Round 2: Tokyo ESP vs. Non Non Biyori, Hitsugi no Chaika vs. Ao Haru Ride

tokyo esp 3-2Tokyo ESP – Episode 3

Tokyo ESP reminds me of the later seasons of Heroes, the American superhero drama that ran for a few years starting in 2006. Beyond their obvious similarities, these two shows share the same approach to introducing characters and story elements, which I’d summarize as “throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.” The result is messy and, even worse, not engaging. The only thing that stopped me from dozing off during this episode was the return of Peggy the flying penguin, who took a sword to the neck but somehow ended up unscathed. Also, a blond, roided-up Wolverine lookalike punched his daughter in the gut so she would pass out, but she brushed it off like it was nothing and kicked him in the balls so he would pass out. This show is actually insane. Dropped!

non non biyori 3

Non Non Biyori – Episode 3

I really needed an episode like this one to remember why I like this show. Last week’s focus was on Hotaru and Komari, and as a result there was too much of a “senpai please notice me” air to the proceedings. This time, however, NNB devoted all of its attention to Komari and Natsumi, whose sibling dynamic is much richer with storytelling possibilities. This episode was a true slice of life, moving deftly from disappointing school field trips to watching scary movies to running away from home, and each segment provided us with true-to-life evidence of their sisterly relationship. Whether it was making fun of each other for getting stuck in the mud during a rice-planting expedition, one sister crawling into bed with the other to avoid facing her fear of the dark, or the younger sibling forcing the older one into an alliance against their mother, these scenes all had an authentic feel to them. Add in the lovely scenery and surprising amount of character detail at long distances, and Non Non Biyori becomes just as pleasant a watch as any other show in the bracket.

The Verdict: More like Trainwreck ESP, am I right? Dohoho. But seriously, I have no qualms about dropping Tokyo ESP. The show was a complete misfire, at least through three episodes, and not an interesting one.

chaika 3-3

Hitsugi no Chaika – Episode 3

This is the first episode of this show I’ve really enjoyed. There are still a lot of “Oh, anime!” moments, including Akari’s continued pining for her brother, girls who walk around without pants for no adequately explained reason, and an orange-haired tsundere named Vivi whose main beef with our heroes is that they “defiled Gillette-sama.” But putting those things aside, this episode was like a good introductory chapter in an adventure novel. Our heroes arrive in a new town, find an inn, restock on supplies, and prepare for their next objective. The problem is that even though Chaika is supposed to be in charge (dibs on the sitcom title “Chaika in Charge”), she doesn’t have the foggiest idea of where to go or what to do next, so Toru has to step up and lead the party. It’s a refreshing change from my last Chaika post, where I lamented how he seemed to be a mere accessory to the plot, rather than a driving force. The two most promising aspects of this episode, though, were the revelation that the main antagonists have captured “several Chaikas,” and the constant mention of Dragoons, which I assume is another word for dragon. Multiple versions of one character suggest time travel or parallel universes, and dragons are generally amazing, so I’ll probably watch another episode or two of this show, even if it gets eliminated here.

ao haru ride 3

Ao Haru Ride – Episode 3

Maybe it’s because I don’t look back on my time in high school too fondly, but I’m just not buying what this series is selling. The female lead’s obsession with her social status fails to get me invested episode after episode, and her crush on her tall, dark and insulting middle school flame is just dull. Plus, what do you know, all the main characters end up becoming student council members together, after having been established as main characters. The show tries to play it off as some beautiful coincidence, but it’s really just lazy. Dropped.

The Verdict: Ao Haru Ride is one of those rare anime that makes me regret the existence of the three episode rule. Chaika, on the other hand, benefitted immensely from it.

After starting with 32 shows, the field has been cut down to 24. Another post should be coming soon, where I’ll discuss the updated bracket, preview the next round’s crucial matches, and pay tribute to the fallen series of the tournament thus far.


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