Love Stage!!: Episode 3 – “If Only It Had All Been a Dream”

Love Stage!! features an otaku named Izumi Sena who was born into a showbiz family. While his family wants him to go into entertainment, Izumi dreams of becoming a manga artist; unfortunately, he doesn’t the talent that would be needed to pursue his dream. Ten years ago, Izumi found himself placed into a commercial his parents were involved in when a little girl cast for the commercial couldn’t make it, and he was dressed up as a girl. His co-star in that commercial was Ichijo Ryoma, who has gone on to become a very popular actor. When an offer to participate in a 10th anniversary commercial comes up, Izumi is forced to dress up as a girl again to reprise his role. It turns out that Ichijo fell in love with his co-star ten years earlier, thinking Izumi was a girl.

At the beginning of Episode Three, Izumi discovers that he still has the glass marble that Ichijo lent him as a good luck charm; he also discovers there’s a crack in it. Unfortunately, Izumi loses his grip on it, and the marble breaks some more. Rei tells him to find a glass marble that looks like Ichijo’s and try to act guiltless when giving it to him.

We see Ichijo going onto a set, and that there’s a little girl who is part of the scene. The girl makes him think of Izumi ten years earlier when he was dressed as a girl for the commercial, and it distracts him. He also finds himself thinking of Izumi.

Ichijo goes to Izumi’s house saying he’s there to get the good-luck charm back. Izumi’s parents and Rei are headed out to a party, but Ichijo is told he can stay and wait for Izumi to get back. Rei sends Izumi a text to tell him to hurry home because Ichijo is waiting for him.

When Izumi gets home, he shows the broken marble to Ichijo and apologizes. Ichijo removes Izumi’s glasses and finds that his heart still skips a beat when he sees Izumi’s face. He chases Izumi to make him strip down, thinking that seeing Izumi is a guy will make him put his feels of the past ten years aside. When Ichijo succeeds, he sees Izumi crying and asking him to stop; Ichijo seems to be attracted to Izumi’s pretty face, because he starts becoming rather romantic. Fortunately, Shogo arrives and bashes Ichijo on the top of his head to make him stop.

Now, was it just me, or did this scene between Izumi and Ichijo bother anyone else? I wasn’t bothered by the fact that this scene featured two guys; in fact, it would have bothered me just as much if this scene had taken place between Ichijo and a female character. Honestly, if Shogo hadn’t come at just the right moment, Ichijo could have potentially raped Izumi. And that would not have been cool at all. But it still wasn’t cool how far Ichijo had managed to get before Shogo’s interference. Hopefully there won’t be too many scenes like this in the remaining episodes of Love Stage!!

And is it just me, or does Shogo come across as a bit of whiner, especially in his interactions with Rei? For a guy who leads a rock band, he sure can be whiny! He also came across as being a little too fixated on how cute his little brother looks.

Right at the end of the episode, Shogo and Ichijo are scheduled to appear on the same program together. Shogo’s ready to take on Ichijo for what he did to Izumi, but gets a shock when Ichijo starts calling him “big brother,” cries, and asks Shogo for help. How is Shogo going to handle this situation, I wonder?

From what was seen in Episode Three, it appears that Ichijo may have developed an interest in Izumi. I hesitate to say feelings at this point, because it was obviously lust that fueled what happened at Izumi’s house. But if Ichijo really does develop feelings for Izumi, he’s going to have to keep that hidden somehow in order to protect his career since his primary fanbase are girls who see him as a heartthrob.

Outside of the scene where Ichijo tries to attack Izumi, I did enjoy this episode of Love Stage!! The possibilities of where this story could go are fascinating, so I’m going to keep watching this series to see how it will progress.

HaNaYaMaTa: Episode 3 – “Girls’ Style”

HaNaYaMaTa is an anime series that features a 14-year-old girl named Naru Sekiya as the main character. She likes fairy tales and is worried about her lack of other interests; her worries are compounded by the fact that her friend, Yaya, is so talented. One day, Naru encounters a blond-haired girl named Hana, who is dancing yosakoi. Hana transfers into Naru and Yaya’s class, and she keeps pestering Naru to dance yosakoi.

At the beginning of Episode Three, Hana and Naru go back to the yosakoi shop, and Hana is determined to get inside. It turns out the guy who looks like he’s from the yakuza is the manager, and he was just afraid that they were coming to vandalize the place after hearing stories about young people today. The manager is caught off-guard, but is happy, when he learns that a young girl and a foreigner have taken an interest in yosakoi.

The next several minutes of the episode take place in the shop, with the manager explaining various things about yosakoi. While this was an “info dumping” scene, it was done in such a way that it kept the audience interested and tried to make it feel a little bit less of an info dump than it really was; this scene was very light-hearted and even a little humorous at times. At the end of this scene, the girls learn a yosakoi festival will be coming, but that they’ll need more members in order to participate.

Hana and Naru try recruiting at school by handing out flyers, but they are stopped by the student council president. She informs them they can’t do that because they’re not an officially recognized club. They’re told they have to have at least four members, an advisor, and submit a registration form to the student council. Hana tries to get their homeroom teacher to be their advisor, but she says she won’t sign the form until they have four members.

Hana and Naru spend time during their long weekend practicing yosakoi at a shrine, and Hana meets Naru’s friend, Tami Nishimikado.

The next afternoon, Naru has plans to see a movie with Yaya. That morning, Yaya finds Hana collapsed outside her family’s store. Yaya brings her inside and feeds her some soba, and makes the mistake of telling Hana about her plans with Naru. Hana begs to go, and Yaya gives in. Unfortunately, they spend so much time together that day that they’re late meeting up with Naru.

By the end of Episode Three, Hana and Naru have the manager of the yosakoi store offering to give them help if they need it after they get a big enough group together so they can participate in the upcoming yosakoi festival. However, they have a major roadblock ahead of them, due to not being allowed to recruit for their club at school until they become a recognized club. So it looks to me as if trying to start a recognized yosakoi club at their school is going to be a major plot point going forward for the series. And why do I have a suspicion that Yaya will somehow end up being recruited to join them due to her being friends with Naru?

This episode also had some more significant interactions between Yaya and Hana. It’s obvious she’s still a bit jealous over the fact that Hana and Naru are friends and hang out together. Yaya keeps saying that she doesn’t like Hana, but there was something about their interactions where it seemed like Yaya was trying to be friendly with Hana but she didn’t seem to be aware that she was acting that way.

So far, I have to give HaNaYaMaTa some credit for the fact that it has a “moe” look and feel to it, the girls come across as actual characters and not as girls that fit various character types. There’s also been an overarching story that helps to keep a viewer interested, unlike many of the more recent moe type shows that seemed to focus more on vignettes and simply being cute rather than having much in the way of substance to its story. I’m hoping that HaNaYaMaTa can continue in the vein that it’s been going, because it’s able to be cute without sacrificing story.

Anime DVD Review: Wolf’s Rain: Leader of the Pack

Wolf’s Rain: Leader of the Pack is the first DVD released for the anime series, Wolf’s Rain, and it contains the first five episodes of the series. The episodes are available with an English dub or with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles.

In the opening scene of the series, a white wolf is seen laying out in the snow. A voice-over narration explains that according to an old legend, Paradise will appear when the end of the world comes. However, only wolves will be able to find Paradise; they will be led there by a Flower Maiden.

It has been believed that wolves were hunted to extinction nearly 200 years before the start of the series. But, it turns out that wolves still do exist, except they have taken on human forms in order to survive. The main characters are four of these wolves: Kiba, Tsume, Hige, and Toboe. Kiba is lured to Freeze City while following the scent of the Lunar Flower, which is a sign of the Flower Maiden. It is here where he meets the other three wolves.

Kiba is a white wolf who wants to find the Lunar Flower and open the way to Paradise. He acts on his instincts, which causes Kiba to act rashly. Tsume is a gray wolf with a scar across his chest; he is tough and very self-reliant. He doesn’t actually believe in Paradise at first; he only goes along with the group on their journey out of boredom.

Hige is a tan wolf, and he has the strongest sense of smell of the group. He has a carefree attitude, and he’s very comfortable living in human societies. Toboe, a brown wolf, is the youngest of the group. He has the strongest sense of hearing of the group, and he was raised by an old woman who found him as a puppy outside of the city.

Wolf’s Rain has beautiful animation, an excellent musical score (which is provided by Yoko Kanno), and the viewer is presented with a potentially interesting concept and characters. However, by the end of the first five episodes, not much information is given to explain why the wolves were being hunted to extinction in the first place, and not much information is really given as to why the viewer should care for the characters. Maybe the series gets a little better later on, but the five episodes that appear on this disc weren’t able to sell me on the series.

When it comes to the DVD itself, there are seven bonus features included. The first extra is a cast interview, which runs for about seven minutes; this is an interview with the Japanese voice actors for the four main characters (Kiba, Tsume, Toboe, and Hige). The audio is in Japanese, and English subtitles are provided.  The next two features are a textless opening and a textless closing.

The next feature is labeled as “Pilot Film.” This feature runs for two minutes and 20 seconds. The audio is in Japanese, and it also includes English subtitles. Next is “Promo Film 1,” which runs for one minute and 44 seconds; it uses the opening credit music in the background. This extra is also in Japanese with English subtitles. This is followed by “Promo Film 2,” which runs for one minute and 30 seconds. This uses the closing credit music in the background; and just like the previous two features, it features Japanese audio with English subtitles.

The next feature is “15 Second Promos.” There are four promos in all; you can either choose which one you want to see, or select the option to “Play All.” All four of these promos use the exact same visuals, but there is a slight change to the voice over at the end of each one.

The next link is for “Trailers,” and it includes trailers for properties that Bandai Entertainment was promoting at the time this DVD was released. The feature labeled as “Credits” takes you to the DVD credits.

Wolf’s Rain: Leader of the Pack is a decent release for a single disc DVD. However, I would only recommend this DVD to anime fans who enjoy the Wolf’s Rain series. Unfortunately, this disc is now out of print; if you’re looking to acquire a copy of it, I would suggest searching both online and brick and mortar stores that sell used DVDs and see where you can find it for the best price.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Wolf’s Rain: Leader of the Pack that I was given as a gift.

Weekly Shonen Jump Volume 129 (July 28, 2014)

This issue includes chapters for Naruto, Bleach, World Trigger, Nisekoi: False Love, One Piece, Toriko, and Hunter x Hunter. There’s also a series review for Psyren and a one-shot manga titled, Shikigami Twilight Days.

For the series that carried over from previous issues I’ve read, I tried to put a little more focus in my write-ups about the progression of the story from the previous chapter. I will warn you that these write-ups will more than likely contain spoilers.

Of course, you can always check out Weekly Shonen Jump for yourself by subscribing to the digital publication at VIZManga.com.

Naruto CH:686

In this chapter, we see the Sage of Six Paths talking with the Hokage that have been reincarnated. Meanwhile, Kaguya is attacking Naruto’s shadows clones in an attempt to find the real one. Kakashi laments that he can’t do anything to help Naruto, but he hears Naruto declare that it’s not over yet. Suddenly, Sakura, Obito, and Sasuke arrive in the time-space that Naruto is in. With Naruto and Sasuke reunited, Kaguya unleashes a heavy gravity plane. Kaguya launches an attack on Naruto and Sasuke, and Kakashi and Obito go to act as shields…

So this battle continues on. While it had been exciting at first, I found myself thinking by the end of this chapter is that it feels like it’s beginning to drag on. The part right at the end with Kakashi and Obito was good, though. But most of the chapter did feel like the story is starting to bog down a little. Hopefully Kishimoto will be able to progress the battle soon and keep it from bogging down too much more.

Bleach CH:590

In this chapter, Mayuri arrives on the scene during the battle between the Soul Reapers and the Quincies. Mayuri talks down to the Quincy that he’s talking to, and she sends her companion Bambi to take on Mayuri. Bambi shoots some bombs, but they don’t go off when they’re supposed to; it turns out Mayuri has a reishi looking device that can halt the activity of spirit energy that in comes in contact with for a preset amount of time. The Quincy who can create zombies has created some from officers of the 13 court guard squads to attack. Right at the end of the chapter, Mayuri summons some Arrancars to fight the zombies…

Here’s another battle that’s starting to feel like it’s dragging out. And now there’s at least two or three different storylines going on, and one storyline will go for a while and then suddenly switch to the other briefly, just to return to the first storyline. While I like Bleach, I’m hoping that Kubo will work at trying to get this story progressing a little faster.

World Trigger CH:069

In this chapter, Chika is turned into a cube. Osamu blames himself, because he attacked instead of running away like Izumi told them to. Izumi tells Osamu that he can rescue Chika when he gets to the base. Osamu grabs the cube that’s Chika and starts heading for the base. Osamu is chased by the enemy, and Osamu has to figure out how to protect himself. At one point, Osamu is sent flying and loses his hold on the cube. Fortunately, he’s able to distract the enemy enough to be able to retrieve the cube. Replica arrives and says it’s come to escort Osamu and Chika. Just as they’re about to go, a Rabit appears in front of them…

Well, the story finally seem to advancing somewhat compared to previous chapters. Yes, we’re still in the middle of the same battle that we’ve been reading about for a few months now, but the event of Chika being turned into a cube finally forces Osamu to not only try to get back to the base, but he also has to really try to use the skills he’s learned to protect himself and Chika. Hopefully with this turn of events, the story of this battle can truly start going somewhere.

Nisekoi: False Love CH:132

In this chapter, the beauty contest for the school festival gets underway. Haru believes that she’ll be eliminated in the first round. We see that Shu is serving as the emcee for the event. When it’s Haru’s turn, she’s so flustered that she starts mispronouncing words when she’s interviewed. As she continues, she accidentally gives a shameless plug for her family’s shop, but the audience seems to think that Haru’s being cute. The contestant after Haru ends up being Paula. She goes on stage but doesn’t say anything before her turn is over. Marika is the next contestant after Paula. Marika takes off her outfit to reveal a bikini, but this causes her to be disqualified because overexposure is strictly forbidden at a high school festival. The five finalists are announced, and Haru advances. Right at the very end, the older Onodera is brought on stage as a special final contestant…

As I expected, this chapter focused on the beauty contest. It ended up focusing primarily on the first round of the contest. And since the contest didn’t end in this chapter, it will continue on into the next chapter. This puts focus on most of the members of the harem that attend the high school, because a lot of them are participating in the event as contestants. Chitoge is part of the competition, but she’s serving as a judge rather than as a contestant. Hopefully after this story’s done, we might see a little more progress on the overarching story of the locket…

One Piece CH:754

In this chapter, the focus is first on Team Kin’emon, which is located below the former royal plateau. The group decides that they want to leave where they are go up above. After this, the story returns to the second step of the new royal plateau, where Luffy and his group are, and they find themselves embroiled in another battle. As they’re about to get to the fourth step, their way is blocked by giant puppets. And then the story moves to the top of the Pica statue, where Zoro is in the middle of a battle…

And this chapter yet again does some jumping around. While it’s not quite as bad as the jumping around that’s been taking place over the past couple of chapters, it’s still jumping around. But near the end of the chapter, I was happy to see Zoro because I hadn’t seen him in a while. It was awesome to see Zoro acting so badass. Hopefully we’ll see more of Zoro in the upcoming chapters!

Toriko CH:286

This chapter sees a flashback of Toriko and the others each receiving one vial of curing water. We also learn in this flashback that Toriko actually has two demons inside of him instead of just one. Then we see the continuation of where the previous chapter ended, with Toriko lying on the ground after being knocked down by Heracles. A small air tree begins increasing its production and letting off a fragrant smell. We then see the blue demon inside of Toriko taking over his body. The awakened Toriko grabs the fruit from the air tree and consumes it. With the power of the blue demon, Toriko attacks Heracles…

Well, then, this revelation of the two demons makes it feel like Toriko is trying to outdo Naruto. And ultimately, not a lot happens in this particular chapter. It’s basically just the air tree getting ready to bear fruit and the awakening of the blue demon that’s inside Toriko. Hopefully there will be an epic fight between the blue demon and Heracles in the next chapter.

Hunter x Hunter CH:348

This chapter opens with a Hunter final exam test taking place. They’re discovering there’s still a number of spies mixed in with the applicants, even though they thought that had weeded a lot of them out in the first round. Meanwhile, we see some guy who talks about him and his brothers, who are trying to get guards through the Hunter exam; all of these brothers hope to become the next king. Back at the Hunter exam, there’s a discussion going on as to whether or not someone could circumvent the double-layer trap. They also talk about the potential for Pariston to have already put a spy in place. Mizai then meets with the other Hunters and expresses that there’s a chance that there’s a mole among them. Right at the end of the chapter, we see that they have figured out who the informant is.

Ultimately, not a lot really takes place in this chapter. It primarily seems to be talking and “info dumping,” with maybe something minor to help move the story along. And hopefully later we can learn a little more about the brothers who are trying to get spies through the Hunter exam, because at this point, I personally don’t know much about them and how they fit into the overall story.

It should be noted that Hunter x Hunter will be off next week.

Series Review: Psyren

This feature is labeled as a “review,” but it feels more like an overview to explain to the reader about the characters and stories in the Psyren manga. The only parts that truly qualify as a review is the last paragraph of the section labeled, “Beginning of the End” and the final section (which is labeled as, “Complete Series”). It’s a very informative piece for readers who are unfamiliar with the series, even though the last little bit is the only part that can truly be called a review.

Shikigami Twilight Days

The story is set at a time when the Gates of Hell between Tokyo and the underworld were just about to open. The police are investigating a mutilation murder case that has just claimed its fifth victim. The victims are blown up, and the murderer leaves a happy face symbol at the scene of the crime; the attacker has become known as the “Smile Bomber.” A woman named Mako is a detective, and she supposedly had a power as a child to find things. Unfortunately, the only cases she gets are for missing cats three times a month. When she sees a report about the Smile Bomber, the case seems to pique her interest. Mako goes to where the investigating is taking place and tries to force her way onto the case, but the officer doesn’t let her. A boy comes by and says there’s weird people nearby. The cop sees them and chases after them. After he’s gone, it’s revealed the boy is Kyosuke, and has a talking fox. Kyosuke enters the crime scene and summons some shikigami to aid in finding anything that gives off a strange spiritual vibe. Kyosuke was sent by the Shikigami Association to investigate the Smile Bomber incidents. The shikigami find something, and it’s a yorishiro; it’s the used shell of the weapon the assailant used. He determines the murderer is someone trained to use shikigami, but that they’re an amateur. Kyosuke advises Mako not to get involved in the investigation, but she follows after them. When Mako picks up the shell, it reawakens her ability she had as a child. They return to the scene of the crime, and they see something there that attacks them. Kyosuke summons something to fight against it while he and Mako try to flee. Another creature that looks like the first one appears, and Kyosuke tries to attack it. A police officer comes and ends up shooting Kyosuke. It turns out the cop isn’t actually a cop…

This was a good one-shot manga, and it works both as a one-shot and as the launching point for a new manga series. It was a well-told for a one-shot, and with the way it ends, it would be possible to continue the story if the author wanted to. Personally, I think there’s an interesting premise here, and I like how the supernatural elements worked within the world that was established in this one-shot. I haven’t read Psyren, another work by this mangaka yet; however, after reading this one-shot, it makes me think that I need to find time to check out Psyren at some point.

Free! Eternal Summer: Episode 4 – “The Somersault Turn of Promise!”

Free! Eternal Summer is the second season of the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club television anime series. This season begins in spring, when the new school year is getting underway. The focus of the series is still on the Iwatobi High swimmers (Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei), their manager Gou, and Rin from Samezuka Academy.

A big emphasis in Episode Four is on Gou trying to get the members of the Iwatobi swim team to eat a balanced diet, and she starts by conducting a surprise bento check. Unfortunately, not a single member passes the check. When they ask her to make what she feels would be an acceptable bento, she takes up the challenge. Later, Rin makes a list of foods that contain the ideal amount of proteins and vitamins for swimmers, while Gou has come up with a training regimen to get the team ready for the prefecturals.

Episode Four also has a strong focus on character development for both Sousuke and Rin, especially concerning the childhood and their friendship. We learn that it was because of issues that Rin and Sousuke had working together on the same relay team that Rin transferred to Iwatobi and began swimming with Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa. Near the end of the episode, Sousuke and Rin kind of butt heads over what’s important for attaining the dream of competing in swimming at an international level. Fortunately, Rin is able to win the argument by showing his conviction but not yelling about it.

This episode was very instrumental in providing the back story for Sousuke and Rin that had kind of been hinted at. This was the first episode to truly delve into why Rin didn’t stay where he had been for swimming as a kid; it also gave the viewer insight into why Rin was so insistent on swimming relays when he came to the Iwatobi Swim Club.

And when it comes to Momo, the younger brother of Samezuka’s former team captain, his obsession with Gou is definitely much more of a running gag than his older brother’s interest in her. In this episode, Momo gets into her face and starts blathering at her; while Rin did come to the rescue, he was a little slow to do it. And poor Gou just looked so uncomfortable, and it was obvious that she’s not the least bit interested in him. I almost wish she had said something about him not having enough muscles for her taste or something like that. And Rin really needs to be a good big brother and have a talk with Momo about his behavior toward Gou.

It also looks like that the Iwatobi team has given up recruiting new members at this point, because not a single word was uttered about recruitment over the course of Episode Four. With half of the current team being third-years, it could basically spell doom for the team if they can’t manage to recruit anyone else. Hopefully the team can have a good showing during the prefecturals later this season and be able to bring about more recognition for the team.