First Impressions: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop

Girls trying to achieve their dreams

should steer clear of cocky teenagers.

After several full reviews, it’s about time I checked out something new. Thanks to my sister’s insistence (say that three times fast) it turned out to be the first episode of a recent-ish Kdrama. And that Kdrama is called Flower Boy Ramyun Shop.

Eun Bi, trying her best to prove that geeky girls can have it all.

Yang Eun Bi is hard at work studying for final exams with the dream of becoming a high school teacher. She’s twenty-five, a go-getter, and believes she has everything together. She has a boyfriend in the army, and she knows that her life will be perfect once she becomes a respectable teacher like her roommate (who is already quite successful in both dating and employment). However, that boyfriend turns out to be less than faithful. Luckily Eun Bi has a tarot reading in which the fortune teller predicts that she will meet the one she is meant to be with this year, and when she does bells will ring. By sheer coincidence, Eun Bi has a run-in with handsome Cha Chi Soo in a public restroom just as bells ring.

Enter Chi Soo, aka Mr. Cool.

Chi Soo is arrogant and on the run from his rich father and the many guards sent to retrieve him. He’s just returning to Korea from New York, and his main goal is avoiding both his father as well as all responsibility. While trying to escape one day he hides in the ladies’ bathroom and meets Eun Bi. She thinks he’s a pervert until he almost kisses her, then smirks and walks away. After that incident Eun Bi keeps running into Chi Soo, and once she finds out her army boyfriend is worthless, her popular roommate gives her advice on how to date. Eun Bi tries this advice out on Chi Soo, but he laughs at her and joins his friends. At this point Eun Bi spies Chi Soo’s school uniform jacket and realizes that she’s been hitting on a teenager!

Is a pervert still a pervert if he’s kinda dreamy? Probably.

This episode was gosh darn adorable, and brought to mind one of my most addictive shoujo Kdrama favs, Boys Over Flowers. Eun Bi comes off as a slightly dorkier JanDi, which makes her a very likable protagonist. It’s difficult not to feel a kinship with her when she’s wishing she was as popular as her roommate or discovering that the guy she’s been pining over for two years is a complete jerk. Chi Soo has all the good looks and arrogance of the F4 and then some, but you know that a transformation is in the works for this cocky rich boy. Overall I was delighted with the initial episode and greatly look forward to watching even more Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, especially if the rest of the series is as funny and sweet as the first episode turned out to be.

Death Becomes Her: Princess Resurrection

She is the princess of all monsters.

He now lives to serve only her.

Today’s is my younger sister’s birthday. Happy birthday, sis! My younger sister enjoys anime, but she’s over the moon for Kdrama, so in her honor I was planning to write a First Impressions review of a Kdrama. Alas, time was not on my side, and since I have several completed anime series just begging for review, I’ll merrily go forth with today’s offering: Princess Resurrection. (At least it has “princess” in the title, so that can be the nod to my sister for now.)

“I’m a princess, and I drink tea. That’s our thing here: monsters and tea.”

Hime is a princess, but not just any princess. She’s a member of the royal family who rules over all monsters. Unfortunately, she and her siblings are constantly engaged in an epic battle to the death. Because of this, Hime must watch her back and keep those loyal to her nearby at all times. Enter our hapless hero, named, appropriately enough, Hiro. He’s your average teenage boy, and he’s on his way to live with his older sister, Sawawa, in the mansion where she works as a maid. Unfortunately, on the way to meet her he ends up saving Hime’s life at the cost of giving up his own. Hime, impressed by his chivalry, brings him back to life with her scared flame. (For more details please read my First Impressions post about this series.) However, the flame must be revived every so often by Hime or else he’ll die again, this time permanently. And so the only way that Hiro can stay alive is to remain at Hime’s side as her sworn servant. He’s not completely on his own, though. Hime also has a very capable android maid named Flandre, and as the series progresses she gains the aid of a hot-headed werewolf named Liza as well as a calculating vampire named Riere. Hime needs all the help that she can get, because in every episode she ends up battling one supernatural creature after another, most sent to destroy her by one of her royal siblings. But which one is most out to get Hime? And why must the royals continuously battle one another?

Hiro makes his patented “Oh boy, here we go again!” face. Which is pretty much his only facial expression.

Y’know, I really, really wanted to love this anime. And I really, really don’t. Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the most obvious part: the artwork. By this point I’ve seen several Madhouse offerings, and usually I enjoy the quality of their work. But this series just seemed underdeveloped with its basic lines, lack of detail, and primary coloring. Speaking of underdeveloped, I felt that the story had potential, but it was all wasted week after week on one formulaic episode after another. A member of Hime’s household gets attacked, everyone bands together to fight off the intruders, Hime more often than not saves the day, everyone gives Hiro comedic grief. Cut, print, next episode: same thing. No character was shown beyond a basic personality trait (Liza’s hot-headedness, Riere’s mocking bitchiness, Hime’s calm lack of concern, Sawawa’s cluelessness…) and even when we were given select details about a character’s background it failed to make said character any deeper or more interesting. I know that shounen heroes are often portrayed as flat in order for the viewers to insert themselves into the main role, and Hiro was as flat and boring as they come. However, no character in the entire series displayed anything other than the same trademarks by saying the same lines in the same stories time and time again.

I haz a Flandre, your argument is invalid.

Not that this series was a total loss. The English voice cast was pretty great, especially considering the drab material they had to work with. I was genuinely delighted to hear Hime’s seiyuu, Shelley Calene-Black, make a vocal appearance in The Book of Bantorra, and Luci Christian (voicing Liza) is always a treat. The OP and ED were great, especially the ED, which also had some fabulous artwork accompanying it that reminded me of 90s goth girl comics like Lenore and Emily the Strange. Despite saying only one word throughout the entire series (which sounded like, “Foogah!”) Flandre grew to become my favourite character, probably because she was diminutive yet kicked ass. I never expected her personality to grow very much because she was an android, and yet she actually did inch up just a bit in episode twenty-five. Speaking of which, the final three episodes were, in my opinion, the most interesting. Episode twenty-four provided a conclusion that wasn’t shocking so much as, “Oh, so that’s the deal. Huh, okay.” Then twenty-five was about Flandre, and twenty-six was an interesting nightmarish recap of previous capers. Each of the final three episodes provided a slight stirring of emotions, and while it wasn’t much, it was felt like falling into a lake in the middle of a desert.

Sorry gang, it just wasn’t working for me. Hiro, keep it in your pants!

I really wanted this series to be so much better than it actually was. Truth be told I was bored after just three episodes, but I kept watching anyway because I hoped it would get better. I’ve discovered that quite often anime series with at least twenty-four episodes tend to get repetitive and stale in the first twelve, then blossom into a cohesive plot in the latter twelve. However, that was not to be the case this time. I will admit that episode thirteen, “Princess Sacrifice,” did make quite an impression on me. Hime and Hiro become trapped in a village and pursued by a massive serial killer who wears a bag over his head and wields a scythe. I was actually freaked out while watching it, then I had a nightmare that evening because of that episode. However, I think that speaks more to my personal psyche rather than the anime itself. Overall, I was excited at the prospect of a gothy anime with lots of strong female characters, or at least a funny harem with monsters, but alas, it was not to be. Princess Resurrection is just that: the same ol’ plot resurrected over and over and over again throughout twenty-four episodes. And that’s far too long to be strung along, even by a princess.

Rating: ★★✰ I suppose I’m glad that I finished it, especially given that I usually enjoy the subject matter, but if I knew then what I know now, this series would be a definite pass.

Norse Code: Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok

Face of a child, powers of a god.

He could end the world or save it.

I’ve been watching Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok for so many weeks now that I can hardly believe it’s over. Everything must end, though, especially this series, since Ragnarok is actually the end of the world in Norse mythology. In fact, that was my main draw to today’s show: getting to see anime versions of the gods of Asgard in action. It never quite turned into the series I was hoping it would (see my First Impressions for details) but it was still a worthwhile watch.

Meet Loki, a god, and Mayura, a girl with the power to say “Another strange mystery!” more annoyingly than anyone else on Asgard or Earth.

Loki, Norse god of mischief, has been exiled to Earth in the form of a child. He’s not quite sure why Odin (ruler of the Norse gods) has a vendetta against him, but he wants to return to Asgard (the realm of the gods) as well as his original form quite badly. The only way he can do this is by gathering evil energy (though what exactly he’s supposed to do with all that evil energy, we don’t know) so he opens a paranormal detective agency along with his trusty manservant Yamino. While solving a case involving an evil doll he meets Mayura, a teenager who is obsessed with mysteries and the paranormal. She begins hanging out with Loki (despite his initial objections) and tries to help solve cases, though more often than not she gets captured or is just in the way. Mayura doesn’t realize that Loki is a god despite all of the strange and magical things that happen when he’s around, proving she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Throughout the series more gods show up, some with the intention of helping Loki, others trying to kill him. It seems like just about everyone in Asgard is either in love with him or wants him dead. Either way, they all get into many escapades as the series progresses and Loki gets closer to the truth about who is the one actually thirsting for vengeance.

“Check out my super cool weapon Yamino! Wait, what do you mean you’re not impressed? I don’t care if you’ve seen me wield it a thousand times, you will be awed by it or you’ll taste my clichéd wrath!”

Let’s start with the good: the animation itself is excellent for a series that’s nearly a decade old, which one would expect with Studio Deen. It’s a little bright and cartoony in comparison to other works such as Hell Girl or Vampire Knight, almost as though Studio Deen were producing a typical American Saturday morning cartoon, yet even so the quality is apparent. The opening theme is great, and while the closing theme suffers from some shaky vocals, it’s still quite catchy. The idea of the story is an interesting blend of culture: Norse gods solving occult crimes in modern-day Japan makes for some amusing scenes. However (and here we get to the bad) the story overall never really took off. It was a series of similar plotlines, and even when new gods were introduced they were just blended into the background of another form episode the next time. The second half of the series was better than the first in that we finally had some established conflict within the plot, but it was still never riveting entertainment due to reliance on the same old story patterns. In that regard, Loki’s weapon transformation scene was never outrageously cool to begin with, and after seeing it in nearly every single episode I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It became stale and predictable, which is a shame given that the subject matter had such potential.

Yamino silently wills Mayura to stab herself in the eye as the audience cheers uproariously.

I could have better dealt with the formulaic episodes if the characters had been well-developed and interesting, but they weren’t. Loki as a child was bland and aloof in a partial-tsundere way and only became interesting when he transformed back into his original form. Those episodes were my favourites, but they were far and few between. Yamino had two episodes of not being the cheerful manservant and was otherwise relegated to only having the quirk of overspending on home shopping to make him lovable. Mayura was, for lack of a better term, a complete idiot and did nothing but detract from the show. Even her shrill voice was annoying. The other gods each had their own eccentricity such as Thor’s obsession with part-time jobs, Freyr’s obsession with cheap food, and Freyja’s obsession with, well, Loki. However, there was little else to each character other than her or his one definable trait, hence they were impossible to connect with, which kept me as a viewer from getting truly engrossed in the story.

Loki’s true form. “Better luck next time, lol!”

As a fan of Norse mythology and paranormal anime I was really looking forward to this series, but it never blossomed into the dark, rich tale that I was hoping for. That’s not to say that there’s no merit here: it’s a unique depiction of Loki, to be sure. He’s certainly much more accessible (and even sort of lovable) compared to other portrayals of the god of mischief found in stories such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Marvel’s Thor, or even the original Norse mythology. According to good ol’ Wikipedia the manga is much darker than the anime, which leads me to believe that perhaps the manga is better, or at least that it lives up to the tempting potential displayed in the gothic opening credits of the anime. Even so, something kept me watching week after week. Admittedly I’m harsher when reviewing a series that I’m really looking forward to since it’s easier to be pleasantly surprised when your expectations are low. Mine were rather high for this one, but had I gone in blind (or just not raised my expectations based on the references to Norse mythology in the title) I might have written a glowing review of a relatively light, enjoyable fantasy anime. Even though Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok didn’t quite deliver on its promise of dark intrigue and ancient godly battles, it’s still worth watching, especially if you adore the Norse gods like I do.

Rating: ★★★ Check it out for the fleeting mythological references, stay for the dreamy glimpses of adult Loki.

Foxy Lady: My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho

He freed her heart and soul.

Even mythological creatures need love.

I didn’t fly through this week’s romantic Kdrama as fast as I did with previous series such as Boys Over Flowers or Lie To Me. To be honest, I wasn’t drawn in for the first several episodes. However, like the characters in the story, I grew and evolved to the point where this series became very dear to me, and now I might even go so far as to call it my favourite Kdrama yet.

This is Dae-Woong’s “thinking” face.

The story gets set up pretty well in episode one, but the overall gist is this: Cha Dae-Woong is an aspiring actor who is rather selfish and spoiled by his aunt and grandfather. One day he runs away from his family and ends up in a temple outside of Seoul. There he hears a voice command him to draw nine tails on a painting of a fox. He does so out of fear, then runs away. What he doesn’t realize is that he has freed a five-hundred-year-old gumiho, aka a nine-tailed fox spirit. The gumiho follows Dae-Woong and discovers that he’s fallen down a cliff and severely injured. She gives him her energy bead, which will allow him to stay alive and heal without pain. However, because of this she has to stay near him so she won’t lose her bead. When Dae-Woong comes to and hears her story, he assumes that the girl following him around is crazy and tells her so. She becomes angry and warns him that she will find him, make him believe in her, then take back her bead, which will kill him.

Mi-Ho’s cuteness is as infectious as her love of meat. Seriously, I’m a pescetarian, and even I wanted to eat beef after I watched this series.

The strange girl’s words haunt Dae-Woong as he rides the bus back to Seoul. Sure enough, later on that night the gumiho appears, showing her nine glowing tails in the moonlight. She begins to take back her bead, then has a change of heart both because Dae-Woong freed her and because she liked him from the moment she saw him at the temple. Now that Dae-Woong believes her and realizes he needs her bead until he recovers from his fall, he promises to take care of her bead in exchange for housing the gumiho and feeding her. He introduces her to his friends as Gu Mi-Ho, and now has to deal with her constant demands for meat. Enter the antagonist, a super smokin’ hot guy named Park Dong-Joo, who also happens to be some sort of mythological creature (though we never find out exactly what kind). He has come to put Mi-Ho back in the painting, but when he finds out that her desire is to become human, he changes his mind and instead helps her. Dong-Joo explains that if Mi-Ho drinks some of his blood and leaves her bead in Dae-Woong for one hundred days, then takes back the bead full of human energy, she’ll become a human. What he neglects to tell her is that when she takes the bead back, Dae-Woong will die. Mi-Ho, excited at the prospect of becoming human, goes back to Dae-Woong and strikes a deal with him: he can keep the bead, which is healing his injuries (thus allowing him to pursue his stunt acting career) for one hundred days. In the meantime, in order to explain her constant presence, Mi-Ho will pose as Dae-Woong’s girlfriend. Thus begins a whole new chapter of shenanigans as Mi-Ho tries to learn how to act like a human, and Dae-Woong learns how to grow up as well as open his heart.

Ironically, Dong-Joo’s hotness makes *my* eyes fill with tears.

There are tons of other side stories, from the bitchy girl who likes Dae-Woong and suspects that Mi-Ho is not what she seems, to the fact that Mi-Ho resembles someone from Dong-Joo’s past, to Dae-Woong’s aunt finding romance, but the main story is about the developing relationship between Mi-Ho and Dae-Woong. Part of what made this series difficult to get into was the fact that Dae-Woong is so very spoiled and bratty in the first few episodes. Luckily Mi-Ho is adorable pretty much from the get-go, so she was able to carry the series on her own merit until Dae-Woong evolves a bit. And boy does he ever! It’s incredible how a character that started out as such a conceited jerk can become so responsible, romantic, and endearing in only sixteen episodes. Also, having the gorgeous Dong-Joo as a foil helped fill in the eye candy quotient that I was missing. I was slightly peeved that he remained such an enigma throughout and that we never find out much more than his name and occupation, but I can also see how his background wasn’t that relevant to the main story. It probably just annoyed me so much because of my crush on him.

Nothing like gettin’ a little tail! (Yes, I made that joke with Spice and Wolf, too. Still works here, imho.)

The story is great, very emotional and involving, but in subtle ways. I was often surprised by how caught up I was in the lives of the characters and their emotions. Only one little side story about a false pregnancy seemed superfluous, but luckily it resolved itself in just one episode. The music is fantastic, a great blend of sexy Kpop (for Dong-Joo’s theme) as well as upbeat and dancey Kpop (for Dae-Woong’s theme). And the love theme, “Fox Rain,” by Lee Sun Hee, is my favourite Kdrama love theme ever. It’s soft and sweet without becoming cloying or cheesy (as so many Kdrama love themes are wont to do). Every time I hear it, I get a little catch in my throat because it’s so lovely and filled with longing. The actors are all excellent and really played their parts well. I’ll especially keep my eyes peeled for more from Shin Mi Na, the adorable girl who played Mi-Ho, as well as the smoldering No Min Woo (Park Dong-Joo). My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho is a very funny comedy, as well as a great drama with loads of folklore and supernatural elements, but at its heart it’s a pure romance, and one of the best, in my opinion. You can’t go wrong with this Kdrama, as this Gumiho has a tail that appeals to everyone.

Mi-Ho stakes her claim on Dae-Woong. Beware of crossing a gumiho!

Rating: ★★★★★ Watch it, buy it, watch it again. And again and again and again.

Can You Keep My Secret: Maid Sama

At school she takes orders from no one.

At work she serves all with a smile.

At long last I finished watching Maid Sama, or Maid Sama! if you’re being particular, or Kaichō wa Maid-sama! if you want to be precise (translation: The President is a Maid!). While I wrote a rather glowing First Impressions review of episode one, my adoration for this particular shoujo waned a bit throughout the many weeks it took to finish this anime. But before we get into that, I’ll provide a brief overview of the series:

Misaki: she works hard for the money, so you better treat her right.

Misaki Ayuzawa is the class president of unruly Seika High, which was, until recently, an all-boys school. She has taken it upon herself to rule with an iron fist and whip the slovenly boys who dominate the school into shape in order to make the female students feel more welcome. This is all well and good, and she does manage to command respect from students of all genders. However, due to money troubles at home, Misaki has secretly taken up an after school job at a maid café called Maid Latte. If you’re unfamiliar with a maid café, it’s where cute girls wait on patrons while wearing costumes, call them “Master,” and generally provide subservient fantasies to anyone with enough money to purchase a dish of ice cream or a cup of coffee. Misaki knows that her reputation and respect would be ruined if anyone at her high school found out where she works. So, naturally, the most popular boy at Seika High discovers her secret part-time job. All other girls bore Takumi Usui, but something about Misaki’s deceptive double-nature intrigues him, so he begins hanging out at her place of employment, teasingly flirting with her in a dominating manner whenever he’s around. The rest of the series is pretty much Misaki dealing with her double life while trying to sort out her confused feelings about Usui.

Misaki and domineering Usui: sexy or chauvinistic? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What was a cute concept for the first half of the season became stale and slightly boring around the middle of the anime. The formula goes something like this: Misaki gets into trouble of some kind, usually via some jerk threatening her friends, her work, or her school, Usui swoops in to save her, but Misaki ends up saving herself. Even so, Usui leans in and says something flirty and domineering, then Misaki blushes and calls him a pervert before the credits roll. While some have criticized this series as suggesting that all strong women secretly want to be dominated, I don’t feel that’s a fair judgement. Misaki makes a good female lead; she’s smart, ambitious, and overall a pretty decent role model for a shoujo story. If it was all an act and she was just a damsel in distress waiting for Usui to save her, then it would be super lame. Her saving grace is, of course, the fact that she does usually pull herself out of the jams that she gets in, be it through her physical strength or her forceful words. I don’t have a problem with her carrying on a flirtation with a dominant male, especially as Usui is never violent or seriously threatening to Misaki in any way. He was playful and teased her, but if she ever actually got freaked out he backed off. She’s a strong character, so it makes sense that she would be drawn to a strong love interest.

Hey there, new love interest! Too bad you didn’t show up a little sooner. Oh Hinata, we hardly knew ye.

My main problem was with the formulaic episodes that began to blur together around episode twelve or so. My interest was piqued again when a former childhood friend of Misaki’s appears as a love interest as well as foil to Usui, but I felt that he was introduced far too late into the show to add any lasting spice to the story. Also, like so many anime series before, Maid Sama just kind of…ends. There is some resolution, but not enough to be very satisfying. Speaking of which, the only character we get a full backstory on is Misaki, which is disappointing because Usui was interesting but a little too mysterious. I wanted to know more about him but never got much more info than what is shared in episode one.

“Don’t call me Nyan Cat, I hate that freakin’ video! Besides, do I look like I fart rainbows?!? Huh? Yeah, didn’t think so!”

Overall, it was fun to watch, especially if you enjoy shoujo, but I don’t see a lot of rewatch value for me personally. The art was typical with nothing really new there, and the music was the same. The subtitles go by rather fast in this one, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the constant added words in the background as well as explanations of Japanese culture at the top of the screen. There was a lot of rewinding and pausing in order to read everything, and that got to be a bit of a headache at times. I was a little shocked at a couple of episodes in the beginning that seemed to casually suggest that Misaki was in danger of being sexually assaulted (though luckily nothing of the sort occurred) and those instances remained jarring even when the rest of the show devolved into fluff storylines. But all in all, I’m glad that I watched this series. It was a pleasant shoujo with some unexpectedly sexy moments, and I bet that the manga is even better than the anime. It’s not my favourite series by any stretch of the imagination, but you could do far worse than spending some time in the world of Maid Sama.

Rating: ★★★ Definitely check this out if you enjoy shoujo, but don’t expect to be blown away.

First Impressions: My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho

She’s no ordinary foxy lady.

This girl might love or kill you.

Yup, another first impression post this week. I’m at the point where a bunch of series have almost ended, at which time there will be a flood of full reviews. Until then, time to start lots of new series, wheee! Today’s first impression is another Kdrama, and one that I’ve actually wanted to check out for quite some time: My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho. I adore folklore, fairy tales, and cultural tidbits from all over the globe, so a comedy about a girl who is actually a nine-tailed fox is something I couldn’t miss.

Meet Dae-Woong, our everyman hero. You can tell that he’s “of the people” by his flannel and Dark Knight t-shirt.

In episode one we meet Cha Dae-Woong, a student and aspiring actor who survives on the money that he begs, borrows, and steals from his wealthy grandfather. Since he’s an orphan, he’s been raised by said grandfather and his aunt, both of whom spoil him to a degree but also try to push him in the direction of growing up to become a respectable person. However, when he uses his tuition money to secretly buy a motorcycle, his grandfather has had the last straw, so he forces Dae-Woong into the car and tries to make him go to boarding school. Dae-Woong fakes needing to use the bathroom and manages to escape in the back of a produce truck. After he sneaks out of the truck at a gas station, he manages to hitch a ride with a passing monk who takes him to the temple where he lives. Dae-Woong borrows the monk’s cellphone and tries to remember his aunt’s phone number, but the reception is bad so he makes his way down to a secluded part of the temple that’s devoted to the Goddess of Childbirth. While there the phone dies, but he hears a voice that commands him to go inside and draw nine tails on a fox sitting in a painting with the Goddess. Understandably he’s freaked out, but Dae-Woong does what the voice tells him to, then bolts out of the temple and into the woods…where he soon falls off of a cliff.

See my nine tails? That’s the last thing you’ll ever see if you mess with me, pretty boy!

The fox disappears from the painting, and a pretty girl comes across Dae-Woong’s body. Her nine tails swish in the moonlight, and she blows an energy bead into Dae-Woong’s mouth. The next morning Dae-Woong wakes up and isn’t even hurt, and the pretty girl explains that she’s a gumiho (a nine-tailed fox spirit) who gave him her energy bead which prevented him from dying. Dae-Woong thinks that she’s crazy, and demands to see her tails. She says that she can only show them to him in the moonlight. At that Dae-Woong keeps trying to lose her (first in the forest, then later on in a nearby town) but the gumiho keeps finding him, saying that she has to stay with him because he has her bead. Finally Dae-Woong yells at her, telling the girl that he doesn’t believe what she says. The girl becomes serious and says that she’ll find him again, make him believe, and then he’ll die. This actually gets under his skin, and he keeps thinking about the girl as he rides the bus back to Seoul.

If you guessed that this guy is our villain by his villainous haircut, you’d be correct. Angled haircuts are to Kdrama villains as black hats are to bad guys in old Westerns.

Meanwhile, a man who seems to be a vet visits the temple where the painting resides in order to check on the monk’s dog. When the monk explains that the fox is no longer in the painting, the vet gets a strange look on his face. When he leaves, he tells his cohort that they’ll be hunting a new kind of creature, a mutant of sorts, but one that’s adorable. When Dae-Woong arrives back at his school he talks to his friends and learns that his aunt wants him to stay away until she can smooth things over with his grandfather. One of his friends notices sever bruises on Dae-Woong’s back, and he wonders why he doesn’t feel pain. Dae-Woong begins to slowly believe what the girl in the woods said. The other friend says that he can stay in the room above the gym that they’re in, then Dae-Woong is left alone. After playing basketball by himself for a time, the gumiho shows up. She unfurls her tails in the moonlight, then tells him that she’s going to take back her energy bead, which means that his previous injury will kill him. She leans in and begins sucking the bead out of his body…and that’s where the episode ends!

Oh, well, if you’re sure you’re fine, I’ll just take this old thing back. Thanks!

I enjoyed this episode, though I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It’s been more of a straight-up comedy than a romance, the latter of which is usually what has been the basis of the Kdramas I’ve seen thus far, but I’m enjoying it. One scene involving the aunt farting in an elevator had me laughing uproariously. (What can I say? Fart jokes are universal.) I like all of the actors, and the two leads are cute but not too precious. So far they’re both selling the story well. The music is typical K-pop, bouncy and fun. I really enjoy the folklore of the story, and I hope that more legends are explored or shared further in. There are some cheesy effects, but also some really nice ones, most notably a scene that looks as though wood carvings have come to life (very reminiscent of the exquisite video game Okami). And the temple of the Goddess of Childbirth looks like it’s borrowed straight from Faerie Tale Theatre, which I adore. Overall, My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho isn’t quite as romantic as I expected, but whether it keeps barreling down a path of pure comedy or if it blooms into a slow-building romance, I can’t wait to watch more. In fact, I think I’ll do so right now!

Gamer’s Paradise: The World God Only Knows

His skills are an online legend.

Now he has to face reality.

Initially I was quite taken with today’s anime selection, as evidenced by my glowing First Impressions post. And I still enjoyed it several episodes in. However, now that I’ve reached the end of The World God Only Knows, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.

Keima's worldview consists of whatever is on the screen in front of him. Elsie isn't a gamer, so she just doesn't understand.

The premise: antisocial gamer geek Keima Katsuragi is an unbeatable “god” when it comes to dating sim games. Because of this, he’s tapped by dark forces (re: forced) to help a cute demon named Elsie collect loose souls which have escaped from hell. They hide in the hearts of girls, for some strange reason, so Keima has to put aside his disgust with reality and use all of his dating sim tricks of the trade in order to woo the girls who are the unknowing hosts. Once their hearts fill with love for Keima, there’s no more room to hide, and when the loose souls escape Elsie is there to capture them in a giant glass jar. Keima hates real life and pretty much anything other than his games, so watching him try to utilize his gaming skills in real life situations is the basis for much of the show’s humor.

Keima's harem covers all the bases: a nadeshiko, a tsundere, a meganekko (without glasses), a yandere, and a sporty girl.

I really enjoyed this series at the beginning. I loved the character of Keima and identified with him instantly, being something of an antisocial gamer-type myself (though I hold nowhere near the level of disgust with reality that Keima does [except for when I’m having a super horrible day]). I thought that Elsie was cute, though nothing special when it comes to daffy sidekicks. Most of all I really liked the premise and was eager to watch it all unfold. But then somewhere along the way things fell a bit flat. There are four girls that Keima must pursue in season one. The first story arc was hilarious, and quite quickly resolved. The second took a bit longer but remained funny throughout. There were a couple of filler episodes, and one involving Keima trying to beat a bugged dating sim made me tear up with laughter. Then came the third girl’s story, which was mostly enjoyable but seemed to drag on just a bit too long. Finally, the fourth girl’s arc emerged, and I hated everything about it. I hated the character of the girl because she was boring and almost painful to watch; I hated the setting, which was repetitive and repressive, and I hated the total lack of anything funny. It was a longer arc, which made it worse, and I found myself getting depressed just by watching it. Whereas earlier in the season this show was always the first one I’d watch after downloading all of my Anime On Demand shows every week, by the end it became the last. I had high hopes that the final episode would make up for lost laughter, but it did nothing to redeem itself.

In godlike mode Keima is nearly invincible. In his own mind, that is.

The series seemed to try to become too serious, which in turn made the show depressing because the girl who the final story arc revolved around was herself depressing. Keima was also kind of joyless by the end, in my opinion, and that only left Elsie as a character to cling to, but she was never that exciting and could hardly be considered a reason to watch all on her own. The art was solidly good anime art, but nothing extraordinary or new. The music was just okay, though I did always enjoy the opening theme as well as the song that crops up in the final two episodes. Basically, the whole series was a bit of a letdown. It seemed too rambling and scattered, and it didn’t remain funny enough to abandon its storyline as much as it did. There’s a second season, and I would certainly check it out if given the chance in order to see if it can pick the series back up and make it shine like it once did. I still believe that the premise is great, and there’s a lot of comedy fruit just ripe for the picking to be found there. But a complete season should be able to stand on its own two feet, especially a first season, and The World God Only Knows fumbles disappointingly short of my initial expectations.

Rating: ★★★ Glad I watched it, and I might be tempted to add this series to my collection if the second season can make me laugh like the first half of season one did.

First Impressions: A Channel

Teen feels left out, has to make new friends.

I think I’m too old for this stuff.

Between impulse purchases and Anime Network On Demand my backlog of anime series to finish is rather high, and my Netflix queue is positively bursting. On top of that I suddenly have access to a Roku player, so I now have a whole new juicy queue of shows to watch on Crunchyroll. Hence I decided that I wasn’t going to watch any more random anime for a while, at least until I’ve whittled down what I already have. But then I saw the first episode of A Channel On Demand, and the description was about a high school girl trying to figure stuff out, and since I’m a sucker for shoujo I decided to give this random find a whirl.

I have a massive headache. Maybe I should use this box cutter to open up my skull and massage my brain! Great idea, right?

Tooru just got accepted to high school, but she’s in the class one year below her best friend, Run. When Tooru tries to hang out with Run she can’t seem to shake Run’s other two friends from the same class, Yuko and Nagisa. Run is kind of a daffy airhead and doesn’t noticed that Tooru is feeling left out of their conversations or that she’s jealous of her two new friends. However, by the end of the episode, thanks to Run’s reassurances that their friendship will always remain, Tooru finally accepts her best friend’s new friends and they all hang out as one group.

Yeah, taking a metal bat to school to fend off your best friend's suitors is totally normal behavior. Riiiiiight...

God, I got bored just writing that synopsis. Oh A Channel, how do I dislike thee, let me count the ways? As soon as it began I thought, “I’m not going to like this show because I hate this artwork. I can’t stand watching these cute cherub faces for twenty more minutes.” But then my Libran side took over and scolded my art aesthetic side to be more open-minded. Maybe the story would rock, give it a chance! But the story did not rock. It was oh so dreadfully boring. I really am constantly amazed at some of these slice of life anime series that have nothing special going for them. Hey, we’re friends, but one of us feels left out, but now we’re all friends together, yay! I suppose if the world of teenage girls was something you hadn’t experienced, then watching such a show might have some appeal, like if you’re a super young preteen getting ready to enter high school or someone who never went to high school at all. However, since I experienced the highs and lows of female high school friendships firsthand, there was nothing in this episode that appealed to me in the slightest. When my own life is more interesting than an anime, I know that I can’t watch any more.

Okay, so this is about a girl learning to deal with her best friend coming out, that's coo- oh. Nope, it's just some lame comedic fan service. Bummer.

I hated all the characters and couldn’t care less what happened to them. Run was an idiot who could barely stand up straight without falling over, Yuko and Nagisa were stock side characters, and Tooru was psychotic in the most uninteresting way possible. Once again we find an anime series that has a creepily obsessive female friendship which seems to be the stuff of high comedy in anime but is fodder for horror movies here in the States. When Tooru entered Run’s room and thought that Yuko was kissing Run there was a glimmer of something interesting, but that quickly faded when it became clear that this ploy was merely fodder used to fuel Tooru’s jealousy and give her cause to punch Yuko in the boobs every time they met, because hey, that sure never got old. The opening and closing theme songs were tolerably cute, but that’s all the positive feedback I can provide for this series (which is technically categorized as seinen, wth?!?). I’m not sad in the slightest to say adieu to A Channel and move on to any one of the thousands of other anime series out there with more potential than this one.

Who’s That Girl?: Kobato

Her past is mysterious, her journey unknown.

All she has is love.

I just finished Kobato a matter of minutes ago (it really takes a long time to complete a twenty-four episode anime when you only get one episode per week via On Demand!) and, wow. I have so much to say about this intriguing anime.

Kobato, magically falling from the sky like rain. Or bird poo. Magical bird poo.

As you might recall, dear reader, I wrote a rather positive First Impressions review of episode one. To briefly summarize the overall story, Kobato appears to be a chipper young girl, but she’s actually from “somewhere else.” She arrives on Earth (in Japan, presumably, though if a specific location was provided I can’t seem to recall it) in the company of a grumpy talking stuffed dog named Ioryogi. His sole purpose is to help Kobato carry out her mission of collecting kompeito, which in reality is a type of Japanese candy, but in this story the kompeito are actually people’s broken hearts. Whenever she heals a broken heart, the glass jar that she carries with her gains a kompeito. Only when the jar is completely full will Kobato gain her wish, which is “to go to the place I want to be.” (Yeah, nothing vague about that, is there?) To pass the time Kobato works at Yomogi Kindergarden alongside a grumpy tsundere named Fujimoto. She also encounters a whole host of other people who are, for the most part, completely charmed by her optimistic cluelessness. A bit later on, just to make things more interesting, a stuffed bunny holding a flower appears out of the sky (I swear I’m not making this up) to inform Kobato that she only has four seasons to complete her mission, otherwise it will be bad.

This pic pretty much sums up Fujimoto's and Kobato's relationship throughout most of the series.

What I enjoyed about the first episode became less enjoyable by the third and flat-out boring by the eighth. Episode after episode seemed to have the exact same premise: Kobato wanders around in a daft haze of cheerfulness and naivety until she meets someone who is sad, Ioryogi tries to get her to stay on task, Fujimoto says something vaguely mean to her, Kobato keeps plodding forward with her good intentions, and finally she manages to bumblef**k her way into healing a heart and gaining kompeito. While I found Kobato to be charming, sweet, and silly at first, after just a few episodes she became nearly intolerable. Bless her heart, she’s dumb as a brick, and I find it difficult to stay with a character who has zero common sense. I understood that she was not of this world, but come on, show some growth after a few episodes! I actually thought that the series was only twelve episodes long, so I stayed with it, otherwise I would have probably stopped watching.

Ioryogi seriously needed to explain a few things a bit sooner. I'm all for anticipation, but c'mon, ya gotta give me *something*!

Finally episode twelve rolled around and we got some answers about just who the hell these characters are and where they came from. Not a great deal, but enough to make it interesting again. Then I discovered that there are actually twenty-four episodes in the anime, and my heart sunk. However, after episode twelve, the series got exponentially better. I actually found myself looking forward to watching each new episode week after week, which was a complete 180 from the first half (when I was literally forcing myself to keep watching). An actual plot began to unfold in which there were several stories going on at once, and we finally got to see these characters more in-depth than before. To my amazement, little by little I found myself completely sucked in, so much so that by the final episode I had to pause the TV several times in order to wipe the tears away from my eyes. It was that engrossing!

Wait, you think I'm deep?

Kobato really was an emotional roller coaster to watch. First it was just cute and pleasant, then it was boring and predictable, then it was interesting and involving, and finally it was intense and heart-wrenching. Once you finally receive all of the backstory in the final two episodes, it doesn’t seem that complicated. However, after reading up on the manga, it seems that the story is even more involved than what’s explained in the anime. Since there are only six volumes, I’m seriously considering checking the manga out in order to find out the entire story. However, even if you only watch the anime version of Kobato, I think that there’s something quite enjoyable to be found if you have the patience to navigate through the fluff at the beginning of the series. The animation is cute, and the music is sweet and strangely touching, rather like this anime as a whole. I really was shocked by how invested I became in these characters, who seem a bit flat and one-dimensional at first but then blossom into figures you truly care about, especially wide-eyed Kobato herself. I would definitely recommend this series to shoujo lovers and CLAMP aficionados, but even general non-jaded anime fans should find something substantial hidden within the sugary-sweet outer shell of Kobato.

Rating: ★★★✰ The initial eleven episodes keep this one from a full four stars. However, the end was emotional and satisfying, and even if I don’t add the anime to my collection, I’ll certainly be looking for the manga.

First Impressions: B Gata H Kei Yamada’s First Time

This teenage girl has one thing on her mind.

If you guessed “sex,” then you’re right.

When I saw the title of today’s first impression, I hesitated, knowing full-well that I could be going off into ridiculous ecchi fan service land. But, never one to judge a book by its cover, I threw caution to the wind and blazed forward. Some of my initial guesses proved to be correct, but overall I’m glad that I decided to give Yamada’s First Time a shot.

Yamada: a girl who knows what she wants. Can't really fault her for that!

The premise is one that we’ve all heard before: teenager wants to lose virginity. However, unlike the plethora of lowbrow comedy films about teenage boys lusting after naked exchange students, this time it’s a girl named Yamada who wants to get her V-card punched. (Yamada is her last name as well as the name she’s known by, since her first name is a secret.) But Yamada, being an excellent student and an ambitious girl, doesn’t just want to have sex once, she wants to sleep with one-hundred different guys. She’s beautiful and confident, and guys constantly flirt with her, so it should be no problem. However, Yamada can’t help picturing how awkward and bad in bed she’ll be the first time, and since she can’t fulfill her wish if she gets a reputation for being lame in the sack, her solution is to seek out her “golden cherry,” aka a boy who is also a virgin. That way he won’t have any expectations, and she’ll get some practice in before setting off to conquer the other ninety-nine guys.

"So, you like eating lunch?" "Yeah, I do." "Me too! Wanna make out?"

By sheer luck Yamada literally falls on top of such a boy one day at a bookstore. His name is Takashi Kosuda, and it turns out that he sits right beside Yamada at school. Once Yamada figures out for certain that he’s a virgin, she begins an awkward pursuit of him. Her tricks include trying to get him to share his math book, shoving him in a closet and flashing her breasts, and cornering him in the library while complaining of a sore tummy, hoping that he’ll rub it. However, each time she fails, either through Takashi’s embarrassment or her own. Finally she comes up with the brilliant plan of stealing his umbrella on a rainy day and sharing her own as she walks him to his house. There she meets his sister, who soon leaves, and the two are alone in his room. Yamada realizes that she forgot to bring a condom, but decides that starting with a kiss will work. She gives off all the signals that she’s ready for a kiss, and Takashi leans in close, but then she notices a bulge in his pants. This freaks her out so much that she bolts out of his room and runs off to her own house while yelling “What was that thing?!?” Takashi is left in his bedroom traumatized and chanting, “Kill me now!”

HERE ARE BOOBS! NOW WE DO THE NAUGHTY!

If you think it sounds funny, you’re right. It was kind of hilarious. Yamada is book smart but very lacking in common sense, and watching her go after shy Takashi again and again was pretty funny. It’s a fine line between sexual harassment and humor sometimes, but once it’s clear that Takashi wants the same thing as Yamada, the laughs just keep on coming. The characters are cute, as are the animation and ending song. I also really like that Yamada is a smart enough heroine to realize that she needs a condom, which adds to the realism. Yes, there is quite a bit of fan service, which is to be expected given the subject matter, but Funimation makes it clear that this show is for adults only. Matter of fact, the intended demographic is seinen, a genre that I’ve seen relatively little of. The other day as I was rewatching my only josei anime, the wonderful Princess Jellyfish (now available on Blu-ray/DVD!) I thought to myself that I really should explore more anime for adults. Then lo, this series falls into my lap. While I’m usually more interested in anime aimed at women than at men (purely for reasons of story trumping cheap fan service) it’s almost always interesting to watch a show made for my age demographic. If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful, this is not a good series to start with, at least from episode one. But if you’re looking for some laughs, B Gata H Kei Yamada’s First Time seems like it’s got quite a few to go around.

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