One tough cookie

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“Yakushiji Ryouko no Kaiki Jikenbo” or “Ryoko Yakushiji’s Strange Case Files” is an anime which started life as a light novel. The 13-episode show aired in Japan last summer.

Ryoko, who comes from a rich family, is a cop with the Tokyo Metropolitan Department. But she’s not just any cop. At 27, she is a superintendent who heads a department, can speak several languages, is universally feared by the bureaucrats and can solve the weird cases that often come her way. She is also a crack shot and can take on the baddies with her fists and feet if need be.

She’s also imperious toward her underlings, thinks nothing of going shopping in the middle of her shift, wears skimpy suits and shamelessly uses her family’s influence.
Her dad heads JACES, one of the major security firms in the country where many police bureaucrats apply to after retirement. She holds this over their heads in order to get her way. Thankfully, she is on the side of the little guy and hates fat cats who abuse the system.

She also likes her much put upon assistant/shopping bag holder. This Watson-wanna-be to her Sherlock is Junichiro Izumida, 33, who narrates the series. He fears and respects her but doesn’t get the massive hints she gives him that she really, really likes him. What a doof.

Called Izumida by everyone, he is a decent and hard-working cop whose wits are not as sharp as Ryoko’s. But he can fight as well as her. He is not a career police officer so he does his job whether it annoys a bureaucrat or not.

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The show is reminiscent of “X Files” because the cases Ryoko tackles include man-made horrors and regular creatures with an unfortunate effect on humans. Case in point. One episode deals with a cricket whose chirping drives people to kill themselves.

Ryoko is also aided by her French maids, Lucienne and Marianne. Fellow superintendent and rival, Yukiko Muromachi, often trades insults with Ryoko but once or twice helps her. Not that she’d ever admit it.

Hell-bent on solving mysteries

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Yako Katsuragi, 16, is known for eating like a pig and solving mysteries, The public refers to her as “the high school girl detective” or sometimes “the piggish detective.” Her mother is abroad as far as she knows but the elder Katsuragi is actually in South America trying to unravel the mystery of her husband’s killing.

Before she became a detective, Yako’s father was found killed and decapitated in a bloody room locked from the inside. The cops labeled it a suicide. Uh how is that even possible? The poor man killed himself then cut off his own head?

Anyway, Yako is not really the one who solves the cases in “Majin Tantei Nogami Neuro” or “Demon Detective Neuro Nogami.” The teen is merely a front for Neuro Nogami, a demon who eats mysteries. He devoured all the mysteries in hell so he came to earth looking for more.

Anyone who sees this show would wonder why the public would think Yako is a detective since all she does is say, “And the culprit is … you!” and points out the guilty party. Neuro posseses her and makes her do the pointing too, As her assistant, he also explains how she solved the mystery. And people give her all the credit? Duh.

The evildoers are then gobbled by Neuro in his bird form, Well at least their evil intent is what he eats.

Yako learns to be a detective of sorts later on. And the show doesn’t get really interesting until midway when a serial killer/thief named Sai pops up. But I won’t spoil it for you by telling what happens the rest of the series.

Mystery and a board game to boot


Here is the opening song to the anime “Shion No Ou” or “Shion’s King” which combines a mystery with a sport anime. This is courtesy of YouTuber xAzakura. The show is also known as “Flowers of Hard Blood.”

Shion Yasuoka is a sweet girl who plays shogi, a board game similar to chess, very well. She communicates via a notepad because she hasn’t spoken a word after witnessing the stabbing deaths of her real parents at age five. Her neighbors, the Yasuokas, adopted her and raised her as their own. Her adoptive father is a professional shogi player and he nurtures her innate talent for the game.

At a young age, she is considered an excellent female shogi player.

Like any anime geared toward competitions, the show focuses on the players and the games. So the simple act of moving a game piece is overblown sometimes. But that’s common in such shows.

What makes this anime interesting is the mystery of who killed Shion’s parents. The show never loses sight of that main plot line so I have yet to see a wasted episode.

Living with the unknown

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A recent AP poll showed that a chunk of the population believes in ghosts. To be more precise, a third of those surveyed accept the existence of things that go bump in the night.

The line between this world and the next can be very thin, according to some folks. Now imagine if you can actually see and feel the supernatural. (Cue spooky music.)

That is the dilemma facing Shizuru and her younger sister, Mizuki, in “Mokke.” Shizuru can see ghosts, specters, etc while her sister gets possessed by them.

These traits are the very reason why the two are now living in the country with their grandparents. Their stern but loving grandfather apparently knows his way around such things and is called upon by folks to exorcise or placate these apparitions. Of course once doesn’t really get a sense of what their grandpa does for a living since viewers see him mucking about in the garden a lot or helping the farmers with their vegetables.

Their bespectacled parents visit now and then. Mother apparently cannot handle even talking about the supernatural and flew off the handle at grandpa when Mizuki casually mentioned she was raising a creature that brings its owner luck.

Grandpa means well but he’s not exactly the cuddly type. He told his grandkids one time they will have to learn how to handle some creatures on their own. Poor girls.

“Mokke” started life seven years ago as a manga by Takatoshi Kumakura. The characters are drawn way better in the manga than in the anime which began airing last month in Japan. This isn’t an action-packed show, neither is it scary. I look at it as a primer on Japanese supernatural beings and concepts presented in a kid-friendly package. It’s not a bad way to while away 25 minutes.

A moment of weakness

One of the benefits of suddenly finding myself on vacation is that I can just take off and haunt the anime store whenever I want. Of course I can afford to be more discriminating as well and not just borrow any DVD or tape just to get it out of Mr. Rival’s hands.Take that you fiend! Unlike you I can afford to be nice.

I’m following so many series I’ve lost count. I think I’m up to 20 shows. Maybe more. I’ve decided to focus on a dozen right now and just catch up on the others later.
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One of my current favorites is “Ghost Hunt” which chronicles the cases handled by the Shibuya Psychic Research. SPR is comprised of director Kazuya Shibuya, his assistant Lin, and part-time employee/high school student Mai Taniyama. Shibuya also uses a TV medium, a shrine maiden, an Australian exorcist and a monk who plays in a band.

Shibuya is just a teen but very smart, ultra confident and arrogant. He insults Mai a lot. She has this crush on him but isn’t afraid to sass him back and even bestowed the nickname, “Naru”, on him which is short for narcissist.

Anyway, the last case I saw involved the strange goings on at a high school. The case ended at episode 17 which I shall recount for the benefit of the peanut gallery.

A black dog attacks students, a sickening smell pervades one classroom, weird things are seen and there’s a twisted version of a Ouija board that the students play. It turns out everything is linked to a freshman who committed suicide in the fall who was into the occult and felt oppressed by the faculty and administration. Mai, whose dreams often show clues to the cases, tells Naru that the spirits are eating each other which leads him to deduce that someone used a variation of an old Chinese curse.

The target of the curse, which is fueled unwittingly by the students playing that odd version of a Ouija board, is one of the teachers – a spiteful mean man. There are only two options open to our ghost hunters. Let the curse kill the teacher or turn back the curse onto its creator. Since the student who started it is dead, the curse will rebound back onto the students who played that Ouija-like game. A horrified Mai tries to stop Naru and Lin because she feels the students thought they were just playing a harmless game and were not intending to kill anyone. Naru tells her everyone has to accept responsibility for their actions and thwarts her attempts. She rages at him and calls him a murderer.

What Lin, who is a diviner, actually does is return the curse back to wooden effigies representing the students. Naru doesn’t tell any of them this until Lin is finished because Lin wasn’t sure he could ensure the students’ safety. But it works. Mai is chastened. As she reports to Naru about the condition of the students who didn’t play the game, he apologizes for saying harsh things to her. She is dumbfounded because this is Naru who seldom admits he is wrong. It’s not fair, she says. She wanted to apologize but he did it first. He takes all the good moments, she points out. Naru smiles at her and she blushes in shock. She has never seen him smile except in her dream state when the dream Naru shows up to help her out.

It was such a sweet moment. Naru and Mai looked so cute my inner fangirl started squealing. Then reason reasserted itself and I throttled my inner fangirl to silence. It was a moment of weakness I assure you brought on by too little sleep and too many hours listening to angsty alternative music.

Mai and Naru forever! Uh, excuse me while I choke someone. Now git. Nothing to see here.

The Witching Hour

When an anime not only entertains but also leaves you with a catchy song to add to your favorites list, it is well worth the sticker price.

I like “Witch Hunter Robin” a lot from the opening song, “Shell” by Bana to the uncertain ending. My only complaint is that we don’t get into the real story arc until after a dozen or so episodes featuring witches targeted by Robin and the gang.

The show begins with 15-year-old Robin Sena arriving at the headquarters of STN-J, which is the Japanese branch of the SOLOMON organization. Robin is an orphan raised in Italy and trained by the church to fight witches by conjuring fire. She knows nothing of her parents or her family. She was sent to Japan reportedly to replace a member of the STN-J.

Being a witch is frowned upon in this society and anyone deemed one has their name in SOLOMON’s genetic database. It is the task of SOLOMON to deal with witches gone bad but we later find out that witches who awaken to their powers also get into trouble with the STN-J whether they did anything wrong or not.

Unlike the other members of SOLOMON, the STN-J hunts witches using orbo, a greenish liquid that counteracts witches’ powers. The source of orbo doesn’t get revealed until nearly the end of the series.

Robin’s partner is the brooding Amon, who like all serious, moody anime heroes wears black all the time. He doesn’t think much of her skills and would often say something dismissive. But he has a change of heart as he gets to know her and as she grows in power.

She later uncovers her past and finds out the secret of orbo. The former witch hunter now becomes hunted by the very group she once served. There are double dealings and hidden agendas aplenty in this show. Apparently trust is a rare commodity among these folks.

If you squint hard enough, there’s a faint Amon and Robin pairing. Some fans point to the animation in the opening sequence as an indication that Robin likes Amon. Well, she’s hugging a television set showing his image and says something to the screen. But who wouldn’t swoon over Amon? Other fans insist she’s sweet on Michael, the STN-J computer expert and hacker who was “persuaded” to work for the group after he was caught hacking into their system.

The romance is not that clear cut in the show so don’t come crying to me later.

Things that go bump in the night

Payday! I went into my teenage mode and ran to the anime store where I plunked down cold hard cash to get the latest volume of “D.Grayman”, return tapes then borrow more tapes and DVDs. Lunch? What’s lunch?

I borrowed episodes 7 to 9 of “Death Note” again because I didn’t have enough time last night to watch it. So sorry fellow geeks. The tape is staying with me until Tuesday. Muwahahaha! Muwaha – (coughs and laughs some more)

Anyway, I found a new series and more importantly, it is the supernatural kind. I just love those. In “Ghost Hunt”, high school student Mai Taniyama meets ghost hunter Kazuya Shibuya when he is hired by the principal to investigate an old campus building that has spawned its share of ghostly tales. The principal also hired a shrine maiden, a monk, a famous TV medium and an exorcist from Australia. The school must have some budget.

Shibuya owns Shibuya Psychic Research and uses cameras, heat sensors and other gadgets in his work. He knows he is handsome and smart plus he doesn’t hesitate to point out other people’s shortcomings. Mai nicknames him “Naru” or “Naru-chan” because she thinks he’s a narcissist. Yeah, but our gal has a major crush on Mr. Egotistical Ghost Hunter.

By the end of episode three, Shibuya solves the mystery and shows the viewer he’s not really that unfeeling. Mai also ends up working for him part-time.

The creepy-sounding opening music sets the tone for the show. I’ve only seen three episodes and I think I’ll stick around to see the rest of the series. “Ghost Hunt” isn’t a scary show and Shibuya is about as friendly as an iceberg but I like Mai and I’ve always been a sucker for shows about things that go bump in the night.

There are no coincidences in this world

What would you do if you were born a spirit magnet? You not only see spirits, these disembodied beings also try to attach themselves to you. Some even try to attack you.

To Kimihiro Watanuki of “xxxholic”, this is not a hypothetical scenario but a daily occurrence. The high school student often solves his problem by running away from them – literally. While fleeing one day, he happens to stumble and touch a fence. The spirit chasing him vanishes because the fence is actually a barrier.

He takes a peek and sees a house. His feet takes him of their own accord inside the place where he meets the beautiful space time witch Yuuko Ichihara. That’s not her real name by the way, as she tells him later. This is her shop where she grants wishes for a price. He doesn’t want to see spirits anymore and she has the ability to make that happen. So they make a deal and he becomes her cook/housecleaner/errand boy. He will work off the price of the wish.

But Yuuko’s shop exposes Watanuki to more weird events and unusual companions. And he seems to be destined for something. As she said, there are no coincidences in this world just hitsuzen. The word has been translated to mean “inevitability”.

The 24-episode series, which is based on a manga by CLAMP, aired its final episode Sept. 28 in Japan. FUNimation reportedly has picked it up for the U.S. market.

“xxxholic” deals with the supernatural hence stories about the consequences of wishing on a monkey’s paw. The quality of the animation is inconsistent with three or four episodes looking quite ugly. The way the characters are drawn with elongated limbs and bodies in the manga doesn’t translate so well in animation. There are some boring episodes I could have done without as well. And unlike the manga, no characters or events from “Tsubasa Chronicle” appear in the anime.

Watanuki for all his short temper and whining is a likeable character. He’s an orphan who has learned to fend for himself at a young age. He hardly has any friends and the girl he likes seems to keep him at a friendly distance. He views another student, Doumeki Shizuka, as his rival and gets irritated with him easily. But the poker-faced Doumeki has the ability to repel spirits and shoot spirit arrows so Yuuko usually solicits his help to protect Watanuki.

As payment, Watanuki makes him lunches grudgingly. Doumeki also makes lunch requests which further annoys him.

I have no complaints on the latter half of the series. The story about Watanuki bonding with the lonely woman who lost a son is the basis for episodes 22 and 23. It is faithful to the manga and touching enough to make you reach for the tissue box. The barbarian who borrowed the tape with the last three episodes returned it this week to the anime store so I finally got to see it.

Suga Shikao’s “19sai” which serves as the opening theme also grows on you. I have it playing on my MP3 player right now.

Waiting for Death

Can’t wait to see the animated version of “Death Note” which aired Tuesday in Japan. That and “D. Gray-Man” which I also want to watch are part of the crop of new shows this fall. I’m crossing my fingers that both are faithful to their manga versions.

A fellow geek recently recommended the manga when I whined that I wanted a new series I could sink my teeth into. You know, something I would use more than two brain cells to read.

So I bought the first volume of “Death Note” and was blown away by the art. And the story is definitely interesting. To summarize, Light Yagami regularly brings home As, studies hard to get into college and is a model high school student. But he is bored out of his gourd. He finds a notebook called the Death Note which was purposely dropped in the human world by Ryuk, a bored Shinigami or death god.

If you write someone’s name in this notebook, they die. But you have to know what the person looks like and how they spell their name. You can also write down the cause of death and even details on how this person dies. If you don’t specify the cause of the death, the person just keels over from a heart attack.

There are other rules associated with the Death Note which Light later finds out.

Light decides to rid the world of crime by killing off criminals and plans to eventually rule over this utopia. The Internet denizens christen whoever is killing the crooks as “Kira”. But the international law enforcement community isn’t just going to sit back and let this vigilante be. They call in “L” who cracks unsolved cases but hides his face from the police he assists. The public becomes aware of their clash when “L” uses the media and a convicted man to test a theory.

On the strength of the first volume, I ran back to the store and bought the rest of the six volumes currently out. Hope I don’t regret this later.