Posts Tagged ‘review’

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.

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 worth watching: Bloom Into You

February 4, 2019

Naname’s Back, and Koito’s Got Her

This is a straight up romance anime between two high school girls. What’s called yuri, in the trade. I should note that I am not the target demographic — I’m male and I’m old.

Q. How old are you?

A. Old. Old. I’m older than Donald Trump. I’m older than Eric Clapton. I’m older than Cher, OK?

Still, that gives me a certain distance, a certain perspective, that others might not have. Being from a time when boys tended to be oblivious to this sort of thing, and girls took a more Aoi Azusa approach, I don’t have the personal and hormonal involvements that others might.

Q. So,why did you watch it?

A. I recently traded in my Crunchyroll subscription for VRV, which opened up HIDIVE and a whole new library of anime backlist, including Bloom, which was recent, and highly regarded. I watched it on my TV using Roku, which presented some technical issues, mentioned below.

Q. What’s it about

A. Girl meets girl, girl falls for girl, other girl doesn’t fall for girl, girls continue that relationship.

Q. Could you be more specific? I don’t mind spoilers.

A. Koito Yū, our first year protagonna, meets Nanami Tōko, her second year senpai, while helping out at the Student Council. Nanami is the typical anime perfect girl — top of her class, good at sports, soon to be Student Council President, etc. Avowedly asocial when it comes to things like dating, except that 24hrs after meeting her, she decides that Koito is the one who makes her heart go doki-doki. Koito, meanwhile, is still waiting for that moment and has zero romantic inclinations. Nanami essentially forces them into a relationship, but Koito says she doesn’t mind, she just doesn’t love Nanami back. Nanami, for some anime reason, is fine with this.

The first few episodes deal with the establishment of the relationship. Nanami asks Koito to be her campaign manager for the Student Council elections, surprise kisses her at a railroad crossing (while a train passes, meaning that only half the world can see what they’re doing), later elicits a more consensual kiss in the Student Council building, and gives her a planetarium night light as a souvenir gift from a recent trip. Despite the asymmetrical kohai/senpai* power relationship, Koito appears to be more consenting than coerced. One reason for this might be that Nanami is a person who maintains one (perfect) face to all the world, letting only Koito see her insecurities and self doubt (“Don’t fall in love with me, I don’t want you to love someone I hate“).

The second half deals with Nanami‘s desire to have the Student Council put on a stage play, something that hasn’t been done these last seven years. Soon, Koito finds out that the last play was arranged by Nanami‘s older sister when she was Student Council President, but the play, and the tradition, were abandoned after the older Nanami was killed in a car crash. As an aside, Japanese must be terrible drivers, given the number of deaths reported in anime.

We can use my father’s barn!

Meanwhile, a student friend of Koito agrees to write the play script, and comes up with a story about an amnesiac student who is trying to find out what her original personality was like, but gets three different answers from three different people.

In quick succession, Koito finds out about Nanami‘s older sister, and how Nanami is devoting herself to replacing her sister in the world, while Nanami finds out that her sister was far from perfect. This causes Nanami a major identity crisis (almost like in the play, what a surprise), and it also induces Koito to ask her friend to change the ending of the play — instead of taking on the persona reported by her lover, the amnesiac will adapt her own persona, as revealed over the course of the play.

The anime ends … umm… halts, with nothing resolved. The two girls go on a date to the local aquarium and in the post-credits Nanami falls asleep on Koito on the train home, with Koito gazing at her fondly. At the very end, Koito grasps her hand and whispers “senpai…”, with a long pause, and everyone waits for her to say “I love you“, but instead she says “…we need to change trains now“, and the end card appears. The series is over, and Koito has not told Nanami about the change in the play, and has not admitted that she may be developing feelings for her senpai.

Q. And what did you think of it?

A. I liked it. I liked it a lot. It was straight up romance, not rom-com or some  flavor of harem anime. There was no spiky hair, no yelling, and no mechas. To the extent that one got to know them, the characters were all likeable. (Note that, to keep this essay short, I am leaving out a lot of characters, including Nanami‘s childhood friend Saeki Sayaka, who makes for a low-key love triangle, the two adult women in a lesbian relationship that is probably unique in anime, all Koito‘s other friends and the rest of the Student Council).  Their conversations were (mostly) lifelike, and their actions were (mostly) understandable, if we excuse Nanami falling in love with Koito eighteen minutes into Episode 1 as anime artist’s license. There were parents who did parenting, and teachers who taught and advised. None was a caricature.

One of the things I liked was how Bloom tells its story in small gestures. For example, there’s a trope in anime of the indirect kiss — where you drink from a container that the other person just drank from. Very often this is a big deal, sometimes with panicky voices and waving of hands. At one point in Bloom, however, Nanami opens a bottle of soda and hands it to Koito, who takes a drink and hands it back. Koito is oblivious, but Nanami stares at it for a long moment, before drinking from it herself, and the scene moves on.

Kissu

None of the plot turns were based on standard shonen anime misunderstandings-of-the-obvious, and none of the characters were as dense as the average shonen protagonist, but then that just might be girls being smarter than boys. The physical side of the romance was very muted (despite her feelings, Nanami didn’t get beyond first base), she and the girls are proportioned like humans, and the fanservice was limited to a shot of her in her underwear, and her and Koito (et al.) up to their armpits in the bath.

Visually, Bloom is very soft. The art is very clean, and the colors are mostly pastels. Many of the scenes are bathed in the orange glow of sunset, what the Japanese call tasogare, the yellow dark.

The golden days of youth

One glaring note is not the fault of the anime. The presentation I am watching is from HIDIVE via VRV over Roku on my TV, and VRV on Roku uses black bands with white lettering for the subtitles, instead of the preferred yellow-on-picture that VRV on the PC uses. That’s not too bad, except VRV/Roku likes to put the sub in the middle of the screen, and sometimes it will double up the subtitle, which is irritating and can obscure most of the picture.

The music is provided by a subdued, unobtrusive piano.

The ending is very European.** We can see the form of the resolution, but they don’t feel the need to spell it out.  Of course, the fact that the anime used up all the available source material may have had something to do with it. Volume 5 of the manga (the aquarium trip) was published in Japan in January of 2018, and Volume 6 (the play) didn’t come out until 27 September, eight days before the anime aired in Japan. If the publishing cycle holds true, we won’t get a sequel until Fall of 2021. To my mind, if they waited a year, or even a season, and then used the play as a wrap-up, they’d have had a much stronger story.

I’m not a manga person, but I bought Volume 1 on Amazon just to see, and the anime tracks it very closely. There’s a suspicious-looking (“English language not guaranteed”) third-party blue-ray on Amazon for the low, low price of $144. You might want to wait on that.

——-

*Junior/Senior status, for those not used to anime

**It reminds me of the British detective shows we watched when we were living there in the 1970’s. They had the same sort of ambiguous endings, instead of the US style full closure arrest and sentencing. Foreigners seem to be more comfortable with ambiguity than we are.

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 3

January 25, 2019

The final three, or is it twelves?

The Price of Smiles. Price, not Prince. Country S is run by newly-anointed 12 year-old Princess Yuki, who wants everyone on the planet to smile. Country G is poorer and militaristic and trying to conquer country S. Twelve year-old Princess Yuki sends her childhood friend to the front line to try to negotiate a truce, so of course he gets deaded. Lots of death. Lots of mecha fights. Very little to hold my interest. Did I mention that the 12 year-old protagonna is only twelve?

All I want is smiles

Endro! Apparently, Princess Yuki has a second job, as a the hero Yulia. She and her band of merry heroines want everybody to be able to smile, so they exile the Demon Lord (Momonga, working his second job) to a distant place and time. Actually, they just sent him a few years back in time, where/when he becomes a cute female teacher at their school, where he tries get her and her friends, now 12 years old, thrown out. An original anime that looks like it was inspired by a battle card game.

All I want is smiles

Dororo. Yet another zombie reboot. Based on a 1967 manga via a 1969 anime and a live action movie from twelve years ago. Dororo is a young boy (who may be a girl in disguise, depending on what you use as a source) assists a young man named Hyakkimaru (AKA 100 demon circles) who is looking for his missing body parts what were sold to demons to finance his father’s political career (so, a lot like the GOP today). There are lots of people who like this one but I find it’s got too much blood and angst and everyone has a past that comes back to haunt them. There’s not one normie in the bunch. To make things worse, Dororo isn’t even twelve.

All I want is my left leg

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 2

January 23, 2019

Another day another drop. Or three.

Grimms Notes the Animation. So, there’s these four adventurers/superheros, in storyland. In storyland, everyone has their own storybooks, that tell them what their life will be like. And no, you can’t change what’s written there. In one part of storyland, Red Riding Hood is more of a job description, and generations of women have gone out to be eaten by the wolf (it says here) and then rescued by the Hunter. But someone is changing the stories, and the current Red Riding Hood doesn’t want to get on the cart.

Enter Our blank book Heroes, who convert to their superhero form — Cinderella, Robin Hood, Alice, and Goliath (Goliath? In plate armor?) — defeat the foes (for now), reset everyone’s memories, and get li’l Red to agreed to be et.

Episode 2 has Our Heroes meet Don Quixote and his waifu Rosinante.

It feels like the director just picked up whatever fairy tale element looked good and slapped them on the wall to see if they made a storyboard.

While on the road to grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood meets four suspicious strangers.

Date A Live. Season 3, I think. Seasons 1 and 2 only available on Funimation, I think. I watched one of them some years ago, probably.

Our Hero is the on-the-ground agent for a secret organization that’s protecting the city, run by his lollipop-sucking loli sister (lol). The SOtPtC has a futuristic control center, with controllers sitting at control consoles and providing surveillance of just about everything. Our Hero’s job is to find the invading spirits (all girls, of course) and ‘seal’ them by getting them to fall in love with him. So, just your everyday true-to-life anime. This season’s maguffin is a shape-shifting spirit who is disappearing all the girls in his life, one by one.

Too, too, generic characters and harem situation. Plot is silly, even for anime.

It’s probably best that they all go away.

Saint Seiya Santia Sho. Another zombie blast from the past that just won’t die. It’s based on a 2012 reboot of a 1989 anime from a 1986 manga. Rebooted again this year. Magical girls without the sexy transformation scenes. Jojo inspired art and a daytime anime vibe (Yes, kids! You too can own the Santia Shyoko action figure with golden trident!). Wrong demographic, wrong aesthetic.

Never trust a character with tentacle hair.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 1

January 21, 2019

This season I had 16 new programs to watch, 15 on Crunchyroll and one on Amazon Prime (have you noticed that AP’s offerings have trailed off since they closed Anime Strike?). I got a slow start because of the Panama trip (see sidebar), but it gives me the chance to work my way through, two or three episodes at a time.

So far, I’ve watched eight, and am dropping four.

My Roommate is a Cat. Writer takes in a stray cat, and they bond. Except that the cat doesn’t think or act anything like a real cat would: Oh, he’s passed out on the floor. That’s like my siblings did when they starved. I better push my food bowl over to him. Plus, I’m not a cat fancier.

catpic
I am a cat. Of course I’ll share my food

The Promised Neverland. Bunch of 11 year-olds escape from an orphanage into a world of horror. Or something, I dropped it as they went out the gate. I’m not interested in characters that young.

kids
Here’s some kids. If you like them.

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files. Confused plot and uninteresting characters. Later, I found out it was a Fate/xx spinoff, which explains it.

cast pic
Not one of these characters is worth caring about.

Rinshii!! Ekodachan. Very strange anime. Protagonist is a dirt-poor Tokyo working girl who spends most of her on-screen time naked. If it weren’t for the minimalist art style, that might be exciting. It’s twelve episodes by twelve different directors and 12 different seiyuus. Kindof like Space Dandy, but without the budget. What drives it over the edge is the fact that each standard 24-minute episode consists of 4 minutes of anime, and 20 minutes of discussion with the director and seiyuu. Might be worth four minutes of your time.

Oh, I’m so bored

Starlight Promises

August 10, 2018

Starlight Promises really wants to be a Miyazaki movie. It has the young protagonists, the mystical happenings, the colorful animation. What it lacks is heart. And coherency.

Spoilers follow.

Mihara Shoma gets a call from his former best friend, who he hasn’t seen in years, inviting him to meet at a location in the mountains. That location turns out to be the site of a Tanabata festival, celebrating the legend of the celestial lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi. His friend isn’t there, but he meets a hologram AI named Kana, and a girl,  Senozawa Shiori. It turns out that this festival is also designed to carry out a ritual that will let the participants meet anyone they wish to. The participants — several dozen of them — build the stage settings, and Mihara and Shiori are to enact the parts of the star-crossed lovers.

Kana and Shoma and Shiori

We immediately have questions.

How do they gain the skills needed to carpenter up an elaborate stage setting? How do they know how to move in the ritual?

It’s just like Ikea

How do the rest of the participants know how to do the Busby Berkely dance number at the start of the ritual? Well, they have these AI suits, that just know how to move to do things, ya know? And the wearer is sortof goes along for the ride.

We built it, and we can dance on it

OK, so how does the ritual conjure up the ghosts (and it looks to be all ghosts, nobody’s asking to meet Shinzō Abe) of the people the participants want to see? Well, so, it’s not really those people. It’s a new super-AI program that can take in all the information about the person and recreate a hologram of them. The participants just get to pretend they are real.

For that matter, why are they doing this during a Tanabata festival? Wouldn’t a Bon festival, honoring the dead, be more appropriate? Could it be that the Bon festival doesn’t have a romantic couple at the center?

Back in the action, the festival AI is malfunctioning, because of the existence of Kana. Why? They don’t say. In any event, it conjures up [AI hologram depictions of] the ghosts of the former castle, who proceed to attack the participants. Shoma and Shiori fight them off, using skills their AI suits taught them (and swords that are really debugging tools), while Kana sacrifices herself to install the patch, or something. Since this is hologram on AI suit action, nobody actually gets hurt, but they all act as if they could.

We will avenge our lord!

At the end, there’s a lantern ceremony, and everyone gets to see the person of their choice. Shoma sees his friend Atsushi — who it turns out is dead and Shoma just forgot about it, as often happens in anime — and Shiori sees her sister. Then the lanterns take flight, and the ghostly holograms fade away. Shoma and Shiori have found closure, and look to become friends, leaving open the possibility of a Starlight Promises Afterstory.

Is it really you?

Part of the problem with this anime is that Starlight Promises is only one hour long. That’s not enough time to develop the multiple threads of the story, or even the explanations and backstory and such. On the other hand, the whole knights-of-the-old-castle thing seems just bolted on, as if they needed some conflict to pad things out but couldn’t figure out what to do. Finally, the heart of the anime, the recall of the dead, is based on a logical fallacy. The participants are not talking to the dead, they’re talking to an AI construct, an updated version of ELIZA, from half a century ago.

But it looks pretty

Overall, Starlight Promises isn’t bad, but it’s not Miyazaki. It’s an OK way to waste an hour, unless there’s a My Neighbor Totoro rerun on.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 3

November 2, 2017

Sometimes anime are not bad, they just don’t hold my interest. Somewhere around mid-season I wander off and don’t come back. Herewith a few of those:

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life: Not bad, but I thought it had a reasonable closure at the end of the first cour, and couldn’t think of a reason to continue. I kept it in my queue for a while and then gave up on it.

Kino’s Journey: I watched much of the first season, back when, and had the same opinion: the show has a little too high of an opinion of itself. It’s like one of those artsey foreign movies you watched back in college. Pretentious.

Blend-S: A one-trick pony, and that one not very interesting

Code:Realize: What did I tell you about anime with Code: in their names? Just couldn’t get interested in cute guys doing cute things with steampunk. Must be my finger-length.

And then there’s a couple of others that are not new this season but which I tried because various reviewers seemed to like them. Various reviewers are apparently not within three standard deviations of my demographic.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Girls in a middle-school Hero’s club become actual magical girl heroes and protect the Earth while passing all their tests. Importance of ともだちがい and がんばって and clap if you believe in かみさまs.

Tenchi Muyo: AKA 天地無用, which can be variously translated as No Need for Tenchi, or this side up, depending on context. Since most of the episodes are titled No need for xxx, that’s probably the preferred reading. Tenchi is a typical ultra-dense protagonist who manages to have a bevy of beautiful space aliens fall in love with him.

TLDR: Anime I never started

October 14, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to watch even the first episode. Sometimes you happened on the first volume of the manga. Here’s two.

Inuyashiki: From the creator of Gantz. Actually, that tells you all you need to know. Old guy and young punk are reincarnated as robots. Old guy becomes superhero. Young punk becomes supervillain. Much bloodshed and dismemberment, most of it gratuitous. I dropped the manga after the first volume.

King’s Game: Normally a slightly racy kids game. Whoever is ‘king’ gets to tell the others what to do (“kiss the person to your right”). In this one, everybody is out to kill everybody else, because some ‘king’ made that decision. I don’t even…

This is why one reads manga.

 

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 2

October 6, 2017

Three up/three down – the off-puttingness continues. This started off being a potentially busy season, with twelve anime that I was considering watching. Fortunately, seven of them blew up on the pad. So far.

The first two in this listing could easily be swapped and few would notice the difference.

1. Dies Irae: Godlike beings fight grotesque monsters for obscure reasons during the latter days of the Third Reich. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. Later episodes will, I think, shift to modern day Tokyo. It won’t help.

Everybody wants to be Wolverine

2. Garo – Vanishing Line: Grotesque hero fights even uglier monsters, assisted by his talking motorcycle. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. This is not a Kino spinoff.

I guess they forgot that modern cameras have a ‘red eye’ setting

3. Taisho Mebiusline Chicchaisan: The title is longer than the episode. Country boy and his sword come to Tokyo to study and get away from the grotesque spirits of the dead that only he can see. On his first day there, he gets turned into a chibi figure. Nobody notices. First episode was about three and a half minutes longer than it needed to be.

They just happened to have a yukata his size

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 1

October 4, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. Here’s three four that fell at the first fence.

1. Sengoku Night Blood: Young woman is whisked into an isekai by a wonky smartphone app. Said world turns out to be filled with bishies who are historical figures who are vampires. We good? She may or may not be rescued by a talking tanuki who isn’t Shimogamo Yasaburō.

2. Black Clover: Remember how Tanya the Evil was raised in an orphanage and used her magical abilities to claw her way to the top? Why don’t we have twins, raised in an orphanage. One is calm and competent and is gifted with the way to the top. The other, the protagonist, is an incompetent, unmagical, spiky-haired loudmouth who plans to shout his way to the top. With a first episode like this, everyone who watched it thinking it was the second season of Honey and Clover is sure to be captivated!

3. Juni Taisen: A collection of twelve psychopaths, representing twelve different families of psychopaths, representing twelve psychopathic interpretations of the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, takes part in a psychopathic death match anime. It’s like Fate/Stay Night with worse costuming and no cute girls.

4. Urahara: Three girls in a dress shop fight to keep UFO’s from stealing Japanese culture. Squeaky voices. Kids book style backgrounds. Best part was Rito-chan coming to work on a skateboard. Then a Japanese expat from America, who appears out of a giant nursing bottle, turns them into magical girls, who can fight for justice and the nihongo way.

Did I mention there was a talking tempura shrimp?

 

Tanya: Someone is wrong on the Internet

July 25, 2017

It’s always painful when even the supporters of a show get it wrong. The latest misinterpretation of Tanya is by Nick Creamer, over on ANN, and it looks like none of the commenters has any concept of WW’s I and II beyond watching Thomas Kretschmann movies. Herewith, seven key points to keep in mind when reading any of it:

  1. The Empire isn’t imperialist. They never invaded anyone that didn’t invade them first. When the not-Scandanavians invaded the Empire, everybody’s reaction was WTF? Who would do such a stupid thing? The narration at the end of the series points out the irony that all the Empire’s actions were out of fear of their neighbors.
  2. The officers aren’t Nazis. The talk of serving the homeland appears on both sides in the anime, and is no different than what you would have heard in any military headquarters in our Europe in the early 1900’s. The counter-invasion of not-Scandanavia horrified the generals.
  3. Nobody’s a good guy. Soldiers on both sides did terrible things, because that’s what one does in a war. At the start of Episode 1, the not-French were killing not-Germans who were disorganized and fleeing, and doing it with a smile. In Episode 2, Anson Su, lead element of the invasion force, did his best to kill a young girl who was merely acting as an observer. Yes, she turned out to be a fierce fighter, but that was later. As far as he knew, she was like his daughter.
  4. Nobody’s a bad guy. These are military professionals, engaged in high-stakes, high adrenalin actions. They are excited in their work, and proud of their accomplishments. If they sit and mope and come all over angsty about their actions, they do it after the battle, when such thoughts won’t slow down their reactions. Tanya does it on the train. Su does it, a little bit, right before the fjord raid kicks off.
  5. Tanya isn’t a sadist. Throughout the series, none of Tanya’s actions were, as far as I can tell, violations of the rules of war, either in her world or in ours.  None of her acts involve inflicting pain without purpose, and at least twice she says she hates killing. The guy she fired in Episode 2 failed to show for work on time, and failed to respond to training. Tanya’s only “sin” was in not feeling any emotion about it. Her approach to training was similar to that used by the US Marines and the UK Commandos. She thought it would drive them away. Instead, it created an elite unit. On at least two occasions, Tanya changed her approach to a problem in order to minimize her casualties.
  6. Tanya isn’t power-hungry. Here in our world, and in the new one, her goal is to achieve a quiet life. All of her actions point in that direction. Play by the rules, and do your job well, and you will be on the escalator to a good position and a quiet life.
  7. Being X isn’t God. Maybe he’s A god (responsible only for reincarnation, in a Japanese division-of-divine-labor sort of way), but in Episode 2 he complains of being unable to handle so many billions of souls. To which Tanya replies that overwork is an indicator of a failed business model.

If you want to develop a less biased view of Tanya, when you watch it, imaging that it stars Sylvester Stallone, instead of a 10-year old girl.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 3

July 16, 2017

I’m crying here. I was going to have just two TLDRs this season, but sometimes one has to reopen the books for new challengers.

Shining Tears X Wind: Pronounced crosswind. STxW (pronounced stew) is a Crunchyroll re-release of a 2007 anime based on a Sega mobile game. Parallel worlds. Multiple handsome heroes. Multiple ornamental girls to fill out the handsome heroes’ harems. The girls also act as …ah… receptacles … for …um… magic swords … that the heroes store in their oppai, bosoms, chests. King Arthur it ain’t.

They wanted to copy the tank chase scene from GaruPan, but didn’t have the budget

Graphics and animation appear to be done using the same 8-bit technology they used for the game. If you liked the game, then (A) you will like this, and (B) we can’t be friends anymore.

True Tears: Crunchyroll re-release of a 2008 anime. High school boy lives in the same house as a cute classmate who he thinks likes him but she really likes the brother of a girl who he also thinks likes him but all she wants him for is his bodily fluids.

Trust me, it will all end in tears before bedtime

None of them are very likeable. Well, there’s the girl standing on the beer crate.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017-2

July 11, 2017

And the losers keep straggling in.

Konbini Kareshi: Grand Hotel, the anime version. Six couples and how their lives are changed by their experiences at the local Lawsons. The boys are the type I spent my high school days avoiding. The girls are the type who spent their high school days avoiding me.

I wonder if I’ll find the girl of my dreams in there. They carry everything else.

Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Fox maiden vows to excel at matchmaking despite the urgings (threats) of the sexy head of her powerful fox clan, all the while avoiding marriage to a jerk who is also a powerful priest who is attempting to avoid marriage despite the urgings (threats) of a bunch of gunsels from his powerful human clan, all the while fending off attacks from a different fox clan, along with some nefarious plots by a fat underhanded plotting priest. Got that? Feels like the producer just threw everything he could think of into a pot and called it stew.

This picture sums it up: One third sexy fox ladies, one third chibi fox follies, one third assholes

Aho Girl: Aho is the word for idiot. It’s for when you’ve already said baka. Our protagonette is an aho. Bright, cheery, infinite mood swings, no short term memory, banana fanatic, zero common sense. Her neighbor (one can’t say ‘boyfriend’, he tells her mother she’s a monkey — her mother agrees) keeps her in line through force and violence. All the girls love him.

The carrot banana and the stick

Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU: Bunch of guys with swords, who are swords, fight demons, who are time travellers, with the aid of a fox with a computer. Running with swords. Fighting demons. Bantering with the guys. Running…

With a thousand years of experience, you’d think they’d find a better way to run with a sword

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 1

July 6, 2017

Two days into the Summer Season and already the rejects are piling up.

Saiyuki Reload Blast: AKA Saiyuki Version V. Latest in a long line of anime adaptations of a long line of manga. Based on the Japanese version of the Chinese compilation of the Buddhist folktale collection called Journey to the West. Bad art, ugly characters, poor acting, static fight scenes, and a stupid AI jeep (Kino should sue).

Which one is the monkey?

Netsuzou Trap: Girl sexually molests another girl. Other girl not sure she objects. Does that make it right? Did they limit the length to 9 minutes because they ran out of body parts to fondle?

French kissing while hanging off an apartment balcony three stories up and she’s afraid her mother will walk in and see them

Knight’s & Magic: Programmer dies and is resurrected in a magical fantasy world with knights in shining mechas. Develops new magical apps by applying good coding practices to existing magic. The weak spot, of course, being the lack of code comments and documentation. Unless maybe the extraneous comma in the title means that everything that follows is a comment.

Patlabor it ain’t

 

Tanyastuff — 2

June 24, 2017

This is Part 2 of an on-going analysis of The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Subsequent entries will look at the story as laid out in the light novels.

A major factor in the rollout of Tanya’s War, and one I hadn’t considered earlier, is the structure of the Empire itself. In Tanya’s world we have a unitary Germanic empire. In our world, Central Europe was occupied by the German Hohenzollern Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. It was the interactions between these two empires (plus the interlocking treaty obligations on both sides) that allowed what should have been a relatively minor Balkan skirmish to spiral out of control.

In our world, for a number of reasons, Austria wanted to expand its influence in the Balkans. They were afraid that Russia would actively oppose them, and asked Germany for support in preventing this. Germany gave them the famous blank check approval for any of their actions.

The first problem is, given the technology of the day, whoever mobilizes first can destroy their opponents, even if the opponents are part way through their own mobilization. So mobilization is essentially a declaration of war. The second problem is, once a country has mobilized, essentially all their neighbors are at risk. So Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia. Two days later, Austria, Serbia, and Russia all issued mobilization orders. Three days after that, Austria declared war on Serbia, and a week later, Germany (rejecting Russian protests that they were mobilizing against Serbia, not Germany) both started mobilizing and declared war on Russian. Roughly two weeks from assassination incident to WWI.

In Tanya’s world, the Empire isn’t dragged into a war by treaty obligations. They were engaged in an on-going border dispute with Legendia, part of the Scandinavian Entente. The Legendistas invade and are stopped by the the Imperials, including the newly-arrived reinforcements. So we have at least a partial mobilization aimed at the North. In order to permanently suppress the threat, the Empire goes to full mobilization and conducts a counter-invasion of the Entente. We could think of this as similar to Austria invading Serbia, except that the ‘pretext’ was a much more serious incident. In essence, the Empire gave itself a blank check.

At this point, of course, not-France also mobilizes, and invades the Empire. We are not told if this is a treaty requirement, or mere opportunism. The result is a slow-rolling development of a border skirmish into a world war.

The rest, as they say, is isekai.

 

TLDR — Gantz

June 19, 2017

Here’s how to watch Gantz: watch Episode 1 to convince yourself I’m right, then fast-forward through the rest, stopping only if the screen turns red, or black, or pink, depending on your interests.

Gantz is a two-cour anime from 2004. An alien-in-a-sphere makes copies of people as they die, and forces the copy-people to fight and kill things. That’s it. Collect people, put on fighting suits, go kill aliens and each other. If the screen is mostly black, that’s the fax-folk running around in their combat suits, looking for aliens. If it’s mostly red, they’ve found the aliens, or undeserving humans, and are eviscerating them, or maybe being eviscerated, it varies. If the screen is mostly pink, then it’s naked scenes, which don’t happen nearly often enough to make up for the red and the black. The rest of the time, the characters are shouting at each other about the morality of killing monsters and why aren’t the others doing more to help. Not enough pink to make up for that, either.

Red and Black
(At this point there’s about five minutes of yelling)

Gantz is available on Crunchyroll. In fast-forward mode, it’s about six minutes of play time between thumbnails, and about two and a half minutes of real time per episode. That means you can get through all 24 episodes in about an hour. Not counting pauses for pink, of course.

…and Pink
(Some more yelling here, as well)

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017 Part 2

April 10, 2017

I tried some other shows, when Crunchyroll finally broadcast them. Some didn’t fare as well as others.

Hinako Note: Country girl comes to the big city to go to high school. Is better at talking to animals than people, and has a tendency to freeze with her arms out straight, like a scarecrow, when flustered. Sounds like a good way to get your pockets picked. Meets four other girls in her dorm and at some point they will decide to put on a show (it’s too far to use my father’s barn). Would have been a soothing slice of life, if it wasn’t for the eternally squeaky voices and the stupid scarecrow shtick.

Eromanga Sensei: Japan is full of middle- and high- school students making a living as light novel authors and mangaka, which is good for their futures because I’ve never seen one do a lick of homework. Even primary school girls can make it big, drawing erotic art for magazines and LNs. Presumably, they get their subjects from various online websites — although some 12 year olds take selfies of their butts and use that as the basis for drawings they post online, and tell me how that doesn’t violate half a dozen laws.

It should not be all that rare, then, for the 12 year old little sister to turn out to be the one who is drawing erotic art for the 15 year old big brother’s best selling novels. Think, Oreimo with a business relationship.

Tsugumomo: The story of a mama’s boy with an obi fetish — he carries his late mother’s obi everywhere, even to school. Thirty seconds into the main story, they’ve already hit two classic anime tropes, the accidental boob clutch followed by the accidental panty shot, with extra points for chaining the events. Two minutes after that, Our Protagonist is subject to attempted tentacle rape from a marauding wig, but is saved by the Goddess of the Obi, Tsugumomo (つぐもも) which, as far as I can tell means next generation peach. She subjugates him, moves in, shares the bath, shares the bed, hogs the Playstation. Meanwhile, his little sister, who wants to share the bath, share the bed, and to hell with the Playstation, is getting suspicious.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017

April 7, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. The four anime that follow might not be bad, but they are certainly not my cup of tea.

1. The Royal Tutor: There’s a new tutor in town. Looks like a kid but is a grown man (there’s lots of hormonal balance mutations in Japan). Tutor to four princes, of various degrees of snottery, apparently born 9 months and 15 minutes apart. Oldest one looks like a romance novel cover, and talks like he’s lost one too many mace battles. Shorty Tutorpants will outsmart them all — and of course, that’s the problem.

2. Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor: There’s a certain kind of character, with too high an opinion of themselves and hair that won’t stay off of their forehead. A simple three-finger toss of the hair and the head will unerringly identify them. This one’s an incompetent cad. Unless they are planning on doing a body swap with Oda Nobunaga in Episode 2, I see no possibility of redeeming this train wreck. Did I mention the female student uniforms make KanColle look like nuns?

3. GranBlue Fantasy: Generic girl-with-powers escapes from secret lab. Lab is in a Pilot’s Love Song-style Airborne Battle Cruiser. Girl lands near generic village. Generic boy finds her. They, and her generic (female) knight companion, are surrounded by troops from the ABC, led by generic foppish captain with a falsetto voice. Generic ending with Boy merging life forces with Girl, beating the snot out of the Troops and heading off for a Secret Location known only to everyone in the village. Generic.

Paul Robeson sang “Joe Hill” next to this cottage

4. Silver Guardian: While the scantily-clad maidens of the Maidenly Academy for Young Maidens sleep quietly in their maidendorm, a boy is fighting for their survival, unbeknownst to all but the maidenly dorm mom. When the pyramidical tomb he is guarding is surrounded and attacked by thousands of undead, he does the logical thing by taking out his magical swords and attacking the throngs in front of the stonepile, evidently forgetting that there is a back entrance. In fact, there’s a front entrance that’s left unguarded while he’s half a mile away, whacking off zombie heads. Fortunately, the zombies are missing, you know, brains.

OK, I lied. They’re bad.

Light Novels

February 26, 2017

I’ve been spoiled. Up until now, all the Japanese light novels I’ve read were ones that withstood a long and gruelling overseas licensing process. By the time a LN got licensed in the US, you could be pretty sure it met some (often low) minimum standards for story-telling and writing quality. I’m talking about things like Spice and Wolf, Kokoro Connect, and most of the Haruhi series. But beneath that surface layer you will find a lot of stuff that’s not much better than fan fiction.

It’s like UK television. All we see over here are the top end BBC works of art. When I lived in the UK, we got to see the really bad run of the mill ITN stuff. I can tell you that UK game shows are terrible, and that’s from someone whose wife watches an hour and a half of US game shows nightly. I am beginning to think it’s the same way with light novels.

You see, with the increasing popularity of LNs in the US, and an expansion of delivery modes, came a lowering of quality standards. Back when the publisher had to cough up the money to produce a physical product, they were more careful about what they would publish. Today, with digital delivery, the initial cost isn’t so high, and so publishers can take bigger chances. The best example of this is the new light novel distributor, J-Novel Club. For a monthly fee, JNC posts chapters of on-going LNs, roughly one per novel per week. When the novel is completed, it’s pulled from the website, except for an introductory first chapter and a purchase link. Currently, JNC is licensing twelve LNs, some of which are the second volume of a series. I am a member of  JNC, and I have read at least parts of all twelve. Not all of them are of equal quality.

Using these twelve as a convenience sample of what’s out there, we find that five of them are in the hero pulled into a fantasy world genre. This is not to be confused with hero trapped in a video game, because there is no indication that it really is a game world, as opposed to a world with some sort of game mechanics. Obviously, what the Japanese call isekai stories are hot this year.

grimgarln Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: The most literary of the lot, and the only one of this genre to have an anime. A group of people wake up in a RPG style fantasy world, with no memories of their past, and find they have to fight for their lives. There’s a reason the first syllable is grim.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: A Maoyū Maō Yūsha ripoff, where he’s both scholar and hero, called into a fantasy world, where his high school level skills in ecology and urban planning help defend the kingdom he was handed. “You look like a nice boy, I’ll abdicate in your favor. Here’s my daughter.”

In Another World With My Smartphone: Like it says. He’s in an RPG style fantasy world, but his smart phone works, including the maps and ‘search nearby’ functions. In addition, he finds he has other advantages. “Oh, look. I just found this new magical skill that will cure the Duke’s wife of her mysterious illness.”

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest: He’s the low man in his high school class, but the smartest girl in the class really likes him. Suddenly, the whole class is pulled into an RPG style fantasy world. “I’ve loved you ever since I saw you getting the snot beat out of you back in middle school.”

mixedbathinglnMixed Bathing in Another Dimension: Going downhill fast here, Our Hero gets called into a fantasy world, with the one skill of being able to create a Japanese style public bath-house wherever he likes. Finds some surprisingly useful applications. After all, it’s a limitless source of clean water. Also wet naked girls.

Two more LNs brush up against the edge of this genre.

The Faraway Paladin: HikkoNEET dies and is resurrected in a fantasy world. Doesn’t really count, because all he remembers is that he was a disappointment to his parents and he wants to do better this time around. His zombie priestess mother and ghostly sorcerer father agree. Reasonably well written.

I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse: Our Hero starred in too many harem adventures in too many worlds without ever choosing a Best Girl. Now the multiverse will collapse unless he solves new problems in every world, which he does, by combining solutions across worlds and letting the problems cancel each other out. Neat concept, terrible writing.

The remaining five take place in fantasy/SF versions of our world.

occulticninelnOccultic;Nine: Is the best of this lot (and already has its own anime). Everybody in it is dead, and nobody knows it. Faceless MegaCorp is trying to control their souls.

My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World: High school high jinks. Our Hero can see labels over people’s heads, proclaiming what they are — Class President, Her Boyfriend, Mass Murderer, etc.

Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker: High school boy, something, something,  is supposed to save the world, something, but only wants to protect his little sister. There’s a childhood friend.

Paying to Win in a VRMMO: Not trapped in one. Paying, not Playing. Our Hero wins all the time by finding the right in-game purchase. About as exciting as it sounds.

My Little Sister Can Read Kanji: A couple hundred years from now, his little sister is one of the few people who can still read kanji characters. She is in great demand, because everyone wants to grope her. Our Hero is fine with this. I’m not.

So that’s a chunk of what’s current on the LN front. Twelve novels, of which three are good (for a somewhat relaxed definition of the term good), and the rest are fanfic quality. I keep reading them because I hope they will improve, but they never do.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Seiren

February 18, 2017

A lot of anime are adaptations of Visual Novel originals. The problem with adapting  a VN into a twelve-episode anime is that they almost all are multi-track — work you way through while romancing girl A, then go back and do the same with girl B. The question for an anime studio is, how do we handle this during an adaptation?

One way is to pick one girl and follow her to the end, with all the other girls having walk-on parts. Clannad is a good example. The upside is, the story can devote twelve whole episodes to the budding romance. The downside is is, everyone who likes girl B, or C, or …. will be disappointed.

A second approach, call it the Kanon model, is to keep one girl on the main track, even if it disappears into the background for a bit, and give the other girls their own arcs, without ever promising them romance. This requires a certain skill in balancing the screen time and keeping the main heroine as the obvious favorite.

Finally, we have the omnibus approach, famous in Amagami and Photo Kano, and (this season) Seiren. Each girl gets a turn at romance, and after three or four episodes rides off into the sunset with the protagonist. Then we reset, and go through the whole thing with some new girl. It’s like a collection of short stories instead of a novel. The problem with the omnibus approach is twofold, or maybe three.

photokanogirls

First, they are short stories. There’s no depth, no chance to develop characters. The four episodes tend to run to a pattern: boy meets girl; boy and girl hit it off; boy and girl encounter insurmountable relational problems; boy and girl decide to get married.

amagagamigirls

Second, they use the same cast in different roles across different arcs. It’s kind of an ensemble production — like some of the old Murder, She Wrote programs, where the bad guy one week is an old family friend the next. It’s not just that the main heroine changes, that’s to be expected, it’s that our protagonist’s male friend one arc is a complete stranger the next one. Or maybe they play video games one arc, and the next one he’s off on the soccer team. It makes for a certain mental whiplash.

seirengirls

After a while, they all look alike

Finally, and this is a particular problem with Seiren, the protagonist might or might not be the same personality from one arc to the next. In Amagami and Photo Kano, the protagonist was the same person, with the same goals and hangups: in Amagami, he was recovering from having been stood up for a Christmas Date; in Photo Kano he was a camera nut. In each arc we get to see alternative ways he can work through his life problems. In Seiren, he’s a different guy each time.

This season, Seiren is sandwiched in between Tanya the Evil and Demi-chan, and it doesn’t really fill an anime-watching need.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Yozakura Quartet

February 6, 2017

Yozakura Quartet
A one cours anime from 2010. Not so much bad as very much not my demographic. Two-thirds of a century ago, maybe, but now, if I had the ability to try-before-buy (say, via Crunchyroll or Funimation), I would not have bought it.

On second thought, no — it’s bad. It’s about a group of humans and half-demons who bond socially to fight other half-demons (the anti-social ones) to drive them to the other side and to protect the six sacred sakura stumps that (sortof) guard the town from demons.

I guess you’d call this a shonen fighter, appealing mostly to middle-school boys, because every episode features a battle of some sort. The trouble is, all the fights are the same: each protagonist takes turns fighting the demon, instead of ganging up on them; everyone spends most of the time talking, and the demons spend their talk time gloating; and about a third of the combat dialogue by the protagonists involves shouting the name of one of the others (the one who is currently getting the individual snot beat out of them).

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The art is crude, and the animation is minimalist. The funniest scene was when the womanising land god who looks after the town (but doesn’t actually do anything to protect it) visits the festival to see if there are any pretty girls to romance, and runs into a couple of 70 year olds who fondly remember dallying with him some decades earlier. Always embarrassing.

It was not available for preview on Crunchyroll or Funimation, but there had been some good reviews on-line, back in the day (and one of the characters was voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki), so when it came on sale on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, I bought it. I made it halfway through Episode 7 and gave up. Life is too short, and Amazon Prime is streaming Highschool Of The Dead.

Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all her efforts only make her a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

We're not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls.

We’re not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls.

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

Anime Postview: Fall 2016

December 29, 2016

This is not a real review of the Fall anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2016 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Overall, it was a pretty thin season, with only about six out of sixty shows falling into the watchable category. No particular standouts, except that everybody but me thought that Yuri On Ice was wonderful. I thought what I watched of it was pretty good, but it just didn’t engage my interest. Maybe not enough yuris.

So, how did I do on my Will Watch group? Looks like I’m two out of three for this one, if you count meh as an acceptable rating. Touken Ranbou turned out to be SwordColle — a bunch of bishies who used to be swords.

Fast talking high school student with his own anti-occult website turns out to be a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost in a crowd of other ghosts, solves a mystery about ghosts and thwarts the plots of an evil emperor to control the afterlife using ghosts. Surprisingly subdued climax.

From a straight mechanics standpoint, things went too fast for a subtitle-reader to follow. I had a choice of reading the bottom of the screen, or seeing what was happening on the rest of it. Too many expository dumps. Monogatari could pull it off. Not so the ; gang.

Otherwise, imaginative use of ghosts.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

———————————————

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall. ———————————————

Yep, Witches und Panzers. Great premise — witch fighting WWII — squandered on poorly structured plot and non-useful fanservice, with hokey post-ending  ending. Potentially one of the best of the Season, it turned out to be merely entertaining.

After all, how often do you get to see a cute, red-headed witch flying around on an anti-tank rifle?

 

For the  Might Watch group I pulled another two out of three as well. Keijo was just too too silly, with too many butts and too many boobs, and too much sports. Probably was a favorite in the frat houses.

A random crawl through psycho-space. Think, FLCL meets Magical Girls.  Friend of a girl’s mother from her past rescues the girl from her mother in an alternate dimension that somehow interacts with this one. Probably my favorite new show of the Season, which shows you how thin the season was.

The graphics make you feel like you’re lost in Mandelbrot’s sink trap.

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays———————————————

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm———————————————

Can’t go wrong with a Strike Witches spinoff. This one is set in the NorthEast Theater and features lots of flying over snow-covered terrain in their pantsus. The character development side concerns itself with the efforts of Karibuchi Hikari to prove herself a worthy replacement for her sister.

If you liked Strike Witches, you’ll like this one. Not great, but entertaining.

As for the Won’t Watch group, I think I can say I’m three out of three. Well, Long Riders was on a different channel, and I never looked at Tiger in the Hole!. On the other hand, everybody in the world liked Yuri, but I like my yuri with more girls in it. So, maybe two out of three.

That gives me four out of six, or maybe six out of nine. The Federal Reserve should hope they get that many forecasts correct.

Not included in the Preview, because it was a sequel, was the second season of Sound! Euphonium. Excellent, but not as good as the first season. Did have a marvellous episode that was almost all straight music. Way, way too late I found this site, with commentary by a professional musician.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 17, 2016

A second pass through the season drops some more.

March comes in like a lion: A prequel to Your lie in April, shows Arima Kōsei when he was going by the name of Kiriyama Rei and making a living playing shogi instead of being a piano player. No indication as to how many of the cute girls he’s involved with will die of AWD (Anime Wasting Disease).

March

March

April

April

Occultic;Nine: The guy who gave us the excellent Stein’s;Gate, and then missed with a long string of other semicolon stories tries again. Weird occult blogger accretes a team of weirdos to solve weird mysteries. The character designs tell you all you need to know. Weird.

If those buttons go, we're all gonna;die

If those buttons go, we’re all gonna;die

ClassicaLoid: Think vocaloids with better composers but worse directors. Beethoven, Mozart, mechas, and a construction crew all dance while their house plays musique.

You should see who's dancing with the secretary bird

You should see who’s dancing with the secretary bird

Drifters: Great warriors of history pulled into alternative afterworlds to fight the Enders. Think, Death Parade meets Nobunaga the Fool.

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

TL:DR — Dropping my shorts, Fall 2016

October 11, 2016

So, not all the mediocre, bad, or just plain uninteresting anime comes as long-form 23min episodes. Much of it now appears as short features, as if the creators knew the worth of what they were doing and wanted to minimize the impact on humankind.

Four that were just dumb:

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory "This is bad" warning.

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory “This is bad” warning.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Kiitaro's Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Kiitaro’s Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Two that were bound to offend somebody:

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

And one that could have been a contender:

Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Sengokuchojyugiga:Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Anime Worth Watching — Summer 2016

September 24, 2016

Amanchu
Futaba is a shy young girl who comes to a small coastal town from the big city, meets an outgoing classmate and a caring teacher, and learns to come out of her shell by learning to SCUBA dive. A quiet, feel-good, sort of an anime. Like Flying Witch, but with a little more personal drama. If you liked Aria, you will like this one — it has the same director, the cats look the same (i.e. totally un-catlich), and the lead cat is even named Aria.

Futaba and Friend, and cat

Futaba and Friend, and cat

The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA

First of three 20-minute episodes. Prequel to the manga, which might mean we’re getting a full season anime. Chise is a young girl from an uncaring home who ends up living with a sorcerer, who just happens to have an eland’s skull for a head. Visually very pretty, with interesting magic and magical creatures. Their household is Chise, the Magus, Ruth (a black Flat Coated Retriever who eats at the table, just like humans), and a bonnet-wearing maid who has remarkable skills in tomato stacking.

The girl, Ruth, the maid, the Mage

Chise, Ruth, the Maid, the Mage

Opening scene looks like a foggy Victorian London, but in a later shot you can see The Eye.

ancientmaguslondon02

I liked the manga enough to buy the first volume when it came out. There’s two more 20-minute episodes in the OVA series, and then we’ll see.

So, there were a couple of good anime this summer, but Re:Zero was not one of them (some people liked it). I’ve mentioned it before, and I only mention it now so that I can include a picture of Rem, the Best Girl. Flawed hero learns his way around a new fantasy world by continuously being killed and respawning back at earlier save points. Falls in love with Emelia, main heroine, just because. Rejects Rem who really loves him, because he’s fallen for Emelia, who never contributes much to the story and doesn’t think much of him until the last episode, when his heroism and kindness turns her low level disdain into love, which I’m sure will last.

Rem

Rem

Emelia

Emelia

Which one would you chose?

That’s it for the summer. Pickings were slim enough that I rewatched GaruPan, Shirobako, Flying Witch, and Taisho Baseball Girls.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 14, 2016

Tales of Zestiria the X: Is that X the unknown, or X, the queen after Zestiria the IX? Or maybe it’s a date on their calendar?

Court astronomer has been using his telescope to observe local weather, and in no way is he peering into bedroom windows. Maybe he should be the court meteorologist. Anyway, he sees an unmoving dark cloud (does that make it climate?) over in the next county. Princess sends court climatologist and her trusted companion to find out what it is, and then leads out a patrol of her own to find the trusted companion when they don’t come back two minutes later, because rulers of countries always have time to act like platoon leaders. Encounters ninja-shaped aliens. Finds out that the cloud is of geological origin, not climatological. But before she can find the court climatologist to tell him of his new title, the geology becomes a little unsettled and everybody but her dies. Then it gets weird. Later on, there may be sheep.

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

The acting is over-wrought, the art is crude, and the animation is clunky. And they don’t know how to build observatories.

Qualidea Code: Highly accomplished team member refuses to cooperate with his team-mates when defeating the pink, boob-shaped alien invaders because they’re almost as dumb as the aliens. Team-mates refuse to cooperate with other teams because they have other highly accomplished members who aren’t him. Competition among the teams for accomplishment points (always a bad thing) leads to the destruction of both the aliens and a vital causeway.

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

The art is OK, the characters are the usual range of emotional types (defined by hair color), and the plot is clunky.

Ange Vierge: Highly accomplished team members clash with less highly accomplished team members when defeating the black, dildo-shaped alien invaders. Spend the rest of the episode naked in the bath, naked in their quarters and naked in the office, bepestered by lens flare. Decide that the best way to improve their accomplishment levels is to break into naked competitive teams (always a good thing).

If you think the lens flare is bad, just wait for the steam

She must have very sexy elbows

The plot is minimal, the interpersonal interactions are contrived, and the camera work is clunky. The characters are well rounded.

This is the last TL:DR of the season, I swear. Next week, I answer the question every one of my reader is asking — So, what is he watching, anyway?

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 7, 2016

Sweetness and Lightning: Hey, have you noticed how well food-porn shows are doing right now? And how much people like smart, energetic little pre-school girls?  We could so clean up with a show that combined the two!

His idea of a child's balanced meal

His idea of a child’s balanced meal

Yeah, but there’s got to be more. If we don’t want to look like Barakamon with food, or Wakakozake with kids, or Gourmet Girl Graffitti with parents, we need something with an edge.

What about making it a single parent, a widower? One who can’t cook?

I don’t know, Japanese are reluctant enough to get married already. We don’t want to give the impression that marriage involves a 50/50 chance of death. I mean, think of all the other single parent or missing parent shows out there. In how many anime do you even see a parent, anyway? Whatever happens to them?

Yeah, but that gives us an opportunity to add a romance angle. You know, like, he’s a school teacher and there’s this girl who’s in one of his classes that keeps coming over to cook. Not just romance, but underage, inappropriate romance!

And she can’t cook either! And they learn together! Sweet lightning, that would work! But what should we call it?

Taboo Tattoo: Guys, what is Miyata thinking? We’ve already got Amanchu, Saiki Kusuo and Food Wars on our plate, and now he wants us to do this Tattoo thing? Even Miyamori Aoi couldn’t find enough animators to save us!

だいじょうぶ, だいじょうぶ. It will be OK. We’ll just use a generic highschool boy develops superpowers plot. Throw in a blonde foreigner and a boobified childhood friend who can cook (maybe we can recycle some outtakes from Food Wars) and the thing writes itself. No need to spend time on the animation, just use dark blobs and speed lines. This will be bigger than Dai-Shogun!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Momokuri: OK, we’ve got one more 24 minute hole to fill in the schedule, and nobody willing to do it. TMS is busy playing mortician for D.Grey Man while murdering ReLife, and KyoAni is prepping for a second season of Euphonium. Even J.C. Staff is wrapped up in their Tattoo blockbuster thing.

What about recycling something from last years Internet-only ONA programs? Like Momokure. Yandere girl stalks younger boy. I mean, all the episodes are done, it’s cheap, it has low bandwidth, and it already has a 7.2 rating from people who watch anime on their smartphones. What more could you ask for?

Such a cute boy!

Such a cute boy!

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 6, 2016

The first two programs I dropped were not even on my season preview list.

D.Gray-man: Boy who hunts soul-sucking demons teams up with sister of soul sucked brother. This is a 2016 continuation of a 2006 anime. The current release starts at Episode 104, but Funimation has posted everything, starting from Episode 1, which is what I watched. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, everybody is overacting, even by anime standards). Too much 2006 style art (as in, c’mon, it was made in 2006!). Bottom line: I don’t plan on watching a 103-episode prequel.

Would I lie to a policeman?

Would I lie to a policeman?

Berserk: Another resurrection of an earlier era (2008), only this one doesn’t have any prequels available. Demon-haunted man with a big sword and a tiny tattoo fights skeletal demons in a dark forest. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, it looks like it was drawn by US comic book artists). Too much CGI (as in, c’mon, it was made in CGI!). OK, too much bad CGI.

And the skeletons move like stop action from a '60's Voyage of Sinbad

And the skeletons move like stop action from a ’60’s Voyage of Sinbad

Re:Re:Re: Only one of the next three was on the list, but that’s OK, ’cause I only dropped two.

ReWrite: Double length into to a VN adaptation because they had to introduce all the girls who are going to fall in love with Our Hero. As usual in these things, the girls are more interesting than Our Hero, but the art style is from the early naughties VN genre and the magical hijinks that are meant to be ominous are silly instead. As in, magical witch girl secretly enters Our Hero’s room at night, slides up under the covers with him, and bites him … on the arm. She also stabs him with her ribbons.

I will so report you to the teacher!

I will drop you from the Konohana Lucia path and force you into the Bad Ending

ReLife: NEET takes a pill that makes him look young again. Re-enrolls in high school, and immediately forgets how to behave. The only saving feature is that the representative from the company that talked him into taking the pill (as an experiment), looks like Koizumi Itsuki from Haruhi Suzumiya, so it’s nice to see that he got an interesting job after college (probably still working for the Organization). I tried reading the manga, and dropped that too.

My Organization wants you to take this pill

My Organization wants you to take this pill

ReZero: This started in the Spring season, but it’s a two-cour, so it still counts. NEET gets transported to a fantasy world in the first of a double episode (1A, 1B) opener. Keeps getting killed and respawning back where he first appeared, but it takes him a while to figure it out. In fact, at the end of 1B he still hasn’t. Since the respawn point is at the same time as well as the same place, it’s like a time loop anime as well. So everything he does based on prior knowledge means the future is different from that point on. Impresses the girl, gets killed; misses meeting the girl, gets killed; catches up to the girl, she doesn’t know who he is.

Three minutes in and already he's adapted

Three minutes in and already he’s adapted

 

This is the only one I’m continuing to watch.

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2016

July 3, 2016

This is not a real review of the Spring anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Anime Preview.

Of the ones that I said WILL WATCH, I’m two for four.

Screenwriter Okada Mari said that “It’s a show that should give rise to the reaction What the hell is this!?”, and it does. Lots of folks didn’t like it (and some do), but lots of folks don’t have the patience for a show where half the fun is in the way this totally incompatible group starts off discussing a plan, and then spin off half a dozen conversations with no relevance to the plan, or anything else. If you’ve ever been in a business meeting, you know what I mean. BTW, mayoi is the same word that Monogatari uses for Hachkuji Mayoi — the lost snail.

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

My candidate for best show of the season, and possibly the year, is a feel-good, slice of life anime. No conflict. No drama. No plot. You just find yourself smiling at the end of each episode. It’s based on a slow-output manga, and they used up perhaps two-thirds of the existing source, so it will be a couple of years before a sequel. That’s OK. I’ll wait.  

4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

The other two in this category were on feeds that I don’t get, so they don’t really count, right?

In the MIGHT WATCH category, I’m one for four.

Bakuon was not strong enough to maintain my interest, Kumo Miko died even earlier, and Kiznaiver was just bad. The only one I finished was the non-harem (he’s already got the girl) gamers in highschool. He should have known they were females from the beginning, when they all stood around gossiping while he was being pounded into thin paste by a monster.

4. Negote no Yome... Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

4. Negote no Yome…
Highschool boy finds that all the guys in his MMORPG are girls, and they go to his school!

Of the shows that I said that I WON’T WATCH, I didn’t, and I’m glad. So I’m four for four there.

Meanwhile, there was one show that that I didn’t list that I DID WATCH and I’m happy I did.

Steampunk. Zombies. On a train. With old fashioned samurai. What’s not to like? This one turned up on my Amazon Prime list. Good thing it was subtitled, or I wouldn’t have watched it.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So, I guess you could be conservative and say I’m three for seven. Interestingly, all of them except Kabaneri are on Crunchyroll.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (and don’t intend to), Spring 2016

April 19, 2016

So here’s my first cut at cuts. One or two eps was all it took for these to drop off the radar.

Anne-Happy: Three girls try to find happiness in a class full of losers. Too much ‘cute girls doing cute things’. What the British would call twee.

None cuter, and we know it

None cuter, and we know it

Twin Star Exorcist: A pair of high-powered 14-year old exorcists get told they need to start making babies to save the world. He’s a whiner. She’s inept. Chief exorcist is a con-man. Strange mix of well done backgrounds and secondary actors, combined with cartoony main characters.

More like grade-schoolers

More like grade-schoolers, really

Pan de Peace: As I thought. Cute girls doing cute things… with bread … manages to be boring, even when limited to three minutes.

There's another three minutes of this

There’s another three minutes of this

High School Fleet: GaruPan meets KanColle. High school girls operate automated warships, get involved in some sort of high level government plot. Alternates between too many shrieking adolescents on the bridge, and not enough really good CGI warship shots. I continue to watch, but I fast forward through the dialogue.

The fleet sorties!

The fleet sorties!

Anime Postview, Winter 2016

April 17, 2016

This is not a review of the Winter anime season, quite. Instead, it’s a look at how well my preview of the Winter season worked out. TL:DR is that I scored 3 out of 4 on all three areas, sortof. Here they are, under their original headings:

WILL WATCH: Shows I planned to watch, based on the cover art alone. I got three out of four right. Gate, Dagashi Kashi, and Phantom World were all good, or at least watchable. Haruchika, not so much.

MIGHT WATCH: Shows I thought might be worth watching. Three out of four again, except that I dropped the ball on two of them. The ten-episode Wonderful World was watchable, in much the same way that Phantom World was — they were both well executed examples of standard anime fare. Erased and Rakugo were widely praised, and I really liked the first episode of each, but I just never was in the mood for watching the rest.

WON’T WATCH: Shows with off-putting cover art or storylines. Yet another three out of four. Of course, it’s hard to say that I made the right choice in not watching something if I didn’t watch it and so can’t tell if I shouldn’t have watched it or not. Number four was Oshiete, Galko-chan, and I did watch it and it was funnier than it had any right to be, given the fact that it was built around girls talking about stuff that embarrasses guys.

ALSO WATCHED: There were a few shows that didn’t fit on my Winter preview that I ended up watching anyway. I guess I’m also three for four on these.

Aokana, the high school flying circus, I will discuss elsewhere. Good, solid anime, with some fun flying scenes. Recommended.

Tabimachi Late Show was a four-episode, seven-minute, minimalist series. As one commenter said, he’d seen manga that had better animation. To me, it looked like they just used the key frames, with no in-betweening, but that’s because I’ve been watching too much Shirobako. In any event, they were four unrelated stories that were by turns some combination of sweet, spooky, and enigmatic. Recommended. Episode 3 highly so.

She and Her Cat, as told by the cat. Another four episode, seven-minute series, but with much better animation and an actual story line. Bittersweet ending (watch through the end credits). Recommended.

Ojisan and Marshmallow was yet another short, about a fat, middle-aged guy who likes marshmallows, and a cute girl who likes him. As bad as it sounds. Why did I watch it? I don’t know. The harder question is, why did I admit to watching it? I don’t know. Stop asking questions. Go away. Go make some s’mores.

Yokohama Shopping Trip

March 31, 2016

From 1994 to 2006, Hitoshi Ashinano wrote 140 chapters of a manga titled Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, or Yokohama Shopping Journal, known in the West as Yokohama Shopping Trip. It’s set in a Japan of the far future, when sea levels have risen to cover most of today’s cities and humanity has declined to a tiny remnant, quietly living amidst the ruins.

The water's gotten higher since last time

The water’s gotten higher since last time

Strange creatures have appeared — fungi with human faces; flying fish adapted to life out of the water; the Mikago, a human-female-seeming creature that lives in the coastal forest and appears only to children, and the Taapon, a never-landing stratospheric flyer. In addition, there are robots, what would have been called androids, before Star Wars perverted the label. They are constructed humanoids. Indistinguishable from humans, they eat and sleep and excrete and are immortal. Yokohama Shopping Trip is this new world as seen by one of the early model robots, named Alpha.

Alpha's world

Alpha’s world

The story is best described as a post-apocalyptic  slice-of-life. The pace is calm, slow, lethargic, even glacial. A whole chapter might be dedicated to making a cup of coffee, or driving to the seashore to watch the street lights light up along a highway that is now under water. Alpha runs a coffee shop out at the end of a disused road through an abandoned countryside.

At the end of a disused road.

At the end of a disused road.

Every now and then there’s a visitor. Every now and then she hops on her scooter, and drives into what’s left of Yokohama (the hillside suburbs, mostly), to buy more coffee beans.

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Her friends include a couple of other robots, an old man who runs a nearby gas station, and his grandchildren. There’s no drama to speak of.

At one point, she decides to see more of the world, and spends a year walking around central Japan, rarely getting out of sight of Mt. Fuji. In the end, she returns to Café Alpha.

Café Alpha

Café Alpha

Wikipedia says there were two OVA series, released under the title Quiet Country Café. The disc labelling is obscure, and even the sellers are a little confused about what they have. I have an all region copy of the second OVA, with English subtitles (ISBN ending 5045). The copy I have is a single disc, two parts, each of four x eight-minute segments. That’s 64 minutes total, or about three regular anime episodes. I also have a Region 2 copy of Part 2 of that OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 003997). Finally, I have a Region 2 copy of the first OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 704054), also about 60 minutes. So I have one more disc than I need, and one of the discs I do need for a full set is Japanese only. Fortunately, it tracks the manga very closely, and so I can get the gist from there.

The sources selling them are not always clear if they are selling the Region 1 version, with English subtitles, or Region 2, with no subtitles, so be careful.

The anime is just as slow as the manga, and even more enigmatic. There’s no overlap between the two OVA’s, and because of the slice of life format there’s not much continuity within them. If you haven’t read the manga, you will miss out on half the references. Minor characters from the manga (Taapon, Misago, the pilot) make cameo appearances, seemingly for the sole purpose of satisfying the fans.

The Taapon gets a cameo

The Taapon gets a cameo flyby

Other elements are touched on, but not developed (in the second OVA, we don’t find out that Alpha is a robot until the second half, her friendship with Kokone is never expanded), or ignored (Who/where is her “owner”? What does ownership mean under these circumstances?).

The artwork gets a B. It looks like watercolor on textured paper. The colors are muted. The depth/distance effects are often based on multiple layers, like an elementary school paper art project. It would make a nice wallpaper, but it doesn’t make the countryside a character, the way Non Non Biyori does.

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

It’s been compared to Aria as a feel good anime, but I think it’s closer to Non Non Biyori. It’s very quiet, very rural, and, to the extent that there are characters, character-based.

Friends

Quiet friends

Shirobako, the Blu-Ray

February 21, 2016

Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of Shirobako on blu-ray and DVD. I am a big fan of the series (I’ve watched it four or five times now on Crunchyroll) so of course I pre-ordered it, and just now finished my sixth runthrough. It’s interesting to see the Sentai translations compared to Crunchyroll’s. At the start of Episode 1, for example, Taoru* describes the first episode of Exodus, the anime-within-an-anime as being a purification for the director, while the Sentai translation says it’s a clean slate. The reference being to the director’s previous disaster with an anime titled Jiggly Heaven, and the actual word, I suspect, having some sort of Buddhist association. On the other hand, Sentai translates  one character’s pronunciation of our protagonna’s name, Myamori, as Meow-mori, which it definitely is not (besides, in Japan, cats say nyan, not meow). Once nice addition is that Sentai provides translator’s notes, explaining some of the in-jokes (and there are many).

The story is, of course, great. It’s about adults, solving adult problems. It’s a primer on how anime is made. It’s directed by my favorite director, Tsutomu Mizushima (of Girls und Panzer fame). So what’s not to like? Well, the story is great, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.

First of all, it’s subtitled only. I don’t mind, but my wife (and other acquaintances who are not so much into anime) much prefer dubbed. Second, surprisingly, the video quality is not as good as the Chrunchyroll SD transmission. I paused both on my home television, and switched back and forth. The Blu-ray is noticeably fuzzier than the streamed version. It’s not so bad as to be unwatchable — in fact, it only detracts if you’ve seen the streamed version — but it really is inexcusable, particularly for a product that costs $60 for a one-disk program. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the marketing companies, and the only alternative is to not own a copy.

Season 2 is scheduled for release in May, 2016, and I’m going to pre-order that as well.

*Unlike many first names in this series (Aoi means Blue, for example), I can’t find a meaning for Taoru, but Taoru-san is how restaurateurs refer to cockroaches when the customers are listening.

TL:DR — The Muv-Luvs

January 15, 2016

Once upon a time, almost fifteen years ago, there was an adult visual novel called Muv-Luv (マブラヴ, although in one place it’s reported as 真愛, or True Love)* Originally, it came out in three vaguely related parts. Muv-Luv Extra is a straight highschool harem VN. Muv-Luv Unlimited has the protagonist wake up in an alternate world where Earth has been invaded by aliens. Muv-Luv Alternative is Muv-Luv Unlimited with the protagonist sent back in time to save the Earth. Got that? Good. Now ignore it.

We're the girls who play high-school sports

We’re the girls who play high-school sports

We're the girls who fight

We’re the girls who fight

The franchise spun off a bunch of manga, which inspired a couple of anime — Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, and this year’s prequel, Muv-Luv Schwarzes Marken (Black Mark, as in blotted your copybook). I started watching M-L:TE because I read the description of M-L:SM which said it was set in the GDR in 1983, and that sounded interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

We're the girls who defend the Earth

We’re the girls who defend Asia

We're the girls who defend the GDR

We’re the girls who defend the GDR

Both are straightforward mecha vs alien anime. In both, the aliens — that look like mecha/monster hybrids — cover the earth from horizon to horizon and are pretty much immune to all weapons except those on the mechas.

<rant>And why doesn’t anyone think to retrofit existing systems with mecha-grade weapons? If armor works on a mecha, it can be bolted onto a tank. And if a mecha can carry a blast-o-matic beam rifle, why can’t one or two of those be stuck on a tank? Or a fighter jet? And another thing. Why aren’t we just using nukes on the screaming hordes of godless aliens? It’s not like there’s anything left once they’ve overrun a patch of ground. And it’s not just these shows. Most mecha combat anime have the same problems.</rant>

The big difference between the two anime here is that M-L:TE is trying to be a romance between the Japanese protagonna, and the Japanese-American assigned to her unit, while M-L:SM is a mystery about a girl who looks like someone’s little sister. Oh, yeah, the Stasi are every bit as much a threat to our protags as the aliens are. In any event, there’s lots of shouting and angst and going off the deep end half cocked. It confirmed why I don’t like these shows.

I watched through seven eps of M-L:TE while waiting, and then one of M-L:SM, when suddenly I realized that I needed to prep for my colonoscopy.
————————————–
*The name is a little confusing. マブラヴ transliterates as maburavu, which could be mab love, whatever mab is. 真愛 translates as true love, which is pronounced ma ai. I should note that the original author is notoriously bad at English.

Wakakozake Season 2, The Live Action Drama

January 12, 2016

I loved Wakakozake, the anime short about an office lady and her after-office love affair with food and drink. Two minutes was just the right amount of time to introduce us to the context, the food and drink, and the pshhhhuu!

Season 1

Season 1

In “Season 2” it’s now ten times as long, and it’s live action.* How do they fill the extra minutes? Well, they do two cafe visits instead of one, they show the details of how the food is made, and they are visiting actual cafes, ones that a tourist could hope to find. Outside the food arena, they felt they needed to bump up the “drama” aspects, so we see more of Wakako’s travails at work, and some chef/apprentice interactions, as well as some footage of her walking to wherever she’s going.

Season 2

Season 2

It’s…not bad…but I don’t think I’d continue to watch it if I hadn’t seen Season 1 first. The premise really isn’t strong enough to hold up a 20min show, and pshhhhuu! doesn’t work as well when it’s a real person saying it. On the other hand, one can learn about Japanese cafe etiquette, and there’s some nice short cooking hints on how to dismember a mackerel and respectfully hash a daikon, and who doesn’t need to be reminded how to do that now and then?
—————————————
*The manga came first, in 2011. Then Season 1 of the live drama, in January, 2015. The anime ran starting in July of 2015, so the two are essentially separate.

Anime for the new year: Get in the robot, Shinji!!

January 1, 2016

NGE-EVA01_in_TokyoThe Fall and Winter anime seasons that we are transitioning between right now mark the 20th anniversary of the TV debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Our Internet was out over the Christmas break — snow broke the DSL phone line* — so I hauled out the DVDs and did a marathon rewatch. Actually, it was mostly an original watch. I had viewed the first few episodes some years ago, but dropped it because of excessive angst. I also watched the first of the theatrical reboots, Evangelion II.5, You Can(Not) Be Serious, and didn’t bother to buy the second one. Now I am older, with more intestinal fortitude. Also, the snow is hip deep on a tall giraffe, and there’s nothing else to do. Well, cable is still working, so I guess I could have watched the Harry Potter Möbius reruns. But I didn’t.

The 1995 ** series is important in the history of anime because it changed the way we looked at giant robots, red-headed tsuntsuns, and damaged girls with blue hair. There’s been a whole generation of comment between then and now, and there’s nothing new I can add. So I will content myself with recording my impressions.

Just a flesh wound. I've had worse.

Just a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.

Starting with characters, we learn in the first five minutes of Episode 1 that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. And after ten hours of alternating robot fights and whining, we get two episodes of pop-psychology designed to drive home the fact that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. To top it off, the final four episodes show us that it’s not just him. Evidently, a job skills requirement to work at NERV, particularly as an EVA-insert is that you have parental abandonment issues and deep feelings of insecurity. None of the people involved could have passed the clearance requirements to be groundskeepers at NSA.

From a visual standpoint, even after twenty years, the series holds up surprisingly well. The future technology (2015!) still looks OK** and the robot fights were good (while Gainax had the budget to produce them). The artwork gets a B by today’s standards, which is pretty good for a series that’s older than most people watching it. The animation budget obviously ran out towards the end, and we were presented with minute after minute of stills-with-voiceovers. In one scene, in Episode 22, they evidently ran out of money even for seiyus, so Asuka and Rei stood ignoring each other in an elevator, silent and unmoving in a single still frame, for a timed 51 seconds — an eternity in a 25 minute anime.

I don't know, what do you want to talk about?

I don’t know, what do you want to talk about?

The ending was disappointing. Yeah, Shinji saves the world by grabbing the boy he loves in his EVA-fist and thumb-popping his head off like it was a matchstick, but that was episode 24, and we had two more that were presumably intended to be about the triumphal Human Instrumentality Project and the Third Impact, but instead sputtered out in a pop-psych post-amble. Not only did HIP-3i not happen in the anime, it didn’t happen in real life, either.

NGE should be required watching for anyone who complains about Western films and books appropriating other countries’ culture and symbology. The whole pseudo-mystical reasoning behind the existence of the Angels and the EVAs and the NERV organization and the Human Instrumentality Project is one giant raid that runs through Western religious tropes, looting and pillaging. From the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Martini Fork of Longinius, director Anno picked whatever sounded good to him and stuck it in. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — sauce for the goose, and all — it’s more feeling embarrassed for him. I guess that’s much the way members of non-Western cultures feel when watching a Swedish actor playing a Chinese detective in a film story by an American from Ohio, or watching the fake kung fu in old David Carradine TV reruns, or listening to Yoda’s fake Asian sentence structure. To top it all off, the sound track is all Western classical music, mostly Beethoven.

To Conclude: I enjoyed the robot fights. I suffered through the mysticism. I gritted my teeth through the angst. But the part that made me smile was five minutes of the last episode, the ones that showed Shinji what an alternative world could be like, with childhood friend Asuka, new transfer student Rei, and sensei Misato. I’d watch a full season of that any day.

Late on the first day of class!

Late on the first day of class!

—————-
*Obviously, it is working again, but it went out on Christmas Eve morning, and the phone company doesn’t work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Saturday, or Sunday.

** Also the year that the anime movies Whisper of the Heart and Ghost in the Shell came out.

***Except for the mobile phones and the cassette tapes

Twelve Days of Anime 5: Revisiting Haruhi

December 18, 2015

The Suzumiya Haruhi franchise is now 12 years old, and Haruhi herself is approaching 30: an early Millennial, soon to be middle-aged. It’s one of my favorite anime, and I thought I’d revisit it as part of my 12 Days essays.

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

For those of my reader born this Century, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a 2006 two-season TV anime plus movie, based on a series of ten light novels that started publishing in 2003. Haruhi is a high school girl only interested in the exotic — aliens, ESPers, time travelers and the like. She starts a club to search for these, roping in our POV character, Kyon (his nickname, which is the name of a miniature Japanese deer), as well as … an alien, a time traveler, and an ESPer. It turns out that Haruhi is some sort of goddess unknowing, whose merest whims can turn pigeons white, cause cherry trees to blossom in January, freeze time, and threaten to destroy and rebuild the universe; or call forth aliens, ESPers, and time travelers to play with. The first half of the first season is spent learning these things. The next season-and-a-half, plus movie, is spent with the members of the club frantically trying to head off her whims and keep her distracted.

The start of the second season was interesting, because KyoAni Studio tried something different: they reran the episode about the world being caught in an endless time loop eight times in a row — the infamous Endless Eight. They didn’t skimp on the work, however, because they animated eight different episodes around the same, or nearly the same, script. It was a bold artistic experiment, that didn’t work. Most fans hated it, and ragequit both the franchise and the studio forever. Or at least until Hibiki! Euphonium came out. The reason for the time loop, BTW, was that Haruhi was having so much fun with her friends that she didn’t want Summer to end. They could have called it Endless Summer, but I think that one was already taken. It took another three years before KyoAni was ready to reboot the franchise with the movie Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Time Loop 15,876

Time Loop 15,524

Time Loop 14,782

Time Loop 15,498

Now, about Suzumiya herself. Dangerous as it is to apply Western demographic labels to the Japanese, it looks like the Millenial label — in several of its different interpretations — might fit her quite well. According to Wikipedia, two conflicting descriptions of Millenials is that they are both civic-minded and narcissistic. I think this fits Haruhi exactly.

She is as self-centered as a gyroscope, interested in things that interest her, and totally oblivious to the rest. In the making of the student movie The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, when Asahina’s Mikuru Beam slices a lightboard in half, she gets irritated with the film club (who she stole it from) for buying such cheap stuff. Later, when the beam chops down a chain link fence, she just assumes it was badly maintained. On the civic-minded front, aside from a personal desire to meet time travelers and aliens, etc, her life goal (as we learn in the later LNs) is to become a philanthropist and make lots of money so she can give it away.

Her oblivious enthusiasm was fun at the beginning, but got old after a while, and the series was right to center on the activities of the other members of the SOS Brigade as they worked to keep her both happy and in the dark. What saves the anime from becoming boring are the soliloquies of Kyon, the self-deprecating POV character and the only normal person in the group. In fact, the whole series should have been called The Melancholy of Kyon Haruhi’s-Helper.  Kyon isn’t particularly attracted to Haruhi, he’s more interested in Mikuru’s chest, and Yuki’s intellect. He’s there probably because goddess Haruhi wants him there, and she isn’t sure herself why that is (or why she gets irritated whenever he spends time with one of the other girls).

Kyon under observation

Kyon under observation

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because there’s at least one more season’s worth of material in the light novels. On the other hand, it’s not all that unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because the material in the light novels isn’t that strong. It involves an anti-Haruhi storyline, where alternative versions of all our characters appear to contest the validity of Haruhi as mediator of the universe. The story arcs are interesting, but the ending is unsatisfactory.

The animation was done with KyoAni’s usual insane attention to detail. One blogger has pointed out that items, like the Tanabata bamboo, were included (unremarked) in the background of Season 1, because they’d be important in Season 2, if there was one.

Checkov's Bamboo

Checkov’s Bamboo

All in all, I consider The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to be a minor masterpiece, and I’m glad to have a chance to write about it again.

Twelve Days of Anime 4: TL:DR, Anime I never finished, 12 Days Edition

December 17, 2015

Most of my TL:DR’s are about anime that couldn’t pass the three episodes rule, ones that were bad enough that I didn’t want to watch a full season. What I’m writing about here are those anime that were enjoyable enough to watch the first season of, or the first cours, but not engaging enough to be worth watching the rest. Sometimes these are streaming anime, other times they are DVD’s that I bought but couldn’t be bothered to put in the second disc. All (well, most) are kirai jianai — I don’t dislike.

 

Twelve Kingdoms: A collection of stories. The first, and longest, is about a young girl who is kidnapped from the coast of Japan and ends up, not in North Korea, but in a different world. She has an extended series of tribulations, which she barely manages to survive (all the while crying the Japanese equivalent of Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There’s no place like home!). She is befriended by a large rat, who helps her be reunited with her kidnapper. Said kidnapper turns out to be a Kirin (Chinese dragon/giraffe hybrid that looks like a unicorn here), who has decided she should be the Immortal Queen of one of the Twelve Kingdoms.

It was a nice enough series, but it falls into what I call the costumed-period-fantasy category, and those have a hard time holding my interest. I stopped watching at the end of the first season/DVD.

Got to Episode 13 of 45

Got to Episode 13 of 45

 

Polar Bear Cafe: Slice of life about a slacker panda who hangs out with a love-struck penguin in a nice little Applebee’s-like cafe run by a polar bear. Gilligan does Friends. It’s very cute, and I enjoyed every episode, and I didn’t drop it so much as wandered off. It’s still in my Crunchyroll queue, but I haven’t touched it for months.

Episode 28 of 40

Episode 28 of 40

xxx-Holic: Spirit-bepestered student works for a witchy-woman. Slice of life/spirit of the week. No over-arching plot, so no reason to tune in next week, but unlike say, Non Non Biyori, most of the individual episodes are not strong enough to stand on their own. It does have its moments, like Episode 5’s description of Shiritori as a game you play to keep the monsters away. Like Polar Bear, it’s a wandered-away-from.

Episode 10 of 24

Episode 10 of 24

Sword Art On-Line: Trapped in a MMORPG. The art work was good, and the fights were interesting, but I had the same problem a lot of others did: the hero was too heroic. That is, the hero could never lose, except emotionally. I got surprisingly far into this one but didn’t bother to finish it.

Episode 16 of 24

Episode 16 of 24

Log Horizon: Trapped in a MMORPG. Better characters, better plot, more gaming-related lore. Still, it couldn’t overcome it’s costumed-period-fantasy core. I watched the first season, and bought the DVD, but didn’t bother with the second.

Episode 13 of 24

Episode 13 of 24

A Certain Scientific Railgun: Extra-special-talent girl at a school for special-talent students. Can accelerate metallic objects using her electric personality. Not exactly slice of life. Not exactly danger-of-the-week. Not exactly strong on plot. Did I mention that her little sister has a totally unhealthy obsession with? Kindof fun, but a little went a long ways, and I didn’t bother to follow up on the second half. I must say it’s a better series than A Certain Index — that one is awaiting a true TL:DR.

Episode 12 of 24

Episode 12 of 24

I bought the DVD, but that was more to show support for the industry than any desire to have a family treasure to mention in my will.

Twelve Days of Anime 2: Rewatching Maoyu Mao Yusha.

December 15, 2015

Maoyū Maō Yūsha (Demon King and Hero) is a single cours 2013 anime based on a light novel series. I first watched it when it streamed on Crunchyroll, bought a cheap Malaysian ripoff when it looked like it wouldn’t get a US release, and just now got the official version off of Amazon. That, of course, required a rewatch. Like many anime, it doesn’t fare quite as well the second time around, but “not quite as well” doesn’t mean “not good”.

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Wrong sword, Hero

Wrong sword, Hero

The story is simple: Demon Queen convinces human Hero to join her in a quest to end the interminable demon-human wars. They do so by bringing modern agriculture, education, and technology (all supplied by the Demon Queen, who is really a Scholar) to the humans, thus breaking down the economic reasons for continuing the war. Subplots include the Queen/Hero romance, the unrequited love of the Lady Knight, and the education and liberation of Big Sister Maid. Note that no-one has names, just job titles. Fortunately, the cast of characters is small, otherwise we’d be having to sort out who Head Maid of Another Minor Noble of Southern Mountain Country is.

The Queen is enamoured of the Hero, based, as far as I can tell, on magical images in her demon scrolls. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time away, troubleshooting, and is as nervous as a teen-ager when in her buxom presence. The Lady Knight (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) is an old companion of the Hero. When he left her on his mission to kill the Demon King she was so distraught that she entered a nunnery. The Big Sister Maid was a serf who fled her abusive master, was hired by Head Maid, trained and educated, and who (disguised as the Crimson Scholar, which is the disguise the Demon Queen uses in human lands) gives an impassioned Rights of Man speech after being arrested by the Church for heresy. Is everything clear now? Good.

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

Why I like it: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I like anime that makes you think. I like the characters.

What’s wrong with it: It’s punching far above its weight, trying to fit two or three seasons worth of ideas into a single season anime, and trying to do it with a half-season budget. The animation was so-so at the beginning, and went downhill from there.

The Triune Mage

The Triune Mage

One result was that there was little time to devote to secondary characters. Female Magician, for example, appears to be three separate personalities, who devoted years to storing up spells to help Hero in his hour of need, but we never learn how her personalities work or why she stored the spells. Likewise, none of the demons gets much more than a walk-on part. The South Arctic General (a giant walrus), for example, takes half an episode to die of excessive speed-lined stills. The Princess Fire Dragon gets a few cameo appearances, and that’s it.

Pretty Dragon Princess

Pretty Dragon Princess

Finally, the ending was rushed. How rushed? Think of a history of WWII that starts out with a detailed discussion of the reasons for the war, a good discussion of the invasion of France and the Battle of Britain, and ends with the line: Then the allies prepared to invade Normandy and occupy Berlin, after which, they would drop a couple of bombs on Japan. None of the major plot lines, either personal or geopolitical, was resolved.

Maoyū is often compared to Spice and Wolf, with S&W being microeconomics, and MMY macroeconomics. If they’d had three times the budget, and better writers, they might have pulled it off. Arms, the production company, had done good work before (Genshiken), but I guess they were saving their budget for their masterpiece pair, Samurai Girls/Samurai Bride, and looking forward to this year’s Valkyrie Drive.

————————————

*The Japanese title (まおゆう魔王勇者) is a little confusing. As far as I can tell from the online dictionaries:

まおう = demon king
魔王 = demon king
勇者 = brave person = hero

So it’s demon king demon king hero? Like duck, duck, goose? There’s a lot I don’t know about Japanese.

Anime worth watching, Summer 2015

October 21, 2015

The Summer crop of anime was particularly good. Of course, there are always the ones that just don’t hold my interest, or that never piqued it in the first place. Some I watched because they were on on nights that nothing was on. Programs like Monster MusumeActually, I am a Vampire, and Wagnaria all held my interest, but only enough to watch to the end. Not enough to rewatch, or recommend. What was good, by my standards?

Gate: A Connecticut Akihabara Yankee Otaku in King Arthur’s Emperor Augustus’ Court. Medieval fantasy world invades Japan through an interdimensional gate (NFI). JSDF strikes back. This could have been a modern-military-overruns-peasants snoozefest, but instead it concentrates on the adventures of an otaku recon team leader (it’s not an otaku recon team, he’s an otaku who leads a recon team, which isn’t otaku, except for maybe one, or something) as he deals with the elvenmaids, catgirls, and combat bunnygirls of the fantasy world. There’s an interesting fight between a flight of F-4’s and a dragon.

JSDF cultural exchange program

JSDF cultural exchange program

Non Non Biyori, Repeat: Does it again. In an interesting twist, this isn’t a “sequel”, nor is it a “prequel”, it’s a “parallelquel”. The original NNB took place across one school year — city girl comes to a one-room schoolhouse in the country, learns that things are different there. NNB-R takes place across the same school year, but covers different events. Think of it as the original covering the even-numbered days and NNB-R covering the odd-numbered days. In any event, it’s a simple, believable, charming slice of life program that’s even better than the original. The Japanese countryside is a major character all by itself.

Lost in the landscape

Lost in the landscape

School-Live: Stay’in alive. Not sure how long one is supposed to protect the key suspense element on a show like this. Suffice to say, it’s a combination of slice of life and horror, with a nice balance between the two and a well done ending. Come for the cute girls doing cute things at school. Stay for the cute girls doing what they need to do to stay alive. If you are new to the program, don’t read anything else on it. Go watch Episode 1 now. I’ll wait.

Looking for a lost dog

Looking for a lost dog

Overlord: Trapped in an RPG. Another take on a minor sub-genre. MMORPG is shutting down, and the nostalgic guild leader hangs around until the clock counts down to zero — and then starts counting up again. Unlike Log Horizon (where everyone is trapped and they spend a certain amount of time wondering how to get home), or Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (where it’s not really an RPG, it just acts like one, and adventurer is just a job description), the protagonist in Overlord is the only PC in a new world of newly-alive NPCs. Once he figures this out, he shrugs his bony shoulders and decides to keep playing.

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

Wakakozake: Another food short. Office Lady stops at various Japanese fast food places to try their combinations of food and drink. At three minutes, it covers just enough information to be interesting. Unlike, say, this season’s short, JK Meshi, which discusses food in the last 45seconds.

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

It is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, sounding like a real OL, and nothing like her usual sultry anime persona.

The Princess and the Pilot

October 9, 2015

In the Winter of 2014 there was an anime series titled The Pilot’s Love Song, which featured a romance between a commoner pilot and the daughter of a lordly house. That was embedded in a plot best described as “society puts all it’s useless aristocracy on the Golgafrincham B-Ark and sends them to find the other side of the sky.” There were some good flying scenes at the start, but they grew fewer as the ‘plot’ progressed. Many people compared it, unfavorably, to a 2011 anime movie The Princess and the Pilot. I just watched TP2, and I agree.

Surprisingly, TP2 is set in the same universe as TPLS. It’s a better show, overall, but it still demonstrates many of the flaws of the series.

There’s a war on between two countries, let’s call them A and L. Country L evidently doesn’t have enough good pilots, so they hire mercenaries, one of whom is an A/L half breed, called a bastid or some such. He, of course, is the best pilot in the sky, but is hated by all the L-sians. Nonetheless, he’s the one chosen to haul their princess from the island she’s on, surrounded by A-ish forces, to rendezvous with the L-sian flying fleet, or what’s left of it, so she can marry The Prince.

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The story deals with their three day flight in a seaplane/recon fighter that has to stop every evening to refuel with water. The Prince of L-sia is evidently just as bright as the rest of the aristos, and sends a telegram to her in a breakable code, giving her itinerary. Think Yamamoto shoot-down — for a while I wondered if it was deliberate. Naturally, the entire A-ish flying fleet is out after them. They almost get shot down several times, and do get damaged badly enough that they have to hide out on an island for an idyllic several days while they fix the plane, and install a new cockpit canopy (he carries a spare). She becomes enamoured of him (as castaways on desert islands are wont to do, and the whiskey might have helped), but he’s a true gentleman, and politely rebuffs her, maintaining his stoic acceptance of the status quo.

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

The airplanes are cool, mostly. The seaplane/recon fighter has fully retractable floats and an overdrive function that won’t quit. It also has stowage in the back for an 8-man raft, a full first aid kit, and seven suitcases, plus stowage in the front for various spare parts, like cockpit canopies. One wonders where the fuel goes. While we’re on design flaws, it’s a little disconcerting to see that their recon bird doesn’t have any forward firing weapons, but it does have a rear seat with a rear seat gunner, reminiscent of a Boulton Paul Defiant. The enemy fighters all look like the Sanka Mk.B from Sky Crawlers.

The flying scenes are great, but the actual flying is terrible. The A-ish fleet does an open ocean search by flying in close formation with wandering searchlights, like they were the Goodyear blimp at a football halftime, rather than spreading out in a line. Even Admiral Nelson could have run a better air war. All of the encounters take place in broken clouds, but The Pilot doesn’t think to just jump into a cloud and stay there — he’s always on top of the cloud, where it’s easy to see him. He also doesn’t even consider the possibility of flying at night.

Do you think they're looking for something?

Look sharp! The Sea Gals are about to take the field!!

The A-ish fleet has some sort of homing missile, probably a heat seeker, but they seem to be barely faster than the seaplane, and the L-sians haven’t invented flares. The A-ish fighters have radios, but don’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well — The Pilot gets down on the deck and they line up to take turns missing him. In the final combat, the A-ish fighter gets on his tail and drives up to within pistol shot, so The Princess sprays him with the tail gun. Her sustained burst, pointed right at his aiming reticle, manages to saw off the outer two feet of one wing. She’d have done better by pulling the pintle off the tailgun mount and letting the whole rig fly backwards into his cockpit.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The animation, by studio Madhouse, is not up to KyoAni standards, but neither is it 90’s cartoon level. Character art is OK. Flying art is good. From a performance standpoint, the characters themselves are mostly cardboard. The aristos are the worst caricature of prejudice. The bastid Pilot remains stoic in the face of prejudice. The Princess is the only one to grow. She starts out as a silent cipher, with three maids and seven suitcases of minimum wardrobe, and ends up as a tough flying partner, one who hacks off her hair when it gets in the way, and runs around in a halter and rolled up trousers, rebuilding airplanes on desert islands. On the way, she shoots down an enemy fighter. Hooray for her, but she’s the only one.

This old thing? It's my islandwear.

This old thing? It’s by Islandwear.

It runs 104 minutes on Crunchyroll, including a good ten minutes of credits. It’s worth watching, if you like flying films, and you can always fast forward through the character development.