Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? A Slice of a Young Barista's Life

Just a couple of days ago I paid a visit to a coffee stand to meet up with my ex-boss, D. He was in the run to become a candidate at the last general elections, but at the age of 27, D decided to leave politics and became a barista, brewing cups after cups of specialty coffee for his customers. No doubt, a coffee business is not an easy business, and I can see from my time there at the coffee stand that business is not exactly brisk - D admits that business is “slower than usual”. D had a law degree from a reputable university in the United Kingdom. He could have become a lawyer and made better money than being a barista. He, instead, took the exam to become a certified barista, and became one. He, together with a partner, set up a coffee stand, and have been brewing cups of coffee ever since. You’ll be surprised at the people who stop by at his coffee stand, people including established politicians and the big bosses of huge corporations.

Now, the question is, why am I talking about all these? The simple answer is because I’ll be discussing Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu-ka? (English: Is the Order a Rabbit?) an anime with a pretty similar setting, namely in a coffee cottage and with three cute lady baristas. The longer answer would be because of the plot of the anime, and I would like to quote Chino in the anime “…when I consider the customer who come seeking a place of respite to enjoy a cup of coffee away from the breathless pace of modern life, it’s all worth it.”

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu-ka? is an enjoyable anime, one which gives you no stress of life at all. It is set in a colourful traditional town-village with a canal through the town. The usual hustle-bustle of the city is absent and the air is fresh and free of pollution. The village seemed so safe that even school-going children are allowed to held their family run shops or take part times jobs. Lots of wild rabbits can be seen running around town.

Our protagonist Cocoa, an airheaded girl who resembles Yui from K-On a lot, moved into the village as a transfer student in the first episode of the show and settled down at a place where the ground floor happened to be a coffee shop by the name of “Rabbit House”, named so because they have a mascot - a fluffy snow white dessert rabbit. Rabbit House serves coffee and other hot drinks during the day, but at night it becomes a public house serving a different group of customers.

The current owner and bartender in the night time at Rabbit House, Takahiro, has a small daughter, Chino. Chino is still in elementary school and is several years younger than Cocoa and Cocoa was elated to learn that she has gained a little sister when she moved in. Initially Chino found Cocoa to be somewhat irritating due to her stickiness but later learned that she was actually secretly happy to have an older sister to rely onto – of course she never admitted it openly to Cocoa. I personally thought that Chino was as cute as a button and was really lovable even though she may be as cold or expressionless as Yuki Nagato or Toujou Koneko at times. Despite being the youngest in her group, she’s the one with the most sense, somewhat like Nakano Azusa of K-On.

Also working part-time at Rabbit House is a twintail girl Rize. A tsundere of sorts, she is into guns and tanks and seemed to have already undergone conscription despite still being a middle schooler. She somewhat reminds me of Sonya from the anime Kill me Baby. Besides Rize, we also have Chiya and Sharo who are also recurring characters in this anime. Chiya’s family owns a neighbouring rival cafe selling Japanese sweets “Ama-usa-an” and she was, rather unfortunately for the sweets, given the task to name the sweets they are selling. Who’d give a normal serving of sweets names like “Frozen Evergreen” or “Ephemeral Ophelia” or even “Moon and Stars Reflected Upon the Sea” (all translations from HorribleSubs and thus probably Crunchyroll’s translations). Chiya is voiced by none other than Sugar-san Satou Satomi who also did the voice for K-On’s drummer president Tainaka Ritsu and I was surprised as Chiya wasn’t as hyper as Ritsu but appeared much more refined. On the other hand, Sharo (sounds a lot like the English Sharon to me) on the other hand lives next door from Amausa-an, and works as a meido in a meido-kissa selling herbal tea. She thinks she is poor and tries to hide it from everyone but miserably fails somewhat like Azuki Azusa from Hentai Ouji. Sharo looks up to Rize as she goes to the same elite school as Rize and thought that Rize-senpai was pretty cool and brave for being able to chase away the wild rabbits which she is very afraid of. This sounds weird but Sharo gets high from coffee just as normal people get high from alcohol and as such she avoids anything with coffee at all costs (including coffee flavoured milk), well unless if she is unhappy she’d go for a coffee binge lol.

Now, there seem to be an unresolved mystery in the anime. The entire story of the anime seem to suggest that Tippy the fluffy rabbit mascot of Rabbit House is none other than Chino’s grandpa, Takahiro’s father and the old man who founded Rabbit House himself. Lots of hints were dropped in every episode like pieces of puzzle to the effect, like how Aoyama the novelist was writing a novel entitled “The Barista who became a Rabbit” and had sought advice on writing the novel from the old man himself years back, and how Takahiro was heard calling the rabbit “dad” and having an argument with the rabbit. However the pieces of puzzles were never complete as many questions were left floating: how? why? when? where? In one of the conversations between Chino and the rabbit it was suggested that it just suddenly happened one day and they accepted the fact that the rabbit is the grandfather. In a way, it was kind of supernatural to have a rabbit capable of talking like an old man, or to have the soul of an old man take over the body of a rabbit, but nevertheless the anime managed to make it a cute and fun occurrence but in real life anybody would be shocked to see a rabbit talk.

Besides the plot, I also enjoyed the opening theme "Daydream cafe" - the shorter version of the music video of the seiyuu dancing to the opening song can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4faD6XrGoVY. You’d go “kokoro pyon pyon” all day after listening to the song for a while, lol.

To conclude, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu-ka? was pretty enjoyable. There is nothing objectionable about the anime besides some fanservice scenes of girls holding guns in their underwear, but even that is so mild that I doubt a kid’s mind would be corrupted by it.

Digimon is back!

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In the recent 15th Odaiba Memorial Day held on 1/8/2014 which was broadcasted live on NicoNico (I heard those outside Japan were not able to watch the live show) they have announced a new Digimon show which is to be released in Spring 2015 (which basically means 1st quarter of 2015 if I am not mistaken).

The show, based on my limited understanding, will feature Taichi, 17 years old (that's odd. Taichi would have been 26 in the year 2015). I may be wrong, but I am predicting that it will be in a movie instead of a full blast 12 to 52 episode series.

Will it feature the members from other series, i.e. Tamers, Frontier, Savers? If so, how will their interactions be with the original seven Digidestined?

You know, the Digimon kid inside me is jumping up and down in full excitement for this news. Of course, most of us Digidestined (i.e. those born pre-1995 or so) would have grown up so I am not very sure of the response from others, but for me who grew up watching Digimon shows and listening to Digimon songs, I am thrilled! You don't know their huge library of songs, OST, character image songs, and even Christmas songs! I used to share them with my friends back in junior high school and we used to sing Yuuhi no Yakusoku together. Hell, I still have Hikari's Reflection playing in my car's CD player up to today! Because of that it is going to be very emotional for me to see how the original casts like Taichi and Yamato are doing now in their high school days.

I can't wait for Spring 2015 to arrive. Fellow Digidestined, are you the same as me?

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Science Fiction for Children - Dennou Coil

This is a review of a 24-episode science fiction kodomo anime series entitled Dennou Coil.
Although the main target audience of this anime series is “kodomo” or children below the age of 12 (i.e. pre-teen primary school children), at this point I have to clearly state my doubts as to whether children of that age would be able to fully appreciate the story and learn something from it. Those children who are able to understand and fully appreciate the moral of the story of Dennou Coil, I’d dare say, would have had the understanding and appreciation of a normal teenager, or even perhaps an adult. What I meant was that it is normal for such appreciation to surface only during the teenage or adulthood. Indeed this is one anime many members of the targeted audience would easily find boring, while late teenagers would enjoy.

The story of Dennou Coil is set in a fictional city Daikoku in a future not too distant from the present where technology had advanced to the stage where computer monitors, computer keyboards and even cellphones have become nearly obsolete due to the invention of special glasses that can directly perform the functions of all the above gadgets. With the glasses on, the wearer (and also other wearers of such glasses) could see virtual items as if they were real and these items blends in perfectly with reality. When I use the term ‘items’ I am being very general as I am referring to non-living things like virtual iPads, walls, explosives, etc, but also ‘other living’ thing like virtual pets, viruses and anti-virus units (Satchiis). Apparently such a technology has become so advanced that it is deemed safe to have even children wearing them on a daily basis, only taking them off when going for a shower or sleeping – our protagonist Yuko received her glasses and her virtual cyberpet, Densuke, when she was only four. I personally thought that children shouldn’t be allowed to use technology as a tender age – they’ll end up being dependent onto it for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, back onto Dennou Coil, the main story revolves around Okonogi Yuko the protagonist and her virtual cyberpet Densuke. I shall refer to Yuko as Yasako so as not to confuse with another major character also with the name of Yuko. The first episode of the story starts off with her family moving into Daikoku because her father was job-transferred into the city. On the first day in the city itself Yasako and Densuke were separated from each other. Fortunately Yasako managed to obtain the services of one Hashimoto Fumie who manages to rescue Densuke who was trapped in an ‘obsolete space’. Later they further found out that Densuke was infected by an Illegal, another word for computer virus.

The story further expands from here onwards and it gets more and more interesting. It appears that Fumie is a member of the Coil Investigation Agency which is headed by one old lady by the name of Megabaa, who appears to be none other than Yasako’s grandmother. Surprise surprise! Megabaa owns a ‘cybercandy’ shop and also appears to be a specialist in making Metatags. Metatags are mainly used in the virtual world where certain effects can be achieved, like making a brickwall or beams. In return for Megabaa’s help in creating a Metatag to cure Densuke from the computer virus, Yasako joined the Coil Investigation Agency as member no.8 – Megabaa herself is member no.0 and Fumie is member no.7. Later in the story other members of the agency would be known, but I shall not reveal them here as to do so would amount to revealing juicy spoilers, but I can safely reveal that Yasako’s father is member no.1 having being coerced to join by his mother, lol.

Fast forward to the middle of the series, the audience is introduced to more secondary characters like the other Yuko (also known as Isako) and Haraken, the person whom Yasako has romantic interest in (despite being shorter than her, ahaha). Throughout the series Isako is treated like a protagonist for her actions in seemingly going against the ethics of the cyberworld by targeting Illegals and Metabugs. Metabugs are the raw material for Metatags and are therefore very valuable in the cyber market. However, it was later revealed that she was doing so to bring back her brother who she thought died in the cyberworld. A twist in the plot turns things absolutely upside down when it was revealed that Isako was merely a pawn being used by another former member of the Coil Investigation Agency to carry out his revenge against those who have stolen his idea. In the midst of all the conflicts are lots of juicy plots and heavy emotional scenes that I shall not discuss here to prevent revealing too much spoilers.

Let me just make it clear that this is anime series is one serious stuff, no joke or comedy or fanservice or any of that nonsense new anime series nowadays would have. On the contrary it is jam packed with all the educational good values that any parents would want their children to have, i.e. friendship, family, healthy competition and rivalry, etc. More importantly it makes you think critically, that there is always another side to a story and not to take things at face value.

Anyway since we’re already there, I’d like to note that this anime also dwells in how humans being emotionally attached to virtual cyberpets. Well actually the anime itself never raised the issue – I am the one raising it as my discussion here. So, what’s the issue? Well, think about it this way: cyberpets not even real – they’re mere data and you cannot touch them! For some of you out there you may think that this is not a problem at all and you might find it acceptable – if so then you might enjoy the visual novel “Digital: a love story” where you’ll find enjoyable the eerie similarity of the protagonist being emotionally/romantically attached to artificial intelligence he met on the internet in a BBS. I personally find it creepy, somewhat like how the protagonist in Eve no Jikan felt initially towards robots, that he shouldn’t treat them like human for the simple reason that they’re not humans. (I’ll review Eve no Jikan soon and you can read about it later.) Anyway, the question for you readers to ponder upon: why take care of virtual pets when you should instead put that effort into taking care of real and live animals who are suffering out there, some fighting the real risk of extinction?

Anyway back on topic, there is only one ending and one opening theme song throughout the 24 episodes. I enjoyed its opening theme pretty much, but I thought that its ending theme is pretty bland. Art is pretty decent (you’d think of Sazae-san or Doraemon) and would appeal mainly to children more. As a conclusion, I’d give Dennou Coil a 7.9/10 and would recommend it.
Akitsuki Yamato

Sakurasou, a Dorm filled with Youth

Just imagine yourself attending this high school in a place some distance away from your home town. You have been allocated a room in a two storey dormitory house. Here, you stay together with a few others who attend the same school and would have your meals together. You and the others take turns to do the household chores and do the cooking. Doesn't this feel like... pure youth? Indeed, youth is a point or stage in life when people don’t mind the fuss and inconvenience of staying together and helping each other with the household chores. This kind of youthfulness can be clearly and deeply felt and seen in the ongoing anime series of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanoujo.

Some may have realise by this point that the feeling of youthfulness as described above is not really a rare theme in animes. In fact it is sometimes overused to the point it becomes piecemeal and predictable. A classic example of an anime which goes deeply into this theme and leaves a strong impression into its viewers is none other than Honey & Clover (also Hachikuro). In fact, Honey & Clover went a step further by going into adulthood at the end of the story from a humble youthful beginning. In this article I am reviewing not Honey & Clover but Sakurasou no Pet na Kanoujo. Nevertheless, the similarities between the two shows are so striking that I couldn’t help but do a comparison of the two.

In Hachikuro, we have Yuuta Takemoto, Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita living together in an old, worn out apartment complex whilst attending art college. In Sakurasou, we have protagonist Kanda Sorata being moved to Sakurasou, a school dormitory infamous for its less than sane occupants - Kamiigusa Misaki, a genius anime creator who is hyper most of the time; Mitaka Jin, a top student who is very good in writing essays and wants to be a playwright; Akasaka Ryuunosuke, a genius computer programmer and hacker; and finally Sengoku Chihiro-sensei, the dormitory teacher who is not only lazy, but is also an alcoholic. As he isn’t allowed to keep pets at his then dormitory, Sorata was given two choices: to either throw away the stray cat he has picked up, or to move to Sakurasou with the cat. Sorata chose the latter and moved out of his old dorm and into Sakurasou. As a result, he would end up being known as an animal lover who sacrificed his life of sanity to keep stray cats as his pets. In a way, Sorata is more entitled to talk about animal rights than dear SW1M leader Sharifah Zohra Jabeen.

Anyway, back on topic, there are a few major differences between the two animes. First of all is the age-group of the target audience: Hachikuro is listed as a josei (age 15 to 44) anime whilst Sakurasou obviously targets teenagers. As a result, while both animes (age 13 to 18) have certain elements like jealousy, envy, admiration and love triangles, Hachikuro deals with these elements in more detail and seriousness while in Sakurasou it is just touch and go. The second difference is that of the art style and the music. Hachikuro gives a more gloomy and serious kind of atmosphere while Sakurasou gives its audiences a more cheerful and bright kind of scenery. To compare, Hachikuro is like brown and olive green while Sakurasou is more pink and light purple. Both anime is comedic, but as far as laughter goes, Sakurasou wins hands down. Hachikuro’s kind of gags are more of serious gags which makes you think deeply before attempting to laugh, while Sakurasou’s gags are, well, gags which makes you laugh out loud. Not to say Hachikuro is any bad, but as far as cheerfulness is concerned, Sakurasou is more cheerful.

Back to Sakurasou, as mentioned above, Sorata was forced to move into Sakurasou after refusing to abandon a stray cat. Shortly after Sorata moved in into Sakurasou, a transfer student by the name of Shiina Mashiro moved in as well. As Mashiro is the niece of Chihiro-sensei, it would seem only natural that she would be placed in the infamous dormitory filled with geeks that nobody wanted to move in. Little did Sorata knew that this girl would have a big impact on his aimless life as a student. Mashiro seemed to be a person who is unable to take care of her own basic needs. She does not know how to cook, nor does she know how to wash her own laundry, and neither does she dries her own hair. She goes stark naked while painting or working on her manga in her room, and does not feel embarrassed about it, or is totally unaware that she should be. As a result, Chihiro-sensei and the others held a dormitory meeting and unanimously made the decision to assign Sorata the “Mashiro Duty”, i.e. he would have to help her with all these basic things. To Sorata, Mashiro is only trouble, not that he would hate her for that, and rather, the opposite is more accurate. The way Sorata had to take care of her every chore made Mashiro seem like she is his pet girl, and thus the title of the anime “The Pet Girl of the Sakura Dormitory”.

However soon enough, Sorata found out that Mashiro is an amazing painter who painted expensive portraits while living and studying abroad. He realised that everyone else in the dormitory other than him had a very special talent, and that he’s the only “normal” person, and even the helpless Mashiro is someone of a different world in terms of talent. As a result, he forced himself to take on game programming seriously in order not to lose to the others, and improve himself in the same time. He asked and was given some guidance from Ryuunosuke as to the programming of a game. Soon, he even set a target to enter a college to study game programming.

As people grow up, they become more and more matured in that they start to become selfish towards themselves. They learn about how they can become tired of having to deal with a large group of people. They soon realise that they would prefer to stay with only one person, i.e. a partner, under one roof. It is sooner or later that people leave dormitories to find/start their own family, but to put it simply, to stay with friends in a dormitory in school is indeed a valuable experience which can only be obtained at a certain stage of life. You get to learn about how human beings are and how they react to certain things. These are experience that you won’t get in textbooks, but at the same time is important so that you can deal with society when you go out there after your formal education in high school, college or university. Stories like Sakurasou and Hachikuro shows the life of students in dormitory, but sooner or later all these students will each go their own way and the story ends there. But it does not mean that it all ends. Life goes on at another stage of life, but as far as we are concerned, that is to be discussed at another time.

Yamaki's List of 5 Best Anime Songs of 2012

The year of 2012 is about to end in another hour or so in my country. To bid farewell to 2012 and to welcome the year of 2013, I hereby list down five anime songs of 2012 which in my opinion deserves the honour of being the 5 best anime songs of 2012.

At 5th placing is:

Rakuen Project - Ray
Opening theme of To LOVE-Ru Darkness, Released: 24 October 2012

At 4th placing is:

Coloring - Yui Horie
Ending theme of Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai. Released: 18 January 2012

At 3rd placing is:

Check My Soul - azusa
Opening theme of Amagami SS+. Released: 01 February 2012

At 2nd placing is:

Kokoro no Senritsu - The Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club
Ending theme of Tari-Tari. Released: 26 September 2012

At 1st place is:

Koubou - Kawada Mami
Ending theme of Shakugan no Shana III. Released: 25 July 2012

Other notable songs that did not make it into the top 5 list (in no particular order):
* Paradigm - Eufonius (Opening theme of Kokoro Connect), 18 July 2012
* Eureka - Sukima Switch (Opening theme of Uchuu Kyoudai), released 08 August 2012
* Nirvana - MUCC (Opening theme of Inu x Boku SS), released 07 March 2012
* Little Busters! ~TV animation ver.~ - Rita (Opening theme of Little Busters!), released 31 Octuber 2012

I have had other songs in mind as well (from Bakemonogatari and idolm@ster), but as they were not released in 2012, I couldn't list them here. Anyway, have a blessed New Year, everyone.

Nakaimo - Who is the Imouto?

Kono naka ni hitori imouto ga iru (Engish: One of them is my sister) is another anime in a string of anime series that have, rather unfortunately, a long-winded title. Other similar anime series include Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!!, Oniichan dakedo Ai sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!, Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, and Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!. Long gone are the days when anime titles are simple and easy to remember, especially one-word titles like Naruto, Karin or Bakuman. Nowadays it seems that the longer your title, the better. Nevertheless, fans usually refer to the above animes with a simpler name. In our case, I'll refer to the anime that I am reviewing in this article simply as "Nakaimo", the title which is used in Crunchyroll, North America and the English speaking world.

The development of the plot in Nakaimo is pretty much according to how a harem story would go i.e. where each of the girls would take turn to have the spotlight in different episodes. The only difference from a generic harem story is that you add in an imouto or "little sister" character (not to be confused with a loli character, a little sister character does not necessarily have to be a loli). It is similar to adding an osananajimi or "childhood friend" type of character into the harem, but the adding of an imouto character has the social stigma of incest attached to it, and it makes the plot a bit more challenging and interesting to see how the issue is being resolved or sidestepped, usually with the revelation that they are not blood related, or their separation by force. I call this the sub-genre of imouto harem.

However unlike conventional imouto harem stories where the imouto character is clearly identified, in Nakaimo the identity of this imouto is unknown. It is even unknown whether she exists or not! Our protagonist, Mikadono Shougo, is the son of a rich man who just passed away. Being the only child in the family, he is naturally the heir to his father’s business, the Mikadono Group (no prizes for guessing the name, lol). But, before he is allowed to inherit the business, he has to show the directors and shareholders that that he is qualified to take over, and to do so, he has to graduate, and more importantly find a life partner. In accordance with his late father’s will, he enrolled at a school where he is to find a girl who he is going to marry.

The main twist in the “what-would-have-been-normal” tale is that at the funeral of father Mikadono, a young lady had approached Shougo behind the walls and revealed to him that she is his imouto. Not knowing about it, Shougo was naturally surprised about the revelation as well - his father had an illegitimate daughter. As the above conversation took place with a wall in between the two, Shougo never got to know the identity of his mysterious imouto. To make things worse, he was later informed by the same imouto that this imouto of his is studying in the same school he is to be transferred into. This creates a bad situation for him as there’s a very slim and yet real possibility that one of the girls that he interacts with may be his imouto, and it would be a big scandal if he were to end up marrying her. If that happens, it would be his scandal (as opposed to his father’s scandal of having a mistress) and would tarnish his image of a clean and energetic young man who is full of life and ready to take over a company. If a scandal were to happen, it is highly likely that the shareholders/directors of the Mikadono Group would be displeased and not allow him to inherit the position of the chairman of the group of companies.

As a result, Shougo takes extra care when any certain girl becomes extra close to him as he has to ensure he does not hook up with his sister. Helping him with identifying a person’s background is another mysterious lady by the name of Mister X – her real name was never revealed. As the story goes on, it appears that this Mister X lady is the only side character in the story who is an ally of Shougo, and I use the word “ally” as in the opposite of being an enemy. Indeed, other characters who seemed to be an ally of Shougo happened to be unscrupulous people who had their own agenda – they had wanted to take over the Mikadono Group for themselves.

Anyway, with Shougo being extra careful and extra suspicious of every girls, this causes all the members of the harem to be seen as an "imouto" by our protagonist at a certain stage of the story. With clues left behind by the mysterious imouto, he sets out to find out who is this “little sister” of his is. One of the many clues is the cellphone developed by the father’s company. It was a prototype and was never marketed because of a feature of the phone that can be easily abused to the advantage of the user. This feature, a voice manipulating software, was indeed used by the imouto to hide her identity whilst still being able to get close to Shougo. The identity of the imouto is revealed at the end of the 13 episode anime series and she is indeed one of the girls who were pretty close to Shougo, and I myself have to admit that I wasn’t expecting the person to be the imouto, but really, all the clues, minus the red herrings, all point to her.

There are officially five members in Shougo’s “harem”, Tsuruma Konoe, Kannagi Miyabi, Kunitachi Rinka, Tendou Mana and Sagara Mei. Other possible members of Shougo’s harem include Mr. X and Yuzurina Houshou, but they were never Shougo’s focus of affection, at least not in the anime.

Konoe and Miyabi are both Shougo’s classmates, while Rinka and Mana are members of the Student Council which Shougo was roped into. Konoe has this refined lady feel and is superior in almost every way compared to Miyabi. Being the inchou of Shougo’s class, Konoe has the advantage as she gets to bring him around introducing the school facilities to him (while getting to be close to him at the same time). Miyabi, on the other hand, appeared cool towards Shougo and was pretty displeased with the attention Shougo had on his first day of class. A bit of a Tsundere character, she eventually warmed up to Shougo. She frequently gets jealous of Konoe’s closeness to Shougo and wanted such treatment from Shougo for herself. There’s a pretty memorable scene in the anime which involved these three characters. One day while Shougo was doing his duty as the Student Council’s disciplinary officer, he caught Miyabi with her skirt flouting the rules and even had a measuring tape with him to show her that it was too short. Displeased with Shougo bending down to measure the length of Miyabi’s skirt, Konoe also purposely shortened her skirt and asked for the length of her skirt to be measured. A perverted gust of wind appeared from nowhere which lifted both girls’ skirts. As a result, Shougo saw what he shouldn’t have seen – Miyabi wearing a pair of beige coloured shorts underneath her skirt, and Konoe’s panties. Looks like Miyabi came prepared. Fans of Hinagiku Katsura and Nagase Iori would be happy to see that.

In Nakaimo, Sagara Mei is the meganekko. She is the loli character. Ironically, she is also the “senpai” character of the story. To the protagonist’s surprise however, he found out that this “senpai” of his was an adopted child and her real age is therefore uncertain – she may possibly be younger than him, and may possibly be his sister. Being a mathematic whiz, she is also the owner of a cosplay café, or specifically a café “where anyone can become an older brother or older sister!”. Mei’s story arc is one of the most interesting as there were lots of pointers pointing towards her having knowledge of Shougo’s past, but she refuses to reveal them.

As for the other two members of the harem Rinka and Mana, their scenes are pretty negligible, expecially Tendou Mana, the resident of the Student Council. I wonder why is she a member of Shougo’s harem in the first place.

Let me just beiefly go into Houshou Yuzurina, a minor but important character in the twist of the plot. Houshou Yuzurina was never Shougo’s romantic interest, but she’s my favourite character in the anime because of her, um, nosebleed (I like Allison Harvard, go figure). She’s voiced by the brilliant idol and voice actress Ogura Yui, who is also the seiyuu of Alice (Kamisama no Memochou) and Hinata (Ro-Kyu-Bu!). Ogura Yui is a member of StylipS (who performed the opening theme of Nakaimo) and one half of the pop idol YuiKaori. The other half of YuiKaori is Ishihara Kaori who voiced Konoe in Nakaimo. Everyone is connected, lol.

To end this article, I would like to point out that the anime and the original novel are radically different in that a different girl was revealed to be the imouto. I guess this is a very good example where the anime creators were not faithful to the original story and had a hand in changing the story to suit the anime audience. Personally I’d disagree with such plot manipulation at the anime level. It does not only discourages the creation of any possible sequel to the anime, but it also leads to inconsistency of details. Fortunately, this revelation only occurred at almost the end and thus there is no major inconsistency between the novel and anime.
Lasty Farson

Tari-Tari: A Story of a Choir

Tari-Tari is a high school slice-of-life anime series. It has a pretty typical storyline for a slice-of-life story where there’s hardship and that the main characters would have to solve it. However, as typical as the story may be, it is still pretty enjoyable. Why do I use the word “enjoyable”? In short, it is because I actually enjoyed the story of this original anime series. I think it is pretty realistic and the events and occurrence that takes place in the story may happen to anyone in real life and not only in fiction. It gives viewers the feeling of familiarity. It is not hard to feel agreeable towards a hardworking and diligent person even though he or she may be stubborn at time, not knowing the limits to his or her abilities or powers. I believe that it is normal for human being to challenge oneself and get frustrated when faced with obstacles.

The story of Tari-Tari tells the story of how five high school students gathered, and together, they formed an unlikely club, the “Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club”. For some reason an anime that uses a school as its background couldn’t run away from involving a club, as if classmates are of lower standards compared to clubmates and have nothing to say to each other – like for example, in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya there’s the SOS-dan, in K-On there’s the Keion-bu, and in Hyouka, there’s the Koten-bu. These five students in Tari-Tari, namely Konatsu, Wakana, Sawa, “Wien” and Tanaka, almost have no connection to each other. Konatsu wants to form a choir; Tanaka wants to form a Badminton club; Wakana wants to avoid music, Sawa likes horse-riding and wishes to enter a jockeying school; and finally, “Wien”, a new transfer student who just came back from aboard who just wants to learn more about Japan and make friends. There’s no true protagonist as the story is told from all five character’s point of view, and at different parts of the story. Each characters will have a background story of their own to tell, like for example how Wakana’s late mother is a classmate of the Vice-Principle of the school and both of them were members of the disbanded Choir Club, and how Sawa’s Priest father objects to her wanting to be a horse jockey.

Unfortunately, the club was not recognized as an official club of the school as there is already a club that carries out the function of a choir. In fact, the main reason the new club was established is that Konatsu was barred from singing with the choir despite being a member. Konatsu is the short hyperactive girl with long silky yellow hair you see in the images above. She wasn’t happy so she started to gather around members to form a new choir, just so that she could sing. Konatsu managed to persuade Wanaka and Sawa to join the club, but could not find more members to fulfill the minimum number of students required to form a club in the school. At the end, she had made a wager with the boy Tanaka who wanted to form the Badminton Club – whoever loses in a badminton match would have to join the other side. With 3 girls against 2 boys, the result is quite obvious that Tanaka and Wien lost and so they had to join the choir. However, it seems that Konatsu had the following in mind, that if she lost, the club would be named the “Badminton and Sometimes Choir Club”, and therefore offered to form the “Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club”. Either way winning or losing, she would have had the choir club formed. Quite cunning, I must say. Despite satisfying the required number of students to form a club, their application was nevertheless rejected by the Vice-Principal, who herself being the advisor of the school’s official choir club. Overcoming the obstacle, Konatsu and gang went to the Principal and got his approval – he even offered to become their advisor.

The “Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club” being a club that is not officially sanctioned by the school (i.e.Vice-Principal), did not get any subsidies nor any funds from the school to carry out their activities nor compete in any competition. As a result, the members of the “Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club” decided to take up a job at the local shopping districts… as a promoter to promote the stores in the shopping district, the “Shopping District Rangers”. Wearing custom made Power Ranger suits, they carried out performances attracting customers to visit shops at the shopping district. But of course, doing part time job was not permitted and so they got into trouble with the Vice Principal again…

It has merely 13 episodes which I think is pretty unfortunate. Yes, every story has to end, buts in my opinion the storyline could have easily developed further. It is just too bad that neither the teachers nor the students could stop the demolishing of the school, and for it to be replaced with an old folk’s home. Indeed in Japan it is true that with the advancement in medicine and knowledge, people tend to live long and refuse to make babies. As a result, there would be more old people than youngsters. In fact, one statistics projected that up to 25.6% of the population in Japan would be of the age of 60 and above by 2030! However, no matter how bad the situation is, I still think it is not a good idea to close down schools and make young people suffer. Want to build old folks’ home? Go elsewhere in the countryside where the air is fresher and the water is cleaner.

I would recommend Tari-Tari to anyone who like slice-of-life stories. There are important values that one could learn from the characters in this anime. Like for example, Konatsu. Konatsu is a character who is stubborn and does things her way. She is not allowed to sing, so she created her own club to sing. When forming a club, on the way there are of course obstacles, like for example, the club's application, and then to look for members, and then to persuade a teacher to become an advisor, and to actually present the club forming proposal to the school authority, etc. It is important to insist on doing what is important to you and not give up easily to pressure. If there is no road ahead, make a road. I know of someone who is currently trying to revive/form a club in my former High School. Not only she has her studies to take care of, but to reform a club that was disbanded, all I can say is that it wouldn't be that easy. This is why I have more respect for such people who would take the effort to build up something from scratch, and less respect for people who goes around discouraging people and destroy the things that have been built up by others.

To end this article, I would like to share the following song “Kokoro no Senritsu”. It is the second ending theme of the anime. It is also one of the main pieces performed by the club throughout the story. In the anime this is the song which was written by Wakana’s late mother when she was a member of the choir in the school, and the choir won a competition with the song. Do enjoy. :)

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Yuru Yuri a Yuri Comedy Anime

I’m going to discuss Yuru Yuri in this article. I think it is pretty obvious from the title that we’ll be dealing with lesbians, or possible lesbians (I am pretty sure Akari the red-haired, airhead protagonist is not a lesbian) here. TV Tropes call these situations “exactly what it says on the tin” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin) and my roommate would say that “the name says a thousand words”. So if you’re easily offended by such materials, feel free to skip reading what is ahead, although I can assure you that there’s nothing too obscene or unacceptable in Yuru Yuri which literally means “easygoing yuri” according to Yuru Yuri’s article in Wikipedia.

(tl;dr yuri (百合) means “girl’s love”. Don't read if easily offended.)

Contrary to the title “Yuru Yuri” which seems to suggest that the show would have a heavy dose of yuri, the yuri (or at least serious yuri) content in Yuru Yuri is actually quite mild compared to other yuri titles such as Maria-sama ga Miteru or Miyuki-chan in Wonderland (I have not watched these two titles). There are occasionally boob grabbing or secret admiration going on between the girls, but the main genre of Yuru Yuri is still, well, comedy. The show is meant to make you laugh, not to make you feel disgusted or high. It isn’t really all that bad actually.

Yes, the hints of yuri is pretty strong compared to other similar shows that have yuri as a sub-genre such as Saki or Sailormoon or even Negima, but like I said, it is still pretty mild. Let’s see… in Yuru Yuri there are hints of kissing, stalking, siscon or even twincest in Yuru Yuri, but seriously, they’re not really a big deal even for lesbian haters.

The girl to girl kissing scenes occur mainly in the fantasies and delusions of Chizuru (white haired girl). However, there’s a rare occasion in the first season where Chinatsu (pink haired girl) force kisses Akari saying that she wanted to practice her kiss before she kisses her senior Yui (purple haired) whom she has a crush on, and the latter passes out, seemingly half dead from the shock of the kiss. Again, that is not a big deal as we the viewers were supposed to laugh at it and not take it seriously as neither Chinatsu nor Akari were really in love with each other or had the intention to kiss. Indeed we’re supposed to laugh at it. If it were serious yuri stuff, Akari would have had a deep emotional trauma and would have stayed at home and be absent from school the next few days, and that Chinatsu would end up going to her house and in order to calm her down, comforts her and starts a relationship to “take responsibility” or whatnot. See, now you know what I’m talking about when I say “mild”.

As for stalking and being a siscon, well, that’s the worse Yuru Yuri can go. Here’s the scenario: an elder sister stealing her sister’s panties and sniffs on it while she read siscon mangas and wears it on her head. This is now Akari’s sister Akane is, and you can see how scary she may be with her closed eyes and evil but warm smile when she talks to Akari. Her room has a sign “do not enter” pinned onto the door, and a scary aura emitting from the room as if it belongs to a criminal who has kept all her weapons and evidences of crime. She must have loved her sister so much but stalking? That’s just too regrettable in my opinion. She could have easily done what she wanted. I guess Akane also has her own self-control mechanism – she stalks but she does not, um, attack. Fortunately (or unfortunately, you decide) that’s the yuri limit of Yuru Yuri.

As for twincest, there’s Chizuru who is ultra protective of her twin sister Chitose. Both have different personalities and while Chizuru nosebleeds while she fantasizes, Chitose drools while she fantasizes, both on yuri fantasies. We’re supposed to laugh at it, remember? Well, I find it funny, but when I think of it again, I was turned off. I didn’t like Chizuru’s violent and unpleasant personality. I don’t mind quiet characters like Yuki Nagato, but Chizuru is not only quiet, but she actively “shoos” people off. That is something I find disagreeable. In the last episode of the second season of Yuru Yuri, you see her with a shotgun. One should never hand a shotgun to a dangerous girl like that. (I can sense the presence of Gasai Yuno from somewhere, smirking…)

I don’t know what else to say. I enjoyed Yuru Yuri but I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you’re bored and wanted to watch some anime that doesn’t have a strict storyline. Each episode of Yuru Yuri is an independent story and there is no need to watch every episode continuously to make sense of what is going on. And guess what, Ayana Taketatsu (who did Azusa in K-On and Kirino in Oreimo) voices Mirakurun, the magical girl in the anime-in-an-anime. Did you expect that? :D

I'll be writing about Tari Tari next. This is one real slice of high school life.

Hyouka and all its Mystery Solvings

In this post I’ll be discussing Hyouka (氷菓)the anime. Those who have actually watched the 22 episode anime series should be aware that the title of the anime “Hyouka” refers to the magazine or anthology published and sold by the Classics Club in the anime. I am not going to go deep into the details as to why the club named the anthology “Hyouka” as doing that would be to discuss a major spoiler of the story, but again, it is no spoiler to reveal that Hyouka, or “Bing Guo” in Chinese (literally “ice fruit”) refers to the deliciously cold and irresistible frozen dessert - the ice cream.

Hyouka is an anime adapted directly from a light novel. Other animes that are also adapted directly from light novels include The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai and Ore no Imouto, and a striking similarity of these animes is that they tend to have a lot of dialogues amongst the character to explain what is going on, and sometimes even excessive monologues justifying their own actions to themselves. You can hear the characters talk or having nonstop monologues within themselves without sharing it with others while carrying out their activities explaining what they were doing, chatting with others, complaining about how life is boring, or plain cursing others.

Hyouka, just like Detective Conan and Gosick, has its main plots surrounding mysteries. The protagonist would be the one solving them together with the help of the other characters, usually his sidekicks or mates. However, Hyouka is not exactly the same as the two mystery-genre animes that I have listed above. I’ll elaborate on why I think so in the next few paragraphs.

Firstly, would like to point out that usually the mystery in the story is solved by specific character who has a special analytical ability that no one has (except perhaps his rival), usually the protagonist himself like in Conan in Detective Conan, or a main character but not the protagonist himself like Victorique in Gosick. Hyouka is not very much different in this aspect as most cases are solved by Oreki Houtarou who is the protagonist as the whole story is seen from his point of view.

Our protagonist Oreki is a self-proclaimed lazy sloth whose aim in life is to conserve as much energy as possible, and as a result does everything in the simplest way possible. As we can see in the second episode he actually creates false evidence and with them, come to a conclusion about the existence of a secret society for Chitanda Eru, his fellow female member of the Classics Club so that he “solves” the mystery and is able to leave school and go home quickly. To him then, he would want to just get rid of Chitanda. As to why he joined the Classics Club in the first place, he was forced to do so by her elder sister who was an ex-member concerned of the club being disbanded due to insufficient number of members. Oreki couldn’t say no because he’s afraid of her sister who practices judo actively, very unlike him. It is a good thing Oreki has such a sister or else, in my view, he’ll end up as a hikkikomori sooner or later (just like Sato in Welcome to the N.H.K) and it would be a waste of his pretty efficient brain. I seriously think that Oreki could join the police force and become an inspector, or even become a detective – which would be an excellent idea – after he graduates. Or otherwise he could also possibly become a fraudster, which would be utterly unfortunate. Talking about detectives, I still don’t like how Chitanda and the other girl Mayaka became the detectives while Oreki and the other guy member became the fugitives in the second ending video.

A major difference and the ingredient which makes Hyouka stand out from Detective Conan and Gosick is the fact that in Hyouka the protagonist does quite a lot of monologue telling himself to save energy and ignore the curiosity of Chitanda whenever she exclaims “Kininarimasu” with her two big sparkly puppy eyes that shows that she is very curious and that she’d be sad if he’d reject her request to solve the mystery for her. However, he fails miserably to fend off Chitanda and by the end of the series actually voluntarily solved an issue which he himself is curious of, something he would not have done at the beginning of the series.

In Hyouka the protagonist did not willingly solve the problem but was only persuaded to do so by a girl’s curiosity to while in Detective Conan, Conan willingly and actively assisted in solving cases on behalf of an incompetent detective whose name is not worth mentioning. In the latter anime, the element of justice is present, i.e. I solve this mystery/case because I want justice to be done to the perpetrator, while in Hyouka, the element of justice is… absent. The characters in Hyouka solve mysteries just to fulfill their own curiosity, and sometimes even ignored justice (this can be seen how deception is used throughout the series by different characters). But again, Hyouka’s mysteries are a lot more complicated compared to those in Detective Conan (or at least it seems to be a lot more complicated with all the explanations or thoughts by Oreki before coming to a conclusion or solving the mystery.

Some people don’t like to think too much and Hyouka just makes you do that and that is why some people don’t like Hyouka. I don’t blame these people either because everyone has their own reasons in watching anime. Some just want to rest their minds after a day’s work and therefore would prefer animes like Nichijou or Azumanga Daioh which has no real plot. However, this does not mean that Hyouka is a tiring anime. It is a good anime if you have the time to think about the mysteries, and as you think about it the anime will be stuck onto you for some time. As a conclusion, I would highly recommend Hyouka to those who have the time to watch it, but not to those who just want plain action or comedic story that requires no thinking at all.

I'll be writing about Yuru Yuri next in (hopefully) a weeks time.
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Updates & More Updates


First and foremost, I am still alive, literally. I survived university and I am now a proud degree holder. Nothing more important that that.

Next, I’d like to congratulate Cubex and IRTeA on getting engaged. Do watch how Airin the Head Maid of Kirameki Meido Cafe was proposed to in front of her Maid Café in this Youtube video. They’re just so adorable together and you should see how Cubex handed over the flowers to a surprised Airin and proceeded to kneel down and propose. Irene just covered her face with her hand and simply nodded with the hand still covering her face, signalling her acceptance. :P The proposal took place on the 16th September but I only knew about it two days later when Irene posted a link of the proposal video on her Twitter, which is a good thing or else nobody would have known about it which, would have been a bad thing. Okay, that was obvious. :P

Much earlier in the month of September, Cubex and Airin and their gang successfully organized Otafuse the 2nd. Otafuse is the second largest anime convention in the city where I live, only perhaps slightly smaller in scale than Hobbycon which would usually only be held at the end of the year, if they decide to host it. You have to give it to them for the effort and time in organizing such an event that requires lots of dedication, organization, hard work and preplanning.

I wish them all the best in life and may Kokopelli (not the one from Bokurano but the American deity) bless them. :D

Okay, next is an announcement. I’ll be back actively blogging in this blog. Well, hopefully, in the long run. This is because I have somewhat promised Optic over at the (new) AN Forums that I’d write reviews on romance, comedy and slice of life animes, although I will surely not limit myself to those genres and will (but unlikely) write on animes beyond those genres. I have just offered to help and stated that I was willing to write reviews one day out of the blue and a few days later, *bang*, I was given my own subforum in his newly recreated / revived forum. I thought that it is not good that I later back down on my offer and run away from what I had said I was willing to do. All at the same, I was given the permission to crosspost what I have written for the forum onto this blog. Since I have always wanted to reactivate and write more for this blog, it is a win win situation.

I have to admit that forums are no longer my preferable medium of writing nowadays as there are now better alternative mediums such as Wordpress blogs, Facebook pages or even a well designed websites just to name a few mediums. In my opinion, internet forums do not get as much hits or views as other mediums because of their inherent complexity in navigating and requirement to register before one can leave a message or post in the thread. Nevertheless, since Optic-san decided on using an old style internet forum, I’ll just go ahead with it for now. Just like the Workers’ Party in Singapore I don’t believe in opposing for the sake of opposing, and since he’s the big boss, he makes the final decision and I’ll just walk along and make improvements in the path that he has created.

I have promised to write about Hyouka in my next post. Yes, the anime where “I am curious” or “Kininarimasu” is heard in almost every episode and is, basically, the main point of the anime. Look forward to it.

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