October 2011 Anime Season – Mirai Nikki Episode 3

If you get the feeling halfway through this episode this one’s getting too light – don’t worry. As Yuno is a yandere, the first half is prety dere-dere, then it ends with a truckload of YAN!

Yuki and Yuno spend the 1st half of the episode hanging out in an amusement park. Fourth is using them as bait to lure out Ninth, who has gone into hiding. There is an indication via a flashback that Ninth is the monster she is due to her family being killed in a war.  Not much happens – a bit of attempted love-play with a drink, a haunted house, a couple of rides and a swim where Yuno temporarily loses her swimsuit top. Things pick up when they’re on the ferris wheel when Yuki has a flashback that explains Yuno’s obsession with him. Apparently a promise was made that Yuno would become Yuki’s bride one year ago. The two end up going to Yuno’s home. Ninth is supposedly rescued by a ‘stranger’ – who soon reveals himself as another competitor, but we don’t know his number or diary power. Yuki’s diary entries mention a weird room in Yuno’s house. For some reason, Yuki decides to go against the diary and look inside. That one decision changes ALL the players’ diaries immediately and sends the time continuum into disarray. Deus ex Machina begins to gloat, saying Yuki is what he had been hoping for. Inside the room, Yuki finds rotting corpses…presumably Yuno’s family?! Yuno appears looking anything but lovey-dovey, saying ‘It was all going so well.’ Yuki flees to his home but Yuno tracks him down, glaring through the door with a VERY yandere look in her eyes! Episode ends. And notably, the cute mascot that accompanies Deus ex machina doesn’t make an appearance after the ending credits.

 

Admittedly the first half is slow and very unlike the show just far. It’s happy and Yuno is not in a crazed mood. If anything, for nearly 20 minutes, Yuno resembles any normal girl her age. Someone who has no issue with killing others is frightened of a haunted house, amusement park rides and when she loses her swimsuit top. While this all may seem rather weird, it does go to show that parts of Yuno are…normal. It’s a reasonable way to develop Yuki and Yuno as characters but not stellar. Something set her off on the yandere angle and it wasn’t just Yuki. There’s ‘probably’ a SOMEWHAT decent explanation for why corpses are in her home. Thing is, if they were her family…why wouldn’t the police have come looking for them, checked Yuno’s home, etc? Something isn’t adding up. And why is THIS the revelation that sets the game into chaos? Deus ex Machina seemed ecstatic. I almost wonder if the guy has had enough of being omnipotent wants someone else suffer his position.As for the atmosphere, it was better executed and some good mood music was present.

 

And that’s all I can say about this episode. It was very light on content and events compared to the first two but did hit a goof climax in the final minutes. Mirai Nikki doesn’t seem to thrive on positive events but the cruel and twisted instead. Sounds criminal of me to say it, but we need more bloodshed and bodies flying post-haste!

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October 2011 Anime Season – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 3

This certainly is one very…daring episode…

Sena is still in gaming mode, but for some reason she’s playing a H-game in the clubroom. Yozora can’t resist the opportunity to torment Sena and makes Sena read the dialogue of a ‘scene’ out loud. Sena stumbles through it then gives up and flees. Upon returning home, we get to see Kodaka’s younger sister, Kobato, who dresses up loli-goth style to mirror a character from ‘Full Metal Necromancer’. The next day, Sena makes the comment that she can’t swim. It ends up leading to a trip to a swiming centre for Sena and Kodaka so she learns to swim – so it’s the first time we get two see more than one member of the club outside of a school setting together. It goes well for Sena and there’s service in plentiful supply in this part of the episode – but nothing absurd. The conversation between the two over lunch reveals some interesting things – Kodaka’s dad and Sena’s dad were friends for a long time. Sena is actually fond of being called ‘Meat’ since it’s her first nickname.  While Kodaka uses the bathroom, Sena gets surrounded by a bunch of guys and her mouth further inflames a bad situation. Kodaka uses his ‘image’ to scare the guys away. Sena replies with her usual manner – and Kodaka doesn’t let her get off lightly. The severity of Kodaka’s words gets through to Sena and she temporarily shows a moment of indirect gratitude before going back to normal. But the effect lingers – Sena is finally able to see Kodaka as a person she values and not just another guy. Sena’s manner in the aftermath is smoother and grateful. There’s a service moment with Kobato shortly afterwards that’s appropriately censored (thank flock) and the scene quickly switches to a flashback. It is revealed Kodaka once had a dear friend in his childhood – and it’s Yozora…The preview to the next episode indicates the reverse trap and mini-nun characters will appear in Episode 4.

So…this was definitely a more loaded episode. The ecchi factor was ramped up for sure this episode and I think it will remain to be on a similar level of stimulation from now on. Still, no character got degraded. Sena’s swimsuit was revealing, but in all honesty, clothing that revealing at swimming centres, the beach and general garb during summer is quite revealing anyway. Sena’s attire isn’t cheap or demeaning. I actually found the scene to be fairly well animated. Rather than relying on the cliche effect of breast bouncing or butt-flexing, Sena’s movements weren’t exaggerated – she is naturally a looker. It also helps that Kodaka didn’t act like a lecher plus he avoided overreacting like a lot of generic males in the genre. And when he needed to be the man but not a prick when Sena needed bailing out, he pulled it off. The scene with Kobato was clearly to appeal to those who like their lolis (I sure don’t…) but it wasn’t creepy or anything and thankfully didn’t last long. Although it must be said Kana Hanazawa is a good choice to voice Kobato – she sounds naturally suited to the role and sells it well. Plus the heterochromia is a nice feature. As for game references, I hope they don’t pop up every episode or the Sena-Kirino similarity will be overemphasised and hurt Sena’s popularity.

About Sena – she definitely got some significant character development this episode. It is clear that while she acts superior generally, Sena does yield to Yozora rather easily and is provoked into a reaction soon after. Yet with Kodaka, we get to see the other side of her. The Sena that genuinely wants to have a good time, be happy and hang out with friends. The day out with Kodaka serves as a lesson to Sena that she can see males as potential friends/actual people rather than just typical guys who lust after her. Kodaka’s rebuke also serves to show he isn’t the typical guy or harem guy. He isn’t going to be their beat-up toy or plaything. He will demand their respect and make that clear. It evokes an interesting change in Sena’s persona when someone not submitting to her normal behaviour makes her realise it is that behaviour that has created the issues that prevented her from making friends. Sena now realises Kodaka does genuinely care about her – and Sena finally lowers her boundaries, daring to be nice to Kodaka in return. As hoped, Kodaka is not just excess baggage – he is an active participant and important to the mix. Now the dynamic is not just between Yozora and Sena. There is now a dynamic between Kodaka and both females. And in the case of Sena and Kodaka, it is now at a state one can call friendship as Sena now has openly acknowledged the fact she does want to spend time with Kodaka on a regular basis. This episode sets Sena apart from Kirino big time – for which I am grateful. Sena is able to communicate without being violent or majorly condescending – something Kirino could never quite do.

The flashback scene was very effective and allows Yozora to have her moment this episode despite getting little airtime during it. Yozora certinaly seems like the childhood friend from Kodaka’s earlier years. Okay, this plot point is fairly cliche, but the scene had impact because of the timing, execution and good source material to back it up. This was not your generic revelation scene. It allowed the viewer to feel for Yozora but realise her stubborn nature is a major hurdle and going to hinder her from being able to move forward. Five seconds was all Yozora needed to be able to match the impact Sena had over ten minutes. This scene sets up a key difference between Yozora and Sena. Yozora is unable to admit her feelings when it comes to the crunch – or at least nowhere near as easily as Sena can. The potential for romantic possibilities between Kodaka and either girl have been set up – and with that comes a lot of potential tension between the trio. Still, at this point, there are plenty of reasons to like both girls, which is a good thing.

Again, this show continues to do what it does well – provide some light, silly fun with a bit of steam. And the arrival of the reverse trap and the nun are bound to kick things up a few more notches! For being nothing out of the ordinary, it’s excelling at character development and key moments a rightside better than most series this year.

October 2011 Anime Season – Mirai Nikki Episode 2

Business has definitely picked up big time in Episode 2! Episode 1 was child’s play compared to what goes down this time!

Yukiteru is not handling the scenario he is in well at all. Fortunately, Yuno is willing to do ANYTHING to make sure Yukiteru lives. With his ‘Bystander Diary’ and her ‘Love Yuki Diary’, they have a formidable combo of predicting the future. Certainly doesn’t help Yukiteru sleep at night though!

Things get worse for the pair quickly. It becomes glaringly obvious their home room teacher was Third – and his sudden disapperance bring more competitors into the fray. Ninth appears first – and is one bomb-happy bitch, to put it lightly! After blowing up an entire floor to get everyone’s attention, Ninth is seemingly ready to blow up the entire school to take out Yukiteru and Yuno. A thrilling game of cat and mouse ensues with the pair barely evading attack after attack. Yukiteru’s attempts to check on his ‘friends’ result in betrayl and being captured for Ninth. And then comes the real reason Ninth set up this ordeal – to draw out Fourth, her real target, who just happens to be a cop and have a diary that tracks down criminals. Yuno makes a very yandere-like move to throw a spanner in the works of Ninth’s plan and provides Yukiteru with one chance to end the ordeal without a major catastrophe being the result and saves the day with Yuno’s guidance, but Ninth manages to escape thanks to her ‘Escape Diary’. All four competitors live to fight another day. The episode ends with Fourth proposing a triple alliance to take out the more evil competitors of this twisted game. Yukiteru agrees and Yuno also complies – but for much more ‘personal’ reasons. The time points on Yuno’s dairy indicate Episode 2 took place on May 2 and that as the game stands at present, it could end on July 28, meaning this show’s duration would take place over a three-month span.

Ironically, the character styles that made me stop watching Guilty Crown after seeing Episode 2 a few hours ago are the same for the two leads in Mirai Nikki. Yukiteru is somewhat weak and he knows it. Yuno is obsessed with Yukiteru and is willing to do literally ANYTHING to have him – even if it means being used. However, within Mirai Nikki this dynamic actually works rather well. And here’s why. Yukiteru’s paranoia and reluctant action are believable – he’s been thrown amongst a bunch of psychos! Who wouldn’t be rattled?! Furthermore, he realises that all his life, he’s been a bystander and never taken action. He hates that part of himself and wants it to stop. As for Yuno, she is quite a magnetic personality. It’s hard to not be enthralled by how determined and passionate Yuno is towards Yukiteru, or the insanity of the degrees of her actions. In the second half of the episode, Yuno is appalled that Yukiteru’s supposed friends betrayed him and gave him up to Ninth and adds in the fact if she doesn’t take drastic action, everyone dies right there. Her resultant action – evade Ninth’s elaborate bomb network and to make sure resultant explosions take out anyone who betrayed Yukiteru! Yuno is definitely one twisted girl – but she is so damn captivating because she is able to cast morality aside when needed and do what needs to be done to survive with such optimism. Morals won’t keep you alive in a game filled with the crackpots and psychopaths this one is loaded with and while some of Yuno’s actions would be shocking if another person did it, it really enhances the yandere qualities of Yuno’s character and makes the darker side of people go ‘Damn…that girl is something! Crazy – but she sure is something!’ While Yuno is willing to be used in some ways, she is able to dictate action by herself and be the one directing Yukiteru around when she wants to or has to. The pragmatic nature of Yuno is the only relative safe option for Yukiteru. He will live if he sides with Yuno for now and appreciates the fact but doesn’t take it for granted. Throw that in with Yukiteru’s determination to no longer be a bystander and he somewhat breaks out of the typical shounen emo male lead archetype. This oddball pairing has a very bizarre appeal, but they deliver thanks to some solid writing and not being the victim of crude/untimely service attempts or the story/characters warping into something other than was promised. Yukiteru and Yuno both know what they will get from siding with each other and accept the consequences. And those staying with this show will get a good laugh out of Yukiteru having to pair with a sociopathic yet optimistic stalker to live – the situation is so absurb yet so hilarious! You wouldn’t want to see it in real life, but on the screen – it’s very gripping.

There still are a few problems. Helmet-hair animation was a bit annoying. The music soundtrack in-episode is weak – a better soundtrack could have made this show utterly delectable, but thus far the content has been so gripping it’s still quite delectable. And ultimately, the system of this twisted game provides a potential flaw. Is there a way this show can end in a way that will be worth remembering? Thus far, I see three options in this order of likelihood:

1. Yukiteru ends up being Deus ex Machina due to something he finds out late in the game or Yuno killing herself because she could never kill Yukiteru.

2. Yukiteru and Yuno are the last two alive and avoid ending the game or take out Deus ex Machina – staying as the twisted couple.

3. The curent Deus ex Machina was just bored and kills the last/final two survivors because he’s had enough of the game and would never give up power anyway!

I can’t see one of the other contestants winning – the care factor for it would be virtually nil. Which means one of those two are going to win. As it stands now – Yukiteru is utterly mortified by this all and the concept of Deus ex Machina. Yuno wouldn’t want to end the game because she wants to be with Yukiteru no matter what. But Deus ex Machina doesn’t seem the type of guy who would let them get away with that – unless something even more twisted comes up between those two.  So Option 1 seems the most likely – not to mention in line with the twisted nature of this show. The key to figuring this out is something we don’t know yet – WHY Deus ex Machina has put this game in motion. WHY Deus ex Machina would put itself in a scenario where it is potentially replaced by someone else. And I get the feeling that will be held back until the closing stages. So that minefield won’t be explored until the final stanza of the game. Option 2 could happen – but considering the very twisted, chilling nature of this show – I doubt it. Either way, the lead-up to the end promises to be rather entertaining. Whether the ending can deliver on that and potentially surprise us – or do a predictable ending but execute it well – is the real question and will determine whether this show ends up being good or great.