Tag Archives: Summer 2018

Finishing Up Steins;Gate 0

I chickened out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up the Summer 2018 Anime Season

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

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

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

Free! Dive to the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits

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

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

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

Phantom in the Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

Isekai Izakaya

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

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

Encouragement of Climb

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

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

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

 

My Hero Academia: Episodes 52 and 53

Episode 52:

Going to be doing a bit of a double duty catchup for this one. The new cour of My Hero Academia’s third season has started and we begin it, like any other, with a brand-spanking-new opening: Make my story, by Lenny Code Fiction. It’s got a really sick opening riff, along with a lot of really cool foreshadowed visuals and some nice bits of animation. Good tune and strong visuals, so I give this one a Plus, not necessarily a Plus Ultra.

We begin the first episode with a demonstration of life going back to normal, while the students adjust to their new lives at UA’s Alliance Heights dorm halls. Classes resume, and the first thing on the docket is to work towards achieving provisional licenses. One of the first things they need to do towards that goal is doing the very thing this episode is called: “Creating Those Ultimate Moves.” In practice, this means that the teachers offer students advice about how to reinvent their own understanding of the quirks.

A superhero’s ultimate move is about more than just looking cool and flashy. It’s also about cementing your identity, refining your abilities, and showing something that represents what you are as a hero. It’s like how the Kamehameha wave is so ingrained with the image of DBZ and Goku; you want a move that’s so synonymous with who YOU are that making a move is equivalent to screaming out out “I Am Here!” to the world, and that’s a really neat thing.

Some of the students are able to gradually come up with new cool uses of their abilities, like Bakugo’s AP Shot, Mina’s Acid Nozzle, Tokoyami’s Shadow Stand, and Mineta’s…Sword of Grapes (which honestly just looks suspiciously inappropriate in it’s design, and was super intentional). But we’re shown two major conflicts in the form of both Deku and All Might’s recent developments.

All Might has to deal with the fact that he’s officially a teacher first and foremost, not only to Deku but also to the other students of 1-A, as he does his best to offer critical advice without overstepping his boundaries and showing favoritism. He even got himself a copy of a  Teaching for Dummies. But you can definitely tell it is still rather difficult for him to adjust to his newfound role as a mentor while being completely retired as a superhero.

As for Deku, he’s trying to find a new way to both be a hero and stop imitating All Might, especially with news that if he overexerts his arms any more he’ll have permanent, irreversible damage. That problems leads him to rediscovering an old friend from the Sports Festival, Mei Hatsume. She’s at the center of this episode’s comedic levity, leading to some solid visual gags, expressions, and potentially even some romantic tension in the mix for Deku and Ochaco. She’s a mad scientist excited to use any and all available test subjects for her experimental “babies,” and she’s just an absolute riot every time she appears.

After spending some time with her, Deku has a breakthrough about how to both reinvent his own fighting style and his costume: Instead of trying to just be All Might, he decides that he should try being Sanji instead, by fighting with KICKS! While kind of silly, it’s actually a genuinely cool moment where he has to step in and save All Might from falling debris, revealing his a snazzy new costume in the process. Deku’s new SHOOT STYLE technique is a logical reinvention of his fighting style; it both makes sense and works within consideration of his weakened arms.

This episode features a lot of setup, but it’s still really neat to see the way these characters continue to evolve regularly as this show goes on. It’s pretty standard fare, but there’s some solid jokes and visual gags, plus interesting stuff about the importance of Ultimate Moves and how one goes about updating one’s costume. It’s a lot of worldbuilding, but very importantly, it’s good worldbuilding.

Episode 53:

We see the aftermath of Deku’s reveal, alongside quick reveals about Kaminari and Kirshima’s new costumes (and I especially like Kirishima’s new design) but they don’t have time to explain it as Class-B has to train now. They’ll take the exam while at a different location from others in the school, so that no group has to clash too much. Monoma, the ass face from the Class 1-B, is both happy and relieved by this.

Plus we also get some casual banter among the ladies of 1-A about their training, while they don some casual garb, with Momo’s hair down and Tsuyu’s froggy bun style, alongside some romantic conversation. Ochaco admits to spacing out a bunch while Mina is able to tell clearly that yeah, she’s got feelings for someone, and she floats away in embarrassment. Small thing: while we, the viewers, know it’s Izuku she’s into, I appreciate there’s enough plausible deniability here that the girls feel it could be either Izuku or Tenya, as the trio all hang out regularly together. That’s just a nice little detail that could have been easily overlooked.

As the day of the exam arrives, there’s several new characters to introduce; naturally, since this exam has about 1500 applicants from all over the place. [Editor’s Note: Oh my God, how long is this series gonna be? I thought I could catch up!]

First up: Inasa. An eccentric guy who jumps into the conversation, and SLAMS HIS HEAD IN APOLOGY from a super popular school in the West: Shiketsu, one that rivals UA in its elite hero program. He’s got a splitting headache, but he’s strong and impressive enough to have been considered to apply to UA via recommendations, much like Todoroki and Momo. Goofy and charismatic, but strong enough to have been considered for UA, he has potential to be interesting.

Next up: a pro-hero who serves as the bane of Aizawa’s existence. She enjoys messing around with him, constantly expecting a major reaction out of him and often asking to get married. She’s eccentric and goofy, while he’s stoic and tired, and they make a great comic duo. She herself is a teacher at another school, Ketsubutsu Academy with a class of second-years, with slightly more experience than 1-A.

Then there’s one of her students, Shindo, A friendly guy with a pretty face (who kind of looks like a Dark, Cooler version of Deku in a weird way). He tries to be friendly and spark a conversation, but Bakugo quickly catches on that he’s being disingenuous and doesn’t truly mean what he says.

This arc is big with a lot of moving parts and new characters, and some weird exam rules. There’s a lot to digest, and the first round of the exam is revealed to be even crazier than you might have thought.

Everyone gets 3 mini-targets, and 6 rubber balls to hit the targets. Once all three targets on the body are hit, you’re out. Students need to knock out a minimum of two opponents to pass onto round 2. By the end of the exam, only 100 are expected to pass. The building opens up to reveal a major colosseum of obstacles, and everyone’s off to the races to embark on a time honored tradition (albeit one that Aizawa felt no need to mention to his students.)

At first it looks like things are going to play out a lot like the Sports Festival, but Aizawa knows his children: they’ve improved and can kick some major ass. As some students depart, Deku finds himself in a position of leadership to rally the class and take on the world as the episode ends. The two episodes have laid some important groundwork, but get ready for the real action to begin next week.

Summer 2018 Anime Season Preview

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

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

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

Attack on Titan, Season 3

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

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

Free!-Dive to the Future (Season 3)

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

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

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

Gintama: Silver Soul Arc, Season 2

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

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

Overlord, Season 3

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

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

Marvel Future Avengers, Season 2

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

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

Banana Fish

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

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

How NOT to Summon A Demon Lord

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

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

Back Street Girls

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

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

…Uh….

….where to start here….

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

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

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

It’s J.C. Staff.

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

Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria

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

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

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

Shichisei no Subaru

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

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

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

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

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger

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

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

Happy Sugar Life

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

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

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

Grand Blue

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

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

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

Harakuna Receive

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

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

Hanebado!

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

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

Cells At Work!

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

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

Aguu: Tensai Ningyou

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

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

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

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

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

High Score Girl

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

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

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

Phantom in the Twilight

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

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

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

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

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

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

Tsukumogami Kashimasu

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

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

Senjuushi

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

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

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

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

Ongaku Shoujo

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

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

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

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

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

Sunoharasou no Kanrinrin-san

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

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

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

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san

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

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

Island

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

Jashin-chan Dropkick

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

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

SHORTS:

Cinderella Girls Gekijou, Season 3

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

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

One Room 2

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

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

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

BanG Dream! Girls Band Party Pico

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

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

Asobi Asobase

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

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

Encouragement of Climb, Season 3

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

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