Thus begins Tamaki’s journey to become the next Tamayori princess and realize her full magical potential, whilst restoring balance to the spiritual realm. While this has all of the makings of a fantasy harem anime—five handsome young men, all devoted to a single vulnerable female, fighting bad guys with magic and the power of their enthusiasm—Hiiro no Kakera adds an extra, diverse layer: the guardians don’t seem to like Tamaki very much. On top of that, despite their rigid rearing, they don’t even seem to want to be serving her. The show takes care to remind viewers that the guardians, though powerful, are still teenagers: all of the young men are high schoolers, more interested in girls and motorcycles than in taking care of Tamaki. And while it’s clear that they take their duty to protect the princess seriously, they also make clear that they would rather be elsewhere, if they had the choice.
It’s a refreshing change from the usual slavish attitude harem characters can take toward the main character, and even leads to a lot of humorous moments.
Now that the group of antagonists has been introduced, the theme of choice adds an interesting backdrop to the fight scenes: the characters did not choose their life of battling monsters and rivals with magical powers, but are forced to endure and even become stronger. Tamaki, who hates seeing her comrades fight for her sake, chooses not to realize her powers, and instead chooses to try and build normal relationships with her “friends”. These are the themes and details that make Hiiro no Kakera different from other shows in its genre; and for a category of anime that is usually riddled with cliché, different is great.
Enter Maya Kumashiro: the daughter of the Waldstein Academy's late headmaster, Junichirou Kumashiro. She hates the occult despite her vast knowledge about it. Her hatred stemmed from her father's obsession with the occult thus causing a strained relationship between his wife and daughter. The first episode deals with Maya attending her father's funeral. And after her father's death, Maya becomes headmistress of the "Occult Academy" and vows to destroy the school, with the help of a few other students, including an overweight goth spiritualist and a lazy mechanic.
After a brief run-in with a possessed bookworm glasses girl, Maya finds the body of her father, possessed, and quickly and coldly decapitates him with an axe.
Pondering on the day's events while watching the sunset, Maya loudly proclaims that she hates the occult with a vengeance. Just then, a pillar of light bursts forth from the heavens, bringing with it a cell phone followed by a naked goggle-wearing man, who slowly descends to earth. Upon landing, he nonchalantly removes his goggles and proclaims "That was bright!" Roll credits.
Episode Two: The next day, Maya uses her father's will to seize control of the Occult Academy and become its new principal, with the intent to destroy it. She then learns that the naked sky-man, whose real name is Minoru Abe, is the school's new Japanese history teacher. As you can imagine, Maya doesn't take this news well.
After Maya calms down, Abe explains that he's actually a time traveler from the year 2012. It seems that, thanks to the Key of Nostradamus, aliens from another dimension have conquered Earth. The human resistance decides to send agents back in time to prevent prophecies of Nostradamus from coming true, thus saving the future. Sadly, the first five Minoru Abe's failed in their task and were killed. The one standing in Maya's office is the sixth. As for the mysterious cell phone, it's capable of seeing into the future via its camera function. By taking pictures of various items, Abe can learn what influence they might have on the future, thus determining what he needs to destroy in order to prevent the invasion of Earth.
If you are looking for a near-perfect balance of horror, mystery, suspense and comedy, all blended together into an enjoyable whole - Occult Academy is the anime for you. The characters, especially Maya, are well-rounded and interesting. The fan service is subdued and used sparingly. The animation and art design is top-notch. If you are looking for some horror, but other anime have let you down - resulting to fan service and cute girls rather than rely on plot development and overall good writing, then you've found your match.
The Art book that comes with this box set is worth it alone. It's colorfully designed like a yearbook - complete with notes written in "pen" around the pictures. The size of the entire product is made to fit neatly in a bookshelf along with magazines, and other large books, which is a nice change from the shorter flat DVD boxes.
It seems like all anime fans are aware of Naruto, the beloved, orange-clad ninja of the massively popular anime named after him. After all, for thirteen years fans have been following his grand efforts to become Hokage and save his best friend from darkness, and as a testament to his power, all the battles and training he undertakes are unquestionably epic. But what about Naruto’s comrades in Konoha and the missions they undertake? That’s where NARUTO Spin-Off: Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals comes in. This ridiculously humorous spin-off is constantly poking fun at itself, and its amusing jokes about the “real world” and expansion on secondary characters make it comical for both fans of the regular series and newcomers alike.
Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals follows Rock Lee, Naruto’s strange friend with thick eyebrows and a bowl cut, as well as teammates Tenten and Neji. Their adventures aren’t quite on as grand a scale as Naruto’s; in fact, they lie in stark contrast. The chibified trio instead take on small missions such as battling for dessert vouchers and helping young girls fend off creditors, missions so normal that it’s not only refreshing, but incredibly witty as well. As well, while it’s always helpful to already know and love both the Naruto characters and world, Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals always explains elements of the Naruto universe that a newcomer wouldn’t normally understand within the context of the show, so it’s easy for anyone to watch this spin-off and still find it entertaining.
Since Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is unmistakably a comedy, the fact that it doesn’t need to take itself seriously is one of its strengths. It’s able to do things that are so over-the-top they could almost never be shown in Naruto, such as Rock Lee’s version of the notorious Sexy Jutsu, sharingan contact lenses, and Neji dressed as a schoolgirl, and for this it’s even funnier. Moments like these have a special meaning for Naruto fans, but they still remain comedic for new fans too. More outrageous still, bizarre sequences that would normally occur as character thoughts become more than that in Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. When these segments are at their strangest, that is when they're oddly being performed as skits for other characters, or sometimes actually happening. The content of these scenes is absurd, yet curiously entertaining. Further emphasizing this absurdity, the cawing crows throughout Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is another sign of the show’s comedic strengths. The onomatopoeia of a cawing crow resembles the Japanese word "aho," or "fool" in English, so, essentially the characters are so foolish that even birds mock them, and this makes the characters even more laughable. This total disregard for seriousness, at least for a spin-off of a non-comedy anime, aids in making Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals even more entertaining to watch while still being amusing along the way.
Connections to the real world are a huge contributor to what makes Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals so entertaining. Creditors plaguing families with phone calls and drunk ninjas, like intoxicated salary men, wearing the infamous ties sideways on their heads are issues similar to those of the real world, but they’re so blatantly out of place in this series that it's completely laughable. However, this relation between the anime and the real world is what gives Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals its childlike charm. There are also several references to Japanese pop culture, such as when Team Guy pretends to be Japanese girl group AKB48 and starts talking about the popularity of Korean entertainment; in fact, the ending to Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, sung by Korean girl band Secret, features the cast performing the official dance to another of Secret’s songs, Shy Boy. These connections to the viewers’ world gives off a certain appeal, for they’re easy to understand. As for the inevitably massive portion of the audience that is familiar with anime more than anything, there are also many references to mecha anime sprinkled throughout Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. If anyone has ever wanted to see Naruto fighting robots in space, this gives that viewer the opportunity and more. Link to the audience’s world such as this to not only expand on humor, but give Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals its inherent charm.
The main cast of Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is immediately characterized as a comedic trio, and this serves two advantages: it adds to the humor that makes the anime so entertaining, but it also expands on those who are only secondary characters in the Naruto saga. Rock Lee, through his overzealous passion to be great, proves to be just as ridiculous as when he was last seen in Naruto, and his actions ultimately create the foundation for the absurdity that ensues. It’s amusing to witness his over-the-top behavior, but it would just be silly without comedic support from his teammates. Neji proves to still be a deep, serious character, for he questions Rock Lee’s actions for the wrong reasons; he considers them carefully instead of realizing just how imbecilic they are, and the fact that someone would take Rock Lee seriously is a joke in itself. Tenten plays the self-acknowledged straight man, for she is the only one of the trio that understands Rock Lee’s foolishness. Considering Tenten barely ever receives screen time in Naruto, to see her have a fleshed-out personality is fantastic for fans of the main series, and her role in expressing what are often the viewers’ thoughts creates a link between Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals and the audience as well. Rock Lee, Neji, and Tenten certainly prove to be a memorable comedic trio, and while this improves the quality of the humor in Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, the expansion on Naruto’s secondary characters is also quite advantageous.
Despite being a spin-off, Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is extremely entertaining for both new viewers and fans of the Naruto saga. Because of its comedy status, it can pull off impressive gags that would almost never work in Naruto, and its constant making fun of itself gives off a lighthearted, humorous atmosphere. This humorous atmosphere is further enhanced by the links between the anime and the real world, which creates a connection between the viewers and the world of Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. The world also expands on the secondary characters Naruto hasn’t had time to flesh out or revisit by turning them into the main characters, effectively expanding on their personalities slight as well as making them a distinctly comedic trio. Ultimately, these factors come together to create a certain charm that easily provides several laughs for those who need them.
The characters fill in most of the stereotypes of guys in anime – the stoic bespectacled fellow with a troubled perfectionist streak, the overly feminine and sensitive pretty boy and of course the off-beat twins. We have seen these before in other 4-koma based series such as Lucky Star and Nichijou done to great effect. The difference is with those shows (apart from the fact that they have girls) is that they have a strong secondary character roster; Kimi to Boku doesn't. There's nowhere to divert to when things get a little stale and that happens frequently. It all descends into mundane chitchat between the main cast and there's nothing to escape to unlike other shows it tries oh so desperately to emulate.
The only consolation it has going for it, in my eyes, is that people new to the show can easily drop into it without having seen the first season. There is no overarching plot or massive narrative structure in which to get tangled up in. The characters are fairly realistic in approach and design despite adhering so rigidly to character model protocol. They're akin to people you'd find in real life which makes their dialogue and banter with each other plausible. The problem being with that is that you can get that in real life; why watch an anime where that is the ONLY plus point going for it?
Lee and his team are on guard duty at the front gate, but they'll have to be more vigilant than the TSA to prevent Orochimaru and Kabuto from sneaking in! Lee is flummoxed by Guy-sensei's new "Smooth Operator Fist," but not half as much as he is by Orochimaru's love letter!
Keito is coming home from the hospital and Yuki wants to get her a gift. He takes on the challenge to catching a tuna, her favorite fish. This will lead the boys to an area of water off limits and closer to Haru’s goal.
Panda new obsession is with popularity, he attempts to raise Mr. Hanada’s popularity with the help of Polar Bear. Penguin finally got his license but now has to get his dating license before he can take Miss Penko out for a drive.
After enjoying a snow ball fight and a unique hotpot, the girls decide to visit the Japanese teacher as he got sick before the break. The only ones to make it to the apartment are Funco and Ichiroku, a duo guaranteeing a disaster.