Category Archives: Anime

Cartoons animated in Japan, and sometimes China. And Korea. And Thailand. But they do the character designs in Japan and stuff.

First Look: That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime

Lifesong:

Why is some robot voice granting special powers to a dying salary man? What kind of nasty stuff does he have on his PC? What exactly does it mean to be reborn in a fantasy world as a slime? That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime doesn’t attempt to answer the first two questions it throws at us; I fear it might cop out on the third.

Our protagonist isn’t an ordinary slime. If that’s what you wanted out of this anime, you had best give up now. Given the speed he is powering up I suspect he won’t be spending too much time as a blob- like object. Promo art and then the ED animation all but confirm a more humanoid form.

The pacing takes a slow approach to introducing us to our slime’s new home. The unique aspect of being reborn as a slime carries the episode and makes it into something funny. I’m glad the episode decided to focus in on the little details of what it means to be a slime. We don’t know why he is special exception to the general “slimes are mindless” rule, but the comedy makes it work. The implications of being a super powered slime are amusing to think about if nothing else.

How long it will be before Satoru has a reason to ingest a human and take on their form? Will he even keep the same name? Is he even still a he? I bet slimes are gender neutral and… Oh god, what is the appropriate gender pronoun for a slime?

To its credit and my surprise, none of the heroines show up in episode one. Instead, the first companion for our slime protagonist is Storm Dragon Veludora. I had a good laugh at his tsundere act. I’m not entirely convinced he won’t turn out to be a she and transform into a humanoid loli dragon form, but so far so good.

I expect this anime to have harem elements so it’s interesting the first episode didn’t feel a need to show any of it. We got a quick mention of wanting to “screw every girl I see” as he is dying, but that was it. It’s a safe enough bet the “predator” skill our slimy protagonist gets out of the whole dying deal will be the cause of harem antics. I liked the way episode one dodged around that for an episode and introduced us to dragon bro instead.

I’m not sure what I expect out of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but episode one sold me on watching more. I felt like the storytelling both knows what it’s doing and feels confident about it. Those are good signs. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out as the implications of becoming a slime god in another world unfold.

Karen:

Funny, I had just been reading complaints about how the isekai genre was played out and creatively bankrupt, and then I saw this show. I don’t know if it’s going to prove to be all that innovative (time will tell), but it did an excellent job of reminding me why isekai stories are fun in the first place. It’s light and playful, but also goes into considerable detail about the kind of issues you might face if you suddenly found yourself reincarnated in another world. Questions like, can a slime see without eyes? And if you were reincarnated as a monster, how would you know what you were?

Probably the most interesting idea here is the notion that your “powers” in the other world are determined by your last words/thoughts in the human world. Granted, it seems like a lot of people would say some variation of “ow,” so pain nullification should be a common skill. Still, it’s intriguing to wonder where this system comes from. Is some benevolent, God-like creature trying to correct the injustices of life by giving good people another shot at existence, but kind of screwing up the finer details? Considering the way all-powerful dragon Verudora acts, I think powerful characters on this show may all be slightly confused and incompetent, which I dig personally.

I’m also really curious to find out what the deal is with the girl who apparently died during WWII. Maybe her last words were “Damn, I really hate fascism,” and her powerset involves being super-libertarian? Does that count as political humor, and if so, should I flog myself?

Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this show was the fact that the OP gives away the fact that Satoru, our slime-protagonist, eventually gets some sort of human form. You would think that would be a secret to keep under wraps for at least an episode or two, right? Of course, this may only bother me because I’m intrigued by the idea of the main character being stuck as a bouncing slime for 24 episodes, because it seems like it would be a nightmare for the writers. So basically, I’m a sadist who wants to see the staff of this show suffer, but you should probably ignore that and just focus on the fact that this show looks like it’s going to be some good, clean, JRPG-inspired fun.

Well, relatively clean; I don’t think we really want to know what was on Satoru’s hard drive.

LB:

I’m going to sum up why you need to watch this series in two words: tsundere dragon.

What? You need more? Alright, here goes… while I’ve said out loud in public that I am feeling “over” the isekai genre, this one caught me off guard with how downright cute it is. While the initial set up of Satoru getting stabbed out on the street and being worried about people finding out what porn he has on his computer during his dying moments is a little bizarre, the subsequent time that we spend with him in his slime form was absolutely charming.

While I didn’t like the change from his original gruff male voice to something much more high pitched and perky, that’s a minor complaint, since it ended up growing on me within a matter of minutes.

The only really frustrating thing about this episode is that most of it is spent explaining Satoru’s new basic slime skills rather than setting up the story and world that we’ll be spending the next 24 episodes in. With that much time to kill though, there is no real rush and while some people might find the pace to be a bit too relaxed, I have full confidence in what I’m now certain will be an enjoyable ride. Pick this one up early and get ready for two cours of fun.

Otakusphere (not) Weekly: Episode 28

After a slew of technical difficulties, thanks to Youtube Livestreaming, the podcast is back! LB was busy having a life this week (don’t know what’s up with that), but that leaves Karen, Sal and Lifesong to go through the Fall 2018 Anichart and pick out what we’re watching. Topics covered include Space Fishing vs. Soul Fishing, feline urban planning, and how we’ve become absolute anime studio partisans after swearing we would never, ever do that.

This is a different format for us, but one that’s probably going to be more workable long-term than posting the edited shows we were doing before. If you absolutely loved the edited shows, where I made an effort to remove some of the dumb nonsense that comes out of my mouth and most gratuitous “UM” sounds, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Finishing Up Steins;Gate 0

I chickened out.

As of halfway through the series, I was seriously considering writing up each episode of this show, but it didn’t feel right. I was often confused about what was actually happening, and each episode felt like a quick punch to the face; when the ED started playing, I usually felt more like I wanted to take a nap then sit down and try to analyze what I just saw. I think shows like Doctor Who are like Baby’s First Time Travel Story, and Steins;Gate is like, Eighth-Grade Honors level or something, and I’m just not ready for it.

That said, even though I’m usually confused by what’s happening (and in what order), I really do like the show quite a lot and didn’t want to let the season end without at least trying to do some justice to it.

So, as I predicted, a lot of S:G 0 was about watching Okarin get his Houiin Kyouma personality back; or rather, his acknowledgment that Kyouma is a necessary force in his world. Watching him put on that persona again, after trying so hard to bury it for about 20 episodes, was incredibly satisfying, but I’m left wondering why.

There’s the basic explanation that Kyouma is just a fun character to watch, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. Earlier in the series, Okarin tries to respond to massive challenges by being humble and aware of the limits of his resources, and Kyouma is all about doing the opposite of that. Kyouma is about being bombastic in the face of nigh-impossible challenges, and then somehow faking it until he makes it.

I guess you could boil it down to the power of positive thinking. Okarin thinks “I’m not powerful,” so he always reacts defensively and doesn’t truly believe he can change anything. Kyouma thinks “I am virtually OMNIPOTENT!” so by definition, anything he hasn’t done is just something he hasn’t achieved yet; he just needs to work out the minor details. He goes into situations thinking “of course there’s a way to solve this,” then finds one because he expected to find it.

I don’t think it’s that simple though. Kyouma’s “origin,” as it were, came out of comforting Mayuri after her grandmother died; at the time, they both knew full well that Kyouma had no power to bring her grandmother back, or anyone else for that matter. At that time, the whole Kyouma persona was really just a distraction; just as the Amadeus app was only ever a distraction from the real Kurisu being gone. In the case of Amadeus, the cast only makes progress when they rip that band-aid off and delete Amadeus; but in Okarin’s case, trying to “delete” Houiin Kyouma was the wrong approach.

On the scale of anime special attacks, Mayuri’s “BitchSlap You Back to Correcting the Time Stream,” should probably be up there with something that Goku does.

Ultimately I think the best way to look at it might be a criticism of humility as an approach. I mean, I hate it when people talk about how great they are (I don’t understand why anyone thinks that’s an attractive look), but from another perspective, humility is running away from your power, from your responsibilities. Okarin’s whole angle for most of the show is “I was too arrogant before, I am but a humble student now and will not meddle in affairs beyond my stature,” thus he accomplishes nothing. It’s when he throws humility aside, says “Fuck it, I can time-leap through 30 years of history if I want to, and if I want to call myself an all-powerful mad scientist, who the hell is going to stop me?”, then he makes progress.

Okay, so the verdict is that humility is bad, and we should all see ourselves as GODS WALKING THE EARTH! Well no, obviously not. That would be insufferable. But there’s a point where humility becomes as delusional as a childish mad-scientist persona; pretending you have no power over something, because trying to wield the power you do have is just too scary and it’s easier to run in the opposite direction.

Changing the subject, I wasn’t completely happy with the show. I thought Kagari’s character represented a bit of a wasted opportunity. As far as I can tell her resemblance to Kurisu was just a red herring, and her significance to the plot had nothing to do with it. That kind of bugs me, because I think of Steins;Gate as being above that sort of thing– maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. When Kagari showed up, I thought that someone in the future was trying to turn the Amadeus AI into a real human, hence her resemblance to Kurisu, and we were going to end up in some sort of cool Ghost in the Shell-esque cyborg tale. Not only did that not happen, but the show went nowhere near there. Kind of a bummer, or my fault for trying to write the show in my head while I was watching it? Probably the latter.

So Kagari disappointed me, but she allowed Okarin to get this one fantastic Charlie’s Angels-esque moment, so I guess she’s okay *grumbles.* I appreciate her busty design, by the way; that made it obvious at a glance that she looked like Kurisu, but wasn’t her. They could have had different haircuts or something, but this was smoother.

I’m also not sure I’m sold on this particular post-apocalyptic world Steins;Gate keeps trying to show us. Considering that the remains of humanity seem to be barely surviving in the ruins of cities, where does Suzuha go to obtain her ninja-level soldier training, which she has in every timeline? How are Daru and co. getting food when the food supply is presumably controlled by these Evil Military Organizations with seemingly unlimited foot soldiers? How is the resistance’s position stable enough that they can get away with keeping a comatose patient in the same place for over ten years? They’ve never had to clean house and hide from the authorities?

All of that falls under the category of minor nitpicking though; after all, the whole point of that future is that it’s so horrible, we don’t actually want to know more about it. But the Bad Future plays a bigger role in this show than it did in its predecessor, so I guess I was hoping it would get a little more development.

All in all though, this was a hugely impressive effort, and my hat is off to studio White Fox (who apparently made some changes to the original VN plot, so they didn’t just take the line of least resistance with the script). I said before this show aired that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted another Steins;Gate story, and this show pretty well convinced me that I did about thirty seconds in.

Also, this is maybe a trivial thing in the grand scheme of things, but needs to be said: this show has the absolute best version of the “Play the original opening theme at a critical moment towards the end” trick that I have ever experienced. I actually got chills when Itou Kanako’s Hacking to the Gate started playing. That’s one of those anime moments I wish I could experience for the first time, over and over again, but I consider myself lucky that I got to have it once.

Steins:Gate 0 is stellar. There is no God. Hacking to the Gate is playing. All is right with the world.

My Hero Academia Episodes 59 & 60

Episode 59

The final round of the exam is well underway, as Gang Orca makes his move. This episode does a couple of different things, and the first one it does properly is examining the thought process of the actual exam committee. You’d think watching something like “a board room meeting for the testing committee” would be dull, and it’s literally just a bunch of suits sitting around talking about balls, but we do learn what the committee is aiming to build.

All Might, societal pillar and symbol is no more, and despite being made of fire, Endeavor cannot hold a candle to him. So rather than rely on one dominant hero like in the past, the committee hopes to create a small army of competent heroes who work together well and can make up for their lack of overwhelming strength through teamwork. Interesting, and practical.

We also see how the kids are graded, each starting with a total of 100 points and gradually decreasing with every error made.  All the while, students are trying to take the (mock) injured civilians away while simultaneously holding off Gang Orca, and he’s a pretty badass whale! The scary looking Orca-in-a-suit takes Yo Shindo out in one hit, so Todoroki and Inasa face off against him, while the others rush Yo Shindo to safety. Now Inasa and Todoroki seem like a great combination: two of the strongest offensive players against someone like Gang Orca, right?

As it turns out,  not so much.

Both are more than a little hot-headed, and can’t resist fighting one another in the face of a dangerous villain. Todoroki’s fire and ice attacks keep getting blown aside by Inasa’s winds (they effectively cancel each other out) so Orca’s henchmen are able to take them apart. As the two keep foolishly clashing with each other, Inasa reveals his prejudice: he thinks that Endeavor is a shitty guy who’s arrogant and angry, the opposite of a proper hero. When Inasa first saw his rival at the entrance exam, Todoroki reminded him strongly of Dear Old Dad, and it was pretty much hate at first sight. They’re infighting gets so ridiculous that finally, Deku yells at them to snap out of it.

Despite all their talent, the two are being held back by personal vendettas: Inasa’s festering grudge against Todoroki, and Todoriki’s issues with his own father, Endeavor. Fortunately, the two of them are smart enough to realize their error before they’re completely incapacitated, and manage to pull off a fantastic tag-team Fire/Wind attack to trap Orca. Amusingly, since Orca is basically a whale in a suit, he’s vulnerable to drying out, so being caught in a fiery vortex is a really bad situation for him; even more amusing, his solution to this problem is to just dump some water over his head. How much water is even in that bottle? Is it enough to keep an adult whale hydrated? The mind boggles.

All the while, the other students are finishing the evacuations, and some of the students (including Deku) head back to Gang Orca to serve as reinforcements for Inasa and Todoroki. We even get to see Tsuyu fight, and she has a nifty new camouflage technique! It’s a nice upgrade for our favorite frog girl. Unfortunately for fans of hot-blooded action, before Deku can really lay into Gang Orca, the exam ends in mid-battle. Everyone lines up, awaiting the results, praying that they passed. The results of the test will be revealed….

Episode 60

…Right now! Pretty much everyone from Class 1-A succeeded in passing with the notable exceptions of two heavy hitters: Todoroki, and Bakugo. Todoroki clearly failed because of the huge stunt he pulled while fighting Inasa, and Bakugo probably failed for yelling at all the people he was saving. It’s interesting seeing some of the oddballs make it through (particularly Mineta and Hagakure), but it is what it is; sometimes, the people who pass any test are not the most talented or the most worthy. However, Deku and Tsuyu passed, so do we really care?

Fortunately for our underperforming prodigies, anyone that failed in the second round (which includes Bakugo and Todoroki) will have the opportunity to take a special course and then re-take the exam in three months. So Bakugo, Todoroki and Inasa can still obtain their licenses and become proper provisional heroes, but their out-of-control egos roped them into doing a lot of extra work.

It’s a big moment to see Deku and his classmates gain their licenses; they really have come so far, and we’re not even up to three-digit episode numbers yet. [Editor’s Note: Take THAT, frickin’ Naruto!] Meanwhile, Inasa apologizes to Todoroki while still admitting that he  doesn’t like him. The boy’s honest to a fault, but hey, there’s something to be said for being able to speak your mind…hopefully speaking his mind doesn’t usually involve going up to random people and shouting at them that he hates them, otherwise he’s going to be pretty unpopular on campus.

We then get a huge reveal about Camie, who apparently isn’t Camie in the first place. Himoko Toga, who has the ability to transform into someone by digesting their blood, has been posing as Camie. The real Camie’s fate is left up in the air, but we do find out that Himoko has snagged some of Izuku’s blood as well; that can’t be good news for anyone. Her shapeshifting ability is really menacing, and creates a huge amount of possible ways for the villains to screw with our heroes.

All Might, despite no longer having a muscle form, decides to visit with an old “enemy” of his by having a chat with All For One in prison. The discussion establishes how scary and smart AFO really is, and the imminent threat of his successor. Even in solitary confinement, behind glass, with gun turrets trained on him, AFO still does a great job of picking All Might’s brain and pushing his buttons. Nothing like a bit of good ol’ psychological analysis to show that a defeated foe is still a force to be reckoned with. The fact that AFO plans to pass his legacy onto Shigaraki shows that while Deku is growing and evolving as a hero, Tomura will rise as a great villain soon as well. Will Deku be ready in time? Well, probably yes, otherwise there would be no show, but you know what I mean.

Probably the biggest revelation of this entire episode (outside the fact that Tenya Ida sleeps with a giant cartoony snot bubble) is the fact that Bakugo now knows that Deku’s quirk was given to him by All Might. When he confronts Deku about this and explains how he deduced this information, Bakguo shows that while he can be thick-headed and temperamental, he’s actually quite intelligent, and observant of his surroundings. It’s a great scene leading up to the two of them settling their conflicted feelings in the way they are contractually bound to do in shonen anime: beating the ever-loving snot out of each other to get their feelings out. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most original direction the world, but it feels earned, and we have a great battle to look forward to next episode.

 

Wrapping up the Summer 2018 Anime Season

I didn’t watch nearly as much summer anime as I planned to, so this post shouldn’t be 8 million words long (for once). The shows covered here are by no means the best or most significant of the season, they’re just the ones I happened to end up sticking with for the last three months. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to watch some of the more noteworthy shows that I missed (like Planet With and Revue Starlight) sometime between now and the heat death of the universe.

For the record, I did see some of Hanebado!Asobi Asobase, Chio’s School Road, and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, but didn’t end up getting very far with them. Also, Steins; Gate 0 just wrapped while I was in the middle of writing this post, but I’ll deal with that show separately.

Note: Crunchyroll’s new video player makes taking screenshots an absolute chore, and it’s having an impact here. With the current player, whenever you pause you get a giant “play” icon over the screen, making the screen unusable. So you need to try to get a shot while the episode is playing, without being able to remove the subs. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this, because trying to take multiple screenshots from different shows feels like stabbing myself in the face with a spoon, so for the time being, enjoy the one screen I successfully took from Phantom in the Twilight above. Maybe it’s time I started replacing screenshots with terrible MS Paint art anyway? It could be my new aesthetic.

Free! Dive to the Future

This was a really frustrating season. About two-thirds of it was taken up with an arc I didn’t really care for, and when we finally got to the good stuff towards the end, it wasn’t quite enough. I appreciate what KyoAni tried to do here by opening up the world of Free! so much; seeing the boys out in the world, attending different colleges (even on different continents), made it feel like the world of competitive swimming was much, much bigger and more colorful than the little town of Iwatobi. It was an ambitious effort.

However, as a result of making the scale so big, the cast became extremely large. And because it’s Free!, almost everyone is a blue or pastel-haired pretty boy with perfect abs, so it became hard to tell some of the characters apart. Maybe if I’d watched all the seasons back to back I’d know who all these different swimmers were, but to be honest, I started tuning out some of the supporting characters after a while: I didn’t remember where I was supposed to know them from, and nothing they did seemed important to the plot anyway.

Ikuya’s arc, however, proved to be a much bigger problem than the overstuffed cast. Ikuya is a character who has a bone to pick with Haru because he always felt like Haru abandoned him, a similar plot line to the first season of Free!, which dealt with similar feelings between Haru and Rin. This would be okay if not for the fact that a)Ikuya is a much less interesting character than Rin b)Ikuya does not have shark teeth like Rin and c)how many of these close childhood friends/swimming groupies does Haru have in his closet, anyway? It seems like everyone who so much as steps into the shallow end with Haru becomes obsessed with him for life.

When the show finally pushes Ikuya to the side and focuses on the characters we’ve known and cared about from the beginning– particularly Haru, but Makoto and Rei as well– it’s a much better use of everyone’s time. Haru has a fundamental problem where he enjoys swimming for it’s own sake, and doesn’t really want to be competitive, but he’s been so far above everyone (in terms of raw talent) for so long that he’s been able to get away with it. Now, at the college level, he’s encountering swimmers who can beat the pants off of him, and he has to decide if truly being competitive is something he wants for himself.

Unfortunately, since most of the season was taken up with Ikuya’s arc, we only get partial development on this; Haru seems to have decided that he is willing to play to win, but he’s not willing to sacrifice anything (or anyone) he cares about for the sake of winning either. Maybe this will be enough, but it seems to me like he’s just kicked the can down the road a little bit. Eventually, he’s going to have to accept the fact that winning will hurt people, and some of those people will likely be his closest friends. If Haru did win that last 100 meter freestyle heat at the very end (and thanks for ending in the middle of a race, show), how do you think Rin felt?

I guess it’s a pretty strong statement about how much I care about the original characters that I’m looking forward to Free! coming back in 2020, even though most of this season was yawn-worthy. I just hope the next season (or movie; it’s not clear what we’re getting in 2020 yet) focuses on the core characters and doesn’t try to chronicle the lives of 50 different lookalike pretty boys who like to swim.

Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits

This two-cour show was just quietly competent and pleasant all throughout, without ever stepping up a level and becoming something truly fantastic. There was a tease that we were going to get some kind of twist toward the end that would paint everything in a different light, but in the end, there wasn’t so much a twist as there was an admission that the thing you’d sort of guessed happened all along, did in fact happen. It’s a bit of a let down.

There are some interesting implications here. One of the things that was refreshing about this series is that even though Aoi is “engaged” to the Ogre Lord, it’s pretty clear he has no wish to force her into anything she’s not comfortable with, and the ball is in her court as far as their relationship progression is concerned. However, if the Ogre Lord had interactions with her during her youth, he begins to look less benevolent; maybe there was an element of wife-husbandry, or trying to magically raise Aoi to be his perfect bride from childhood. But honestly, the whole thing is so nebulous and vague it’s hard to say. All we know is that one time when little Aoi was starving because her mother abandoned her, the Ogre Lord (her future fiancé) and Ginji (her future best friend) appeared to her in spirit form and fed her. It’s not a lot to go on.

The more I think about it, the more I’m not sure how to feel about this series. It felt like it was always on the cusp of getting quite interesting and never really went there, but it was just such a happy, appetizing addition to my watch list for the past 25 weeks, clearly something went very right. It had the distinction of being a closet food show that included food porn without being overwhelmed by it, and took place in an interesting world that could certainly be explored further. I’d like to see more of this, but if we do get more, I hope we get more development on the main characters’ relationships and a little bit less focus on random spirit-of-the-week outings.

Phantom in the Twilight

This was a mess, but it was kind of fun in it’s own way. Pre-season, I thought this was going to be one of those episodic occult shows, where the cafe would serve as a hub where different supernatural creatures would come to hang out. Then, episodes would focus on these different beings at the expense of the show ever developing much of a plot. Well, I was totally wrong about that, because this show was very plot-driven; unfortunately, the plot just wasn’t interesting.

To best explain what was wrong with this show, rather than going through the plot in any great detail, I’d rather point out one detail of the world here. In Phantom, supernatural creatures (known as Umbra) are created by the human imagination. So the reason why there’s a vampire character named Vlad is because of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the reason why there are lycanthropes running around with wolf-ears is because people have always told stories about wolf-men, and so on. That’s interesting, right? Not original, to be sure, but a more interesting take not the supernatural than “supernatural stuff exists because, uh…I dunno, it just kind of does?”

And yet, this fact has virtually no effect on the story. Vlad could just be a random vampire, with no reference to Bram Stoker,  and everything would play out exactly the same. (Plus, I’ve read Dracula and Vlad is nothing whatsoever like the title character, which doesn’t help.)The power of human imagination to create monsters ended up being thoroughly irrelevant to the story. It was like the show put a bunch of different ideas together, some of them good, without ever really thinking about how they would interact with each other.

All that could perhaps be forgiven if the action was really cool, but it was generally talky and slow. Plus, main girl Baileu Ton is supposed to be a mage, yet she seems to do more physical stuff than the werewolves do, and I’m still not sure I understand anything about how her powers were supposed to work.

Look, it was a show that took place largely in a coffee shop and had a vampire named Vlad that loves serving tea, it had a sense of humor about itself, and so on; it wasn’t without redeeming value. It just didn’t really come together into something that I could get invested in.

Isekai Izakaya

At first, I wrote this show off as an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World, and it never did anything to disabuse me of that notion. That said, it grew on me a lot over the course of it’s run. The episodic plots were surprisingly compelling, especially towards the end, and it provided a nice hit of food porn in this sad lull between seasons of Food Wars! 

My favorite part was the live-action segments at the end, although they tended to remind me of the fact that Crunchyroll still hasn’t uploaded S3 of Wakakozake, my favorite live-action Japanese food porn show, and that is not okay. CR, what’s taking so long? You’re on thin ice with me: either upload more of my darling Wakako or I’ll do something drastic, like episodic blog posts on High Guardian Spice, and I’m pretty sure neither of us want that. Do the smart thing here.

Encouragement of Climb

Trying to write about Encouragement of Climb is a lot like trying to write about Hidamari Sketch; you want to write about why it’s so relaxing and charming, but then you just start thinking of butterflies wafting through the air on a gorgeous spring day, or drinking hot chocolate in front of an iced-up window on a cold night, and you get so relaxed that typing words just seems like way too much work.

To the show’s credit, they did add some drama without trying too hard and overselling it. The girls experience realistic growing pains in their friendships, but the show never gets depressing or melodramatic about it. Sometimes you want to slap the girls to get them to see sense, but to be fair, that is a very common reaction to real-life teenagers, and Encouragement should not be blamed for it.

This season was so encouraging, I almost called my Boy Scout leader Dad and asked if I could come along on a hike, so I could have that experience of drinking fresh-brewed coffee over the embers of a dying campfire in the crisp autumn air. Almost. One more season of this show and I’ll probably give up on this blog to go backpacking in Vermont for the rest of my life, so I’ll try to get in as much otaku stuff here as possible before the inevitable Encouragement of Climb Season 4.

 

My Hero Academia: Episodes 56-58

It’s been a hectic week or two, with big trips and settling back in, so expect a big ol’ My Hero Academia review catchup!

Episode 56

After seeing several members of 1-A  pass the exam last week, we see the continuation of everyone else’s battles. This episode is basically split three-ways. First up, the battle with the Human Meatball-Maker, as Bakugo and Kaminari continue their assault. What’s interesting about this particular battle is that you would assume that Bakugo would be the one to get the MVP title of this match, but that’s not the case; he quickly gets taken out and turned into a creepy meatball man.

We learn more about Seiji, AKA Meatball, in that he feels the need to take it upon himself to thin the herd of those he deems unworthy to be heroes. That said, he’s arrogant and in need of a little lightning in his face, and that’s where Kaminari comes in. Now better able to aim his electricity, thanks to some cool new gadgets, he can properly control his power. He also finds newfound respect for Bakugo’s ability to control his powers in order to protect his friends. Not inclined to let a little thing like being turned into meatballs stop them, his two friends deliver the final blow.

Elsewhere, we get to see Deku, Sero and Ochaco all come together to capture their prey. There’s a scene I love where one of the captured heroes tries to plead to Deku that he really, REALLY needs to pass this year and gain his license. Now, on another show (or perhaps earlier in Deku’s character arc), the hero would’ve hesitated, wondering whether or not he truly deserved to pass instead of the other guy. But Deku is resolute; he just tags the guy out stone cold, saying that he himself needs to pass, and it’s pretty great.

The last leg of the race features the 11 members of Class 1-A that have yet to pass. Laser Bellybutton Boy Aoyama has all but given up, with 2 of his 3 targets out, but Ida tries to reassure him. Bolstered, Aoyama pulls off a last ditch “suicide” attempt, drawing attention to himself so Ida can escape. Arguably, Aoyama could be considered someone with disability in a superhero society, since he can’t use his power without injuring himself unless he has support; a small, but touching glimpse into his life gives us reason to consider this under appreciated character. However, his sacrifice play has an untintended effect, as his laser serves as a beacon for all of 1-A to reunite, plan a counterattack, and pass the exam together. It’s a great moment all around, where we even get to see Toru’s actual quirk in action: Light Refraction. Now all of 1-A has passed, finally!

Episode 57

This one veers away from combat and focuses on a less flashy, but no less important element of heroism: rescue. The exam field is turned into a disaster zone, with innocent “civilians” (actually paid professionals) caught in the debris; naturally, the 100 students who passed the first part of the exam must save them. The idea that the Help Us Company, or H.U.C., works with the superhero industry to train heroes how to react to crises by providing people to rescue is a logical bit of world-building that fits very nicely. I’m interested to see what else H.U.C. gets up to in the future.

There’s a radical shift in tone as the kids go from fighting one another to working side-by-side, setting aside their differences for the greater good. Unlike the second-years, our 1-A kids are very inexperienced in this area, either unsure of what to do or making rash decisions that cost them. It’s interesting to see Inasa– a boy extremely gifted and in control of his abilities– struggle to perform rescues because he’s so impulsive. We also learn a little more about what his damage with Todoroki is, and it may just have something to do with Endeavor; the plot thickens.

Real quick, let’s touch on Ochaco. I feel like she gets a lot of criticism thrown her way for being lovestruck for Deku, but…it makes a difference that she herself is aware of this. She’s aware her feelings for Deku and jealousy towards Camie are interfering with her goals, and ultimately decides that she has to suppress those feelings, at least for the time being. It’s a much more admirable approach to the problem than many viewers are willing to give her credit for.

Not only must the kids work to save people, they now have to attempt a task considered hard even for pro heroes: fighting foes and saving civilians at the same time. Gang Orca, The Number 10 hero is on the attack, and posing as a villain. We’ll soon see the results of this….

Episode 58

…but not in this episode, because this one is a filler TV-special. For Japan’s Save the World With love Day, all the programs on the channel ran an episode relevant to the theme, so MHA gives us a side-story.  This episode is two things. One: a pseudo-advertisement/setup for the My Hero Academia: Two Heroes movie (which I’m going to see later this month). These were easily the weakest scenes, but they weren’t offensively bad, just kinda meh. Two: a test exercise featuring Deku, Ochaco, Bakugo, Ida, Tsuya and Todoroki featuring a hostage situation.

True to form, Ochaco is recon, Todoroki is talking with the kidnapper, and Bakugo rushes in and explodes stuff. Then the episode turns into, of all things….a murder mystery. The kidnapper (All Might in disguise, great design btw) is KILLED, and the three hostages are the suspected killers. We go straight Ace Attorney/Danganronpa as we interview the there hostage teachers, all played by Present Mic, Midnight and Cementoss, all of which are sporting amusing fake personas and casual wear.

It’s a lot of questioning as Deku goes full Sherlock Holmes to get to the bottom of things, before deducing that the Kidnapper and Midnight’s characters had a relationship, that she called the cops and he took his life before this secret was exposed. However, it turns out the villain was still alive and fled, meaning Deku was wrong, meaning…meaning it’s not clear what the point of any of this was, actually. This episode felt like a premise the show was mandated to do and tried to get it over with as soon as possible, and it’s just not that interesting. I’m looking forward to getting back to the fighting-while-rescuing action of the exam next week.

My Hero Academia: Episode 55

As I noted last week, it appears we’re spending time with several other members of Class 1-A to see how they’re faring during the exam. While technically “filler” to some, this is more like expanding upon content that wasn’t shown in the manga, and I for one enjoyed it.

First things first. Todoroki fights a bunch of ninjas. He fights them and comes out on top by using his surroundings and catching them off guard. After that, we get a glimpse at some brewing tension with him and the Wind Boy Inasa. Wind Boy  gives IcyHot a mighty dirty look, and proceeds to pay him no mind. Hmmm. Curious.

NINJA FIGHT!

After that we focus on a small group within the class, consisting of Tsuyu, Jiro, Shoji and Momo, as they begin a battle of wits with All Girls Hero Academy. The girls group is led by a a tea-drinking ojou-sama ringleader in the form of Ms. Sai. For an anime-original character, her design is really cute, and it’s kind of amazing watching her cool, composed personality turn into full-on sadism; meanwhile, her classmates are totally into it. Also, her quirk is literally making herself smarter by drinking different blends of tea, so that’s a fun ability. [Editor’s Note: Why does this not work with coffee? WHY??????]

This moment of strategic genius brought to you by Darjeeling Tea: when you really need to double your IQ to destroy your enemies, accept no substitutes.

As for her plan, effectively it’s a strategy of rendering her four opponents’ quirks unusable, or immobilizing them entirely. Jiro and Froppy are specifically targeted, while Sai plans for Momo to overexert her quirk while trying to salvage the situation. It’s pretty interesting to watch this play out: it gets tense for our group, and Momo has to adapt fast and come up with a plan that will get them out of this messy situation, while also ensuring they pass the exam.

Don’t freeze Froppy, that’s mean.

It’s a big scene especially for Momo, who last season feared her own  intuition facing off against Aizawa, and to see her come into her element both as a leader and a strategist (under a ton of pressure, no less) is great. She’s inspired by Deku’s iron will, of course. To see that level of personal inspiration shown among many of the students, but in a big way for Momo in particular, was fantastic. And when she does succeed in finally getting the best of the team from Girls Hero Academy, it’s a great, satisfying moment. She incapacitates all the opponents camping outside the door with a giant soundwave, opting to attack rather than defend. Seeing her fend off Sai once again with a clever trick, at the last minute, is just icing on the cake; all in all, great character development for her this week.

I care too much about you to let you become a meatball! I will take one for the team and become a delicious entree! **slurrp**

We then see Bakugo, Kirishima, and Kaminari cross roads with a guy from Shiketsu, who has a gross ability to turn people into meatballs. [Editor’s Note: WHAT. Just WHAT.] Kirishima sacrifices himself for Bakugo’s sake, showing how much he cares. All the while Deku, Ochaco and Sero are busy formulating a counterattack to try and pass this exam. I really love how– even setting the romantic element aside– Deku and Ochaco now demonstrate so much trust and respect in each other’s abilities. Meanwhile, we see Aizawa explain to Joke that he’s not even worried for his students, because he sees that every time Bakugo or Deku are involved, the entire class works to match their level, bringing out the best in all of them. He’s not scared, he’s excited to see it all play out, and that’s a nice beat that works really well on top of all the other character development we see this episode.

Next week: More fighting! More unconditional trust between Deku and Ochaco! More of that gross Meatball guy! Well, not so much looking forward to Meatball guy, but you get the idea.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Hour-Long First Episode to Premiere in Seven Countries

Sword Art Online: Alicization Key Visual

You all have no Earthly idea how excited I am for the third season of Sword Art Online. I have lived and died with these characters ever since the first season premiered and I am already all set for more action with this crew. Thanks to the news that hit today, I’m even more excited.

According to the announcement which was posted early this morning by Aniplex, the special one-hour long first episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization will be premiered in seven different countries: Japan, USA, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, and Korea.

Unfortunately, we have absolutely no idea when or where these premieres will be taking place (besides the one in Japan, announced for September 15) so you’ll just have to stay tuned to get more details!

If you can’t make it to one of these big premiere events, you can still check out the series when it actually airs starting in October 2018.

Via Getchu

Girly Air Force Anime Set to Premiere in Winter 2019

Girly Air Force Key Visual

We’re only four months away from seeing these girly pilots take off into the sky!

According to multiple sources out of Japan, the previously announced series Girly Air Force will be airing during the winter 2019 season. Starring Ryota Ohsaka as the hero Kei and Yuuka Morishima as humanity’s last hope Gripen, this series follows their path together.

The premise: Flying creatures called Zai have started attacking Earth. Mankind, in their infinite wisdom, creates aircraft called “Daughters” and an automated system to fight them called “Anima”.

I would love to say that I am all on board for this series already, but I won’t be until I see a finished product. I will admit though that the concept has me curious and I’m really dying to know more about the crew who are putting it together. We already know that Satelight is producing the animation but come on, throw us all a bone here.

[Editor’s Note: Isn’t this premise just Third Aerial Girls Squad from Shirobako? I’m so confused….]

New Key Visual and Cast Members Revealed for Voice of Fox Anime

Voice of Fox Key Visual

A brand new key visual and cast details were revealed yesterday for the upcoming series, Voice of Fox (Kitsune no Koe). Set to premiere in October 2018, the series is all about a high school kid who is listless and poor.

During the day, he’s a talented musician who ghostwrites and performs songs for a talentless pop idol who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. This high school kid, named Hu Li, also wears a fox mask to hide a large facial scar he received in a car accident. By night, however, this high school kid goes online and publishes his own music under the name Mr. Fox.

Nine cast members have been confirmed for the series thus far:

Chuyun: Arisa Kouri
Hongye: Yukiko Motoyoshi
Hu Li: Kengo Kawanishi
Ji Hetian: Satoshi Hino
Kong Que: Hisayoshi Suganuma
President Kim: Sho Hayami
Xueer: Rena Maeda
Yuxin: Shiki Aoki
Zhang Yao: Subaru Kimura

Meanwhile, in the crew, we have Koujin Ochi sitting in the director’s chair at studio Yumeta Company. Yoshimi Narita will be handling the series composition and Aki Tsunaki will be taking care of character designs.

The series is based on a manhua which ran for 24 chapters in One Week Comics between June 2015 and September 2016. This tells me that, provided this series gets enough episodes, we might actually get to see a complete story from beginning to end! Hallejuah!

Via Anime Herald