Tag Archives: Spring 2018

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.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 14

This show is always so nice to me. Right when I realized that Golden Kamuy was too dark, so I’d be missing a Hokkaido-based show this season, Food Wars! decides to move this whole cour to Hokkaido for no apparent reason. Really, it’s inexplicable, unless they’re catering exclusively to me.

”Ok, time for advancement exams. We could hold them on school grounds, but where’s the fun in that? Let’s conduct a ludicrously expensive, high-class rail tour of northern Japan, and fit in the exams all over the prefecture. I hear Hokkaido is nice this time of year…the dead of winter.

What are they even going to be cooking by the time they get to those islands that are practically in Siberia? “Esteemed judges, I have prepared for you Grilled Black Bear Flank, with a reduction of tree bark and hardy forest lichens, and a side of Caramelized Reindeer Hoof.”

Really I just love the ridiculous opulence of Food Wars!, the fact that they’re setting their exam arc on a billion-dollar luxury train for no good reason. It’s hard not to read it as little bit of commentary on conspicuous wealth when you’ve still got characters like Megumi, who grew up in a poor fishing village, gawking at the whole thing. Maybe I was being dense last week when I questioned the writer’s choice to make this arc political, because it’s not like that’s really a new thing for this series; I could say it used to be more subtle about politics, but has this franchise ever been subtle?

Today’s Food Porn is Fillet of Salmon. My diet is mostly vegan nowadays, but I do cheat sometimes and eat fish, especially salmon. Nice little bonus that the dish they made this episode was something I would actually eat. It’s definitely not one of the more inventive preparations this show has featured though; oh wow, fish with citrus, really busting out of your comfort zone there, guys.

Anyway, PLOT! Erina decides to save her buddies the boring way, by tutoring them in cooking knowledge to help them pass the exams. I was really hoping she would just go up to the instructors, be like “I’m the God Tongue and you’re some no-name cooking teacher: pass my friends, or I’ll tell everyone that your food is always underseasoned,” and they would all fall before her in terror. Alas, Erina is developing into a nice young lady and her character growth does not allow her to do anything so underhanded and despicable; it would work though, wouldn’t it? I’m pretty sure it would work. Everyone fears the wrath of the God Tongue.

I don’t know who it is, but someone out there is very, very excited for the appearance of Sexy Teacher Erina, and I’m glad they’re having a good day. If they make a figure of her, she should definitely be surrounded by sacks of delicious (and varied) potatoes.

Speaking of the teachers, let us consider for a moment the curious moral fiber of these instructors who are conducting exams in Hokkaido. Apparently they are morally fine with hiding information from the students they intend to fail for political reasons, morally fine with giving sub-par ingredients to the students they intend to fail for political reasons, and will even gloat openly about their corruption in front of the students they intend to fail; none of that is going to keep them up at night with a guilty conscience. Yet they cannot, CANNOT bear to fail anyone who brings them a tasty dish. Once they taste anything with more depth of flavor than a Chicken McNugget, suddenly they’re all “Oh no, I can’t go along with my diabolical plan to unfairly fail you out of school, the sublime cook on this fish has turned me into a decent human being again!” I guess it does fit with the overall theme of this show about how the sensation of food can be overwhelmingly powerful, but man, talk about your arbitrary morality.

For some reason I find it amusing when Alice explains the chemistry of cooking; possibly because she explains everything like she believes that everyone should know all this already, and if you don’t know the precise temperature that the cell walls of a fish lose their integrity, you are less than dirt to her.

Anyway, more PLOT! Everyone passes the rigged test partly due to Erina’s tutoring, and partly because they somehow know where to find underground seafood vendors that Totsuki Academy doesn’t know about, since Totsuki supposedly bought up all the good salmon in the area before the test. I can imagine Alice Naikiri having an encyclopedic knowledge of where to find every single ingredient in Japan, if not the entire world, so I guess that makes sense. I was hoping Megumi was going to use her fishing skills to hook the salmon they needed, but alas, it’s the wrong season for salmon fishing. I really hope Megumi uses her fishing skills to save the day some other time though.

I have the X-Men theme song in my head. Okay, to be fair, I usually have the X-Men theme song in my head, but it feels really badass in synch with this killer screenshot.

Even more PLOT, really more like character development though! Erina wonders why everyone is stopping to talk to her after the first exam has passed, mostly because she’s never had friends and it’s a new experience for her. It’s yet another reminder of how being born with ultra-sensitive taste buds has completely fucked up her life, and it’s honestly really sad if you stop and think about it for a moment. Fortunately, she and Soma have A Romantic Moment Under the Stars and that’s enough to distract us from thinking anymore about Erina’s dismal social life up to this point.

That’s just the stars reflected in Erina’s eyes, not the glow of her unending ocean of love for Soma. Unless you buy into symbolism and all that, phhht.

I’m not sure what to think about Soma X Erina as a couple. Obviously they like each other and they’re becoming more compatible, but…Megumi and Soma are just so sweet together. Ironically Erina needs him more right now, but more as a friend than as a lover. I think Soma X Erina is supposed to be our endgame couple, but it’d be really cool if the two of them developed an intimate friendship and Soma ended up marrying Megumi instead. Right now Soma seems to value all his friends pretty much equally and doesn’t have romantic interest in anyone, but that may change if he ever beats his Dad in a cooking battle; then, he could allow himself the luxury of wanting something else in this life.

So, this season continues to be fun, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming up on the World’s Most Impractical Choo Choo Train Final Exam. Although, if they don’t use the train setting to do a Murder on the Orient Express kind of episode at some point, I’m going to consider that a missed opportunity.

 

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode Two

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!

Isekai Izakaya, Episodes One and Two

This show has me very confused. I’m 99% sure I already saw this show in the summer of 2017, when it was called Isekai Shokudo, or Restaurant to Another World. Now it’s called (roughly) Snack Bar to Another World, and features the exact same premise, only, it’s not a new season of the original show. I thought maybe it was a related spin off, kind of like Sword Art Online Alternative is to regular SAO, but no, that does not appear to be the case. Someone choose to release a completely unrelated show called Snack Bar to Another World not even a year after Restaurant to Another World started airing, and they don’t seem the least bit ashamed of it.

I was prepared to throw up my arms and sneer “what a ripoff!” but  the plot thickens! See, minimal Wikipedia research reveals that the light novel for Isekai Izakaya was actually published before the light novel for Isekai Shokudo, so if anything, the latter is more likely to be the ripoff. But, but…regardless of what went down in Light Novel Land, this is the exact same show that was on last summer. And I don’t mean “it’s the same genre,” I mean it’s the same exact concept. People in a medieval-type fantasy world discover a modern Japanese restaurant that mysteriously has an entrance to their world and ooh and ahh over how good food has become in the age of refrigeration, advanced farming and other modern technology.

So far the primary difference is a downgraded waitress. Shinobu, who waits on the dumbstruck customers of the Izakaya, seems to be a normal girl who likes eating chicken; in Restaurant from Another World, one of the waitresses was an immortal dragon who lived on a dead planet at the edge of spacetime and communicated telepathically. I mean, it’s all subjective, but I think Restaurant probably wins in the “intriguing waitress” category.

Considering the fact that episode 2 spent a lot of time repeating material from episode 1, asserting that this is an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World seems valid, even if Shinobu does turn out to be a transformed chimera or something. Even though calling it a ripoff is grossly unfair, considering when the source material was published, the fact remains that I liked this show a lot better the first time.

The live-action bits are the best part of the show so far, but stuff like this is what I have Netflix for.

The one exception is the fact that the end of the episodes feature brief, live-action forays into Japanese food culture, and they are rather interesting. I’m not sure if I should give the anime credit for including decent documentary footage that isn’t actually part of the anime though. Besides, these live action bits remind me of Wakakozake, and that reminds me of the fact that Crunchyroll hasn’t uploaded Wakakozake Season 3 yet, even though it’s been filmed. What’s the deal with that, Crunchyroll? I need to see Waka-chan get hammered and eat her weight in yakitori, what is the hold-up?????

Anyway, because  I’ve seen this show already, I will now stop watching it…ah hell, what am I saying? It’s an anime food porn show, I’m an addict and I’m going to watch every single episode (possibly twice), but that doesn’t mean that you should! If you’re going to watch one faux-medieval-styled food porn show, for God’s sake, watch the one with the telepathic dragon. It’s not rocket science.

Butlers X Battlers, Episode One

You know, I like to think of myself as a pretty generous anime viewer. I don’t write off shows just because I’m not in the target demographic, and often find surprising substance in shows that others won’t even give a chance. I don’t get as caught up in things like animation quality and voice actor name recognition as a lot of fans do, and I don’t care much about studio pedigree; I judge a show based on whether I’m interested in it or not, regardless of who makes it. And on the rare occasion when I do think a show is really poor, I make it clear that’s just my take on it; I don’t try to make a case for why it’s objectively terrible because a)you can’t and b)that’s insulting the fans of the show for no good reason.*

However, even as a generous viewer I have…certain expectations. One of them is, if the show is called “Butlers,” it should be about butlers, and not just a bunch of obnoxious high school students doing their typical student-council nonsense. We find out that main guy J is a Butler, but in this universe that seems to mean that he’s some kind of magical armed guard, and not a butler in any traditional sense. The other main character, Hayakawa, acts a little more butler-like in his role as a coffee shop barista, but that’s not saying much.

Really it’s just a boring episode. The mystery of who J is, and why he’s looking for Hayakawa, is uninteresting because neither of them are interesting characters. The surrounding characters are bland as well, and there’s a ton of them; this show seems to want us to get to know the name of every single student at this ridiculously posh academy. Why? Why do I need to know the names of all these people? Why does it matter when they’re all boring?

By the end of the episode, when J’s mysterious past has been semi-revealed, then everything that’s come before makes even less sense. Why would J take on the role of student council president, when he’s trying to investigate something that happened 100 years earlier? Wouldn’t he want to keep a low profile to keep other students from finding out about the Secret Order of Not-Butlers or something? It seems like everything has been contrived so the show can have a typical high school student council setting/plot, even though it doesn’t work with the rest of the story.

If you want to see a bunch of pretty guys talking to each other, than maybe this is the show for you, but so far, it doesn’t seem to have much to offer beyond that. I really hesitate to call shows boring, because too many shows try too hard to grab the viewer in the first episode and end up feeling forced and frenetic; I respect the decision to let the story develop at its own pace. However, when I don’t care about any of the characters, and the whole thing seems wildly disjointed, slow pacing is just another nail in the coffin.

I’m disappointed, because I thought this might be a fun, time travelling butlers show. So far, it’s just incredibly tedious, and even if you’re into it for the “pretty boys hanging out” angle, you’d be better served by watching Yotsuiro Biyori, which has cute guys that I don’t want to punch in the face. This is the first real dud of the season for me.

*That’s my stance now, anyway. You can find articles from, say, 2010 when I was a less generous viewer, but seriously, does anyone care? No one cares.

Food Wars, The Third Plate, Episode 13

The OCD part of me is annoyed that I’m starting off here with Episode 13 of this season. Plus, I only blogged part of The Second Plate back in the day, so really, to appease the OCD Gods, I should go back and blog every episode, starting with the first season. However, I’m going to choose to believe– despite a complete lack of evidence to the contrary– that my time is too valuable for that.

Anyway, whatever, Food Wars! is back! No more tiding ourselves over with oddly specific stuff like Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, it’s time for the show with copious, multi-disciplinary food porn! Currently, the perky culinary students of Polar Star Dormitory are busy fighting communism, or whatever this stupid arc with Erina’s Dad is about, but let’s gloss over that and focus on what matters: people eating delicious food and then hallucinating vividly.

Today’s food porn is a classic egg-over-rice dish, with a twist. Can I just say I have a love-hate relationship with the Asian habit of serving dishes with a runny egg on top? I get the appeal of the creaminess of the egg yolk mixing with the other flavors, but err, food poisoning is a terrible risk. Back when I ate eggs, I ate those suckers cooked to hell and back, let me tell you.

Actually, to go back to the political aspect, I do kind of get it. The original model of Totsuki Academy functioned as an extreme meritocracy, where only cooking quality mattered and anyone who couldn’t cook to a certain level on their own was immediately expelled. So, kind of an extreme capitalist model, the kind of thing that would give Ayn Rand the warm fuzzies. Nakiri Azuma, main girl Erina’s evil-ish daddy, wants to change the system to something more forgiving of failure, but also incredibly authoritarian and anti-creativity. So it’s a pretty classic political struggle, and I suspect we’ll eventually end up somewhere in the middle, since the original Totsuki “one mistake and you’re GONE” model was pretty cruel. It makes sense to me, but I think asking why Food Wars! felt the need to get political in the first place is a valid question; it feels a little pompous.

“ATTENTION: No authoritarianism allowed at this cooking school anymore! Now all of you do as the God Tongue tells you! Fresh, seasonal ingredients good, communism BAD!”

Oh and also, Nakiri Azuma apparently wants to destroy every restaurant in the world (or at least Japan) that doesn’t feature white-tablecloth fine dining. How many economics classes do they have at Totsuki Academy? Clearly, not even one, or Azuma might notice all 14 million practical problems with this approach. Erina’s mom must have been the brains in this family.

Speaking of Erina, this is really her episode, giving us insight into what it’s like to grow up as the girl with a world-famous palette called “the God Tongue.” First, since she’s been working as a culinary consultant since she was barely out of diapers, she’s essentially had her childhood stolen from her. Second, having hyper-sensitive taste buds has got to suck when every upstart chef wants you to taste their edgy new fusion dish, possibly with sheep offal. Third, a brief encounter with Soma’s dad changed her life, because for one meal, she was able to enjoy food just as a diner, and not as a judge.

The relationship between Erina and Soma’s dad has been hinted at before, but it’s kind of surprising how limited it actually was; it seems like she was only in his company for a few hours, once. The way the show has been foreshadowing it, I thought he had been clandestinely tutoring her for years or something. Nevertheless, her connection to his father strengthens the bond between Soma and Erina, which gives Erina the courage to do something she’s always been terrified to do: stand up to her insanely domineering father.

I don’t think anyone looks to Food Wars! for great character development, but this has been a solid arc for Erina and it’s satisfying to see her fully emerge as one of the good guys, after playing sometimes-antagonist to Soma and friends for so long. Now Erina is going to be helping the Polar Star kids pass an Advancement Exam, where the judges are going to be gunning for them because they’re rebels who openly disapprove of her father’s agenda.

I’m curious how this is going to play out. It could be a simple as Erina using her experience and palette to help coach her dormmates to make food so delicious that the judges can’t eliminate them in good conscience, but I kind of hope they go another way: that she starts throwing her weight around as The God Tongue.

Like, imagine the judges are trying to evict Megumi, and they say her Salmon en Croute tastes “bland and uninspiring,” then Erina walks in with her entourage, tastes Megumi’s dish and says “ACTUALLY I think this is some delicious salmon, and I’m the God Tongue; go fuck yourselves.” Then the judges go off to a corner to cry and Megumi slowly backs out of the room, wondering what just happened.

Except only the highest quality, Grade A eggs with spiky red hair and an attitude problem.

This episode also features what may be my favorite Foodgasm thus far: Erina being assaulted by tiny chicks who all look like Soma. He feeds her an innovative egg-over-rice dish, and her resistance to calling it delicious is countered by a million tiny Soma-chickens who nibble on her extremities, or something. I want the Soma mini-chickens to be the new norm for foodgasm scenes, even if he’s making something totally unrelated; diners takes a bite of Soma’s chocolate pudding, suddenly they hallucinate a flock of Soma mini-chickens poking their belly buttons, because why not?

So yes, a fun episode with fun food that manages to work pretty well despite my lack of engagement in the larger plot. If the show keeps this up, maybe I’ll keep covering it weekly for the whole thing, and not getting distracted halfway through like I did with the second season.

 

Golden Kamuy, Episode One

Wow, what an incredibly well-done episode of an anime that I will never watch any more of.

I was excited for this preseason because of the opportunity to learn about Ainu culture, but the violence is just too much for me. When a single episode includes a battle from the Russo-Japanese war (with bayonets), cutting a person’s skin off, and killing multiple bears, that’s past my limit for dark stuff.

Granted, I think with the themes Golden Kamuy seems to be dealing with here, it should be visceral and dark; I’m not disputing that. I just have minimal tolerance for violence and gore, and that’s my problem. I am intrigued by several aspects of the story though, so I could see myself reading a summary of it after it’s aired, or something to that effect; it’s just, if I try to watch any more, I’ll be watching through my fingers.

So I give this show the weird recommendation that if you have a tolerance for something that I absolutely do not, you will probably enjoy it. And hey, all you guys out there who love to say that “moe is killing anime?” That modern anime is too fluffy and cutesy, and you want to go back to the good old days when it was all hyper-violent OVAs, like that part with the dog getting ripped apart in Battle Angel Alita? You guys had better watch the hell out of this. Watch it, buy the Blu-Ray, cosplay as the Immortal Sugimoto at cons, whatever it takes to show your support.

Because this is the kind of anime that a huge chunk of anime fans keep claiming they want, and if it doesn’t end up being successful, I’m going to have to wonder what the fuck you’re all talking about.

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.