Archive for the ‘Anime’ Category

The three monkeys of Eizouken

February 9, 2020

I particularly like an anime that is confident enough to drop in quick references to other anime, other media, without feeling the need to draw your attention to them. Think of Girls Und Panzer and Rommel’s Panzer IV stuck on a bridge, or the Headmasters Ferrari F40, neither of which was mentioned as such.

Keep your hands off Eizoukun has the same level of confidence. Here’s one from Episode 5.

No-one mentions that it’s a riff on the 3-monkey pose. They just show the cut, and move on.

In/Spectre after five

February 8, 2020

In/Spectre (虚構推理 Kyokō suiri) is living up to its Japanese name: Fictional Reasoning. I don’t do episode by episode reviews, and I rarely do midseason reviews, but this one is special.

In the first five episodes I/S pulls more plot shifts on us than a fast game of Calvinball. It starts out looking like a yokai-of-the-week, with a cute but totally mismatched couple — one eye/one leg Kotoko, Goddess of Wisdom to the yokai, and unkillable yokai-eater Kurou, who Kotoko recruits after he breaks up with Saki, his girlfriend of five years. Together, they rid the local library of a monster that has been terrorizing the other yokai, and preventing the ghost samurai from finishing his Harlequin romance novels.

Would you consider dating me with marriage in mind?

Then, in Episode 2, we find that Kotoko’s real job is BS-ing the low-intellect yokai with continuously changing explanations until she finds one that satisfies them and their problem is “solved”. In this case, it’s a snake god that is trying to figure out why a woman dumped a dead body in his swamp.

But doesn’t that explanation contradict your previous one?

Having read the manga, I can say that this 1.3-episode arc was brought in from later in the story. As others have pointed out, that’s a good thing, because it preps the watcher for the kind of developments that are to come.

Episode 3 brings up a new situation, one that will dominate the center of this I/S season. It’s two years later, and there’s a new yokai in town, the vengeful ghost of a dead idol, Steel Lady Nanase. So, we’re back to yokai-of-the-week, right? Not quite. You see, the police are investigating the phenomenon, because she caused a car crash. And who is doing the investigation? Kurou’s old girlfriend Saki. Who encounters Nanase. And meets Kotoko. So now it’s a love triangle, right?

Episode 4 starts out with a catty back-and-forth between the two women about ex/current-boyfriend Kurou (who has disappeared after leaving a ‘don’t follow me’ text). We get to see BS-artist Kotoko dueling with hard-nosed policewoman Saki, interleaved with discussions of Nanase. During this, we find that Kurou is essentially unkillable. Kotoko later decides she needs Saki’s help, but while the two of them are in the process of meeting up, Kotoko gets diverted to the site of a new Nanase sighting, and finds her fighting with…Kurou.

If you like, I’ll send you a wedding invitation whenever Kurou and I get married

Episode 5 is where it gets weird. You see, Kurou is effectively immortal, because he ate the flesh of a mermaid. But because he also ate the flesh of a kudan, he can forecast/select the future, but only if he dies. No wonder Saki dumped him, and no wonder Kotoko says she’s the only one who can understand him. We also find that Nanase isn’t a proper yokai, she’s the embodiment of the beliefs of all the otaku who are reading (and arguing) about her exploits on the Steel Lady Nanase website. So, instead of fighting Nanase physically, Kotoko is going to have to fight the idea of Steel Lady Nanase on the Internet. Suddenly, we’re in the realm of fake news and dueling Internet memes.

Set a meme to fight a meme

Far from being a simple humans-meet-yokai story, one that could have been set in old Edo, we have a totally modern story about how you fight fake news in the face of those who want to believe a certain story. Going forward [spoiler warning] we are going to see Kotoko developing and posting on the web, constantly-changing, real-time explanations for why Nanase isn’t a real ghost, in the face of those who want her to be. We also find that this isn’t really a story about fighting yokai. It’s a story about human interactions.

 

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Winter 2020 – Part 2

February 3, 2020

 

Somali and the Forest Spirit: This anime catches childhood better than any I’ve seen in a long time. Somali has a fearless urge to explore coupled with the short attention span for promises that is typical of all children. You have to watch them all the time or they’re gone. Equally, she has a child’s perception of the world, just beginning to apply logic and, not understanding the world, misapplying it. She has a child’s unalloyed love for and trust in her parent. All in all, it’s a masterpiece portrayal of what it is to be a child.

I hate children.

Interspecies Reviewers: I realize that the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to businesses, still less to artists and works of art. Naked Maja and Arrangement in Grey and Black are equally valid. Still and yet, how was it that Funimation came to greenlight this show? I have never seen so much blatant censorship, with blocking patches, large and small, and entire blackened screens, as well. Was it that they wanted to be able to sell the patches as sew-on’s and phone charms in the Funimation store? Nobody’s going to buy that stuff.

Funimation should just drop the whole thing. I mean, what were they thinking?

Translation flubs in Eizouken

January 20, 2020

I am not a Japanese sprecher, despite having studied it for a while now — I like to say that I’ve been in the Learn Japanese in 90 days program for the last five years. However, there were a couple of errors in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken that even I noticed.

In Episode 1, when their dragonfly is being chased by the bad guys, the logo on the front of the bad guys’ ship is 氷, which gets labeled as Mizu, which is Japanese for water. However, the kanji for water is 水 — note the missing dot in the upper left. What 氷 stands for is ice.

Wrong kanji

Then, in Episode 2, the subtitle says that Kanamori has a knack for handling stacks of paper. I thought I heard the word kane (かね), which means money, and is more in line with Kanamori‘s personality, as in a knack for handling stacks of money. A check of the manga indicates I’m probably right.

Wrong paper

It has been said that the best translation is a good paraphrase, but these are simple enough to just be oversights.

Anime worth watching, Winter 2019

January 15, 2020

I write so many items about what I don’t like, I decided to track what I think is good each season. These are based on watching just the first episode, so my opinion might change, but I note that this season is thin enough (for me) that I’ve already watched the first episode of In/Spectre twice and Eizouken three times.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken: I’m going to fall in with the in crowd here and say that this had the best start of any anime this season. Eizouken is a bright, cartoony anime about, as one reviewer said, bold girls doing bold things. These are the Shirobako girls before they got the anime club really going. They live in a building complex that looks like Kowloon City, if designed by Miyazaki, with the teacher’s offices in an empty swimming pool and the lane markers still in place.

In/Spectre: In a Montague/Capulet kind of pairing, she’s a Goddess of Wisdom for the denizens of the other world, while they consider him a fiend who eats their flesh. Together, they solve the problems of the spirit world and balance out their interactions with this one …  or something. A sort of a  Bleach meets Natsume’s Book of Friends rom com.

Somali and the Forest Spirit: Cute kid, soft pastel colors; a world full of diverse monsters, living in peaceful cooperation. Despite all that it’s still pretty good.

Just three. If I went any higher, this would be what I watched, instead of being what I watched that was good. Unsurprisingly, none of them is from Funimation.

 

Things you can learn from In/Spectre

January 14, 2020

You can learn that かっぱ are very friendly.

These days they are very trendy creatures.

Trendy Kappa

Who recommend good sushi

Kappa Sushi in Saitama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(there’s also a Kappa Sushi in San Diego)

 

and high quality shrimp flavored chips

Shrimp Chips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(you can get them on Amazon)

 

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Winter 2020 – Part 1

January 13, 2020

I wanted to write this whole article in one sitting, but it looks like it will be at least a week before all the new anime have aired. So, we do our best with what we have. Note that, as usual, Funimation hogged all the real stinkers — and got its own TLDR — so we just have to make do with what’s left elsewhere.

Asteroid in Love: A too-generic, too saccharine, cute-girls-doing-club-stuff anime. The girls are supposedly in high school, but they look and act more like middle schoolers. Despite it showing the only accurate portrayal of a real constellation that I’ve seen in anime, it’s 23 minutes that I can find a better use for. Like going outside and looking at the stars.

Room Camp: A short-short follow on to Laid Back Camp. Three minutes is too short to do anything more than come up with a lame camping-themed joke.

The Case Files of Jeweler Richard: Remember 2018’s Holmes of Kyoto? Move it to Tokyo and replace the ditzy girl with an overly serious boy. Both were unassuming lightweights, except that Holmes had the Kyoto tourist spots as backdrops. Holmes also had a budding romance between the appraiser and his employee, but there’s no reason why Jewler can’t explore that trope as well — after all, it’s the Reiwa Period now. However, I decided halfway through Holmes that this sort of slow burn non-mystery mystery show isn’t for me, and this time I’m bailing early.

The Island of Giant Insects: Remember Are you lost, last summer’s TV short about three girls surviving an airplane crash on a desert island? Suppose we gave the same high concept to the team that did Btoom, or maybe Gantz, and tell them to make a movie. Only don’t give them half the budget. Poor animation (it’s a 2020 release that looks like it should have aired in 2010), tired group dynamics tropes with serial death flags. And let’s not mention the ero-horror fan service. There’s a reason the AniList rating is around 40%.

Tokyo Olympic Stadium unveiled

January 12, 2020

The new stadium incorporates materials from all over Japan, and emphasizes the use of wood to give it a warm appearance.

Having been completed, it looks much better than it did when it was under construction.

Akira

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Winter 2020 – Funimation Division

January 10, 2020

For the last couple of years I’ve had this hate-hate relationship with Funimation. Their user interface is clunky, their log-on policies are irritating, and their selection is small. More about all of that in a later post.

I put off fighting the FN user interface for the first week or so of the new season, then plunged in and marathoned all the new shows on two separate nights. Here’s my take on the shows that weren’t worth it.

Plunderer: Young child (maybe five or six) is given a magic billiard ball by her abyss-bound mother and spends the next five years walking over 20km per day* looking for her “Ace with a white star” (no indication of how she survives while doing this). Arrives in a small town, only to be set upon by the village idiot molester, then deceived and assaulted by a no-good Army sergeant, who just happens to have a white star sticker handy to paste on his forehead. Rescued by said molester (who turns out to also be the real Ace, complete with star). Mediocre animation. Overacting like I haven’t seen since my last high school play. Horribly contrived (and poorly thought out) world concept. Child molestation as a plot point, and played for laughs by the so-called hero.

*How do we know this? The associated number** is tattooed on her inner thigh. High up on her inner thigh.
**Don’t ask.

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen: Super sorcerer’s ensorceled sister shape shifts into Smaug and soars away. He’s spent the last five years looking for her. Teams up with a sorcerer wannabe, a couple of larcenous dwarves (if you spell it with an f it’s a small red star) who look like Detective Conan, and the sword-swinging younger daughter of a rich merchant. Supporting cast includes seven people who were introduced by name (including screentags) at the introduction, and then suddenly it’s five years and a thousand miles later, and they appear again. BTW, Orphen is the guy’s name, not his parental status, and sorcerer is his profession, which means that stabber is his hobby or something. Too Saturday-morning kids show for me. I guess the spiky hair should have warned me.

Infinite Dendogram: Highschool boy enters a full-immersion VRMMORPG (like Sword Art, only without the evil sysadmin). Meets a full-featured NPC, a bear shaped sidekick, and a beautiful wrist-mounted embryo. Fights off badly animated CG insects and saves the FFNPC’s little sister. Might be worth a second episode, but right now it’s too much of a generic PC isekai.

Nekopara: A collection of cat-girls, who appear to be in their pre-tweens, help out in a bakery. When not helping, they’re engaged in semi-lewd interactions. At the 9:30 mark I decided I am so not the demographic for this one.

Toilet-bound Hanako-kun: One final wrong-demographic. Really cute, really sweet, girl-meets-ghost. Like an inverted Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, but with less of a horror background (I guess). Artwork is like a children’s book. I’d say something like I wish I had kids, so I could watch it with them, but ya know, the ancillary costs wouldn’t be worth it.

Asteroid in Love

January 5, 2020

Just watched the first episode of Asteroid in Love. It’s a too-generic, too saccharine, cute-girls-doing-club-stuff anime. The girls are supposedly in high school, but they look and act more like middle schoolers. It will probably end up in my next TL;DR collection.

HOWEVER:

It is the first anime that I can recall — and I tend to pay attention to these things — that accurately portrays an actual stellar constellation.

Orion over my shoulder

Not just the shape of the asterism. The relative brightness and color of the stars are shown as well. Look at red Betelgeuse, and blue Rigel. The belt is accurate, but you can’t see the sword — as is to be expected in urban Japan.

So, credit where credit is due Asteroid, you’ve left a memorable image.

Anime Preview: Winter 2020

January 3, 2020

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped before (Haikyuu, Kabukicho Sherlock), shorts and kids stuff (Egg Car ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Precure, Railgun, or punctuation in the title

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps (you can click on the pix to embiggen).

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

The most entertaining anime of the decade

December 31, 2019

Picture this. It’s the end of a hard week and you have just popped up a batch of popcorn, opened a bottle of vin exceedingly ordinaire, and chased the dogs off the sofa. What’s your next step?

Hey, honey, there’s a fifteen-hour Hamlet marathon on Netflix, starting with the 1911 August Blom version. Wanna watch?

OR

Hey, honey, what anime do you want to watch tonight?

Yeah. I thought so.

The list that follows is my take on the most entertaining anime of each year this decade. Not the highest quality. Not the most artistic. Just the one you’d like to watch when you want to be entertained and not have to think, similar to how Miyazaki intended Porko Rosso for tired Japanese businessmen. One anime per year.

2010 Highschool Of The Dead: Yes, it’s a fanservice train wreck. Yes, both the anime and the manga leave us hanging. But ya know, it’s darn fine storytelling.

Popcorn! More popcorn!

2011 Chihayafuru: Just because it’s the best anime of the year doesn’t mean it can’t be great entertainment. Besides, it was a pretty thin year.

Burning Goddess of Autumn

2012 Girls und Panzer: What’s not to like? A going-to-Koshien story about cute girls…and tanks…on aircraft carriers? Plus, it has the maus.

Did Rommel really get his start this way?

2013 Log Horizon: As I’ve said earlier, 2013 was a magical year for anime. But Kyousougiga and Kill La Kill make you think too much, and Non Non Biyori will put you pleasantly to sleep…

…but Log Horizon is computer world isekai done right

2014 Witch Craft Works: Another magical year, and WCW just barely edged out Shirobako. But Shiro is serious and WCW is just mind candy.

Saving her princess

2015 Blood Blockade Battlefront. New York, as it lives in the minds of New Yorkers.

After this, it gets weird

2016 Flying Witch: One of the better slice-of-life series. Even the fact that it had an Anime Original Ending couldn’t give it a dramatic arc, and that’s OK.

Where else would she get one?

2017 Dragon Maid: In another great year, DM beat out five other shows, but only just.

2018 Bunny Girl Senpai: Five short stories in one anime. Lots of references to other anime.

Haruhi ears, Lucky Star hair clip, Monogatari warning, Dewey decimal.

2019 Kotobuki: Magnificent flying. I get a bad case of the leans every time I watch it.

Another kill for Kotobuki

Anime worth watching, 2019

December 28, 2019

I’m not going to do a top ten or anything like that. This is simply a list of what I consider to be the single best anime of each season of the year past. If nothing in a season rises to the level of really good, then I’ll leave it blank.

Winter 2019

The Magnificent Kotobuki. The great flying, great characters, and interesting story makes up for the less than great CG character design. 90/100.

Spring 2019

Nothing that made the cut. At 70/100, Bokuben was the best of a bad lot, and no, I didn’t like Demon Slayer.

Summer 2019

Oh, Maidens in your Savage Season. The best coming-of-age anime I have seen. Probably the best anime of the year. 100/100. I note that of 450 anime from the last twenty years, I have given only 8 of them a 100/100.

Fall 2019

Ascendance of a Bookworm. 85/100. Isekai done right. See the essay I stayed up late on Christmas night to write. Sorry, Chihaya, you started late and didn’t end in 2019.

 

Ascendance of a Bookworm: The anime and the novels

December 25, 2019

Ascendance of a Bookworm is one of my favorite anime/light novels this season — and probably number 3 for the year. Yes, it’s an isekai, with all the baggage that term brings with it, but it manages to stand out from the crowd, and it does so without the self-conscious, 4th-wall-breaking, hur hur hur did you see what I did antics that its pack-mates have resorted to. Despite that, the early episodes didn’t garner a lot of love from the reviewers, (also here and here and here) and I’m here to remedy that problem. Let me start by listing how it differs from others of the isekai genre.

First, it’s straightforward reincarnation. Myne, our protagonna, isn’t summoned to this new world via magic. She isn’t killed by accidental act of God, thus gaining an apology and a new life as an overpowered hero. She dies in an earthquake — after almost getting hit by a truck due to reading while walking — and reawakens in her new body. Very Buddhistic. Note: the LN calls her Myne, while the anime says Main, pronounced as if German. The Japanese is マイン, which transliterates as Ma.i.n and is pronounced Mine. I’m using the LN spelling and the German pronunciation.

Second, she is, as you might have already guessed, female. Not a hikikomori highschool boy, nor yet a middle-aged businessman, she’s a girl who is about to graduate from college with a job in a library. This is fairly unusual. Less than 25% of the current run of 78 light novels on J-Novel (dating almost totally from the current decade) feature female protagonists in a fantasy world isekai, and as far as anime is concerned, AniList shows only 20 isekai with female leads in the 40 years since 1990.

Third, she’s not an overpowered hero. As with the males in these stories, the few women in high fantasy isekai tend to have some sort of cheat going for them, usually some God-granted superpower. Not here. Myne occupies the body of a sickly six-year old girl, and brings with her only the knowledge that a widely-read college student with a crafts-otaku mother might have.

Fourth, she’s not part of the aristocracy. Other fantasy isekai heroes tend to be summoned by kings, reincarnated as daughters of nobles, or manage to meet with high-ranking nobles before the end of Episode 2. Myne is, as the title of the first volume says, the daughter of a soldier. Actually, I think a better description would be ‘member of the city guard’, not a soldier. She never meets a noble throughout the first three books.

THE STORY (with spoilers, and incorporating elements of both the anime and the light novel).

Our story opens with Motosu Urano, a graduating college student who loves books, killed by the collapse of her bookshelves during a minor earthquake. She finds herself in the body of a sickly six year old — who she hears dying from a fever, even as Urano is resurrected in her body. The world she finds herself in is covered in grime (those sheets started out white), colorless, and devoid of books.

She goes briefly mad, trashing the house  in her search for books, or newspapers, or calendars — anything with words in a row. I should pause for a moment, and talk about Myne and books, or rather, Urano and books. All she wants to do is read. She has her own room with floor to ceiling books (which are what kill her). She’s like me. If there’s no book nearby at breakfast I’ll read the back of the cereal box. Heck, I’ll read the side of a cereal box. I’d be perfectly happy to be a brain in a jar, as long as I had one eyeball, and a finger to turn the pages. That’s what Myne is like. I bring this up because it’s the driving force of the story. The LN dedicates the entire Prologue to building up Myne’s bookish character. The anime starts off with a bit of a spoiler, showing the High Priest doing some sort of mind meld to find out why she likes books so much. In any event, at the end of the first episode she has decided to make her own books.

The early arcs deal with her learning to live with her new world. It’s so unlike modern Japan that she doesn’t even recognize her sister’s favorite toy as a hand-made doll. Her family is not poor, but is definitely lower class despite her father having a government job. They are living essentially a hand-to-mouth existence — her sister has to forage in the forest for firewood and edibles. There’s no food storage, so most of the meat is fresh-killed — right in front of you.

They live on the 5th floor of what the LN calls a 7-floor townhouse, but which is more like a Roman insula, an apartment complex where the apartments are cheaper the higher up you live (partly because your chances of dying in a fire are higher). Sanitation is non-existent — as in pee in a pot and pour it out the window.

In fact, Myne’s Japanese sense of cleanliness is what drives her first impact on her family and society. She spends part of each day cleaning the family bedroom. She can’t take an ofuro style bath, but she can have her sister wipe her down. She can’t really wash her hair, so she creates a vegetable oil shampoo based on memories of what she remembers from her crafts-otaku mother. Ultimately, that shampoo will be her first commercial product.

Myne is busy in other ways. She teams up with Lutz, a local boy her own age, who wants to be a traveling merchant, and begins trying different ways to make paper so that she can write books. She introduces the art of crocheting, and makes her sister a hair ornament for her baptism.

She also spends time at the town gate (where her father is guard-commander), in the care of Otto, a soldier who keeps the books for the guard unit. When he finds out that she can do math (in spite of not being able to read the local writing), he has her help him with the bookkeeping. She asks Otto to give Lutz some advice on being a merchant, and Otto introduces both of them to the merchant, Benno.

This marks the beginning of a close and profitable relationship. By the time we get to the end of Season 1, Benno has contracted to make the shampoo, two different kinds of paper, and has stuck a deal to subcontract to Lutz and Myne and her family for the production of baskets and the crocheted hairpins.

Not all is well, however. In addition to being a sickly child who often is confined to her bed with a fever, Myne has a much deadlier disease, called The Devouring. It’s a disease of those who’s bodies produce too much manna, the driving force in magic. It manifests as a burning furnace inside that’s hard to damp down. Sooner or later it will overflow and kill the patient. The only way to survive it is to dump the excess manna into a magical item, but commoners normally don’t have access to such. The only way to gain access is to do what her rich merchant friend Frieda did, sign a contract to become the mistress of a noble (at age 7). Myne decides she’d rather die with her family.

Myne has several minor attacks of The Devouring, but as she gets older, they get worse. Finally, she has a major, life threatening, attack that gets staved off only because Frieda is willing to sell her a broken magic item that will absorb some of her manna and damp down the fires. That’s good for about a year.

At the end of the anime, Myne turns seven and is baptised, and finds out that not only does the church have lots of books, it also has lots of magical items and is in need of people with manna to keep them charged. The High Bishop tries to kidnap Myne right in front of her parents (they are, after all, mere commoners), but Myne shows what she can do when she gets her manna up and foils that plan. They end up with an agreement that Myne will become a shrine maiden, with unprecedented permission to live outside the cathedral and continue with her commercial activities. All ends well, at least until Season 2.

Throughout this, Myne can come across as a not-very likeable character. Her obsession with books can be somewhat off-putting, but it’s what drives the story (of course, my reaction to her obsession is ‘well…yeah’). She spends much of her time bad-mouthing her new world, but the fact is, medieval Europe was a terrible era to live in, particularly if you were poor. Her reactions are much more realistic than those of more popular isekai, where the hero looks around and says “Oh, yeah. Medieval Europe. Cool.” Finally, to some, Myne comes across as somewhat smug. I think it’s more the internal thought processes of a 20-year-old dealing with people who think she’s six. Where it counts, she’s considerate. She helps out her older sister. She advises Lutz on his career choices. After he challenges her on her identity, she offers to “go away”, despite the fact that her dying probably won’t bring the old Myne back. Later, she says she prefers to die in the arms of her family than whore herself out as a mistress to the nobles she despises. In the end, she’s a lot deeper than she first appears.

The only real problem I have with Bookworm is one that is endemic to any isekai. Assuming that the purpose of the story is to show how the protagonist prospers using their Earth-originated talents, it’s hard to make that happen without cheating. So you have isekai with smart phones, with overpowered protagonists, with knowledge of the future. Bookworm eschews all of that for simple crafts, but of course, the question then is, if they are so simple, why didn’t the contemps think of them already? Like using the vegetable water as broth (really?), or using the parue fruit dregs as human food. Of course, there are examples from our world, like spaghetti — while Marco Polo didn’t import it from China, it was still fifteen hundred years after the foundation of the Roman Republic that something resembling pasta appears in Italy. It all boils down to the reader’s willingness to suspend their disbelief. At least it wasn’t mayonnaise.

Meanwhile, Bookworm is an important addition to the genre because of how it deals with the poverty and the major class divisions built into the system, something rarely talked about in any fantasy isekai, or indeed, any Medieval-Europe-inspired fantasy.

Admittedly, Bookworm doesn’t talk about the dirt-poor, the beggars, the homeless. But it does show us the life of the working poor. Families working two jobs, not knowing if they will have enough food for the winter. Families who huddle around a table in front of the fire until it’s time for them to all sleep in what might as well be one bed in their one bedroom. (Side note, I’m surprised Myne hasn’t introduced the kotatsu). Families with zero access to healthcare, even for their children. Children who forage in the forest for firewood and food for their families until their baptism at age 7, when they enter the workforce, and for whom schools are unheard of. Without harping on the poverty, Bookworm provides a very good picture of what daily life is like at the bottom.

The other thing that Bookworm makes clear is the extreme difference in the social classes. The three main ones are the nobility, the church, and the commoners. The anime doesn’t go into great detail, but every now and then Myne complains about noble privileges, e.g. their books and magic items. As shown more by the LN than the anime, the nobility and the church overlap somewhat, with the typical tradition that third sons will go into the church. The commoners don’t overlap with either of the others — their speech, clothing, and concerns are totally different. Commoners rarely enter the church other than on the day they are baptised, and a commoner is powerless in the face of a noble or a high church officer. The church has its own commoners — the orphans who have been left in their care and who are essentially slaves. In the LN, in volumes beyond Season 1, we find that the orphans have never been outside the cathedral, or been exposed to the concept of money or of being paid for their work.

Finally, we see in later volumes of the LN that Myne’s work is on the verge of having an impact far beyond her own little circle. Her first book, printed on her own paper, using stencil technology that she learned in crafts, is one of simplified stories from the local Bible. The High Priest is surprised that she can create 30 copies of the book so easily. He is troubled because he sees a book as a work of art, where Myne views it as a store of information. He is also confused both by the fact that she put a flower on the cover, and that she could put a flower on the cover. Her second book is one of secular stories for children (written for her soon-to-be-born sibling, conceived, presumably, in the bed next to Myne), starting with Cinderella. The High Priest says that the tale is totally unbelievable, even as a fantasy, and by the time he is done editing it, the story is unrecognizable. Neither one sees (although Myne should, having read about the impact of the Gutenberg printing press) that once this technology moves beyond a single city, making cheap books available for all and encouraging commoners to learn to read (and therefore to think), there will be a social revolution that will sweep away both the nobility and the church.

 

 

Anime Postview: Fall 2019

December 23, 2019

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2019 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

These three were a mixed bag, not because of quality (well, that, too), but because of timing and availability.

Chihayafuru 3: I am a big fan of Chihaya, so I am working my way through the first two seasons again, plus, it started late in the season, which means I have not yet watched any of it. That’s OK. Trust me on this one. It’s good.

Rifle is Beautiful: Dropped after two episodes. Cute girls not really doing anything with things that aren’t really guns.

Ascendance of a Bookworm (AKA Honzuki…): I think it’s great. Others are not so sure, primarily because of the slow start. Just found out there will be a second season, which is good, because there’s no way they could wrap up the plot threads after a mere 14 episodes.

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average: Watched it. It’s great. One of the better fantasy world isekai I’ve seen.

Stand My Heroes: As I thought. Boring. Bunch’a cute guys. If I wanted to watch cute guys do cute stuff in cute outfits, I’d go to more basketball games.

Afterschool Dice Club: Dropped it one episode in, I didn’t like any of the characters. Not-so-cute girls doing not-so-cute things with games.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

I didn’t.

Summary: Nine shows. Six I said I’d watch. Three were good (I’m counting Chihayafuru), which gives me a 50% success rate. Meanwhile, Oresuki and Bokuben were not on my radar (well, I liked S1 of Bokuben) but I ended up watching them anyway, and they were pretty good (except for Oresuki‘s buy-the-DVD non-ending). So overall, it was a good season, with five watchable shows. To which I added Garden of Sinners, a collection of one hour arcs based on the light novel Empty Boundaries, and a rewatch of Devil is a Part Timer, which mostly was a demonstration of how much Funimation sucks as a streaming platform (of which, more later).

Isekai of the Future

December 17, 2019

An interesting sub-genre in light novels is one where the protagonna gains knowledge of the future and strives to create an alternative history timeline by correcting her earlier, or forthcoming, mistakes.  So far, the two ways this can happen are by tapping the memories of RPG game playing in a former life (on Earth), or by straightforward reincarnation into an earlier self.

J-Novel is currently running three light novels like this, while a fourth LN I have only found in manga form:

 

 

I Refuse to be Your Enemy

14-year old girl in a fantasy world, living a life that is only a couple of steps better than an early phase Cinderella, has dreams that she’s watching someone play a computer RPG, one that turns out to parallel her real life. Realizing that the in-game character that is her is on the route to the bad ending, she runs away from her boarding school, and the threat of an arranged marriage, vowing to change history if she can.

This is still on Volume 1, but she appears to be making the right kind of friends.

 

 

 

 

 

My Next Life as a Villainess

Bratty 8-year old girl in a fantasy world wakes up after an injury, with all the memories of her “previous life” as a 17-year old Japanese girl who played a computer RPG, one that turns out to parallel her real life. Her problem is that she is not the heroine of the game, and each of the main characters has a reason to dislike her, either because of how she interacts with them, or how she treats the heroine. This is why all of the paths in the game provide a Happy Ending for the heroine, and a Bad Ending for her. This is the only one of the three LN’s on J-Novel that has run to completion of the first arc, so I can say without spoiling too much that she finds an unexpected ending, which keeps them all alive. I haven’t read beyond that, but the succeeding volumes cover how she deals with running off her RPG map.

 

 

 

It Seems Like I Got Reincarnated Into the World of a Yandere Otome Game

This 2014 LN (I can’t find the LN, so I’m reading the 2018 manga) is similar to Villainess — 10-year old protagonna goes through life with a sense of disquiet and deja vu, due to memories of a prior life leaking through. Upon seeing a betrothal painting of her arranged-marriage fiance, she suffers a memory cascade, revealing more details that life. It turns out that, as in Villainess, her world parallels the RPG she “remembers” playing, and that she’s the doomed rival of the RPG’s main heroine.

For a LN with a premise that’s almost identical to that of Villainess, it’s fascinating to see how fast the two plotlines diverge. It’s also a little creepy to see everyone exposing their yandere side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tearmoon Empire

20-year old Marie Antoinette-like princess is beheaded during a revolution, and awakens to find herself back in her 12 year old body again, with all of her memories intact, along with the blood-soaked diary she kept during the intervening 8 years. She vows to avoid the mistakes that caused the revolution. Unfortunately, the diary (which changes as her actions change the future) only concerns her own doings, and not things like lottery numbers or race results.

Volume 1 is still incomplete. Her experiences have changed her personality, shocking those around her, and she is working to create a situation that will help her avoid the axe. What makes this LN particularly fun is the way everyone makes totally wrong assumptions about her motives. At one point, just for e.g., she gives her maid some walking-around money, because she deserves some time off [Use this as you see fit], which her maid assumes is some fiduciary trust [Mistress wants me to spend these funds in the most effective way possible, I’ll buy gifts for the workers].

Some people might say that these are not true isekai, because they involve her home world (not Earth). While it’s true that these books involve an inhabitant of the world under discussion gaining knowledge of the future, while remaining their own persona, they are using that knowledge to create an alternate timeline, a different world.

So far, only Villainess has been chosen to be an anime, scheduled for Spring, 2020.

Medieval Anime

December 15, 2019

The Medievalist just published an article discussing five anime that are based on inspired by Medieval Europe. The five are a bit of a grab bag: Saint Seiya, Record of Lodoss War, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Berserk, and Fate/Zero.

One can tell right away that the links to both Medieval and Europe can be pretty thin. Saint Seiya is based on Greek mythology. Berserk and Record of Lodoss War both draw on Norse mythology. The Heroic Legend of Arslan, which comes closest to meeting the definitions, is set in pre-Islamic Persia. And Fate/Zero’s most tenuous link of all is based on the presence of Artoria Pendragon, AKA Sabre.

Unfortunately, the author misses at least two recent programs with demonstrably stronger ties to Medieval + Europe. Ulysses: Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight, a poorly regarded show from last year, actually involved a European setting in a Late Medieval time frame. At the other end of the scale, this year’s highly rated Vinland Saga is, despite the name, about the Viking conquest of England in the Early Medieval period.

Still, it’s good that the outside world is getting a look at what anime can be. I’m all in favor of this sort of thing, even if I don’t totally agree with the choices.

Are there any shows that I missed? Any other anime set in Europe and environs, between say 500 and 1500?

 

Memories of Anime, 2013

December 3, 2019

2013 was a magical year in anime. I watched more hours of anime that year than in any other year this Century. And most of it was good, with a personal score on AniList of 73.3, a full two standard deviations above my overall score of 70.7.

Just look at 2013!

So, what made 2013 such a good year? Well, of the 36 titles I started, 14 had an AniList score of 75% or higher, and only 6 were bad enough that I dropped them partway through.

Kyousougiga
A girl and her hammer

The good ones included new-that-year blockbusters like Kill la Kill and Silver Spoon, Kyoto-centric Kyousougiga and Eccentric Family, and follow-on seasons for Monogatari and Chihayafuru. Not quite in the top tier were Log Horizon and Devil is a Part-Timer, excellent isekai and reverse-isekai shows.

Eccentric Family
A boy and his mother

Long form movies were Miyazaki’s retirement masterpiece The Wind Rises, and newcomer showcase Little Witch Academia. At the other end of the length spectrum was the feel-good short Encouragement of Climb and AIURA (which gave Yuyushiki a run for its money, despite being only one eighth as long).

In addition, there were a number of shows that I rated highly, but which others didn’t appreciate as much as I did, including Beyond the Boundary, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, and Maoyu: Demon King and Hero.

Meanwhile, every year has its duds. Some, we all can agree on: Galilei Donna (but the goldfish airships are nice), Dog & Scissors (too weird), and Vividred (too many shots of middle school crotches), for example. Others, it was just me: Yozakura Quartet (too shonen), Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (fell apart at the end), and Golden Time (fell apart at the beginning).

So that was 2013, over five hours a week, every week, all year. I don’t know why I had so much free time that year, but I’m glad I did.

A show of their own, 2019

November 16, 2019

Anime has many supporting characters, characters that are interesting enough to deserve shows of their own, in much the same way that Mary Tyler Moore spun off Rhoda, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer spun off Angel, or maybe I should come up with an example from this century. I have talked about this before, collecting characters from multiple years. This time around I thought that, rather than waiting another four years, I’d try selecting four characters from the current year (one from each season) and nominating them for their own series.

Of course, there are some constraints. It had to be a show I watched, and watched long enough to establish an opinion. It had to be a character who obviously had a backstory, not told in the original anime, and it had to be a character who could stand on their own. It didn’t have to be a character I particularly liked. Also, and this is what removed a lot of good shows from the running, it had to be a character that wasn’t one of the stars.

And, also of course, once I set myself this task, I find that the source material is thinner than I expected. Winter had a couple of high quality candidates from Magnificent Kotobuki plus Kobayashi Masaki from Domestic Girlfriend. I plan to write more about Kotobuki later, so Masaki gets it.

WINTER Domestic Girlfriend

Kobayashi Masaki

He’s ex-yakuza.* He owns a bar. He’s gay.

We see a little of his backstory as the anime progresses, but there’s still so much more to learn. His father was head of a Yakuza branch, and presumably Masaki was being groomed to take over, when he fell in love with a man from an opposing clan. This clash of houses cries out for someone with the skills of, say, Shakespeare, to write their story.

*Can you ever be ex-yakuza? I thought membership was as permanent as his tattoos. Maybe he’s on sabbatical.

Spring was equally thin, with Demon Slayer not holding my interest and BOKUBEN not having any interesting supporting actors. The best I could do was The Helpful Fox Senko-san:

SPRING The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Koenji Yasuko

She’s the helpful girl next door, a student and a mangaka. She provides a possible love interest that isn’t a loli-fox-goddess.

An anime spin-off could cover her life as a student — What’s her major in school (art, graphics design?), how did she get into mangaka-ing? — as well as her interactions with the apartment next door — will she ever figure out that Senko-San isn’t a cosplayer? Will she be there when Senko-San leaves (or will Senko-San continue housekeeping for this guy for the next eighty years)? Will she and Nakano Kuroto hit it off, or will he continue his foxtail fetish, forcing her and Shiro-San to go off on their own yuri adventures?

Summertime had more shows, but most of them fell at the first fence, or were very good, but didn’t have useful side characters. So, Demon Lord, Retry got dropped early, and Oh, Maidens has too strong a main cast, and I won’t admit to have watched Hensuki. That meant I had to break two of my rules, and pick a major character from a TV short. Fortunately, there was a good one available.

Summer Are you lost?

Onishima Homare

Homare-chan is the lead character, and the emotionally strongest of the Lost Girls. We see bits of her backstory in almost every 15min episode, showing how she was trained up by her survival-otaku father. What we don’t get is a sense of continuity.

A  anime would tell how her father got interested in survival skills, and what it was like, eating strange food somewhere up on the Fenno-Scandian Shield (Mynd yoü, Homare, there’s other pärts of å mööse that taste bætter)? Each one of the vignettes of  Lost would make an entire episode in Let’s go Camping, Homare

Fall has presented problems of its own. Out of eighteen shows that I spent at least some time on, only five have made the I’ll watch it cut. Of those five, two were sequels and two were harems and three were team efforts and one started late. When the dust settled, only Ascendance of a Bookworm remained, and only Otto, the gate guard, stood out (Lutz might have been preferable, but how much backstory does a 7-year-old have?).

FALL Ascendance of a Bookworm

Otto

Otto is a soldier, who was a traveling merchant. He bought citizenship in this city so he could marry the girl he loved. He does all the bookkeeping for the gate guards, and he employs Myne as a sometime assistant accountant and teacher.

An anime would address what his life was like before he settled down. Who were his people? Where are they now? How did he meet his wife, and how did he make the transition from traveling merchant to stolid burgher? It could start in a wagon somewhere in Isekailand, and end with him meeting his boss’s daughter, Myne.

Anime worth watching, Fall 2019

November 3, 2019

So far this season my reader has been bombarded with an unrelenting list of what I’ve decided not to watch. That’s so negative, ya know? I mean, there must be something worth watching. Well, there is.*

I seem to be on a snarky, self-aware anime kick right now. I find I’m unexpectedly pleased with shows that go out of their way to give me plot twists, and inversions of standard tropes.

Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life?
Mile, our protagonna, was a high-performing student in this world and just wants to be average in the next. Unfortunately, her definition of average — skills and powers appropriate to the average person, the median, if you will — isn’t God’s definition. God says that you take the power of the highest and lowest creatures on the planet, add them up and divide by two. That’s like taking Bill Gates and a Seattle homeless person and finding the average of their net worth.

This is why we have the concept of the Median

The humor in the first few episodes comes from Mile trying to hide her powers, and failing miserably. When she decides to just copy a spell one of the other students used, only at a lower power setting, she finds that she was copying a unique, personal spell of a wizard girl, and doing it with no training. So far, it’s a one-joke anime, but they find ways of keeping it from going stale.

The other source of humor is her use of information from her past life. So when the friends are telling stories at night, she draws on tales of the TV, in the mythical land of Nihon. The result is that the girls end up forming a Magical Girl/Power Rangers style team, complete with poses and color coding.

Crimson Vow!

She also uses her in-depth knowledge of shonen anime to come up with training regimes that allow her team mates to level up rapidly.

So, a self-aware isekai that knows how to look at the standard tropes from a slightly absurd viewpoint. What’s not to like?

ORESUKI: Are you the only one who loves me?
At first glance, ORESUKI seems to be a standard high school RomCom. Protagonist has two girls who seem to be interested in him — the standard childhood friend and the Student Body President. He also has a best buddy, an athelete on the baseball team. One day, each of the girls asks him out for a date on the weekend, because they have something they want to ask him. Confession Time! Well, not exactly.

On two successive days, each girl sits with him on the same bench, and with identical words and body language confesses that they are in love with …  his baseball-playing friend and would he help them out? Next scene, Pansy, the librarian girl he doesn’t like, sits with him in the library, on an identical bench (which she ordered from Amazon), and using identical words and body language tells him, that she, this girl he doesn’t like, is in love with … well, him, actually. Finally, the next day, his baseball buddy sits with him on an identical bench that just happens to be behind the gym, and tells him, again with identical words and body language, that he is in love with … Pansy, and would he help him out?

ORESUKI doesn’t so much play with the high school RomCom tropes as it rings the changes on them. How many ways can the Protagonist be messed with by fate? How many different geometric figures can a love triangle be twisted into? What totally silly thing will happen next?

Ascendance of a Bookworm**
Finally, an isekai done right. Recent college graduate [Yay! Not a high school student!] Urano Motsu [Yay! Female!] and lover of books [Yay! Not an otaku! Well, she’s a book otaku] dies in an earthquake that buries her in her books. Finds herself reincarnated in the body of a small girl, Myne, who is dying of a mysterious fever. The old Myne dies, but the new Myne (nee Motsu) retains her memories, as well as her own memories of modern Japan.

The challenge the book-loving Myne faces is that she’s been reincarnated into a rigid, stratified, medieval, essentially illiterate, society. Oh, yeah, and she’s a sickly six year old female. Her overriding goal is to find some way to read books again, even if she has to write them herself. Even if she has to print them herself. Even if she has to fabricate the materials to print them on.

Unlike other isekai protags, Myne doesn’t have any super-powers or high powered knowledge. She knows some crafts, like crocheting, and she grasps the concepts of things like paper, and teaching theory, which the contemps don’t. She also has the internal maturity of a 20-year-old, can read and write (just not with the local script, at first), and can do mathematics. These last are immensely helpful when she has to deal with the adults of this world.

The artwork is clean and simple. The characters and clothing are appropriate for the subject — no monster boobs or bikini armour here. Some reviewers complained about the drabness of the palette, particularly in the first episode, but that was just a way of emphasizing the life of the lower classes in a semi-literate society.

Having read ahead, I can say that Bookworm is rolling out the story fairly slowly, and that there are some interesting reveals ahead. It comes across as a slice-of-life, but Myne is a woman with a mission, and there really is an ongoing dramatic arc.

So far, it’s my favorite anime of the season.

*Note that Chihayafuru 3 isn’t on the list, yet. I’m saving  that until I’ve marathoned the previous two seasons.

**Full disclosure — I’m reading well ahead of the anime via the light novels on J-Novel.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 4

October 15, 2019

I don’t know which is more amazing, how many anime I am finding uninteresting this season, or how many anime I’ve had time to watch this season.

To start with, the cute girls doing cute things with weapons lode is just about mined out, and now we are reworking the tailings.

AZUR LANE

I’m really sorry to have to drop this one, but it’s a cheap knock-off of the real thing. It’s like someone randomly merged sentences from the elevator pitches for KanColle and Arpeggio, and studio Bibury said “How hard can it be?

The ship/girl mechanics are confused, the combat mechanics are confused, the battles are confused, and the Sakura Fleet carrier pairs seem driven primarily by lesbian incest. Now, I’ve got nothing against lesbian incest, but c’mon, girls, time and place, time and place.

You should see how I’ll repair the holes in your flight deck

On top of that, the pre-tweens keep getting treated like sex objects, and one of them has a bad case of crabs.

Chidori RSC

A straightforward high school club anime about target shooting. So far, it’s mostly club activities that don’t actually involve target shooting.

Most of the time they’re eating snacks and buying clothes

I’m getting a K-On with laser rifles vibe, only without the K-On part.

Then there’s the police procedural/modern crime anime. Most are not bad, as such, but I’m finding that, as with period costume drama, these just don’t hold my interest. Last week it was Special 7. This week, it’s:

BABYLON

Even if they’ve got a neat superpower hook.

I was the new guy

and

Case File nº221: Kabukicho

A Sherlock Holmes non-thriller with a cast of dozens. Tries to make up for lack of substance with all sorts of gimmicks, most of which are of the funny once variety.

Not even Ladybeard could help it.

Besides, it’s on Funimation, and the interface is terrible.

To wrap things up, we’re now to the point in the season where I’m watching anime from years past, trying to find something to fill the newly emptied time slots.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist

I started this 2013 anime because it was featured on a list of really good OP’s. Two episodes in and there still was no sign of any female characters. There were a couple of false alarms, and one curvaceous person that appeared in the ED, but that was it.

The question is, are either one of them female?

So far it’s all male, with lots of bonding and opportunities for shipping. Sorry, guys, but if you’re going to make something about a band of brothers, I’d much rather it was Band of Brothers, ya know?

That’s the last time I take programmatic advice from a fujoshi.

Side Note: Five of the shows I was interested in were Funimation exclusives. Three were crap, and two were uninteresting. Given that watching stuff on FN is a painful experience, I might just have to rethink my subscription.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 3

October 9, 2019

We’ve been through a full week now, and the really bad shows have fallen by the wayside. What’s left are the good ones, and the not-bad ones that haven’t been able to hold my attention. OK, and some newcomers.

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit

Lovable collection of misfits assigned to a special police operations unit. Think of them as the official version of Bungo Stray Dogs. For what it’s worth, they’re in Tokyo, not Yokohama, so there’s a certain metropolitan panache to the project. Not bad, if you like that sort of thing.

Hi. I’m the new guy

Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia

I should have known better than to watch an anime with both Fate and a punctuation mark (and three subcomponents) in the title. At least it didn’t have Certain, or Re:

Confused mess of characters and plot points understandable only to those who have followed the franchise for the last decade and a half, preferably with a notebook and a copy of DBase II next to the TV.

I only understand every other word

Kandagawa Jet Girls

Look, HiDive, if the girls in an ecchi anime are going to bare their all, the least you can do is show it. Don’t make them sacrifice their modesty for nothing. Don’t make the act of their freezing their …. salient features …. off a worthless endeavour. More worthless.

Poor things. They’ve got nothing in the way of original character, their dialogue is cringeworthy enough that they should be embarrassed to rehearse in the bathroom, and the plot has been used so many times that the velveteen is worn off the corners. You should at least let them flaunt their one advantage, but no, you’ve got to have them change into their skintights in this dark, shadowy relic of a building, when other viewers get a nice bright room with lots of windows.

All is darkness

Shame on you, HiDive.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 2

October 5, 2019

It’s taking a while to get all of my TLDR’s assembled, because half of the shows are hanging back, to see how the battle goes. Other foolhardy fools have foolishly rushed right in. Fools.

High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even In Another World

This show is taking the Okada Mari approach to isekai story development. “You want isekai? I’ll give you isekai that will turn your brain to porridge. You want overpowered heroes? I’ll give you heroes who can beat One Punch Man to the punch.”

And you thought that just one isekai hero was too much

After a five minute expository lump we find that the high school heroes-to-be (each of whom is world-class at something — medicine, ninja,  governing countries, something) were flying in a private jet from somewhere to somewhere when, in typical isekai fashion, the jet was magically transported to a medieval fantasy world. One with bunny girls but no runways and wolf-men but no crash recovery services. But do not despair. Our Heroes are miraculously thrown clear of the crash, and the plane burns to a cinder, all except a few spare nuclear reactors and such. Too bad about the pilots and cabin staff.

After that, the only mystery is, how will our multi-talented crew solve the next trivial puzzle the world throws up for them. Of course, we know that part of the plot is to conquer the world using the culinary arts of Greater Nihon (it always is). So, their first step is to introduce a sauce that will amaze the foreign taste buds.

You will never guess…

Well, maybe it’s not this kind, but it’s close.

Now, all the other isekai that I’ve read take chapters and chapters to find the rice and edamame and so forth to produce proper shoyu, or miso. Our Heroes find an easier way, with eggs (which we saw in the opening shot) and oil and vinegar: Traditional.  Japanese…. Mayonnaise.

The best I can say is that it’s mildly amusing, and at least they haven’t used a German suplice. Yet.

Val x Love

Really scary/ugly protagonist with a heart of gold? Check. Pre-made harem of cute girls living in his house? Check. Contrived plot-line requiring that the girls get molested by our protagonist in order to achieve their full potential as maidens? Check. OK, we have three in a row. We’re good to go.

We’re only halfway through my preseason list of shows I want to watch, and already I’ve dropped half of those. Bodes not well for the second half

The German Suplex Trifecta

October 5, 2019

Is now in play for anime Fall 2019.

Will they get one more? Who will do it? My money’s on High School Prodigies Have it Easy, but we’re still in Week 1, so anything can happen! Don’t touch that dial!

Azur Lane, first impressions

October 4, 2019

I haven’t done a first impressions article before, but AL cries out for one.

The plot is a riff on KanColle, with alien enemy fleets (Sirens instead of Abyssals) opposed by embattled humanity, said humanity being represented by cute girls who embody the souls of warships of the past. The major differences are the girl/ship mechanics and the underlying plot point that humanity is divided and fighting among themselves.

The girl/ship relation doesn’t fill in the empty cell in my Ship Girls analysis (real girls/imaginary ships). Like Arpeggio of Blue Steel, they really are real ships. Unlike Arpeggio, they disappear into a cloud of ice cubes (or maybe cherry blossoms) when the girls clear them for action, so maybe they are semi-imaginary, like a pain in a real big toe. Like KanColle, the girls are rigged out like the ships they represent, and roller blade across the water into action, mostly. You see, some of them just fly into action on their own, and some of them fly into action on their spirit beasts — fox deities, unicorns, Dauntless dive bombers, the usual. The inconsistencies are not explained in the first episode, but there’s lots of expository time left.

The second major departure is the plot structure. Turns out, it’s a three-way fight. On the one hand the WWII Anglo-American alliance is fighting the WWII Axis (so far only the Japanese have appeared) over issues of how to fight the Sirens, in their Fleet of Fog style modernistic ships. On the other hand, the Allies are the only ones actively fighting the Sirens.

Halfway through Episode 1, the Allied base is attacked by the Sirens, and then the Japanese fleet attacks under cover of the Siren attack. The Allies immediately drop the fight against the Sirens and turn their full attention on each other, while the Siren fleet (which outnumbers the combined human force by many manys) apparently just sits back and does the alien invader equivalent of eating popcorn. It’s not until the Enterprise Girl shows up that anyone pays attention to the Sirenians.

So far, so much naval porn. Maybe not as good as Arpeggio or KanColle, but not totally unwatchable. Except for the shipgirls. Now, I like anime girls, as long as they meet a certain level of maturity. They don’t have to carry all their equipment on their upper decks, but they do have to be old enough that I wouldn’t get strange looks if I were talking to one at a bus stop. Half the girls in AL are pre-tweens, and are presented with the same camera angles as you would Hanekawa Tsubasa. Exceedingly off-putting. I’d attribute this to the source being a Chinese mobile game, by a company who did a statistical analysis of what individual elements Western buyers might like, and combined them all in one package.

I’m going to give it another episode or so, to see if the fun parts outshine the freakies.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 1

October 2, 2019

It’s Opening Day, and the Fall, 2019 anime season stumbles at the very first fence.

Four new shows: two duds, one midrange, and one that I’m watching primarily because I liked the light novel. Here’s the two that aren’t going to make it.

Kemono Michi
He’s really strong, and really dumb, and he really, really likes animals. The animation is low budget. The storyline has some cute twists, but essentially this is a one-joke anime. Overall it was a waste of my limited lifetime CPU ticks.

Everybody needs a hobby of some kind

Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
He (Hero) is really strong. She (Goddess) is really dumb. They go off to save the world, but not before he spends a couple of weeks in his room, leveling up by doing pushups. Animation is slightly better than KemMichi, but that’s damning with faint praise. It might be worth watching a second episode, but only if nothing worthwhile is on the QVC Channel that night.

But wait! I’m not done yet!

 

My Fall Anime Schedule

October 1, 2019

I just spent a pleasant afternoon, cross-checking AniList against YattaTachi’s Fall Fantastic Anime and Where to Find Them and the FansubDB, deciding what I will watch, given what I want to watch and the vagaries of the various streaming services. Here’s my first pass. Note that the day of the week is the release day, and it might turn out to be more easily covered on the next day, plus, I might space them out a little more for ease of watching. Not shown are some OVA’s (Fragtime, etc) and a couple that have incomplete information (Rifle, Pet). Since this is a working paper, primarily for my own use, I probably won’t be updating it as the information changes….or maybe I will.

Day
Program/Streamer

Monday
Babylon / AZP
Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? / CR

Tuesday
Chihayafuru / CR
Kandagawa Jet Girls / VRV

Wednesday
Ascendance of a Bookworm / CR
The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious / FN
Kemono Michi: Rise Up / FN
Ore wo Suki: Are You The Only One Who Loves Me / CR

Thursday
Azur Lane / FN
High School Prodigies / CR

Friday
Kabukichou Sherlock / FN

Saturday
Val x Love / VRV
Welcome To Demon School! Iruma-kun / CR
We Never Learn / CR

Sunday
Special 7 / FN

So, fifteen programs, or roughly two per day (until I start dropping them). The week is surprisingly well balanced, except maybe for Wednesdays, and the Big Two — Crunchyroll and Funimation — are also running neck and neck. Of the two, I prefer Crunchyroll, but that’s a topic for another post.


AZP: Amazon Prime

CR: Crunchyroll

VRV: HiDive/VRV

FN: Funimation

Anime Postview: Summer 2019

September 30, 2019

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Summer 2019 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Dumbell nan Kilo
Surprisingly good. I learned things about weight training that I didn’t know before.

  • Vinland Saga: Didn’t hold my interest
  • Dr. Stone: Didn’t hold my interest

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Tsuujou Kougeki
Watchable fluff about how a mother embarrasses her son in public. Brings back memories.

  • Arifuretu Shokugyou: Kindof interesting in parts, but I faded out along of about episode 7.
  • Fire Force: As with ArifuSho, started out OK, and then faded. I only watched three episodes.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

  • Starmu: Didn’t watch
  • Given: Didn’t watch
  • Try Knights: Didn’t watch

So, we started with six in the will/might categories, and ended up watching only two, for a 33% success rate. On the other hand, there was some good stuff that didn’t make my original list. Oh, Maidens was seriously good, and Are You Lost, like Dumbells, gave us cute girls providing actually useful information (assuming you end up in a timeline where MH-370 makes it to an island). Finally, Demon Girl, and Hensuki were both pleasantly mindless eye candy.

In a nutshell: Summers are notoriously light, and this one was no different. Of the ones I watched, only Maidens had any redeeming social value. Yeah, Vinland, Fire Force, and Dr. Stone all came well recommended, but none of them lit a fire. Dr. Stone and Fire Force  were too shonen, and historically I was always one to root for the Anglisc, fighting to save their homes from the Viking frat boys. On the other hand, it did give me a chance to go back and marathon some things I missed earlier

Better than Vikings

Oh, Maidens

September 20, 2019

Part of getting good at something, like aniblogging, is to know when you are not good at some aspect of it, when you are out of your depth and when you have to let others, better equipped, handle it. It’s called knowing your limits. With Oh, Maidens in Your Savage Season, I think I’ve hit mine.

I’m the wrong person to be writing on this topic, because I have the wrong mix of chromosomes, and am far too many decades away from our common source material. That said, and writing in the heat of the moment while the chair in front of the TV is still warm, Oh, Maidens — a romantic comedy about a group of high school girls just coming to grips with their sexuality — is just about perfect.

The characters are distinct and well-formed, the situations are, mostly, believable (and those that aren’t fall well within the acceptable range for anime logic and adolescent imaginings); the art is clean and evocative, and the voice acting is excellent. The girls of the literature club would eschew lewdness in presentation, and so does the anime. It is mature, within boundaries and without being graphic.

It also has my vote for the best anime title of the year.

Okada Marie has created a masterpiece, for grown-ups. If you are already an anime fan, you will love it. If you are unfamiliar with the medium, and still think it’s cartoons for kids, be prepared to have your world view altered.

In any event, go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Anime Preview: Fall 2019

September 17, 2019

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped before (Dr.Stone, Enenen), shorts and kids stuff (Banyanya ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Fate, Qi, or Xi in the title.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps (you can click on the pix to embiggen).

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Rank Isekai

September 5, 2019

I like the Rabujoi aniblog, enough so that I have it on my rss feed, in order to get each new article as soon as it comes out. Having said that, I don’t always agree with the opinions of this collective of authors. Case in point is oigakkosan’s recent ranking of isekai anime. I suppose I could go over to Rabujoi and leave a long rant, but why should I spoil other people’s fun. So, here’s my take on the world of isekai. Note, that if it’s in Rabujoi and not here, it’s because I don’t consider it an isekai.

First off, a brief digression on meanings. I am not knowledgeable in Japanese, so most of this is straight look-up. According to Google Translate, isekai (異世界) means different world:
異 = different
世 = world
界 = World (note the capitalization)

Nihongodict says
異 = different, strange, odd
世 = world (pronounced よ, or yo), or geological epoch (pronounced sei)
界 = the world of …

Why the doubling up of the kanji that mean world? Don’t know. I’ve seen something similar before. In Demon King and Hero, Maoyū Maō Yūsha (まおゆう魔王勇者) means demon king, demon king, hero.

And just to add to your confusion, Nihongodict says that 異界 by itself means spirit world, and is pronounced ikai, while Google Translate says that 異世 by itself means different world, and is pronounced kotoyo.

Getting back to our topic, I like to classify multiple sub-genres of isekai. Here’s my breakout, and my ranking within each category:

Stuck inside a computer game — like it says. Either the characters are logged into the game and can’t log out (Sword Art Online), or they technomagically become part of a real world that’s based on the game (Log Horizon).

1. Log Horizon. All 30K people on the Japan Server get dumped into the game world due to a glitch in an update patch (and don’t you just hate it when that happens?). Absolutely the best balanced, both in terms of individual powers, gamerspeak vs world-building, and story line. I’d rate this #1 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. Overlord. All 1 person on the server gets dumped into the game world when the server goes offline. Salaryman who plays an overpowered evil character decides to act the part. Great fun, but it gets old after a while.

3. Death March to a Parallel World. Programmer falls asleep and wakes up inside his game. Passes time by taking a bunch of kids on a trip to Adventureland. Low budget animation.

4. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. So, he’s a high-powered player in an online game. Gets summoned to a game-based parallel world. Some character development and team dynamics, but mostly low grade harem fanservice. High point is him single-handedly delivering the infant demon lord into the world.

5. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Government is recruiting families to play a full immersion video game. Interesting Mother/Teen-son dynamics. Low budget animation.

6. Sword Art Online. Evil sysadmin traps thousands inside a VR game. Protag is an obnoxious little snot who is protected by plot armor from failing at anything except interpersonal relations. Nice animation.

7. Demon Lord, Retry. Not finished yet, but I’ve seen enough. Sysadmin gets sucked into game world when he shuts down the server. Ends up as overpowered character, etc. Characters are like cardboard. Animation is like cardboard cutouts. Jokes are lame.

Transported to a different world — usually summoned from the other side for their own reasons.

1. Gate. In the great tradition of the original isekai, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. This is not just about the impact of the protagonist, it’s about the whole concept of a modern world intruding on native culture. Japanese food is a big hit. I’d rate this #5 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. No Game No Life. Protagonist and Protagonna get summoned into a game-playing world because they are outstandingly good at playing games. Technically an isekai, but with a whole different vibe.

3. Isekai Cheat Magician. Protagonist and Protagonna get summoned. Turn out to be crazy powerful mages. Cardboard characters and equally cardboard animation. Not so much bad as boring.

4. Re:Zero. Sorry, rest of the anisphere, it sucks. Protagonist is an idiot who plows through life in a three yards in a cloud of dust fashion, falls in love at first sight with the first pretty face he sees, and rejects the one woman who knows him and loves him. Interesting respawn mechanic.

5. Rising of the Shield Hero. Some people are natural assholes, others have to practice. For some ungodly reason this gets three seasons, while Devil is a Part Timer got only one.

Reincarnated in a different world — protagonist dies, often meets God, and remembers doing so.

1. Tanya the Evil. Salaryman is killed, meets God, gets into an argument over whether or not He exists, gets reincarnated as a girl in a 1920’s style world, fighting WWI.5. Outstanding dynamics, excellent character development, with two strong female characters (OK, one is internally a male). I’d rate this #2 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. KonoSuba. Sublime sendup of the whole isekai genre. Student dies, meets a Goddess, and drags her along into his new fantasy world. The group dynamics among this crowd of incompetants are the best I’ve seen. I’d rate this #4 in my list of the top five isekai.

3. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Innocuous feel-good about a super-powered slime who just wants to be friends.

4. In Another World With My Smartphone. God made a mistake and so gives the protag a second life, with privileges. A good way to waste time, guessing what new thing he’ll do next with that smart phone.

5. Wise Man’s Grandson. Death, rebirth, highly skilled, etc. Very generic and low budget. What makes it interesting is the emphasis on applying our worlds concepts of technology to the operation of magic.

Reverse Isekai — protagonist is from the other world and comes to ours.

1. The Devil is a Part Timer. Demon Lord is hiding out in Tokyo, minus his powers. Hero is chasing him. He’s working in a fast food place. I’d rate this #3 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. ReCreators. Battles inside various anime, manga, and light novels get transferred into the real world. Interesting idea, but inept implementation.

Fake Isekai, where an isekai-like theme is just used to move characters around on the story’s chessboard. Includes stories of the afterlife and of a more relaxed apres vie. I didn’t finish any of these, and I’m not going to bother to rate them.
Drifters
Angel Beats
Death Parade
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash — I include this here, because the protagonists wake up in the new world, with no memory of the old, and we’re never told how or why (at least, not as far as I followed it).

Cooking shows — In addition to being more about cooking than world-building, these are both reverse-isekai, in which denizens of a fantasy world come into a Japanese restaurant and are bedazzled by the food. (Someday I’m going to write a story where the protagonist finds out that the people in the fantasy world think nigiri rice balls are bland, and shoyu is too salty.)

Restaurant from Another World.
Isekai Izakaya.

Not an anime — I put this in so I’d have somewhere to talk about HPMoR. All of Harry Potter is essentially an isekai about a parallel and accessible world of magic.

Harry Potter. Decades old. Beloved by all. I’m sure if they’d labeled it a light novel it would have an anime by now, in addition to the live action series.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Harry Potter fan fiction. What would happen if Petunia had married someone else (“And I thought to myself, what kind of parent names their child Dudley Dursley?), and Harry’s adoptive family had been both educated and supportive (The sky was completely dark by the time they parked in the driveway of the house his family used to keep the rain off their books). What would happen if Harry had imported the Scientific Method to the land of magic? Like the original, it starts out light and funny, and becomes grimdark before it ends. Great read, and it’s free (and JKR has said she doesn’t mind). Link goes to web version. Here’s Chapter 1. There’s also a 3MB .pdf.

Watching Maria

August 14, 2019

Encouraged by recent favorable commentary for Maria Watches Over Us, I decided to give it another look. I’d watched much of it a decade ago, but the memory had faded into amnesia, as so often happens in anime. So I took it up again, and boy was it different from how I remembered it. What hit me about halfway through the first episode was how alien the senior characters looked.

The sharp features, the sharp hair, the wide, wide, staring eyes, as if they’d evolved in the dark — in some views the members of the Yamayuri Council looked hardly human.

…we are the scouts for a race of people long hidden underground.

 

I realize that manga and anime drawing conventions were different in 2004 (and 1998!) but these women look like inhuman interlopers. That, combined with their stilted way of speaking, as if having to carefully parse each sentence to make sure it made sense to humans (perhaps coordinating the output of a hive mind), makes one think that Episode 1 of Maria could equally end up leading into an anime where everyone ends up dead, the school is on fire, and the JSDF is helpless.

Nontheless, I shall persevere, waiting to see what eldritch horrors await me, and writing down such of these journal entries as I can force myself to remember.

 

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019 Part 2

July 31, 2019

It’s time for the midseason culling, for a suitably vague concept of midseason. I went ahead and reactivated my subscription to Funimation, giving myself three dedicated anime streamers — Crunchyroll, HiDive (via VRV), and Funi. This opened up new vistas in viewing, and meant that I needed to do some trimming if I wanted to have any personal time available. Fortunately, there were a number of shows that helped out by finally revealing their true nature.

Isekai Cheat Magician was at best a B-list show, and Episode 4 showed it wasn’t really even B-list material. With lame animation of overpowered cardboard villains mouthing overwrought lines, Isekai Cheat is more like a kid’s afternoon anime. I didn’t make it halfway through the episode.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls tries very hard to be a slice of zany life centering on three high school girls — the standard jokester, straight man, and observer — in the mode of Yuyushiki or Aiura. After a fun start, they tried to bring in more side-characters and develop something like a plot, but it didn’t work. Finally, it looks to me like Nozomu “Baka” Tanaka is a direct rip of Kanaka Amaya.

Astra Lost in Space was another B-list show that didn’t live up to its billing. The animation was full of cutout figures moving against painted backdrops, when it wasn’t just static pictures. The plot was contrived (Someone is trying to kill us!) and the problem solutions equally so (Look! I just found a backup generator in this closet, with eight minutes to go to impact). Agatha Christie did it better. To top it off, Funimation makes it really hard to get uncluttered screenshots.

It’s too bad, really. I had 14 shows I was following, which made for a tidy two shows per day. Fortunately, Funi now lets me watch old classics, like Omamore Himare, and Girls Bravo.

Anime I’m Watching, Summer 2019

July 16, 2019

So, you’ve seen what I’ve dropped. What’s holding my attention? Here’s the current list, by the numbers:

The Demon Girl Next Door
One inept high school girl finds out she’s the new incarnation of evil, only to be totally outclassed by the magical girl she’s supposed to defeat. Magical girl takes pity on her and works to help her level up.

Pokes fun at both the magical girl and the demon heiress genres. I particularly like how everybody just goes along with the new situation (“You’re a demon? Cool horns“), and how her mother tries to cope (“You’ll be arrested if you carry a weapon, so here’s a dinner fork“). Bonus points for the background classroom games.

Dr. Stone
Two high school boys survive petrification of the entire human race, plus all the birds, or maybe only swallows, without food, water, oxygen, or sensory stimulation, for three thousand years. Decide to reconstruct civilization, starting with a bunch of grapes and some bat guano.

Interesting, but still excessively shonen. Starting to address the question of who to awaken (and the associated, who to awaken next). Still hasn’t thought about how all their inventions will scale, how many to awaken, and on what sort of schedule.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls
Three high school girls continue their friendship from middle school [see Yuyushiki], maintain their standard-character interactions [see Aiura].

So far, the banter is cute and the jokes are funny. We’ll see if they can keep it up.

Are you lost?
Four high school girls survive an airplane ditching, without life preservers, burns, broken bones, or jet fuel contamination. Everybody else perished without a trace. Said girls wash up on a deserted island (presumably deserted, they haven’t looked on the other side yet, there could be a Royal Caribbean Line party beach) and try out their survival skills.

Short, but interesting. Much of what people are calling gross-out material is actual survival lore. OK, maybe not the moose balls.

Caution: I don’t care what they said in Episode 1, don’t drink urine. Your kidneys did a lot of work to get rid of toxins in your body and concentrate them in your urine for disposal. Don’t add them back. US Army includes it with seawater and blood as fluids that are harmful to drink in a survival situation.

O Maidens in your Savage Season
Five high school girls from the literature club discover sex. Poke at it with a stick. Find out why it’s vitally important to lock your doors.

I am so not the target demographic for this. In addition, I’m having trouble remembering what my male equivalent travails were like, particularly because they took place during the Eisenhower administration. Despite that, I found it interesting and well done. An example of why anime isn’t just, or not even, kiddie material.

Fire Force
Seven firemen extinguish men of fire, while seeing to their spiritual needs. None of them are in high school.

A shonen anime, but without spiky hair or shouting, unlike Dr. Stone. So far, the action is good and the characters interesting. Interesting side note: the fire fighting suits are realistically bulky.

So that’s it for now. Six shows, out of the 45 or so on offer on Crunchyroll/HiDive. I’m seriously considering adding Funimation as a source, which will give me another three or four.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019

July 9, 2019

Maybe it’s just me. Advancing age, combined with more time to watch anime, has made me more critical. Or maybe it’s just that the crop of anime this summer is weaker than one would expect, even for summer. The full summer schedule hasn’t been announced yet, and already I’m dropping shows.

Dropping:

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts: Frankenstein monsters join the army. Things don’t end well. Interesting concept marred by low grade animation, names that are almost as bad as those in Gate, and a low grade villain — nobody laughs like that.

It’s the writers. They made me do this!

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, Side Quest: My season preview said I wasn’t going to watch this, but I felt I should just check in to see how it was going. Well, I didn’t like the original, and this one isn’t any better. Cardboard characters. Cardboard monsters. Cardboard scenery. And those characters that go beyond cardboard, do it by being irritating.

We hauled all those boxes all this way so you could have a throne. Don’t let it go to your head.

Magical Sempai: I think it’s supposed to be せんぱい. See that second character that looks like an ‘n’? It’s an ‘n’, not an ‘m’. Senpai. Whatever it’s called, this 12 minute short depends too much on embarrassment humor for me.

Girl of my dreams

On the cusp:

Dr Stone: Yes, I know it’s a fantastically popular manga. Yes, I know it’s the most hyped anime of the season. Yes, I also know it’s a classic shonen, with lots of spiky hair and guys shouting, an anime of the type that that one of my Japanese students called “too loudy”. Will that overwhelm the joys of learning how to make nitric acid out of bat guano? I’ll give it one more episode.

Don’t chew with your mouth open. There might be kids watching.

Granbelm: Cleverly disguised magical girl show. On the one hand, I am definitely the wrong demographic for that. On the other hand, the mechas are chibi, the interactions are cute, and the action in general is good. Is that enough to make up for the squeaky-voiced teenlet mahou shoujo aspect? We’ll have to wait for the next episode.

I don’t think I could stand a Magical Girl/Mecha/Isekai mashup

Finally, it looks like it’s not just a thin season this summer, but a poorly distributed one as well, with four out of the five Summer Season shows that I am watching being released on Friday. This leaves a big hole after the weekend. Right now I’m desperate enough that I’m marathoning Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. It was that or Hanaukyo Maid Team.

Anime Postview: Spring 2019

July 2, 2019

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Spring 2019 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Time travel not done well. Wants to be Stein’s Gate, but doesn’t quite make it

 

  • Konoyo no Hate: Watched five eps. Interesting take on time loops and the difficulty of changing the past, but just couldn’t hold my interest.
  • Shoumetsu Toshi: Not Available
  • Carole & Tuesday: Not Available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

It’s not Big Windup. It’s not even Moshidora.

 

  • Cinderella Nine: Watched two eps. Too much cute girls doing and not enough baseball
  • Mix: Didn’t watch. Previews were too much team building and not enough baseball. Doesn’t anyone watch Big Windup any more? That’s how you do it.
  • Kono Oto Tomare: Didn’t watch. Amazon pay to play.

 

 

 

 

 

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

I don’t understand. I liked YuriKuma.

 

  • Jimoto na Japan: Didn’t watch
  • Aikatsu Friends: Didn’t watch
  • Sarazanmai:  Watched two eps.  Everybody who isn’t me liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, there we are. Started watching four of the nine, but none of them stayed the course. Checked out three others that others said were good, but they didn’t make it, either: Bakumatsu, Demon Slayer, Fruits Basket (wasn’t impressed with the original, for that matter). Fortunately, there were a few that kept me from complete boredom: Ao-Chan Can’t Study, FLCL (work in progress), Isekai Quartet, We never learn. Now, why did I like Ao-Chan and We never learn and get bored by Demon Slayer and Fruits Basket? For that matter, why did I like YuriKuma enough to buy the DVD but Sarazanmai just didn’t really click with me? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I should note that I didn’t watch more than two episodes of any show on Conflagrate’s top ten list. Yeah, it’s me.

In a nutshell: Even the good ones weren’t great. I ended up rewatching Kotobuki, and towards the end, I found myself marathoning High School DxD.

Magnificent

 

Anime trails manga

June 25, 2019

My Japanese students always said that manga was more important than anime in Japan. On my first visit to Japan, seven years ago, I found that was true. Now, I have some data to back that up. In 2017, home video and streaming anime sales totaled about $1.2 Billion. That same year, manga sales totaled just under $3.9 Billion. Given that a manga costs $5 or $6, while anime prices seem to average about $40 or $50 per title (with a very wide variance), that means a lot more manga items are being sold.

In both cases, sales of physical media dropped from the previous year. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather have something that can’t be take away from me at a publisher’s whim.

Anime Preview: Summer 2019

June 19, 2019

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I didn’t like before (Is it wrong to pull on a blue ribbon in a dungeon?, Bothering Takagi-san), shorts and kids stuff (Sounan desu ka, Pirikarako-chan ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with a Certain or a Melloi in the title. Second, I should say that this was a hard season to capture. Not only are the offerings thin, with some exceptions, the art work is uninspired. Third, I’m trying something new: inserting the pictures using the WordPress Gallery feature, rather than spending an hour or so fighting the interface while trying to format a table. I’d be interested to hear any comments my reader might have.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps (you can click on the pix to embiggen).

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Aniblog Churn

June 12, 2019

I have been watching anime for almost 15 years, according to this analysis. Since I’m an on-line-reading kind of guy, I suspect I’ve been following various anime blogs for almost as long. In general, I follow blogs by putting them in my RSS feed, and what started this article was the fact that at the beginning of the week, the Anime folder in my RSS feed had exactly 100 sites listed. That’s enough to convince me that it needed some pruning.

What I found was, a surprising number of blogs had stopped publishing, or at least hadn’t published anything in a year. Some were still there (Altair & Vega, last active in Jan 2016; Deneb, last active in Oct 2015). Some had just disappeared — the Internet couldn’t find Denpa Waves or Oishii Anime. One, Anime Fascination, had gone private at some unknown date since I’d added it to my list. The earliest dropout was Anime Backgrounds, in July, 2014. The most active year for site inactivations, was 2017, with four sites.

I can’t be sure how far back the earliest listing in my current RSS feed goes. Presumably at least to July, 2014, so call it five years. I have been collecting feeds for far longer, but multiple computer/browser/reader changes have lost many of the links.

Bottom line: Over roughly five years, 17 out of 100 RSS feeds have gone inactive or disappeared. Some easy math says that’s 17%. Some slightly less easy math says that at that rate, in about 25 years my anime feed will be empty. That, of course won’t happen, because I regularly add interesting feeds. On the other hand, in 25 years I’ll be 100, so my aniblog tracking might have dropped off a little.

Ship Girls

June 4, 2019

Since 2013 there have been three anime that featured cute girls doing cute things, with ships: Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kantai Collection, and High School Fleet. Well, cute things is probably a misnomer. They are all more concerned with drama than with moe.

What’s interesting about them is the differences in the way they portray the girls, and the ships. To start with, Arpeggio and KanColle are both concerned with girls who are part of their ships, while HSF is a more conventional girls on ships anime.

High School Fleet is just what the name says. High school girls from the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School go to sea on the destroyer Harekaze (Clear Wind) as part of their education. BTW, there’s an alternate reading of hare as meaning cleared of suspicion. This is symbolically important since the ship and crew are almost immediately charged with mutiny, and every ship they see attacks them. After many trials and tribulations, they demonstrate that the erratic actions of many of the ships is due to a virus, rescue their friends on the battleship Musashi, and win the day.

Harekaze sorties!

The training ships are based on WWII designs (although there are more modern designs in the real fleet), and the girls serve as normal watch-standers and ship-handlers.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel Earth is invaded by the Fleet of Fog, alien naval forces with extremely advanced weapons mounted on ships with the outward forms of WWII combatants. A rogue FoF submarine, the I-401, captained by a rogue human, is charged with sneaking a new superweapon across the Pacific to the US. It succeeds, with the help of other FoF defectors, including (finally) the battleship Yamato. Crow’s World has a good series on it.

Fleet destroyer takes a hit

In Arpeggio, the FoF ships are embodiments of the concept of each class of ship. They are controlled either by low level AI’s (minor combatants) or by high-level mental models — AI’s that have taken human form, the better to understand human reasoning. This leaves them open to over-empathizing with humans.

Kantai Collection In an alternate timeline, girls (who are embodiments of WWII ships) fight a grotesque enemy in the form of the ships of the Abyssal Fleet. The battles parallel those of WWII (W island, MI base) and the girls are vaguely aware of the outcomes on our timeline — will the battle of MI be a disaster?. In the end they avoid the Abyssal’s attempt at an ambush, and everyone returns safely, with the help of the battleship Yamato.

Combat-ready Hagikaze

The ships in KanColle are not really ships. They are girls who embody the soul of the WWII ship. The girls carry strap-on versions of the weapons suites their spirit ships mounted.

One way to understand the different approaches is to create a table. I like tables.

Real Girls Imaginary Girls
Real Ships HS Fleet Arpeggio
Imaginary Ships KanColle

So, KanColle is about imaginary girls, who can roller-blade across the water, and Arpeggio is about imaginary girls, created from computer core processors and nanomaterial sand. But Arpeggio has real ships, that take real damage, while KanColle has imaginary ship attributes attached to the imaginary girls.

High School Fleet, meanwhile, has real girls on real ships, worried about real things like showers and shopping.

The one cell that’s empty is Real Girls on Imaginary Ships. A show that filled that cell wouldn’t have to be as ship-free as KanColle. It could be a standard anime young girls are the only ones who can call these ships into existence. Think of it as a mecha show, but with ships.

Natsu no Arashi Season 2

May 31, 2019

In the interests of completeness, I watched Season 2 of Natsu no Arashi. It was good, but it could have been so much more.

Summer Girl

NNA is the story of four Japanese ghost girls who died in an air raid in 1945 and who can travel through time. In Season 1, two of the girls had reasons to go back to war-time Japan, and we had some interesting episodes centered on their goals. Several other episodes worked out their relationships with the other two ghost girls, and with the girls school they all went to in 1945. The rest of the episodes were slice-of-“life” comedy filler centered on the present day cafe where they worked during the summers.

Season 2 was more of the same …. slice-of-“life” comedy filler. The only recurrent theme was cross-dresser Kamigamo Jun and her efforts to keep protagonist Yasaka Hajime from finding out she was a girl. Meanwhile, there’s the obligatory beach/onsen episodes, a couple of transformation episodes, and the recurring short trips back in time to find lost tea bowls, A/C remote controls, and such. The relationship between Hajime and lead ghost girl Arashiyama Sayoko (Arashi) fills out a little bit (he goes back to ~1935 and saves her from some bullies, earning a kiss and a promise of a future kiss) but her destined departure at the end of summer is not fully explained.

Showa 10

The ending sees Arashi giving Hajime the promised kiss, and saying (to herself) my summer has not yet ended. This is a standard anime ending (our struggle continues) for when the source material has not yet concluded and they don’t want to write an anime original ending.

Heisei 21

The second season of the anime was released in October of 2009, while the seventh manga volume wasn’t released until March of 2010, with the eight volume following in September.

Unfortunately, those of us who don’t speak Japanese are not likely to find out the true ending. The manga ran through eight volumes/49 chapters in Japan (you can Kindle the whole set from Amazon Japan) and was never released in the US. Unfortunately, clicking on “Look Inside” on the Japanese versions didn’t help, and the available  scanlations only go up through Volume 6/Chapter 32.

Natsu no Arashi is a fun anime. Wah, over at Analog Housou first clued me into it. It is filled with zany time travel fun, and plots as convoluted as a Marx Brothers movie. Two things were disappointing. The first I’ve already alluded to — lack of closure. What happens to Arashi in the winter? Why doesn’t she think Hajime will remember her? What about Jun’s changing feelings toward Hajime, and toward outing herself as a girl? Answers cometh not.

Second was a failure to take advantage of the opportunity to exploit their time-travel-to-old-Japan hook. In Season 1, Arashi was introduced to us as someone who was interested in saving victims of the March 29th 1945 air raid, but she only went back once. Kaya wanted to speak to her loved one, but she only made one attempt. As an SF story once said, with time travel, you’re never too late.

What Natsu no Arashi really needs, and will probably never get, is a third season.

Meanwhile, the 箱舟 カフェ abides on the outskirts of Yokohama. It’s been around for untold years, and is likely to continue to be around even longer.

You’d almost expect the next owner to be an android named Alpha.

Natsu No Arashi

May 24, 2019

I started watching 2009’s Natsu No Arashi (Summer Storm) after seeing it listed as one of the more interesting anime of the last ten years. It wasn’t until I hit Episode 8 that I realized that I’d touched on it before, meaning that specific episode, as part of my research on the body-swapping anime Kokoro Connect, back in 2012. And that lead to the discovery that the 10th anniversary of Episode 8 was today, May 24th. What better excuse to do a writeup on the first, 13-episode season?

If spoilers for a 10 year old out of stock anime upset you, then stop here and go read my review of Citizen Kane.

What makes NNA interesting isn’t the body-swap half-episode. It’s interesting because it’s one of the few anime to directly address the home-front tribulations of Japan in WWII. The two female leads, and two later characters, were 16 year-old schoolgirls killed in a bombing raid on Yokohama on May 29th, 1945. They return as ghosts, but for some unexplained reason, only in the summer.

The main female lead is Arashiyama Sayoko, whose family name translates as Storm Mountain and who is called Arashi, for short. This plays nicely off the series name, which could also be translated as Summer’s Arashi. Her goal in the apre-vie is to go back to 1945 and rescue as many people as possible. But to travel in time, she needs to form a connection with someone from the present.

Early Shaft head tilt

Enter Yasaka Hajime, thirteen year-old typical shonen boy — high energy, high self-opinion, exaggerated concern with being seen as manly. Did I mention he is short, with square, dark-framed glasses? He develops an instant infatuation for Arashi, and becomes her connection for their many trips to the past.

Spoken like a true shonen

The rest of the cast is equally paired up:

  • Kaja Bergmann (Kaya) and Kamigamo Jun, ghost of a German schoolgirl and her contemp connection. Jun is a crossdressing girl because of anime reasons.
  • Fushimi Yayoi and Yamazaki Kanako, another pair of ghosts from Arashi’s school. Fushimi can connect with Hajime, and Yamazaki, it turns out, can connect with Murata.
  • Finally, there’s Sayaka (AKA Master), the cafe owner, and Murata Hideo, a private investigator.

The city they are on the outskirts of is Yokohama. Unlike other major cities in Japan, it had not been heavily bombed early in the war, and in the spring of 1945 it was protected by being on the short list of possible targets for the atomic bomb. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen, it was released to the general bombing list, and was heavily bombed on the 29th of May.

This isn’t a regular review, so I won’t go into details on the episodes. The first episode features some time-travel shenanigans involving a strawberry that’s been stuffed with hot spice powder, which serves to introduce all the characters. After that there are separate arcs in which Arashi/Hajime and Kaya/Jun go back to 1945, Kaya to see the man she was in love with, and Arashi to try to save people. Another arc deals with Yayoi and Kanako, and Kanako’s attempt to keep Yayoi corporeal by draining Arashi’s life force. The 13th episode looks like something you’d find as a DVD special — it’s a reprise of the first episode, but with a cherry instead of a strawberry, and everyone is in goofy costumes.

There are two aspects of NNA that are interesting beyond the actual story. First, is the look at wartime Japan. The anime shows the raids, and the B-29’s and the falling bombs. Houses burn and people die.

Not something you normally see in a shonen program. In the Yayoi/Kanako arc, you see high school girls drafted to work in an aircraft factory — one of the thousands of small scale installations that the Japanese used instead of following the German and American pattern of large production plants. This, by the way, was one of the justifications of the widespread fire-bombing campaign, because there were few concentrated high value targets. The girls work full time and are from all over. Yayoi is from a rich family (I think that’s her family mansion they end up haunting), while Kanako is a work-hardened girl from a poor family. In one sequence, Yayoi plays a concert for the girls during the weekly power blackout when the factory can’t operate.

Second, NNA has some interesting ideas about the effects of time travel. Two of Hajime’s strawberries disappear, one because his grandfather ate it, and the other because he came back in time and stole it from himself. Kaya was mad at Arashi because she never read the note she left in her diary at the school, that she was waiting at The Ark cafe, one of the few places to survive the war unbombed. They go back in time and bring the diary forward to the present, which means it wasn’t there when Arashi stopped to look for it. More significantly, Arashi goes back to 1945 and shelters a crying child during the air raid, telling him to be a hero. Later, in a trip to 1985, they meet a brash young child who informs them that his father keeps telling him that it’s important to be a hero. His father was the child that Arashi saved. Back in the present, it turns out that the private investigator is that child, all grown up and still brash — he carries a sword (practice or real, depending on the job) and drives a souped-up Vespa (another example of the goofy humor embedded in the anime).

On the tragic side, when Kaya/Jun go back, they project from the current day cafe to the cafe in 1945. Their arrival wakes up the owner (who Kaya is in love with), and he proceeds to go home, where he’s killed in the bombing. If he had stayed in the cafe, he’d have survived.

So, that’s the first season. It’s different enough that it should be on everyone’s watchlist. Crunchyroll has both seasons, but one never knows for how long.

 

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2019 Part 2

April 13, 2019

As we head into the second week of the season, the latecomers and early bloomers start to fade.

Senryu Girl: Socially inept high school girl can only communicate by high speed calligraphating of 17-character messages on short boards. Joins the literature club to improve her writing. Meets standard anime trope #54, bad boy with heart of gold who has trouble communicating. A little too contrived for my taste. In addition, Senryu was the name of a fighter plane in the game Sky Crawlers, so I keep waiting for her to suit up and take off.

Namu Amida Butsu! Utena:  Bishi gods come down to Tokyo. Clueless bishi gods. This has so been done before, with magical swords, and magical historic heroes, and magical drain covers (OK, I lied about that last one, but wait until Summer).

Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki:  Boy from Brooklyn moves to Boston, where everybody talks funny. Sorry. Boy from Tokyo moves to Nagoya, where everybody talks funny. Like the short about Osaka of a few years back, this falls into the “You might be a redneck if…” category.

Nobunaga Sensei no Osanazuma: Is 2019 the year of the ethically challenged teacher? Time traveling 14-year old bride lands in the house of the descendant of the guy she’s supposed to marry, immediately strips off and suggests baby-making. Teacher/descendant has a hard time keeping his hands off the child. Next thing you know, the show will be talking about suppositories. Fortunately, even the uncensored version is censored.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2019 Part 1

April 8, 2019

Some horses fall at the first fence. Some anime don’t make it through the first episode. Not that they’re bad, as such, but that they are too too obviously not of interest to me, personally.

Amazing Stranger Tiny humanoid space explorer lands on Earth, only to end up purchased as an anime character figurine. A true teen flick, because it’s too mature for kids, and too stupid for adults.

Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu Socially inept grade schooler enters middle school, tries to make friends with her entire class because her only friend, now attending a different school, said she’d dump her if she didn’t. Doesn’t realize that if she makes just one good friend in the new school, she doesn’t need the old one. Or maybe I’m just not into middle school anime.

Why the hell are you here, teacher? That’s what I want to know. Another season, another set of inappropriate student-teacher interactions (are suppositories the new thing?). Harsh sound track, too much shouting, stupidly contrived situations. Doesn’t rise to the intellectual level of Domestic Girlfriend. Twelve minutes is twelve minutes too long.

The Rising of the Shield Hero This is the second cour of an anime that started last season. Average non-otaku guy is shanghaied into an isekai world where he is promptly doublecrossed by the local royal family, which sours his outlook on everything thereafter. Obtains a couple of cute female non-human slaves, who promptly fall in love with him and try to improve his attitude. It’s working, and it’s a halfway decent anime, until the start of the secound cour, when he gets doublecrossed again. Can you say “Perils of Pauline”? Can you say “Jumping the shark”?

I was wrong … they’re bad.

Kotobuki: Parts of it are Magnificent

April 4, 2019

Think of it as Girls und Panzer meets Porco Rosso.

In another dimension, or astral plane, or something, exists a world named Ijitsu, that looks a lot like Australia — mostly howling wilderness. It used to have an ocean, but a wormhole of some sort opened up, destroyed the oceans, devastated the countryside and dumped a lot of military technology (including every type of Japanese WWII fighter), plus curry, rice, and pancakes, onto them. This all happened courtesy of the Yufang, who appear to be alternate timeline Japanese.

A town like Alice

Now the people of Ijitsu live a hardscrabble existence in a scattering of tiny outback towns, tied together with zeppelin flights and bepestered by air pirates. The six girls who are part of the Kotobuki Squadron* fly escort off of one of the zeppelins, fighting off the air pirates and making sure their cargo, or passengers, make it through safely.

Carrier based aircraft

Unfortunately, there’s a shadowy organization, the Brotherhood of Freedom Union, led by Isao, the mayor of the biggest city on Ijitsu, a guy who can smile and joke while ordering the destruction of entire towns, and who wants to exploit any new holes that appear and use that technology to take over the world. The Union employs dozens of fighter units and is systematically intimidating all the small towns to join up. The Kotobuki Girls are not really interested in this. As with Firefly, they just want to find a job, find a crew, keep flying. Of course, they get dragged in, end up as part of the big final battle, and are instrumental in destroying a newly opened hole and the death of the mayor.

Girls at war

Got that? Good. Now ignore it. The heart of the anime is the flying, and everything else is just an excuse. Every episode has a multiplane dogfight, and every dogfight is of heart-stopping intensity. Along the way we get to see all of these WWII fighters in action, plus some machines that never made it into the sky on our timeline — the Kyushu J7W1 Shiden, of which only two were ever built, and the Nakajima G10N Fugaku heavy bomber, only ever seen on the cover of model airplane boxes.

The bomber that never was

I suspect that Director Mizushima is doing what Miyazaki was unable to do in The Wind is Rising, celebrate the warplanes of WWII without having to insert an extended apology for Japan’s role in the war. Even though he ended the film before the start of the war, Miyazaki was still criticised for not saying enough about it. But if you have Japanese fighters shooting down Japanese fighters on an alternate world on an alternate timeline there’s no way you can be guilty of glorifying the Pacific War, right?

George and Betty

Meanwhile, we have the Kotobuki Girls. Each of the six has her own personality and her own reason for flying.

Come as you are

They are portrayed in 3DCG, and are not quite ready for prime time — their faces are stiff, and their movements seem more like those of marionettes. Be that as it may, they are all individuals, and you find yourself rooting for them in all of their fights.

Fight’s on!

And the heart of the series is the dogfights. You see the action from all sides, and from inside the cockpit. You hear the clang of bullets hitting metal, and you hear the creak of that metal stressed to its limit.  At the end of every episode, I had a bad case of the leans, from following the planes as they pulled g’s.

Another kill for Kotobuki

The ending is a magnificent swirling fight in and over the capital city, and under the newest hole. Parts of it make you think of the trench run in the first Star Wars.

Turn right at the next intersection

In the end, Kotobuki sacrifices their zeppelin to close the hole,

They’ll never catch this dirigible!

the good guys win, and fly off into the sunset.

All’s right with the world

From a flying standpoint, anime artist’s license excepted, I have two complaints about the air battles.

First, it’s too hard to tell what’s going on. All of the fights are big, multi-plane furballs,  presented as a series of vignettes featuring one-on-one engagements (sometimes with a saving intervention), but there’s nothing that gives a good view of the overall structure of the battle. In Garupan, you always had the feeling that you knew where everyone was and that you knew how the fight was rolling out. Not so with Kotobuki. Now, air battles are notoriously hard to follow. You dive in, you engage an enemy, and suddenly you are alone in the sky; or an enemy jumps you, you dive away from them, and when you recover, the fight’s move on. But usually there’s some preliminary structure — “You draw off the fighters, you go after the bombers” — even if it breaks down on contact.

Which brings me to my second complaint about the flying. There’s no sign of any real teamwork. In WWII, the US developed a number of leader/wingman concepts, which gave us a significant advantage over the Japanese, even though our fighters were outmatched by the Zero, one on one. In Kotobuki, everyone piles in on their own, and if they see a chance to help a team-mate they will. That’s good team spirit. It’s not good team work. As a result, The Kotobuki Girls are protected mostly by plot armor.

 

Preflight check

From a drama standpoint, if I have one complaint, it’s that the action is all bloodless, at least on the Kotobuki side. Josh Whedon once said that if you have a fight and nobody important dies, people just say “Oh, look. They’re shooting.” That’s the way Kotobuki is.

Despite that, I’d still call it magnificent.

*Kotobuki, 寿, A Yufang word meaning good fortune, congratulations, or long life, but we don’t find out about that until the end.

Domestic Girlfriend: A well-done anime about stupid people

March 31, 2019

Domestic Girlfriend (Domesutikku na Kanojo) is predicated on a set of ridiculous coincidences. High school boy has the hots for one of his teachers (as often happens). He also pulls a one night stand with a HS girl he met at a karaoke party (and where were those girls when I was in HS?). Shortly thereafter his widowed father re-marries and brings into the household a divorcee with two daughters — an older one who teaches HS, and a younger one who goes to karaoke parties. Spoilers follow.

Meet your new family

The inevitable happens, and the boy starts an affair with his teacher-sister. Twelve episodes later the inevitable also happens, and they get outed. Meanwhile, he’s trying to kickstart a career as an author. Meanwhile, the younger sister is developing feelings for him.

At the end, the older sister has to quit her job and move to a different school to avoid a scandal, despite which they still have feelings for each other. Meanwhile, the younger sister declares that she is going to go all out to win his heart. Also, he wins a writing prize.

On the good side, studio Diomedéa handled the story very well. This could have been treated as a harem romcom, or as some sort of operatic high drama. Instead, it was more like a soap opera, and I say that as a good thing. What was bad were the people.

Let’s start with Hina, the older sister. She’s in her second year as a teacher but she still has the mannerisms of a student — flirting, slapping the boys on the butt, getting drunk in the evening. Unable to control her emotions, and despite being quite aware of the suicidal consequences, she enters into a relationship with a student maybe five years younger than her, and ends up having sex with him (BTW, in the course of the anime we find out that she previously had an affair with a married man, who she thinks about when masturbating with her bedroom door open, so there’s a pattern here). In this case she is incredibly lucky, and when they get caught she just gets shunted off to a different school, presumably in a different prefecture. In the real world such actions would get her jailed, or at least fired and barred from teaching for life. Her life is going to be a series of bad decisions, and there is no way she should be a teacher.

That’s “Hina-sensei”

Then there’s Natsuo, her underage paramour. Like many high school boys he thinks with his crotch and has zero concept of what the word consequences means. Whether it’s attempting to kiss Hina when she’s drunk and unconcious, grabbing her in the school hallway or at a festival, or concocting a story to cover his visits to her apartment without coordinating with the guy he’s using for cover — twice — he demonstrates zero ability to think beyond the end of his dick.

Yes, we’re at school, but no-one will notice if we duck down like this

At the end of the last episode he claims he still has feelings for Hina but does nothing to reject sister Rui when she gets physical. He’s the kind of guy who is likely to have his head turn up in a school bag.

Maybe she overpowered him

Finally, we have younger sister Rui. Same age as Natsuo, member of the same HS writing club (once she changes schools), made a straightforward and unemotional decision to lose her virginity with a casual meetup. Shy and retiring, she has the most rational and straightforward personality of the bunch.

Yeah, that relationship

When Natsuo executes a standard anime trope and inadvertently walks in on her in the bath, she simply says “You’ve seen me already”, instead of screaming and throwing things. Her major flaw is getting romantic feelings about Natsuo, despite his obvious chasing of her older sister.

The rest of the cast is mostly good people, who help Natsuo out probably more than he deserves: best friend from middle school, gay yakuza coffee shop owner, only slightly creepy writing club advisor, shy girl and flirty girl who both fall for Natsuo (maybe it is a harem anime). Their parents are typical good parents (atypical for anime), concerned about their children and willing to sacrifice to make sure they are happy. Yes, OK, there’s also the totally pointless and irritating American transfer student. Is this the way we look overseas?

You sometimes hear an anime described as a trainwreck. This is an anime about a trainwreck, about how two flawed people imperiled their lives and futures.

Close the drapes, damnit!

The story is handled well. The ending is not as solid as it might be, but that’s because the source manga is ongoing. Judging from descriptions of the source the ending is probably the best possible, under the circumstances.

If you like well-written drama that doesn’t involve mechas, spikey hair, or lots of shouting, and you don’t mind having to read three layers down in the character list to find someone relatable, then you’ll probably like this anime.

Anime Preview: Spring 2019

March 11, 2019

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I didn’t like before (Million Arthur, Bogipop) shorts and kids stuff (Isekai Quartet, Cinderella Girls ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Fafner in the title.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Shoumetsu Toshi: I bought this Vespa secondhand, from a girl with a blue Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar

Carole & Tuesday: If only we knew someone with a Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar, our trio would be complete

Konoyo no Hate: My father is a werewolf

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Hachigatsu No Cinderella Nine: Heisei baseball girls

Mix: Reiwa baseball girls

Kono Oto Tomare: Stop this sound

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Jimoto na Japan: The return of Elvis

Aikatsu Friends: Magical Girl Magicgirl

Sarazanmai: The wave Hokusai never painted

When algorithms go wrong

March 3, 2019

Here is the latest lead image for “Self Help Books” on Amazon

Evidently, they have a fairly broad idea of what “self help” means

VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation 3

February 10, 2019

I give up. VRV is just too clunky for general use. I found myself looking at the individual Crunchyroll and HIDIVE schedules on the PC, and then going into the next room to find the appropriate VRV episode on the TV and fighting the VRV user interface to watch what I want.

Meanwhile, CR has been adding shows from the current season that once were only available on HIDIVE (Kotobuki, Domestic Girlfriend). As a result there’s only two TV anime (Real Girl and Rocket Girls) and a movie (Girls und Panzer der Film), plus some nostalgic old programs and OVA’s (Taisho Baseball Girls, Kokoro Connect, Maid Sama) that are only presented by HIDIVE this season.

I tell you what. I’ll just treat VRV ($10/month) like it was an expensive HIDIVE ($5/month)subscription. So, $7/month for CR and $10/month for VRVHIDIVE means I’m spending $17 a month to feed my anime habit, instead of $15. Considering that I’m watching about seven shows a week (plus nostalgics), that’s not very much.

VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation 2

February 7, 2019

So, remember how I said that VRV had presented my watchlist as a set of cover art, with the actual title writ small? Well, today they fixed that, on the PC side. Without warning or explanation. This is a case of trying to do the right thing, in the worst way possible.

Smaller pictures, smaller font

The new list is a set of screenshots of my current episodes, instead of the series artwork. The pictures are about the same size as those on the Crunchyroll watchlist, so they can fit more on the screen. At the bottom of each frame they have a heart, so you can put some of the items on the watchlist into your favorites list, and a garbage can, so you can cast some into the outer darkness. They also have a colorful indicator if it’s a movie or a TV series, and a slightly less clear indication if it’s a sub or a dub — things you already know if you put them on the watchlist. One useful feature is a yellow box with “new” in it, in the upper left corner of the picture, indicating if the episode is the newest in the series (but not all the new episodes have that, and some episodes marked “new” are not the newest).

What’s missing? How about the anime title? Oh, there it is, beneath the picture, in a small, dark grey on darker grey font. The font appears to be slightly smaller than the font that tells me if its a sub or a dub. The season, episode number, and episode title are below the picture, in a much bigger, white on dark grey font. This is useful if you remember that Season 1, Episode 4 of Girly Air Force is titled “The World You See”

Finally, tucked into the lower right corner of the episode picture is a white on black number that tells me either how many minutes are left in that episode or how many minutes of it I’ve watched, with no indication of why they chose which number.

And finally, finally, if you click on the pic, it brings up a new page that autoruns that episode. You have to pause it, then scroll down if you want to see other episodes or series comments.

So, there are good and bad ideas in the new U/I, with the good ideas concentrated in the areas we don’t care about, and the bad ideas applied where they’ll do the most harm. In addition, this change (so far) has only been made for the PC interface. The TV/Roku interface remains unchanged, which can cause cognitive issues for users who switch back and forth.