The Fall 2009 Anime Preview Guide
Summer Mullins

by Summer Mullins, Oct 1st 2009
Summer Mullins is the former editor of Anime Insider magazine, at the time the #1 anime magazine in America. During her tenure, she oversaw the expansion of the magazine's content to include coverage of Japanese music and culture, as well as cosplay and regular manga excerpts. She wrote the magazine's letters column until she got tired of people asking her when Sakura and Naruto would get married.

Before Anime Insider, Mullins worked in book publishing, first at White Wolf, the publisher of popular role-playing games like Vampire: The Masquerade, and then at a smaller publisher in Arizona, where she actually enjoyed the desert heat.

Sasameki Koto
Rating: 4

Review: Sasameki Koto is from last week, but I decided to go back and review it so that there would be one girl from among the reviewers weighing in on it. It turns out to be a confusing review, since I thought the show was pretty good in and of itself, but it brings up all my issues with the way lesbianism is presented in anime. So a 4 for Sasameki Koto, but a 1 for anime lesbians in general.

Sumika and Kazama are best friends, and Sumika is obviously in love with Kazama, but too afraid to say anything that might change their friendship. Kazama is openly lesbian, and is constantly being rejected by the girls she likes. In this episode, Kazama is trying to figure out a way to confess her crush on her fellow librarian. Before she can, there's a troubling piece of drama over one of the librarian's classmates who likes Kazama--but whom it turns out the librarian likes, too.

The story and drama in Sasameki Koto are straight out of high school, albeit with a more modern view of lesbianism (for instance, when I went to high school, it wasn't nearly as accepted as it barely is now). The characters are believable, and react like real teenagers. It just drives me crazy that Japan only presents one type of lesbian. There are so many different types of lesbians, but all you ever see is cute girls who act like girls. And where's the harassment and social disdain? Don't tell me that with all the bullying and induced suicides in Japan's schools, an open lesbian is going to have an easy time of it. Now, I realize that the pressure to conform in Japan shrinks the variety you'll see anywhere, but anime's cookie-cutter lesbians kill me. Just once, I would like to see a lesbian anime written by lesbians. End rant.

I didn't particularly care for the music in this episode--it's the sort of generic music specifically designed to be poignant. I had no issues with the slow pacing; sometimes a good drama has a deliberate pace. I'll definitely watch more, with the hope that it doesn't get too syrupy.


Fairy Tail
Rating: 4

Review: The first thing that struck me was how much the anime staff toned down the character design similarities between Hiro Mashima's original manga and Eiichiro Oda's One Piece manga. Ando was profoundly influenced by Oda, and it clearly showed in the manga. The animation mainstreams the design enough that it doesn't look like One Piece, but still looks like Fairy Tail.

Lucy is a young wizard who wants desperately to join the famous Fairy Tail guild. In the kind of podunk town of Hargeon, she runs across Salamander, a sleazy wizard who tries to use forbidden magic to charm her. The charm is broken by the arrival of Natsu and his talking blue cat, Happy. Natsu's looking for a salamander (a dragon), and assumed incorrectly that the wizard Salamander was it.

When Lucy runs into Salamander later, he invites her to a party on his ship. She's a little naïve, since the “I'm a member of Fairy Tail” line convinces her to go. When it turns out that it's (you guessed it) a trap, she's rescued by Natsu, who turns out to be a real Fairy Tail wizard. He'd been keeping an eye on the scumbag Salamander since he heard him claim he was a member of Fairy Tail. Natsu's crippled by motion sickness while on the ship, but when Lucy uses her magic to wash it up on the shore, he reveals that he is a user of a rare transformation magic used in ancient times to fight dragons. Now he's searching for the dragon that taught it to him.

I appreciated the Celtic touches to the music, and the animation is great. So far, at least, the world appears to be robust, with a decent history to it. I'm definitely looking forward to more.



Yumeiro Pâtissière
Rating: 3

Review Japan has a love affair with cooking competition series, and Yumeiro Pâtissière is another entry into a long and pedigreed line that includes anime and manga like Yakitate!! Japan, Iron Wok Jan, Kitchen Princess and more. Like most of those shows, Yumeiro Pâtissière is pure food porn.

The episode is filled with slow, loving shots of sweets, followed by even more loving descriptions of said sweets. In fact, the shots of the sweets are so detailed that I needed to take a break about halfway through the “Sweets Festa” scene to keep myself from running to the kitchen for a snack. Unfortunately, those detailed shots highlight the fact that some of the animation is only so-so. The staff did a decent job of using some slow action scenes to balance out the discrepancy, though, so you probably won't notice.

Ichigo Amano is the untalented older sister of a piano prodigy. Like so many shojo heroines, her rare and obscure talent is discovered in the first episode--namely, she has a sensitive palate thanks to her grandmother, who we discover was a legendary patissiere who studied at a Parisian academy for baking. Luckily, there is a Japanese branch of St. Marie Academy. Ichigo decides to become a patissiere like her grandmother and, in one of the funniest scenes in this episode, her mother blackmails her father into letting her go away to the boarding school.

The cooking fairies featured so prominently in the opening and closing animation don't show up yet. And if you're thinking that fairies are ridiculous for a cooking anime, let me remind you that in Yakitate!! Japan, there exists a bread so good that it can kill you and send you to straight to heaven.

The sweets in the show were created by Aoki Sadaharu, a famous Paris-based patissiere, who is featured in the omake at the end--hopefully there will be more real-life omake.



Book of Bantorra
Rating: 5

Review: This episode is just as intriguing and gruesome as the first. The Meats (human bombs who've had their memories erased by the Church) gather in the town of Toatt Mine to begin their mission to kill Hamyuts Messeta, leader of the Armed Librarians. One of the Meats is killed in a run-in with an Armed Librarian who is in town investigating the illegal sale of books from the mines. At that point, Relia, the leader of the Meats, tries to run away from his mission, but is stopped by an emissary from the Church, Cigal Crekessa. Relia tries to kill Cigal by reaching into his chest and activating his bomb, but Cigal emerges unscathed from the explosion that levels the building.

Meanwhile, Colio, one of the Meats, begins to question his role after he touches a second book fragment containing memories of the legendary Ever-Laughing Witch. He has unfortunately chosen the exact moment when Hamyuts arrives in Toatt Mine to kill the squad of bombs that have been sent after her. Her technique of discovery involves sending thousands of magic tendrils through the town that report information back to her, and her way of killing is, well, explicit. She has the ability to locate and slingshot a rock through the head of her target from miles away. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as one of her tendrils reaches Colio.

The plot has definitely thickened. For a leader of an organization dedicated to preserving the memories of the dead and fighting the evil Church of Drowning in God's Grace, Hamyuts is incredibly heartless. And I'm pretty sure that the blade Cigal is carrying when he first appears in this episode is the same one that the Ever-Laughing Witch was using in the book that Colio touched during the last episode. There are so many things going on here, but they're managed well enough that the viewer is not left confused, just in suspense.



Tegami Bachi episode 2
Review: 4

Review: I was just as impressed with the second episode of Tegami Bachi as I was the first. The pacing is still excellent--you have both action and reflective scenes--and the music is minimal and effective.

Gauche and Lag are getting closer to their destination, where Gauche will deliver Lag to his aunt. Because Lag saw some of Gauche's memories in the first episode, he knows that Gauche has a pass to get into the heavily guarded capital city of Amatsuki, which is where his mother was taken by kidnappers. And, just like a kid, when Gauche refuses to cancel his delivery and take him to the capital, Lag waits until Gauche falls asleep and then steals his gun and pass.

Of course, he's seven years old, so he doesn't get too far before he realizes he's lost and falls into a Gaichuu monster's pit. Gauche arrives just in time, alerted by his dog Roda, and lowers himself into the pit to save Gauche, but is wounded by the Gaichuu. Just like the first time Lag touched his gun, when he fires it while holding Gauche, there is an amazing reaction in the spirit amber that powers the gun. Gauche finally sees Lag's left eye, which has been hidden so far, and it is made of a rare red spirit amber that is reacting with his Letter Bee gun. Later we learn that Lag's mother told him that the amber saved him from a disease when he was a child, and he must never show it to anyone.

Lag is so inspired by Gauche's actions that he drags the wounded man the rest of the way to his aunt's house, and vows that he will become a Letter Bee someday. The last few seconds of the episode cut to five years later, when an adolescent Lag is preparing to become a Letter Bee.

There are still a number of mysteries building within the series. For instance, why do the Gaichuu look mechanical? What happened to Lag's mother? Why are only a few people allowed into the capital city? What happened to Gauche's own parents? Frankly, I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.


11eyes
Rating: 3

Review: Remarkably, Japan has a better record of producing decent adaptations of videogames than Hollywood, which is why I gave 11eyes a shot. It's based on an adult videogame, but hey, so was Lunar Legend Tsukihime, and I thought that was pretty okay. Plus, I couldn't help but wonder what director Shimoda (who also worked on Macross 7 and Saber Marionette J) would do with it. And as it turns out, he did just fine.

Kakeru's older sister committed suicide when he was a boy, and he's been reserved since then, except when he's around his friend, the sweet and supportive Yuka, who found him next to his sister. One day when they're out shopping, the world splits into pieces and they find themselves in a mirror of the real world--minus all people and plus monsters and the color red. Just as they're about to be attacked, they're transported back to the real world. Obviously, they try desperately to put it out of their minds.

Coincidentally enough, a new student appears in their class the next day. She's pretty but very cold and standoffish, although she is very interested in Kakeru. For some reason, she carries a copy of the Index Librorum Prohibitarum, which is the Catholic Church's old list of banned books. Trivia about the ILP: it was actually used until the 1960s, and its VERY interesting who made the list. On the list? Galileo, Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, Sartre, etc. Not on the list? Hitler. I hope this comes into play later -- it would be interesting to see how they work banned books into the plot.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Kakeru and Yuka are yanked into the red world while relaxing at the park. As the world goes red, they see, for just a moment before the monsters close in, Kakeru's dead sister.

Overall, the animation was good, the plot shows promise, and there weren't too many panty shots. About the worst I can say is that I did not like the opening theme at all.


Kimi ni Todoke
Rating: 4

Review: While the “slice-of-life” genre isn't one of my favorites, I have to admit that Kimi ni Todoke is pretty good. This episode introduced Sawako, a somewhat scary-looking shy high school girl with nothing but good intentions. She's often called “Sadako” thanks to her resemblance to the girl from the horror movie The Ring, but really she's just non-confrontational and a little dowdy. But honestly, I think it's hard not to look dowdy in the long-skirted style of Japanese high school uniforms.

Sawako secretly admires Kazehaya, the popular boy of the class, and he secretly admires her. That's the essence of the story, but the subtle ways in which it's developed will please anyone who's looking for a good relationship drama with no pandering and a great deal of honesty. The difficult process of making friends in high school when you're an outsider is developed as well, so even those who aren't looking for romance will still enjoy the story.

The animation is great. I didn't notice the music at all, which means that it's excellent background music that supports the mood without being intrusive. The pacing is excruciatingly slow for me, but I have a short attention span, which means that the pacing is actually only slightly slow--pretty appropriate for a nice, deliberately developed show like Kimi ni Todoke.


Tentai Senshi Sunred 2
Rating: 4

Review: It's an epic story of good versus evil in Kawasaki City…at least, that's how the episode is explained by the unseen narrator, who manages to play it completely straight through one of the funniest parodies I've seen lately. The animation is simple, but that's part of the show's charm.

Sunred used to be a member of the “Weather Three,” a three-man, color-coded superhero team whose mortal enemies were the local branch of the Florsheim organization, headed up by Vamp-sama. Not every superhero team can boast that it includes a guy with a beer gut, or that its members are usually too lazy to wear anything but street clothes and a mask. Now that the team's split up and “Red” has gone solo, he has to live off his long-suffering girlfriend, Kayoko.

When the local Florsheim baddies get word that headquarters is sending someone to check up on them, they cancel their scheduled battle with Sunred so that they can clean up the house. Of course, their supervisor WANTS to see a fight, so now it's back on. Vamp-sama pays a visit to Sunred to ask that he deliberately lose so that the team can look good for headquarters. Kayoko delays Red long enough for Vamp-sama to escape his wrath, but there's more wrath on the way when headquarters decides that the trip's not worth it and cancels the visit. Both teams end up drinking in the park in their costumes instead of fighting.

Sunred is one of those great parody shows that's meant for teens--it airs on KIDS STATION, after all--but has more than enough humor and in-jokes for adults. You might not get a few of the jokes if you haven't watched a lot of sentai series, but the humor's not in the in-jokes, but in how utterly both sides fail at their goals. 


Kobato.

Rating: 5

Review: There is literally nothing bad I can say about this episode. The animation is stellar, the backgrounds are beautiful, and the music is gorgeous. CLAMP has even changed its character designs (meaning that the cast doesn't look like recycled versions of Card Captor Sakura). It's still recognizable as CLAMP, but they've freshened up their look. Of course, I expect great things from CLAMP, and they've delivered.

It wouldn't be CLAMP without cherry blossoms, and the first episode takes place during a cherry blossom festival. It's Kobato.'s first day on Earth, and her goal is to fit in as a human and display some common sense. Common sense in anime?! Thank you, thank you, CLAMP. She is accompanied by the irritable blue dog Ioryogi, who has a tendency to shoot fireballs from his mouth when he gets angry. Which, with Kobato., is quite a bit.

If Kobato. passes her test, she'll receive a flask in which to collect broken hearts, and once she has enough, her wish will be granted. Kobato.'s wish is to go to a certain place, but the specifics have not yet been revealed, and won't be for a while.

Through the space of the day, Kobato. has a run-in with crows, almost gets picked up by hoodlums, and nearly ruins the food at a restaurant. However, she makes up for it all by helping an old lady quiet her crying grandson, and entertains the entire park with song at the same time, thus gaining her flask. As a side note, the song Kobato. sings is a genuinely good song, unlike many songs inserted into anime--someone spent some time on it--and the animators matched her lip flap to the lyrics.

While it's entirely possible that Kobato. will slump in later episodes, I genuinely doubt it. This is perhaps the best offering this season so far.


Natsu no Arashi! Akinai-chū
Rating: 1

Review: I should have just stopped watching the first time I threw up in my mouth, which was a few minutes in, but I masochistically decided that I should push myself as a reviewer to watch something that is outside my normal viewing diet. That said, it was a terrible mistake. This episode managed to squeeze in an amount of blushing-moe-girls-in-maid-outfits-and-swimsuits previously only accomplished by three regular otaku-bait episodes, and for that, I salute Akinai-chuu. It gets right to the obsessions with no need to set up a plot. Although, if you're interested, it's about a cougar (a woman, not an actual cougar) who runs a maid café staffed by all the moe stereotypes--including a girl pretending to be a boy--plus one hideously offensive guy. As he is the most believable character in the entire show, he must be the character which whom the viewer is supposed to sympathize, which gives you an insight into the target audience.

Oh yeah, one girl can travel in time, but that's not the focus here.

This episode is all about their trip to the beach, and the boy/girl's dilemma of how not to reveal she's really a girl if everyone is wearing a swimsuit. And that's about it. If you want some moe crap, and have ever wanted to see an anime interpretation of a Carnival outfit, this'll hit the spot nicely.


Nyan Koi!
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: At last, a super-cute anime with a guy as the main character! Junpei is allergic to cats, but his mom and sister insist on keeping a massive feline in the house, which makes him understandably ill-tempered. When he accidentally knocks the head off a neighborhood statue of a cat god, Junpei discovers that he can hear cats. Good? No. He's been cursed to turn into a cat unless he can perform 100 good deeds for cat-kind. For a guy who's apparently never heard of Claritin, this is hell.

After desperate visits to a hilarious local priest and the library, Junpei realizes there's no other way to break the curse than to actually help cats. His family cat, Nyanmas, acerbically guides him through his first good deed: saving some local cats from a terrifying monster who lures them into traps and then tortures them. Even the cat-hating Junpei thinks this is awful until he discovers that it's actually his high-school crush, Mizuno, offering food to cats so that she can try to play with them. Unfortunately, her family has a bunch of dogs, so she smells like canines and is waaay too enthusiastic about squeezing--truly terrifying to a cat.

Junpei convinces her that cats respond differently than dogs…wait, was that a lesson about cats there? I think it was. The lesson is driven home in the chibi-style omake, which is a terribly cute mini-lesson about washing your hands to get rid of the smell of other animals before you try to pet a cat. And if you think anime cats are cute, just wait till you see chibi anime cats.

The series is in danger of becoming repetitive, since I'm having trouble thinking of 100 problems that a cat could have, but hopefully the comedy-romance side of the plot will come into play to space that out. 


The Sacred Blacksmith
Rating: 3

Review: Cecily is a female Knight in a small town that's managed to carve out its independence from the empires that surround it. The head of her family has always been a Knight of the city, so when her father dies, she becomes a Knight and takes up the family's hereditary sword. Unfortunately, she does not have a lot of training, and it shows. It's a little painful to watch, and her overwhelming fighting spirit does not make it any less embarrassing to watch her flash her panties when she falls. (Battle tip: put on some pants.)

While patrolling the marketplace, Cecily encounters a crazed veteran of the last war who snaps her family's ancient, battered sword in half. She's saved from a gruesome end by Luke, a passing swordsman, whose sword is so strong that it cuts through the soldier's sword. With her own sword broken, Cecily tracks Luke down and begs him to make her a sword like his, which he eventually agrees to do after she tries to fight some nearby monsters with her broken sword. In fact, because those monsters are shortly followed by a huge demon, he makes a sword right there on the battlefield, revealing his secret blacksmithing technique: magic. But this is where things get interesting.

The people behind this show obviously have a huge collective boner for blacksmithing, which is not something many people know much about anymore. Centuries ago, GOOD swords were made by hammering and then folding the metal, and repeating that dozens of times to give it strength and flexibility. These days, anything pointy, even a replica sword, is “drop forged,” meaning that molten metal is poured into a mold and then allowed to cool. It's a zillion times faster and cheaper, but makes for a brittle sword. (So those expensive, cool-looking swords from The Noble Collection wouldn't take one real hit.) Luke forges a sword by speaking the individual steps for physically making a sword while holding a hilt and a hunk of metal within a magic sphere, and boy, are there a lot of them. The show's creators played dice with the viewers’ attention span for the sake of technical accuracy--now that's love…or obsession. One of the two.

The animation and music are good, but I'm pretending like the ending sequence doesn't exist, otherwise my rating would drop a full point for sheer incongruity. Otherwise, The Sacred Blacksmith gets a 3 out of 5, with hope in its future for a 4 if it delves into the mysteries of this universe instead of devolving into a monster-of-the-week type of affair.


Tegami Bachi
Rating: 4

Review: A postman wandering through the wilderness is a neat idea that can be slaughtered by the wrong creative staff, so if anyone's having visions of Kevin Costner's wretched movie The Postman, put those thoughts out of your head right now.

Gauche Suede is a “Letter Bee,” but his latest pickup is not a letter but  a moody kid chained near the smoldering ruins of a house. Why was young Lag Seeing's mom taken away by military goons? How did he survive a burning house? Despite having to use most of the first episode to explain the universe to viewers, the dialogue doesn't get heavy-handed, and makes room to tease the mystery that will surely unfold over the coming episodes.

The primary danger to the lone Letter Bee is Gaichuu, overgrown insects with near impenetrable shells. They feed on spiritual energy, and can only be harmed with a Letter Bee's special weapons, which are powered by fragments of his or her heart. The concept of the heart as a weapon isn't new, but here it's paired with a gun powered by an ancient insect captured in a piece of amber, which is a bit of a new take.

Letter Bee academy apparently doesn't include gun safety classes, since Gauche leaves his gun laying around and Lag accidentally powers it up. The resulting explosion transfers some of Lag's memories to Gauche, and also draws all the Gaichuu in the area. Gauche uses up a decent portion of his heart defending them; if he ever uses all of his heart, his soul will disappear.

The music is nice and minimal, which really suits the series. The cool character designs are the only reason I picked up the Tegami Bachi manga in Kinokuniya when I first saw it (since I can't really read Japanese), and they've translated pretty well into animation. I'm hoping that quality of this first episode doesn't falter: if Tegami Bachi can keep it up, it'll end up being one of the stand-out series of this season.

Tegami Bachi is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Book of Bantorra
Rating: 4

Review: Anime series about librarians are in vogue these days, but until now, the fare has been limited to simpler explorations of things like freedom of speech. Based on the first episode, Book of Bantorra looks like it'll be upping the game by addressing trickier concepts, like humanity and the soul. Unfortunately for people like me, who don't care for religious debate, no discussion of the soul can be free of religion, since so many of them have laid exclusive claim to it.

Here, the Shindeki Church is the bad guy. Before the religious among you get up in arms, criticism of the Church is criticism of the un-churchly things done by organized religion, which is honestly an easy target. Here they're taken to extremes to drive the point home--the church uses “Meat,” people it has designated as no longer human, to do its dirty work. Combating them are the Armed Librarians, who guard the central library where peoples’ souls are kept. In this world, when you die, your soul turns into a book that can be experienced by anyone. It's a pretty metaphor for one's deeds living on after death, right?

The director of the librarians is a busty, crafty women named Hamy, who is apparently number one on the church's assassination list. She commands a vast crew of librarians who go out on raids against the Shindeki Church when they're not working the circulation desk. The Church, of course, is very powerful and always manages to avoid capture by throwing waves of brainwashed “Meat” embedded with bombs at the teams. After the most recent raid, the Church is taking a more aggressive stance on killing the library director, and will be using a Meat that survived the raid as a suicide bomber.

Ethical questions abound, and the director herself is obviously hiding something, so I'm expecting a lot of revelations in future episodes. I'm also looking forward to seeing more of the librarians’ powers, which look to be fairly non-standard (no generic “ki blasts”!). The series has promise, and I just hope that it doesn't get lost in what's going to be a very complicated storyline.

Book of Bantorra is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Kämpfer

Rating: 2

Review: At the end of a hard day, sometimes the best way to relax is with a movie that's mindless and enjoyable and entirely schlocky. Kämpfer is exactly that. It's 100% fluff, with a simple mix of comedy: the formula for every generic sit-com on American TV right now. It doesn't pretend to a higher station, or hide its goal, which is some simple giggles and not much more.

Natsuru has a terrible dream that a stuffed tiger with its intestines falling out is telling him that he's been chosen to fight other “Kampfers.” Of course, the catch is that Kampfers can only be female, so he'll be transformed into a girl by his Kämpfer bracelet whenever it's time to fight. Natsuru dismisses it as a nightmare until his bracelet starts glowing at the school bus stop the next morning. Thus the transformation sequences and gender confusion begin.

There are a few unique things about the show. For instance, it's chock-full of in-jokes about the voice actresses behind the characters, and each Kämpfer has a stuffed animal guide from the “Suicide” line, like Harakiri Tiger or Seppuku Bunny. But at heart, it's a thoroughly average show. I'll come back for a second episode just to check if it's improving at all, but I don't expect it to.


Asura Cryin'’ 2

Rating: 2

Review: First things first--you need to have seen the first season for the second season to make any sense at all. Assuming you haven't, here's a quick recap. Even if you have, read on--this show tries to cram in so much plot from the original series of novels that you've probably already forgotten half of it.

In the first season of Asura Cryin'’, high school kid Tomoharu moves into a new apartment with the ghost of his dead friend, Misao. His discovery of a mysterious briefcase in the apartment is soon followed by the arrival of two groups who want the case--and one is willing to get it over his dead body. He opts to side with the group that doesn't want him dead--that'd be the Science Club. Slowly, Tomoharu discovers that the real world was destroyed and remade by an accident involving a black hole, and that he's living with a new set of memories in the “second stage” world, which is now also in danger of destruction. Thanks to the accident there are now “akuma“--humans (like Tomoharu's cute classmate Takatsuki) with supernatural powers who can make contracts with human “handlers.” There are also spirits in giant robots, android girls, magical familiars… well, it gets pretty confusing.

On to season two. For a part-mecha series, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled awfully hard for a glimpse of a giant robot. You won't have to wait more than 3 minutes for cheesecake, though--clocking in a 2 minutes and change is a hilariously predictable scene where Tomoharu bursts into the nurse's office just in time to see Takatsuki changing. Cue even more predictable ultra-serious bishonen school council member bursting in with a gun to warn Tomoharu about the dangers of handling the semi-clothed Takatsuki. See, he's her “handler,” right? This sort of juvenile joke would have worked better if there wasn't already a ton of weird lingo being thrown at the viewer.

I know that the original novels are half-comedy, which is fine, but the balance between serious sci-fi and comedy is way off target--at least in this episode.  Plus, and I don't think I'm asking too much here, but I do wish they'd come up with some less stereotypical characters and gags.

As Tomoharu, Takatsuki and friends are cleaning the school pool as punishment for Tomoharu seeing Takatsuki undressed…sigh…I actually found myself liking the stereotypical “cute character,” Nia. She might have impossibly fat ponytails and be quick to bite, but her hunt for a mysterious koala is the freshest thing going in this episode.

As Tomoharu and Takatsuki have zany antics with a pool hose, Nia chases the mystery koala into the drainage system, and the others chase after her. Now for some odd reason, the pool drainage is linked to the deadly ruins of Rakuroa, and in between unexplained attempts to maim Tomoharu, the koala leads the group right to it. Luckily, the robots that guard the ruins haven't noticed them--no, wait, the koala is throwing rocks at them.

I like this koala.

Hightailing it from the robotic guards, the group passes through a run-down research room, where Tomoharu has a vision of himself and his friends during their lives in the “first stage” world. Just in time for both the group and the viewer's attention span, various school officers arrive to save the hapless students from the robot guards in a decently animated fight that showcases a lot of unexplained super powers.

Once they've escaped, Takatsuki reveals that she also saw Tomoharu's vision, but the more dramatic revelation is that the koala is…the never-before-seen president of the Science Club.

The show has good character designs and voice actors, and the music's not shabby either. Still, it'll take more than that to make me come back for a second episode. Maybe I'm not really giving the show enough of a chance to display its real complexity, but… life's too short.


Asura Cryin' 2 episode 1 is streaming now over at Crunchyroll.

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