Anime Lounge #13: Free!

Free -- Anime Lounge

Anime-LoungeSeries: Free!

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Three friends — Haruka, Nagisa and Makoto — decide to begin a swim club after a fourth in their group, Rin, reappears in their lives after living abroad and rejects their offer to swim together again. The trio recruit another member, Rei, into their club and begin in earnest to resurrect their old swim club and try to make it to Nationals.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s got competition and friendship, which is standard for most anime these days. Also, if you’re into that sort of thing, the animation used in the muscles in this swimming anime is expertly drawn.

Breakout character: Rin Matsuoka. Rin comes across as a pretty dark jerk, but he’s got his reasons for staying away from the group. He’s interesting and he’s written well because of the realistic way in which he comes back to his roots after a long absence. The struggle is there but the way he manages it makes it worthwhile to keep watching.

Funniest episode: Episode 4, “Captive Butterfly.” It’s all about teaching one of the club members to swim, which is kind of the point of having a swim club in the first place. We won’t reveal which member can’t swim, but the efforts to teach are what make the episode hilarious. Also, searching for the perfect swimsuit in the episode also end in hilarity.

Where it’s going?: The Iwatobi High Swim Club trains hard to make it to Nationals. Their efforts will not go in vain, we promise, and it remains to be seen if they can patch things up with their former friend Rin. How they go about reaching these two goals is the best and brightest part of acquainting yourself with Free!

Anime Lounge #12: Special A Ep. 1-12

Special-A-1-13

Anime-LoungeSeries: Special A

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: A group of extraordinarily talented students are isolated in their school. The group is comprised of the top seven students from each class at Hakusenkan: Kei Takishima, Hikari Hanazono, Jun and Megumi Yamamoto, Tadashi Karino, Akira Toudou and Ryuu Tsuji, and they’re the best of the best within each class. Kei and Hikari, ranked No. 1 and 2, have a longstanding rivalry dating back to childhood and constantly compete against one another in every thing they do. Whether it’s academics or sports, Hikari’s goal is to one day surpass Kei. What Hikari doesn’t realize is that Kei is completely in love with her.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a major accomplishment when you can tackle a subject such as class warfare and in the same scene have a hilarious gag that makes a viewer laugh out loud. It’s great at being the serious and lighthearted simultaneously, which makes it worthwhile to follow through with the antics of the smart kids.

Breakout character: Kei Takishima. Kei has it all, quite frankly. So why he continues to persist in chasing dense Hikari, we’ll never know. But Kei is the breakout character here because, try as he might, the one thing he is never successful on the first try is getting Hikari to understand his feelings for her. However, Kei is a smooth talker and one of the funniest characters in the series. He’s that likable, which is great considering he’s the lead character.

Funniest episode: Episode 7: “Sensitive ~ Thickheaded.” Hikari tells Kei that she will tell Kei just what she said about him in the previous episode. Since Kei is keen to hear this info — he’s in love with her — Kei engineers a contest that he knows he will probably win with Hikari’s talk being the prize. How he gets her to open up and the lengths he goes to, to get the information from Hikari are absolutely hilarious. Kei will stop at nothing to get her to tell him how she feels about him.

Where it’s going?: Half of the series is left and there are some obvious questions that need to be answered: How does Hikari really feel about Kei? How do the others in the group feel about their potential pairing? Will they actually get together? And how the others in the group faring in their own lives and with each other? The pace picks up in the latter half of the series and it becomes the focal point of the show how things will end between the main characters and their friends.

Anime Lounge #11: Cowboy Bebop Ep. 1-13

Anime-LoungeSeries: Cowboy Bebop
Episodes: 1 to 13
Premise: A bounty hunter crew featuring a former syndicate member, Spike Spiegel; a con artist, Faye Valentine; a retired police detective who pilots a ship named Bebop, Jet Black; a genius child hacker, Ed; and a genius dog, Ein, travels around space in the year 2071 in search of their next bounty that will put the food on the table. They also have their own agendas and pasts that come back to haunt them or help them during the course of their travels.

Is it worth watching?: If you consider the fact that Cowboy Bebop is near-universally considered in the top five anime series ever created, the answer is yes. There’s drama, action, perfect voice acting and a history that makes you want to delve deeper into the mysteries of every character in the show. Oh, and the animation is awesome and the soundtrack is amazing.
Breakout character: By the midpoint of the series, nearly every character is considered a breakout character. But if we had to choose, we’d say Ed. She stands out, not because it’s a mystery as to who Ed is, but more about why Ed is even involved. She’s weird but there’s reasons for the madness.
Funniest episode: Episode 11, “Toys in the Attic.” The entire episode revolves around the majority of the crew being bitten by a venomous blob creature. The crew are stalked and taken out one by one, leading to hilarity when Ed and Spike attempt to tackle the mystery of what exactly the blob is and how it got on the ship in the first place.
Where it’s going?: Every episode up to 13 is a build up of the characters and their reasons for coming together on the Bebop. How everyone’s stories intersect and conclude is the basis for the next 13 episodes. Background stories are more fleshed out and characters’ motivations from their pasts are the catalysts for character development.

Anime Lounge #10: Nisekoi Ep. 1-6

Nisekoi -- Anime Lounge-fixed

Anime-LoungeSeries: Nisekoi

Episodes: 1 to 6

Premise: A boy in high school, Raku Ichijo, wears a necklace every day to remind him of his long-forgotten love. He met a girl, whose face and details remain unknown, whom he pledged to meet again and marry. The necklace that he wears is a key to a similar necklace that the girl has as a locket. Despite Raku’s attempt to have a normal life and find this girl, he has to deal with the fact that he can’t remember her and the fact that his family is a yakuza clan. Complicating matters is the girl that he has a crush on, Kosaki Onodera, who very obviously returns his feelings. Just when he is summoning the courage to talk to Kosaki, Chitoge Kirisaki lands in his life. They hate each other from the moment of their first meeting and vow to not speak to one another. But there’s a hitch: It turns out that Chitoge is the daughter of a rival gangster clan and to keep the peace, she and Raku have to fake a relationship for three years.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you like romantic comedies and can deal with the clichés that practically hit you in the face constantly, you can and will probably like Nisekoi. It’s done in the vein of every other romantic comedy out there, down to the details of “amnesiac” lead character who struggles to remember his lost love to the tsundere female lead who eventually changes her tune. The clichés are plentiful but it’s funny so there’s enough to keep things from becoming boring.

Breakout character: Chitoge Kirisaki. Chitoge is an ass, plain and simple. But she makes her presence known as a lead character early on and is strong enough to carry the show almost without Raku as her counterpart.

Funniest episode: Episode 7, “Rival.” The emergence of Seishirou Tsugumi as rival to Raku for Chitoge’s affections causes some truly laugh-out-loud moments in the early part of the series. Chasing Raku at almost inhuman speeds means laughing at the fact that he can’t possibly get away fast enough from a guy who may or may not be obsessively stalking his childhood playmate. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, there’s a plot twist that you can see coming a mile away that still manages to be quite rather funny.

Where it’s going: Chitoge and Raku have to acknowledge their feelings are possibly changing, and there are more girls added to the mix. Also, someone has to say something about the fact that Kosaki could be one of the girls who has the fabled locket to match Raku’s key.

Anime Lounge #09: Kill la Kill Ep. 1-6

Kill La KillAnime-Lounge

Series: Kill la Kill

Episodes: 1 to 6

Premise: A schoolgirl, Ryuko Matoi, goes on a search for her father’s killer — a person wielding a scissor blade — while wearing a specially made suit — Senketsu. Matoi comes into conflict with Honnouji Academy and its leader, Satsuki Kiryuin, who rules with an iron fist. Matoi gains allies in her fight, starting with best friend Mako Mankanshoku and her family, and gains others in the form of Nudist Beach.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The premise of a living uniform giving a girl super powers is intriguing enough, but the action and the way the animation works is an even bigger reason to watch it through to the end. The dialogue is snappy, and the characters are interesting and unique.

Breakout character: Mako Mankanshoku. Mako is quite weird and plays her role as the sidekick quite well. She’s funny and interesting enough that you notice her almost immediately. She stands out from the crowd of characters introduced.

Funniest episode: Episode 4, Dawn of a Miserable Morning. Mako and Ryuko can’t be late for school, as it’s the one day of the year that requires everyone to be on time or risk being expelled. The route to school is purposely booby-trapped and set up for failure, with the prime objective of weeding out the ranks of the school. The duo make several attempts to get there on time and are nearly killed. What they don’t realize is it’s basically one trap after another, right down to walking in the door.

Where it’s going: Ryuko is going to get some answers in her quest to find her father’s killer. She’ll learn just who she can trust, the reasons for his murder and why working together is such a good idea.

Anime Lounge #08: Lovely Complex Ep. 1-12

Lovely ComplexSeries: Lovely Complex

Episodes: 1 to 12

Anime-Lounge

Premise: Two high school sophomores, Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Ōtani, are friends. That’s not out of the ordinary, but their physical characteristics are: Koizumi is 5-foot-8, and Ōtani is 5-foot-1. Each are attracted to the opposite of their stature, as Koizumi has confessed to a short boy before and Ōtani has had a crush on a tall girl. They normally get along and have things in common but their previous confessions are a stumbling block that keeps them from realizing that they are perfect for each other. Koizumi manages to realize it first and so begins her struggle to get her best friend to notice that they belong together.

Is it worth watching? YES. The episodes are genuinely funny and you learn as the characters learn to accept each other as is. Neither Koizumi nor Ōtani can help their height in life, but they slowly realize that it’s not the outside that’s important; it’s the inside that counts. This is quite possibly one of the best romantic comedy anime out there.

Breakout character: Koizumi. She’s the romantic female lead of the anime, but she shines on her own almost immediately. You root for her despite her awkwardness and you want to see her succeed because she has a great heart. Also, her fashion sense is unparalleled in nearly any other anime out there. She should probably do well because of that alone.

Funniest episode: Episode 12, “Recapture Love! Improve as a Girl with Honmei Chocolate!!” It’s got a few moments of humor mixed in with drama, but the humor is subtle and makes several situations a little more bearable than one would think as you’re watching them. The outright funniest part of the episode is when Koizumi throws a box of chocolate at Ōtani, which is hilarious when you realize that she really wants him to take that chocolate.

Where it’s going: The rooting value of Koizumi and Ōtani increases a great deal. You’re going to see just how much it takes for a couple to get together and how the change in relationship between two longtime friends can make them better people. Also, their lives are coming to a critical junction and how that plays out is important, as well.

Anime Lounge #07: Myself; Yourself

Myself;Yourself art

Series: Myself; Yourself

Episodes: 1 to 13

Anime-LoungePremise: Hold on to your hat, folks, this one gets really dark, really fast. A young boy, Hidaka Sana, is surrounded by four childhood friends — Yatsushiro Nanaka, Oribe Aoi and brother/sister pair Wakatsuki Shuusuke and Wakatsuki Shuri — in the comfortable town of Sakuranomori. The group spends a lot of time together so when Sana moves to Tokyo, the group splinters. When Sana returns, he rejoins three of the four — Aoi, Shuusuke and Shuri — but doesn’t recognize Nanaka. After their first encounter again after years apart, Sana has to work to regain a friendship with Nanaka or turn it into something else. The problem is there are dark secrets within the group that get in the way.

Is it worth watching?: Yes, if you like dark secrets among a group of people who’ve known each other their entire lives. I can’t give away what the secrets are, but suffice to say it’s hard hitting for a group of teenagers. Most adults don’t deal with the majority of the problems these kids have. And just when you think it couldn’t get any more depressing than it already is, things brighten considerably. It’s good drama, and the character development is good.

Breakout character: Shuri. It’s true that she’s part of a duo storyline here, but she makes the most impact. She starts out a little immature, but by the end, she’s the one making adult decisions that affect her and Shuusuke for the rest of their lives. Besides Shuusuke, she’s probably the most mature of the group by the end, and that’s saying a lot when considering the other story resolutions.

Funniest episode: Humor goes a long way in this series, and it’s hard to come by. So, instead of funniest episode, let’s just say the happiest episode is the final episode, “Bonds.” For the sake of lifting the depressing veil off events, the entire group reunites and all is well.

Where is it going: The entire series is 13 episodes, so if you can hang on and get through the sad parts (like the entire series except for the final 10 minutes), you can see for yourself how well things end for the five friends.

*Special note: The opening wasn’t really anything special, but the ending song “Kimi to Yozora to Sakamichi to” is excellent. It’s definitely worth listening to on repeat a few dozen times.

Anime Lounge #06: Toradora! Ep. 13-26

Toradora bannerSeries: Toradora!

Episodes: 13 to 26

Anime-LoungePremise: It’s the second half of Toradora, the series about a maybe-delinquent Ryu­uji Takasu and his reluctant friend and neighbor, Taiga Aisaka. Ryuuji is on a quest to win the heart of Taiga’s best friend, Minori Kushieda, and Taiga’s working to win the affections of Ryuuji’s best friend, Yuusaku Kita­mura. Neither has made much progress before they team up, but together they’ve gotten a little further, or so they think. It turns out that Minori is seemingly oblivious to Ryuuji’s feelings and Yuusaku already knows and doesn’t return Taiga’s feelings. Thus, the turn of Taiga and Ryuuji begins. With the title of the show being Toradora (the combination of the two lead characters’ names), you have to realize by now that at some point the two are going to get together. The fun is in seeing where the turn begins.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The development of Taiga from a one-note tsundere is spectacular. Suddenly, she becomes much more interesting when you learn the genesis of her actions (family problems), and you see her finally allowing herself to move beyond a hopeless crush on someone who doesn’t particularly want her. You begin to realize that she missed the boat with Yuusaku and that Ryuuji is the person she should be pining for. Does she? That’s the worthwhile part and how. Also, the development of Ryuuji turning from reluctance to all-out romantic hero is a good thing.

Breakout character: Taiga. Yes, she’s a main character, but she starts to shine in the middle of the series and finally starts to become a potentially likeable character by the end. Once you understand the complexities of her life, you understand Taiga’s motivations. She isn’t used to having someone take charge and be a stable force in her life, and for Taiga, Ryuuji provides that. Once Taiga realizes that she needs that and it’s been right there in front of her face the entire time, she becomes pretty cool.

Funniest episode: Episode 24 (Confession). We won’t spoil who confesses to whom, but the confession is one of the most heartfelt yet hilarious in a romantic comedy. The actual confession is one of delayed reaction and necessity, but that doesn’t make it any less fun, especially after watching the previous 23 episodes.

Where it’s going: Questions are answered and some origin issues are addressed in the finale. And, yes, Toradora finally makes sense by the end.

Anime Lounge #05: Kaicho wa Maid Sama Ep. 1-12

Kaichou Wa Maid Sama

Series: Kaicho wa Maid Sama

Episodes: 1 to 12

Anime-LoungePremise: Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president at a formerly all-boys high school. She also works at a maid cafe on the side to earn money to support her family. Misaki has problems relating to the male members of her class so she comes off a little more than brusque and overbearing. One of her classmates, Usui Takumi, happens upon her by chance as she’s being intimidated by a group of men. It just so happens that he comes to her rescue as she’s working so he learns her secret. Thus begins the saga of Misaki and Usui, she trying to keep her secret and he trying to get her to open up to him. It’s pretty obvious from the beginning that Usui is in love with Misaki but she’s about the only person in the cast that doesn’t realize it.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a fun story about maid cafes and hardworking students. Also, with the “she’s in love but doesn’t know it yet” angle, it’s worth keeping up with the series just to see when Misaki will make the connection between herself and Usui’s continued presence and actions.

Breakout character: Usui Takumi. Yes, you could make the case for the cross-dressing Aoi, but he doesn’t exactly inspire the way Usui does as the lead. Besides, Aoi is just a kid who manages to show up and try to grab attention that he doesn’t really need. He’s cute enough already. Usui has that leading man act down by the third episode and never really lets up after that.

Funniest episode: Episode 6 — Man, Ayuzawa School! — Misaki manages to have her photo taken as a maid and Usui finally says something to her after the photo gets out into the open. Not to spoil it, but expect romance in this episode and Usui nearly killing himself trying to be romantic.

Where it’s going: Just who is going to find out — if ever — that Misaki is a maid is the future. And will Misaki and Usui ever get together?

Anime Lounge #04: Junjou Romantica 1

Junjou Romantica banner

Series: Junjou Romantica

Episodes: 1-12

Premise: Junjou Romantica is broken up into three storylines: Romantica, Egoist and Terrorist. Romantica is the story of main couple Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami, who are brought together by Misaki’s older brother, Takahiro, so that Akihiko can tutor Misaki for college entrance exams. It happens that Takahiro announces at the meeting that he is getting married. Akihiko Anime-Loungeand Misaki are upset for different reasons: Misaki, because it means he is losing his brother somewhat after the death of his parents; Akihiko, because he is in love with Takahiro. Romance commences, with a reluctant Misaki along for the ride. Egoist focuses on Nowaki Kusama and Hiroki Kamijou’s developing relationship. Nowaki is considerably younger than Hiroki, who is a classic Japanese literature professor. Thus, their relationship centers on their everyday struggle to be a couple on equal footing. In Terrorist, Yo Miyagi and Shinobu Takatsuki become reacquainted after the end of Yo’s marriage to Shinobu’s sister. Shinobu is in love with Yo, but Yo doesn’t take him seriously. The resulting relationship between the two is interesting and deals with their pasts as brothers-in-law and their age difference. One protagonist in each couple knows of another in another couple. For example, Akihiko was in a relationship with Hiroki and Hiroki works with Yo.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you love romantic stories, this is probably for you. A word of caution, though: If you do not like yaoi, do not watch because the series’ relationships are all between men. If you can get past that, you’ll come to love the characters and their relationship struggles.

Breakout character: Akihiko Usami. I love how the character moves from strange to endearing as he struggles to get Misaki to realize that he loves him and that their relationship is destined to be. He’s funny yet smart, and he’s equal parts strange with an obsession with bears in general.

Funniest episode: Episode 4 — “Fear is often greater than the danger itself” — Misaki gets drunk off chocolates and falls asleep cuddling Akihiko’s shirt. This shows Akihiko that Misaki loves him but isn’t ready to admit to it.

Where it’s going: The second series focuses on the trials and tribulations of the three couples and introduces other characters that will become the focus of spinoff series.