Summer 2011: There’s a lot of surveillance going on in Mawaru Penguin Drum

Once upon a time...

I’m glad that I’m still enjoying this show. Sometimes I’ll look forward to a show too much and it ends up being really devastating when it doesn’t live up to my high expectations that I groundlessly built up. Some shows have a spectacular first episode that grabs my attention immediately but then promptly loses my interest on the second episode. I’m also happy that this a 24-episode series, which I didn’t realise last week. The pantsu and oppai bits are a bit distracting though and frankly, something of a surprise. They’re not showbreaking though; just a bit out of character, perhaps.

The penguins sure do suffer a lot of abuse in this show. They should form a union or something; they’re working far too hard and in such dangerous conditions that they should be entitled to better compensation for their efforts. In this episode the theme is spying. The space penguin hat tells the brothers to get the Penguin Drum from this Ringo character, so all sorts of zany mishaps occur as they pursue her in secret. The penguins get lots of screentime in this episode to showcase their blunders, which I certainly enjoyed. There’s a funny scene in which Shouma is mistaken for a chikan and has to be saved by Kanba and his radiance.

Meanwhile, the penguins engage in various cute antics, including extensive elastic deformation and being put to work as Silly Putty.

But with all the silliness aside, it’s nice how the story had such an explicitly unifying theme to it; in order to get the Penguin Drum, the brothers are basically stalking Ringo, going so far as following her into an underwear shop. She in, turn, is stalking Tabuki. This is pointed out explicitly to the viewer through dialogue, but it’s still a satisfying revelation at the end of the episode. Kind of like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which all the little hints dropped throughout the episode come together to cause some extravagant culmination for Larry David where everything that has been building up comes crashing down from above all at once in the form of some crushing misfortune or injustice. It’s not quite as fulfilling as all that, since, unlike a sitcom, this show does have to have plot continuity, after all, so it’s not as though the whole deal can be resolved in a single episode, but the circularity of this episode did have a similar effect on me, nonetheless.

Hello? Operator? Get me the President of Television. I have a winning combination!

I liked seeing the penguins put to work. Penguin # 3 got to hang around the apartment though and generally be lazy. That wasn’t fair.

That Ringo girl sure is creepy though. I mean, a few loose screws or not, who in the world steps out on the ledge of a tall building just to photograph of a bird nest? Who hides in the space beneath a home to listen in on her unwitting crush?

I like more or less everything about this show and I’m fairly certain that, unless I get really, really distracted, I won’t drop it. I might stall eventually, as nearly always ends up happening to me, but I’ll probably watch the entire series with minimal delay between airtime and actually watching the episode. The only thing that bothered me about this episode is that it wasn’t until now that I realised that the penguins, though much cuter and obviously more likeable, nonetheless remind me of Beelzebub from Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. You know, he’s that annoying fly that actually eats shit.

Summer 2011: Still enjoying Usagi Drop

No, this isn't Rou Kyu Bu!

Now that the question of which shows are being simulcasted, which are unlicensed in U.S., and which are being oversubbed is more or less answered, I can enjoy these shows without worry because I now know that even the shows that are being simulcasted have groups working on them other than HorribleSubs. It does make me feel slightly guilty about downloading licensed shows, but meh, I’d even prefer to watch raws, pausing every few sentences to look words up in the dictionary rather than pay for legal anime that’s been professionally translated…if it comes down to that. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this peculiar situation that’s been going on for the last year or more where few people seem to care if shows are licensed in R1, since it sure seems unlikely to last more than two to three years before some Kazaa-esque debacle goes down and some 12 years old boy gets sued for downloading Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (I wonder if this sounds as stupid in Japanese as it does in English…).


But Usagi Drop is still great. It doesn’t make me less of a man that the shows I enjoy most are primarily mushy, touchy feely shows where characters grow, learn, and forge strong bonds with friends or family and learn the value of the intangibles in life. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the fact that I watch shows targeted at little girls and women just shows how unshakably confident I am in my manliness, that it is not reduced an iota by biting at all the old tricks used to garner emotional investment from viewers is a testament to its might. It would be more correct to say that it’s actually increased by such willingness to easily succumb to more or less entirely visceral appeals for my sympathy.

I love how the viewer gets the feeling that Rin is the one acting as the parent, at times leading Daikichi both literally and figuratively, rather than the other way around. Simultaneously, we're shown just how much of a kid she really is, despite her hardiness and maturity for her age, when she becomes too embarrassed to be seen being carried on his shoulders in front of other children.

That’s not to say that there’s not good reason for the viewer to feel sympathy for Rin. Putting aside for a moment the fact that she’s completely adorable, the figure who has acted as her parent for most of her life is gone, she’s thrust into an unfamiliar environment in which it’s made quite obvious to her that she’s an undesired intruder, and, to top it off, Daikichi is not the most traditional of parental figures one can imagine. Lots of terrible, tragic things have happened to her so my urge to kidnap her and keep her here in my home so that I can hug her any time I want to is not entirely unreasonable, even without the cuteness.

Widdle win is sweepy...

Too comment necessary.

But all thought of the plot aside, she’s very cute. This is good. I like it. It could have been annoying, but the repetition of Rin waking Daikichi up, instead of the other way around, as we would expect to be the case with a responsible parent, was effective. When Daikichi reverses that pattern by waking her up at the end of this episode, the viewer is supposed to get this rising feeling in his or her chest, like “Awwww…ickle Daikichi’s growing up. Maybe things will be okay now”. That didn’t quite happen to me, but it worked well enough. It’s a gutsy move doing repeated scenes like that, since it could fail horribly and simply prove irritating and heavy-handed. This did feel a bit immoderate, but not so much that it felt unwatchably clichéd.

Awww; the phone is as big as her face!

The best part of the episode was while Daikichi was at work and Rin was at school and the scene kept switching between the two. The sense of sameness between Daikichi, working hard at his job, and Rin, working hard at nursery school and just being a kid in the face of all the horribleness that follows her about, is expressed without words, a good example of not laying it on too thick, as it were. At least I didn’t think it was too sickeningly blunt. It’s not too subtle though and you can’t really miss the big blinking sign that goes off and reads “Hey viewer! Look! They’re both growing!” but it’s still a reasonably reserved episode, maintaining the mellow pace that I found so attractive in the first one. It’s good to see Rin making friends, but then sad as their parents pick them up, one by one, leaving Rin alone eventually as she waits for her workaholic guardian.

I was often in Rin's situation in preschool, stuck spending time alone with teacher, waiting for someone to pick me up. Having a nice teacher helps.

Finally, I like the nocturnal enuresis thing. It’s not often that the topic is broached on TV. During the first episode I thought of the sleeping arrangements and said to myself, “Oh boy! There’s bound to be some urine jokes in this show”. Well not only was I right, but I didn’t even have to wait very long! A urine scene in the second episode! For Kiss x Sis we had to wait five whole episodes for this.

I'm OK with this.

This ranks up there with Mitsudomoe and Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! in terms of how prompt the onset of pee jokes is (episode 2 for all three shows).

Ah yes, no matter how old I get, pee never stops being funny.

Summer 2011: Usagi Drop

I don’t know how many more shows I’ll be watching this season, but this one will probably be on the list. In a rare deviation from my norm, I actually knew the basic premise of the show before watching it, unlike my usual practice according to which I watch shows based on how eye-catching the promotional artwork is. For this reason and this reason only, I was not disappointed by the conspicuous absence of bunny rabbits.

As with all high class art, the show begins with a funeral. Things can only get more upbeat from here, right? I hope not actually. The slowish pace and low key atmosphere established by the first episode work really well. This jives well with how little dialogue there is. The protagonist’s interest in Rin is conveyed through meaningful glances and changes in music and subtle shit like that.

I'm sick of characters gazing off into the distance like this, head filled with complicated thoughts. For all we know, Rin could be watching two squirrels fighting right here rather than having some convoluted internal dialogue about her uncertain future.

There’s a lot of contemplating going on here and rustling of bushes and wind. The imagery changes to suit the mood. Prior to the intro everything is all flowery and springtimey and idyllic:

This bloomy vaseline on the lens thing stops as soon as the funeral begins. Then there’s some neat use of lighting and framing to make the viewer feel the same mushy way about Rin that Daikichi does. Despite what a downer the guy seems to be, Rin takes a shine to him and they do some wordless bonding.

I’ve got to watch the next episode to see how I feel about the show. It may become clichéd and uninteresting. It somehow reminded me of Koi Kaze. I’m not entirely sure why, but perhaps it’s the pacing and mellowness of the first episode; it certainly wasn’t because my lolicon senses were tingling. There’s no hint of that here at all and I don’t say that sarcastically. If there were, it’d just ruin everything the show has going for it.

To restate my complaint from the other day though, why couldn’t Rin be ugly? She’s already unwanted. It’s not too much of a leap to make her ugly and fat or something. There are lots of people who think eyepatch girls, pegleg girls and even dialysis girls are moe, so don’t underestimate the ability of the audience to love a character. They don’t all have to be so damned adorable in an obvious way.

I enjoyed Fractale less than the first episode led me to believe I would

Although my knees are still shaking from the grandiosity and sexiness that is Utena, I figured I couldn’t dilly dally forever. The best thing to do to get yourself back into your typical rut after watching something that revolutionizes (no pun intended) your life like Utena is not to sit and ponder your navel, as you may be inclined to do, but rather, sally forth into something productive, like watching more TV. So that’s what I did.

Some time ago, when I watched the first episode of Fractale I noted that it seemed pretty watchable, or something to that effect. Well, as it transpired, I ended up stalling on the show until just now. I stayed current for only about two or three episodes until I got distracted by exams or another show or Clippy the paperclip or something. I watched the rest of the series today and was a bit disappointed. I thought it was going to be nice slice of life story. The first episode really sent me back to the first time I watched Yokhama Kaidashi Kikou many years ago, reviving a warm, moist, squishy feeling in my chest.

But no, that suishiness was all a lie, a nefarious plot to lure in people like me who don’t read plot synopses before watching shows. This show just had to turn out to be one of those things where the fate of the world hangs in the balance and there’s guns and killing and fighting. I hate strife. What’s with all the strife in anime these days? If the Fractale system had been working properly then everyone could have remained in that blissfully dull haze they were in and the show could have just remained at that nice, easygoing pace of the first episode that so misled me.

Many viewers would be familiar with the story from the manga because they’re not illiterate like me. If they were, they’d have known that the viewer basically ends up rooting for a group of fucking terrorists. Clein complains about that repeatedly, but in the end, he’s a terrorist too. I liked him in the beginning, but eventually, I couldn’t keep rooting for him. Phryne is likable enough, I suppose, but she’s a pretty flat character. I suppose that can’t be helped with her role as the “body” half of the “key”. If she’s nothing more than an empty shell then maybe I should be happy she’s lacking in depth; maybe I’d be disappointed or feel that it was too jarring if her character were more developed. I doubt that though. I think it would make the show more captivating. She’s certainly nice to look at though. Nobody can deny that that helps make more tolerable a boring character about whom the best you can muster up are lukewarm feelings.


I suppose it’s my fault, as usual, for watching a show without knowing anything about it beforehand. This is the modern day equivalent of channel surfing and watching whatever happens to be on blindly. When I was a kid I’d sometimes choose a random number and tune to the TV station that matched or was closest to that number if there was no exact match. If that’s the level of refinement I have when it comes to determining which media to inhale, then it serves me right for being frequently disappointed.

The best part of the show is the music, particularly the Irish vibe of the music for those shots of landscapes, like the rolling hills and grass being blown in the breeze. Best of all is the Yeats song that serves as the closing theme. It is misleading though; that song just reinforces the initial impression I got from the first episode that this would be a nice, calm, battle-free slice of life anime.

Yep, AnoHana is my top show this season

I think that even if the show ends with a lame cop-out ending like a meteorite impact or even it was all a dream this show will still be my favourite of the season. The only other show in the running would be Hanasaku Iroha but I hate the protagonist and her let’s-all-get-along-anything-is-possible-if-we-work-together attitude so the show would be a nonstarter for me if it weren’t for Chiaki Omigawa.

But this AnoHana show continues to have very concise yet equally emotionally draining episodes without lowering the intensity scale even a bit. It’s hard work for the viewer and I can see how a one episode break from the bullettrain feverish pace this show seems to be going at in the form of a more easygoing episode somewhere in the middle would be a tempting diversion, but nonetheless, I sure hope they don’t have an onsen episode or anything like that (I’ve jinxed it, haven’t I?). But even if they did, nothing can ruin the show now. Not since Hourou Musuko have I as eagerly awaited each new episode of a show. Admittedly, Hourou Musuko wasn’t that long ago, but prior to that I don’t know when the hell the last time I enjoyed a show this much was. Maybe NHK ni Youkoso.

I like how each character seems to get his or her turn in the spotlight. Last week’s episode was Yukiatsu. I guess I was biased in his favour since it was revealed that he was the one dressed up as Menma, but this episode was devoted almost entirely to showcasing his likable side to viewers who may not have found his crossdressing as likable as I did, saving Naruko and all and wailing like some kind of teary-eyed survivor’s guilt victim repressed to the point of mentos and cola magnitude explosive inundation.

Tsuruko must be more than the archetypal meganekko tsundere. I look forward to her character episode.

I should just quit watching everything that’s not on noitamina

But that would be unfair, I suppose. But c’mon, noitamina had Ayakashi, Mononoke, Moyashimon, Kuuchuu Buranko, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Eden of the East, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, and Kuragehime. That’s a good track record of shows I’ve enjoyed. Other noitamina shows may have been great, but I haven’t seen them, so I can’t comment. That means, however, that I’ve never disliked a noitamina show (although I’ve enjoyed certain of the above shows quite a bit more than others)

I’m not going to go ahead and write extensively about what I liked about these shows, since I’m not introspective or smart enough to pinpoint why I like what I like, but Hourou Musuko and Fractale are probably my favourite shows this season. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika or whatever it’s called is also looking pretty good and has succeeded in keeping my attention for the first two episodes with its bizarre artwork and cutesy magical girl protagonist, but outside of that, the only other show that I haven’t dropped yet is Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne, but I may drop it anyway, since I haven’t seen the second episode yet. The first one didn’t have much of any newness to add to the wincest paradigm and barely kept my interest. Everything else is rubbish/boring like Infinite Stratos and Beelzebub or has value only as fap anime, such as 95% of Freezing. If it’s not in either one of those categories, then I either haven’t seen it yet or I concluded it was garbage and dropped it before even watching a single episode.

I may drop Level E and Dragon Crisis, but I will at least wait until I watch the second episodes of these series. Level E had a couple good laughs though, at least.

But everything about Hourou Musuko seemed nice. Cute, meek protagonist, cute shota friend of protagonist with best teddy bear evar, beautiful watercolorish artwork, great character designs and voice acting as well as remarkably fluid animation that makes the viewer feel like he or she is watching real people move about, rather than cartoon characters on a screen. All wonderful. Very gentle treatment of the subject matter, which I can’t really comment on seeing as I don’t read manga or light novels, so I’m experiencing this story for the first time.

As for Fractale, to employ an overused method of succinctly summarizing one’s reactions, at first I was like “wtf?”, then I was like “lol”, then I was like “Fractale FTW!” and then at the end of the first episode I was like “wtf?” again.

Again bearing in mind that I choose which anime to watch based on how much I like the image on the AniDB page for the show, rather than on any knowledge of content matter, all I knew about the show before watching it was that it took place in some kind of futuristic setting. I certainly didn’t think it would take place back in the Old Country! The protagonist, despite his smart lederhosen-inspired getup, lives in what the viewer must be meant to take for none other than the hilly landscapes of Éire.

After establishing that we’re in rural Ireland, the protagonist, Clain, sets off on his bicycle to go to some kind of yard sale, accompanied by his best friend, who appears to be a bottle of Coca-Cola.

There’s a lot to like here, such as Clain’s parents who look like they came right out of that Catherine video game,

And AIRSHIPS! Anything that reminds me of Skies of Arcadia or Final Fantasy IX gets bonus points on my scorecard:

Finally, to put the icing on the metaphorical cake, the final element in the winning combination that is Fractale: rubbing a medicinal salve on a mysterious bishoujo’s back who fell from the sky whilst riding a flying machine,

Don't know if want...

Yes, want...



The credit ending sequence gives us another glimpse of that beautiful Irish scenery:

I don’t want to speak too soon, since for all I know the remaining episodes may consist of Vanna White and Fabio as Lear and Cordelia, respectively, but these are the types of shows which, were they to see BD release, would certainly end up on my shelf if I also won the lottery beforehand. It’s not that I don’t have respect for IP; it’s that I only have respect for IP that I like.