fairly genuine string of thinking though.. I am so tired from the job but I can’t bother anyone with what is going on at my work right now for it would make my loved ones worry. The subtle way he wants to sign something to help the female classmate and pronounces her name are all much more subtle cues to tell a story then him going all hearty eyes telling in his mind she is his secret crush.. this also leaves more room for liberties.. maybe I read it wrong, maybe the two are just friends.. maybe something awkward happened between them.. there is so much more you can narratively do with this approach and it also feels a lot more natural than how anime crushes are conveyed normally. This is a great episode that really plays on emotions in a sensible way. Also those peaches Hana was known for and gave to Natsume looked SUPER TASTY! So some nice visuals and creature design as well!

The Negatives

I struggle to find anything negative about the second episode of Natsume. Yet I can’t fault it that much. The comedy with the drawing was funny. The attempts from Madara/Nyanko to off Natsume in his sleep had chuckling and the story elements nicely clicked together. If I had to nag about something.. and I set myself up for that it’s that getting the little guy his name back and him fading away happens fairly close next to each other.. but I am not even sure that is correct. We see a day pass but for all we know it could be several days. Still it felt a bit “coincidental”   that the old lady died JUST after the quest had been complete.You know.. storybook pacing and such.. still I probably would have enjoyed the episode if that did not happen.. so it’s not really a negative!  Reee! Let me try again!  Sound?! No I loved those Cicada’s in the middle of nowhere? The  plenty of flashbacks? No those were quite lovely!  Darn it! Oh wait maybe this!

So in the school Natsume encounters a Yokai that gets stopped by Dragon-mode Nyanko/Madara  it then turns into a fluffy ball with an eye and floats away. That plotline is not pursued at all anymore, it’s just a random fleeing Yokai.. which I would have liked to see addressed a bit more.. but I am sure that it will return in the next episode or in a few so that way it would be more awesome! But if it just vanished from here on out.. that would be a negative. Hey I’ll take a potential negative point over having non in a section where I am supposed to list negatives!  I am also sad the Dew God and Hana are gone forever.. I liked both characters .. but that is what made this episode so impressive already.  Yeah.. really that is it.. this episode already was quite amazing. 

The Score

You don’t need to be paranormal to see what grade I am about to give this episode . There is this thing between me and second episodes that always is a bit iffy. There are a few series of which I don’t mind the second episode.. but there are very VERY few series of which I love the second episode.  Samurai Flamenco being a Noteworthy exception.  However I am going to call it and say this is my new favourite second episode of a series! So that is pretty high praise! It’s my tribute to a show which one day might even become better.. and I am actually pretty sure of it. 

Natsume’s Grandma seems like a horrible person though! She steals Yokai’s names and takes bad care of the book and she tricks people into fighting her by offering them food when they need to eat. I am not sure what kind of person Reiko is but she seems like quite a Bit-Choo-Choo train to me! An interesting specimen still and I want to learn more about her.. but I think I would hide a lot of tabasco in her tea if I ever got to serve her some.  She’d probably beat my pink face in or send Yokai to deal with me… but yeah! These are just some random thoughts! Really REALLY good episode! .. Now I am off to find some dissapointing peaches in the SuperMarket.. but i really want one!

Animini: Hikaru No Go -Episode 22 – The Insei Test

Welcome back to another episodic review of Hikaru no Go my dear Island Guests. This series has been the first one I have faithfully kept up with. It sure has its ups and downs .. although mostly ups. The last few episodes have been stellar so I was kinda disappointed that this episode broke that streak. It isn’t bad it is just no way up to bar with the rest of the episodes that came after the Internet-Go Arc started. 

The Summary

I will have a bit of trouble filling two paragraphs with the plot this week because it is really quite simple! Last episode we saw Hikaru move on from his Middle School Go Club to go and head on to the Insei Exam, this week picks up with the start of the test. At first glance Hikaru seems rather unimpressive with the examinatior. His matches are sloppy, his playing style is too aggressive  and he doesn’t have any notes of playing  worthy opponents.  As the exam goes along he discovers more and more about Hikaru’s potential though.  For example he finds out Hikaru has only been playing Go for a year and he played his 3 matches simultaneously. After losing the match to the examinator Hikaru.. barely .. passes the test. With some doubt in the head of the examinator and a lot of stress in Hikaru’s body!

The second part of the episode we see Hikaru play matches against the other Insei about a week later.. they are all intrigued in himn because he blabbed about being Akira Touya’s rival which makes everone want to play him..and Hikaru loses all his matches, showing he is back on the bottom of the foodchain again. We slowly see him becoming.. “half” friends with Waya and a guy whose name did not stick yet for me!  Waya’s buddy at least  They have lunch together and Waya jokes about a very weak player from Kaio High. We get a bit of an explantion to how the Insei classes work.. there are two tiers , first and second class Insei and by winning your way among your class and against superiors you can climb up the ladder. This Kaoi guy was known for how unremarkable he was and the lack of talent, eventually leading him to drop out.  This guy turns out to be Kaoi’s First Board.. a guy Hikaru thinks is way out of his league… demotivated Hikaru leaves the class.

The Positives

This episode is significantly weaker as the episodes that came before. Many of the show’s normal strengths are not present in this episode. The cinematography is a lot more bland, the pacing seems off and the natural flow the series has is stifled with a few plot points here and there.  What the show does well however is creating that sense of unfamiliarity. Hikaru had to give up playing with his friends for this.. he is in a strange environment and he basically went from the strongest player to being the weakest again. The show does a very good job at fleshing this out in the second part of the episode. My favourite scene is where Hikaru loses to a girl. He  has always disrespected Akiri to a certain level as a Go-Player so making him suffer a loss like this is a good way to put him with his feet on the ground again and awaken a passion to grow.

The fact that we do not cut to see what the others are doing helps in establishing this sense of Isolation. We see Waya’s cruel and mocking side. In a way to me this  reminded me from the behaviour change from primary school to middle school… or whatever definition is used from the one you leave at 11 onto the next one. Suddenly all the people you grew up with are gone or in different classes, the whole Kumbaya atmosphere has dried up and kids are more cruel and mocking to each other. This truely made it feel for me like Hikaru has indeed advanced to the next level.  We also finally get an explanation on why he on occasion ignores Sai.. apparently Hikaru can’t speak to him when he is concentrating really bad… I kind of wonder how that works with a voice in your head.. but sure!  As long as it’s established it can happen I am a happy camper!  Sai addresses it so .. that issue is fixed for me now. All in all I would say the episodes nails what it is trying to tell… the way it is dressed up though….

The Negatives

I was super excited to see the Insei exam… it could have been something really special .. but instead it’s a rather bland match against the examinator that get’s plagued by the shows weird sense of comedy again.  There is a cultural thing about the sitting position and etiquette that did not land..but well that of course is forgiven.. but all in all it’s just a bit of an odd element. We see the stress in his eyes in the beginning..but as soon as he learns he does not need to win to pass the test all tension is broken. The exam isn’t over yet and I would have liked to see that reflected a bit more.. perhaps maybe even offer a written test with several Go puzzles to solve.. like the ones Hikaru got  in Go School earlier on.. having it all come down to a single match, lacked some serious tension. This also comes into play in the second part, where Hikaru first doesn’t seem to bothered by his losses.. which DOES make sense with the character he is but it doesn’t make for a great and enticing chain of events.

The trigger that pushes Hikaru into the next phase is most stupid yet. It’s a conversation about black coffee. The subjected needed to land on Kaio’s first Board and apparantly he was a student that at a young age like the Insei already drank Black coffee.  Waya and the other Insei remember this trough a wrongly purchased drink.. and seeing the man Hikaru admires in terms of skill being nothing but mediore at best deflates him. It’s a natural chain of events that can occur in daily life.. but it isn’t a particularly interesting one. As the audience we are not in  the know of this and can not link that to the guy so for the majority of the talk it’s just banter about black Coffee. The eventual reveal isn’t that impactful either.. because if Kaio’s first board really had the talent to become a pro.. he would have done so.. so it makes perfect sense that he is a mid tier Insei. While I do get the impact it would have on a kid as Hikaru we as the audience don’t really get anything to be excited about from this exchange… not even that much from this episode even.

The Score

I do get that this is where the story needs to go, but it doesn’t match up with the pacing we had of the last episodes, suddenly everything stagnates.. which is fine.. that happens, but it happens with a whimper.  If we could see Hikaru struggle more with his own confidence from the moment he passed the Insei test and see him start reading more about Go to close the gap already that would have made an impact. Instead we just gloss over the test and then see Hikaru struggle..but that struggle only becomes a burden when some kind of obviious knowledge is revealed. It just doesn’t flow very well.  Had this episode been a two parter, with the exam in this part and the introduction to class as a second this way of approaching things could work.  With the relief lingering in episode A and the Road ahead being paved out in Part B. This does the right thing but it has no weight.

I do not feel as frustrated as some of the other “bad” Hikaru no Go Episodes, but this one genuinely had me bored.  Obviously Hikaru is a .. barely passable.. level Insei because he loses to Kaga and Kaio’s players still who don’t even try out for Insei. The exam isn’t exciting because it is glossed over and half of it ..is comedy. The early losses don’t matter because Hikaru doesn’t care yet.  Had he heard Kaoi’s first board was weak just after passing the exam and would have frustrated him prior to coming to the school doubting his skill, everything would have had a much bigger impact, yet as things were now I did not care. With no investment I can’t rule otherwise than to me this episode was just Okiwi.

Animini: Flip Flappers – Episode 12 – Pure Howling

Hello my Island Guests!  Sometimes you want to address a show as if it was a person, and if I could I would say “Flip Flappers  Dai-Dai-Daisuki”  My Arceus this episode yet again is so amazing… if the last episode can stick the landing at least a bit this will become one of my favourite shows ever, alongside Tengen Toppa Gurren more recently Kyousougiga. Sometimes a show resonates super strong with you and the message of Flip Flappers is basically the way i want to live my life. Dai-Dai-Daisuki!

The Summary

Jeesz.. this one is a bit trickier to describe without sounding like a raving lunatic!  I will do my best though! In this episode Yayaka and Papika chase Cocona and Mimi into Pure Illusion while the real world is still invaded by the snow monsters. While they are chasing their dear friend , Mimi is brainwashing Cocona to only listen to her mother.. she is one Disney song removed from Rapunzel’s mother.  Salt meanwhile has his mind set on finding the Elpis.. held by the evil organisation which seems to me like it is the original Flip Flappers now. He takes Nyunyu, Buu-Chan .. and the tracksuit Flip Flap girl whose name I forgot along on a perilous journey!  His leads him eventually into descending into the enemy base where Buu-Chan finally transforms into a muscle mode mecha.. and that gets defeated right away.. but Salt manages to get into Elpis. The Amorphous twins meanwhile can peer into deep Illusion as they try to recover their injuries and they actually see Yayaka made the right calls.

Inside pure Illusion we essentially get a boss-rush!  Evil Mimi makes Yayaka and Papika fight through the original stages of Papika and Cocona’s adventure.. but when facing that desert lady that brainwashed Cocona in episode 3.. Yayaka and Papika really struggle.. that is until an Amorphous shard lands into Yayaka’s possession. Papika tells her to think of her treasure and draw power from that. Yayaka realises her treasure is not the Amorphous but here dear friend Cocona.  Determined to take her back, Yayaka manages to Flip-flap into a magical girl much like her two friends. The Boshrush now gets pretty easily cleared until they end up in the cyberpunk world of episode 7.  Here Mimi alters Papika’s memory to break her resistance and make her believe she is right. This prompts the good Mimi to show in front of Cocona and tell her she should fight to make her own choices in life.. she might lack the courage but mother will give her that.  Mimi steals the magical girl powers of the girls.. but when Papika and Cocona confess what they mean for each other .. they transform into a new form of magical girls!  Together they easily punch the boss of the cyberpunk world away.. paving the path to the final episode and the fight against evil Mimi. Who wanted to use her power of Pure Illusion to create the perfect safe space for Cocona.

The Positives

I loved practically everything about the episode! Basically everything I had wished for in previous reviews of this show have been handed to me. It is confirmed that Cocona has a father, the Amorphous Twins got their head out of their ass, we got to see more magical girl stuff and best of all Yayaka got her magical girl powers.  Her power relaying around speed is a perfect accompaniment to the girls who respectively form the sword and shield together.  Now we have Strength, Bulk and Speed… amazing!  I really really liked her design as well. Her switching to a green hair colour was a bit odd..  but since Cocona swaps colours with Papika.. it kinda is fun to see how Yayaka combines colours with Cocona and giving her a green hair colour. Seeing Buu-chan transform but easily be defeated I like because this kind of reminds me of the powerscaling in Dragon Ball Z.. or Super.. how people suddenly become relevant again.. Flip Flappers basically just says… NAH! Just kidding this character still kinda sucks in terms of battle prowess.   

I still really like the choice of having Mimi who was captured and experimented on all her life as someone that is quite broken and it does work wonders in this episode. Clearly deep down she never was able to make her own choices so it makes sense that a part of her really wants to see Cocona do that. Yet she was als tremendously hurt, betrayed several times and she had a pretty horrible life. It makes sense that she would not want that life for Cocona either. Those choices are preventing each other.. those who make their choices freely will eventually end up getting hurt. And those who try to avoid being hurt at all cost never have a real choice in life. So it does make sense that these sides conflict with one another. I also like that these conflicts have been in Cocona from the start. She wants to have fun with Papika.. but she is also afraid to do the wrong thing. The new magical girl form looking more like their regular selves is also pretty empowering.. just be yourself and trust in who you are!   I haven’t even begun to talk about the awesome battles in this episode!   There is just too much goodness here!

The Negatives

I would love to say there are non.. but unfortunately one thing kinda missed the mark. Nyunyu tags along with Salt on her adventure and the way she does it is cute.. but also kind of annoying. It results in a few visual gags that while I did not mind in particular I did not really care for either. It’s there and I realise I rather would see something else than her sitting on a drone or using Buu chan as a helicopter swing thing…. which is weird because Nyunyu is my type of character. So the only conclusion I can make here is.. that I don’t really dislike her.. I just like the rest so much more that those scenes seemed annoying by comparison.  We are talking about her being like an 8.2  of entertainment while the rest of the show constantly is around 9.5 or higher. It’s not bad at all but it kinda feels like a big dip?!

That really is it though so since I have another paragraph I am gonna just rave about how awesome this episode was. The callback to old locations can be called cheap but I am the type of person that likes Boss Rushes.. because it can show how much you have grown and that is exactly what chain of events meant for me.  The ease with which Papika transforms, the way how they strategise now. That is delightful and I kinda disliked how Cocona constantly flipped between hating and loving Papika I get it now.. that is once more Cocona lacking the courage to make a choice.. following what society would say about their relation or having a friend that is so odd.. or doing something  not normal. It fixed my biggest issue with this show!  The ending might be a bit sudden.. but  it is quirky enough to work and it leaves expectations wide open.

The Score

I would like to give this a score beyond Star Fruit.. this episode while not my favourite in the long run did so much for the show for me.  It is more than just an episode.This episode for me is my favourite moment off all those Ocean Eleven movies.. you know when the jazzy funk music begins playing and they explain how they did it and we see some awesome shots of them sitting in a vault when we thought they failed the heist.. That is this episode for me.. I love that kind of thing and this is it’s own unique spin on that kind of thing so I love it even more!

I mean I could just rave about Yayaka finally being a magical girl and yelling Flip Flapping for the second time and I would be right to do so but….. aww .. who cares I am going to do it! SQUEEEEEE  YAYAKA FINALLY BECAME A MAGICAL GIRL! THATS MA GIRL! WEEE! This to me is one of those episodes where you scream and your screen  hoping to “send some energy” to transform along with them… I did not transform yet.. but I know one thing.. if the last episode is even half as good as this one I might very well choose Flip Flappers as my treasure to transform with!

Animini: That Time I got Reincarnated as A Slime -Episode 17- The Gathering

Dear Island Guests.. Last episode from Slime was a fairly weak one that was very much saved by it’s good first half. The second half of the episode was very bad and bland however and to be honest I half expected this week’s episode to be the same. I was thinking with Milim  being introduced this show might have lost his shine  for me.. but what is that.. this week brought a glimmer of hope.   For this week I found Milim.. quite entertaining.

The Summary

Rimuru city has rathered the attention of several groups of people, this includes the humans of two countries and some of the demon lords. In this episode we see a lord travel to Rimuru to speak with him followed by those three human adventures that fought the Efreet along with Rimura and Shizuna. Like always these adventurers get in trouble but this time they seem to be rescued by  the mercenaries of another country!  As they prepare for a big battle Gobta steps in wanting to eat the creature that is giving them trouble.  He easily defeats it and the surprised humans are invited to join them at the village.  Before they arrive though there happens to be a little scuffle in town as a henchman of another demon lord shows up.

Phobio punches the face of Rigurd.. angry that he hurt the minions of her besty Milim beats the living daylight out of him.  Rimuru, wanting to prevent war, scolds her for it and she cries as she has to miss lunch!  Eventually he allows her to have lunch anyways as negotiations start. They don’t go well as Phobio refuses to believe a slime can be that powerful and he just wants to rule over the village instead. This doesn’t happen of course creating tension between Rimuru and the Demon Lords. Milim gets tricked into telling what she knows about these people in return for a new weapon.  A little later the humans arrive and they start negotiations as well seemingly going quite peaceful, talking about establishing trade.  Rimuru also wants the mercenaries to become his underlings and pretend like they defeated the Orcling with a friendly monster ally that kind of helped them in order to give him more favourable propaganda. The Merc agrees and joins team Rimuru.  We end the episode with a conversation between a demon lord and female clown discussing the release of a creature whose power can rival that of the Demon lords and with an evil grin the episode ends.

The Positives

This was a much better episode than the one that came before and it has to do with a much better pacing. I might have told the story out of order a bit above but that was mostly done to put all events on a kind of similar timeline.   However since we are dealing with two events.. three if we count the final scene we have a much more narrative episode.  Apparently the creators here can only keep a single plotline interesting for about 10 minutes and that is fine…. because of the comedy element you can not overplay your hand and need to drop a situation faster than you would in a drama situation and this episode does that very nicely.  The last episode.. not so much where the first part was the battle with Milim and the second part her settling in.. however the flaws she had were the same source of comedy for both thus it felt stale. While Milim is still that same character, there is more comedy than just her. Gobta one-shotting an immense creature, Rimuru not being able to convince a guy he is so much more powerful, the shock of the humans when they discover a slime is in an alliance with the dwarfs. 

The Milim comedy in this episode is pretty nice! Her explosive character and immense power here bring a contribution to the escalation of a situation.. yet in turn also provides usefulness. It’s an exchange.. The character is not just a detriment to the city.  I do like how the city advances. I told it before. .and in this episode we do see that happening again. We also see Shuna take a bit of a role as Hostess for guests in town and diplomatic meetings, so it is nice to see her step up. Overall all the characters really progress for the better in this episode and that is where the strength of this show lies. It’s a show about progress, getting stronger and a prettier village better roles. The comedy  is there to make it “not boring”  the action is there to pick up the pace and make stuff happen.. but by now we are actually watching to see a slime build his little “kingdom”  This episode really plays into that and it’s a very good episode because of it .

The Negatives

It is not an excellent episode though! There are some oversights I am willing to forgive but the fact that Eren and her group almost get no attention from Rimuru and kind of act reluctant to go back to him in the first place feels weird. They were on quite good terms, bonded together and they cried over the loss of a mutual friend. Here they are just background sprites and that bothered me quite a bit. The episode is pretty densely packed with content so I get why it happened but at least acknowledge them a bit. Gabiru being fine when he was punched by a Demon Lord seems a bit odd to me as well.. it turns out he is actually hurt and just toughing it out sure, but I am not sure if that is in line with his character or skill level. Then again they do make their potions so okay..  There does seem to be some inconsistent power scaling though.  It makes sense since everyone is so powerful, but I wish there was a bit more logic.

Milim is mostly fixed for me in this episode. She loses the skimpy outfit, her behaviour is less obnoxious. She isn’t exactly great though. Her being more powerful then Rimuru is not played into very well, the fear they have for Milim isn’t done very well.. she gets really downplayed in this episode. Sure she is easy to control but basically it is the group sitting on on nuke with a short fuse. Yet here she is just being treated like a spoiled child that can be pacified with a Sandwich.. it kinda takes the tension and the role of the character away. I can get it fading over time but the second episode after her introduction it’s a tad fast. Now she more feels like an exposition bomb. I was also quite annoyed that Eren was glossed over completly! I really like her character and her party.. yet this week they are just means to and end to string other characters together.

The Score

A much better episode, than last week, yet still one that has it flaws. It is however a very feel good episode and this is just such a smile inducing episode. I really love how the village and the little country grows and these new alliances are great and making enemies along the way makes sense. I just feel like there could be a little bit more consistency and care into the details, into the roles characters have. Let Milim be that nuke and seriously mess up things.. don’t half and half it. Let Eren be welcomed back into the village as the adorable klutz that is Rimuru’s link to the human world. Let Gabiru be the loser that constantly gets punched around.. don’t let him though things out.. put him in the hospital.. make it so that they constantly need to use potions on him!

That however is much more a gripe with the series as a whole then with this episode specifically.. on their own these offences aren’t that big. Sure I know it could use a bit more care, but I smile widely still. I loved the clumsy Eren scene , even if she wasn’t talked to by Rimuru, I loved seeing Vesta being so proud of his achievement and growing into another person. I love the small fixes to Milim showing that this really is a show about progress. It all felt satisfying from beginning to end! All those other gripes I have .. just stem from taking the cheap way out just a TAD to much rather than going for the well written option. So it’s a great episode but to cheap to be a star.

Animini: Samurai Flamenco – Episode 18 – Flamenco in Space

Samurai Flamenco has always been a show that had hits and misses for me .. though it had more hits.  Now this episode does something I haven’t really experienced yet, it made me feel conflicted. On the one hand this is a stellar episode that concludes the story of Samurai Flamenco beautifully!  It could have been the perfect final episode… except… this isn’t the final episode… and it isn’t perfect either……. Had this been the final episode I would not have minded the imperfections and loved it to bits and would it not have been for those weird imperfections I would not have minded that there was more to this story still. 

The Summary

We pick up where we left off in the last episode with Samurai Flamenco and his allies standing outside  the government building staring at the flying saucer of Alien Flamenco.  The group discusses their action plan when the Alien shows up and shows them a vision. Our favourite Gadget guy recognises this as a vision.. which makes the Alien impressed. He invites Masayoshi over to his spaceship to  discuss the fate of the world. For this he summons a door that will lead the crimson hero into the spaceship! This is it the final fight!   The group discusses whether or not this is a trap , for some reason even including the Prime Minister in this debate. Eventually it is Goto who says that the fear of death never stopped Masayoshi before and it should not stop him now.. he is the only person who can save earth right now as he is the true hero!  This prompts Masayoshi to indeed go inside the alien spaceship and  soon he finds himself sitting at one of those typical Japanese Waterfronts.. you know green hills, a canal and a bridge in the distance.. the one you lay in to think about life with a sprig of green in your mouth!

Alien Flamenco reveals he wants to assimilate humanity inside himself.. he is actually 5 billion people that have evolved past the point of needing a physical body as such and his goal is to bring peace to everyone by evolving them beyond a need for violence, only then will there truly be peace. Masayoshi is given a stone .. the same he ripped from King Torture and it is told that it can make him evolve.  All he needs to do is focus on evolving and him and humanity will be at peace and be assimilated by Alien.  Of course our hero refuses this which prompts the spacemenman  to try and kill him. Masayoshi finds the evolution stone he tossed earlier and doesn’t use it to evolve but to grow giant. The two  Sentai then have a space battle.. on the moon. Which seems to have Masayoshi critically injured. However he realises why the offer of Alien Flamenco did not sit well with him.. Humanity needs to grow and learn.. not to evolve.. with this he gains a new special attack and Uppercuts Alien Flamenco away.. seeming dying himself on the moon. He then wakes up in Sunshine Sentai’s house who reveals he is not Sunshine.. but the will of the Galaxy! Offering some deeper insights and offering Masayoshi a choice. New enemies for the next billion years.. or going back to normal life. The hero chooses the later saying his job was not to fight evil but make the world a better place.. and he can still do that. He gets sent back to earth and tells Goto he went to the moon!

The Positives

This would have been one of the best show endings i have seen in a while.. so obviously it means it also is a great arc ending/ episode ending. There is no doubt about that right?!  I am not sure really, the epsiode does some VERY amazing things that is for sure.  The way everything ends up full circle.. King Torture, From Beyond,  and Alien .. they all are linked in a manner I did not really find intrusive or forced even. It felt earned.  The journey of Masayoshi up to this point is explained and it has left me very impressed. The way things spiral out of control from simple to galaxy breaking reminded me of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, my favourite anime of all time so that never is bad.  There is so much good writing in it, even now still reminding me of Tarintino’s way of writing dialogue.. and since this episode is so dialogue heavy  that really makes it shine! Even the joke that Flamenco is eventually nothing special.. it is just a word that has a 0,00000002% chance of granting a wish…but mostly it’s something like the town Eromanga in Australia. Something that has a different meaning in another language and thus becoming something it is not.. that was pretty funny.

The sound design of this episode was stellar. The sound that plays when the group is talking under the saucer felt completely unworldly and sold  the whole space theme and strange  threat of the situation so incredibly well. Masayoshi’s voice acting this week also made an impression. He has to convey a very difficult emotion .. he has to disagree with someone..with a passion.. but not being sure why he disagrees. He just knows in his gut that what is being said is wrong. It comes out excellent, I don’t speak Japanese but I could still hear both the fire in his heart and the doubt in his mind. Truly excellent work. The use of colour underneath the UFO also really impressed me , giving everyone a bit of an unreal glow with a light that doesn’t fully seem to match with what we see making it even less feel of this  world.  The final attack, the little cues it for the most part was amazing. 

The Negatives

I hate that this is not the last episode though, I already had assumed it would go beyond this as I did not think they could drag out Alien Flamenco for more than a few episodes.. but this had me very conflicted. I felt so strongly about it that I even considered dropping the show at this point and not watching the final four episodes.. because no way in heck the show is gonna top this. So this leaves me a bit bitter and having lost confidence in the future.  It is a weird gripe to have that this episode is basically just too good to be in the middle but it is the truth.  Imagine adding the first 55 seconds of Queen’s Best friend at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody and making that the new Rhapsody.. it would not nearly be in as many hitlists then!

I said there were a few gripes I had with the episode as well and it all has to do with Alien Flamenco.  Taking Masayoshi to a japanese canal felt really out of place for me.. using a trope that is relevant only in Japan.. while he already has the entire rest of the world. I don’t buy it.  The setting isn’t even used that well.  Yet what is more annoying is Alien Flamenco’s constant use of Engrish..  “Sit Down”  .. “Listen to me” . Why?!  He did not do that before.. I mean sure he was using the American hero  as a disguise but even then he did not really do that. It just felt so annoying. Take Jojo’s adventure for example who also make Jospeh use a lot of English things.. first of all he is genuinely english unlike Alien.. secondly those moments are played for comedy and not during heartfelt talks where dialogue is super important.  I never cringe but this one made me do it.. to a point at the first 7 minutes that I thought.. well they compltely ruined this episode with that shit…. but then the show picks up and becomes one of the best episodes yet….. 

The Score

So honestly I am not sure what to do with this score. It both had some of the weakest and some of the strongest moments in the show.. and normally I deem an episode is good or not based on how much I want to see the next episode! I very much want to NOT see the next episode… but not because the episode was bad. This is complicated! The show genuinely made me feel.. and I do kind of want to see if Goto’s girlfriend will ever reveal her face.. but I am kind of done with Masayoshi’s story. I would have given this episode the benefit of the doubt if the Alien Flamenco dialogue wasn’t so cringe worthy. I actually hated that.. and I normally kinda enjoy Engrish in anime.

In the end I will base my grade by comparing this episode by comparing it to a very delicious and clear broth.  It is a very flavourful episode and it’s very clear as well, we see everything that is inside and how it relates to each other. This is a star quality soup! However it has been garnished with stale croutons. Something added to just to give it a little playful element floating in between backfires and makes it just annoying to fish those weak bits out.  It’s a bit of a hassle  but I might be able to forgive that still.. however the Soup is so good that you know in advance that chicken cordon bleu that is coming next will disappoint you.  It might not taste bad.. but it has less room to be amazing based on what it is.. thus the soup might not really fit the menu.. despite it being so tasty! If I had judge the menu.. the soup would be the odd duck out and I would mark it down for it.. and  that is why .. this episode is just fine…despite being amazing.

Animini: Digimon Adventure – Episode 11 – The Wolf Standing Atop the Desert

A new week, a fresh badge of Animini! We take it from the top and start again with Digimon Adventure. Where last week’s episode ended up to be one of the weaker episodes in the series, this episode is arguably it’s counterpart.. with some very interesting choices and development. I still stand by my point that a series as Digimon doesn’t have to be nearly as good as it is!  Yet this show ends up constantly surprising me!

The Summary

Last episode we saw the group encounter the black Miasma. It is in the way of the direct path of the stronghold the group is going for. Since the group HAS to make it to that location they split up to make sure at least one group will most certainly reach it’s destination. For this random names have been drawn.  Tai-chi leads group one followed by Koshiro and Mimi and Yamato leads the second group with Joe and Sora tagging along. Now I am not sure how random this is as both groups have .. A flyer,  a geek, a girl,  and a powerhouse… but sure!  It will be interesting to see Yamato and Sora interact.   This weeks episode focusses on the adventures of Yamato’s group…(who would have expected it with that episode title) .. the group has to cross a Desert…. They quickly find out small ADORABLE little digimon are being attacked by dragonfly digimon that can summon dust devils.. but also a creature that is lurking beneath the sand. While the Dragonfly’s get killed by whatever is beneath the sand the group realises that this monster.. might have the strength of an ultimate.

Taking shelter after being mostly outclassed the group discovers that more Digmon here are refugees from the evil creature that is known as Scorpiomon Apparently they attempted to flee towards a digmon called Leomon.. who is known as a resistance fighter taking up the fight against those responsible for the black Miasma.. and with that we get a huge reference and potentially later story point! I love Leomon!  Sora and even Joe want to escort these little guys to safety but Yamato  argues they are dead weight and will slow them down too much for their journey. When Sora insists on saving them he leaves the group! Gabumon tells him he should reveal his secret to the group.. but Yamato keeps on walking. Sora and Joe end up in a fight with Scorpiomon and end up on the losing side, just to be saved in the last moment by Garurumon. Seeing his Digimon in trouble.. and Gabumon being all Yamato says he needs.. makes him think of all the bonds that have strengthened him.. even those of his allies. He realises the power in friendship and this allows us to see WereGarurumon for the first time as the second chosen one gets his ultimate. The fight is won and Yamato reveals he used the group as bait and never planned to abandon his friends. He then tells the group of his secret.. he has a brother named Takeru (TK) who is his reason for fighting. 

The Positives

Where to Start?! This episode was amazing!  Mimi has an adorable moment with Palmon, when it is revealed that Mimi can’t climb once again showing this show goes out of his way to diversify the group. They can’t all do the same thing. The idea to pair her up with Koshiro and Taichi to which in the original story she has the “least” connection is also quite interesting.  Seeing Sora and Yamato travel together is interesting for a whole other reason!  
It also makes sense to let Taichi go for the shorter ..but more uncertain route while letting Yamato have the  longer but more controllable route. The way Yamato uses the group as resources yet cares makes his crest of friendship (even though they do not need to collect the item)  so much more interesting and earned this time. The way Gabumon is the primary instigator and the group in general.. more so then his relation to Taichi .. works! Sora having the crest of love makes her a perfect defender of the innocent and Joe wanting to be a doctor not being able to turn out these creatures in need of help and overcoming his fear yet again shows amazing commitment to these characters. Everyone is so much more fleshed out and this episode gives everyone a small moment yet again.. though pushing Taichi a bit aside.. which is perfect because the show needed that.

The music and the cinematography of this episode is amazing as well. The Ultimate battle theme was amazing and with the choreography of the battle added it really lifted the excitement of this episode.  The show is being quite creative with how wounds work on digital characters as well. While not new  to the series it is really used well here! I was also really happy to see Bearmon/Kumamon .. one of the available partners Digimon from Digimon World 3 and while I usually go with Kotemon in that game, I was very happy to see him acknowledged. The show isn’t afraid to dig into the expanded library of the current Digimon world!  The mention of Leomon is great as well! I look forward to seeing more about that! The show does something quite amazing in terms of visual references and other little easter eggs and snippets of knowledge and this episode had some really good ones.  I think it really showcases a great love for the franchise that at times is palpable and here it most certainly is. If the makers had a Biyomon I am sure it would be a Garudamon already!

The Negatives

So here I am fangirling about Digimon a lot, do I have any negatives? Well I guess I would have liked to seen a stock footage digivolution of anyone but Gabumon or Agumon.. but it doesn’t matter THAT much, that Digivolution animation still is really amazing and the way the show manages to make it feel hype and much more choreographed in the battles.. rather than the more stand alone digivolutions of the original. Still there is some favouritism here and once again it shows it’s colours.  Now this is a Gabumon focussed episode so this is no real gripe.. but I have to mention at least something. Another thing is why Takeru is hidden in the shadows. I know some people haven’t seen him yet.. but we only see a Silhouette when his brother remembers him.. which just feels odd.. you know what your brother looks like..  most of us watching probably will know as well.

 Another small gripe I have is how these new Digivices work. Besides evolving your Digimon they can also power it up, which I think is a neat feature. Yet the animation for powering it up also uses this glowing ring in a similar fashion that Super-Evolution works.  In this episode Birdramon gets a filled ring and it results in her getting a super powerful attack.. a Moba player would call it an “ultimate”   I would have liked to see it a bit more visually distinguishable.. The digivice has several segments of “led”  lights that light up in subsequent order and if they move fast enough and all are lit at the same time.. stuff happens.  Whatever the stuff is. I would have loved it if digivolution used that pattern while powered attacks had a single segment glow up in increasing intensity.. or several.. but at least something that conveys a difference so we can get what is coming next. That would make this show even better!

The Score

So it should be quite clear that with negatives like those that this episode will get a high grade. I oftenly found myself leaning into the screen in excitement! This show captures that childhood spirit but at such a high pace that almost every episode feels rewarding and this Episode packs more punch that most of the previous episodes and I am not even that much of a Yamato person.  I bet you all can guess my favourite character quite easily!  Based on the cliffhanger this week I might be in for a treat next week! So if I wasn’t exicted enough this episode also gave me next week to look toward too a perfect ending for a nearly perfect 20 minutes.

Thus it should come as know surprise that this one will get the highest grade in my flavour meter. While not flawless it comes darn close, and while I would love to see an episode of peace and calm.. it just isn’t that type of show. It is something I disliked in the past but if the action is done like THIS  and they keep making smart choises I certainly will not mind.

Animini: Cowboy Bebop -Episode 1- Asteroid Blues

It’s the end of the week again my dear island guests. Concluding my weeks worth of anime daily reviews should be something special! So I decided to fill the 7th slot with classic anime I haven’t watched yet.  The first one Cowboy Bebop! I didn’t even know it was set in space before I watched this episode!  So I was very surprised. I was also surprised that the gritty thing isn’t normally for me.. I must say I quite enjoyed this first episode.

The Summary

We are introduced to Spike and his Co-Worker/ Bounty Hunting Fellow Jet. They live on a spaceship called Cowboy Bebop. Down on their luck they take a lower end bounty to hunt a man named Asimov. A drug runner type who killed all his friends and took off to some asteroid thing… I think!  Jet tells Spike he made Bellpeppers and Beef but unfortunately they are too poor to afford beef, so they just eat noodles and bell peppers. This prompts a reluctant Spike to take on the bounty that he did not deem worth his time before and he travels to a world/place with heavy Western themes. Here we find out that Asimov is trying to sell drugs.. called Bloody Eyes or something.. An Eyedrop drug that makes you hyper aware.. it’s not said to be drugs… but it’s drugs!  He clearly is addicted and tripping out on them.. killing people in a bar brutally! He is accompanied by a woman who looks to be pregnant. Of course it doesn’t take too long for Spike to track them down! Mostly because he had a Indian Vision Quest.. of sorts right before with him having his fortune told by and old Indian lady! She warns him about the Red Eyed Coyote and a Woman coming in his life that would also bring death.

Spike meets this woman and the Red Eyed Coyote at a seedy gas station. Helping the woman take care of groceries but eating her sandwich. He charms her up quite nicely as he offers her cigarettes in return. Claiming to her to be some cowboy! However once she sees his fighter jet she quickly realises he is a bounty hunter. He tells her has lost interest in the bounty again as Asimov is sick and he has no interest in weaklings. Insulted Asimov chokes him.. to unconsciousness.  His life was spared by the plees of the woman.  When the druggy man that has more bulging eyes then Nicolas cage  goes to sell the drugs. Spike has replaced the buyer. A fight breaks out and we see  Mister Spiegel ‘s ‘excellent footwork and combat ability, overwhelming Asimov. However when other criminals come in to shoot up the place the Cyberpunk Bonnie and Clyde manage to flee. Leading into a final space chase. Here we see Asimov is so consumed by his drug that he loses control entirely and rushes himself and his woman into death. To prevent Asimov from being taken down by his enemies his woman finishes him off.. after which she lets herself be killed by space cops!  As her body is jettisoned into space we see the pregnant belly was nothing more than a way to hide the drugs. Having not collected a bounty.. Spike and Jet eat “special” beef and Bellpepper again.

The Positives

On paper this should not be my type of show! It combines genres that usually are less my cup of tea. I am not the biggest science fiction fan in the world.. though I do enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek.. but in anime terms .. it’s usually too bleak and political. It has some heavy western elements.. which makes sense given Cowboy is in the name of the title and it’s about a Bounty Hunter.. which aside from the Mandalorian I find a horrible profession to make a show out of. Yet somehow the spunk of Spike, the low tech level..with bullets instead of lasers, and a very varying world makes it a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.  It is very much helped by the mentality of the two bounty hunters. To me falling more in the “Firefly” like types of characters. It gives the show a level of “airiness” while keeping lines such as Adios Cowboy, impactful. We see a cowboy tavern, a spaceship interior, a french Bistrolike restaurant and a seedy gas station , and have gunfights,  fistfights and a slaughter in space, so I  think this first episode does a tremendous job showing what this show will be and what we can expect.

It also sets up some interesting mysteries, Spike claims he already died once because of a woman.. what does he mean with that?  What is he so desperately training for. How is he able to take down a drug induced hulk life figure that can dodge bullets and crush people. Was Asimov that weakened from overdoing it on the drugs, or is there more. What is with that weird footwork Spike does when he is fighting. The show offers us a lot to unpack, but also nails showing us what characters like Jet and Spike are. After one single episode I feel like I have a pretty good idea I know what type of people they are.. and I don’t mean that in a way that they are shallow. The written story here just really hits some key points and uses the right dialogue that still feels natural but also tells us so much. The Bonnie and Clyde ending really worked wonders for me as well giving the show a sense of realism and real stakes straight of the bat. The good guy clearly doesn’t always win in this show, not everything is going to be alright at the end of an episode. Every choice this show makes so far is done with a reason and it feels legit. 

The Negatives

That being said, this also lies in this episode’s greatest weakness. I always saw the pair as a Bonnie and Clyde , it makes the link very clear for me.. so the outcome here felt a bit “set in stone”. There is nothing wrong with that for a single episode but I was never surprised by this first episode… and I did not even know it was a cyberpunk like setting, so that is saying something. It is set up to be surprising later on but for now I can not escape the feeling that it felt a bit predictable. I like how human the characters are generally being depicted and how their skills all seem very human. However when the eventual gruns show up those have StormTrooper accuracy.  The grunts also clearly have a more generic design, so when they show up .. it slightly undermines tension. It’s not a big flaw.. but we know Han Solo isn’t going to be taken down by two StormTroopers.. and we know Spike isn’t going to be taken down by the orange coat and green coat mafia. It’s not bad.. just not that exciting.

Another small pet peeve I had was a logical flaw. The woman is revealed to carry the drugs in her fake pregnant Belly.. but there is nothing protecting the little bottles. Which are made out of glass. When she would walk she would make a lot of jangly noises and no way she would get it to look that smooth. This is a nitpick.. but if you make Spike someone who has a big attention to detail.. I feel conflicted about this. At least show us she is wearing a satchel underneath the dress or something.. but no. .as soon as her dress rips the stuff just pours out! That would make noise you know. It’s just a weird little thing that does not add up. Note though that I did not really mind while watching.. just in hindsight it seems silly and conflicting with what is established about the vials elsewhere.

The Score

I had a much better time with this episode than I figured I would. I thought this show would be very much  in my face “Not for me”  but I actually got quite a lot of enjoyment out of the very good writing. It’s thus weird that it’s great writing also is for me it’s biggest hindrance right now.. what I want to happen happens so I am very satisfied.. but I am not “enchanted” It might be weird to say a show is written too well… but  yeah.. that kinda is my beef with it. The weird little jangly bottle plot hole I do not really mind.. I just structured this post thatI have to nag about something! Being a sucker for details this irked me enough to mention it. Again had the bottles been plastic or the containers be soft.. I’d been fine but they make a point of how fragile and glassy these things are! 

In the end I’d compare this episode with a REALLY REALLY REALLY good colour by numbers painting.. or one of those diamond paintings and those are more modern these days. It looks stunning, pleasing and you can clearly see that every element is carefully placed in the right way.  Even with some sparkles added to it that get you excited for the next canvas to come. Yet it is also exactly what you expect when you start the project. You won’t suddenly find a surprise unicorn in your painting when you’re done..so when you’re done you just end up with what you knew you would end up with all along. Thus it reaches the top of great for me.. but it fails to push into amazing.

Animini: Natsume Book of Friend – Episode 1- The Cat and The Book

With Pinkie’s Saturday Anime Adventure I was doing 5 anime reviews in a single day.. so now that I split them across the days I had two days left.. should I take it easy on those days?! Of course not! More Anime for me to watch! So I already had a “nostalgia” show, a show that got recommended by community friends, a magical girl show, an Isekai and a tournament/ analogue gaming show… so else could I watch. Why not something Senpai loves?! You gotta respect your blogging elders according to Japanese culture! So here we go.. starting from today each week I am watching an episode of Natsume Book of Friends… and  I never even knew what it was.. I did not expect it to be this!

The Summary

We meet our main protagonist Natsume in this episode. He was born with a special gift! The ability to see Yokai! While this might seem like a blessing to some, most Yokai don’t seem to take kindly to him.  Either they chase him, he reacts to them or something of the sorts happen that alienates him from all the other humans.  Seemingly having no more friends nor any living blood relatives, the boy seems lonely as a cyclops witch and a ghost with a yukata chase him… pardon me for not knowing the proper Yokai names of these.. but I feel like if I had to look all those up this post would take so much longer… if you recognise what Yokai they are tell me in the comments and teach me something!  Natusme flees towards a shrine but in doing so trips over a rope containing seals and this breaks it. Now that the seals have become undone a Mani Neko is released!  He is called Nyanko-Sensei and he recognises Natsume.. saying his grandma used to be like him and she has something called “The Book of Friends”

This is a book containing the names of Yokai she bonked on the head with a bat and forced them to give up their name.. under the guise of a duel. Nyanko-Sensei wants the book.. but Natsume refuses and gives him watermelon instead and a friendship of sorts begins to bloom. When the one eyed witch and ghostly man invade Natsume’s house the two have to work together to stop the spirits. Natsume decides to return the names to the Yokai his grandmother bonked and Nyanko teaches him how to do that.. on the terms of that if Natsume dies while doing this.. Nyanko gets the book of a friend and can do “weird stuff” with it. We see Natsume’s grandmother bonk the Cyclops Witch.. as soon as Natsume starts the name return ritual.  Talking with the spirit about yeast buns.. after she is sent away.. Natsume and Nyanko stop at the place his grandma claimed had the best Yeast buns.

The Positives

For as many times Irina has told me on her blog that Natsume Book of Friends is great, she never really told me what it was about! I assumed it was this slice of life like show with a boy making friends in high school with a comical relief cat that can drink booze. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more to it. Had I known this was what the show was about I might have taken on the last tour of the OWLS in the Folklore topic and watched it earlier! Now however I can enjoy it at a snail’s pace with an episode a week!  I do like this concept of “reverse”capturing a lot.. I mean in a way this is kind of like a reverse pokémon so far where a boy gets a pet..that actually can EVOLVE ..sort of.. he seems quite capable himself.. and his goal is to release ALL the creatures in his book. It still hits close enough to home for me to be my jam while being different enough for me to see it as its own thing.

I do like the creature design a lot so far. Nyanko-Sensei in particular is adorable in his cat for and his dragonoid form or whatever that seems quit impressive. It reminds me a bit of that dog dragon from the NEver Ending Story..Falcor I think his name was.. just more Japanese.  But I also like the witch and the smiling dude.  I also like the sound design a lot, the cicada’s  give the atmosphere a sense of serenity which helps sell the whole idea of Natsume living in a different world than us .. sort of speak as we see a tranquil world and his one is quite a bit more hectic. The voices are fun and I find them very fitting and I do look how things are framed. The way Nyanko-Sensei tumbles around.. but also the way how a  punch to Nyanko from Natsume cuts away to a sound effect.  From the position he was in.. there was no way to sell the effect visually I think.. yet this way I can suspend my disbelief easier. So it is nice to see that. The episode has a pretty good story to set things up but for now I can’t delve to deep in it.. I felt it had the perfect length and a satisfying conclusion showing us the fact that spirits can be appeased with their name.. or properly manhandled to be sent away. I like that. 

The Negatives

Now I am treading on quicksand here!  What can I say about Natsume that will not get my head severed from my torso in terms of negatives. In terms of this first episode I will admit the opening wasn’t my thing. I really like a bit more peppy intro’s and I did not think the song was too catchy.  A bit unfair to call the first episode out on that.. but it will be the only time it bothers me so I still have to mention it. Other than that I do find the human characters a bit generic. Natsume is okay design wise.. but unlike for example Soul Eater, Watamote or No Game No Life I think it will take a bit for me to recognise the main character. I’d recognise Nyanko but Natsume.. I am not too sure yet! It isn’t a bad design..but I would have given him an odd eye colour or a spot in his eye or something that makes him see this Yokai.. or something.. maybe he wears a special necklace over his uniform… it’s nothing I will not get used to but he’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression again.

I have no strong negatives other than that, and even those are very excusable, I watched the show on Crunchyroll yet for some reason the quality was a bit low for me, it felt as if it was too “bright”.  I am not sure yet if that is the anime’s age, it’s style.. or just a bad version uploaded on Crunchyroll.. but it felt a bit too “pastel” colour to me at times. Another nitpick I have is that we see a scene where two friends are strolling. They encounter Natsume and then continue to talk about how weird he is.. however the story is told from Natsume’s perspective.. while he is being chased.. yet for a brief moment we cut to their dialogue about him. That to me doesn’t fit…if we are being told things from Natusme’s perspective I would have preferred to let him thing “They must think I am super strange”.. and for the most part.. that’s how it is handled. That felt a bit too “in you face exposition” for my tastes. Not horrible.. but a bit inconsistent nonetheless.

The Score

I did have a great time watching this first episode, and I do think it will be a show that I could grow to like a lot. It has a lot of hype to live up too.. but that is also exactly why I read nothing about it except for Senpai doing the wobbly lag fan girl thing for it on a regular basis. That really helped me enjoy it a lot more as it can still surprise me! Unlike the anime I am going to watch tomorrow I know nothing about it and I intend to keep it that way. I do not have a clear idea where this show is headed yet but it does intrigue me! I want to see more! So that is a great thing for a first episode to achieve.

I wasn’t as mesmerised by it as something like Flip Flappers or Samurai Flamenco which both had REALLY good starts. I do feel Natsume is a bit more of a slow burning type of a show though, there is more to set up, it requires a bit more insight so I expect to fall in love with it a few more episodes in. Which is fine.. Hikaru no Go was a similar type of show for me where I wasn’t head over heels from episode 1 but by episode 20 I am hooked. A lot of my favourite shows of all time were slower starters. Also that seems like I hated this episode which is completely not true because I think it is REALLY Good.. it just is not the most captivating first episode I’ve ever seen.  The show can still grow for me and grow on me.. and I feel like it will.. so for some reason I am happier that I can give this a Berry Good.. as I would be giving this my higest score.. we  have a long journey ahead of us with this one but I feel it will be an amazing journey..Where Flip Flapper takes me on a journey on an item that should not even be a vehicle leaving the driveway is slightly more interesting as in the packed car Natsume provides.. but I do feel that with this one I am going to be more comfy and I will see plenty of amazing things!

Animini: Hikaru No Go -Episode 21- The Haze Middle School Go Club

Hello again my sweet Island Guests. It is time to watch animated characters place some black and white stones on wooden boards again. My return to Hikaru no Go did not disappoint! It also did not blow me out of the water, we get a very good development episode that leads us into a new arc. 

The Summary

In this episode we pick up immediately after the realisation that if Hikaru becomes an Insei he can not play in School Tournaments anymore. Mitani takes this particularly hard saying he was forced to play with them in the first place. Refusing to believe that Hikaru is going to leave them.. clutching on to the idea that this is all a mistake. This forces Hikaru to freeze up!  His friends all want him to stay and sacrifice his dream. Then Kaga shows up and supports Hikaru’s dream.. to demonstrate how far he has grown Kaga suggests Hikaru does three simultaneous matches against Kaga, Mitani and Tsutsui. Hikaru wins against Mitani and Tsutsui but loses against Kaga. However during these matches we see a small visual cue in a blink and you miss it moment. During his match with Kaga.. . Hikaru shows the same type of look on his face that Touya has.. cueing us in on the fact that he is VERY serious.

We see Akiri be determined to learn the game more since Hikaru won’t quit Go .. just the club, and so  in this final match we see how strong Hikaru actually is. Not only did he win 2 out of 3 matches, he also   remembers them  one by one, stone for stone in the order they played out in. A talent that may be useful to him later on. We then see Hikaru head to his Insei exam and are reintroduced to Waya, who by just glancing at Hikaru thinks he will pass the test. The examinator however does not seem to be very impressed by Hikaru and his written matches. As Hikaru is given a three stone handicap for this match we see his gaze turn all serious again as he places his first stone and the exam has begun. Which is something we will see in the next episode.

The Positives

A very strong episode once more for Hikaru no Go, while I had trouble with it’s pacing earlier on, the show has been on a streak lately of setting it’s pace very nicely and making all episodes relevant. This episode once again does an excellent job on providing us a measuring stick on where Hikaru is in terms of “power”. The show has been doing an excellent job at this lately! Since the exam is held in December, and summer vacation usually ends in September, we are at least 3 months past the Internet Go story bit. Last episode we got the amazing fall visual and now we have the impending deadline telling us the progress of time.  By spreading these events over such a large span of time you really get the feeling Hikaru’s skill increases are earned, compared to for example Yu-Gi-Oh or Saki where skill levels get boosted out of nowhere. 

The strongest moment in the episode was of course Hikaru showing that look he knows Akira for, we see that the boy who thought it was just something to appease Sai has vanished and now we see an actual Go Prodigee who wishes to delve deeper into the world of Go. The Hikaru we see now is not the same Hikaru from episode 1 .. not even the one from Episode 18 even. This Hikaru is what  our protagonist wanted to be way back in episode 2 and in just a few frames that is made perfectly clear to us! Once again this same emotion is reflected in the cinematography of the matches.  When Akira faced his “boss” we saw a colossal hand on a board aglow.. These matches..we barely see any stones… it symbolised Touya feeling overwhelmed.. and out of his league. This time .. we do not even see the stones being placed on the board.  We just see Hikaru mostly calm.. but feeling the tension between the people playing.. by seeing them depicted in a face off. The only match we see stones placed is the one with Kaga.. his skill matters.. but  Hikaru has outgrown the other two.. This is very nicely depicted once again. The show is great at that.

The  Negatives

The episode does have a few downsides for me which mostly come to play in the second half. The first half only makes me wish that we would see an episode that is focussed around the females of the Haze Middle School Go Club, showing Akiri’s determination to keep on learning.  Yet Akiri is somewhat more of a background character with text.. which is a bit of a shame. The second part makes Hikaru go to the exam with his mother .. who is completely under utilised..  he went there alone the first time and now she just tags along to go drink some coffee. She has no real role there other than shifting the camera perspective on Waya for a brief moment.  She doesn’t feel very supportive yet she isn’t unsupportive either.. she is just there. We have seen her show up a lot lately which I would have assumed would hint that she has some role to play or will see her son play.. maybe reveal she was very good as well.. but nothing happened causing a bit of  a “filler dialogue” feeling when she is around.

Other than that there are a few moments  where characters shift facial expression to a more cartoony comedy expression. While I do not mind it on Hikaru, I already said I disliked it on Sai and this time they use it for Kaga. The comedy moments aren’t funny as it is just a teacher looking for the guy and him making a funny expression for it. I get works as a reintroduction for Kaga and establishes a motive for him to be where he is.. but after they return to it and to me it really doesn’t fit the moment, nor the character. I told it once before the show isn’t that good at comedy. I get why they would think they need it ..but the way it is utilized clashes with the rest. Hikaru can be funny.. but the others.. I remain unsure.

The Score

A very good episode that very well did what it was supposed to do, yet at the same time due to some strange choices surrounding a few characters it wasn’t as compelling as it could have been. It does everything it needs to do and it does it well yet ends up somewhat restrained. I had a lot of fun with this episode and i am looking forward to the next episode.. but I am mostly interested in just “one” thing.. aside from seeing the Akiri centered episode.. which I doubt i am going to get anytime soon. It’s Hikaru’s exam. It’s a very straight path forward and that means I enjoy it a lot .. but also I feel it has less potential to surprise me in the future. 

I would have loved it if Mitani’s plight had been played up a bit more.. but a comedy moment of Kaga smashing him into the floor kind of ruined that thread for me. He just got knocked down and was told to get over it.  Hikaru is a friend and they should support him.. deal with it. We may still see Mitani’s character come into play surrounding this but now I am not sure. This is where the show drops of from the highest grade to one step lower for me. It feels as if comedy shut of a plotline I was quite invested in and it annoyed me a bunch. I’ve come to love all these characters and would love to see them stay at least a bit relevant as time comes. I get phasing out Tsutsui after all he is graduating but snuffing out plotlines with comedy.. feels a tad iffy.. It might not have happend but it is the feeling I got.. which is enough down to bump it down JUST a nodge.

Animini: Flip Flappers – Episode 11- Pure Storage

Finally after a long time I could pick up Flip Flappers again. Of the shows I am watching Flip Flappers has been one I have constantly liked the most. It’s themes while often obscure resonate with me , in one way or another and whether or not that if it’s intended way doesn’t really matter. It is a show that made me laugh out loud, squee with glee or cry. This episode managed to chill me… I felt so much empathy I felt horrified to find the truth of Cocona’s story. And then came in the other emotions.

The Summary

Episode 11 is a surprisingly down to earth episode …. for Flip Flappers. Cocona has now become possessed by her mother Mimi, who finds herself trapped in Yayaka’s organisation.  She wants nothing but to keep her daughter safe.. so she transforms the enemies into clovers and daisies which seemingly kills them; it even disables their killer robots. From there on out she makes her way to the Headquarters of FlipFlap which now is destroyed by the attack of the Amorphous children. The third one Nyunyu has a lot of fun hunting it’s last remaining members down.. but she is stopped from killing anyone by Yayaka. Mimi is offered to rule the world with the “evil organisation”  but she refuses.. she cares for nothing but Cocona and ends up meeting with Salt.. who holds her at gunpoint. By this time I am completely gonna assume he is Cocona’s father as we flash back to the night of Mimi flee FlipFlap. We see a grown up Papika …I think.. or everyone is just really small.. talk with Mimi about the pregnancy…well we don’t see but it is implied and to Salt they do not mention anything either but tell they want to escape. 

He allows them to escape.. after blamining them for a failed experiment beyond that red portal thing.. ruining his father’s mind.  Seemingly bitter he does allow the organisation to search for them and bring them back. Papika  and Mimi are returned and Salt finds out the woman he is in love with has a daughter named Cocona. We briefly flash back to modern times and Salt tells Mimi she isn’t protecting Cocona like this.. she disagrees and she uses her reality warping powers to easily defeat both him and Papika.  In more flashbacks we see her embracing an evil side of her to keep Cocona safe, killing many people within FlipFlap.. the dark side of Mimi is the one in control now as well and her only goal is to keep Cocona safe. As an incredibly over protective mother she keeps Cocona safe in Pure Illusion.. however both worlds now begin to fuse and reality is at stake. Given an Amorphous shard by Salt, Yayaka convinces Papika to join her to save Cocona from her mother.. who meanwhile tries to build the perfect world for her daughter..even if it is at the cost of reality.

The Positives

While I am not completely sure if Cocona is an actual human or a manifestation of Mimi’s mind, I am fairly sure Salt is her actual father.. though he does seem to care for Cocona very little, we still need pieces of this puzzle..but little by little we get more and more answers and I like it.  The whole idea of what Mimi has been put through and it leaving scars or her sense of reality.. by spending so much time outside of it really works for me. We get a “reap what you sow”  kind of situation.  Even if they made the best of a bad situation.. the damage was still done. Showing friendship and smiles don’t always fix everything.. which I think is a need element to add in a magical girl show of all things.   I also very much like the implications it has on Cocona. We have seen the main girl of the show always struggle with making choices in this series and in this episode we see why. She has a hard time making choices.. because everytime she is making such a choice she wishes she could ask her mother. She never had such a bond that can shape a person and is left without it…. and now she gets offered the exact opposite. The chance to never make a choice again.

The scene where her mother and Cocona are in the boat and her mother starts enforcing hairstyles and dress-styles on Cocona and making choices for her , remind me slightly of my own overprotective mother.. While obviously nowhere near as toxic as Mimi I do see similar elements here. Even at a later age.  “Wear your hair like this.. people will like you better”  .. while actually meaning .. she likes it better but also genuinely being afraid that by making a choice that is not hers I make the wrong one.  I sometimes see a mother that wants me and my sister happy and nothing else in the world would matter.. not to the extent of the anime .. but enough for me to feel like I know Mimi. This one just has a dark side she can refer to for all those things she would otherwise feel conflicted about. Because this episode is mostly set in their reality.. it also feels very concrete , the Pure Illusion elements that feature in this episode still back to that moment in the past, where things were alright. Showing something of perhaps.. regret.. and it keeps everything very real. I really do like this episode.

The Negatives

Apparently this is the episode that a lot of people begin to hate this show, saying it is where it jumps the shark. I honestly do not see that, I feel this has all been pretty well set up from the first episode. From little things such as the fact that Cocona can’t make choices all the way to that first Pure Illusion adventure she had such an impact to reflect her love and fondness for Papika. The latter could be shoehorned in.. but all other worlds would have made less of a visual impact to occur in the real world.. it would have felt more out of place. I do however feel that the evil organisation wasn’t really needed all that much. It could have been another cell in Flip Flappers..  it still might be but since most of the organisation is wiped out I am unsure if we will see any answers on that front. The killer robots in reality might be a tad much… then again.. hover surfboards are a thing. It does push the boundaries of forcing an event.. and I can hear it creak..but for me it never really broke.

Yayaka getting a new hover surfboard and her learning to fly it without fault is a bit of a bigger issue and seeing no resolve with Nyunyu felt strange so the episode does make a few missteps but I am honestly not that bothered by it. Nyunyu is not very consistent in behaviour by character so I can see her just losing interest and pursuing other things. I think we will see what made Papika younger in the next episode.. as that episodes should be centered around her but I would have loved to see a bit of an answer in this episode. Some things were left just a little bit too much in the middle for me.. but that makes me very eager to watch the next episode to see if I can get answers there.. so I am not sure if it is a negative yet.. if I do not get these answers in hindsight it will be but for now I trust them.

The Score

This is one of those exposition episodes that is done well, I think they have done plenty of foreshadowing towards this and it feels earned and sincere.. I felt compassion by what Mimi had to endure and I could see how her mind would snap from something like this. I can see how someone who really has nothing can get obsessed with that one little thing that it becomes her entire life and consumes her.  I can also see why it makes her the bad guy.. and I think it offers an interesting struggle for Papika in the next episodes to deal with this. So despite what I saw people complain about in their reviews I think it was done well. Other people called out the over designed elements of this episode and it’s characters.. and I would like to ask those if they have seen the rest of the show…. that is very much how this show is… and that works for me because this show .. teaches us we are shaped by our choices for better or for worse.. we become more unique through the choices that we make so I think the “overdesign” is to an extent intended.

I do get how suddenly all the domino’s coming down to spell out this message may seem out of place as before we only had single lines of bricks falling and now we move to something so much more intense.. yet I really can not say I mind this… I might have preferred to see some elements be built up just a bit more.. or other elements giving some equal attention but this is great as well. Like if you want a chocolat desert of your favourite brand but it’s out of stock and then picking a brand that hits the exact same notes! It might not have been what you wanted but there is no reason to complain either.. and since there is nothing for me to really complain about that means.. we get a very high score.