It’s time! It’s time! It’s Crunchyroll of the Dice time! OK, so that isn’t as catchy as Vader time, but hey ho. As always, here be the rules of the piece:
- The winners of round one has been paired up for battle, and I will now be watching episode two of each anime
- If the series has multiple seasons, Istick with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show has made it through
After I watch both episodes, I will give a spoiler filled run-down of my thoughts on each and then compare them in several categories, giving points to the winner in each. Welcome to the final Quarter-Final! This time around we have Wanna be the Strongest in the World, the wrestling series that comes hot off an 8 – 4 win over I Don’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, and Kiznaiver, the interesting story of pain that whupped Trinity Seven 10 – 2. Which one will march on? Let’s find out!
Wanna be the Strongest in the World
We start with a brief recap of the end of the first episode where Sakura declared that she’d go pro in order to defeat Rio Kazama. Everyone looks worried, as well they should be. Sakura wants to fight to protect the group’s pride as idols, and so the manager gives her permission. More worry emanates from the rest of the group until they see Elena on TV proclaiming that she’ll pick up the slack for Sweet Diva while Sakura is training. This did kinda start because of her, so that seems fair. The opening theme song remains pretty cool on the second listen, and we once again get lots of shots of Sakura training and some other female wrestlers doing their thang. I’m eager to see how seriously they take the training actually. In reality, it’s horrifically tough at times, so I’m hoping for that to come across well here, especially giving how much respect pro wrestling gets in Japan.
Anyway, back to Berserk gym, and Sakura is accepted into the training school by the president. Nishihara Ryo, a scowly looking lady with choppy hair, is asked to keep an eye on Sakura, and decides to see what she’s made of by testing her physical ability. What follows is a set of shots of Sakura skipping and stretching while the voices of the other wrestlers discuss how she’ll probably quit quickly. The training shots here pure fan service. Bounciness, some writhing … you get the idea … so the other wrestlers get into the gym and find that Ryo has Sakura doing bench presses. They’re shocked because that’s what they do, and are even more shocked to hear that she’s already done 1,000 squats and 100 push-ups. This isn’t actually entirely unrealistic, both from the actual work-out and the physical ability of Sakura. Despite what people may think, any kind of action heavy performance art requires conditioning, and being idol will be no different. A bit of determination and a refusal to give in, and what she’s doing isn’t unachievable.
Despite being impressed with Sakura’s attitude, Ryo doesn’t believe that she has the face of a wrestler yet. So she throws her in at the deep end for some sparring. This begins with a belly-to-back suplex that leaves Sakura panting on the floor and the other trainees in shock. Ryo points out that she’s not such a bad wrestler that she’d get her hurt. Again, this is authentic. I’ve seen many newbies thrown straight into shoot fighting at the start of training sessions without instruction to test how they adapt. Next comes some submission holds, and Sakura looks pretty dead. To Ryo’s surprise, Sakura struggles to her feet and declares that she can keep going. Finally, Ry smiles, realising that Sakura is the real deal, and we cut to another fan service montage … I mean, training montage. I notice that Sakura isn’t learning to actually do any moves though. She kinda needs to know how to do a few at least.
Back in the gym office three months later, the president is informed by Toyoda Misaki that Sakura’s physical ability and endurance are exceptional but that she doesn’t yet know true pro wrestling, and that she is probably just being stubborn. The president mentions a test of some sort. Toyoda thinks it’s too soon but won’t object to it, as long as she doesn’t have to take part. Ryo believes that’s best anyway and calls Sakura to the ring. Sakura runs along and finds the room darkened. When the lights are turned on, the ring is full of pros, including Rio Kazama. The president turns up and asks Sakura if she wants to debut as a pro. That’s pretty quick, but not impossible. Sakura is all up for it, and he confirms that the girls in the ring will decide if she’s ready. Rio confirms that her test will be the Hell of a Hundred Throws. That sounds suitably vicious. Ten wrestlers will each throw her ten times, and if she can take it, she’ll be ready. Sakura is scared but determined.
Sakura is hurting after one because slams hurt even when you take a break fall. That’s because rings are just canvas over wood on a metal framework. There is nowhere near as much padding as people think. Sakura is struggling after eighty-eight, but forces her way up despite feeling like she’s going to puke. At 90, Sakura collapses, leaving the wrestlers to discuss how they didn’t think she’d get that far. In a moment of repetition, Sakura forces her way back to her feet again though. Seriously, we get that she’s tough, but having her force her way up so many times in one episode just makes it lose its impact. Rio gets in to administer the last ten. Sakura collapses again at ninety-three, and this time Rio hauls her up to her feet by the throat. At ninety-nine, Rio tells Sakura that she’s weak, and while the dramatic string section is playing the scene nicely, Rio drops her with number one hundred. The wrestlers around the ring start slapping the mat and cheering Sakura on, because if she can’t stand again, she fails. Sakura pushes up onto all fours for some fan service, then makes it up to a standing position for some more. The president gives her a pass, and she collapses yet again. As Rio walks by Ryo, Ryo stops her and asks her why she held back on the last throw. Rio replies that she needs Sakura to become a pro so that she can settle their score. After she leaves, the president says that she can never just say what she feels, and Ryo says that she’s an awkward one. I guess Sakura gained Rio’s respect.
We cut to Elena running, and she stops to read the cover of a magazine proclaiming that Sakura will debut just four months after her losing effort. Is it really still a debut if she’s already lost one match? Anyway, random shower scene for Sakura segues into her debut match against second year pro Suzumoto Chinatsu. Someone is watching from behind a camera and talking about how Chinatsu is the most promising up and comer and how she wants Sakura to just not go down without a fight. That’s kinda creepy as a random scene. The fans are happy though. The bell rings and Sakura starts strong, running in with a fan service kick, but Chinatsu soon takes her to the mat. Sakura gets two with a German Suplex, but drops her guard afterwards and Chinatsu takes her down with a headscissors before applying a Boston Crab. Sakura reaches the ropes but Chinatsu pulls her back to the middle of the ring and sits back into it, using the moment to get her own fan service in in an attempt to upstage our protagonist. Sakura, unable to escape and in great agony, tries to hang on but eventually gives up. The fans still cheer her though, and Chinatsu offers a handshake. Creepy camera lady runs backstage and says hello to Misaki, and points out that Sakura could get a win soon, but Misaki disagrees, saying it will take a while before he obtains a victory.
The end theme kicks in again, and we draw things to a close. That wasn’t too bad actually. Repetition was the order of the day though, not just in the constant I’m down … no, I’m up stuff. There were actually a few repeated shots of animation, which is a little lazy. Still, the not breaking kayfabe side of things is pretty fun.
We open the episode with the mayor playing golf and talking about how the project is progressing to the team’s first mission and that the path to ‘Smiley Happy Town’ will soon be open. Meanwhile, the perve teacher from episode one is talking with the school counsellor about how he’s sold of his students, and the counsellor says that the only one precious to her is Nori-chan.
So, the group are still reeling from the revelations of episode one while Sonozaki tells them that they are now bound to each other and are Kiznaivers. She says they will all need to work together to clear a mission: self-introductions. That sounds simple, so I’m guessing it’s not so straightforward. The cool, trippy, dance music opening cuts in and whizzes by. Redhead Tenga introduces himself first, then fellow redhead Chidori introduces herself. Yuta goes next, then Maki and Nico. Tenga points out that they’re all in the same class and declares the mission a success. Sonozaki asks if he’s sure that’s it, and he says of course. Incorrect. As he got the question wrong, they all get punished. A quick electrical charge is administered to Kacchon, and everyone feels it (apart from him obviously, because he doesn’t feel pain). Yuta figures out that that means Kacchon was hurt, and Sonozaki confirms that he’s correct. She says that the exterior things like their names aren’t enough to explain who they are. She wants them to get to know each other better and reveal everything about themselves. Tenga throws himself at the challenge, giving his birthday and star sign, blood type and hobbies. Wrong answer. Zap. Sonozaki and her team have researched them all thoroughly and decided which subjects should be included in the self-introductions. She asks the team to think about, deep down in their chests, what word best describes each of them. Chidori starts to think things through, but Tenga leaps headlong into it again and says that asking Chidori to ask her flat chest for an answer is cruel. OK, that caught me off guard. Slap. Maki realises that if they don’t figure out the answers that Sonozaki wants, the wounds inflicted on Kacchon will continue to be spread between all of them until they die.
Nico decides that they should just drag it out without actually saying anything, and the team get zapped again. Sonozaki informs them that if they don’t answer once every ten minutes, they receive a punishment as though they had answered incorrectly. Yuta wants to save Kacchon to save from further hurt, but their way back to the lab is cut off by the mascot thing closing the metal grates. Chidori complains that Kacchon is the only one truly getting hurt, so Sonozaki decides to make things fair by unleashing some angry Dobermans on the team! Tenga does a runner and the dogs give chase. In his haste, he trips down the stairs, but manages to scramble to a bed. He throws a chair and reveals that he’s scared of dogs. As a result of his confession, the team get a congratulatory message. The dogs calm down and Sonozaki points out that although he is afraid of dogs, Tenga is known local as ‘Mad Dog’. Tenga didn’t want anyone to know because he thinks it’s lame. He even researched which local people have dogs so that he could avoid their houses on the way to school. Chidori is impressed with his effort. Maki ponders if the aim is for everyone to tell the one secret they don’t want anyone to know, and Sonozaki confirms that that’s correct. She does just want them to be friends after all. Oh, and there’s explosives. Boom.
Sonozaki checks on Kacchon. He didn’t feel pain, but doesn’t like the tingly feeling of the electrical charges. He’s also concerned about the others. Sonozaki gets in close and asks if the sweet smell of a girl excited him, but Kacchon simply asks if that’s something you’re supposed to say to yourself. He hasn’t been this close to someone other than when he’s getting beaten up though. Because he doesn’t really know himself though, he has nothing that he doesn’t want to say. Sonozaki says that she knows, releases him, and says that the friends he shares a bond with are waiting.
The others are trying to get out of the collapsing building while Tenga tries to cajole them into saying what Sonozaki wants. Yuta points out that if they pick the wrong one, there’ll be another penalty. Maki seems to know what her intended secret is, but walks off without saying it. Suddenly, a countdown comes up. I guess that’s the ten-minute thing Sonozaki mentioned earlier? Everyone starts to panic, and Nico buckles under the pressure, confessing that she doesn’t really believe in fairies. She says that she’s cute, smart, rich, and her parents run their own business, and being so perfect is just annoying, so she wanted to do something crazy to make people like her. Yuta summarises it well: she’s a fake eccentric. Nico thinks that everyone will diss her for being fake, but Tenga and Chidori point out that she’s still pretty weird and so still eccentric.
Nico finds a photo of a super happy fat kid, and Yuta starts to freak out. It turns out it’s him. He gained weight easily until middle school. Tenga thinks this is hilarious, but Chidori tries to be nice about it. Yuta points out that she hasn’t told her secret yet. Chidori doesn’t know what she doesn’t want to say. Sonozaki accepts this as there are times that you don’t notice even the things that are closest to you. That almost feels like a cop out.
We cut to Maki, and she’s found the morgue. She starts to see someone’s freezer tray slide open and a girl keeps saying ‘Maki’ and ‘Break’. Ooh … did she kill someone? Up on the roof, Kacchon has been joisted up on a crane and will be dropped to his death if the self-introductions are not finished. Kacchon is dropped into the side of the building and remembers Sonozaki telling him how people are irritated by him because they can’t see themselves in him. He decides to give his own self-introduction, and says that he’s different to everyone else in the group because he’s indifferent to connections with others. He says that he can’t take any interest at all in what other people think, probably because he’s not interested in himself. Chidori gets angry and jumps down to where Kacchon is. She yells at him that he’s changed and that his parents would be really sad if they knew he thought like that. She starts reeling off a list about how he used to be, including that he was funny and didn’t laugh when she wet the bed. She’s upset because lately she can’t understand him anymore, and when he was still funny, she was in love with him. The cable holding them up breaks and they fall … but the congratulations jingle hits and an inflatable cushion opens underneath them, saving their lives.
Chidori gives Kacchon multiple slaps of frustration and breaks down into tears. She wants the old Kacchon back and wants to help him. Kacchon asks to revise his self-introduction and says that he never realised that Chidori liked him, but that he thinks he feels happy knowing that she did. Thinking about that makes him think becoming a Kiznaiver isn’t a bad thing. The mission is cleared and Chidori bursts into tears again. Sonozaki says that Kacchon was a bit off, but that’s OK, then mentions that he’s forgotten the secret himself. Ooh mysterious. Wait … did Maki actually giver introduction? Yuta realises that too. Maki turns up and says that her secret is that she’s killed someone before! Called it! Please leave it there … leave it as a cliff hanger … Yes! End theme!
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. Being the quarter finals, we’ll be using a few different categories this time: Best Story Progression, Best Character Progression, Best Individual Scene, Best Character, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
This is actually a tough one to call as both shows went out of their way to show some progression. In the case of our grapple tale, Sakura was working her way through a tough training regime as she heads towards her pro debut, and once she made it there, she hit another hurdle in the form of the Boston Crab. Her resilience was sort of hinted at before, but seeing them push forward is nice. Meanwhile, Kiznaiver gave us a proper test of the system and a forced bonding experience for the main group. What I liked as that it set up some loose ends to tie together such as Maki’s revelation and the comment about Kacchon forgetting the secret. By setting up more than its foe, Kiznaiver takes it. Best Story Progression: Kiznaiver
Sakura didn’t rally progress as a lead. She further demonstrated her perseverance sure, but that wasn’t really anything new. There was a hint at progression or Elena as she chose to pick up the slack for the idol group, and her determination when we saw her running seemed to indicate a newfound desire to push on for her, but she had so little screen time that it doesn’t add up to much. There was also a hint of progression for Rio at the end, but again, she wasn’t around enough to really push this forward. Kiznaiver did a fair bit more, but by spreading it out among a large cast, the steps taken were small in each case. That lack of focus on one or two individuals I do feel hinders the show in giving a sense of what each character is about, but I can’t deny that it did a good job for what it appears to be trying to achieve. Plus, small steps are bigger than tiny steps. Best Character Progression: Kiznaiver
To be fair, Sakura’s test was fun. The run up to the final move, and Rio’s reaction to Ryo’s questioning made for some good viewing. Kiznaiver also had its moments. Maki’s panic attack in the morgue was creepy, creepy, creepy, and I liked that. Picking between those two scenes though? It’s too close for me. Best Individual Scene: Draw – Hell of a Hundred Throws (Wanna be the Strongest in the World) and Morgue-nam Style (Kiznaiver)
- So this is a tough one because I’m not hugely invested in any of the focal characters of each show as yet. Tenga is interesting, and I do really like Chidori as a foil for Kacchon, so Kiznaiver has that. At the same time, I still like Rio Kazama as the heel wrestling rival. Her continued outward attitude towards Sakura, combined with her choice to go easy on her was enough to keep my interested in seeing what they do with her as the series progresses. It’s close, but I’m going to give it to Rio this time. Best Character: Rio Kazama (Wanna be the Strongest in the World)
While fine for what it is, the repeated animation frames in Wanna be the Strongest loses it points here. Kiznaiver meanwhile is consistently smooth and has an interested look to it. Easy win there. Best Animation: Kiznaiver
Kiznaiver has the best opening and closing themes, but I don’t really remember anything else from during the show. Wanna be the Strongest had some well-placed string music during its best scene, but is that enough to justify it taking the points? Not really. In the interest of being objective, I’m going to call this one a draw. Best Soundtrack: Draw
Final Scores: Wanna be the Strongest in the World – 4 points, Kiznaiver – 8 points
And so Kiznaiver moves on to a semi-final clash with Amanchu! Wanna be the Strongest in the World hasn’t actually been a bad show to be fair. Will I continue with it? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not a ‘no’, but it’s not high on my list either. Kiznaiver meanwhile has its faults, but it is an intriguing little story. In all though, this rounds off a wonderfully fun round for Crunchyroll of the Dice. I hope you’re all enjoying this as much as I am!