Been hearing a bunch of praise for Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) and Ben-To since the start of the season. I never did try Future Diary since I heard some misinformation about it at the beginning of the season. I heard it was a sequel, so I figured I’d pass it off until I saw the previous episodes but… it turns out there was only a 1-episode OVA released at the end of 2010 which was bundled with a manga volume. Whoops. Guess I should’ve done more research before making that decision. So there isn’t any source material to catch up on before starting this season which means I should give it a fair shot and I intend to do that. I did give Ben-To a chance earlier this season and ultimately decided to drop it since this season has been hectic with school and work. But I’ve been hearing universally positive reviews on the anime since the first episode, especially on the action and the comedy, so I figured it might be worth checking out again to see how it has improved. And with midterms being virtually over and a day off of work, I suddenly find myself with some surplus free time this coming weekend. I can’t guarantee that I’ll keep watching both but I’ll give them a few episodes each just to see what I’m missing.
Chihayafuru (Episode 4) – While the flashback episodes were excellence, I seem to prefer watching the present episodes more. It’s not that these episodes are better though: it’s pretty standard drama and characterization while the flashback episodes were genuine drama and outstanding character development. No, the reason I like these episodes more is the enormous improvement in comedy. There are now visual gags, character humor (Chihaya feasting on chocolate and then collapsing), and well placed subtle humor to break up all the drama and story progression. While I enjoyed the story and the personalities of the flashback episodes more, it was just unceasing drama. It makes sense since the flashback had to convey so much information in so much time so it had no time to use jokes to break up the drama and let it digest. I was worried this would be serious the entire way through but this episode proved me wrong. There will be humor in Chihayafuru and it will be used to help lighten up the mood and make each episode more enjoyable to watch. Now if they could only replicate the story and characterizations in the present like they did in the flashbacks…
Mawaru Penguindrum (Episode 16) – Move over Kanba and Himari, I have a new favorite character in Penguindrum. Masako and Mario’s grandfather, Sahei Natsume, is the epitome of awesome and kick-ass encased in the manliest of forms and constantly emitting testosterone and power. His grand personality and flamboyant actions really livened up Masako’s backstory and made it the most hilarious episode in the series to date. Why it took so long for such a fabulous character to appear, I won’t know, but his abrupt appearance and unsophisticated demeanors really rejuvenated my interest in the series and in both Masako and Mario (the two I dismissed as unimportant and uninteresting). It’s a shame we probably won’t see him again in such a dominant role but I hope his eccentric and wild personality makes multiple appearances to re-stimulate the series when its needed. Or even when it’s not needed, too.
Persona 4 the Animation (Episode 4) – The first four episodes of Persona 4 seem to have all been character episodes, each ending in a new Persona, but it seems that format will change for next week. The three new friends, Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko, all now have their Personas meaning there’s no one else who needs to get one anytime soon (and Kuma will wait since he wasn’t 5th in the opening sequence). This will give the next few episodes something new and original to work with, probably going back to the murder mystery, which will be nice. I was getting a little tired of the same format being repeated each episode despite me enjoying each character, story, and overall episode. Seeing the series do something new will be wonderful and I’m looking forward to what everyone does in the town this week.
Tamayura ~hitotose~ (Episode 4) – While the scenery and settings are all very detailed and beautiful, I can’t help but feel there’s a disconnect between the characters and where they are. In this episode, the girls traveled to Maon’s hometown of Osaki-shimojima which is located a short ferry ride away from Takehara. But the new setting never really felt special or different than before. And when the girls were there, they did the same things that they’d do in town, such as walk the vacant streets, visit a specialty shop, and eat colorful delicacies. Spending all that time in the inn didn’t help establish the new city either but it was an essential point in the story and for Maon, so it’s not like it could be easily brushed to the side. Still, I wished they took more time showing off the scenic sights and views of the city and spent more time showing how it’s different than Takehara and therefore distinctive. For me, it felt like they never really left their hometown when they could’ve shown how special this new town was.
The iDOLM@KOTO (Episode 17) – Finally, the episode I’ve been waiting for: the Makoto episode! It should be no surprise by now that Makoto Kikuchi is the one and only reason why I continue to watch this anime, so I knew this episode was going to be significant to me and how I’d enjoy the overall series. It’s too bad I’ve never really liked date episodes in romance anime but it did a respectable job fleshing out Makoto’s character and her struggles with her feminine identify being overshadowed with her tomboyish appeal. It was great seeing her finally explain her problem and what she wants from becoming an idol and why she cannot realize her dream. Even better was seeing her be absolutely ecstatic over being treated like a girl since no one has ever done that for her before. But with her personality being the way it is (kinda stupid), she easily reverts back to her tomboyish self which makes it hard to see her as a young girl. Hopefully by the end of the anime more people will accept her feminine side and be supportive of that but her appeal and popularity are solely on her masculine charm. And even though she’s having trouble with that, she still remains positive: always smiling and always energetic which makes her a blast to watch. Can’t wait to see her sing and dance again when she gets her next opportunity.
UN-Go (Episode 3) – You have to wonder how good of a detective Yuuki would be without Inga. Yuuki is intelligent, observant, and possesses a knack for understanding complex situations swiftly but he’s not the best interrogator. In fact, he never really gets to the bottom of the truth without Inga’s help, only part of the way there. It’s Inga who finds out the piece of truth that Yuuki needs to piece everything together and solve the mystery. So without Inga, Yuuki can’t really solve anything. But…
Yuuki could also survive without Inga getting the insta-truth question every time. It’s always Inga who can’t control himself and then goes through that horrifying ritual every episode, so it’s not like Yuuki asks Inga to do this for him. Rather, Inga asks Yuuki what he’d like to know. It could be more that Inga accelerates the case for him by getting to the truth in a direct way. Or…
Yuuki already knows the answer to the mystery by the time Inga turns from awesome, energetic boy to uncomfortable and frightening woman. Yuuki knows who he wants Inga to ask and what to ask, so perhaps he already knows everything and Inga is there to explain the mystery to the audience. It’s really hard to tell what Yuuki can and can’t do on his own. Perhaps it’s different every time. Who knows. Perhaps one of these episodes we’ll see Yuuki need to solve a crime without Inga around. Let’s hope.
Working’!! (Episode 4) – I never really liked Inami during the first season of Working!! but I’m oddly liking her character a lot more this season. Maybe it’s because I know what to expect from her character and find her lack of punching and androphobia this season (at least in comparison to last season) to be refreshing and enjoyable. Or maybe my expectations on her contribution to the comedy in the series were set so low that everything she’s done has exceeded them. Or maybe I was just unfair to her during the first season and she’s always been a great character. Whatever the reason, I really like her and she’s quickly accelerated to being my second favorite female of the series (behind Maya) and third overall (behind Sato and Maya). I am also enjoying Yamada more, especially since she’s become the runt of the restaurant that no one wants to talk to or hang around with. People are avoiding her more now than before which really compliments her character and makes for funnier more rewarding jokes. Really, every character has improved this season in respect to the last and this sequel might actually end up ranking higher than the original.