Welcome, one and all, to another thrilling instalment of Matt Doyle Media Dot Com’s yearly tournament, Crunchyroll of the Dice. To clarify how this all began … I messed up. You see, while deciding what to review for the site last year, I meant to tell myself ‘Let’s take a roll of the dice and do something at random.’ Somehow though, I managed to replace the word ‘roll’ with ‘Crunchyroll’. That little internal mix up spawned an idea: tournament style reviews with random shows. I decided to pick two shows at complete random on the site, watch the first episodes and compare them both. The result was a huge sixteen show tournament wherein the first round pairings were compared based on their first episodes. The winners advanced to be compared on episode two, and so on until we had a top four.
So, with that out of the way, the rules are as follows:
- The series must be picked at random
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
Last time around, my opening pairing was Love Live: School Idol Project and Sword Art Online. This time … it’s a little different. Let’s begin.
Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid
Here we go with episode two. Given my surprise enjoyment of episode one, this has a lot to live up to! We open with a shot of Tohru throwing flames … ah, she thought the gas stove wasn’t powerful enough and burnt all the food. And the kitchen. So now Tohru and Miss Koboyashi must go shopping together for the first time. Miss Koboyashi is naturally concerned about how this will go. Can’t say I blame her. The opening video feels a little odd but the song is OK.
Tohru feels uncomfortable because the department store reminds her of the crusader’s castles from her past She prefers the shopping district as it’s more like a bazaar. As the dynamic duo start their shopping trip, Miss K is surprised to see that Tohru is on friendly terms with the various vendors. When questioned on this, Tohru states that she’s not friends with them or anything like that, she just found that he reciprocated when she was nice. While Miss Koboyashi thinks that her maid doesn’t understand human emotions, Tohru disagrees because she and her master share mutual love. I do like these two as a pairing. Amusingly, Koboyashi is upset because Tohru is better at socialising than she is, and starts to wonder if the dragon may not hate humans after all. She realises that she knows little about her servant and, in a somewhat sweet moment, decides not to broach touchy subjects with her. So, so offers to buy dessert instead.
A purse snatcher soon finds himself on the end of Tohru’s wrath and, after a brief moment of panic that this would cause trouble, the crowd are elated. Tohru and Miss K leave holding hands and they both admit that they were scared about Tohru exposing herself as a dragon. They continue to hold hands and Tohru decides she won’t wash that hand for a while.
Back at the apartment, Miss Koboyashi asks Tohru how eh tail tastes, which she confirms is creamy. The doorbell rings and we meet … Kanna, a little girl with horns and a tail with a bobbly end. Toru has already left at this point so Koboyashi tries to strike up conversation with the girl … who tells her to break up with Tohru and accuses her of seducing the dragon! Tohru returns and, after briefly mistaking the scenario as an affair, recognises Kanna and introduces her as an acquaintance. The girl wants Tohru to come with her, but Tohru refuses because she’s in love. Kanna gets a bit murderous in intent but can’t manage much physically. She can’t get home has been exiled from the dragon’s land for pulling a prank. Taking pity on the girl, Miss Koboyashi offers to let her stay. Kanna is uncertain and has some trust issues, but Miss Koboyashi talks her down and she agrees. Thus far, the background music has been unobtrusive I’ve noticed, but certainly fits with the scenes that it’s been used in. The Tohru/Koboyashi romance feels a little sweeter too.
Later, Kanna is bored, so Tohru offers to play outside with her. She invited Miss K, who doesn’t like exercise, and drags her along to a field. Tohru doesn’t know if they’re even still in Japan, but that’s OK. The two dragons play by fighting with magical powers and fire and claws and the suchlike, preventing Koboyashi from sleeping. Tohru thinks that Koboyashi wants to join in, but this isn’t the case as she’d die. We then learn that Kanna draws power from electricity. Miss K asks them to play at human levels which confuses Tohru as there are plenty of humans in her world that can do exactly what they just did. The dragons are shocked to learn that the humans they saw doing magic on TV are fictional. The dragons decide to imitate Koboyashi instead of fighting, and the three eventually lay down to watch the clouds. They play a quick round of shiratori too, which Tohru loses.
Later, Tohru is upset because Miss Koboyashi ate her curry but left the tail meat behind. Miss Koboyashi suggests that she grinds it up so that she won’t notice next time. When it comes time for Koboyashi to go to work, Kanna decides that she wants to go too, despite Tohru stating that she was going to teach her about human things (because she has such a great understanding and all). Miss K leaves and Tohru decides to tech common sense. Lesson one is obeying traffic lights or you’ll get run over. Seems sensible, even if Tohru thinks cars run on magic. We learn that Miss K has a driver’s license but no car due to cost. We soon hit a roadblock though … Tohru thinks see-saws are catapult practice tools. She recognises crepes and ice cream though.
Tohru and Kanna decide that the world is peaceful and ponder why there don’t seem to be more dragons about. Kanna asks Tohru why she came to this world as she had heard that she died. Tohru explains that she came to escape and that, while on the verge of death, Miss K saved her. Only a few know that she survived now, but she’s happy. Kanna wants to see where Miss Koboyashi works, even though she’d be mad at her, and we get to see both dragon’s true forms. Miss K gets a shock when she sees them peeking out from behind the clouds. Later, Miss Koboyashi explains see-saws to the dragons, though they don’t quite seem to have the hang of how they’re supposed to work. Closing theme is OK and full of lots of chibi shots of the various dragons that we’ll meet. To quote Broken Matt Hardy, that was … delightful.
This has an enjoyable first episode that scraped by against strong competition. Let’s see how it fares this time around. We jump straight in with a young girl out walking the streets at night after seemingly being kicked out by her Mum. Next thing we know, we’re in with Shotaro as he tries to raid the fridge. It’s near empty so he heads out to the store and spots the girl outside. The opening theme feels slightly off with the feel of the series, though the video is visually well done and highlights some of the more aesthetically well done scenery on display. Back to the episode though, and the police are talking to girl. She’s about three and so can’t really express what’s happened too well. There are no missing child reports though, so the police ask if they can check her backpack for a clue, but the girl says no. Shotaro trades her some food for the backpack, but it doesn’t contain anything useful. Cute penguin plush though. They notice that the backpack is bloody at that point and Shotaro comes up with an idea.
They take the girl to Sakurako, though she’s a little snappy due to being with due to the early hour of the morning. She eventually decides to hear them out and confirms that the blood on the backpack is fresh and a handprint. She wants to check something and asks her Gran to provide a change of clothes for the girl. She notices something and asks to see the girl’s left arm, but the girl aggressively refuses. Sakurako confirms that bones grow and restructure and that a child’s bones are particularly remarkable in that way, beginning to med as soon as they break. She tells the girl that her arm is proof that she really tried hard, and she lets Sakurako check her out. We learn that the arm has an avulsion fracture, which is common in children when their arm is twisted by force. This, combined with the way her arm tilts inward, may mean that she’s being abused. This is a heavy episode!
Sakurako and Shotaro tell the police to check hospital records. The injury is recent and a decent parent would have taken her in. Shotaro asks Sakurako if she had the girl change her clothes so that she could check the arm, and Sakurako states that she is a girl. That’s an odd statement and kinda makes me think that Sakurako may have suffered a bit as a child. The way she runs in panic during the opening credits kinda hint at that too. Later, they’re at the park, and Shotaro’s phone goes off. The police have been checking the hospitals and discovered that when the girl was taken in, a false name and address were used. Sakurako decides that this means that the Mum feared being reported and knew that it constituted abuse. Shotaro’s friend Kougami turns up and the girl instantly recognises her. Kougami works at a children’s centre and the two play together a lot … meaning that she knows the girl’s real name! Lucky and convenient coincidence there, but it works.
The girl is Yuuka Tominaga, which is a far cry from the name that she’s been using (Ii-chan). Yuuka opens the door to her home but Shotaro stops her going in when he smells something. He recognises the stench of death. Dustbin sacks have been piled up everywhere and Sakurako thinks that something doesn’t seem right with the body that they’ve found. We get that funk multi-coloured bone scene from episode one again and she starts to investigate. The limbs show some slight rigor mortis, meaning that it’s been over four hours since the death. Her feet are bloody too. Sakurako theorises that she was attacked at her door, cutting her right hand while trying to defend herself against a blade. The chain is broken, but there’s no sign of the lock being forced, meaning that the intruder must have been someone they knew or that had a key. The noise must have woken Yuuka and the Mum would have fled to the back room with her. The trash blocked their escape, but the kitchen window was big enough for the child, if not the adult.
Thing still seem off though as there’s only one defensive wound. Sakurako can’t figure out why she would have stayed in one place and not ran elsewhere, and the trach scattered around doesn’t help, until she finds a baby bottle. Well, now I’m worried where this is heading. There was another child, younger than Yuuka. Little things that Yuuka said start to make sense and they begin to search for the other child. Under the body is a trap door and inside is the baby, still alive but in a bad way by the looks of it. A man stumbles past the police officer towards the house and, when the officer tries to stop him, he stabs him! The guy wanders in to ‘catch the butterflies’ and we see that Sakurako is trying to resuscitate the baby, which is really sad. Sakurako won’t give up on the kid. Then, knife guy turns up.
Shotaro starts to panic, and Sakurako tells him to get away from her, calmly and slowly. She can’t move because her fingers are the baby’s heart right now. Knife guy is mad but the injured cop returns and tries to tackle him. Shotaro then springs into action too and we get a flashback for Sakurako of a young boy running away from her when she was younger. Shotaro is OK though as, having been trained to black belt level in martial arts, he can take the guy down. Sakurako is angry though, and asks him if he has a death wish. She is genuinely upset and scared. Then the baby open his eyes and cries.
Knife guy is arrested, the cop is taken to the hospital, and the Yuuka is left without a mother. Sakurako thinks that the man may have come in the middle of the night during a feed. He’s likely a drug addict. He attacked the Mum, who tried to get Yuuka out and tot eh convenience store. She went through the window and the Mum sacrificed her life. The arm damage was not necessarily abuse, but it doesn’t excuse the Mum from not getting it treated. Sakurako calls Shotaro by his name rather than boy, and Shotaro remembers her yelling Soutarou at him when knife guy came in. I’m gonna guess that Soutarou was Sakurako’s little brother and something happened that she was unable to prevent. Anyway, the closing theme cuts in with lots of bones. It still feels different to the feel of the show but is closer than the opening to capturing it. That was a good episode that reminded me a little of ERASED.
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 an interesting one to judge because neither show has a clear overarching major plot. In fact, both play out in an almost ‘monster of the week’ format with some minor things going on the background. In terms of what they’ve done though, they both added little elements to the overall series that will no doubt be addressed later on. Differentiating between them in quality would be difficult on this point though, so this one is a draw. Best Story Progression: Draw
Beautiful Bones took the baby steps approach to this, adding in Shotaro’s martial arts skills and setting up the mystery of Soutarou for Sakurako. These were small things but effective in adding to the main characters. In a similar way, Miss Koboyashi took some small steps in how she views and treats Tohru which, while I’m not convinced will be as major as Sakurako’s mystery, do help keep her progressing. Tohru herself gave us a fair bit more information about how dragons works, their world and so on. A lot of this progressed the world rather than her though, so it doesn’t really push the series ahead. As such, we’re on another draw. Best Character Progression: Draw
Both series have very different feels. In terms of Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid, I did like both the sweetness of the hand holding and the epic rough housing between the dragons. Beautiful Bones seem to be using the bone scene as a sort of ‘magical girl transformation’ equivalent, which lessens the impact for me slightly. The moment when the baby woke up was a relief though, even though I could see it coming. It’s becoming a theme here, but I’m hard pressed to choose between them all. I’m going to go with the baby though because if they hadn’t done that it would have put me off the series a fair bit. Best Individual Scene: Alive (Beautiful Bones)
This is a tough one because both shows have a very likable main cast. For MKDM, both leads have a great dynamic together that makes them fun to watch. Newcomer Kanna had her moments but didn’t really make it to the same level for me. Adding in the martial arts gives Shotaro a boost but he still isn’t as interesting as Sakurako. Sakurako’s general demeanour hints at her having an interesting past, and the inclusion of the new mystery adds to her interesting edge. Both Tohru and Sakurako are keeping me interested to similar degrees so I’m gonna call this one a draw again. Best Character: Draw – Tohru (Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid) and Sakurako (Beautiful Bones)
Both series take different approaches to animation and in a way that fits with their tone. MKDM is very colourful with a good mix of simplistic moments when the characters are at home to flashy moments when they’re out and about. Beautiful Bones was more consistent this time around for me and the muted colours and really helped add to the story. What was also interesting was that the flashback moments were simplified in terms of backdrops, allowing you to focus on what was happening. Due to their equal effectiveness, this one is another draw. Best Animation: Draw
This is actually the easiest category to judge for me. Nothing really stands out in Beautiful Bones. Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid has a soundtrack that strikes a good balance between being unobtrusive and enhancing the scenes where music is used. Easy points for the dragons. Best Soundtrack: Yamishibai: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid
Final Scores: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid – 6 points, Beautiful Bones – 6 points
For the second round running, Beautiful Bones has been involved in a draw. This puts us back into a sudden death tie-break competition. The first category is: Best VA.
Once again, we’re looking at leads here. Really, in terms of characters that showed a range of emotions, this comes down to Sakurako vs. Tohru. As the point winner last time, Shizuka Ito did a great job with Sakurako, and it’s no different this time around. She has the moody side down pat, as well as a cold calculating side and some fear and panic later on. Yuki Kuwahara was also very good as Tohru here, improving on her performance from episode one thanks to the material. Tohru had her normal playfulness but also dealt with a few more mellow moments this time around. These two are fairly evenly matched here, but I’m going to give the points to Shuzuka Ito. The reason is that her performance is less OTT and, while I know that that is in art due to the series that she’s in, I think that she may yet have more opportunity to broaden her range with the character moving forward while Yuki Kuwahara’s Tohru is likely to be much more of the same. Best VA: Shizuka Ito as Sakurako (Beautiful Bones)
Final Scores: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid – 6 points, Beautiful Bones – 8 points
Somehow, I can’t help but see this as an upset. I really like Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid and I’m looking forward to episode three in the third place paly-off, but Beautiful Bones is dragging itself through each challenge at the moment. Whether it will do the same again against the winner of Flip Flappers vs. Interviews With Monster Girls remains to be see, but it’ll be interesting to watch!
Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later.