Project Haruhi
3Dec/107

Weekly Anime Review: Demonic Beach Volleyball

We missed our Weekly Anime Review* post last week, as everybody was way too busy with Thanksgiving to write anything. Since we're playing catchup, this post is much longer than usual. This problem is further exacerbated by a couple of new reviewers who have joined the team, expanding our coverage to include MM!, Kuragehime and SoreMachi. Please note that neither Project Haruhi nor its staff are responsible for any eye strain you may incur during the reading of this post.

WARNING: This product contains spoilers, pretentious hater reviews and failed attempts at comedy.  Side-effects may include ink vomit, uncontrollable flatulence, disco-themed stripper transformations, naked sky-women and diarrhea. Should you at any time begin to experience a headache and/or an erection lasting longer than four hours, please consult a physician immediately. These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. Results may vary.

*Hey, I just noticed that the acronym for Weekly Anime Review is WAR! That's like... a pun or something.

Jon

Panty & Stocking 8 and 9

FLY AWAY NOW, FLY AWAY NOW, FLY AWAAAAAYYYY...

Oh, sorry. I know I'm supposed to be doing a review, but the PSG soundtrack is just so damn catchy. I can't get it out of my head!

Anyhoo, the last two episodes have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. Episode eight was altogether forgettable, so much so that I had to look up the plot synopsis just to remind myself what happened. In the end, the only noteworthy aspect was the cameo apperances of Ren, Stimpy and Phoenix Wright in monkey form. Otherwise, YAWN.

Episode nine was the complete opposite. The angel vs. demon beach volleyball fight in the first half was one of the most crazy-awesome things I've ever seen Gainax produce, and that includes the galaxy shuriken fight at the end of Gurren Lagann. I was originally worried about them overusing the Demon Sisters and turning them into entirely ineffectual Team Rocket clones, but now I'm glad they're getting so much screentime. They really liven up the show, and add that much-needed comic variety that was so lacking in the early episodes. Also of particular interest were the South Park homages, from the obvious visual reference to Garterbelt's seemingly Chef-inspired "Black Frankfurter" song. Even the animation style throughout seemed like an homage, reveling in that oddly bouncy aesthetic that is distinctive of cutout and flash animation. Then again, the character designs seemed a bit off-model as well, so maybe this segment just had a different director than usual.

I wasn't sure what to make of Stocking's odd romance in the second half of this episode. I doubt Gainax intended it to be serious character development, nor did it seem that they were trying to elicit any of the melancholy emotions typically associated with this kind of plot. I'm theorizing that it was intended to be a subtle parody the one-episode romantic flings that usually plague female buddy cop anime. An example would be the episode of Dirty Pair where Yuri fell in love with a handsome man and nearly ran off with him, much to Kei's chagrin... a plot PSG matched point-for-point. In any case, the most notable part for me was the revelation that ghosts can be sent to heaven by fulfilling their desires. This suggests the angels will need to be more creative with their ghost-dispatching activities in the future.

Overall, this was a supremely entertaining episode. Aside from a few quibbles with the art quality in the first half, I have no complaints. Panty & Stocking has really hit it's stride, and is in my opinion the best anime currently airing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to my tuneless crooning.

CHOCOLAT! CHOCOLAT! YOU MAKE ME FEEEEEELL...

Rating
Episode 8: 3 out of 5
Episode 9: 5 out of 5

Squid Girl 7 and 8

I've run out of things to say about Squid Girl, so I'll let Scamp of The Cart Driver speak for me.

"Squid Girl never outreaches it’s boundaries. It ultimately will never achieve anything worthwhile and will be forgotten by all within 5 years. Yet each episode continues to bring a grin to my face, providing that little light in my week that keeps me consistently entertained."

I really can't say anything beyond that. I've already sung this show's praises so many times that anything more would be redundant. Each episode is just as funny, wacky and heartwarming as the last, and it never disappoints. The only thing I could possibly write about at this point are which jokes I thought were funniest, and I'm sure you would find that just as boring as I would. Therefore, I'm done reviewing Squid Girl. It gives me great pleasure to award it an official Project Haruhi Lifetime Achievement Award: a perpetual, unending perfect Picard score.

Eternal Rating: 5 out of 5

Samurai Girls 7 and 8

This show, on the other hand, gives me PLENTY to talk about, and that's not a good sign.

The best description I can think of for episode seven is "serviceable." Hanzo got some by-the-numbers character development, complete with a film grain flashback so predictable that even Criswell could see what was coming. The only minor surprise was Hanzo's refusal to become a Master Samurai, but even that was unsatisfying. She doesn't eschew Muneakira's lips for any noble or meaningful reason; she's just scared witless of kissing, like every other fanservice female in this show. Y'know, it would be SO cathartic to see one of these girls just say "screw it" and french Muneakira so deep his dead ancestors would be aroused by it. Grow a freaking backbone, Hanzo!

Another annoyance was the return of Naoe, who has replaced Jubei as the annoying high-pitched comic relief. Since virtually all the jokes are also pathetically predictable, it just made the whole episode a giant exercise in mediocrity. Okay, maybe the invisible Cerberus-thing was pretty cool, but it can't make up for the harem-cliche annoyances.

I'm not sure WHAT the point of episode eight was, other than to introduce another figure for you to buy... er, I mean character. Gisen's ero-slave behavior during the first half was utterly intolerable, like watching something out of a third-rate hentai. I'm not saying that because I think it was demeaning towards women or anything political like that. I just think the writers pulled it out of their ass. WHY was she acting like that? If YOU had no memory or identity, would you be trying to screw the first attractive person you saw? Was there ANY point to that nonsense aside from setting up some horrendously unfunny harem hijinks? Sorry, ARMS, but trying to explain it away with some psuedo-psychological jingo about 'honor and trust' at the end does't work. Shame upon you, and seven generations of your children!

It seems like Samurai Girls is simply dithering. By all rights, every girl in that dojo should be a Master Samurai by now, and they should all be out investigating the Shogun's grand conspiracy. Instead, we get filler so cliched, it's painful to watch. The action and boobs are still great, but the rest does not bode well.

Rating
Episode 7 and 8: 3 out of 5

Dustin

Iron Man 8

Let me get this straight: Anime-Tony lives in a universe where Wolverine exists. This implies that Professor Xavier also exists. So when a troubled girl who has difficulty controlling her (possibly mutant) powers practically shows up on his doorstep, why does he not immediately get in touch with Xavier? Teaching kids how to deal with their traumatic meta-human awakenings is his specialty. It shouldn't be that hard for Stark to send him an e-mail at the very least.

But whatever. I guess that's a little beside the point. The big issue here is that they came up with a decent premise and wasted it. Aki is initially a disruptive force in Tony's life; but with further development, she could have balanced out his abrasive and sometimes irresponsible attitude. Couple that with a desire to use her powers to help Tony take down Zodiac and you have a formula for what could be the most interesting development in this show.

Unfortunately, that's not what happens. Aki doesn't move past the disruptive stage until near the end, Tony's change of heart seems like it happened too much too quickly, and Aki's depowering and subsequent amnesia doesn't make much sense. Virgo's design reminded me of Bayonetta (always a good thing), there were some entertaining bits of dialogue in the beginning (mostly involving Dr. Tanaka), and the plot isn't nearly as absurd as it was in episodes six and seven. However, those are the only positive things I can say about this episode. Everything else was disappointing.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Iron Man 9

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, DUMB. The major conflict in this series is reliant on the two main characters being idiots, Yinsen especially. Your friend’s wedding gets bombed for no apparent reason, a shady businessman just happens to be close enough to meet you moments later, and you don’t become a little skeptical? I’m not a genius like Yinsen is supposed to be, but even I knew this was a set-up by Zodiac.

Speaking of Zodiac, whose brilliant idea was it to create a robot (Taurus) that can’t fly? All Tony has to do to escape it is go up, which is exactly what he does once he stops ineffectually yelling for Yinsen to come back. Yes, Tony actually pulls an InuYasha and gets blasted in the face because of it.

Even Dr. Tanaka isn’t immune from the stupidity. Faced with several Iron Man suits bearing down on the lab, she frantically wonders how to defend it. Gee, I don’t know. Maybe you should try using that awesome shield you had in the previous episode? Or, if that would be useless, could you explain to us why it wouldn’t work so we don’t assume you have the memory of a goldfish?

But all that pales in comparison to Yinsen’s final action. He has Tony out of his suit, completely defenseless. One punch from the Dio armor could instantly end the life of the man he blames for the annihilation of his family. So he decides to…throw Tony in a river? Really? If this isn’t part of some absurd Xanatos Gambit to take down Zodiac from the inside, Yinsen will be going home with the “Most Incompetent Villain” award.

Incidentally, Tony will receive “Most Incompetent Hero.”

Rating: 1 out 5

Star Driver 8

I’ve reluctantly accepted that Star Driver will never give me another episode like the fifth one. We’ve taken the bullet train to Dramaville. Thankfully, the show seems to be getting better both at dramatic pacing and writing serious dialogue. Much to my surprise, there were no absurd or unrealistic speeches and character actions in this episode. It even managed to make me interested in Sugata, which I never thought would happen. So things are starting to look up.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few missteps. While the dialogue may not be ridiculous, it’s merely graduated to being dull whenever characters talk about the overarching plot. They seem to turn into exposition machines whose lines could be switched around freely and no one would notice. And although the pacing is better (especially during the fight scene), the winner of “worst moment ever” by a large margin is the scene near the end of the episode where Sugata and Takuto spend half a minute bobbing up and down and panting.

Seriously.

It’s almost more intolerable than the nine-minute Mudkip video.

That said, I have to give the writers credit for making the conclusion of the caged girl’s story interesting. I had assumed the story she was telling was paralleling Takuto’s struggles, but it turns out she was actually talking about Sugata. That's the first clever twist. The second occurs immediately afterward, when she’s freed from her cage, takes the same bus that Wako, a Glittering Star member and the new pink-haired girl are riding, and then leaves the island. That sequence made me far more interested in the caged girl and her relationship to the island. She seems to know more about current events than she lets on, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of her.

Especially because I already miss her song in the background of Tauburn’s entrance.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Star Driver 9

The bro-bath at the start of this episode signals a return-to-form for this show. We knew the creative team could nail comedy. We also knew they were good as some aspects of drama and terrible at others. What we didn’t know is whether they could merge those two genres and still retain the charm. Turns out they can, and it’s what they should’ve been doing all along.

It’s no surprise at this point, but every new character introduced in this episode is interesting. The You sisters are especially charming, and I was very impressed that they were able to make a hyperactive, cheerful girl that wasn’t annoying. A lot of shows have trouble with that. Of course, a lot of shows can’t make their antagonists nearly as fun to watch as Star Driver can, either.

This episode effortlessly blends a lot of good jokes with snappy plot progression (new characters appear, the Glittering Crux enacts a new plan, and the Vanishing Age is introduced). There’s even an unexpected twist at the end that makes the You sisters more fascinating than they already were. I really can’t say enough good things about this episode. It was superb in both concept and execution.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Chris

OreImo 8

Alas, OreImo 8 is not as good as the episodes before it. Unfortunately for me, the main reason is Kirino's persistent ‘look-at-me’ attitude. Are you also finding it beginning to wear thin? Kirino has become far too naïve, such that she doesn’t realize the hoops people are going through for her. Also, there is now constant negativity directed towards Kyousuke, a continual projection of disdain in his direction. A few episodes ago she was all emotional, shouting at Kyousuke "You only start becoming a brother now?" and following his first few sacrifices a very sincere "Thank you aniki."

Where the heck has that sentiment gone? Surely there should be a mutual sibling relationship by now…but there isn’t, and the story is starting to suffer for it. Brother saving the day repeatedly is beginning to get way too repetitive. I mean, how much more face is Kyousuke going to have to lose? In this episode he even prostrates himself in front of a board of anime directors on Kirino’s behalf, all for no reward. Kyousuke’s sentiments seem admirable though, and as he is doing this as a brother, perhaps because no one else will. This endurance is a good quality in him, because in reality things would of gone south in that family long ago.

Kuroneko seems to have the most level head out of the lot of them, accurately dissecting the anime representative with her cool purple eyes. That was enjoyable to watch, because while the actual anime dude was quite forgettable, there was a lot about him to hate. He pulled Kirino's story to bits while turning it into an anime, on the pretense it has to make money, but Nanako correctly assumed it was due to his dented pride. Kirino is a mere high school girl yet her first published novel is a hit among fans? Win moment there for the underdogs, even if those underdogs are spoilt little rich girls with the world at their feet.

Of course Kirino now assumes it was her skill that won the day. Bah. She needs a wake-up call badly. I only hope it’s not be a cliché moment where Kyousuke gets hit by a car or something, and then we get a teary "Aniki don’t die, you’re such a baka to die on me, you’re 1000 years too early to die without my orders, etc etc etc."

Overall this was a downer of an episode caused by the main plot elements starting to go stale. This is a pity, and certainly I hope something happens soon to change the direction of the mood.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Glen

Otome Youkai Zakuro 8 and 9

These episodes of Otome Youkai Zakuro represent what is great about this show and what is not, respectively. The animation, voice acting, music and other technical aspects of the show have remained consistently solid since the beginning, but later episodes have been suffering from very poor writing for no discernable reason.

Episode eight packed in a lot of plot development that the show has been promising since the third episode. We learn about the antagonists' characters, but their exact motivations are kept a bit vague. The amount of development they were given is a good example of how to hide enough from your audience that they keep asking questions while still giving them enough information to make them care in the first place. The situation created by Susukihotaru and Agemaki's capture also provided an environment for character development. Agemaki mans up to protect Susukihotaru at his own expense, and Susukihotaru manages to find a similar amount of assertiveness and insists on pulling her own weight rather than passively being protected. This also forced the characters to intermingle with each others' partners on a deeper level, which was an interesting new dynamic that allowed their personalities to be explored in ways not possible before.

Episode nine mysteriously forgot all of this great writing. What we get is a subplot involving a silly fortune-telling romance game for teenage girls that is causing something like a spirit to appear. None of this matters at all, even though it makes up the bulk of the episode. The subplot seems like it was introduced to speed up the development of the various romantic relationships that have been brewing, but it doesn't really end up accomplishing anything meaningful. This episode did have a handful of interesting points: Susukihotaru may be able to vaguely sense feelings, but can't verbally convey specifics. Bonbori and Houzuki see themselves as a single entity and therefore see no reason why both of them can't be with Ganryu, while he sees them as separate people and is nagged by the feeling that he'll eventually have to pick one. Zakuro realizes that her indecisiveness not only affects herself, but is also hurting Agemaki. Hanadate has been recruited, seduced or brainwashed by the black widow. Those are all the important points covered in 21 minutes. Now you don't have to waste your time with this episode and you can still follow the rest of the show.

Episodes eight and nine are really confusing from a critical standpoint. In the eighth episode, we're treated once again to what this show has been so good at: good placing, strong character development, and a mysterious and interesting plot going on somewhere in the shadows. However, the ninth episode does a complete backflip and lands on its face. Its nonsensical plot does not develop the characters or their relationships in any meaningful way and only ends up wasting our time up until the very end. The big final twist made up the majority of the plot progression. However, it had almost no connection with anything from the rest of the episode, so even that doesn't make it worth twenty minutes of filler. I'm really beginning to wonder what the writers are doing at this point. We know they are capable of making good stuff, but sometimes it seems like they just can't be bothered.

Ratings
Episode 8: 4 out of 5
Episode 9: 1 out of 5

Lorenz

SoreMachi 8

First, a bit of background on the show. The protagonist is Hotori Arashiyama. She loves detective novels and mysteries, is good at lateral thinking and terrible at logic. After years of eating curry for free at the Seaside, the owner Uki Isohata forced her to work there. She then once had the idea that they could dress as maids because maid cafes are so popular. That's as far as the maid thing goes. A frequent visitor is Hiroyuki Sanada, who has a crush on Hotori. She doesn't like him that much because of an incident that made her call him Eroyuki. Toshiko Tatsuno, on the other hand, has a crush on Hiroyuki and a firm opinion of how maids should behave. There are a few other characters like the tomboyish sempai Kon, Hotori's siblings, other classmates and three frequent customers of the Seaside. These characters serve as a vehicle to deliver everyday weirdness with barely any consequences and lots of comedic melodrama. There's also a dog looking a bit like pedobear who tells you random trivia or other nonsense. The whole thing is framed by my favorite opening and ending songs of the season.

In the first part of this episode, Hotori, Tatsuno and Kon are trapped in a laundromat by sudden rain. While they wait for the rain to stop, they're also trying to figure out the vending machines. A beautiful woman who walked through the streets hiding her face is revealed to be the gonk, Harue. The second part is about the school festival. Most students of Hotori's class are busy with their clubs, so they decided to not do anything together. Kon then arrives and says they should form a band for the festival, they just need a guitarist and a keyboarder. Hotori can play something like a keyboard (accordion) and Sanada something like a guitar (violin). They're not very good, but manage to succeed at the concert anyhow. After the festival, everything vanishes and normal life continues as if nothing happened.

The first part was the worst I've seen from SoreMachi so far. There were so many missed chances for character interaction or jokes. When they tried to be funny it fell flat. Fortunately, the second part was considerably better. Most of the jokes worked, even if some of them were not unexpected. The song at the end came a bit out of nowhere, considering the only time we've heard them play before it sounded worse than terrible. It was still nice to see.

Rating: 3 out of 5, with the first part below and the second part above.

Kuragehime 6

What has happened so far: the Amars are six female geeks who live together in the Amamizu-kan apartment. They named their group after Buddhist nuns, and men are forbidden in there. The main character is Tsukimi. When she was young, she wanted to become a beautiful princess like the jellyfish her now-deceased mother showed her. Instead she became obsessed with jellyfish, especially with drawing them. The other characters are Bamba, the trainspotter; Chieko, admirer of traditional Japanese puppets and daughter of the house owner; Mayaya, the historical buff who knows the Records of Three Kingdoms by heart; Jiji, who really likes old men and Juon Mejiro, an author of yaoi manga who always hides in her room and serves as adviser if the others are in big trouble. The plot starts when Tsukimi notices that her favorite jellyfish in the local pet store, Clara, is being abused by another woman who is slowly killing it. She complains to the manager, but he doesn't listen until a beautiful woman comes and buys Clara for Tsukimi. The woman decides to stay over for the night. The next morning it turns out it's a crossdresser, Kuranosuke. Hiding him leads to some trouble for Tsukimi, but despite that (s)he comes over again and again and buys himself into the Amars' stomach. Then it turns out he comes from a family of rather successful politicians and he crossdresses because he doesn't want to be one. He gives Tsukimi a makeover that leads to his brother Shu falling for her. Of course, he also sees her geeky self together with the sisterhood and despises it. On top of that some company wants to buy the apartment to build a hotel in that area. Hijinks ensue.

In this episode, Kyousuke gives all the Amars a makeover, except for Chieko. With the others dolled up she automatically turns from a traditionally dressed geek into a rich lady who wears a kimono because she can. They go into a cafe to train using their feminine charms. After a bit of warming up, they fall back into their usual behavior. Over the course of the evening, Kuranosuke begins to think of Tsukimi's geeky side as cute. He doesn't understand that and has difficulties accepting it. After Kuranosuke comes home, his fabulous uncle hints that he knows the reason for Shu's problems with women and runs away. The family's driver then tells Kuranosuke about when Shu discovered that his dad had an affair.

On the same evening, Shouko returns the umbrella she lent from Shu and invites him to a drink. When he gets a call she puts some drugs in it. After he passed out, she takes him to a hotel room, takes some photos and makes things look as if they had sex. When he wakes up, he quickly grabs his clothes and runs away, but forgets his glasses. After he went home to take a shower, he visits the Amamizu-kan to shake Tsukimi's hand - she's still in her disguise. He doesn't feel anything anymore, but the effect on her is all the bigger.

Apart from Shu's newly developed immunity to women there was nothing too surprising in this episode. It was mostly setup for later developments. Shouko's actions were all but unheard of and exciting. The Amars in the cafe was nice fluff, despite having less character dynamic and more the characters acting according to their stereotypes. Some jokes like Tsukimi hiding Kuranosuke's pronoun slip as "Olé" got repetitive, but there were enough new ones. The uncle was amazing as always. If you don't plan on watching it, at least have a look at the opening for all the references.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thomas

MM! 9

MM! tells us the story of Tarou Sado, a “hella masochist”, Mio Isurugi, a girl with a god complex, and Yuuno Arashiko, an androphobe.  It also relates their activies in the Second Volunteering Club, whose sponsor is (amusingly enough) a sadist.  The fact that these three are even in the same room together is a bit frightening, because the androphobe might kill the masochist, who'd creep out the god complex girl.  No matter, on with the review!

It's finally time for the school festival, filled with fun and games, but with some twists and character development thrown in.  It seems the writers decided to switch it up and focus on developing Mio a bit, which isn't a bad thing.  In addtion, there's a threatening letter from an unknown entity, which the Second Volunteering Club (namely Tarou and Mio) decides to investigate.

The nice thing about this show is the variety in the writing style.  It's partially a mindless comedy centered around Tarou's masochism, but also indulges in character-centric episodes that provide some nice development.  This time we got a character episode focused on Mio , who it turns out is afraid of cats (which I found highly amusing).  Aside from the nekophobia, there's wasn't that much comedy this time around... but that's expected given the focus on Mio.  It was very well-written as usual, and the interesting plot twist of the threatening letter kept me interested even if it was a bit easy to figure out.  The change of pace was a welcome relief from the masochistic comedy of the last few episodes.

Overall, I'd say this one was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. There wasn't a lot of humor, but the character development made up for it.

Rating: 4 out of 5, if only for the character development and minor comedy.

About Jon

Jon is a Japanese culture enthusiast, professional pervert and roleplaying fanatic who appreciates flexible gender identities. He enjoys science fiction, Gunpla, classical music and Red Stripe.

  • ???

    What is that face in the OYZ picture

    No really what is trying to be expressed

  • So much to watch 0.o
    Well, I think I will add Kuragehime and MM! to my list of “watch this eventually”, a list which seems to be growing frighteningly long lately.

    • Suppose I should give Panty and Stocking a go eventually too…

    • Vic

      yeah, you have a lot of time to watch MM! Otherwise, you’ll end up like me (waiting anxiously every week for the next episode). However, I do suggest to watch this series soon. After all, its now when everyone tends to share their opinion about it (if you’re into that). XD

  • Panty and Stocking is awesome lol