A Tribute of Violence and Reverence: Getter Robo Arc

Getter Robo Arc is one of the most unusual Getter Robo anime ever, doing what none of its predecessors even bothered to try: Be a generally faithful adaptation of the manga. This choice is all the more unusual because 1) the manga never finished, and 2) watching any (or even all) of the previous Getter Robo anime only prepares you to a certain degree. But Getter Robo Arc has different priorities than many anime, including its predecessors, and that’s to be a letter of love and gratitude to the original creator of Getter Robo, the late Ishikawa Ken.

Getter Robo Arc is the story of Nagare Takuma, son of the original head pilot of Getter Robo, Nagare Ryouma. Having experienced tragedy and now filled with a desire for revenge, he travels to the Saotome Research Institute (the home of Getter Robo) to get some answers. However, heading the Institute is his father’s old co-pilot, Jin Hayato, and the old scientist recognizes in Takuma the same fiery spirit as Ryouma. Hayato draws Takuma into piloting the mighty Getter Robo Arc against a mysterious force from beyond the cosmos bent on wiping out humanity known as the Andromeda Stellaration, and joining him are Takuma’s friend Yamagishi Baku, a psychically gifted monk whose older brother also has ties to Getter Robo, and Shou Kamui, a half-dinosaur descended from the first Getter Robo’s enemies. As they battle, their struggle takes them to the core truths of what the mysterious “Getter Energy” is.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how varied the Getter Robo anime prior to Arc have been. Sometimes they’re approximate counterparts to manga versions with the edges shaved off a little, like with Getter Robo, Getter Robo G, and Getter Robo Go. Sometimes they’re heavily reimagined sequels and reboots that play with elements of the franchise like Lego blocks, as is the case with Shin Getter Robo Armageddon, Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, and New Getter Robo. So while Getter Robo Arc is supposed to be the last manga entry and the direct sequel to every manga version before it, watching literally every anime that has come out before will give you a rough preparation for what’s going on, but there will inevitably be a lot of blank spaces to fill out in terms of understanding. Someone coming in with this as their very first Getter Robo anime may feel lost for at least two or three episodes.

Yet, even with this confusing aspect of the series and animation that comes across in the best of times as desperately trying to make the best of limited talent and resources, I really enjoyed the ride that Getter Robo provides. Even if Takuma, Kamui, and Baku can never stay on-model from scene to scene, the anime conveys their intensity in spades. Though the story feels like a rickety minecart, the franchise’s general emphasis on the positives and negatives of limitless human potential ring loudly here in a way that shows the original manga’s undeniable influence on works like Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. And while the battles aren’t quite as gorgeous as the ones found in the 2000s OVAs like Armageddon, they’re still impressive and exciting. 

I didn’t go into this show knowing what I’m about to mention, but I think it can be important for fans to know an important SPOILER about the Arc manga:

It never finished.

Similar to Miura Kentaro’s recent passing and Berserk, Getter Robo Arc and Getter Robo as a whole are in a state of limbo because of Ishikawa’s death in 2006. While the question of whether Berserk will continue is still unknown, the anime version of Arc barely adds anything extra to the cliffhanger that greets viewers by the end. I can’t say I’m entirely satisfied with that approach, as I think it wouldn’t have been a terrible idea to at least try—the manga’s still there, after all. But much like with Miura and Berserk, it might not have felt appropriate to take a generally faithful manga adaptation to a conclusion not envisioned by an author like Ishikawa, who clearly had an entire universe of Getter in his mind.

Overall, Getter Robo Arc comes across as crude and inconsistent in execution, yet filled with love and passion. In a way, it perfectly encapsulates the Getter spirit. It does make me wonder if we’ll ever see more Getter Robo anime, but I think that’s, in a way, an inevitability.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

Save

Shoujo Fight by Nihonbashi Yoko (released in English as Shojo Fight) is my favorite volleyball manga. Yes, even more than Haikyu!!, and even more than Attack No. 1. The series is great in so many different ways, but I think the key is how it manages to succeed at being both a story about volleyball and a story with volleyball in it. The drama is compelling on- and off-court, and the characters’ continued growth in both arenas feels both organic and satisfying.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this manga, but after 16 volumes released in English digitally by Kodansha, I realized I’ve ever written a proper review to talk about why I love Shoujo Fight so damn much. Now I’m here to correct that oversight.

Shoujo Fight is the story of Oishi Neri, who we first meet as a second-stringer on the prestigious Hakuunzan Middle School Girls’ Volleyball Team. Although she may seem unfit for the sport, it’s soon revealed that she’s on the bench not for a lack of talent, but because she voluntarily chooses to hold herself back for fear of alienating her teammates. Volleyball has been her way to cope with major trauma in her life, but the intensity with which she plays drives others away.  After Neri is mistakenly kicked off the team due to a supposed sex scandal, she is unable to join Hakuunzan’s high school division and instead ends up at Kokuyoudani High: a school infamous for its heelish misfits. However, it’s only by joining their volleyball team that Neri begins to find teammates who will accept her flaws, help her overcome them, and even recognize when they’re actually strengths.

Neri alone would be enough to carry the series and keep me hooked, but I can’t emphasize enough that the entire cast of characters is incredibly strong and memorable, from major to minor figures. Not only do they have outstanding personalities that rarely come across as one-note, but they develop in interesting ways too. As players, their strengths and weaknesses on the court give hints as to how they approach the game and how they function within teams, but Shoujo Fight also explores how these qualities within the context of volleyball are but fragments of whole human beings with thoughts, feelings, fears, and dreams.

Aside from Neri, the best example of character growth in Shoujo Fight is Odagiri Manabu, a nerdy girl who starts off as an old classmate of Neri’s more interested in drawing manga in class, and who looks up to Neri for her inner strength. She eventually joins Kokuyoudani’s team just to try it out, and though an absolute novice in every way possible, the senior members of the team see something in Manabu. Her personal traits of kindness, thoughtfulness, and sense of imagination gradually translate into volleyball and take her on the path to becoming a great setter.

My favorite character by far, though, is captain Inugami Kyouko. As Kokuyodani’s premier setter and master strategist, her coming onto the court spells trouble for the other team every time. However, her lack of stamina (due to being asthmatic) means she can only provide a temporary boost. Not only does this make for exciting moments, but she is shown to purposely based her play styler around being a shot in the arm. More importantly, though, she is a practical jokester par excellence whose masterful trolling is also a result of skills honed due to the limitations of her physical condition. Her mischievous personality combined with her keen game sense means that she can swing from serious to silly and back, and it never feels out of place. Though, that’s not actually something exclusive to Kyouko—Shoujo Fight as a whole does a great job of expressing both the dramatic and comedic at once. 

When I say that it manages to somehow both be about volleyball and simply include it, what I mean is that the sport can act both as background and foreground depending on which storyline is involved. When it’s about team rivalries or maybe animosity between two players, then the game of volleyball and all its quirks are front and center. When familial political maneuvering is happening and characters are caught up in it, then volleyball becomes the backdrop through which the drama plays out. They’re two sides of the same coin, and often it’s hard to tell what’s heads and what’s tails. For example, while Shoujo Fight doesn’t really have “antagonists” per se, one character introduced later is basically a woman with deep pockets and a lot of clout whose desire to build stronger national volleyball teams sees her going as far as to manipulate families into arranged marriages for both political convenience and to create super athletes. Shoujo Fight never feels like merely an ad for volleyball or the power of friendship in volleyball, but it’s also not above celebrating these concepts.

Shoujo Fight is, in essence, a manga where a variety of dueling contradictions come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts. Its energy is pure and innocent, yet also down and dirty. Its storylines and characters can be filled with ennui yet lighthearted as it gets. High school feels like Neri and the others’ entire world but also just a temporary stop in life. Shoujo Fight is all things, and it’s a world that’s both amazingly accessible and remarkably deep. 

Sakura Wars, Super Robot Wars 30, and the DLC Hype Train

Sakura Wars is in Super Robot Wars 30. That means, for the second time in history, a Sega giant robot video game series is debuting in Super Robot Wars as a newcomer—16 years after Virtual On broke new ground in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3. I find this to be an important moment in SRW history, and not only because Sakura Wars has been long anticipated by fans. The other big factor is that Sakura Wars is the first new series to come in as DLC, and the concept of continued hype via shocking entries reminds me a lot of one of my other favorite game franchises: Super Smash Bros.

Super Robot Wars as a whole predates Super Smash Bros. by almost a decade, but they’re built from a similar concept in terms of promotion: Show all the varying franchises that are in each game, and have players freak out over the fact that what was thought to be impossible is, in fact, real. Even on Youtube, Super Robot Wars 30 has been getting the reaction videos common to Smash, albeit on a smaller scale. But SRW has long done it in one giant cannon fire, releasing one massive preview video, as opposed to the drip-drop approach that Smash has utilized since the Brawl website days. While there are only two batches of DLC for Super Robot Wars 30, I like the idea that there are still surprises on the table after we thought things were done. I don’t necessarily feel this way about DLC in general, and the difference is that SRW and Smash alike are generally already filled to the gills with content.

It’s also funny to think about how the series that go into SRW are collectively older than what shows up in Smash. The oldest mecha manga dates all the way back to the 1960s (namely Tetsujin 28), while the Duck Hunt light shooter game (before video games even really existed) came out in 1968. While Nintendo and video games in general are bigger business these days, one could argue that the resources that make up Super Robot Wars are bigger and more legacy-defining in their own way.

Super Robot Wars 30 comes out in a couple of weeks, and I already have my Ultimate Edition pre-order. Unlike previous games, this one is officially available in English in an easy-to-obtain way via Steam, which is where I’ve purchased it. I’ll be eager to try out the Sakura Wars units, and everything else the game has to offer. Most importantly, we’re gonna get some sweet-ass Sakura Wars music.

It might be about time for me to work on another Gattai Girls post too…

Here’s Your Reminder to Watch Thunderbolt Fantasy

This originally began as a review of Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 3, only for me to realize that I never reviewed Season 2 after talking up Season 1. Between that fact and an official confirmation of the next part, I’ve decided to just write about why Thunderbolt Fantasy is still one of the best shows ever. Every time a new season comes out, it is a must-watch

Thunderbolt Fantasy is an Asian-fantasy puppet-theater TV show, and is a Japanese/Taiwanese co-production featuring writer Urobuchi Gen (Madoka Magica) and the Taiwanese company PILI International Multimedia. There has long been a debate as to whether it should be considered “anime,” but I think it qualifies in spirit, if not entirely in letter. Just the openings alone convey an energy that’s hard to match

Opening 1:

Opening 2:

Opening 3:

While I’m not typically into puppets, and have no particular attachment to series like Thunderbirds or StarFleet, Thunderbolt Fantasy just succeeds on so many different levels, from the witty dialogue to the charismatic characters to the overall plot to the exciting visual presentation to the catchy music. Season 1 is overall one of the greatest viewing experiences I’ve ever had, and while there’s something magical about that first story that the sequels have never quite reached, they still get incredibly close. Even when one aspect of the series falters, though, the other factors run on all cylinders. I’m never not entertained while watching. Crucially, Thunderbolt Fantasy continues to deliver on the big moments, and it’s amazing at building up suspense and then delivering a satisfying payoff. 

Thunderbolt Fantasy truly feels like a series that never fails. Even when you think there’s a moment where it jumps the shark, it ends up going so far beyond expectations that the shark jumps over the rider instead. If you haven’t watched it already, I highly recommend starting as soon as possible. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Failure Is Technically in My Vocabulary, but I Choose Not to Acknowledge It to Make a Point: The Great Passage

“An anime about making a dictionary” sounds more like a sleep aid than entertainment, but The Great Passage defies such expectations. It heavily humanizes its story through its characters’ emotional journeys, but it also provides an interesting perspective on the fundamental role of dictionaries and how much we can take that role for granted.

The Great Passage tells the story of Majime Mitsuya, a young and awkward sales rep for Genbu Publishing who gets recruited by the company’s Dictionary Editorial Department. While his shyness and lack of people skills made him terrible for Sales, Majime shows an immense love of the nuanced and myriad ways words can be used. The department’s goal is to release a new dictionary, titled Daitoukai (“The Great Passage”), that would be ideal for modern users to have a robust understanding of how words are used in the here and now. Along the way, Majime makes friends, falls in love, and devotes his life to making Daitoukai a reality.

Majime has a certain magnetism deriving from the fact that while he’s extremely knowledgeable about words, he’s also bad at expressing himself, as if the sheer range of possibilities overwhelms his brain. This irony provides the backdrop for many of the relationships that develop throughout the series, and I appreciate that the story focuses on such an introverted character. The series isn’t subtle about this character trait at all—even stating it outright—but it’s still a very effective portrayal. The central friendship of the series, between Majime and his gregarious and sharp-witted co-worker Nishioka Masashi, sees two very different people with different strengths and weaknesses find ways to lift each other up.

In terms of the depiction of dictionaries, The Great Passage expends as much energy as it can to wax poetic about them. Dictionaries are likened to ships that help guide humans through the darkness, and it’s emphasized repeatedly that no two physical dictionaries are the same. They have to determine which words to keep and how to define them, and this results in different “personalities.” It implies that dictionaries are influenced by the priorities and biases of those who make them, even as they attempt to remain as objective as possible. In a sense, it brings the idea of reading multiple sources for news to a realm commonly considered rather staid and neutral. 

Towards the end of the series, there’s also an examination of the ups and downs of privately versus publicly funded dictionaries. While the series doesn’t delve too deeply into it, it does factor in ideas about the risk of government control over words versus the perils of being beholden to capitalism and the market. Brief though this comparison may be, it’s probably the closest The Great Passage gets to explicitly taking a difficult stance.

A more subtle yet nevertheless present point I find in the series is that it implicitly argues that “having kids” isn’t the be-all, end-all of adult life. There are a handful of couples throughout the series, and a decade-plus time skip halfway through shows where they end up. While one character is shown with children, another character’s situation quietly highlights how two people in love with each other but also possessing their own passions can find fulfillment in dedicating their lives to their respective endeavors.

The Great Passage is ultimately a charming series that takes an elegant approach to an unusual topic. Whether intentional or not, it makes for some impressive marketing for dictionaries, but much like Shinkalion does for bullet trains, it’s hard to fault something so inherently beneficial. The anime often plays it safe in many ways, but there are shadows of more daring positions and beliefs that result in a quietly complex work.

Crossover x Crossover: Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I truly didn’t think it was possible. 

Knowing Disney and knowing Square-Enix, the amount of hurdles it must have taken for Smash Bros. director Sakurai Masahiro to bring Sora into the greatest and most celebrated gathering of video game icons is a feat beyond Herculean. But this is a tale as old as Smash itself: every time I think there’s a ceiling, Sakurai manages to bust right through if given enough time. Whether it’s “This character wouldn’t work as a fighter!” or “That company would never let their baby go anywhere!” the only limit left is “They have to actually be actively video game–related (sorry, Goku).

I’m pretty neutral when it comes to Kingdom Hearts, having only experienced the game passively through others—notably watching one friend fight Sephiroth over and over because he enjoyed the boss encounter that much. However, even if I don’t have a strong affinity for Sora myself, I can feel the love from all the fans, the creators, and the Smash developers. Everything about the way Sora moves in the Smash Ultimate footage we’ve seen screams care and attention to detail, whether it’s the swift swings of his Keyblade to mimic the play style of the source games or the unique buoyancy of his jumps, it’s as if the team wants you to genuinely feel like you’re controlling Sora in an exciting, new setting. 

I just know the way I felt seeing Mega Man’s helmet warp onto his head for the Smash 4 trailer over eight years ago is the same as how many felt yesterday seeing that Mickey keychain dangling. Though, as much as I love Mega Man music, having Sora’s trailer feature an instrumental version of Utada Hikaru’s “Hikari”/”Simple and Clean” hits differently. It’s a shame that they couldn’t get it into Smash Ultimate itself.

In his final presentation, Sakurai draws attention to the fact that it’s Kingdom Hearts I Sora, and I think there’s a real significance to that. Back in the Smash 4 days, there was concern among fans that if Pac-Man were to actually get into Smash, it would be his modernized Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures iteration as opposed to his retro design. After all, it’s the new thing, and they would want to synergize with the current stuff, right? But Pac-Man came in as classic 1980s Pac-Man, and I’d like to think it’s because Sakurai understands where the love for the character lies. While Sora’s older selves in the sequels wouldn’t be nearly as divisive as Ghostly Adventures Pac-Man, it feels as if the Kingdom hearts I Sora embodies fans’ youth and nostalgia in a way his later designs would. 

What a ride, and what a way to send off Smash Ultimate. Even if he wasn’t my dream pick, Sora feels all too appropriate as the bookend to a nearly four-year journey that’s seen the world go through the unimaginable as once-farfetched roster choices kept getting in one after the other. And while speculation doesn’t come with actual stakes and anticipation anymore, I’ll still keep thinking of ideas for new characters because there’s still plenty of video game history to tap into. Fans find in Smash Bros. comfort and a spirit of genuine love for video games in an increasingly cynical world. Thank you, Sakurai.

PS: I’m looking forward to that next balance patch, though. (Mewtwo buffs prayer circle.)

The Anime THEY Don’t Want You to Know About: Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch

For many years, the only impressions I had of the anime Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch were 1) that it has a fantastically beautiful and catchy opening and 2) the vague sense that it’s about a group of adventurers traveling the world in their giant robot. After finally getting the chance to watch the series in full, I find that it simultaneously falls short of and exceeds my expectations.

The premise: Acrobunch follows Rando Tatsuya and his five children on their quest to pursue clues about the legend of “Quaschika,” which is said to be the key to a mysterious treasure. Traveling in their combining giant robot, Acrobunch, they must also contend with the Goblin Society, an ancient underground race that is tens of thousands of years old and seeks the power of Quaschika to take over the surface world and supplant the human race. The characters travel to prominent ancient landmarks/sites (Atlantis, Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines. etc.), get into battles, fall in love, and discover that the secrets they’re after are far beyond what they could have predicted.

Acrobunch is, in a word, inconsistent. From story to animation, the quality swings wildly from meh to marvelous. When you look at the visual presentation, the secondary hero is supposed to be Tatsuya’s youngest son Jun, but he rarely gets plotlines of his own and is often overshadowed by his handsome older brother Hiro. On top of that, he looks anywhere between 10 and 20 years old, depending on who’s drawing him (see also Da Garn). The four Goblin Demon Generals are who the Randos fight the most, and every so often the series reveals a glimpse into their characters, only to hardly build on them further. Examples such as Hiro’s romance/rivalry with the beautiful White General Cera, Black General Groizy’s desire to make Cera his own, or how Blue General Bluzom seems to have a bit of a noble streak all get brought up and then left underexplored. All the storylines involve the search for Quaschika one way or another, but there are definitely some that are more compelling.

Even the robot itself suffers from this, sporting a nice-looking but rather complicated design that results in either Acrobunch looking fantastic (as in the aforementioned opening animated by the endlessly influential Kanada Yoshinori) or terrible (like a Ginguiser reject). That same opening also contributes to the false impression of Hiro’s importance and age. Overall, it’s not even that Acrobunch is too episodic, but just that sometimes there are episodes that hit and sometimes there are ones that miss, regardless of how much each one advances the main story.

Aside from the amazing opening, the main thing about Acrobunch that lingers in the memories of Japanese fans is actually the final episode, and so I think it’s important for me to discuss the big reveal of the series. Stop reading now if you wish to avoid spoilers. 

In episode 24, the characters discover that Quaschika is actually the spirits of a civilization that came from beyond our universe, and who are responsible for starting life as we know it. Whenever a planet’s sentient life-forms get too evil overall, the world and/or universe are destroyed, and the “good souls” are taken by Quaschika to start over again. It sounds like the perfect recipe for a true antagonist that could potentially unite the humans and goblins against a common foe—except that Tatsuya actually enables the world’s destruction and reset to happen! Without blinking an eye, he triggers the transformation, and in the end we see our six heroes and even one of the Goblin Demon Generals spirited off to a new universe as the rest of Earth’s inhabitants are wiped out!

Although it’s a hell of a twist, it doesn’t seem like Tatsuya’s actions are meant to be a kind of villainous reveal. Rather, because Acrobunch’s story takes so much from conspiracy theories, the anime’s curveball finale ends up feeling more like a cousin to the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens mixed with the kind of apocalyptic prophecies you get from cults like Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown. In a sense, Acrobunch is like a cousin to the grimmer works of Tomino Yoshiyuki like Ideon and Zambot 3, but with a further touch of paranoia. The abruptness of it might also be the result of the series getting cut short, and it wasn’t that unusual back then to cap off a canceled anime in the most traumatic way possible, as with Baldios.


Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch doesn’t exactly come out of the gate swinging, but it can be an interesting experience that does enough to build on itself. That doesn’t necessarily prepare viewers for the end of the series that basically explodes everything we knew thus far, but at least it means Acrobunch is hard to forget once you know about it. And as always, there’s that irresistible opening to re-watch over and over.

Ouran High School Ghost Club: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for October 2021

The funny thing about blogging for as long as I have—almost fourteen years, at this point—is that you never know what old entry might somehow get excavated and arrived from the massively convoluted ball of information that is the internet. Or rather, you never know which of your posts managed to have the right accidental SEO to actually survive and be on the front page.

This month, All Elite Wrestling held one of their big pay-per-views, All Out. It was an event with many surprise debuts such as Bryan Danielson (formerly Daniel Bryan) and Adam Cole, and among those appearances was New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Suzuki Minoru. I myself was watching and yelling at the screen as soon as his music hit, but when I decided to just check my blog stats on a whim, I noticed a huge spike in hits. The reason: Hundreds of people were finding my 2018 blog post about Suzuki’s entrance theme, “Kaze ni Nare.” Somehow, some way, that post is still on the front page when you google the song’s title.

Anyway, I hope the following Patreon sponsors take flight like birds and risk their lives to become the wind:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from September:

Standing in a Whirl of Confusion—Gundam Reconguista in G Part II: Bellri’s Fierce Charge

My review of the second G-Reco movie. The films continue to impress.

It’s a Secret to Everybody: Giant Gorg

My review of the lesser-known mecha anime Giant Gorg directed by the legendary Yoshikazu Yasuhiko of Gundam fame.

The Unquenching Desire for Villains: 9/11, 20 Years Later

A serious and personal reflection on a moment that changed many lives, including my own.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 44 sees the characters unite in full force, and reveals the softer side of Kousei.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter has been buzzing with preparation for both his collected-volume releases in September. In a rare treat, he’s actually been retweeting fans who are supporting both Spotted Flower and Hashikko Ensemble, which is how I got retweeted by the man himself!

Apartment 507

A review of 2017’s Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul.

Closing

By next month, the fall anime season will be in full swing. All the big sequels and follow-ups like the new Demon Slayer, JoJo’s, and 86 have my attention. However, the fact that Sunrise is trying their hand again at a new mecha series has my attention. Will Kyoukai Senki be any good, or will it land like a wet fart? The fact that it’s impossible to predict given Sunrise’s track record actually has me more excited.

The final Smash Ultimate DLC character is in just a few days! My dreams will always be with NiGHTS (no pun intended), but I’ll be happy with anyone.

Lastly, speaking of October, New York Comic Con 2021 is on. If you’re going, know that NYC requires full vaccinations for entry for those eligible to get vaccinated. Stay safe.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights September 2021

Much of Kio’s tweeting this month has had to do with the fact that Hashikko Ensemble Volume 7 went on sale on the 22nd, and Spotted Flower Volume 5 is out on the 30th…on top of Chapter 44 of Hashikko! There are lots of inevitable scheduling woes, but he’s actually also been responding to and retweeting readers in a concerted fashion for the first time.

Even I got a retweet!

Hashikko Ensemble and Spotted Flower Releases

Hashikko Ensemble Volume 7 cover check. Kio seems fine with it.

All Spotted Flower volumes have a plastic cover jacket with characters in clothes that obscures a second paper cover jacket with the characters in underwear. Kio gives a sneak peek here.

Kio mentions that there are store-exclusive extras for Spotted Flower.

Kurotaki Mai in a bunny outfit, as a late celebration of Bunny Day, but also to promote the new release.

The next chapter of Hashikko Ensemble has a ridiculous amount of lyrics and musical effects, but while the work seemed to never end, it’s finally almost over.

With the work on both upcoming volume releases more or less over, Kio decides to do some cleaning.

Kio discusses with 18+ manga artist Ikuhana Niro (who also publishes in Rakuen: Le Paradis) about ways to abbreviate Hashikko Ensemble and Spotted Flower in Japanese. Ikuhana uses HashiAn and SupoHana, while Kio originally uses Hashikko and SupoFura, but also Spotted in hiragana or katakana. Supote is brought up, with the idea that it sounds like Ponite (ponytail).

The Rakuen: Le Paradis Twitter account chimes in that Supote is one sale 9/30.

Kio responds with thanks to those who tweeted about supporting the release of Hashikko Ensemble, Volume 7. He doesn’t quote tweet readers all that much, so it feels special. 

A fan mentions that they’ve always liked Genshiken and stuff, but only recently got into Hashikko Ensemble and wish they did so sooner. Kio tells them to enjoy it at their own pace.

Kio mentions that there are store-exclusive bonuses for Volume 5 of Spotted Flower. (I’ll be getting the Ogino-sensei ones from Melonbooks and Animate.)

A drawing used for promotional store displays for Volume 5.

Kio talks about how intense the Basso Masters from Hashikko Ensemble are.

Kio talks about how he couldn’t find any footage of a three-girl group singing “Zenryoku Shounen.”

Showing his drawing of the Chorus Appreciation Society performing “Etupirka” versus an actual performance.

Other Works

In response to a TSUTAYA bookstore showing its display bookshelf for manga artist panpanya, Kio responds that it’s sandwiched in one hell of a place, given the shelves on each side (Blue Lock, Demon Slayer).

Kio up until recently still was not a fan of Kurita Kan’ichi as the voice of Lupin III ever since he took over the role in the 1990s. However, he’s noticed that rather than sounding like an imitation, Kurita’s performances now have a weight and seriousness that has allowed Kio to finally accept his Lupin.

Fanart of Isako from Dennou Coil. (WATCH DENNOU COIL!)

Kio sees Five Star Stories models and reminisces about when he built his first resin-kit Akatsuki from that series.

Kio retweets an article talking about a journey with toy soldiers that began from a panpanya manga.

Unknown

Kio talks about the good work an “Akio-san” did on photos. What it means is still unclear.

Looking Ahead

This was a pretty tweet-heavy month for all the reasons above. I get the feeling we’ll be seeing less for October, but you never know.
I also posted these highlights right before the 9/30 release date of Spotted Flower Volume 5, so I’m sure I’ll be covering a lot just from that!

Orihara Kousei Has a Posse: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 44

All the members of the Chorus Appreciation Society singing together intensely.

Summary

The Christmas-themed concert at Kousei’s orphanage continues, with the two sides (Christmas crew vs. Namahage Tsuyamers) joining together to sing a couple of songs as one. Kozue (still dressed as God) announces them as the Hashimoto High Chorus Appreciation Society, or “Hashi-kou Ensemble” for short.

The kids in the audience enjoy their performance, while Rikurou (the delinquent kid) is especially surprised by Kousei’s impressive singing. The orphanage’s assistant director thinks back to when a young Kousei first listened to a chorus concert himself. Later, Kousei has a heart-to-heart with Rikurou, where he talks about his dream: to buy a relatively inexpensive plot of land in a rural area, and use the architecture skills he’s learning in high school to build a house of his own where he can invite people over to listen to music.

During the concert, Jin notices Akira’s continued improvement in his singing—even in relatively higher notes, as opposed to the low notes that are Akira’s especially. Afterward, Akira casually mentions wanting to study music, which takes Jin by surprise. The caption at the end wonders how Jin will handle Akira potentially doing what Jin felt he never could.

They Said the Thing

Kozue, dressed as God, announces the group as the "Hashi-kou Ensemble"(Hashi High Ensemble).

This is the first time that the title of the series is (more or less) mentioned by the characters themselves, and it feels like a real milestone. What I think about is the sheer size of the group at this point, going from just Akira and Jin to around a dozen members. They’re on the verge of transitioning from appreciation society to full-fledged club, and I get a real sense of growth looking back at what’s transpired. 

At this point, there’s only one girl among the actual singers, and I see that changing as the story progresses. 

A Dream of a Home

Rikurou and Minori, kids at orihara's orpanage, being impressed by the singing.

Kousei is a character with a lot of layers, and I really love the reveal as to what he’s been working towards all this time. It’s strong and sweet, and encapsulates both the pain and healing that Kousei has been through. 

There’s potentially a conversation about toxic masculinity to be had here, though I don’t know if it’s necessarily limited to perceptions of manhood. What I do see is Rikurou’s previous anger towards Kousei for doing something decidedly uncool and unmanly in his eyes, and then how Kousei manages to change Rikurou’s mind about everything. Kousei’s masculinity is complex, and even though he’s quick to get into a fight, he’s also kind and caring in his own way, and even a bit vulnerable—like his bashfulness over Shion. During his talk with Rikurou, asks if Shion is his girlfriend, which Kousei strongly denies. We know, though, that he’s held back by the belief that he’s from a world too different from hers.

Songs

“My Neighbor Totoro” from the Studio Ghibli film

“Let It Go” (Japanese) from Frozen

Niji” (“Rainbow”) from “Itsu kara No ni Tatsute” (“Standing in the Field, Lost in Time”)

Kamome” composed by Kinoshita Makiko

As always, I have an ever-growing Youtube playlist of most of the songs featured in Hashikko Ensemble.

Final Thoughts

This was a good spotlight on Kousei, though I think the manga’s going to focus on other characters after this.

The series keeps building to some kind of confrontation between Akira and Jin, and I have to wonder when things will come to a head.