Tag Archives: MOE!

First Look: UzaMaid!

Lifesong:

Tsubame Kamoi is out hunting for a job where she can play dress up with a cute girl and she actually finds one.

Episode one did a good job of portraying the comedy dynamic between Tsubame and Misha, her new dressup doll… No, her new care-taking responsibility, that we can expect her to take completely seriously. The comedic timing was good. The jokes go into lolicon territory immediately, but were only uncomfortable; it never crossed the line in a way that made me feel like Misha was actually at risk. Dogo Kobo’s signature style added an extra touch of comedic personality to scenes.

The comedy works, but the comedy isn’t what I expect people to talk about or want to hear about. Tsubame is a bit of a creeper. Knowing that she was in the JSDF helps explain her personality and gives her some context, but doesn’t stop her from being creepy. Good if your okay with a comedy that makes you slightly uncomfortable… bad if well, you aren’t.

I felt that Tsubame’s over-the-top personality was more of a joke than a serious take on what makes her tick. Is she a lolicon, or does she love playing dress-up and likes to say things she shouldn’t? It’s worth pointing out that Tsubame has her own childish gym outfit that she is willing to wear out in public; that says a ton about her personality.

Okay, so she almost certainly has a clothing fetish for clothing designed to be worn for younger girls… that’s creepy in the context of caring for a young girl, but is it creepy enough to put Misha at risk? Based off the words coming out of Tsubame’s mouth? Yes, absolutely. Based off how she acts? Maybe.

I don’t want to justify the nonsense that comes out of Tsubame’s mouth. Instead I want to point out what I felt the episode was doing. By making Tsubame a source of discomfort for Misha we get a easy setup for a comedic struggle. It’s a struggle that works because it makes Misha an instantly sympathetic character. Tsubame’s part works because we aren’t sure how serious of a pervert this woman actually is. It’s a comedic dynamic that only works because it’s agnostic in defending Tsubame. It gives us reasons to think she might not be so bad and then drops a bomb on us near the end of the episode to question our own doubt. It’s a comedic bait-and-switch that works well for the tone this anime is setting up.

If you take Tsubame at face value then she is an unrepentant, creepy lolicon. If you are willing to look past face value? Who knows. I suspect that question will drive whatever story UzaMaid! has planned for us as Misha attempts to drive her off and fails, repeatedly.

The creeper hook worked. This show is funny and its uncomfortable undertones fuel the comedy. I’m curious to see if it can walk the balancing act of remaining funny in creepy territory. Based off what I saw in episode one, I suspect so.

Karen:

I’m confused about something here. The premise is that a woman with a Lolita complex ends up becoming a maid for a young girl, and hijinks ensue as the girl tries to avoid her aggressive new maid’s tender, err, affections. If you interpret that as this poor kid being saddled with a sexual predator as her caretaker, well, that’s pretty disturbing. Is that really what’s going on though?

Based on Tsubame’s behavior, what she really wants is to dote on Misha– feed her delicious food, dress her up in pretty dresses, pat her on the head, etc. She says some things that make it clear that she has a Lolita complex, but does she actually want to have sex with Misha, or do anything particularly sexual with her? It doesn’t seem like it to me. But if the whole premise is a lolicon taking care of a loli, and the lolicon doesn’t want to have sex with the loli, isn’t that kind of cheating on the writers’ part?

This dynamic is a lot less objectionable (to me, anyway) if Tsubame’s interest in Misha is portrayed as more aesthetic than anything else. If anything, it’s pretty clear that the story is going to be about the awkward transition between Tsubame going from, err…what she is, to becoming a mother figure for Misha, without presuming to try to replace her mother (since no one can do that.) Chances of any sexual activity between the two characters beyond the level of a hug is virtually nil; the question is, how far will they go in the process of poking fun at the idea?

Director Masahiko Oota has a slew of funny comedies under his belt (Gabriel DropOut, Sabegebu!, Love Lab) and Uzamaid benefits from excellent comic timing. This premiere episode is so funny and energetic, it’s easy to overlook the eyebrow-raising premise…for now. This show is going to need funny supporting characters to offer other sources of humor besides Tsubame’s obsession with her young charge, otherwise this isn’t going to sustain 3 episodes, let alone a whole season.

Considering Misha’s difficult emotional state, there is an opportunity for this show to do something genuinely poignant here– that is, if they don’t push the loli humor angle so far that viewers find it distasteful and give up on the show. Given this director’s track record, I think chances of Uzamaid finding the right balance are good, but you never know– they’re playing with fire here. Despite every redeeming point I’ve mentioned, if the main character were male (and it was called Uzabutler), this would be uncomfortable to the point of being downright unwatchable. Basically, only blatant sexism is making this show at all appealing, and I’m not offended by that so much as kind of amazed by it.

LB:

With a show like this, it’s best to go in with no preconceived notions and an open mind. Of course, the problem with this is that if you don’t watch it right away, the chatter will color your opinion regardless, so it’s a very tough balancing act. That being said, I went into this one with only the basic hope that it would be entertaining and in that regard, UzuMaid succeeds… barely.

The running gag with this series (if you weren’t already aware) is that the maid is a former master sergeant and a lolicon. She gets hired to be the maid for a young girl who recently lost her mother and spends most of the episode attempting to molest her mistress, and that’s supposed to be hilarious.

The good news is that there are some genuinely smirk-worthy moments in this first episode; mostly in the form of the young girl Misha reacting wildly to this incredibly buff, fearsome, warrior woman who has come into her life and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere at any point in the near future ( or at least for the next 11 to 12 episodes).

The problem is that so far, UzuMaid only knows how to do lolicon gags and even by the end of the first episode those were wearing thin. If this series doesn’t learn to do something new in a serious hurry, it’s going to lose its audience very quickly. At the moment, UzuMaid is a one trick pony and that trick isn’t even particularly good or funny.

I doubt that I’m going to stick with this one.

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.

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.

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.

 

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 12

In the final episode, we learn that LLENN is an evil genius who’s just been hiding it well this whole time. The fact that she knew that mocking Sword Art Online was perhaps the one way to really push Pito’s buttons and get her to lose her cool shows just how good she is at manipulating people when she wants to. We can only hope that she continues to use her powers for good instead of evil, and the devastating loss of the second P-chan doesn’t drive her to a life of crime.

Just like the Elder Wand will not kill it’s owner, P-Chan II will self-destruct before shooting LLENN. Oh God, I just made a Harry Potter reference, please let this be a one-time thing.

I like the fact that the final battle was relatively short, giving the story lots of time to wrap up outside the game. There was one thing I didn’t understand: why did M bother to take Fuka hostage instead of killing her? I know he wanted Pito to lose, so he could have kept Fuka alive to support LLENN (which is ultimately what happened, of course), but that gives away the game to Pito. Yet when Pito shoots him as a traitor, she does so for other reasons, not because he left one of their enemies alive for no apparent reason. It’s just a little off.

Pito thought she had prepared well, but LLENN knew her one weakness; she had no defense against vampire munchkins.

I’m just going to choose to think that M’s reasoning was “Fuka is too awesome to kill,” in which case I must wholeheartedly agree with him. In this episode, we get to see more of Miyu, the player behind Fuka, and naturally, she’s great in meatspace as well. I know M has this all-consuming, twisted love for Pito, and nothing can change that, but there’s a sick little part of me that wanted him to drop Pito like a hot potato once Miyu started hitting on him.

Goushi: “Thank you for your sexual interest in me, but I only like crazy bitches.”

Miyu: “Have you SEEN me play GGO?”

Goushi: “Holy FUCK you’re right, you are everything I’ve ever dreamed of, you barely-restrained psychopath.”

In any case, I love how brutal the final battle is; it needed to be, or else Pito wouldn’t have believed that she had met her match in LLENN. As I predicted last time (not like it was hard to see), the other team comes in from offscreen and grabs the win at the last second, but do you really think they enjoyed it? You just know that no one discussing the second Squad Jam is going to talk about the winners at all; they’ll be talking about Pito, LLENN, Fuka, and those intense Amazon women.


“We won, but…it feels so hollow…*sniffles*”

I’ll admit, they had me for a fraction of a second; when they introduced the club owner as “Pito,” I actually thought, very briefly, that she really was Pito and all of the hints that Pito was really Elsa Kanzaki were false leads. Of course, the Karen on the show is smarter than this Karen sitting right here, and knew immediately who the real Pito was. I’m telling you: evil genius. Do we know what field Karen is studying in college? If it’s political science, the world is doomed to fall under the thumb of her adorable hegemony.

Hello, cute little girl. I bet Elsa’s rage comes from the fact that she’s saddled with an acoustic guitar; if she was allowed to shred with an electric guitar in a proper band, getting all that aggression out, this whole nasty business could have been avoided. Death Metal saves lives.

At first I thought it was a little convenient that Elsa’s obsession with death was “cured” by one battle with LLENN, but I think I get it now; the fact that there’s a player out there who can match her, and there may be others that she’s not even aware of yet, keeps life interesting enough that killing herself has lost its appeal. I think Elsa is just naturally talented at most things she tries, and she was getting really bored of a life with no challenge. The fact that LLENN can kick her ass was a revelation to her. I fear for what would happen if Elsa met Kirito; she’d probably become crazy-obsessed with him, and then everyone would bitch that the show was all about Kirito again.

Despite her evil genius, LLENN lacks the self-awareness to realize that she’s as feared in-game now as Pito is, and that’s comforting; we should all fear the day when LLENN becomes truly aware of what she is and what she can do. For now, she’s satisfied to run around shooting people with a deranged pop singer in the virtual world of GGO, and that’s a good time for everyone.

Onward, to another gratuitously violent adventure!

This show surpassed my expectations by just being really solid and fun all the way through. There was some food for thought, which I wrote about earlier in the season, but overall, this was a good rippin’ yarn with characters you liked rooting for and action that kept you on your toes. When mainline Sword Art Online returns this fall, it’s going to have some mighty big shoes to fill; well, technically, tiny little pink munchkin-shoes, but you get the idea.

Summer 2018 Anime Season Preview

While last season was absolutely loaded with big-name franchises, this one only has a few; most of the shows listed here are new to anime. Because of that, anime fans seem a lot less excited for this season than they were in the spring, and maybe they’re right to be? I think a lot of people are secretly hoping for a severely sub-par anime season, so they won’t be watching much and can devote the time to catching up on their anime backlog.

You know what though? It’s never going to happen. Even if this season is horrible, I just don’t believe anyone is going to get around to finally sitting down to watch Tatami Galaxy, or the second season of Arakawa Under the Bridge. It’s probably just as well; I hear tell that if you ever finish watching everything in your anime backlog, you get transferred to another world with nothing but your smartphone and a box of Strawberry Pocky, and who needs that? I wouldn’t be caught dead in another world without Almond Crush Pocky.

I’ve used English names where appropriate; in most cases, these shows haven’t been licensed yet and do not have official English titles.

Attack on Titan, Season 3

The biggest name of the season, and consequently the show it would make the most sense to cover here at Otakusphere. Unfortunately, I jumped ship on AoT somewhere in the middle of season 2; I respect a lot of the things that it does, but I just don’t enjoy it anymore. When a story has a tone of not just darkness, but the kind of oppressive bleakness that AoT has, I think it benefits from being concise. This story has gotten dragged out past my capacity to care about this particular world.

If you’re psyched for the return of the show, hey, more power to you; I wish I could be on the same page. But unless I hear that the Survey Corps found a beautiful, Titan-free Utopian city with infinite food, where Eren and Mikasa can get some much-deserved chill time, I’m not watching this.

Free!-Dive to the Future (Season 3)

Yaay, a returning third season of a show that I’m actually up to date on!  This doesn’t happen often. Free! is really the perfect summer show. You could say it’s all pretty visuals and light on substance, but considering what a refreshing take on masculinity the show often displays, that may not even be true. What I particularly love about this show is that it makes me get off my ass and go swimming…like, I’ll be sitting around the house, about to be lazy all day, then I’ll think of how beautiful the water always looks in Free! and actually go outside. I don’t know if it’s even possible to watch Free! without jumping into the nearest pool immediately afterwards.

The thing is, much as I love it, it’d be a pretty boring show to cover episodically…unless I go to town commenting on the manservice. Then I’ll feel like a dirty old lady, but is that such a horrible thing? Is the anime blogosphere even ready for Dirty Old Lady coverage of Free!? Probably not! But now that the idea has occurred to me, I don’t think I can resist.

Everyone who isn’t a fujoshi, go hide. Find the deepest, darkest cave you can find, and hibernate. Make like Green Day and only Wake Up When September Ends, you don’t want to have to see this.

Gintama: Silver Soul Arc, Season 2

I mention Gintama out of a sense of obligation, because it’s a very major franchise that must have a whole lot of fans. However, it’s one of few big shounen franchises that I have no familiarity with whatsoever. I may not have seen every episode of Naruto, Bleach or One Piece, but I’ve seen a bunch; Gintama, not even one episode. Furthermore, I don’t even remember talking to another fan who was into Gintama. It’s always been weirdly invisible to me.

This anime has been airing in different forms since 2005, so it’s not like I’m going to catch up between now and the start of the season. But I feel a sense of what I can only call Gintama Guilt; as an aniblogger, I should at least know what this show is. Maybe I’ll just watch the first episode of this season and then try to make sense of it. I’ll be like those movie reviewers who went to see Avengers: Infinity War and then complained that it made no sense because they hadn’t seen the previous 15 movies…only in a funny, self-aware sort of way? Maybe this is a bad idea.

Overlord, Season 3

This series is a member of the elite club of “Wilson’s shows,” AKA shows my husband will sometimes watch on Saturday morning while I’m still asleep. So I’m not that familiar with it, but I have woken up in the middle of it, and let me tell you: that’s disorienting. Plus, whenever the main dude says his own name, I always think he’s saying “Own goal” and for some reason find that hilarious.

This is another one I won’t be watching– well, I’ll probably see like 5-10 minutes of random episodes while I’m semi-comatose on the couch before coffee, but that doesn’t really count. I do think it’s worth noting that in a season swamped with isekai shows, Overlord stands out as having a clear identity; there just aren’t that many shows where the skull-headed leader spends half of every episode lecturing his legions of minions on the day’s agenda.

Marvel Future Avengers, Season 2

Buh, what? Before putting pen to paper to write this season preview, I had no idea Marvel Future Avengers existed period, let alone that it was returning. Apparently it’s a kids show that hasn’t been too well-received. I wonder: does it deserve all the bad ratings it’s gotten, or is it getting slammed in the reviews because a bunch of adult Marvel fans are trying to enjoy something aimed at 6-year-olds? No idea.

Thinking back to how the X-Men anime turned out, it seems like these Marvel-to-anime productions never go that well. I guess this might have some use if you’re still hyped from Infinity War and need to get your Captain America fix from something…or if you’re six years old. Do I have many six-year-old readers? Kiddos, if you’re out there, please do not read my upcoming posts on Free! S3, okay? Kindly avert your innocent eyes.

Banana Fish

This manga is an institution. I remember hearing about it as far back as the ’90s, although I never got around to reading it. Looking at the description, it really doesn’t look like my cup of tea, but…I kind of want to try it anyway. I think I’ve always been subliminally impressed at how cool “Banana Fish” sounds when you say it out loud; it’s euphonic.

Stories about ruthless teen-aged killers and their evil mob bosses usually don’t hold my attention for too long, but you never know; it all depends on how the story is told. Maybe there’s a good reason I’ve been hearing about Banana Fish for decades now; time to find out.

How NOT to Summon A Demon Lord

One of the aforementioned flood of Isekai shows hitting this summer, this one sounds pretty typical. I’m pretty sure we have a few light novels for this series, but I haven’t read them yet. I could actually read them, then talk about what changes they’ll make to the anime adaptation like a knowledgeable person, but let’s be honest: that’s not going to happen.

The premise involves an awkward gamer guy enslaving (albeit accidentally) two hot girls, so expect the usual suspects to be freaked out by the fact that male fantasies exist. I’ll give it an episode; it’s certainly not being made with me in mind, but it at least has the potential to be funny. If it’s not bringing the humor though, I can’t see why I’d continue. I guess it’s possible that it could have an incredibly interesting fantasy world or something, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Back Street Girls

I usually don’t do this, but this is one time where I think the capsule description should be included in its entirety:

A group of 3 yakuza failed their boss for the last time. After messing up an important job, the boss gave them 2 choices: Honorably committing suicide, or go to Thailand to get a sex reassignment surgery in order to become “female” idols. After a gruesome year long training to become idols, they successfully debut, with overwhelming popularity, much to their dismay. This is where their tragedy truly begins.

…Uh….

….where to start here….

It’s like you rubbed a magic lamp and said “Genie, please give me more representation of trans people in anime!” only to find out too late that this wasn’t a friendly, Disney-style genie; no, this was a true djinn, a proud and vengeful creature of fire and air that has existed since before the beginning of time, slumbering for strange eons, and now it’s insanely pissed at you for waking it up. So it grants your wish, but only in a way that’s more painful than killing you outright; that’s the only explanation for how this show exists.

It’s theoretically possible that this could plumb some interesting gender-bending territory, but most of the people who would be really interested in that sort of thing will probably be so put off by the premise that they won’t stick around long enough to find out. See, now I’m not sure if I want this to be good or if I want it to be terrible; defending a seemingly offensive show that actually has some redeeming value is my typical MO, but it this case….maybe it would be better if it was just God-awful from the getgo, and I never had to think about it again.

I have to try an episode of it though, because…because I just have to. Because otherwise, I’ll never believe that this was a real anime. What kind of whacked-out, fringe studio thought this would be a good adaptation to add to their catalog? It’s got to be some obscure, no-name, little…oh…oh, I see….

It’s J.C. Staff.

That makes a warped kind of sense, actually. J.C. Staff’s output is like a box of chocolates; a box of delicious chocolates that occasionally includes a sheep’s eyeball, for no reason.

Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria

One of the aforementioned torrent of isekai shows hitting this season, this one involves a guy who uses his “solar-powered smart phone” to help his allies. Geez, was In Another World with My Smartphone really that popular? Or just a harbinger of things to come?

This fantasy world appears to be Norse-flavored, so we’ll see if dipping into that rich mythology is enough to make this show stand out from the pack. The only anime that comes to mind that’s done a really good job with Norse mythology is Oh! My Goddess, which is a different genre entirely, so maybe there’s some room for them to do something new here.

Huh, now that I wrote that, now I’m sure there are probably about 30 famous anime that are heavily based on Norse mythology, and I’m just forgetting them all at the moment. If you know of any, remind me in the comments; I’ll feel stupid, but you’ll be spreading valuable knowledge.

Shichisei no Subaru

One of the absolute tsunami of isekai shows hitting this summer, except…I think this one may take place entirely in an MMO, without the MMO becoming “real,” so does that even count as an isekai show anymore? Who makes these rules?

Apparently it deals with someone who died in real life but still exists in the game, and I’m having serious .hack flashbacks. Hey, remember .hack//SIGN? Twenty-six episodes of characters saying “How is it that Tsukasa can’t log out?”, “What do YOU think of Tsukasa?”, “Is Tsukasa alive in the real world?”, “Are you waiting for Tsukasa?” “What does Tsukasa think about the fact that he can’t log out?”, oh my God, it was excruciating. But we all watched it for that gorgeous Yuki Kajiura score, didn’t we? Pretty sure Subaru doesn’t have that going for it.

I’ll give this a shot, although to be honest, I can’t be sure if I’m hoping it’s something like a new .hack or dreading it; like, I don’t want to go through another .hack//SIGN experience, but I kind of feel like it’s something we need every once in a while, like an annual physical or something? It’s hard to explain. I’m just going to have to try to get past the fact that every time someone says “Subaru,” I’m immediately going to think “Emilia-tan! Emilia-tan!”

For those not in the know, that last bit was an in-joke about the anime Re:Zero; yes, while talking about anime, I make dumb jokes about different anime. Because I feel the need to show off that I watch a lot of anime; just having this blog is somehow not enough.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger

Vampires and werewolves fight each other in the 1930s; this could be fun. However, it’s being done by PA Works, which I do not associate with this kind of material. In fact, even though they just did Uma Musume and that should be my new association, I will always associate this studio with Hanasaku Iroha, a show that was as interesting as watching individual blades of grass grow. Like, they were beautiful pieces of grass, filled with morning dew and reflecting the sunshine and all, but you were still sitting there, watching grass grow.

It would be entertaining if PA Works applied that kind of languid pacing to supernatural creatures beating the tar out of each other, but they probably won’t; it’ll probably be paced appropriately, but just not that exciting. The best thing for this show would be if the vampires turned out to be crazy-ass Hellsing-type vampires, but then it would be so firmly in the horror camp that I wouldn’t want to watch it, so uh…yeah. Probably not one for me, but there’s potential here, at least.

Happy Sugar Life

LB called my attention to this one a few weeks ago, and I’ve been mildly afraid of it ever since. It’s about a teenaged girl who will do anything to protect her (underaged) love interest, including murder. These kinds of stories just don’t appeal to me, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I could say they make me uncomfortable, but it’s not like I’ve ever had an experience in real life that would give me a basis for being any more uncomfortable with this than any other story with a dark edge to it. I could say that I don’t like it because one of the lovers is underage, but a)age tends to be really arbitrary in anime anyway and b)the two girls may not even have sex, or get anywhere near having sex, so I’m not losing any sleep over that.

Basically the only thing that’s of interest to me about this show is the use of the phrase “Happy Sugar Life,” which should win some kind of prize for Most Ironic Title of Summer 2018: Ezo’la, I may not enjoy your show, but as a fan of smart-ass titles, I salute you.

Grand Blue

Remember how I said I was happy to be done with Amanchu!? Apparently I’m not really done with Amanchu!, because this show sounds exactly like a gender-swapped Amanchu!; a scuba diving show featuring a boy who hangs out around his family’s eponymous, diving-based business.

It’s possible this show will hash out it’s own identity, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that instead of bitching every week that Pikari and Teko aren’t going scuba diving often enough, I’m instead going to be bitching that this kid and his buddies aren’t going scuba diving often enough, and I don’t want to be that person; I don’t want to be the girl always complaining that an anime isn’t doing exactly what she wants. But, gosh-darnit, is it so much to ask for a show about scuba diving to heavily feature scuba diving? IS IT?

In any case, I’m going to do my best to put thoughts of other shows out of my head when I watch this and give Grand Blue a chance to prove itself. Plus, on another level I’m kind of happy there’s going to be another ocean-centric show; just like FREE!, this kind of stuff really belongs in the summer season, after all. But God help me, if they start pulling any magical realism shit mid-season, I’m going to be pissed.

Harakuna Receive

Another summery show, this one focuses on beach volleyball. Typically you would guess that this show would be full of fanservice, via tons of bathing-suit clad babes and convenient camera angles, but I wonder; that’s not a given these days. Lately these shows about female athletes seem to focus on the athletics more seriously than you would expect. How much fan service was there in Uma Musume? Scorching Ping Pong Girls? Keijo!!!!!!!!?…okay, forget Keijo for a second, but still. There’s definitely a trend of some shows being more subtle with the fanservice and leaving the “lewding” to the doujinshi, and I’m wondering if Harakuna Receive will be one of those.

See, now that I’ve said that, this show will probably be 99% bouncing boobs and I’ll feel like an idiot for suggesting otherwise. Still, if it’s all boobs I won’t watch it, but people who enjoy boob anime will have one show they’re into this summer, so it’s all good. I’ll give this a chance to see if they’re going to take the volleyball angle seriously, but I won’t be terribly disappointed if they don’t.

Hanebado!

Another girls’ sports anime, this one about badminton. You know, a few years ago I would have passed over this without a second glance, but now I’m looking forward to it. If Scorching Ping Pong Girls could make ping pong exciting for me, when I have no interest in it, this show can probably do the same thing for badminton.

Come to think of it, whether or not I care about the real-life sport seems to have no bearing on how much I like a sports anime. I couldn’t possibly care less about football, but Eyeshield 21 is one of my favorite series of all time. Hmm, now that I’ve made that connection, I’m kind of hoping Hanebado! will turn out to chronicle the adventures of a girls’s badminton team managed by Satan, but I’ll probably have to settle for a non-hellspawn team. I’ll manage, somehow.

Cells At Work!

Of all the things to anthropomorphize, now red and white blood cells are getting a cuteness makeover. It’s a clever premise, but I feel like it might be unhealthy for me to watch this show; I’ll over-identify with all the different cellular organelles and it’ll start seeping into my daily life.

“Wow, I feel so energetic today, thank you Mitochondria-chan! I’d better eat a good breakfast to keep White Blood Cell-kun strong!” No thanks, I have enough problems overthinking my biology as it is. I approve of the fact that this show is being made in a general sense, because it’s different, but I’m not watching.

Aguu: Tensai Ningyou

This is going to be a dancing anime, which is cool; we don’t get a lot of those. I haven’t seen Welcome to the Ballroom yet, but supposedly that’s basically a shonen sports anime with dancing, so Aguu: Tensai Ningyou may be more artistic. However, instead of just being about dancing, it’s also about little palm-sized spirits and some kind of civil war going on between them: the war between the “Seamstresses” who somehow create these little spirits, and the “Saviors” who…fight them? Dance the tango with them? It’s all a little vague.

I keep thinking about the fact that “seamstress” used to be a codeword for “prostitute,” and I should really put that out of my mind, because that slang hasn’t been used in like 100 years, but I can’t help it. Now I’m imagining all sorts of things that likely have no relevance to this show, and it’s making it hard to focus. I definitely want to give this show a try, but I really have no idea what to expect. If it seems like the anime is inspired Black Swan, it will trigger my deep-seated fear of all things related to Natalie Portman and I’ll have to bail. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

A girl tries to get to school; mayhem ensues. This could possibly be really clever and fun, but it also could be really repetitive and stupid. It would be great if the obstacles that Chio encountered on her way to school started off mundane and became more and more elaborate over the course of the show, until there’s a full-fledged alien invasion or something getting in her way, but I’m not sure; the fact that one of the scenarios that Chio is going to have to fight is “a sudden urge to go to the bathroom,” does not exactly fill me with confidence.

I’m assuming this is a short, because it’s hard to imagine a full-length anime with this premise, but I’ve been wrong about that before; we’ll see. If if it’s not a short, it might be downright painful to watch; some things are charming in three-minute installments and should never break out of that mold.

High Score Girl

Hell yeah, an anime all about video games circa 1991! I’m excited for this one. I want to remember my childhood, but of course I didn’t grow up in Japan, so it won’t really be my childhood; still, it feels like a good opportunity to remember someone’s childhood.

Remember the ’90s, back when we thought Francis Fukuyama was on to something with his whole “End of History” theory, and we thought life (and video games) were just going to keep getting better and better forever? Well, we were kind of right about the video games part, but damn, things have just gotten dark since the ’90s. Granted, plenty of awful stuff happened during the ’90s too, but we weren’t aware of it at the time, so it sure seemed like the world was becoming a better, safer place every day….

Okay I’m getting too far afield of the anime preview, but I’m really interested in seeing what this anime does. If it focuses on the culture of ’91, that will be really interesting, but even if it only focuses on video game culture specifically, that too appeals to me. I just hope they don’t make the mistake of making a production that feels identical to 2018 shows with a thin overlay of ’90s era style. I want this to be so ’90s that I’m thinking about Pogs, Tamagotchis and the cool jacket that kid in the Crossfire commercials used to wear. Remember that game? I had that game. I bet you’re jealous now!

Phantom in the Twilight

A supernatural cafe in London, full of hot guys, that only opens at night; if you’ve ever read Otakusphere before, then you probably know that they had me at “cafe.”

Seriously, I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. This could be one of those classy occult shows that anime (and seemingly only anime) do so well, like Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits or Mushi-Shi, but that’s far from a guarantee. Studio LINDENFILMS has a kind of odd back catalog of work, but they did make Poco’s Udon World, a lesser-known show that I really liked, so they’ve got some cred in my book. My fear is that there’s going to be too much emphasis on all the mysterious, handsome men, and the show is going to try to get by on attractive character designs instead of good writing.

The thing with mysterious, handsome male characters that writers often screw up is that if you bring them too much to the forefront, they cease being mysterious. They they’re just handsome, which is boring on it’s own. If the hot guy characters remain enigmatic figures in the background, and the story focuses it’s energy elsewhere, this could be a good show. If.

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

It’s a mystery series that takes place in a coffee shop…oh wait, no it doesn’t. It takes place in an antique shop. Well then, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, show! I only watch coffee shop anime!

Okay, I am capable of watching things that take place in other places of business, I just don’t know if this series sounds that appealing. Whenever I’ve tried to watch an anime mystery show, it’s always been pretty poor– GoSick, God’s Memo Pad, etc. Then again, maybe this’ll be the one with good writing that will make me feel bad for my negative opinions toward mystery shows? The fact that the leads are chasing down the mysteries of these old antiques means that the show does have the potential to be interesting, and even poignant, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tsukumogami Kashimasu

Another antique shop setting…not really antiques, but miscellaneous household goods, which is close enough. Except, this one is a historical taking place during the Edo period, and the household goods tend to be haunted. I kept getting confused between this show and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes, trying to remember “Which is the show where the items are haunted, and which is the one where they’re worth a lot of money?”

Another show with the potential to fit into that “classy occult” category that I like so much, but it also has potential to be a bit of a snoozefest, I think. It might be entertaining to watch both this one and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes and see which one comes up with better episodic stories about inanimate objects. I might make a spreadsheet.

Senjuushi

Oh no. Oh noooo. It’s a gun anime. It’s a post-apocalyptic dystopia where people are forbidden from owning firearms, and then the spirits of classic guns materialize to fight for the good of the world, or something.

I have to admit, sometimes I have trouble separating a show from how it’s going to be perceived in the Western fandom, which is unfair. Because all I can think about is the complaints this show is going to spawn about “conservative propaganda” and “alt-right talking points,” and I’m already tired of that discussion, and the show hasn’t even started yet.

Look, I’m not saying that the show is going to be any good, or that political criticism is automatically bad, but can we just remember one little thing here? That this show is Japanese, made from a Japanese perspective, and applying American politics to it (especially fringe American politics that aren’t that well known outside of the U.S.) doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense?  Can we let it exist in its own proper context without dragging it into a minefield where it was never meant to survive?

I don’t know, maybe this will actually be fun to watch, but the so-called “discourse” around this show is probably going to make me want to stay far, far away.

Ongaku Shoujo

It’s about c-level idols, and I’m sorry, but isn’t this called Wake Up, Girls!? I’d like to say that I liked Wake Up, Girls! enough the first time, but the fact is that no one liked Wake Up, Girls! the first time; it’s a show that keeps getting sequels despite having , seemingly, zero fans. It’s one of those anomalies of nature, like how bumblebees can fly when all the laws of physics say that they shouldn’t.

Maybe Ongaku Shoujo will stake out an identity of it’s own, but I have enough trouble getting invested in idol shows that are happy and optimistic from the getgo; I really don’t want to watch a show about sad, wanna-be idols who are living on instant ramen to get by. Only way I’m watching this is if I hear good things about it after a few episodes have aired.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

This looks to be the more typically bright-and-happy idol show, as opposed to Ongaku Shoujo, so maybe try this if you haven’t had enough Love Live!/Idolmaster/etc. I mean, it’s hard to believe that there’s someone out there who hasn’t had enough of that, but I’m sure this person exists, and they too deserve to feel joy.

I might check out the first episode because one of the girls is named Karen and I like keeping tabs on my anime doppelgangers. But unless this show has something different to offer right out of the gate, I’m focusing my attention elsewhere.

Sunoharasou no Kanrinrin-san

This looks like it’s going to be a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, except one of the girls happens to be a boy. This might end up being the show this season that does some exploration of gender identity, without being ridiculously offensive to 99% of the audience right out of the gate the way Back Street Girls is.

It’s hard to predict with this one; it all depends on how main-guy Aki’s issues with gender are treated. If they use them as a source of cheap jokes, that sounds pretty bad, but if it’s a CGDCT show, it’s hard to see how they could avoid those kinds of jokes even if they wanted to.

I’ll give it a shot, but if the pattern is Aki tries to act like a boy–> the girls treat him like a girl and giggle–> he gets mad, rinse and repeat, I’m not sticking around. Sadly, I think that’s the most likely scenario.

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san

Wow, there are a lot of haunted anime this season. This one is about a hot springs inn haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-old girl, and the poor guy who gets roped into helping her with her unfinished business. I might have skipped this one just on the basis of there being so much other occult stuff this season, but I’ve heard some good things about the source material, so I’ll at least give it a try.

It’s made by Xebec, who are largely known to the world as makers of fanservice anime, and largely known to me as makers of Softenni in particular. I doubt it’ll happen, but if this show takes the Softenni approach to broadcast censorship and covers the girls’ privates with pictures of adorable cows and sheep, this is going to rocket up to “must-watch” status.

Island

Man washes ashore on mysterious island, begins mad quest to save the island from its decline; cute girls are involved. My gut is telling me that this is going to be overly ambitious and boring, but hey, my gut has been wrong before. This was one of the first summer shows to air and the first episode is already up on Crunchyroll, so there’s no need to wait if you’re curious.

Jashin-chan Dropkick

Violent slapstick comedy where a deranged gothic-lolita type summons a demon girl, and the two beat each other up a lot or something. I have a weird feeling that this is going to be like the evil twin to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid; a story about a relationship between a human girl and a powerful, non-human woman, only instead of warming your heart and filling you with hope for the future, it just makes you want to sit down and cry.

I have a bad feeling about this for some reason, but studio Nomad does have a pretty solid comedy track record with shows like Ika Musume and Ouran Host Club to their credit. So it could be very funny, I just can’t shake the sinking feeling that the jokes are going to get old halfway through the first episode.

SHORTS:

Cinderella Girls Gekijou, Season 3

I always forget if this is a spinoff of Love Live! or Idolmaster (*checks wiki; it’s Idolmaster.*) Considering I’ve never seen any Idolmaster proper, I’m certainly not starting with this, but I mention it here for an important reason: for idol fans, it seems like this is the anticipated show of the season, more than Ongaku Shoujo or whatever else is starting this year. Which is pretty impressive, considering that it’s a short.

You go, idol fans! Wallpaper the internet with your Cinderella Girls fanart, it’s all good. I don’t have to watch the show to share a tiny piece of your happiness.

One Room 2

The big debate with the first-person-perspective show One Room was whether it was really creepy, or just sort of mildly creepy; I found the first episode so boring that I never properly found out. But apparently some people really enjoyed contemplating that question, because One Room is back with another room…or maybe the same room? It’s probably the same room.

I wonder; if I decided I wanted to watch this season, do I need to watch the original? Like, is there serious One Room continuity? Or is it like “Yeah, he talked to this girl in his room, then they went down to the vending machine and got a soda, then they went back to his room, then she said ‘bye’ and that was the end of the season.” Now I want there to be a tremendously detailed One Room wiki so I can catch up on all the lore!

(I just checked…there is no wiki…I am sad. Someone get on that, please.)

BanG Dream! Girls Band Party Pico

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what BanG Dream! was until just now. Apparently it’s a K-On-esque show about a bunch of girls who form a band, and Party Pico is it’s little chibi spinoff. If you like watching cute chibi girls do whatever, you probably can’t go wrong here.

See, I’m just mad because after finishing Sound Euphonium S2, I thought I had seen all these ‘girls in a band’ shows, but no, there’s more. I promised myself I wouldn’t watch Kids on the Slope (the boys-in-a-band show) until I finished all the girls-in-a-band shows, and now it looks like it’s never gonna happen. Damn you BanG Dream!, ruining my summer viewing plans!

Asobi Asobase

This isn’t listed anywhere as a short, but I’m putting it in the shorts category because I refuse to believe it’s a full-length show. It’s about girls who play hand games and…that’s it. They play hand games together.

Tonari no Seki-kun proved to me that a show about nothing more than kids goofing off can be great, especially if it’s a short. But unless Asobi Asobase is bringing Seki-kun levels of devious brilliance here, I find it hard to imagine this being entertaining for more than one episode. Hey, maybe I’ll be wrong; maybe Asobi Asobase will be the surprise hit of the season that we’ll all remember years from now. But right now, just thinking about it seriously makes me want to lie down and take a nap– not even kidding, I’m going to spend like two seconds writing something on Encouragement of Climb and then I’m taking a nap.

Encouragement of Climb, Season 3

FUCK YEAH MORE ENCOURAGEMENT OF CLIMB, BEST SEASON EVAH! CLIMB THOSE MOUNTAINS GIRLS, SHOW ‘EM WHO’S BOSS! AOI, TRY NOT TO GET ALTITUDE SICKNESS AGAIN, THAT SHIT IS DANGEROUS! SHOW THOSE LAZY YURU CAMP BITCHES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE OUTDOOR GIRLS!!!!!

…oh yeah, I went there, Yuru Camp fans. What are you gonna do about it, huh? I’d say COME AT ME, BRO! but I’m about to go lie down and take a nap for about three hours, so don’t come at me, that would be bad sportsmanship. Hey, have you ever heard that writing about shows you haven’t even seen for several hours can make you lightheaded and delirious? I just learned that today.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 11

Oh my goodness, do I love Fuka. Everybody on this show is having huge philosophical problems negotiating the line between games and reality in a VR world, and Fuka has it all perfectly separated like she’s playing an NES on her grandparents’ couch, and that’s about how much she cares. It’s glorious.

She somehow manages to delay LLENN by tying LLENN’s shoelaces to one of her grenade launchers, and and uses a knot that would make an Eagle Scout proud. So poor LLENN has to spend seriously half the episode trying to untangle her goddamned shoelaces, meanwhile Fuka downright skips towards the enemy team like she’s playing hopscotch on the playground. Then she gets her hands and feet shot off, but no big, she walks it off in time to save LLENN in dynamic vehicular fashion, all while blatantly hitting on her with as much sass as possible.

Guys, I’m afraid. I think I may love Fuka as much as I love Rindou in Food Wars!, and if you’ve read my Food Wars! posts, you know that level of obsession probably isn’t healthy. I’m making a mental note to address that with my therapist, but the meantime, I guess we should discuss the rest of the episode.

CHERISH FOREVER

So Pito plays with some of her opponents before she gruesomely kills them, leading one to ask her if she’s having fun doing this. Uh…well, yes, it’s a video game, sport. Of course Pito is having fun. I get the point being made– at what point do acts of clear sadism stop being acceptable in virtual reality on the basis that it’s “Just a game?” It’s an interesting question, but once again, I think people who are deeply into a game as violent as GGO have probably waited too long to ask this question.

One of the SHINC ladies who got eliminated makes a mean remark that most of the players left in SJ2 are women, and “real men” would play with more guts; it seems really bizarre and out of place (albeit intentionally) not just because this woman is a member of SHINC, but because of what a feminist anime this has been all along. In addition to the obvious point that most of the characters (and the best players) are women, this is a story of a man trying to save the woman he loves, only he’s powerless to do it, and the only person who can actually save her is her female friend; it’s an inversion of the “only this special man can save the woman” narrative.

Yes, I just called an anime feminist and think that it’s basically a good thing; hell has now frozen over. Hell is even available for ski vacations, so get your reservations in before all the good bungalows are taken.

Speaking of SHINC, they seem to have used up their ingenious plans allowance for this month last time, because they don’t have much a of as strategy for taking out Pito and M. Basically the remaining members of the team sacrifice themselves so that Boss-lady Eva can try to sneak up on M from another angle, but it’s a pretty transparent gambit and doesn’t work. So that’s one more team down. We’re now left with Team Death By Loli, Team Batshit Insane Starcrossed Lovers, and some other mystery team who’s waiting in the shadows until the smoke clears; they seem like smart people.

There’s an interesting moment when LLENN starts to break down, overwhelmed by the pressure. I think the problem is that “I have to brutally kill Pito so I can save her, because she’s my friend and I care about her!” is just too confusing to understand in the heat of battle. She decides she’s going to truncate her motivation to “I am going to kill the everloving fuck out of Pito,” and forget about the larger context. I like this; it’s psychologically realistic to me that LLENN would have this problem and need to simplify her thinking.

What follows is a pretty stellar extended action sequence including jeeps, cliffs, multiple kinds of guns, grenades, natural gas explosions, and crazy stunt driving. My hat is off to the animators at 3Hz Inc., because it’s pretty rare to get a multi-part action sequence this exciting and well-animated in a TV anime. I guess I am now eating my words from earlier in the season, when I kept insisting that GGO just didn’t look fun, but hey; I like being wrong when the result is awesome anime.

“As I lay dying, I have no regrets…except for choosing Barbie Doll Pink as my color for camouflage. Not one of my better ideas.”

I said last time that I would be very excited if LLENN jumped, landed on Pito’s photon sword and then flipped off, and that did not happen; actually, now that I think about that, I think there are some mechanical problems with that. What we do get to see is LLENN stepping Pito’s face and then backflipping off, so I’m still pretty excited; not quite to the level of dancing in my chair, but it’s getting close.

Hello, my name is Karen and I approve of this face-stomping.

LLENN sacrifices the second version of P-chan to get to Pito, so we’re now left with the two ladies with no guns. They’re going to have to settle this with melee weapons, in properly brutal fashion. Meanwhile, I assume Fuka is going to take on M; I don’t expect her to beat him, but I expect her to lose in such a way as to make him wish he were dead, because that woman has a gift.

Well, one episode left, right? I think it would be really funny if the one other team that’s off in the mountains somewhere just sat on their thumbs and did nothing, only to win after the remaining foursome all take each other out in incredibly graphic fashion. In fact, I would bet money on that happening; any takers?

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 12

In theory, this was a really good episode. There was lots of scuba diving, the characters picked up on things that they were talking about earlier in the season, and it was all lovely to look at, as usual. Still, this episode left me a little cold; I think I just ran out of patience with Amanchu! during the second half of the season, and it kind of dulled the enjoyment of the season finale for me.

Nevertheless, here is our final Pikari Troll Face of the season; conspiratorial Pikari trying to set up a devious plan. Okay, so the devious plan turns out to be “Bring Teko’s friends to the site so they can cheer her on when she goes night-diving,” but still, I consider that devious by Pikari standards.

“Heh heh, Teko’s never going to figure out my surprise. I’m going to bring over all the annoying filler characters that have been on her like white on rice this whole season, she’ll be shocked.”

Oh yeah, and here’s a BONUS UNDERWATER TROLL FACE!!!!!

I didn’t forget that I wanted this!

There were things about this episode I really liked. The thing that really struck me as true and important was Teko’s admission that she never stopped being scared of going night-diving, but her curiosity outgrew her fear. I think that’s a really good way to think about dealing with any sort of anxiety; you never really “fight your fears” successfully, because it’s not a fair fight; you always have to fight on the enemy’s turf. What you can do instead of fighting is become so interested in what you’re doing that you might just forget that you’re afraid…for a little while. But for long enough. Long enough to see the plankton sparkle underwater like fireflies.

Pikari, to her credit, has realized that her strategy earlier in the season of having “infinite fun” with Teko is kind of flawed, because the time is still passing no matter what she does. Even someone as fun-loving and care free as Pikari has to face the fact that eventually, everyone’s going to graduate and the fun times in the diving club are going to be over. I think there was a missed opportunity here, because Pikari’s desire to stay in place with Teko and never grow up parallels the whole Peter Pan arc, only it didn’t really play out that way on screen; it was a subtle connection at best. If that whole arc had been about Pikari instead of Ai, it could’ve been a lot more connected to the rest of the season.

Speaking of that arc, look at this bullshit. Look at this absolute and total bullshit.

So we sat through three episodes of that Peter Pan arc to get Mato-chan-sensei and the other homeroom teacher together romantically, and they still act like they’re basically strangers around each other? Really? I mean, it’s implied that Mato-chan-sensei might pursue him from what she says here, but COME ON. After that storyline, I for one think I deserve to see the two homeroom teachers get it on– preferably underwater.

So ends another season of Amanchu! I actually liked this episode more the second time I watched it, while I was taking screenshots; the first time through, I was just too annoyed by the whole second half of the season to really give it a fair shake. And that’s a shame, because this show is something special when it’s firing on all cylinders. As of now, I don’t know if I would recommend it to most anime fans, and that’s a little sad.

I don’t regret watching two seasons of this show. But on average, it was just okay when it could have been stellar, and I’m a little bit mad at it for that.

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 11

Normally I don’t like to say things like “this episode was a giant trash fire,” because that’s harsh. No matter how much I didn’t like something, using that kind of language is unnecessarily cruel to the people who made the show, and the fans who enjoyed it. In general, I think people are way too quick to compare things to trash and/or excrement just because they didn’t happen to like them.

That said, this entire episode revolved around burning dead grass, so I feel comfortable saying that it was a giant burning grass fire of an episode; that’s just a statement of fact.

Before we go any further, your Weekly Pikari Troll Face: honestly, none of the Pikari faces were that choice this time around, so here’s a version of Pikari Entire Family Troll Face.

The sheer size of Grandpa continues to be an odd mix of adorable and terrifying.

After last episode’s neat flashback to the early days of scuba diving, this episode has the show returning to entirely land-based antics that mainly feel like a time-filling exercise. Pikari gets sick on her birthday, and everybody brings her cake; later on, they all go to a traditional dead grass fire burning ceremony on a mountain, and we learn that Kokoro is a boy. Whooop.

It had occurred to me that Kokoro might be a feminine-looking boy rather than a masculine-sounding girl, but I never mentioned it in any of these posts because I honestly didn’t care. Other than being mildly surprised, it seems like Pikari and Teko don’t care that much either, so I’m kind of flummoxed as to what the point here is. I think Pikari realizes that she’s probably his first crush, and treats that with the gravity it deserves (whereas in the past, she probably assumed it was just a kind of hero-worship on Kokoro’s part), but that’s really the only good part of this episode; the rare opportunity to see Pikari be the mature one.

Oh honey, are you ever on the wrong show. You have no idea.

While we’re talking about gender on Amanchu! here for a moment, maybe this a good time to talk about how Pikari and Teko’s relationship has been portrayed. I think during the first season, you could choose to see their feelings for one another as “just friends” if you wanted to, but it’s become increasingly difficult to do that. The imagery with the two of them has gotten more and more romantic. Still, they never refer to themselves as lesbians, are never referred to that way by anyone else, and it’s never made explicit that their love has a sexual aspect.

For me personally, it really doesn’t matter whether the two girls have sexual feelings for each other; they obviously love each other, and that’s what matters. However, if you’re watching from the vantage point of looking for an increase in LGBT representation in anime, then the fact that Teko and Pikari are strongly hinted to be lesbians without that ever being confirmed is probably annoying. I don’t really know what to make of that, by the way, I’m just noticing it.

Anyway, this show has really been trying my patience lately. The first half of the show was pretty nicely front-loaded with scuba scenes, but then spent much of the second half goofing off. I mean, I don’t even need the show to focus that heavily on the diving– I know it’s a slice-of-life series as well– but if they’re not going to do a diving plot, it would be nice if the story they did tell felt like it had a purpose. It looks like the final episode will return to diving, but unless that ends up being one hell of an episode, it feels like too-little-too-late at this point.

Oh, and would just like to point out that Mato-chan-sensei is once again hanging out with her teenaged students and blowing off the love of her life; I’m beginning to seriously worry about this woman. Oh, and they brought back Kotori, Teko’s dream buddy from the first “lucid dreaming” episode, and that’s not right! Please, I’m trying so hard to forget that those episodes happened or that I ever liked any of them in the first place!

*sigh* This episode, man. This episode.

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 10

Last time, I was so upset about the state of affairs in Amanchu! that I didn’t even bother to share my favorite Pikari Troll Face. My only recourse now is to share a Pikari Troll Face that’s so great, it can cover several weeks:

I love how in this sort of in-between frame she’s not sure whether she should be excited or not. Like she’s about ready to yell out “Whoop!” but Mato-chan Sensei recently told her “learn to read the room!” and now she’s questioning herself. Whoop?

Anyway, after dabbling with a well-meaning but ultimately dull storyarc, this episode was more of the Amanchu! we’ve come to know and love. In addition to having some scuba diving scenes (actual diving! Not even kidding!), it also had a really warm and cozy vibe, like you were right there hanging out with the characters and drinking pork soup with them. Considering that all the characters are basically camping out for the night at the Amanchu storefront, it was practically an episode of Yuru Camp; since everyone and their Dad loved Yuru Camp, why not? It works.

This is so snuggly, I love it. Teko and Kokoro fighting over who gets to be Pikari’s pillow is pretty cute, although the results are predictable: Kokoro is 100 years too early to challenge Teko on the subject of being all up in Pikari’s business.

I don’t know what it is about this show that makes me feel like it’s riffing on other shows so much; another show could do a camp-out New Year’s Party like this, and I probably wouldn’t immediately think “Yuru Camp vibes.” I think Amanchu! is kind of a skilled chameleon, where different episodes bring different sort of feelings up to the surface very effectively, so it tends to remind you of other good shows. Except, err, for the last three episodes.

Speaking of which, I have to wonder what Mato-chan Sensei was doing at this party; doesn’t she have a boyfriend now? If we had to sit through that insufferable Peter Pan arc, at least Mato-chan should get some action out of it, you know? I wonder if that other teacher is just sitting, drinking cheap beer at home, wondering why the love of his life ditched him on New Years Eve for a bunch of teenagers.

THIS. THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN MISSING. More underwater scenery porn, please; I don’t mind if it’s flashbacks with Grandma, or Grandpa, or whatever, it’s all good.

The focus on Pikari’s grandmother was unexpected, but really pleasant. I definitely was not sitting around thinking that I needed to know more about Grandma’s past, but the whole idea that she was a pearl diver who fell in love with scuba diving back when it was new and little-known is a good hook. I would be totally up for an OVA all about Grandma Pikari back in the ’50s and ’60s; I’m pretty sure we won’t get one, but it would be amazing.

One of the lesser-known rules of anime: the more old and plain a Grandma looks now, the more insanely smoking hot she was back in the day. Seriously, she is like the hottest Amanchu girl, which is saying something.

Now that we’ve only got a few episodes left, I’m assuming (knock wood) that they will be about Pikari and Teko going diving together again. I’d love for them to have one more little adventure all by themselves, falling in love amidst the wonders of the sea. Thematically, to come full circle this season probably should involve the two girls being separated, or at least anticipating separation, but I kind of hope we don’t go there; I just want them to be happy together for a while longer.