Tag Archives: Magical Girl

First Look: The Girl In Twilight

Karen:

This show has some unique little touches that make me want to like it, but it’s missing a hook. I’ve seen one episode, the second one has actually been up on HiDive for a few days now, and I’ve felt zero urge to watch it. I probably will at some point, but more out of a questionable sense of trying to be fair to the show than out of genuine curiosity.

And that’s a shame, because there should be a draw here. People using old-fashioned radios to travel to snowy in-between dimensions where they meet battle-hardened doppelgängers of themselves should be interesting, but somehow it just misses the mark here. The alternate dimension the girls stumble their way into just isn’t that interesting; it’s just a snowy plain with some monsters. The magical girl/resistance fighter version of the lead character should be intriguing, but so far she’s just a boring character, dour and serious to a fault. I want to say that the battle scene in this episode was good, but I’m not even sure; it was reasonably well animated, but felt generic somehow.

I think the main problem is that the characters just don’t pull you in. There’s definitely attempts to give them personalities; I appreciate the fact that there’s one girl who acts like she’s completely above all this silly occult stuff, but never fails to participate. Asuka’s obsession with chikuwa (a kind of processed fish paste) could be cute, but they overdo it to the point where it’s annoying. Somehow, even with the obvious effort made to keep the girls’ personalities distinct, it doesn’t quite take.

The one thing I do really like is the radio angle; amateur radio is this whole world unto itself that very few people know about these days, and I think it’s a really good subject to use as fodder for a sci-fi story. My dad uses a ham radio, and sometimes he’ll pick up nothing, and sometimes he’ll end up in a long conversation (in Morse code, of course), with someone from Lithuania or something. Like, ham radio is already kind of creepy and mysterious to me in real life, imagine what someone could do with it if they were actually trying to make it interesting.

There’s really nothing egregiously wrong with this show, but there’s nothing great about it either, and there’s way too much competing for my attention to keep up with something mediocre. If the second episode brings some much-needed excitement to this, I’ll keep up with it. If not, it’s out of chances to win me over.

Lifesong:

Asuka wants to go to another world and after some antics she and her friends actually pull it off. Weird scifi elements all relating back to sound waves and timelines get thrown around. It all felt careless at first, but I suspect it will come back into play later on as the story progresses.

So far Asuka doesn’t have a particularly good reason for wanting to go to another world. She and her friends seem to be trying it out more because they are board and want to try out something new. Maybe it’s an excuse to do something as friends. Each of them seem to have their own expectations of it.

When this group of friends ultimately end up in another world things get weirder. Asuka meets another version of herself fighting some sort of digital monster. I found it strange that an old analog tape recorder is what transfers the girls into this other world. The enemies explode into digital pieces Sword Art Online style when they die. There were other hints of digital things that caught my eye. The contrast of analog and digital makes for an interesting if not exactly compelling visual gimmick.

The Girl in Twilight took a very low key, subdued approach to storytelling for this first episode. Even with an action scene to pump some adrenaline into the mid point of the episode it felt low on energy. It knew what it was doing well enough to introduce elements that are interesting. It managed to make Asuka an immediately likable character with minimal effort. I like the approach, but I’m worried the story will become boring. We need something more exciting to take this story from mildly interesting up to compelling. Episode one fell short of that mark.

I had expected the story would be written by Kotaro Uchikoshi, but that isn’t the case. As it turns out the original concept is his, but Shogo Yasukawa handles writing the script. Perhaps that helps explain the difference in tone from other works by Kotaro Uchikoshi. Or maybe they wanted to do something different and I’m not completely on board for it.

The sense of mystery and the odd group of friends who don’t seem to take life seriously have my attention. I liked the odd visual gimmicks and potential mystery. It just wasn’t compelling. This anime will need to throw a more compelling hook at me within the next few episodes if it wants to keep me around.

First Look: Between the Sky and Sea

Karen:

So, let me see if I understand the premise here. There are no fish in the oceans left on Earth, so the Japanese made giant water balls full of fish in space so they can still have fish for sushi. In addition to having the technology to somehow create these giant space aquariums, they’re also capable of going back and forth from space via rocket whenever they want. So far, it seems like we’re dealing with a pretty high level of technological achievement here, right? Go, future Japan!

However, in this glistening hi-tech world, somehow, all of the lore of fishing– including simple concepts like “bait” and “nets”– has apparently been lost. For some reason, the only way to procure a fish to make into a delicious Crunchy Tuna Roll is to beat it up; and not just beat it up, but beat it up in a mech. And not just beat it up in a mech, but beat it up in a mech powered by a deity you summoned from your smart phone.

Unfortunately, deity-enhanced-vehicular-fish-homicide is a man’s world, meant for manly men who don’t think twice about punching a Beluga whale in the face with a magical truncheon. Now a bunch of young girls, featuring lots of pluck and significant cleavage, want to prove that they can fuck up space fish just as well as any man, thank you very much. Except how can they prove their mettle in pitched tuna-to-mech combat when the completely untrained Haru hasn’t even installed the God app on her cell phone, and giant, bellicose crustaceans are on hand to crush the women’s empowerment movement ONCE AGAIN?

Jesus Christ, this show is ludicrous. From the beginning, I thought this might be a semi-serious sci-fi series, albeit a very optimistic one. Then we got to summoning Gods with your phone and I had no idea what this show even was anymore.

It’s pretty clear that we’re supposed to be feeling righteous indignation over the way the male fisherman treat the female cadets, but the old-fashioned sexism just seems so out of place in this setting. You mean, in a world where they have space travel, enabled by female mathematicians, and they still don’t realize that women can perform traditionally male jobs? Or does this anime take place in an alternate universe where women have done nothing but cook and have babies for the entirety of human history, but they somehow have The Jetsons-level technology anyway? If that’s the premise, in some ways that’s even more bizarre than the whole space fishing thing.

I can’t deny that this episode was entertaining, but mostly because I couldn’t believe the logic of what was supposed to be happening. The main character’s cluelessness annoyed me; I understand how that kind of character can be charming if handled properly, but her excessive ditziness just made me think that she really isn’t cut out for space fishing. The other characters didn’t make much of an impression, except for the female teacher, who just seemed overexcitable and unprofessional. Based on the way the female characters act, it’s almost like the men are right to assume that they can’t do an actual job.

Is it wrong if I watch this show rooting for the girls to fail, and hoping that the sexist oaf fishermen dudes end up being right about everything? Okay, I know that’s not how this works and the girls are going to end up being the very best space fishermen ever by the end of it, but wouldn’t it be kind of hilarious if it didn’t work out that way? Like, in episode 12, Haru was just like “Wow, space fishing is really hard if you’re a girl! My feminine little hands can’t even grasp the controls! I think I’ll just go back home and marry my cousin, that sounds easier.”

So yeah, I’m watching this show in the hopes that everyone fails miserably in their goals. This is usually called hate-watching, but you can’t hate a show where people fight space fish using magical spears; you just can’t. There is nothing hateful or hatable about this show, it’s just really bizarre that it exists and the fact that it’s based on a cell phone game doesn’t seem like a good enough reason for said existence. I will admit that the underwater environments are rather pretty, and that’s going to be my excuse for the 3-4 hours of my life that I will now waste on this series.

LB:

One thing I love about anime is that every time you think Japan has run out of ideas and is in a slump, something comes along to completely shatter that perception. In this series about grrl power, a group of young girls aim to go into space so that they can become space fisherwomen despite the odds stacked against them.

Right away, this series sets up the story and the challenges/sexism that these girls are going to face throughout the entire run of the series and it works. Within fifteen minutes I was cheering for these girls to show the boys what-for and give them a good space fishing whupping. Sadly, that doesn’t happen in this episode but I am absolutely dead set on watching these girls do their best to make the boys eat their words.

If the first episode is any indication, this is going to be a very fun series to watch this season and I can’t wait to see more!

Lifesong:

Fighting for equality against the patriarchy has never before been so filled with mobile game gimmicks. Taking on the force that kidnapped all the fish on earth and brought them to space is a rough job for a bunch of young women, but someone has to do it. It wouldn’t be fair to let the men have all the space mech fish fighting with mobile app fun to themselves. Fair warning, trying to follow this story requires a generous amount of suspending brain activity. Part of my mind is still in denial that this anime exists. Maybe it’s all just a hallucination? Nope! It’s still listed on Crunchyroll… And the episode still plays! Here we go…

Between the Sky and Sea felt like it was trying to capitalize on a popular political concept. Rather than attempt to make any kind of serious political statement, this anime exists to draw attention to a mobile game. The characters play the mobile game in space to power up their mechs and fight fish. The women are bad at it and that seems to be the story hook? I’m not sure. The sense of denial I’m dealing with here won’t be gone while writing this first episode is still relevant.

Oddest of all the bizarre elements at play is their teacher. She freaks out when one of her students uses a masculine pronoun to refer to herself. I get that she is sensitive because women have only recently earned the right to play mobile games in space, but… She needs to calm down. Patriarchal mobile games don’t justify freaking out at someone for referring to themselves with a masculine pronoun. More seriously, is that actually a problem in Japan or just a fantasy element added to this anime? I feel like heroines who use boku are common enough. I had to watch the scene a few times to make sure I understood why she was so panicked. I don’t know.

Despite all the ridiculous world building I did find Haru’s personality charming. She just wants to fish in space and seems to ignore all the nonsense going on around her. Can the politics go away and leave pure Haru alone to her mobile game fish-fighting in peace? I’m ignoring my suspicion that she isn’t smart enough to care and hoping the story isn’t planning to go there. It will, won’t it?

Maybe the message of this story will end up being politics suck, go fishing in space and play your mobile games. Don’t mind what others say even if people hate you and your stupid, worthless mobile game deity; Have fun and own it. If that’s the point this anime was trying to get at, then more power to it. I’m almost certainly giving it too much credit in an attempt to explain nonsense. I’m going to move on to something else before I spend more time looking to make sense of this anime, before my own sense of reality is harmed.

Winter 2018 Anime Impressions, Part II

This season, I find myself gravitating towards slice-of-life shows and comedies more than anything else. I know there are action shows this season that are getting people excited, but I just don’t feel the urge to watch that kind of thing right now. Maybe it’s because there’s some challenging stuff going on in my life that makes me long for the anime equivalent of comfort food, or maybe I’m just not in the mood for giant robots doing fisticuffs.

Perhaps I’ll check in with some of the flashier, high-profile shows sometime midseason, but for now, here’s the rest of the warm-and-fuzzy stuff I’ve been cozying up to.

Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card Arc– It’s impressive how good the art and animation was in the original series back in the late ’90s, because this show simultaneously looks state-of-the-art and just like the CCS you remember. Yes, there’s a bit more detail and the CGI effects for the magic are more sophisticated, but it just feels like proper CCS on some level I can’t explain– as opposed to say, Sailor Moon Crystal, which always seemed a bit off to me.

I read a little bit of the manga for this arc while it was running in Nakayoshi, and it kind of seemed like same-old, same old. Oh noes, the cards have changed again and Sakura has to hunt them all down, how can this beeeeeee? Still, it’s interesting to see the cards becoming more aggressive, like Windy becoming “Gale.” If there’s some larger theme about the stakes escalating as you get older, I’ll be impressed.

Really, the only thing I don’t like is the fact that they’ve added about a foot to Sakura’s height. I know this was to be expected, but dammit, it’s Sakura! I never wanted her to grow up to be a CLAMP Noodle Person! I feel like Sakura’s original design was like the Golden Mean or something, it was the essence of perfection the way it was and messing with it is just stupid.

“But she’s in middle school now!” you say? Yeah I don’t care, too busy making Short Sakura-chan FOREVER banners to plaster all over my neighborhood.

School Babysitters– Moe shows (or shows with cute-appeal for the uninitiated) harness our natural desire to love and protect children to get the viewers to have feelings for the characters; usually moe characters aren’t young children, but they have sufficiently childlike proportions that our protective instinct is invoked. What’s special about a show like School Babysitters is that since it’s actually about really young kids, you’re kind of cutting out the middle man: straight-up cuteness without having to do the mental gymnastics to convince yourself that everyone is really in high school or whatever.

This kind of show defies analysis, at least at this point; it’s just a piece of feel-good mind candy that makes the world a slightly better place whenever you watch it. The only thing that mars the perfection is the fact that one character hits his kid brother– and I don’t mean a spanking (where at least you are bonking the kid on their natural shock-absorber), but he hits the kid in the head. Kind of disturbing, but considering the fact that the hitting clearly creates more behavior problems than it solves, it doesn’t seem like the show is condoning this behavior; more just acknowledging that it happens.

One nitpick is that several of the kids in the daycare program look like one-year-olds and speak more like three-year-olds, but that’s the kind of thing only viewers with kids will probably notice or care about. I’m still a little bitter about Hanamaru Kindergarten from years ago, so maybe this will be the show about adorable little rugrats that pulls out all the stops.

Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san– Kind of weird that there’s no official English title for this one. This has a really simple premise: a clever girl teases the boy sitting next to her. Unbeknownst to him (but totes benownst to us) Takagi actually really likes the object of her torment, Nishikata. Nevertheless, liking him doesn’t stop her from messing with his head in every conceivable way.

This show reminds me of Tonari no Seki-kun, with it’s emphasis on two kids goofing off in the back of the classroom. However, whereas the genius of Seki-kun was that it was ambiguous how much Seki-kun was actually trying to distract Rumi, and how much he was just amusing himself, the deliberate nature of Takagi’s teasing can get kind of annoying. Considering the amount of mental anguish Nishikata goes through trying to anticipate how she’ll torture him next, sometimes she just seems like a cold bully instead of a charming scamp.

Still, considering how ingenious Takagi’s schemes are, it’s probably for the best; if she weren’t so busy teasing her crush, she’d probably be hatching supervillain-level plots to take over the world. Way to take one for the team, Nishikata.

Anyway, this one is in the “maybe I’ll keep up with it if I’m in the mood” pile. Whether or not I watch it probably depends on how nostalgic for Tonari no Seki-kun I’m feeling on any particular day.

Sanrio Boys– Considering that I was expecting this show to feel like a commercial for Sanrio products, it’s doing a pretty good job telling an actual story, albeit a simple one. I mean yeah, it is a commercial for Sanrio merch, but the main character spends the first two episodes going through an actual emotional arc and everything. Add the fact that it’s exploring the feelings of teen boys who enjoy things that are considered non-masculine, and how they reconcile that with their still-emerging gender identity, and there’s some genuinely interesting stuff here. All shows that are meant to pimp tiny little erasers and keychains should only be half this interesting.

All that said, I have personal baggage here that makes it difficult to fully enjoy Sanrio Boys. As far as I’m concerned, Badtz-Maru, the grumpy penguin, is the best Sanrio character by a country mile, and all of the other ones are just taking up space that should rightfully belong to my Badtz. As I write this, there is a Badtz-Maru plushie staring at me from the exalted shelf meant for Special Toys that Little Hands Are Not To Touch.

GREATEST. BOY
BEST. BOY.

So when the guys on this show go on about their love for Pompompurin, or Hello Kitty, it’s like, hello, aren’t you forgetting someone?!? They’ve shown Badtz-Maru briefly (in a scene using live-action footage from a Sanrio store), but he’s clearly not a favorite for any of the boys on the show, thus will likely play a diminished role, if any; we’ll be lucky to see him show up in group shots with all the Sanrio characters. He’ll probably be standing behind Keroppi and we’ll only see like, one of his hair spikes sticking out or something.

So, uh, on the one hand, this show is a pleasant surprise; on the other hand, they are not focusing on my favorite Sanrio character and thus should be punished severely. I haven’t yet figured out how this punishment will be meted out, but trust me, it will occur.

…crap, I’m going to end up buying Sanrio merchandise again thanks to this show, won’t I? Goddammit.

 

The Frustration of Urahara

I don’t know if calling Urahara a disappointment is really fair. I could pretty much tell everything I didn’t like about it from the very beginning, and though I kept watching in the hopes that the show would get better, I never honestly believed it was going to. So I never really held it in high enough esteem for it to disappoint me. Still, watching it was a frustrating experience, because it could have been so much more.

Considering how little discussion there was online about the show as it was airing (at least in among the English-speaking anime fandom), you would think it was just a bland, boring show that didn’t have much to offer. However, there were some pretty cool ideas in Urahara; the premise of these super cute, super-competent girls protecting their Tokyo neighborhood from creepy supernatural threats, all while learning important lessons about the power of friendship, sounded like some kind of strange union of Card Captor Sakura and Durarara!!, and what’s not to like about that? That sounds like it has the potential to be one of those high-value combinations, like peanut butter and chocolate. Plus, some of the plot twists late in the show were, if not necessarily shocking, quite ballsy for their willingness to mess around with the show’s world.

In addition, this show was singled out as one to watch because of it’s largely female creative staff; it was the show that was supposed to impress on us the “importance” of women working in anime, at least according to the now-defunct Teen Vogue. And this is where things start to get a little weird and uncomfortable, because it was the whole feminine approach to things that seems to have really sunk the show.

Now, how do I explain this without sounding like an awful, self-hating woman? I mean, it’s not like having a feminine perspective, or a feminine style, is bad in any way; that should go without saying. It’s just that in Urahara‘s case, they took that whole angle so far, it started to feel like an outright parody of a feminine anime. Like, if you got a bunch of really obnoxious misogynists together, got them all hopped up on beer, and asked them “So, what would happen if we let a bunch of chicks make an anime?”, they would very quickly start describing something that sounds a lot like Urahara.

“LOL okay so like, girls can’t do math and they hate using rulers and T-squares and shit, so the backgrounds in the anime would be all scribbling and wonky, with bad perspective. And they’re lazy too, so they wouldn’t bother to draw any PEOPLE in those backgrounds., so the world would feel all dead and empty. And the character design would suck, because chicks wouldn’t be willing to make the girl chars look sexy, but they wouldn’t know any other way to make the designs pop, so every design would just be like, whatever, like why did you even bother?

“And chicks are obsessed with sweets, like cakes and stuff, so the villains would probably turn into cupcakes or some shit at the end of every episode. Oh, and like half the chicks making the anime would probably be pregnant too, so instead of having normal flavors like ‘vanilla’ and ‘chocolate’ they’d always be going on about ‘coriander sweet potato’ or ‘spicy peppermint horseradish’ or some other weird thing. Oh, and chicks can’t make decisions for shit, so instead of having a dedicated color palette, they would just use EVERY. SINGLE. COLOR. all the time, until your eyes wanted to explode–”

Ahem. Now, it should also go without saying that Urahara is not actually indicative of women’s contributions to anime; plenty of talented women professionals have been working in the field for years, blah blah blah obviouscakes. But I guess it’s kind of like a monkeys-on-typewriters situation; if you have enough anime coming out each year, and a certain percentage of them are poor quality, you will eventually get an anime that is poor quality in exactly the way a basement full of inebriated misogynists might predict, right? I guess it was bound to happen at least once.*

Moving aside from the weird gender angle, there were other problems. Considering the fact that the character relationships were about as deep as a puddle, the show was clearly going for style over substance, and there’s nothing wrong with that– certainly not in animation, where the style can become the substance if done right. However, for the style-over-substance approach to work, the show would actually need to have good style, which is where the show repeatedly failed. The pastel colors were nice, but most of the character designs just weren’t very good; the outfits looked goofy instead of fashionable, which is inexcusable in a show that was supposed to be at least partially about fashion.

Somewhere out there, I know there are people who think that these designs are good and go well together. I wish I could see what these people are seeing.

This is of course highly subjective, but to me, the only really good character design on the show was Misa; everyone else, particularly the girls in their magical-girl attire, ranged from dull to embarrassing. Plus, as mentioned above, the fact that there didn’t seem to be any guidelines in regard to color (beyond “Anything Pastel is Automatically Fine”) often led to a cacophonous viewing experience.

The emptiness of the show’s backgrounds not only made the show’s world feel hollow, but actually undermined one of the story’s greatest moments. Late in the game, the Urahara girls find out that everyone they’ve been interacting with in Harajuku since episode one has been a product of their imaginations; they’ve been alone in the city this whole time. This should have been a pretty stunning revelation, but it was hard to feel anything about it at all, since it had always felt like the girls were completely alone in the city. Other characters were shown, but so few and far between that it felt like the population of Harajuku was about 6 people, so the revelation that the city was actually empty fell completely flat.

And that’s what made the show so frustrating; every good idea seemed to be canceled out by a bad one. Another plot twist, the fact that the sweets the girls had been eating were slowly turning them into the evil Scooper aliens, is pretty nifty if you think about it. Think about the Scoopers’ plan here: They planned to let the girls defeat their soldiers, knowing that the girls wouldn’t be able to resist eating the corpses of their enemies, at which point they would be reprogrammed into Scoopers themselves, giving the Scoopers unlimited access to the girl’s creativity. That’s a pretty creepy, evil plan, and it served as a nice “gotcha!” for everyone who wrote off the enemies-turning-into-sweets thing as a harmless joke.

But by the time we’d gotten to that point of the story, the characters still had yet to come alive beyond very basic character outlines, so the fact that the evil corpse-eating plan was succeeding didn’t even seem to matter. What would have happened if the girls really had turned into Scoopers, anyway? Presumably, they would have flown off with Misa and her peons, to go inhabit another pastel world that would be strangely devoid of life. There’s no feeling of urgency, even when the story is giving us reasons why there arguably should be.

All this aside, I did like the show’s message about creativity. The general “Being creative is fun and good!” vibe is hardly original, but the way this works in regard to the Scoopers is interesting. It becomes clear over the course of the show that the Scoopers (whose primary activity is stealing culture from other planets because they can’t make their own) actually do have the capacity to be creative, they just don’t realize it. I wonder, how many people have that problem in real life? How many people go around thinking “I wish I could make something cool, but I’m not a creative type of person,” and never realize that there’s nothing stopping them from taking out a pencil and paper and changing that?

The idea that creativity is as much about choice as it is an innate quality is a more unusual message, and to its credit, the show even acknowledges the important role that copying other art plays in the process of learning to create your own stuff (and does so a lot more explicitly than it deals with any other theme, curiously). But in the end, it’s still a show populated by boring characters that we don’t care about; I should be psyched wondering what kind of creative stuff Misa and her clan will come up with when they go off to explore the universe with new vigor, but I just don’t care. It feels like Misa will provide the solar system with some shiny beaded necklaces, or maybe a knitted tea cozy, and that’s nice for her and all, but it’s nothing to get excited about.

That’s the tiny tragedy of Urahara; A show about creative artists fighting aliens, who worship creativity but are unable to recognize it in themselves, filled with over-the-top action and whimsy, should have been a delight to watch, and it just wasn’t. Every season there are anime that fall short of their potential, but I feel like it’s rare to see one that had so much going for it on paper fail on so many different levels. The sad thing isn’t even that Urahara could have been good; the sad thing is that if it had been good, it would have been something really unusual and charming. It’s still unusual, and not entirely devoid of its own peculiar charm, but only a shadow of what it could have been.

*I almost wrote about this show on Anime Misogynist, but that would have required some Galaxy Brain-level, crossing-the-line-three-times shit. I couldn’t figure out how to criticize Urahara, with complaints that sounded like they came from an actual misogynist, on a site that was all about the inherent ridiculousness of using misogyny as a critical perspective. If I’d managed to pull that off, I might have ascended to a higher plane of existence and be writing to you from Ironic Blogger Heaven right now, but I am just not that awesome, and so here we are.

 

 

Fall 2017 Anime Impressions

Since I’ve been watching more anime than usual lately, I figured I may as well take advantage of it and talk about the new shows like a proper Aniblogger. Here are my takes on some of this season’s offerings; keep in mind I only watch shows that are available on legal streaming services. This is less of an anti-piracy stance, and more of a “I am too goddamned old to be dealing with malware on my computer from dling torrents,” stance, but let’s all pretend it’s because of my unimpeachable moral compass.

Urahara– This show puts me in a bind; I really like what I think it’s trying to do, but it’s just not working. The washed-out color palette, the intentionally wonky hand-drawn backgrounds, the surrealist feel, the enemies that turn into candy when defeated? I love all of that. But somehow the designs and the art style just don’t seem to work together, and the story has all the urgency of watching paint dry. It’s just so nonsensical that it’s impossible to care about anything that’s happening; it also doesn’t help that the magical girl designs are the absolute worst part of the show.

Right now it feels like a half-baked version of Flip Flappers, a show that often felt surreal but managed to maintain a sense that what the characters were doing actually mattered on some level. I’m probably going to stick with it, just because I like some of the things the show is experimenting with, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for bailing out; it’s pretty much an incomprehensible, silly mess right now.

Anime-Gataris– There was something off about the art in the first episode that made me wonder if this was the studio’s first anime, but it turns out Wao World, the studio responsible for Gataris’ animation production, is prolific. The production company, DMM Pictures, is new, but I’m not sure how much that actually matters. The director, Kenshirou Mori, has relatively few credits, but one of them is the first episode of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. So, not exactly a newbie.

Normally I stay away from this kind of inside-baseball approach to anime, because I don’t know much about what goes on in production, but something about this show really made me want to try to figure out what the hell was going on. It looked like the show was made by people who had watched anime and taken a lot of notes, but had never actually made it before; there was something just slightly off-kilter about the colors, the shading, the backgrounds, etc. Even the piece of stock animation that Arisu uses to summon her butler looks like it was made in 1998. By the second episode, things had smoothed out a bit, but I’m still wondering if the weird look the show started with was a real phenomenon, or if I’m just hallucinating.

In terms of the story, there isn’t much to discuss. It’s a show about people talking about anime, so it runs on in-jokes and nods to otaku culture. The main thing it has going for it is that it’s making nods to very recent shows, so it’s more topical than these in-jokey shows tend to be. I’m going to keep watching it, but it doesn’t have a lot to offer unless you’ve been actively following anime for the last year or so.

The Ancient Magus Bride– I have to admit, I was distracted during this show because I couldn’t help wondering what Anime Feminist was going to think of it. A young girl sells herself into slavery, to a huge monster dude who calls her pet names and treats her like a dog? Including forcibly bathing her? How could the show itself possibly compete with the entertainment value of feminists having a complete meltdown over it?

Turns out, the person who reviewed it for AniFem has read the manga, so was able to reassure feminists that the sundry “red flags” in this episode are not truly indicative of the story’s overall quality. You would think this experience would lead AniFem to question their policy of “Screen all first episodes for problematic content and judge them accordingly,” but apparently not. Remember, I may defend AniFem’s right to exist, but that doesn’t mean I have to think that anything they publish is any good.

Oh right, I just wasted time talking about another anime blog and not the show itself. So far, it’s high quality overall, but it’s a bit of a cypher to me…I need to see more before forming an opinion, which is rare for me because having opinions tends to be one of my strengths, really. I think I was just too distracted by wondering about how this show was going to be perceived to pay enough attention to the substance of it, and that’s on me, not The Ancient Magus Bride.

Blend S– One of the Immutable Laws of Karen is that I will watch any anime that takes place in a coffee shop; keep in mind that I have watched not just one, but both seasons of Is the Order a Rabbit?, making me quite possibly the only straight woman on Earth who has done so. Maybe it’s my love for coffee in general, maybe it’s pure nostalgia for Polar Bear Cafe, but this is The Law; I must watch all of Blend S, because it takes place in a coffee shop. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrible.

Fortunately, it’s not terrible. The premise sounds like it’s going to be toying with some S&M vibes (since the main character is roleplaying a sadist as part of her gig at the cafe), but right now it’s very reminiscent of the lighthearted workplace comedy of Working! and its sequels. The whole S&M hook is really just a tease so far, since the humor is about as adult, as err….well, Working! The only slimy thing about it is how Maika’s boss continually hits on her, which is only really objectionable if you’re on the “anime must never depict anything that would not be acceptable IN REAL LIFE” train. I don’t know why anyone gets on that train, it’s a boring-ass train.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie– Another anime about people who spend much of their lives inside an MMO, although this one has an unusually adult take on it. Instead of teenagers and college students, the characters on this show are definitely old enough to drink, so they can drink screwdrivers in front of the computer while they wonder why they’re wasting their lives grinding for levels. (No one has actually done this one the show yet BTW, but it seems like something they would do.)

It’s gender-swapped, with the female character playing a male avatar in the MMO and vice versa, and it looks like it’s mainly going to focus on the romance between the lead characters. Normally, I would expect betrayal when they find out about each others’ true identities, followed by inevitable reconciliation, but this show is sophisticated enough about MMO culture that I trust it to go somewhere more interesting with the relationship. It would be really cool if after the reveal, both players just went “Oh, well that’s not surprising,” and just continued playing as normal.

A Sister’s All You Need– This show turned people off with an introductory scene that tried to portray little sister fetishism as disgustingly as possible, and succeeded, with stomach-turning results. Some concluded that the show was simply gross, but I think I get what they were doing by taking the little-sister trend to it’s logical (if unsettling) conclusion. And the show features interesting relationships between insecure writers, who are all insecure for different reasons, and that’s right in my wheelhouse.

This show actually reminds me of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, which also received some early backlash for having a “gross” premise, which turned out to be entirely overblown. Now, it may turn out to be just another forgettable show trying to earn some points with shock value, but it could also be the little sister show that actually examines why people develop this obsession, which would be interesting. I would call it “a deconstruction of Oreimo and it’s ilk,” except A)I don’t actually know what ‘deconstruction’ means and B)that sounds so pretentious I would have to slap myself. Let’s just say that this show has the potential to do something different with its premise, and hope that it does.

Konohana Kitan– This feels incredibly bland to me. I think it’s trying to be that kind of episodic occult show where the supernatural-creature-of-the-week is the focus, and the main characters are more there for consistency than anything else. (See: Mushi-Shi, The Morose Mononokean.) However, too much attention is given to the little fox girls in the foreground for the show to have that kind of oblique feeling, which would be okay if the fox girls weren’t such boring characters.

It’s cute as hell, and if you like anime girls with fox ears and/or tails, this could be your Show of the Decade, but I’m not sure if it has much to offer besides moe/fetish appeal; it doesn’t have the sophisticated appeal of an occult anthology show, nor does it have strong enough characters to work as a slice of life show.

Love Is Like A Cocktail– As a big fan of I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying, I was anticipating this one; anime about stable, married couples are rare and intriguing. However, it’s hard to get excited about something that’s three minutes long. I get that these kinds of shows are designed as shorts, and they’re not meant to sustain full 22-minute episodes, but I still think three minutes is a little lean; I would prefer half-length episodes, like Muromi-san and Encouragement of Climb.

It’s cute, and having each episode themed around a drink works nicely, but it makes me wish there was more to it.

March Comes in Like A Lion, Season 2– So, hahahahah funny story, I thought I had completed the first season of this show, only to realize that I somehow stopped watching it towards the end and had no memory of doing so. That may sound like it bodes ill for Lion, because if it were a good show, surely I would remember whether I had finished the season or not? However, I think of this show as being kind of like the Marcel Proust of anime: it’s very artfully done and nuanced and everything, but sometimes you just can’t take it anymore and need to put it down for about five months.

Anyway, now that I’ve had a nice break, I look forward to catching up on Lion and finding out what’s new with Rei and his deranged sociopath of a stepsister.

Food Wars! The Third Plate– By now, you probably know whether you enjoy the Food Wars! brand of attractive and talented people having elaborately illustrated foodgasms over curry, or not. I found the formula was getting a little stale for me by the end of The Second Plate, but it’s still amusing enough to keep up with, for now. I find myself beginning to genuinely dislike Soma though: like, why you gotta challenge EVERY chef on the show to a duel? Can’t you just be secure in the knowledge that you cook good food,? Did you watch too much Top Chef as a toddler and it totally distorted your view of eating meals?

That’s all for now; I may pick up a few more fall shows, in which case I’ll write an Impressions: Part Deux post. However, it’s entirely possible that that will never happen, in which case I would like you to forget that we ever had this conversation.

On Sailor Moon Crystal

SMCrystalsketchWatching the first episode of the new Sailor Moon, I wonder if it’s possible to have too much reverence for the source material. As promised, Crystal is sticking much closer to Naoko Takeuchi’s manga than the original anime, but as I watched this episode, I found myself wondering if that’s really a good thing. Continue reading On Sailor Moon Crystal

On Mawaru Penguindrum


My bad, guys. I was going to do for Penguindrum what I did for Madhouse’s X-Men and blog it weekly (much as it pains me to even mention the two in the same breath), and in fact threatened bodily harm to anyone else who tried. For reasons not worth going into, it’s been a bad couple of months for blogging for me. In recompense, I offer my thoughts on Penguindrum ten episodes in- such as they are. I’m not going to apologize for calling “dibs” and not following up though, because apologizing for that would require the assumption that anyone takes my aniblogging-related threats seriously.

Continue reading On Mawaru Penguindrum

Summer 2011: Yuru Yuri

There's even a Yui, but she's not the ditzy one this time. Ooooh...how diabolically clever.

Summary: Another one of them K-On clones, only this time I think the creators really wanted to make a magical girl anime- so why didn’t they? Do they get, like, a tax break for making another one of these “four girls in a club that does nothing” shows? It boggles the mind. Anyway, it’s watchable and pretty inoffensive thus far, but also a tad dull- more than a tad if the references don’t amuse you as much as they do me.

Streaming: Crunchyroll. Continue reading Summer 2011: Yuru Yuri