Pokemon Extravaganza! Movie 06: Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie: The Wishing Star of Seven Nights: Jirachi (Sub) Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A former member of Team Magma, Butler, wants to use the legendary Pokemon, Jirachi’s power to absorb energy from the Millennium Comet in order to power a machine to revive a Groudon from a fossil. Jirachi selects young Masato as his partner to protect him in the seven days he has awake while the Millennium Comet is visible from earth, and it’s up to Masato, Satoshi, Haruka and Takeshi to keep Jirachi away from Butler and return him back home.

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Jeez, long-ass title there, Japan.

That is the best Japanese poster I have seen for the movies so far. It’s reverting back to a bit cluttered, and Jirachi kinda looks pudgy for whatever reason, but everything else looks fantastic. I like the nice touch of having Jirachi’s true eye start to open.

I’m pretty excited but a little worried for this review. Dogasu said the script suffered from quite a few changes, though the comparison is pretty short. I really liked the dubbed movie, but will the subbed version make me rethink my opinion?

15 Minute Mark

Sadly, I’m working from the English visual track (widescreen somehow, guess they must’ve re-released it) with the Japanese audio, so I can’t compare the title screens.

Ah, I never noticed that the guy in the van at the end credits is part of the festival. He never has a big role in the movie outside of selling May/Haruka her wishing star but that’s a little interesting.

I find it weird that Kirlia got a voice change despite keeping the same name between versions and them both saying that same name.

Speaking of voice changes, Butler’s original voice is so much better. Suave and deep.

Butler commands Dusclops/Samayouru to do Will o’ The Wisp. In the dub, he says ‘Kappitata’ or something like that. It’s weird because this attack is the same thing in the English version. Maybe they wanted it to be triggered by a ‘magic word’ for whatever reason.

Half-Hour Mark

The whole thing about Jirachi needing a friend to emerge isn’t quite right. When he is about to emerge, he chooses a kind-hearted young boy as his partner to help protect him over the time that Jirachi is active. In a way, it’s a chosen duty or honor for this boy (no idea why it specifically has to be a boy…) not that simply Jirachi wants or needs a buddy or is designated as a ‘wish maker’.

The way it’s worded in the original also adds more weight because being Jirachi’s partner technically means that he’s Masato’s Pokemon, like how Satoshi considers Pikachu his partner, making Masato extra happy because that means he has a Pokemon of his own now. In the dub, their being labeled as friends changes the dynamic just enough to not hold as much weight.

Haruka says she’s not quite sure about the ‘kind-hearted’ part and Masato gets defensive and says Jirachi just understands him better. May feels like Max is going crazy for hearing voices and talking to a rock. Max gets defensive and says May’s just jealous because Jirachi wants to be friends with him and not her.

This changes the later scene when May tries to touch the rock. It goes from Max teasing her about wanting to touch the rock when she said it was crazy to be friends with a rock to Masato teasing that he supposedly was too un-kind to let her touch it.

The wishing star that May bought was originally the ‘wish-maker’. I wouldn’t have brought up, really, but the fact that the title of the dub is ‘wish-maker’ and this is the first I’ve heard of that phrase in the original (Jirachi didn’t say it to Masato when he was talking to him earlier) makes me wonder.

I refrained from mentioning this in the other review, but the guy with the van I mentioned, the one scene in which he has a speaking role is here (where he sells Haruka the wish maker) and he sounds normal in the original but very ‘bad guy’-ish in the dub.

Masato isn’t being quite as creepy as Max was with the rock. He asks to hear Jirachi’s voice again and that’s why he ‘snuggles’ the rock. Max says they’ll be best friends and then hugs the rock.

The thing about transporting Haruka makes more sense in the original. She merely says to return everything to where it came from, which Jirachi takes as meaning he should put Haruka back in the pile of candy from which she emerged. I don’t know why 4Kids changed this bit to something that made no sense—Oh wait, 4Kids. Default setting – Make no sense.

Oddly enough, there’s actually a reference to the movie’s short. Nyasu’s original dialogue says that they should use Jirachi to wish for a new base that won’t be broken or danced on. This is in reference to the fact that Team Rocket’s new base was destroyed due to the magic dance wand thing in Gotta Dance. This is the first time I believe the show/movie has ever mentioned anything from the shorts. Kinda neat, actually.

Takeshi says that if Jirachi and Absol are friends, then it makes sense to teleport Achamo/Torchic and Pikachu out to avoid the fighting. Brock says it’s unlikely that the two know each other since Jirachi’s been asleep for 1000 years.

45 Minute Mark

The land that Jirachi originates from is called Faunz not Forina.

Butler doesn’t say that he’s doing this for Diane, which of course we know he isn’t anyway, he’s doing it purely for revenge and his own pride. He just pleads with her to understand why he needs to do this.

Takeshi says Groudon’s power is the ability to create land, not just that he has ‘incredible power’.

Okay, now we’re at a point where the original makes no sense. Diane says that part of the necessary procedure for awakening Jirachi is to find the young boy that Jirachi wants to be his partner. Thus, Butler has been putting on a slue of magic shows in search of that boy. But surely Jirachi wouldn’t contact his partner before the day of the comet’s arrival? Unless he would and some boy would have to be friends with a rock for days, weeks, months, years, possibly decades just to get to the comet’s arrival and that’s if the kid is lucky enough to be born within a decent time frame of the comet’s arrival.

What would Butler have done if he found the right kid like last year? Stalked or kidnapped the kid for a year until he can awaken Jirachi?

This conversation is omitted from the dub in lieu of more explanation of the comet’s energy and Jirachi’s ability to absorb it.

And now we’re bridging a gap I had in the dub. I never understood why Butler, who seemed to have great aspirations of being a magician, became a scientist for Team Magma. In the original’s flashback to Diane and Butler as kids, she says he loved inventing things that surprised people, which culminated in magic tricks when they were kids and his attempt at making a Groudon revival machine as an adult.

I believe his desire to put on a show for people, impress them, resulted in a big ego for Butler, and his pride as a showman was greatly damaged when he was humiliated by Team Magma after his failure.

It’s mostly implications and theorizing, but it’s something to ponder.

Okay, I’m going to talk about Team Rocket because I just don’t have much to discuss here. Team Rocket is after Jirachi too. They’ve been following the group this whole time supposedly waiting for the right time to snatch Jirachi, and while I’m glad they never try because, in all honestly, one Team Rocket snatch job is more than enough for most episodes and seriously isn’t needed in the movies, the fact of the matter is…..just that – they never try.

The group is on this trip for four days and they are completely unguarded save for Satoshi and the gang. Butler snatched Jirachi right from Masato’s arms offscreen even, while Takeshi, Satoshi and Pikachu were all asleep within two feet of each other. Why aren’t they making any effort to take Jirachi?

They have at least three opportunities to do that at night while everyone’s sleeping and they just sit there doing nothing. They, both sub and dub, even say at a point that they have the perfect opportunity, yet still nothing. Their desire to catch Jirachi is only there to keep them on screen because they’re a crowd favorite in America and Japan.

Hour Mark

Got nothing particularly note-worthy here.

End Mark

Butler originally tells the boys that he’s sorry for what he’s done when he’s being absorbed. In the dub, he said at least he’d get to be with Diane. I prefer the original’s because I think we needed a moment where he actually said outright that he was sorry for what he’d done. Knowing that he loves Diane and wants to save her only goes so far, ya know?

Jirachi just says he loves Masato, he loves everyone and that they’re all friends. The group assures this. In the dub, this was the stuff with Max being the one to grant Jirachi’s wish of having a friend.

Oh God, Takeshi’s Japanese VA is just as bored-sounding when he’s singing this song!

Oh okay, so Diane and Butler actually had a reason for staying in Faunz beyond ‘as long as we’re together’. Butler and Diane want to help restore the land that was damaged from the clone Groudon’s attacks. They also plan on studying the plant life.

The ending song is the same between versions except that it’s, obviously, 100% Japanese instead of half Japanese half English. I like both versions equally.

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Bottomline: The script wasn’t changed too much for the dub. I really stretched for some of my notes here, but yes the script for the original is better than the dub’s. Some things that were nagging me were explained such as Masato’s actual role here and why Butler and Diane were staying in Faunz. We still get no explanation as to why Groudon turned out that way, but I guess wecan just chalk it up to an experiment gone wrong.

The dialogue’s better and really shows how much wording can help a script, the voices are better, and, oh yeah, there aren’t any jarring edits. At least they didn’t really change the story or lore, but the minor changes to the script can still have lasting impacts.

The only thing I would call major is the fact that the ‘wish maker’ thing doesn’t exist. The only ‘wish maker’ in the original is Haruka’s charm thing. The dub kinda leads you to believe that Max is chosen as a ‘wish maker’, kinda like Jirachi’s a genie and Max is his master. It doesn’t come up much, but it does pop up a few times and is the name of the movie.

The ending song, while still having a bored-sounding Takeshi, was also a bit less silly to listen to, making the ending more emotionally connecting.

4Kids missed the mark a bit here, but it is by far not their worst efforts. I still really wanna slap whoever thought it was okay to release the movie with incredibly obvious and annoying screen jumps.

Recommended Audience: E for everyone!

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Hell Girl: Two Mirrors – Episode 9: Elder Brother, Younger Sister

HGTM EP9

Plot: Maho wants to send her brother, Mikio, to hell for ruining all of her relationships before they even start. Though that’s just the tip of the iceberg….

Breakdown: So……incest!

Ya know, I never realized when I started this anime reviewing gig that I’d spend so much of my life talking about incest. And yet, here I am.

Let me backpedal a bit. Mikio is in love with Maho, but Maho’s either deeply in denial or she fully believes her given story, which is that Mikio forces all of her boyfriends to leave her because he feels she’s not pretty enough to have a boyfriend. Mikio is this super hot literal model and Maho, despite the cavalcade of suitors she appears to attract, seems rather ordinary.

Maho detests this behavior enough, and/or believes her brother secretly hates her anyway, that she calls Hell Girl.

She does learn the truth before she pulls the string, and, being fair, no actual incest is had here. He tries to sexually assault her, but she fights him off before he’s even able to kiss her. Later, it’s…kinda….vague, but there are hints that she might have romantically loved him back and she sent him to hell because they could never be in the same house knowing that about each other?….I dunno.

All things said, this seems like a boring episode, right? Let’s up the game, shall we?

Mikio is actually a crossdresser. At night, he masquerades as a beautiful woman named Miki. He’d dress up like a beautiful woman, which he could easily pull off, and he’d hunt down Maho’s new or potential boyfriends, hit on them and then spend the night with them on the condition that they break up with Maho.

How he pulled this off….I don’t know. Either he wasn’t going ‘all the way’ with these guys, not allowing them to discover he’s actually a guy, or….Maho has a habit of finding suitors who are bisexual…..or Mikio is so hot they didn’t care.

Ultimately, I honestly didn’t want this guy to go to hell. I doubt any sibling relationship can go back to normal after something like that, and attempted sexual assault is pretty bad, but I don’t feel like that’s instant one-way trip to hell worthy. It’s especially worrisome when you consider an odd detail near the end.

Maho’s mark is noticeably lighter than most of the curse marks you see and she claims she’ll be seeing him soon. Even though there are no other indications of suicide, and the candle at the end wasn’t nearly extinguished or anything, it seems to hint that she’s going to take her life either out of guilt or because she wants to be with him.

The idea that she felt the same way about him confuses me a little. If she did, then I don’t see what truly stands in their way. Their parents seem to be dead, and they can easily move far away so no one knows their connection.

If taboo is the issue then…..uhh…why not go for it? Calling Hell Girl (and then committing suicide?) seems like a much worse fate. At least if you gave each other a chance, you’d have some happiness before you, theoretically, went to hell.

I don’t really think she loved her brother romantically, but the question does hang in the air.

Rating: 6.5/10 (Mostly just because it wasn’t that interesting and it was kinda confusing.)

SSBS – Tokyo Mew Mew Episode 37: The Shining Tear – Celebrating Christmas with Just the Two of Us

SSBS - TMM EP 37 SCREEN6

Plot: Ichigo is excited about spending Christmas with Aoyama, but quickly crashes back down to earth when she comes to the striking realization that she’s become used to lying to Aoyama about her status as a Mew.

She hates that she keeps having to lie to him, but can’t find a way to be truthful with him. Zakuro decides to take her Christmas shopping in the middle of the night to find a present for Aoyama. She tells Ichigo that presents are about conveying feelings in a physical form, since you can’t see someone else’s feelings for you. You’re sharing a piece of your heart when you give a gift, so giving a gift is just as much for you as it is the recipient.

As Ichigo thinks it over, a pendant catches her eye. Zakuro explains that it’s called ‘Tears for Christmas’, and Ichigo decides that this is the gift she wants to give Aoyama. Zakuro lends her the money to buy it, Ichigo thanks her and they part ways.

Throughout that night and the next day, Ichigo remains unsure about her situation with Aoyama. She feels she’s become selfish and unfair to him. The next afternoon, when she’s set to meet him in the park, she lies and says she needs to go straight home before running off in tears.

That night, Ichigo continues to sink into a depression, believing herself to be not good enough for Aoyama. She soon remember Aoyama’s earlier words to her about people doing the best they can little by little. She says that Aoyama’s so direct about everything, and she owes it to him to be the same way because she loves him with all of her heart.

The next day, she sends a message to Aoyama apologizing for her behavior at the park and confirming that she’ll keep their date for the Christmas tree lighting that afternoon. She arrives pretty early, but the occasion is already soured by the aliens who start blasting away at the city surrounding the tree.

Ichigo bolts to the scene of the destruction and takes on the aliens by herself. Kisshu asks her why she continues to support the humans when she’s already so much more like the aliens. She can’t communicate her feelings to humans and they’ll turn on her eventually for being so different and powerful. He claims she should defect from the humans and join them. Ichigo stands her ground firmly and proclaims that she doesn’t do what she does for praise – she’ll protect everyone no matter what.

Her intense emotions trigger a response from the Mew Aqua that was hidden deep within the city Christmas tree. Pai and Taruto praise Kisshu for seemingly having a plan that worked for a change, but Kisshu was serious in his pleas and is devastated that, once again, Ichigo has refused to go with them.

The other Mews show up to the fight, and Ichigo is more determined now than ever protect those she holds dear.

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– So, even though they’re all custom-made hats, Ichigo gets a special strawberry Christmas hat (Which is, admittedly, adorable.) but Lettuce gets an oversized golf hat? And Zakuro gets a big puffy beret with dangly puffballs on it? And Mint just gets ribbons? I would call favoritism again…..BUT PUDDING IN A REINDEER OUTFIT! ADORABLE!~

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– I’ll admit, that daydream Ichigo had was really sweet and romantic. The ending was also a little funny. You just typically don’t see Aoyama have those kinds of cartoony reactions.

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– I’m a little uncomfortable about these 13 year olds speculating that their friend will have sex with her boyfriend over Christmas. Also, slow your roll, girls, they haven’t even kissed yet.

– Uh, animators, are you asleep at the wheel? Because Aoyama’s talking, you’re focusing on his face, but his lips aren’t moving.

– I don’t know if it’s the Jingle Bells playing in the background, but I can’t help but smile as Ichigo goes on yet another doofy love-fueled tirade in the cafe.

Also, nice sudden slam back down to earth. Not lying. Her suddenly knocking over the bucket on accident after Mint reminds her of her Mew duties, even after saying ‘everything always manages to work out.’ was a well-done tone shift, and it was one of the better commercial cliffhangers. The fact that it’s moreso about her becoming accustomed to lying to Aoyama and less about ‘oh yeah, I’m a mew!’ is also a more interesting approach.

– Awww, Zakuro’s taking Ichigo Christmas shopping. I love Zakuro. She’s such a good friend.

– That speech about presents and feelings was really well-written too. And I like the song in the background, even if it’s not terribly memorable.

– That necklace is butt ugly, though.

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– Hahaha, Ryou running the cafe all by himself is priceless.

– The decorated Cafe also looks fantastic.

– Not lying, I burst out in laughter and ‘aww’s when I saw Mint and Lettuce in their reindeer outfits.

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– Oh my god, Zakuro’s Rudolph! Ahahahaha!

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– Marks off for basically reusing the entire animation cycle of the scene in her bedroom just a few shots prior to this. All they did to change it was make it darker…

– As much as I hate to skew into a negative state, this episode is so well written and directed…I can’t help but wonder how 4Kids would’ve royally screwed this one over.

– Do people typically have Christmas tree lightings in the day time? Every one I’ve seen is at night…so you can…ya know….see the lights.

– Aw, come on, the aliens are going to ruin Christmas? Ba humbug.

– See this is one of the things I like most about Ichigo. She has another set date for Aoyama, after giving him the brush off the day before, and, without a single hesitation, she runs off towards trouble, not even realizing it’s an alien matter. That’s the stuff of heroes.

– Kisshu’s speech about Ichigo not being able to communicate feelings to other humans is a little too on-the-nose. How did he know she was having trouble with that?

– Aw poor Kisshu….can I offer you a…..tissue?

….I am so sorry, I couldn’t resist.

– Little cheesy that the Mew Aqua’s in a Christmas tree.

– The song for the next episode preview is a very nice gentle version of ‘Silent Night.’ This episode is making me so mellow…

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So I kinda love this episode. The only gripe I have with it is that there are some occasions where they’re obviously cutting corners in the animation department, including one instance where they just straight up don’t animate, but it’s nothing too noticeable or bad enough to mark this episode off that much. The art and direction more than made up for any shortcuts they may have taken.

This is one of the best written episodes we’ve gotten so far. It’s a very realistic and emotional take on Ichigo’s whole situation, made all the more powerful because it’s happening around Christmas, when you’re supposed to be happy and sharing love with others.

I love the whole flow of this episode, too. While the beginning is the typical ‘yay I get to spend time with Aoyama’ stuff we get a lot of, the sudden shift in tone is very well-done and welcome. We’ve seen Ichigo get upset about lying to Aoyama before, but it hits her like a ton of bricks this time because she knows she’s becoming complacent in her lying, and she hates that. Aoyama deserves better, but she can’t bring herself to give it to him because she’s afraid she’s either not good enough or that he’ll reject her.

It’s a great moment when Aoyama’s own words help bring her out of that dark place and give her the confidence to go and be honest with him, and that surge of love and honesty giving her even more drive in her mission is a good moment of character development.

I also like that this is a two-parter because it allows the story development to have much better pacing than it otherwise would have. We need slower and more gradual developments, especially in plot lines like these, to give the changes some time to sit and resolve.

I was worried I might be biased in this episode simply because it’s a Christmas episode, but I don’t think I am. It’s truly a great episode, even if the other Mews are pretty shafted for a majority of it. They’re not nearly as shoved into a corner as they usually are, Zakuro got some nice moments and, come on, all but one of the Mews in reindeer outfits!…And Zakuro’s Rudolph!

Next episode, can the Mews save Christmas? Can Ichigo finally be truly honest with Aoyama? Is there a secret Aoyama’s somehow hiding as well?

CSBS – Rocket Power Episode 2: Secret Spot/Ice Queens

CSBS - Rocket Power Ep 2a

Plot: Secret Spot – Ocean Shores is overrun by tourists, so Otto and Reggie decide to take Twister and Sam to their father’s legendary secret spot – an incredibly secret beach where the waves are always perfect and they have the whole area to themselves.

Ice Queens – Otto, Reggie, Sam and Twister are heading to Winter Fest to participate in a hockey championship. However, their practice keeps getting sidetracked by Reggie and Clio, Twister’s cousin, constantly fighting. Clio looks down on Reggie for liking hockey and not being feminine while Reggie continuously bites back with little respect towards Clio’s girly views and sport of choice – ice dancing.

Breakdown: Secret Spot – Goddamn this episode is boring…and it’s another episode I remember like the script was burned into my brain.

Seriously, this episode….is so boring. Nothing of interest happens. The one running joke throughout the whole run time is one of the characters telling the other where the secret spot is and the information is blocked out by some loud noise so the audience, whom this information would be useless to, can’t hear it, because it’s just that secret.

They act like them going to the secret spot won’t divulge the information either. Like, why does Twister absolutely need to know where the spot is before they go? Why does Lars need to threaten the location out of him if he basically just follows him there?

The only other running gag is a really, really, really drawn out dialogue where a character will ask if they’re talking about THE secret spot and then go on to ask questions that are variants of ‘You mean the secret spot that’s really secret?’

If there’s one thing I can say for this episode it’s that I liked the little moment at the end where Otto and, especially Twister, apologize to Sam for yelling at him for accidentally spilling the beans to Lars about the secret spot (Twister gave him the information the night before, so he already knew anyway) and Sam responds by calling Twister a Squid. The look Twister gives after that and the scene as a whole shows that they’ve really grown as friends, which is saying something because Twister tends to rag on Sam the most.

I guess I also liked the twist where they explain that they never actually told them where the secret spot is – they left out one big detail, so Lars and the others end up thinking a rocky nightmare beach is the spot.

That does not make up for the boring tedium of this episode, though.

Can I ask a question that’s been bugging me for over a decade though? Is ‘shoobie’ a real word in beach-side towns? It feels like it could be, but it also feels like something they made up.

CSBS - Rocket Power Ep 2b

Ice Queens – Hey, if you want a nice taste of ‘dated’ Sam refers to a 12GB hard drive as ‘huge’ in this episode. Fun fun.

If there was one episode I was simultaneously looking forward to and dreading, it was this one. Looking forward to because I really related with this episode when I was a kid and dreading because I was really worried it would be one of those episodes that is actually horrible in hindsight.

I was, and still am I guess, a tomboy, if such a phrase is still used today (Goddamn, this whole episode is making me feel old) I was never really into extreme sports or anything like Reggie is, but being into geeky things, having mostly male friends, dressing more boy-ish, watching shows more directed towards guys and being a little rough earned me the moniker.

I never minded. I was quite content with who I was. It wasn’t like I was inherently averse to girly things, either. I had plenty of Barbies and stuffed animals and such. I even had my own fake kitchen, which I feel awkward admitting because I feel like I’m being sexist…to myself………I also had a toy vacuum, what the shit? Uh, anyway, I liked ‘girly’ things, I just wasn’t as interested in them.

Still, I was mocked for being a ‘tomboy’ by some of the more popular girly girls, and sometimes it was irritating to hear that I couldn’t do this or that or have this or that because they were ‘meant for boys.’

Something I always give my parents credit for, however, is, despite their conservative and religious natures, they never had a problem giving me ‘boy’ things like wrestler toys, Power Ranger merchandise or encouraging me to do ‘boy-ish’ things like watch and play basketball. My mom got a little irritated that I never ‘grew out of it’ when I got a lot older, but she never really made me feel bad about it.

That’s why I related so much to Reggie. She’s an awesome, intelligent, kick-ass girl who can do anything the boys can do, and many times do it better.

Here, her femininity is called into question by a clashing girly-girl, Clio, Twister’s cousin, whose name spelling annoys me. Clio is here for an ice dancing competition, because of course she is. She’s even got the pink tutu and everything. Let it be known that I am not ragging on Clio for being a typical girly-girl – that would make a hypocrite – I am ragging on her a little because she’s acting like being a girly-girl makes her better than Reggie.

I’m 100% certain Reggie would have no issue with this girl if she wasn’t acting like enjoying pink and being preoccupied with fashion made her better than Reggie. Even if they don’t like the same things, Reggie is a very level-headed and kind girl. She’d likely make friends with her anyway if she were actually nice.

This clash of the estrogen culminates in Reggie and Clio making a bet that the other can do their sport just as easily as the other can, which I’m cool with – walk a mile in the other’s shoes and all. I also appreciate that the others don’t make fun of Reggie when she’s ice dancing. They cheer her on and are impressed with her skills. Otto even says that he thinks ice dancing is cool. I liked that.

All that said, the climax of this episode is ridiculously dumb.

1 – Clio has absolutely no experience whatsoever in hockey. How was she skilled enough to make all of those great moves and even score the winning goal? Just because she’s a skilled ice dancer does not make her a skilled hockey player.

I thought I could justify this by saying she’s been hearing the others go over plays the entire ride over and she’s seen them practice, but that’s nowhere near enough to warrant that kind of jump in skill.

2 – Reggie has absolutely no experience whatsoever in ice dancing. How was she skilled enough to (nearly) win an ice dancing competition? (I say ‘nearly’ because she was DQ’d for standing in for Clio.)

Where did she learn how to do all those moves? How did she know Clio’s routine so quickly? Yes, she’s a skilled ice skater, being a hockey player, but, like with Clio, that does not make you an ice dancer.

3 – How were Otto and the others not also disqualified? Clio took Reggie’s place in the match without telling anyone. Isn’t that also cheating?

While we’re on the subject, while Clio may have agreed to risking her championship for a dumb rivalry, why would Reggie do the same? She could’ve nearly gotten her team DQ’d and wasted all of their hard work for, again, a petty rivalry.

4 – How does this fix their problem at all if both of them were insanely good at the other’s sport with barely an ounce of trying? The argument was –

Clio – “Hockey’s easy! Anyone could do it!”

Reggie – “Ice dancing’s insanely easy!”

If they both won championship level competitions with, maybe, a few hours of practice, that kinda just proves to themselves that they were right about their positions. It would’ve been better to have them in situations where there was nothing official on the line and had them try their hands at the other’s sport there. Then have them both fail miserably and gain a better respect for the other’s sport.

Maybe have them be super determined to learn more about the sport so they can show the other up then develop a real interest in it through the research and practice.

5 – I don’t quite understand how Otto and the others are even in some hockey championship. First of all, they don’t even have enough players for a true hockey match. They have four players, counting their goalie, and the usual minimum is six on each side.

Do they even have an official team in the first place that somehow lead to them being here? They only play against one team during the entirety of Winter Fest and win trophies because of it.

Finally, why does it seem like the opposing team is made up of 16 year olds? Otto and the others are about 10-12. Are there not age brackets? This hardly seems fair.

All in all, I like this episode, but it kinda feels like the ending screws everything up. It’s nice that Clio and Reggie have found some mutual respect for the other, including their chosen sports, but I just think they did it in a way that both didn’t make sense and was extremely contrived.

This episode did spawn one of my favorite, seldom used, insults, though.

Otto: “Hey! Why don’t you pick on somebody with your own steroid dosage!?”

Ratings:

Secret Spot – 1/10

Ice Queens – 6.5/10

Animating Halloween: The Amazing World of Gumball – Halloween

AHTAWOGH

Plot: Gumball, Darwin and Anais head to the cemetery to meet Carrie for a ghost party at a haunted house.

Breakdown: You know what sucks? Watching an episode of Gumball with headphones on. Jesus Christ, does everyone do their best to have their voices squeak whenever possible? It’s like every character has an old shopping cart lodged in their throats.

I still have a bit of an odd relationship with Gumball, but I think I’m warming up to it a little. While the characters are still largely irritating, I found this episode to be fun. It’s a bit of a step away from your usual Halloween fare, in a good way, though I really think this special suffers from the eleven minute restriction.

Like I’ve already mentioned before, it’s very difficult to make one of these specials be worth it if they don’t at least get the full 22 minutes of a complete episode. The party didn’t get to be as funny as it could’ve been and neither did Gumball and Darwin messing around as ghosts all because they tried to do so much in so little time.

And just to get this out of the way, Gumball and Darwin kill themselves in this episode. I don’t care how they subvert it or sugarcoat it, they turned into ghosts and left bodies behind – they died.

Despite all that, they still had several moments that made me crack a smile, but none that made me laugh. I kinda like the humor Gumball has sometimes, like when they’re more deadpan or when they tried to control the T-rex, but it’s overall style has a lot of difficulty staying with me through the whole episode and I still can’t bring myself to like the characters. I liked Carrie a lot, but that’s about it.

All in all, a fairly fun Halloween special but nothing really…’special.’

Animating Halloween: Hell Girl – Two Mirrors: Episode 8 – The Fake Hell Link

HGTM EP8

Plot: The students of a junior high school are constantly scolded by a strict teacher named Shoko Baba, though they’ve nicknamed her Make-Up Hag. As the grudges of the students grow, more of them receive emails by a mysterious person claiming to be Hell Girl with a fake Hell Link website. None of them can properly enter a grievance against her, however, since every attempt results in an error claiming they’re not filled with enough anger and vengeance.

Who is behind this fake Hell Link and why does it seem to be specifically targeting Shoko Baba?

Breakdown: One of the best episodes so far.

The premise, at first, didn’t intrigue me much at all. When I watched the next episode preview, I thought it’d be boring. A spam email claiming it’s Hell Link? Unless things are actually happening to the people being entered into the system, how could this possibly be interesting?

Surprisingly, quite a bit. The entire first half leaves you wondering who’s really behind this website, and even after it becomes quite clear who it is, you still wonder why they’re doing this and what beef they have with Shoko Baba.

In a previous episode, we saw the first time someone has outright refused Hell Girl’s services after hearing what the price is. This is the second time such a thing has happened.

When the, let’s call her a culprit, called Hell Girl, she refused to pull the string because she didn’t want to go to hell. She even got on her knees and begged Hell Girl to just take Baba without cursing her. This obviously didn’t work, so she decided she’d go on an insanely long mission to destroy her life, to the point where Baba’s husband divorced her and she became estranged to her son.

She became enraged when it seemed like that didn’t destroy her enough, so she concocted a plan to trick one of the students into using Hell Girl for her so she could send her to hell without damning her own soul.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone try to send another person to hell by proxy, but this is the first time it nearly worked. Before, the proxy client didn’t take a level of vengeance into consideration. This time, the proxy client has used the website before and knows how Hell Girl works so she could game the system better.

Too bad Ai doesn’t put up with that shit. Laid down a trap for her like a boss.

It’s also amazing how they flipped the script on us. I won’t give away the final twist, but it was very bittersweet and somewhat touching.

What is wrong with the proxy client, though? I will admit, Baba’s a bit of a bitch, but what did she do besides give her somewhat poor marks in middle school that made her so hateful? She even blamed this woman on her own parents getting a divorce. Like, what? Get help, lady.

Rating: 9/10

Animating Halloween: Hell Girl – Two Mirrors: Episode 7 – Bonds

HGTM EP7

Plot: Emi’s brother, Tatsuya, died in a tragic motorcycle accident, and now her mother is obsessed with avenging his death by going after the city for a dangerous roadway. Her family is falling apart before her eyes. Despite her best efforts at keeping the family together, Emi is living in a house with no love or attention. Before his death, Tatsuya contacted Hell Girl and got the signature straw doll. Strangely, even though Tatsuya has died, the doll is seemingly passed down to Emi. Who is the doll’s target, and will Emi pull the string to restore happiness back to her family?

Breakdown: This episode certainly was interesting and incredibly tragic.

They depicted the impact of a death of a child in a family very realistically, almost to the point where you want to cry for nearly everyone involved. The dad is drinking all the time and ignoring the problems his wife is currently having, pretty much just letting her grieve in her own way.

Emi is doing everything in her power to keep it together. She’s taking care of her mother, doing all of the household chores and is keeping up activities at school.

Meanwhile, the mother has gone off the rails. She spends her days consumed with thoughts of Tatsuya. She’s gone on a warpath to attack the city for a road that she deems was so unsafe that it caused her son’s accident. It’s also created a massive media storm that…I find unrealistic to be honest. Some media attention, sure, but they are being attacked by mobs of journalists for this issue that’s not really all that news-worthy.

I know a lot of local roads that have issues and end up having a lot of accidents, fatalities included. It’s quite possible to lock the city into a lawsuit over safety issues resulting in a fatality, but it would hardly garner this level of media attention.

Plus, honestly, that road doesn’t look all that unsafe. It’s a sharp turn…with plenty of signs. It was extremely rainy out and he looked like he was speeding. It was an accident. Even Emi and her father agree it was just an accident.

Throughout the episode, Emi’s mother keeps slipping further and further from sanity. She pays Emi absolutely no mind and focuses her all into Tatsuya and getting vengeance for his death.

It’s made a mystery throughout most of the episode as to who Tatsuya was targeting when he called Hell Girl, but about halfway through the episode, considering no one else is really showing up, you come to realize it’s the mother.

Before his death, their mother was still focused entirely on Tatsuya. She never cared at all about Emi. She never paid her any attention or noticed her achievements. No matter how hard she tried, she could never get her mother’s attention because Tatsuya consumed it all.

Tatsuya hated the attention because their mother was always on his ass about every little thing. She was suffocating him and driving him insane. He believed that their family would be perfect if she weren’t around. However, he died before he was able to use the doll.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a client die before using the doll. I always assumed the doll went back to normal if the client died before the contract could be made, but not only does it stick around, the power gets transferred to someone else without them accessing Hell Girl.

I had no idea you could do that. I could swear that accessing the website was necessary for any deal to start. The only reason I can think of for this happening is maybe, since Emi also had it out for their mother deep down, the feeling of vengeance and the pending contract already in play was enough to transfer it to her? I dunno. Sometimes, I feel like Hell Girl plays it fast and loose with the rules to get a plot going.

The third act is rather heart-breaking. Absolutely everything is falling apart in Emi’s family.

Her dad is becoming more of a drunk, who even seems like he quit his job near the end or got fired.

Her mother is completely insane now, spending her time cuddling a broken Buddha statue head that broke in the accident, acting like it’s somehow Tatsuya or a link to him, borrowing a ton of money for who knows where to get a book deal for Tatsuya’s story and, despite the city deciding to fix the road, they won’t admit responsibility for Tatsuya’s death, which makes her even more infuriated.

Emi is left with complete responsibility in the house and no one’s paying a lick of attention to her. Unable to take it any longer, Emi takes his earlier statement to heart. Maybe their family really would be better off without their mom. She pulls the string and her mother is sent to hell.

We get no hell torture this time around, but we do see her in the boat with Ai and Ren. They tell her she’s going to hell, and she asks if Tatsuya’s there. Even though Ren tells her it’s extremely unlikely, she gleefully yells out over and over that she’s going to see Tatsuya. I know she’s not right in the head, but why would she want to believe Tatsuya’s in hell, even if she’s going there too?

And it doesn’t stop there. Obviously, this doesn’t really fix the issue. Emi’s father believes her mother is merely missing and seemingly spends his days going out to look for her. Emi spends all her days alone and lives in a delusion of a happy family by setting up photos of everyone around the dinner table and pretending they’re the real thing.

God. Damn.

I can’t even really bring myself to say the mother deserved to go to hell. I have no idea how much of a bitch she was before Tatsuya died. From what Emi and Tatsuya said, her entire world was Tatsuya, and she was very neglectful of Emi, but I never got to see to what levels they’re talking about. A flashback or two in that regard would’ve been nice.

Even if she was that way, it’s hard to say that’s enough to warrant being damned to hell.

After the fact, it’s even harder to say she deserves it because she’s obviously spiraling in grief to the point of extremely mental illness. She won’t eat, she won’t pay attention to anything that doesn’t involve Tatsuya and she eventually gets so bad that she just sits on the floor clutching that Buddha head chanting ‘Tatsuya’ over and over.

I know Emi’s in a lot of pain and is frustrated at how her parents, particularly her mother, is acting, but while she may have meant to ignore her before Tatsuya died, I don’t think she’s meaning to do it now. It’s just how some people grieve. This is an extreme case, but it still counts.

Now Emi’s damned to hell too. It’s just a terrible situation on all sides.

Rating: 9/10

Yami Shibai 6 Review

Plot: The sixth installment of the horror anthology series, Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: This certainly was an interesting, but somewhat tame, season of Yami Shibai. There was definitely more of a focus on happier endings and sadder, tragic stories than there were actual horror, but that doesn’t mean they slipped too much in the horror department.

Like I’ve mentioned before, part of horror is creating a connection with the main characters and caring for them to the point where you worry for their safety, heightening the sense of horror that you get from the danger at hand. Problem is, some of these stories didn’t amount as much to horror as they did tragedy. I’m not sure how much of a problem that is because Yami Shibai is a theater of darkness, and tragedy and sadness are indeed dark feelings. I would say I come here for the horror, but I moreso come for the stories as a whole.

The good news is that, even when the stories were more sad or tragic than usual, and even if they had happy endings, the twists and horror elements were usually well-done, and I can’t think of any story this season that was notably bad.

Episode 1: Thunderous Visitor8/10: Starting off a little sad, but definitely creepy with some great pacing, Thunderous Visitor has a great twist and a lot of suspense.

Episode 2: Tomonashi Cave6.5/10: While the story is alright, the episode as a whole is very cliché, and you only really care about one of the characters. Some of the visuals were creepy, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Episode 3: The Wind’s Warning 8.5/10: The story manages to be creepy while having both a happy ending and a sad but sweet twist.

Episode 4: Swamp Offering7/10: Confusing ending, and I still don’t quite understand it even with several theories surrounding it. However, it’s a decent enough horror story with a cathartic ending.

Episode 5: The Dripping9/10: A really chilling and legitimately frightening tale that is only hindered by the setup that I can’t make heads or tails of.

Episode 6: Sakura 9/10: I really love this story, and it does have several creepy and eerie elements, but it could be dinged off for being more tragic and sad with a happy ending than providing full horror. That doesn’t really bother me, though. Also, how and why the tree was suddenly cut down is a bit too convenient and confusing.

Episode 7: Frog Eggs 8.5/10: The more I think about this episode, the creepier it gets. The story doesn’t make much sense to me no matter how I look at it, but I can’t deny that those damn dot eyes and the very ending make for very effective scares.

Episode 8: Sea Fortunes3/10: Weakest episode of the season by far. It’s not necessarily all that bad, it’s just boring and not scary to me. Not to mention that the story doesn’t even make much sense.

Episode 9: Mud Games10/10: Second of two 10/10 rating’s I’ve given a Yami Shibai episode. I would dock it off for being so ridiculously sad, but I can’t, in all good conscience, do that because it did emit a fairly strong emotional response in me. Plus, it does have a very good horror element to it amidst the sadness, so it’s not faltering in that area for the sake of tragedy.

Episode 10: Tree of Innocence9/10: I mentioned that this episode was sadder than Mud Games due to the current circumstances of one of the boys, but Mud Games still created a stronger emotional response in me as a whole, and the true sadness of his situation doesn’t sink until you’ve either watched the episode a couple of times or you’ve sat and ruminated over it, and the horror element in this one is pretty lackluster.

Episode 11: Frozen Memories7.5/10: Still going strong with the sadness, like the happy ending, but very very light on the horror and creepiness. I kinda liked that the…whatever that was outside the door was an unseen threat, but it just didn’t work very well.

Episode 12: Waterfall Drop9/10: One of the creepiest Yami Shibai entries, marred only by a slightly predictable setup and some craggy artwork.

Episode 13: Echoes 8/10: Definitely a creepy and legitimately disorienting episode with a decent enough twist at the end, but nothing that horrifying and slightly disappointing because this is the season finale so I expected more spice.

Rating: 8/10 (Averaged and Rounded up) – Here’s the thing, this is definitely the most consistent season of Yami Shibai yet in terms of quality in writing. There was only one ‘bad’ episode, and it wasn’t even really all that bad so much as uninteresting and confusing. I really enjoyed season six, but it did skimp on the horror several times.

I’m not against them going a different route when it comes to the ‘darkness’ aspect of the ‘Theater of Darkness’ Afterall, sadness and tragedy are two dark things, but after five seasons and a distinct theme of horror, you come to expect more in the actual horror department from Yami Shibai. Over half of the entries are aimed more towards sadness than scares. They can sometimes meld the two quite well, but it’s so strange that they decided to go down this route.

I can’t really mark them down for this, though, because I still think the quality of the stories was enough, and they always made an effort to include horror so it’s not like it was an afterthought.

Recommended Audience: There is some gore, most notably in Frog Eggs, and even then you can’t see too much. While the season is slanted more towards sadness and tragedy, there are still plenty of scares and creepiness here. 12+

Animating Halloween: Monster House Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: DJ is obsessed with watching the house of his scary next-door neighbor, Mr. Nebbercracker. He goes insane with rage at everyone who dares set one foot on his yard or get anywhere near his house. When DJ accidentally ‘kills’ Mr. Nebbercracker, he believes his spirit went on to haunt his house, nabbing up anyone who gets near. DJ, his best friend, Chowder and a local girl named Jenny team up to stop the house, but the situation is far more complicated than they ever anticipated.

Breakdown: Making horror movies for kids is a tricky area. You can’t put in anything ‘too scary’ or else the parents will get up in arms. You can’t tone it down too much or else the movie will be boring, even for kids.

Gentle middlegrounds are hard to find, and this one hits the mark quite well.

I watch Monster House every year on Halloween, but it’s one of those movies that I mostly forget unless it’s the Halloween season. Sometimes, I even forget it until I randomly see it on TV for Halloween.

It was strange to me because I always enjoy this movie whenever I watch it, and it wasn’t until I watched it for the review that I realized why I probably let it slip my mind whenever it’s not Halloween – this movie has very irritating characters.

Granted, they are ‘realistic’ tweenagers, teenagers and adults, but there’s no one in this movie that’s even slightly likable until the last 15 minutes or so.

Let’s go down the line –

DJ is one of those kids who wants desperately to be treated as a mature adult, but still does a lot of immature things. He’s obsessed with Mr. Nebbercracker because of his harsh behavior and the creepy urban legend that he killed his wife and ate her. DJ is probably the least annoying, but that’s not saying much.

His parents, while only getting brief screentime, also don’t get a good light shed on them. They’re mostly harmless, but then we see that his father refuses to show DJ any affection, fighting his wife against telling him he loves him before he leaves on a trip or giving him a hug goodbye. Then we get a completely serious implication that his mother wouldn’t care if she accidentally killed him.

She believes she backed into DJ with the car and his father fully implies she wouldn’t care if it was.

Then we have Chowder, who is just obnoxious. He’s the typical comic relief immature best friend. Almost all of his scenes involve him being incredibly annoying in some way.

For good measure, we have Jenny or the obligatory love interest who is literally thrown into the story. She doesn’t even live in their neighborhood nor had the two boys met her before the story began. She’s an alright character, but not only is she clearly just meant to be a love interest for the boys (though obviously meant for DJ because since when does the sidekick get the girl?) she says stuff like ‘are you mentally challenged?…Because, if you are, I’m certified to teach you baseball!’ to them upon first meeting.

There’s Zee, who is the bitchy punk rocker babysitter who loves to torment DJ.

Then we have her boyfriend, Bones, who’s even more of a prick than she is. During his screentime, he does such charming things as getting drunk, ripping apart DJ’s stuffed bunny rabbit and getting pissy that Zee doesn’t want to fool around with him.

Following them, we have Skull, a local gamer who is about as typical as any depiction of a gamer since The Wizard. He’s obsessed with video games, is a complete jerk and is so into his games that he can play them without looking and talks smack to them.

After that, there’s the police. There’s the veteran cop who laughs at the kids claims of there being something wrong with the house, but eventually tries to arrest them for minor offenses toward a vacant house.

Then there’s his partner, a rookie cop who is one of those types who gets way too into it and is fully drunk on the power before he even gets his feet wet. It’s scary how he treats these kids, too. He’s gleefully happy to take them in, taunts them as if they’re adult criminals and will swing his gun around like it’s not even there.

The only characters left to address are Mr. Nebbercracker and his wife. Mr. Nebbercracker is meant to be a scary, mean old man, but in the last 20 minutes or so, you realize he wasn’t being this way to be a jerk. He was actually trying to protect everyone.

His wife was a bitch who only had a soft spot for him, but it’s understandable that she is so defensive given her backstory.

I won’t go any further to avoid spoilers, even though this movie is old enough to warrant them. I think the twist is a good chunk of the fun.

I will ask a couple of spoiler-y questions, though. Be warned until the list is over.

1 – Constance fell into the cement for the foundation……and…..Horace just built…over her? Why didn’t he dig her out? Why would he ever feel comfortable building a house on his wife’s remains?

2 – Considering how thin the cement was over Constance’s remains, I feel like that wouldn’t have even been enough to kill her. Certainly Horace should have been able to save her.

3 – The house was haunted by her spirit since her corpse was in the foundation, yet when the house actually uprooted itself and started traveling all over town, the spirit didn’t leave it. If it was detached from the foundation, I don’t really see why the house itself was still haunted.

4 – This is from earlier in the movie, but if you had a guy who was clearly not dead and was only suffering from a heart attack or something, why would you treat the guy like a corpse? They don’t give him medical attention or anything. The plop him on a gurney, don’t even put him in a body bag or cover him up, and let his arm dangle and drag the ground. Even if they thought he was dead, you don’t treat patients like that.

Outside of that, this is still a great horror movie for all ages. The scares are effective for kids and adults alike, and some of the visuals are wonderfully done.

The backstory was well-written, and I was legitimately happy for everyone in the end. I only wish they all, barring Nebbercracker for obvious reasons, could’ve been more likable from the start so I could really get emotionally invested.

The art and animation is where some people falter on this movie, and I can see why. It’s a strange amalgamation of motion capture and clay-like CGI animation. The heads are super big, the hair doesn’t move at all, and some of the movements are surreal when coupled with the animation. The movements of the arms and bodies will be fine, but then the heads will just seem strange.

The music was also nice. Even though nothing stood out as being fantastic, it was a very fitting soundtrack that melded well with the ambiance.

Monster House has been getting very positive reviews every since its release….but check out the reviews on Common Sense Media. Remember how I said horror movies for kids might get parents up in arms? These reviewers have their parental arms fully up.

They bitch about the littlest things like one character saying ‘I stole drugs for you!’ when the ‘drugs’ were bottles of cold medicine…meant to knock out a sentient house, or saying ‘kiss my butt’ or ‘moron.’ All of these reviews amount to a one-star rating.

One reviewer said this movie scared their two-year-old kid…..THEIR TWO-YEAR-OLD KID.

You let your two-friggin’-year-old kid watch a horror movie – I don’t give a crap if it’s meant for kids, it’s still a damn horror movie. And it’s rated PG, meaning it’s already meant for an older audience than friggin’ two-year-olds.

The icing on the cake – they complained about the fact that there was a creepy monster house that eats people………IT’S…..THE….ENTIRE….TITLE….OF….THE…..MOVIE.

MONSTER. HOUSE. It could not be clearer if they called it ‘Scary Goddamn Morphing Monster House That Eats People and Also a Movie Your Two-Year-Old Probably Shouldn’t Watch.’ I bet your two-year-old can read better than you.

Anyhoo, it borderlines between PG and PG-13. I agree it probably could’ve garnered a PG-13 rating, but, honestly, PG also suits it just fine. Just talk to your kids about the questionable stuff, if necessary, and if they aren’t ready for horror movies, don’t let them watch it….hence the Parental Guidance suggested thing.

I believe people of all ages will get enjoyment out of this movie, especially around Halloween considering it’s both a great animated horror movie and it’s set around Halloween. I do applaud it for having realistic characters, but I just wish they had been more likable.

Also, just for the sake of the people on Common Sense Media, yes, people get gobbled up, but the ending assures us that they all lived. Dumbass Bones even got to keep his stupid kite.

Recommended Audience: I already basically went over this, but I’d say 10+

Animating Halloween: Hell Girl – Two Mirrors: Episode 6 – Where the Sun Shines

HGTM EP6

Plot: Souta is a lonely, bullied boy who spends his free time following and taking pictures of the only girl who’s ever shown him kindness, Kiwako. He has no ill intentions – he merely wants to watch her since he knows any advancement on his part would result in rejection. Besides, she’s dating a skeevy boy named Sugita. He knows he’s a bad person who is bound to somehow hurt Kiwako, but he can’t bring himself to fully contact Hell Girl. When she appears anyway, she rejects his request, stating she’s not a figure of justice. It’s up Souta to save her when things get really bad, but what can he do? What will he do?

Breakdown: I’m not sure how I feel about this episode. It’s kinda boring while leaning on depressing. This is the first time we’ve seen Hell Girl appear to someone and offer her services without the person in question pressing ‘enter’ on the website. I have no idea why she chose this client to do this for, but okay.

I also don’t understand her reasoning for rejecting him. No, she’s not a figure of justice, but this situation is very similar to Beloved Kei where the client did have motives for protecting someone in mind more than revenge and Ai was perfectly willing to help her. What’s the difference?

Most of the episode is just following around Kiwako and her skeevy boyfriend knowing that he’ll do something awful to her. And, of course, he does. He sets it up so his friend can rape her. I have no clue why he’d do that considering he gets nothing out of it.

Souta does nothing to warn her because he has such a lack of confidence that he believes she’d never believe him anyway and his actions wouldn’t stop it.

The ending is interesting because the script is flipped. The target deserved to go to hell, but the client switched to Kiwako, who wished revenge on Sugita. Souta, more enveloped in depression than ever, decides to murder the friend who did the raping, condemning his own soul to hell without Ai’s help, even though she’s perfectly willing to accept his request now. She even shows up at his house right before he’s about to do it, like an offering of taking the full burden off his shoulders.

It’s a bad situation, but the episode as a whole didn’t make me feel a whole lot of emotion. I didn’t even get a lot of catharsis because they skipped the hell torture today. We got to see him be a little tortured by some hands, but that’s old hat by now.

One cool thing I’ll note is that they were playing the theme song from Hell Girl’s first season in the bowling alley scene. That was pretty neat.

Rating: 6/10