Tag Archives: MOE!

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 7 and 8

I decided to do a double post again, since not that much happened in episode 7. LLENN’s new partner Fuka is a lot of fun to watch, especially because she’s a different kind of crazy from Pito, but still pretty darn crazy. It’s like level-headed LLENN is just a magnet for crazy people, and this is something she’s just going to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Anyway, despite the fact that the show insists on calling them Team LF (boring), to me they are Team Death By Loli, and I feel good about it.

Earlier in the series I mentioned that I really don’t care about Pito, and that’s still true; I mean, I think her obsession with in-game death is somewhat interesting, but she could drop out of the story tomorrow and I wouldn’t really care. Now I’m trying to figure out if the fact that I don’t care about her is really hurting the story at this point. Technically LLENN is trying to save Pito, so being invested in Pito’s fate would make for a better story, right? But Pito is functioning as an antagonist in the competition, so it’s not like the show is asking me to root for her.

Pito is not a very nice lady, and probably a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Now if only I found her as interesting as the players of GGO seem to.

I want LLENN to succeed in defeating Pito and M in the Squad Jam for Karen’s sake, but considering the fact that Pito and M could jump off a cliff together and I wouldn’t care, it’s hard to feel like a lot is riding on the outcome of this competition. I imagine we’re going to learn something about Pito’s tragic backstory soon that will make us care about her, but I’m not sure I want that to happen; it would be refreshing if she were just a psychopath, straight-up, and that’s all there is to her. Like the show fades into a flashback, and we’re waiting to find out that her father neglected her as a child or something, and then it turns out her past was totally normal and she just really wants to die in a video game for some reason.

See, I complain that I don’t care about Pito, then I complain that I don’t want to care about her…so what do I want? What do women want? What do anime bloggers want? I don’t know. I think this setup, with LLENN being all “Don’t you dare die before I KILL YOU, Pito!” is clever and makes good use of the premise, but emotionally, it’s lacking.

Why do things look insanely cool the more physically implausible they would be in real life? I’m a sucker for the whole landing-on-the –sword/gun move, and it’s really stupid. I can’t help it though, it looks badass.

I do appreciate the fact that we jumped into SJ2 pretty fast with very little messing around beforehand, but as a result, it seems like Fuka had barely any time to get used to playing GGO. She says that she practiced lobbing grenades for hours, but is that really enough time to develop the mastery of the weapon that she has? After all, the people playing in SJ2 are supposed to be the cream of the crop, people who’ve been mastering this game for months, if not years; it seems a little convenient that Fuka got that good that fast. I guess we just have to assume that Miyu is a very talented gamer, no matter what she’s playing.

Was it really necessary to go for the crotch-kill, LLENN? I think she’s just showing off for her fangirls at this point.

So now we’re waiting for Pito to slaughter a bunch of foolish opponents; I hope the way she does it is suitably clever, because we’ve been hearing for a while what a good player Pito is supposed to be, but we’ve never really seen it. If it involves using one or more members of her team as a suicide bomber, I’m buying myself ice cream for being smart and seeing it coming.

My level of interest in this show is dropping a little, but it’s still enjoyable enough; it’s just not giving me a whole lot to talk about at the moment. I do hope that sometime before the end of the season, we see the girls’ rhythmic gymnastics team at a tournament or something, and they’re all busy on their laptops playing GGO and totally ignoring whatever they’re supposed to be doing.

“Ladies, what are you doing? it’s time for the synchronized baton-twirling prelims! Get your leotards ready!”

“Shut up Coach, we got sassy bitches to shoot!”

“But girls, we’ve practiced for months for this competition and–”

“Oh FUCK it’s that blonde chick with the twin grenade launchers, everybody hide under the truck!” *Cue Massive Explosion* “Damn You, Death By Loli!”

Comic Girls, Episode 7

Time for more horror with Fuura-sensei, which I could generally do without, however it kind of works on a meta-level this week. See, this episode is about Kaos learning how to draw backgrounds, and that’s a terrifying subject for most newbie comic artists, so it’s only fitting that she has to do it in an attic, literally surrounded by skeletons, dripping candles and creepy dolls. It’s a clever bit of juxtaposition that might not be immediately obvious, but I’m pretty sure it’s intentional.

Kaos seems to pick up background-drawing rather quickly though, while I still struggle with it, which makes me wonder; would I allow Fuura-sensei to tutor me, even if it means I have to be subjected to her horror shtick for an hour or so? I don’t know if even I love comics enough to go through with that….

This is about my reaction when I realize that I have to draw backgrounds. I have this weird mental block with linear perspective, where I never seem to do it right no matter how many times I read about it or have it explained to me. It’s actually pretty sad.

The best part of this episode is when Fuura-sensei shows Ruki a panel that Kaos drew, and Ruki doesn’t believe it because everyone knows that Kaos can’t draw well, then realizes how cruel it is to say that out loud in front of Kaos. It’s funny to me that “Kaos can’t draw” is basically a house rule that everyone acknowledges in a dorm specifically intended for artists. I would say “Git Gud, Kaos,” except now that she can draw bg, she’s technically better than me, so I’ll shut up.

The other significant thing in this episode is the revelation that Koyume got a magazine serialization, so she’s jumped ahead of Kaos in terms of professional credits. She says it’s a short serialization, so she’s not quite on Ruki and Tsubasa’s level yet, but she’s getting there. I wonder: did she ever learn how to draw guys? I feel like she must have, and I feel kind of robbed that we never got to see that. No major improvements off-camera, Comic Girls!

The rest of this episode is about Kaos getting glasses, which is typical CGDCT fodder that I really have nothing to say about. I don’t have a problem with this show having the girls do cutesy humor (it’s kind of part of the mandate and all), but I would be really stretching to find anything to say about that whole sequence beyond “it’s cute, I guess.”

Hopefully the next episode will have a little more substance, because they were on a roll there for a little while.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 6

I could have sat down and guessed at potential plots for this show all day long, and I have to admit, I never would have predicted this one. I thought there would be some mysterious, shadowy conspiracy, or an evil villain trying to hack the game, but Karen drawn into the romantic nonsense of two certifiably insane people? Did not see that coming.

First, let’s deal with the rhythmic gymnastics team. Initially I thought having the girls meet up with Karen post-Squad Jam was just a pointless bit of fluff, but as the girls explained their motivation for playing GGO, they presented a good justification for the existence of violent video games in general. Thanks to GGO, the girls were able to become “war buddies,” without the risk or inconvenience of actual war. They’ve bonded as a team, and while they could have done that in many different ways, fighting for their virtual lives together was a very effective way to do it.

However, before you think the show is declaring “Violent games are great! Video Games will solve all problems!” it becomes pretty obvious that there’s a downside; the girls don’t seem to care too much about their chosen sport anymore. They started playing to improve their teamwork, but the means became an end unto itself. I wonder how often this happens in real life; people play games in part to address specific problems, only to get so into the game that they forgot about the problem in the first place. It’s something that’s likely to only become more common as games get more immersive, so it’s an important thing to look out for.

Gun Gale Online: Quite possibly the only MMO where the gamers are actually more attractive in real life than they are in the game.

Then there’s Pito, who’s so upset that she missed out on Sword Art Online the first time around that she’s trying to put another Death Game together. Logically, thinking about the way even the most horrible things seem to become memes that people want to repeat, it makes perfect sense that someone would do this. I mean, Pito and M are clearly nuts (which Karen realizes immediately), but it’s completely believable that they would be crazy in this exact way.

What this storyline seems to be dealing with is how the world would have changed in the wake of the Death Game, but from a different angle from the original series. The main show dealt with a lot of the details, like how SAO kids were sent to a special school for survivors and whatnot, but this show seems to be dealing with how the broader culture has changed as a result.*

I hesitate to bring up school shootings, because I don’t want to get dragged into a gun control argument (and whatever merits those arguments may have, I don’t think there’s any point to having one here), but there are obvious parallels. No matter what we try to do about it, school shootings are part of the culture of the United States right now: it’s awful, frightening, sickening culture, but it’s real. Now, in this anime’s world, killing and dying in real life based on video games is becoming the new culture.

I wonder how much we have to worry about this in the future. Up until now, video games (violent and otherwise) have done little to inspire real-life violence. I’m sure there’re cases where players have hunted down other players in real life to get revenge for in-game altercations, but considering just how many people play video games, that sort of thing is still astonishingly rare. Will it remain so? Are we just waiting on a grisly, seminal event, to get it ingrained in the public consciousness to the point where it becomes a meme, and thus, infinitely repeatable?

This is getting a little too dark for one of my typical anime posts, I think. But one of the things SAO does well, just like Ghost in the Shell, is get us to anticipate societal problems that new technology may enable, before that technology exists. Maybe it’ll never exist; maybe virtual reality will remain as basically clunky and limited as it is now (unlikely, but possible I guess), and we’ll never experience the full-dive games Karen and Pito play. Maybe killing yourself in real life because you died in a game will never take off as a concept. But if games continue to become more and more immersive, this is something we’re eventually going to have to deal with.

I’m impressed that this show brought this problem to my attention, but I think I probably would have been happier if I could have remained ignorant a little longer. So I’m an impressed, depressed anime blogger right now.

Just in case this was all too serious for you, here’s Goushi being ridiculous, because he is a crazy man with an even crazier girlfriend. Come to think of it, is Pito even his girlfriend? He could just work for her, for all we know.

*I don’t want to say that mainline SAO never tackles these themes, because I haven’t read novels. I’m just comparing this show to the other animated entries in the franchise that we’ve had so far.

Comic Girls, Episode 6

Sometimes my personal quirks put me in a weird position where I hate something, but I know that’s totally on me and does not reflect badly on the media in any way. I pretty much hate horror and have no tolerance for jump-scares and stuff like that, so the fact that this episode is half over-the-top horror was pretty unpleasant to me. That said, I can appreciate that it was well done; in fact, I think this show did a better job creating a horror atmosphere, even with tongue-planted firmly in cheek, than a lot of horror anime that try to do it seriously. Of course, I’ve just admitted that I don’t really watch horror anymore, so I guess I wouldn’t know? The point is, the animators captured the horror vibe really well.

Please stop with these shockingly effective mood shots, I want a tepid Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show and I won’t stand for any insubordination! Wow, I get bossy when I’m terrified.

Once again, I find myself strongly identifying with Kaos, who was screaming her head off during this whole segment; if only I, too, could harness the power of my love of boobs for strength the way she does. Unfortunately, I’m only just okay on boobs (don’t really have strong feelings for them one way or the other), and the more anime I watch, the more I’m beginning to feel that this is a disadvantage. Kaos may be a boiling cauldron of crippling insecurities, but she could probably summon the courage to slay a dragon if someone just told her that she could see some awesome boobs afterwards, and it’s kind of inspiring.

A pretty accurate depiction of my face during the first half of this episode, if only I could watch TV while I was in the bath…waitaminute. Why can’t I watch TV in the bath? A TV in the bathroom sounds unsafe, but it’s only a matter of time before they start making baths with included waterproof TVs, right?

To change the subject from my excessive wussiness, I do like the fact that the new girl embodies her genre of manga, and it would be cool to see more of this. Imagine if they introduce a magical girl manga artist, only she’s actually a magical girl? That would be surreal, but really cool if done right.

Fuura-sensei; I wish I was better able to appreciate her character, because I know a lot of fans of the show took to her immediately. I just can’t get past the fact that she shows suddenly behind people in mirrors, that’s way too creepy dammit.

The second half of the episode focuses on Tsubasa, who is my least favorite of the four main girls. I don’t dislike her exactly, but she’s just so darned successful at such a young age, it’s hard to relate to her. Ruki is successful as well, but in a different way than she expected or wanted, whereas Tsu has gotten successful drawing exactly what she wants all the time, which isn’t that interesting. We’re supposed to be sympathetic to her because she’s hiding her identity as a girl, thus she can’t go to signings and connect with her fans, but….eh, I just don’t find that very compelling. I’m pretty sure she could come out at as a girl tomorrow, and if anything it would just serve as a PR boost for her manga. It seems like a non-problem.

Homeroom teacher Nijino-sensei, as seen through patented Kaos-vision. I joke about Kaos having no talent, but to be fair, her art style is very cute and well-suited to 4Koma. Now she just needs everything else….

I like the character of the otaku teacher, and she serves an important practical purpose; now that the girls have an ally inside the school, maybe they can stop running themselves so ragged trying to keep up with academics and their manga. Look, I’m not suggesting that Nijino-sensei fabricate their grades or anything, but maybe she could cut them a little slack, y’know?

Plus, the fact that Tsubasa’s biggest fan is someone simultaneously really close to her, yet far from her in terms of social rank creates an interesting dynamic. I’m hoping they’re going to come up with some fun things for Nijino to do to try to “help” Tsubasa with her manga that add to the gleeful everyday insanity.

Finally, Kaos seems to be developing as an artist since she’s learning to create characters inspired by people she finds interesting in real life, which is a really useful tool for her to have in her arsenal. She still doesn’t know anything about writing a story, but baby steps kids; baby steps. Frankly, considering the amount of investment Kaos’ editor is putting into her development, Kaos darned well turn out to be the next Rumiko Takahashi at the end of all this, but who’s to say she won’t be? It’s a goofy, surreal, wish-fulfillment kind of anime; nothing is off the table, and that’s what I like about it.

Comic Girls, Episodes 4 & 5

I had to take care of some real-life stuff, so I’m a little behind on anime. To catch up, I’m going to be doubling up on some of these episode posts– or maybe tripling up, if I get even further behind. Who knows what kind of wacky anime coverage you might find at Otakusphere? It’s part of the charm! Err, hopefully.

Me, getting ready to do some blogging. I think I might steal “I Feel Digital Just Sitting On It” as the title for a memoir.

Episode 4: Sex is Not So Bad

I like the ongoing joke that Ruki is inadvertently sexy, even when she’s being a total dork. It’s the rarely seen parallel to the trying-too-hard-to-be sexy character.

Anyway, back to the Manga Artist Dorm of Awesomeness. Ruki is running herself ragged trying to keep up with her manga and school, to the point where she’s staying up multiple nights in a row, and seeing that kind of behavior always makes me wince a bit. Ruki, my girl, I give you permission to skip school if you need more than one all-nighter to finish your manga, okay? Maybe I’m a bad influence, but I think school attendance becomes less important if you already have a job in the adult world. Besides, sleep is very important, people; I thought I was functioning on minimal sleep in college, but when I look at some of the dumbass choices I made back then, I wonder.

This is the first episode that really had a strong theme, that of Ruki getting over her issues with drawing lewd manga. I really liked this angle, since Ruki being dreadfully uncomfortable with the manga she’s drawing has been arguably more disturbing than humorous since the beginning. I like that when she gets out and meets her readers, they’re all totally normal women and girls from different walks of life, and there’s nothing unsavory about the experience; basically, this episode is a little paintbox full of sex positivity. Everyone has sexual fantasies, this is normal, and Ruki shouldn’t feel bad for drawing manga with sexual elements.

“Hello, ladies! I’m 14 and I’ve never even kissed a boy, but please come up to me and ask for advice on your marriage– It’s not like I’m going to make it any worse, right?”

Of course, the idea that a sheltered, 14-year-old girl can pull off the role of an experienced older sister-type at a public event, to an audience of people twice her age, isn’t really plausible. However, criticizing this kind of show for the characters being precocious is a little like watching a giant robot show and then complaining that the animators didn’t account for how the robot would be effected by air resistance; there are certain genre conventions that are at odds with reality, but we all knowingly accept them for the sake of entertainment. This story with Ruki would make more sense if she were 24 instead of 14 (or 34, God forbid!), but that’s true of a lot of anime characters in various genres.

I guess you could criticize storylines like this as part of a larger point about how Japanese pop culture is youth-obsessed, but A)that’s not just Japanese pop culture, that applies to INTERNATIONAL pop culture and B)I’ve always thought the reasons why younger characters tend to dominate entertainment were pretty intuitive. I may lament the lack of characters my age in anime sometimes, but I understand the reasons why they’re rare.

In any event, this episode really felt like Comic Girls finding a purpose beyond tepid cuteness, and I for one felt validated that I had a reason to be watching it in the first place. My taste, validated! Surely this won’t last….

Episode 5: We Are Up To 50% Lesbian, And That’s Fine

…and it’s a beach episode, goddamit.

Actually, it’s really not bad. I appreciate the fact that this episode only devoted half it’s runtime to the beach, and then moved onto other things. The girls all look lovely in their swimsuits if you’re into that sort of thing, and the show managed to remember that this show is about artistic girls, not just generic cute girls. I like the fact that three out of the four girls had to basically be dragged kicking and screaming to go swim in the ocean, since they preferred to sit on the beach and draw. I haven’t been to the beach in a long time, but when I did go, I was the girl who was sitting on the blanket drawing, so I relate to Kaos and co., as usual.

One minor note that perturbed me though; Can you really rent bathing suits at the beach these days? That seems really unsanitary, and given how cheaply you can buy a bathing suit if you want to, really unnecessary. I mean, I’m sure the rental place washes the suits between customers and stuff, but who wants to wear a bathing suit that ten other people have worn? It’s not like going skiing, where most people rent equipment so you don’t have to drop $1000 on your own set. I mean, I realize this is tangential to the episode and I really shouldn’t care, but I’m curious now.

After fun-in-the-sun hijinks, we get Koyume and Tsubasa going on a date with everyone else spying on them, as you do. What’s funny is that Koyume seems genuinely flummoxed that she knows that Tsu is a girl, but she’s attracted to her anyway. It’s called being a lesbian, Ko-chan; Kaos is also struggling with this crazy, obscure concept. Someone needs to sit these girls down and draw them a map, because this is getting embarrassing already.

Let’s be honest, I would go on a date with Tsubasa too. Mostly to grill her for manga-drawing tips, but the point still stands.

I guess the date may be exciting for people who like girl-on-girl romance, but I don’t really care much for that sort of thing one way or the other. The part of this episode that resonated with me was Tsu telling Koyume that the most important part of drawing manga was to enjoy it, and not to obsess over professional achievement. It may be simple and it may be trite, but honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to tell an artistic person that too often. I wish I had a Tsu in my life to tell me that back when I really needed to hear it; my life might be very different today, if I had.

So after a rocky start, Comic Girls seems to be hitting it’s stride, not so much as a show about manga (although the manga element is always there), but more as a show about (unusually sheltered) teen girls trying to wrap their heads around sex and growing up. Even though I would personally prefer a show that went super-in depth into the manga-drawing process, this is probably a smarter direction for the show to go in general.

I hope at least a few people who aren’t watching the show read this post, so they can feast their eyes on this screenshot with no context at all.

Comic Girls, Episode 3

I’m beginning to develop a sneaking suspicion that Kaos is actually a terrible manga artist. Her ideas are shallow, her art is rough, and she seems to like drawing the same strip over and over again, without even noticing she’s doing it. Yet Kaos’ editor seems to think that she has some sort of “unique talent” (her words), and I’m beginning to wonder where she’s getting that from.

I’m a little jealous, honestly: if Kaos’ level of talent is enough to get her into the special Comic Artists Dorm, why didn’t I get to live in an awesome comic artists dorm as a teen artist? I may have sucked, but I doubt I was any worse than Kaos is.

Is this really all it takes to get into Special Manga Dorm? I want to go to Special Manga Dorm, and I can draw better than this! I’m short, no one needs to know I’m in my 30s….

There’s plenty of blame to go around though, since the other characters’ attempts to help Kaos improve her work are all a little bit…off. Koyume notices that the fashions that Kaos draws her characters in are kind of lame, so the girls decide to dress Kaos up in a whole bunch of different outfits to improve her fashion sense. Err…that’s really what you think her manga needs? That’s the one element that was sticking out to you? Are there, mayhaps, other elements of her manga that might be more worthy of spending time on, like literally every other part of it?

Look, I know the whole thing was just an excuse to dress Kaos up in cute outfits, but they could’ve easily done that without such a dumb excuse.

I have nothing to say about the Kaos-Kitty wearing a beret, I just felt like it would have been criminally negligent not to take a screenshot of it at some point.

The second suggestion for improving Kaos’ work is for her to spend some time sketching, which is actually a damn good suggestion. And having the girls available to pose for each other for life drawing is one of the clear advantages of living together. However, for some reason, they call it a “sketching contest,” which is weird. Why would you make it competitive, when Kaos already knows her art is less developed than everyone else’s and she’s really self-conscious about it? Isn’t that just setting her up for failure? However, despite calling it a contest, there doesn’t seem to be any competitive element at all and the girls just draw together. So it wasn’t a contest? I’m so confused.

The stuff in this episode about how each of the girls has a different idea of what female beauty is supposed to be is pretty on-target. It seems like the thin, beautiful girl is always upset because she wishes she was curvy, and the curvy, beautiful girl is upset because she wishes she was thinner. The fact that their chosen manga genres seem to magnify their insecurities is interesting to me.

They are doing something interesting with Kaos though, since she’s a teenaged girl who has trouble thinking of herself as a teenaged girl. The best part of the episode is when the other girls notice that when Kaos talks about teen girls, she talks as though she’s not one herself. You could spitball a lot of reasons for this, like maybe Kaos is actually trans, but I think it most likely has to do with her complex about her size; she’s always thought of herself as a kid due to her tiny size, and she can’t get out of that mindset. Even though she’s technically a teenager now, she still feels like a little kid standing on a box, looking in on the glamorous (or so she thinks) world of teen girls from outside the window.

I can relate to that; I think there are so many romantic ideas about being a teen girl, that sometimes actual teen girls can feel like they’re not “really” teenagers because their lives aren’t cool enough yet. I definitely felt like that during my teen years, at times.

That’s the weird thing about this show though. I want to say it’s missing the mark, but then Kaos will do or say something that really takes me back to how I felt when I was that age. Also, her admission that she never knows when to get rid of clothes because she never  never grows out of them kind of hit me where I live. My favorite gray dress is from 1996, seriously not even kidding, I wore it last month.

One more thing: I’m not sure what to make of how this show handles Kaos’ obvious attraction to women. When ever Kaos says or does anything that makes it clear she’s into girls, the other girls just dismiss it as her “acting weird,” missing the point entirely. I could see getting pissed off by this since the show seems to be equating homosexuality with weirdness, but I don’t think that’s the intention; I think the girls are all supposed to be pretty innocent about sex, and having them be able to nail down what’s going on with Kaos requires more sophistication than they’re supposed to have. They just don’t have the experience to be able to say “Clearly, Kaos is a lesbian, or possibly bi-sexual,” they just know her reactions are different from what they would expect, so they just call her weird and stop thinking about it.

I find myself wondering if real teen girls would be this ignorant about sexual attraction, even younger teens, but then that’s falling into the trap of worrying about whether an obvious fantasy is “realistic”; of course it’s not. The issue isn’t whether or not it’s realistic, but whether or not it’s believable given everything else we know about the setting. This is a world where a manga editor tells a 14-year-old girl, “you draw hot women, you should draw sexy comics!”, despite the fact that said 14 year-old-girl doesn’t know anything about sex, so I guess it kind of fits. Comic Girls seems to be based around the girls being surrounded with sex, for reasons both voluntary and not, and having no idea what they’re actually looking at. If they had a clue what was going on, it would be a very different show.

So I found more to say about this episode than I usually do, which is good I guess? I don’t know. I don’t regret my decision to blog this show exactly, but it’s not turning out like I thought it would either. I do find it interesting that this show is sort of the one last bastion of hope for moe fans this season; where are all the other shows about four cute girls doing a thing? Is this really the only one? What happened? I’m still not quite done wrapping my brain around the fact that this seems to be the season where moe seemingly died AND Full Metal Panic came back; I mean, what kind of timeline is this anymore? I feel like someone made a wish on a monkey’s paw and we’re all going to be hit with the dark side any second now.

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 2

I’m pleased to report that this episode featured an underwater storyline, which is all I really want from this show– well, other than this face:

This screenshot serves no purpose other than to provide another example of my beloved Pikari Troll Face; I don’t think I can blog about this series without including at least one.

Technically, it wasn’t a scuba dive because Pikari wasn’t wearing her scuba gear and was in fact free-diving, but that’s the kind of thing that only an obsessive rules lawyer would get stuck on, and I’m not an obsessive rules lawyer– at least, I don’t feel like being one today. Anyway, the story about the Mommy Octopus and her octopus babies was beautiful and a little sad, and took me by surprise, just a tad. It’s weird to hear Pikari, of all people, explain the inherent cruelty of Mother Nature and how mommy octopuses go off to die before their children are born.[EDIT: I just remembered that the plural of “octopus” is “octopi,” and now I’m annoyed, because I hate it when English gets insecure and tries to be Latin. Octopuses FOREVER.]

Interestingly I think Pikari has an intuitive understanding of this kind of stuff where it relates to the ocean–sad things happen, and that’s just part of the life– but not so much with her friends. Teko doesn’t know anything about octopuses, but she’s the one who can sense the looming darkness in their relationship; that it’s too good to last for long. I don’t think Pikari can see that coming.

These underwater scenes are beautiful, but I’m a little disturbed by the fact that Pikari and Kokoro seem to be able to stay underwater indefinitely. Maybe Pikari doesn’t even need scuba equipment because she’s a mutant with the power to breathe underwater, and tensions will rise when Teko discovers her secret? I’m up for an Amanchu!-X-Men crossover.

In addition to the Saga of Mommy Octopus, this episode also features a fireworks show, where Teko and Pikari get properly dolled up in yukata for the event. I noted last week that Pikari was the closest we’re going to get to seeing an adult Yotsuba in anime (or any Yotsuba in anime, for that matter), but I wasn’t being entirely serious; now I’m not so sure. Pikari’s sunflower-accented yukata really seemed to be playing up her resemblance to Yotsuba, since sunflowers are an important motif in that manga. I’m going to be on the lookout for more “Pikari is Secretly Yotsuba’s Older Sister” hints as the show goes on.

It’s hard to get a good screenshot of Pikari’s yukata since this whole part of the episode is really dark. Stupid firework festivals, why do they always hold them at night?

Teko has very little to do in this episode, other than stew a bit over the fact that Pikari has made a new friend and she’s trying very hard not to be jealous. I like the fact that they’re splitting up the girls a bit and giving them their own storylines; instead of suddenly having to separate, which is what Teko fears, it looks like the girls are gradually going to stop being so attached at the hip and pursue their own lives. So far, I’m impressed by the way this season has been addressing Pikari and Teko’s friendship; it would be easy to just have them palling around every day, eating yakisoba and making adorable faces at each other, but watching them test the confines of their friendship is a hell of a lot more interesting.

Okay, I see tentacles because Mommy Octopus is fighting the Evil Electric Eel, so is this scene all hot and sexy now? Because tentacles=hot, right?  Maybe I need remedial hentai education.

Mato, the diving club advisor, also gets an interesting flashback in this episode that seems kind of separate from everything else going on around it. I feel like Mato has her own storyline that we’re going to eventually see, but for now we’re just getting tiny bits and pieces. I hope they get on with it, because she’s actually more interesting than the high school kids, at least to me.

My only real complaint about this episode is the part where Ai punches Makoto because…huh, I don’t even remember why she punched him, it wasn’t important. But that’s the problem, this trope of girls hitting guys for no good reason. It works in something like Love Hina, where the over-the-top nature of Keitarou’s abuse from the girls just adds to the overall zany humor, but I dislike the girl-casually-abusing-guy-who-just-has-to-sit-back-and-take-it pattern that shows up in so many anime. I get why that might have felt edgy and innovative decades ago, but now it just makes the female character look like a horrible person.

Overall, pleased with the Amanchu experience, transparent octopus babies/10, would scuba again. Let’s wish on a sunflower that the show can keep up this level of quality for the whole season.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode Two

There’s some good news: this episode provides a clear answer to the main question I’ve had about this show all along, which is “Why doesn’t Karen just play ALO?” The bad news is it’s a stupid answer.

Apparently, in 2025, avatar customization options do not exist in MMORPGs, and you are stuck with random character rolls. So Karen (player of the LLENN avatar) starts playing Gun Gale Online because it’s the first game where she rolls a short, cute avatar. That is literally the only reason why she starts playing; she rolled a short character.

Okay, I don’t have a problem with the fact that Karen wanted to play someone short and cute (more on that later), but how, in 2025, do they not have any avatar customization options in any of these games? Why can’t she just choose to play a short character in ALO, or whatever game she wants? This seems like a really obvious feature to be missing from games in the SAO world.

This shot bugs me because I’ve had the maxim “never point your gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy” drilled into my head, and it looks especially wrong to break this rule at a shooting range, where gun safety etiquette is paramount. I know that this is a virtual shooting range in a video game and no one is actually at risk, but something about it still kind of bugs me. Don’t use GGO to teach bad gun etiquette, world of 2025!

If you want to overthink it (who? me?), it could have something to do with how Sword Art Online started, in-universe. That game did have avatar customization, which was then undone by the villain once the Death Game plan was revealed, leaving people effectively naked without their chosen avatars. So it could be that in MMO culture in this world, avatar customization options are associated with  SAO because that’s the last time they were used, and no one wants to be reminded of that. Maybe it’s a superstitious thing, like the way some buildings don’t include a 13th floor. Alternately, it could just be that for some reason, the people developing these games all decided at some point that rolling random avatars was the best way to keep everybody honest, rather than letting people stack the deck in various ways.

Really, I would accept many explanations for why there’s no customization in GGO or any of these other “advanced” MMORPGs; I’m just a little ticked that we don’t get one at all. This is probably one of those things where I have to go read the novel for it to make sense, right?

Anyway, back to Karen’s desire to play as a short character, that I don’t have any problem with. As a six-foot-tall woman in Japan, she’s used to standing out, and she wants to use VR to experience the other side of the coin for once. Also, her comments early in the episode to the effect of “if only I were small and cute…” can actually be interpreted as a tiny bit of commentary on moe as a phenomenon. Just as seeing women with thin bodies held up as the standard in art and advertising can upset women with stockier builds (whether it should or not, or whether it should to the extent that it often does is another story), seeing women with small bodies as the standard can be upsetting if you happen to be really tall.

Tao Okamoto, the actress who played Mariko Yashida in The Wolverine, said that she always felt out of place as a tall Japanese girl, so she related to the story of the mutants in the X-Men movies. Now remember that Karen is supposed to be several inches taller than Okamoto is, and imagine how she must feel.

Also, it’s not just a cosmetic difference. Karen is used to bumping her head on signs and always being seen, wherever she goes; as the tiny LLENN, not only is she extraordinarily agile, but she can hide from other players with ease. It’s not just about being small and cute, it’s about choosing when and if people see her, after feeling like she’s been on display for her whole life. I can see why that experience would be liberating for her, and would make the game more addictive.

So I’m definitely on board with Karen’s motivations for playing the game and playing the way that she does, but I’m still not sure if I have that much interest beyond that. In addition to introducing Karen and LLENN properly, this episode also introduces Pito, another female GGO player with a penchant for PVP combat. I think I’m supposed to be anticipating the inevitable LLENN vs. Pito fight, but so far, I really don’t care about Pito. Funny note: I just dropped into Wikipedia to double-check what Pito’s name was, Wikipedia spoiled me as to Pito’s true identity (which is exactly what I thought it was), and I still don’t care about her.

Trying to work up the energy to care about Pito…trying again…caring engines at maximum thrust…Imma givin’ ’em all I can, Captain…nope just don’t care nope nope nope

Plus, GGO just looks so boring to play. At least the PVE campaign looks action-packed, but once LLENN “graduates” to PVP, she seems to spend most of her time sitting around in the desert, waiting for targets to show up. If you’re watching an anime about a video game, I think it helps if it looks like a game you’d actually like to play; then again, maybe it’s just me? Maybe a lot of viewers would love to play a game like GGO, and I’m the only one with this problem?

Anyway, I’m interested enough to keep tuning in and see what Karen/LLENN are up to next week, but for me to really get into this show, either it has to introduce more than one character that I care about, or the action has to get more interesting; or hey, even both. I wouldn’t say no to both.

Comic Girls, Episode 2

I really want to like this show, but the writers are making it hard for me. The first part of the episode, where the girls go shopping at a huge art supply store, is great (and exactly what I want from a show like this), but then there’s the second part…where the girls go to school. I really don’t need Comic Girls! to show the girls going to high school, I can see girls attending high school in virtually every other anime that has ever been made. I want to see these girls draw comics, and do other comics-related things: Don’t waste everyone’s time by showing them sitting in math class.

I don’t know if they changed her design, or I just noticed it this episode, but Kaos has noticeable fangs. I think I’m just going to start assuming all of these tiny fang-girls are actually vampires until proven otherwise; you can never be too careful. Maybe she can’t draw characters in proportion because she can’t see herself in the mirror?

They do tie in the school segment to the overall premise by showing how the comic girls try to keep their manga careers secret from their classmates, but it’s all just a little flat. I feel like this show has the potential to be really fun, but it’s afraid to stray too far from “cute girls doing cute things” genre conventions, so it wastes time on irrelevant stuff.

You might think I’d be complaining about the girls going to eat sweets, since that’s a pretty generic anime-girl activity too, but hey, I’m not made of stone; ladies gotta eat.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t even mind the “cute girls doing cute things (CGDCT)” tropes, but they work better in some cases than in others. For instance, in last season’s Slow Start, there was no pretense that the show was about anything other than CGDCT, so seeing the girls just hanging out in school was par for the course. Comic Girls! is supposed to be about something more specific than that; I’ve seen people compare it to Slow Start, but is that really a compliment?

[For the record, I found Slow Start oddly compelling and watched all of it, so it’s not as though I hate the show. It wore it’s complete lack of interest in plot as a badge of honor, and I respect that kind of chutzpah. Still, it’s a good example of a genre show that stays firmly in it’s niche and has no further aspirations.]

Can I take a moment here to talk about how completely outdated screentone seems to me? I certainly get the appeal of doing your artwork in pen and ink instead of digitally, but screentone just seems so…anachronistic? It’s like, you notice your toast is dry, and instead of going to the refrigerator, you walk outside to the barn and spend an hour churning your own butter.

I like the way the show often breaks into moving, manga-styled panels to convey jokes; it’s appropriate, and keeps things lively. But I’m annoyed that this show seems to leave me with so little to say about it yet again; it’s just missing something that shows like Hidamari Sketch have in spades, and I’m not sure what it is. You could say that the characters are bland, but I don’t know if that’s really fair; I relate to Kaos and her boiling cauldron of insecurities, and the others are coming along. Still, something just isn’t quite gelling here.

Hopefully next episode we’ll see the continuation of the girls’ combo manga, I Can’t Believe My Neighborhood Axe Murderer is This Adorable; Protect Me Shirtless-kun!

Amanchu! ~Advance~ Episode One

This show outsmarted me, dammit. I was saying preseason that I would only keep up with Amanchu! S2 if the show actually showed the girls scuba diving, instead of just talking about scuba diving a lot and doing random, unrelated things. This episode contains not one, but two dives, only we see each of them on screen for about ten seconds.  So technically, there is a lot of diving going on, we just don’t get to see most of it.  The lion’s share of screentime is used up by Pikari accidentally going topless, surprising amounts of food porn, and perhaps the most unnecessary love confession scene in the history of anime love confession scenes.

I feel so used.

This was a lovely three seconds of animation.

Okay, so Amanchu! gamed my requirements just like films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe game the Bechdel Test; I can be salty over it or I can just get over it like an adult blogger. All that aside, this was a pretty good season opener. It could have used more scuba diving (which is always true), but it covers a lot of ground in further fleshing out the relationship between Teko and Pikari, which is the core of the show.

However, before talking about stuff that relates to plot and character development or whatnot, can we just take a moment to appreciate the return of Pikari’s Awesome Troll Face?

Oh my God, THIS. This is what I wanted from Amanchu S2, even though I was too stupid to realize it at first: Ridiculous chibi Pikari. When Pikari makes this face, all is forgiven.

I don’t really know why, but seeing Pikari’s face like this always makes me incredibly happy. Maybe it’s because it’s the closest we’re ever likely to get to an animated Yotsuba, and we all could use more Yotsuba in our lives? Possibly.

Anyway, after establishing that Teko really, really loves Pikari (duh), we get a plot where she seemingly pulls away from Pikari, and Pikari misinterprets it. Turns out that Teko is aware that all the joy in her life comes from Pikari, and she’s afraid that when she and Pikari are inevitably separated at some point in the future, she’ll have nothing left. Teko is trying to find a way to enjoy life even on her own, demonstrating a surprising amount of foresight for a high school student. Pikari’s wrong (but completely in-character) solution to this problem is that, while she can’t deny their time together might be limited, they can get around the time limitation by having “Infinite Fun!” during the time they do have. Because Fun is an infinite resource.

Oh Pikari…that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. But I kind of love your optimistic cluelessness, it matches your ridiculous face.

Two of my favorite things in the universe are a)curry and b)Pikari’s Insane Troll Face, and this screenshot has both. BOTH! I told you this episode was a winner.

This episode also focuses quite a bit on the Amanchu beachside restaurant, something I barely remember existing in the previous season. Later on the girls (and one boy) have a barbecue together, and the quantity of food porn begin to approach Food Wars! levels. Come to think of it, aren’t Amanchu! and Food Wars! both JC Staff shows? I like to think that some of the Amanchu! staff went over to the Food Wars! department and were like, “We need to make a simple bowl of pork soup look insanely fucking delicious,” and the Food Wars! animators were like, “Bwahahahahaha you’ve come to the RIGHT PLACE!!!” Then they all went out for yakitori and beer afterwards.

Yes, I’m aware that the anime industry probably doesn’t work like this, with shows being made in adjacent rooms and whatnot. Still, it’s nice to think about; don’t disabuse me of this notion with any real information about how JC Staff operates, I probably don’t want to know.

Okay, it’s normal to make beef and curry and stuff look delicious in anime, but when they go to this much effort to show the perfect char on a piece of corn, you know this shit has to be deliberate. They were determined to make sure even the vegans were salivating during this episode.

All in all, I’m more excited to be watching this show again than I was expecting, and that bodes well for the future of this season– although I am fervently hoping that we’ll get a few episodes that are solidly devoted to scenic underwater dives, instead of barbecues and other silliness. Of course, if Amanchu! decides to take this new penchant for excessive food porn underwater, that would be the best possible scenario. Those tiny little fish swimming around during all the underwater shots are probably delicious as sashimi.

Stop posing, you only have ten seconds of underwater screentime and there’s no call for this silliness. Practice ballroom dancing with an octopus, or something productive like that.