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IN SUMMARY: Gakuen Heaven

Let me preface this entry with a note on the origins of this series:
Gakuen Heaven is based on the BL game series of the same name. The original game was adult and for the PC; later, all-ages Playstation games were made (and became substantially more popular, I'm guessing). It is, very much, your standard-issue dating sim.

Only, you know, without girls.

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Up Next: Gintama, because at this point penguin suits and ninja bondage are going to be like a salve upon my battle-wounded soul.
Through a winning combination of laziness, apathy, technical difficulties, and real-world drama, I have effectively killed this blog.

At least, in its previous form.

Since there's no real way I'm going to be able to go through the eighty-five trillion backlogged episodes I have from the last three seasons or so, I'm changing the format here from the standard anime-blog model to something more akin to unstructured reviews. Um, even less structured than before, if that makes any sense. You'll see. I'm abandoning the notion of a "format" altogether, really.

For now, look forward to a long-winded bitch-out "review" of Gakuen Heaven in the coming week.

GENERAL: Recommendation!

I have been neglecting this poor, abandoned blog for so very long. Not out of laziness, mind you (why, what on Earth would make you think that?), but because spring term has been a harsh, harsh mistress and I have a metric fuckload of work and stuff and whoa there this is turning into my normal blog.

But anyway, I will be doing a series of big catch-up posts shortly (after I get my first batch of term papers done) and they aren't really important because there's only one show anyone needs to know about this season:

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu.

If you were ever the sort of geek who, seized by delusions of grandeur, made your own zero-budget "movies" or directed plays with the neighborhood kids when you were little or were in the A/V club in high school or all of the above, STFU I know I'm a nerd or anything like that, GET THIS SHOW RIGHT NOW. The first episode is like a sweet, sweet ode to directorial ineptitude. Don't be put-off by the apparent crappiness in the beginning; stick with the episode and you'll understand.

Anyway, this is getting added to my "Definitely will blog regularly" list, so you can expect to hear further praise heaped upon this lovely show at a future date.

Shinigami no Ballad episode 03


The parallels to Jigoku Shoujo hit me a lot harder in this episode. JS's third episode revolved chiefly around baseball metaphors; this episode was all about RPG/video game metaphors. While no one got kicked to death in this show, it's an odd coincidence and it seems a little suspicious. Hmm.

She harasses him in class... ...and out. Grandpa's game collection. I giggle at 'Cosmic Ocean' because I am a nerd.

Okay, so I said in the last post that I enjoyed this episode, and I really, really did. Kantarou (our hero) and Tomato (his love interest) had 24 minutes of one of the cutest romances I have seen in anime and I deeply wish that more series would follow their believably awkward, funny, understated example. I am especially fond of Tomato's meticulous planning and her wonderfully non-cutesy-wootsy personality.

Unsubtle, Tomato. Young!Grandpa and his little girlfriend...except it's actually Daniel and Momo in disguise. There's a joke about lost marbles waiting to be made here.

And also? Props to the director. His style can get a little obtrusive (I know it's shocking, but sometimes showing faces can be effective!), but it worked perfectly for this episode.

P.S. Kantarou's late grandfather ruled.

Up Next: Fate/Stay Night episodes 08-11! Featuring the requisite "lol he saw her nekkid" comedy relief scene! Sigh.

Shinigami no Ballad episode 02


That out of the way, this was a sweet, if slightly out-there, story. Momo apparently can't resist interfering in people's lives, so she tells a boy named Asano that he's going to die. Of course, he isn't anytime soon, but he's still grieving over the loss of his much-admired older sister and Momo sees his "impending" death as an impetus to change his emo behavior.

Asano Mitsuki, would-be Corpse of the Week Well, I'm never stepping into a swimming pool again. Fujishima Yutaka, would-be Bereaved of the Week and all-around crackpot

This alone doesn't change Asano. In fact, at first, it just makes him more of a weenie. It's when a freaky girl named Fujishima semi-confesses to Asano that he finally starts to want to live. And while Fujishima may look normal, and she may act fairly sweet and normal, there is goddamned NOTHING NORMAL about dropping piranhas in the campus pool. Asano had better be the greatest boyfriend in the history of the universe, because this chick is a ticking timebomb of Fatal Attraction behavior.

'You're going to die. Have fun!' Asano's sister died young. And they lived happily ever after. Until they died horribly in a train crash.

However, Shinigami no Ballad isn't that kind of show, so all we get is a tender, well-played love story. And yeah, it kind of did stir my cold, black heart. But not as much as the next one. Oops, spoiler.

Up Next: Shinigami no Ballad episode 03! Because I could have done it as a batch post, but I'm liking this series too much to do that. SHOCK AND AWE, PEOPLE.

MANGA: Tsubasa 109 and xxxHolic 101

On Tsubasa:
Last chapter's cameo appearance by Kamui was squee-worthy enough, especially being that Alternate!Kamui is apparently an uppity little thing. This chapter, while assholishly not revealing ALL of the Mysterious Hooded Figures, ends with none other than Fuuma. I screamed a little bit. Sorry, dorm neighbors!

At any rate, Kamui fighting Kurogane was downright hot. The "still" panel of Kurogane holding his sword to Kamui's neck was one of the best single panels I can recall from this entire series. Awesome stuff.

I know this is probably just CLAMP doing some cross-promotion since it was recently announced that they're seeking a new publisher for X, but I am still barely able to contain my glee. CLAMP is allowed to do this kind of self-indulgent crap because I love them and the million despicable ways they torture me on a weekly basis. Speaking of which...

On xxxHolic:
THAT IS THE NASTIEST AND MOST AWFUL CLIFFHANGER EVER. Does CLAMP not realize the gravity of the situation? You don't tease Doumeki/Watanuki fangirls with SHOCKING REVELATIONS about Doumeki's past and then say, "OMGWTFWHATISIT?!? Find out next week!" That's just sick and wrong.

It'd better turn out to be something harmless. I don't think my heart could take having my OTP ripped away from me by the very canon that gave it to me in the first place. I'd be forced to drunkenly sing "The End of the World" while burning my copies of the manga in effigy. Forced.

Aside from that, though, it was kind of weirdly hilarious to see Doumeki referred to by his given name. I love that even Watanuki was like, "'Shizuka'? Oh. Right."

And since both series are indeed going to have chapters next week (CLAMP takes a lot of breaks), this means that I'll probably be doing a lot more squealing, yelping, giggling, and cooing during finals. Nice timing, that.

Up Next: Shinigami no Ballad episode 02! Which would've been posted a lot earlier but for the fact that finals are, as I noted, coming up quickly. Ugh, school.

Shinigami no Ballad episode 01

A shinigami named Momo who doesn't get impaled by her boss/secret "Don't Stand So Close to Me" boyfriend? How novel!

I confess that I originally assumed this series was going to be creepy loli otaku crap, maybe based on an H-game. Then I found out the manga runs (ran?) in Lala DX and I had to eat my words. Ooops! It's authentically shoujo. Will wonders never cease?!

Momo and Not!Kero Sad Momo doesn't want to kill little girls! The eyecatch, which I thought was really pretty.

So yeah, this is essentially Jigoku Shoujo gone cute rather than Goth, and with a Kero-esque kitty mascot instead of a geisha, an old man, and a bishounen. Weird little girl, metaphysical powers, episodic format, you get it. The biggest difference here, besides the tone, is that Momo is a sensitive girl whose job often makes her cry, unlike the rather ruthless and unfeeling Ai.

Mai, Corpse of the Week Kouta, Bereaved of the Week Kitty, Disturbing Close-up of the Week

The basic plot of this episode was that a little girl named Mai and her friend Kouta find a kitty in the park. They adopt it together, and Mai decides that they're now a family--Mai as Mom, Kouta as Dad, and the kitten as their baby. It's all very cute and stuff until, predictably, Kouta takes a day off from taking care of the kitten with Mai to play soccer with his friends instead and Mai dies. He blames the kitten at first, then meets Momo the Shinigami (who threatens to kill the kitten, presumably to shake Kouta out of his asinine behavior), has a last conversation with Mai to help him let go, and then I started crying and I don't know if anything happened after that.

Cat's-eye view Subtle like an anvil! Asthmatic characters always die. For serious, the only way this could be more depressing is if the cat died.

I'm going to give this two more episodes before I drop it, because it's way too goddamn sad and doesn't have any truly interesting characters or plot threads readily apparent. I did like the OP quite a lot, but the actual episode was pretty much "kittens and dead children" and that's not something I can see myself watching for long.

Up Next: Fate/Stay Night episodes 08 and 09. Now with minimal enthusiasm.

MOVIE: xxxHolic: Manatsu no Yoru no Yume

First of all, SEIYUU REPORT:
- Watanuki (Fukuyama Jun) is perfect.
- Yuuko (Ohara Sayaka) is better than perfect. I thought they'd give her an older-sounding voice than she has, but she sounds really great.
- Himawari (Itou Shizuka) is a lot less squeaky and cutesy than I thought she'd be. This is not necessarily a good thing.
- CLAMP should've left Mokona (Kikuchi Mika) like it was in Rayearth, because that giggling has got to go.
- Doumeki (Nakai Kazuya) sounds like he's 50 and a heavy smoker. This voice worked for Zoro and Mugen, and it might even work for Hijikata in Gintama, but Doumeki is a goody-goody schoolboy who works at his family's temple. Seriously, Nakai, cut it down to a pack a day.

Since these are the same seiyuu being used in the TV series, I've got many hours of "Why does Doumeki sound like that?!" fun ahead. At least I'll have five or six episodes before I have to worry about that, though. Why does he sound like that, anyway? Jesus. It's awful. Awful.

Second of all, this copy of the movie was recorded on a camcorder, so the video quality was total crap. Hence, the screencaps have coloration problems.

Animated, this looked a lot like LCL. I was humming 'Cruel Angel's Thesis' and everything. No. You canNOT tell me there's nothing off about these two. Not with personal-space violations this bad. Bicker bicker bicker bickerJUST MAKE OUT ALREADY
I don't hate or even dislike Himawari, but you have to admit: she just LOOKS like she eats roasted infants. DEAD EYES AGAIN I feel all warm and happy whenever these three are together. Yay!

So, what I got out of the plot (since I watched it raw with a grasp of Japanese rivaling that of a slow toddler): the gang is sent on some Scooby-Doo-like mission to check out a mansion (/hotel?), because some insipid, weepy girl made the request. It's always an insipid, weepy girl. Anyway, the mansion is housing some kind of party for collectors, among them a fat lady, a girl who looks exactly like this homeschooled religious-nutbar weirdo I knew in high school, and an absurdly stereotypical gay guy. I know, "Gay? In this series? Surely you jest!" but go with it.

The Notsofunhouse A few of the guests. They're not making it out of the mansion. SURPRISE! The bathroom is at the bottom of a dark confessional elevator.
Note: Watanuki is STRUGGLING LIKE MAD to get into the bedroom. I just thought this shot was really neat. The spiral room

The collectors all turn out to be gluttonous bastards, and bad things happen to them, and there's a bunch of heavy-handed stuff about collecting and hording and how these things Bring Out The Bad In People--you know, typical Yuuko "moral of the story" stuff--and then we find out that there's this pretty-boy type behind all the strange happenings and blah blah blah god this was boring.

Intensely fucking creepy music box/carousel-thingy in the center of the spiral room. People frozen in maniacal glee revolving on a wheel to circus music = NIGHTMARES FOR LIFE The title of this portrait is 'Important Plot Point'. The main collection: people's souls. You can tell CLAMP didn't write this because they would've just made it eyeballs.
Hey, it's Recycled Character Design! The Fall of the House of Boredom The little girl from the portrait's true identity. Come on, they could have at least tried a different cliche.

Anyhow, Doumeki and Watanuki do the majority of the investigating, because Yuuko has made them her 'hos. In one part of the funhouse-like mansion, there's a big spiral staircase lined with dozens and dozens of rooms filled with "collections". These collections range from quirky but ordinary--spoons, buttons, masks--to, uh, dog collars and chains. I repeat: entire room filled with collars. Who collects collars that isn't a bondage aficionado? Not even someone who owns a kennel would collect collars. I bet Doumeki wanted to stay in that room a little longer. Then again, maybe he was holding out for the room containing the flavored-lubricant collection.

Also, he and Watanuki share a bedroom. It's the anime staff's friendly way of giving us fangirls a place in the canon timeline to insert our PWP smutfics. Thanks, anime staff!

'Are we in a Nine Inch Nails video?' You could turn this series into a drinking game with all the times this particular scenario pops up. Yuuko is irritated because her breasts are horribly disfigured.
Collars? Kinky. Chains? Kinkier. Steel traps?...Okay, that's going a little far.

In conclusion, I give this milking of the franchise movie a 6/10, a score that would've been a lot lower without pretty animation, Yuuko, and all those opportunities for S&M jokes.

Up Next: I'm not going to count manga-talk here, so in all likelihood, Shinigami no Ballad episode 01. That is, if it's available soon enough after airing.

Hellsing: Ultimate episode 01

This series tears me up inside. I don't know whether to criticize its lack of depth and gruesome violence, or laud its...lack of depth and gruesome violence. It's so hard to say sometimes. All I know is that I spent the entire fifty-minute running time of this episode wide-eyed and delighted, because if there's one thing I love more than gay schoolboys (or girls, as the case may be), it's blood-soaked shootouts.

I love the total lack of subtlety. It's like a flaming, blinking, 10-foot tall neon sign reading 'EVIL!!!1' OMG IT'S OROCHIMARU If he snaps and creates a spark, I'm turning off this damn show.
Walter!! Best butler ever. Integra started kicking ass at a very early age. This whole shooting sequence took place in slow-motion. It was a weapon-geek's dream come true.
And who could that be, entering creepily with a pair of short swords? It's our dearly-missed Father Anderson, that's who! I love you, Alucard, but in this fight? I want to see you get owned.

Okay, I'm done fangirling Father Anderson. No, wait:

Literal tricks up one's sleeve. That's kind of hot. OMG IT'S YOMIKO READMAN. I think I just broke my own brain.

Now I'm done. Anyway, as a big fan of the manga, I'll readily admit that this OVA should be viewed solely as a supplement to said manga. Without prior knowledge of the Hellsing universe and its cast, this is dumb as shit. Everything happens super-quickly and with little to no explanation. We don't even hear Seras' name until the last five minutes.

'What?! I'm basically the main character of this series and you totally forgot to take decent caps of me!?' See, this series does have some comedy. Some of it is even intentional. Alucard looking like something from a shoujo manga from the '70s = WHAT

Nevertheless, in my unabashedly biased opinion, this OVA gets a solid 9/10 for sheer, mindless entertainment value and a bunch of hilarious Engrish courtesy of Father Anderson. Amen indeed.

Up Next: More Holic! Specifically, the xxxHolic: Manatsu no Yoru no Yume movie (in Camcordervision)! And what it lacks of the manga's gleeful romps through Subtext Meadow, it makes up for with hotel bedrooms and dog collars. You have to read between the lines.

MANGA: xxxHolic chapter 99

I lied about Hellsing being next. Turns out I was way too lazy preoccupied to make screencaps today.

It was hard to break the habit of posting this to my regular journal right away, heh.

Anyway, in this latest chapter, Yuuko shows up at long last to inform Watanuki that, through giving Himawari the cookies, he "bought" her dream. Through a technicality only Yuuko could appreciate, this means he also "bought" Doumeki's.

Which of course means that Doumeki dreamed about his grandfather riding up on a white horse to save Watanuki. Doumeki, you have issues.

Yuuko then goes on to press Watanuki for the exact reason he likes Himawari--and, conversely, dislikes Doumeki--so much. Since his answers to both questions were "Everything!", Yuuko finds it all a bit dubious and tells him bluntly to start being more honest with himself.

Bless you, Yuuko.

At this point, the series has ceased to really be about spirits and warding off evil and repaying debts, and instead shifted its focus almost completely to the relationships between the main four characters. This isn't just bias talking; every time anything happens, it ends up coming back to relationships and Watanuki's myriad neuroses related to them. I just wish we'd get to see more of Yuuko interacting with the other kids, because Doumeki's polite contempt for her is absolutely fascinating and I demand more.

Up Next: Hellsing, I swear.