My Look at the Spring 2019 Season

Hey hey! I didn’t think I’d be doing one of these again! Welp, an anime season just started, some shows seem kind of interesting, and I happen to have had some free time this past week. If my most recent review of Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san didn’t inform you, I have a terrible time at actually keeping up with seasons, and even for the shows that do capture my interest, it can still take me a while (well beyond when the show is done airing) to actually finish it.

But I’m curious about a few of them, and there may be some I want to keep around. So let’s get started, shall we?

Fruits Basket

Fruits_Basket_2019_Poster_3The original Fruits Basket anime from 2001 was a well-received (and award-winning) adaptation of the popular (and also award-winning) manga Fruits Basket. Even today, loads of people are still a huge fan of the franchise, and this show helped establish Funimation as a source for anime in the US. However… I’ve actually never seen anything beyond just the first few episodes. I honestly know very little about Fruits Basket, so for me, this is my first time experiencing this!

This show’s premise is interesting, that’s for sure: the main girl Tohru finds herself moving into the Soma household, a local wealthy family that not many seem to know much about; and for good reason, the Somas have a secret! If one gets sick or hugged by a member of the opposite sex (although the definition of “hugged” seems pretty lenient and inconsistent), they’ll turn into an animal! Only for a few minutes, but still, enough to bring some unwanted attention. Each member of the Soma family has their own animal they turn into, and it’s based upon the (Chinese) Zodiac… plus the Cat. So now all these boys have to deal with a girl living in their own house… so let the hijinks ensue!

I have to say, though, thus far… I’m not that hooked. It’s an interesting premise, but there really isn’t anything to keep me coming back. I’m not even sure what the plot is even setting up to be. So far, Fruits Basket seems to be a slice-of-life or sitcom-type situation with the undertones of romance and mystery, but it’s not slice-of-life enough nor is there enough mystery nor has the plot gained enough momentum yet, to really reach out and grab me and make me want that next episode right now. It may be a slow ramp-up, though, and given the franchise’s popularity, I’ll give it a bit of slack for right now.

On top of that, I feel the visuals and animation really have that potential for so much more, but yet they’re not doing it. I’m sorry, if I had the chance to have my award-winning manga re-adapted, I’d pull out all the stops this second time around. The character designs are great, but I expected some more fluid subtle animation as characters talk and react – I mean, they’re not not fluid, but they are a bit stiff at times. I’m also kind of put off by the texture work done on some of the backgrounds, such as the inside of the Soma house. I like the coloring, though, and like I said, the character designs really are great.

I’m not trying to sound negative about the show, I promise. A part of it definitely is that underutilized potential in the visuals department, but there’s also probably a part of me that was swept up in the hype and now I’m feeling underwhelmed that it isn’t matching some form of lofty expectations. I’ll keep going because I do want to experience the Fruits Basket story, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Sarazanmai

72dc50e78c6a6dff1d5dbcf86bbf449dBefore I even got around to delving into this show, I knew that it was going to be something… different. Not sure how it would, but it would. Sarazanmai has the name of Kunihiko Ikuhara attached to it (of Sailor Moon S and Revolutionary Girl Utena fame), and the small but ever-present Utena fandom on Twitter was excitedly awaiting its release.

Even as I saw people post onto social media that this show is just weird, though, I wasn’t really prepared for how weird it was. I’ve seen a lot more kappas and buttholes in that first episode than I think I would’ve ever willingly signed up for otherwise. But I do have to say… the weirdness intrigues me.

Sarazanmai is about three middle school boys – Kazuki, Toi, and Enta – who angered a kappa spirit by knocking over the Kappa Prince statue and calling the spirit a frog. So, the spirit does what any good kappa spirit should do and curses the three boys, transforming them into kappas and forcing them to fight large kappa-zombies and take each kappa-zombie’s soul ball (“shirikodama”) which is said to reside in their anus. (You read that right.) And this fighting seems to involve holding hands and spinning around in the air, a song-and-dance routine, and the “Sarazanmai”, a ritual where the three link consciousnesses and their innermost secrets come out. Each shirikodama the trio collect, they gain a wish they can use on anything they want. So even if they’ve been cursed, at least they get something out of it…

This show seems to pretty wholly incorporate the lore of the kappa creature (which does include the whole shirikodama in the butt thing), which I’ll admit is a creature… I never really had much interest in. This show doesn’t exactly make me more interested in kappas (in fact, if anything, it makes me less) but I’m fascinated at how far they went to include everything about the creature. However, to that extent, kappas are definitely everywhere in this show, including a kappa-loving idol named Sara Azuma that gives a daily Kappa Lucky Fortune. It’s honestly a bit much, and can at times leave Western audiences a tad puzzled.

It also amuses (and confuses) me that the first half of the first episode is so slow and boring. People are randomly walking around with boxes while the whole Kappa Lucky Fortune thing plays out… but once the three boys meet the spirit, that’s when the story kicks it up to 11. Suddenly, they’re thrust in front of the Box Kappa-Zombie, and they’re somehow highly coordinated in battle (and dancing) despite it being their first time ever doing this together. It’s a highly surreal experience, but the visuals are flashy and well-done and it somehow manages to keep your eyes glued to the screen even if your mind is going “omg, is this really happening right now?” The first episode left me feeling bewildered, but also wondering what the hell is even going to come next. (It also left me with this awesome ending song!)

So I think I’ll stick around with Sarazanmai for at least a little bit. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on the concept yet, but the high production values and WTF factor may just be enough to keep me watching until the finish.

Demon Slayer

Demon_Slayer_2019Every time I write these “look at a season” posts, I usually end up looking at a show or two that’s outside my usual realm of anime experiences (drama, comedy, and romance). I try to find what seems to be the popular shows of the season as well, so I can share my thoughts on those too. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I’d ever bother with this show.

And, well, I kind of like Demon Slayer.

It focuses around a young man named Tanjiro who came back to his rural home (from a visit into the village) seeing his entire family dead, blood everywhere. The work of demons. Somehow, luckily, his sister Nezuko survived, but not without being transformed into a human-eating demon herself. After a run-in with the Demon Slayer named Giyo, Tanjiro learns of a master named Sakonji Urokodaki, who lives on a faraway mountain and who can help him train to become a Demon Slayer himself. So Tanjiro sets off with his neutralized sister to find this master – so that he can transform his sister back into a human, and take revenge on the demon that killed his family.

My biggest issue, I’ll admit, is that a lot of this is simply thrust onto Tanjiro, “this is what you must do”. Giyo said he must seek out the master, master Urokodaki told him he must keep his sister from eating humans, must do this, must do that. Tanjiro doesn’t seem to decide much for himself, only doing what the others tell him to do. Although this could be part of his personal arc if the author leans into this more… Beyond that, you hear the whole “you are weak, but I can sense something special in you” thing in regards to Tanjiro a lot too, which comes off a tad unoriginal.

Beyond these action tropes, though, you have an interesting show and premise. Tanjiro does have a personal stake in fighting these supernatural beings, and those same supernatural beings lead to some very fascinating battles and situations. The pacing is good, and I’m curious to see what kind of world this show will unfold before us. On top of that, the animation and visuals for this show are absolutely amazing (with ufotable being the main animation studio, this shouldn’t be surprising) and I hope they can keep up the quality. The music is also pretty nice, and fitting given the feudal-era Japan time period.

I’m interested in continuing this week-by-week, but since action shows generally aren’t my wheelhouse, I’m not sure how well I’ll stick on that! We’ll see how well I can do, but either way, like I said, I am interested. And if I know any friends looking for an action series right now, this’ll definitely be one I recommend.

Hitori Bocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

02c4bcdd4923f6683cb849e16f310a8b1554444760_fullI don’t know if I’ve swung so hard from “I’m really disliking this” to “this is a lot of fun” in a show’s first episode before.

Hitori Bocchi no… yadda yadda, has a pretty simple premise: Hitori Bocchi, who just started middle school, promised she would befriend everyone in her class. The biggest snag in that plan, is that Bocchi has absolutely no idea how to actually talk to people. At all.

The first few minutes of the first episode focus around her on the first day of middle school, as she imagines the idyllic world of having no one else in her class. No one in her class means no one to befriend. But this entire first section is written so extremely awkwardly and poorly-paced that it turned me off pretty quickly. I paused the show 8 minutes in and actually debated stopping right there. I don’t really feel like going back to analyze what it was that bothered me right now, but needless to say, I wasn’t having fun.

However, the episode picks up once Bocchi sets her sights on trying to befriend the girl sitting in front of her: Nako. The writing, rather than being awkward itself, shifted to being able to skillfully portray an awkward character, as Bocchi tried her best and stumbled her way through trying to have a conversation and trying to gain Nako’s affection, leading up to asking Nako to be her friend in a love-confession-esque way. It was charming, as well as painfully accurate and hit close to home in a lot of ways. At one point, Bocchi had a list of conversation points on her hand, and when Nako gave an answer that Bocchi didn’t prepare a response to, she simply asked Nako to skip over to the next topic. I honestly can relate pretty well in the almost-formulaic and cut-and-dry ways that Bocchi approached friendships and achieving them.

Luckily, the show has continued to stay amusing and fun since that point. The visuals and character designs are serviceable, although I wish they added some more detail to the backgrounds, as it feels pretty plain.

I’ll be a tad disappointed if this show doesn’t end with Bocchi actually making friends with everyone in her class. I’ll also be curious about how they’ll handle the “foreigner” girl in her class, as she appears in the OP… I’m expecting stereotypes. But either way, I suppose I’m having enough fun with this to be curious about where it goes next. So I’ll stick with it; I just wish the first few minutes weren’t so off putting.

Ao-chan Can’t Study

946a165bc3a7eacfe7812363ef841eec1555109861_fullI’m a big fan of short-length shows, and even though Ao-chan Can’t Study is half the length of a full episode (only 13 minutes), it’s paced well enough to still feel like a full episode.

So who is Ao-chan and why can’t she study? Well, there’s a certain guy that has her attention… WINK, WINK. Those are not subtle tiny little *wink, wink*’s, oh no, those are big-chested WINK, WINK’s. The guy in question is Kijima, who seems like a well-meaning soft-spoken guy, or “King of the Normies” as Ao refers to him. But the issue is, high schooler Ao doesn’t have time to worry about some stupid guy, she has books to study, classwork to do, a university to apply to, an adult life she can’t wait to get started on. All Kijima-kun is going to do is just get in her way and waste her time.

And yet, she can’t stop herself from thinking about him. I mean, the guy literally confessed to her in the nurse’s office, just before she was going to tell him to get lost. So now, she’s overhearing people talk about his *ahem* assets, her lewd father is helping out with some “training” books, and it doesn’t help that every time the two of them talk, the double-entendres and euphemisms really mess with her head. So what is this poor girl to do?

I’m surprised that I’m enjoying Ao-chan Can’t Study so much. Conversations being misunderstood and characters hiding their feelings are annoying tropes of anime shows, but yet somehow, I’m having fun while this show does the same thing. I think the differences is that while conversations are being misunderstood, she’s not committing herself to anything she doesn’t want – although she originally just wanted to be rid of him, so it is surprising that she’s continuing to let him in. And, well, there is the fact that everything they talk about takes on a more sexual meaning in Ao’s mind.

I think we all know where this show is headed (2 tickets for the next train to Lovebirds-Town), but I think the fun is going to be in the journey, not the destination. And it is helped along by a killer opening theme, I want to get that full song right now! Visuals and pacing are also pretty good, so all in all, yep, I’m curious to see what happens next.

Joshi Kausei

fa1ecb900e0aba66d36e861897c54d091554507891_fullJoshi Kausei follows the high school girl Momoko, who lives her life day by day with her friends Shibumi and Mayumi. It’s a slice-of-life anime through and through, but the big difference with this one is that the only (intelligible) words you’ll hear is the ending theme. Everything else, no one actually says a word. It’s an interesting idea, but they failed the execution due to one major thing.

See, the characters don’t say words, but they do make noises. A lot of them. Grunting, giggling, growling, gasping, other mouth sounds that may also start with the letter “g”. They seem to do everything but talk, and at that point, it kind of makes me wonder why they even bother. In fact, in the second episode, we see characters on-screen (like Momoko’s mom) actually doing lip movements – as in, actually talking – but we just hear absolutely no dialogue. As if they’re just mouthing their words. It’s just strange and kind of self-defeating to have the characters make noises and to animate them talking (but not have us hear any words), rather than simply having them all be mute and letting the music and visuals carry the story and emotions.

On top of that, I’ll also admit that the writing and visuals… just aren’t very good. The gag for the entire first episode was that Momoko had her legs splayed out on a school desk and she and her friends played with them. Really strange thing to start your series off with, and I think it turned away a lot of prospective fans. The second episode was about Momoko just having an unlucky day, but the slightly-underwhelming visuals ended up hindering that episode. (The animation and drawings would’ve been good a decade ago, but not now.)

All in all, we’re left with a pretty underwhelming series. I think they just made the wrong decisions when figuring out how to adapt the manga, and as a result, the show is just going to suffer. So like other reviewers have done, I’m going to skip out on this one too.

Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher?

2a48c0fc5205a27b2352b5aeca9f5dab1555113949_fullThis is, uhhhh, a show. That’s for sure.

At Ichiro’s high school, there’s a young female teacher that’s known as “Kojiro the Demon” – she’s extremely strict, uptight, and can get anyone to fall in line. But somehow, Ichiro keeps running into her in all sorts of unexpected places – even in her own family’s home – and ending up in compromising positions.

Ichiro walks into the bathroom, and he finds her sitting on the toilet. He goes to the school nurse’s office, and he finds her lying in bed. Even if these situations don’t start off compromising, they somehow turn that way (buttons snapping off a shirt is not uncommon) as Kojiro’s private parts become exposed. It’s the same kind of joke and scenario, over and over again, the big difference being the weird places the two keep running into each other. On top of that, the show somewhat hints Kojiro is falling for her student now, and she acts very tsundere towards him as a result.

I’m gonna be honest, there’s not really much that makes this show intriguing to me. The unrealistic-ness of it all set aside, this is obviously just a bunch of setups to show off a woman in risqué situations – if this is something you want, I don’t understand why you don’t just go the rest of the way and find a hentai to watch? I just don’t fully understand what point there is for this show, unless you just want to get people’s minds racing.

At the very least, the visuals are nice? Character designs are good (I enjoy Ichiro’s friend, Suzuki a lot), animation is fluid, and it has a surprisingly good soundtrack as well. But, still, not something I’m going to be continuing with…

Wrap-Up

If you notice that I didn’t cover One Punch Man’s 2nd season, there’s two reasons for that: 1) it’s not available on VRV or Netflix in the US (right now, at least) and 2) I honestly felt “meh” about the first season, and so I don’t have much interest in the 2nd one. One Punch Man is not bad, but I’ll leave the 2nd season for those who enjoy it more.

All in all, though, there’s some interesting shows. I felt like I had a lot of criticisms to level at all of them, and I don’t want to sound negative and seem like “nothing new is ever good”, but I don’t want to come across as disingenuous either. Truth is, I wasn’t blown away by any of them, but there are some good ones. Demon Slayer is shaping up pretty nicely, Ao-chan Can’t Study is somehow a lot of fun, and Sarazanmai is a flashy, but strange, ride. I’ll also be holding out to see if Fruits Basket can hook me in the next few weeks.

The big question is going to be if I can keep up with these shows weekly. My money is on me falling behind around mid-May.

Is there any shows you watched that I didn’t mention? Or do you have differing thoughts on the shows I talked about here? Let me know what you think below, and until next time, have a good week!

My Look at the Spring 2018 Season

(Note: I expected this to come out in mid-April, not mid-May, so… whoops! Better late than never though!)

It’s the middle of April, but as I look outside, there’s more snow than you can even believe. This is spring, isn’t it? Where’s the butterflies? The colorful flowers? The constant rain storms that make the ground all soggy and the sidewalks all slippery? I don’t know, but they aren’t here!

One thing to enjoy about spring though: the new anime season! For this season, I’ll only be looking at a handful of shows, for a few reasons:

  1. There’s a lot of sequels this season. There’s a lot of sequels every season, but it feels like a lot this time. There’s not much point of me watching the sequel if I haven’t seen the season prior, so almost all of them, I’m not watching.
  2. Beyond that, a number of the new (non-sequel) shows don’t seem all that interesting. I’ve picked out the ones that did catch my eye, and I also checked out some that other people have been talking about. Beyond that, though… everything else seems meh.
  3. I don’t really trust Tokyo Ghoul Re to be any good. I really don’t.

Anyway, all of that out of the way, let’s get to reviewing:

Steins;Gate 0

26cab01d95a04956bd5a1a2994d231ea1523422286_fullDespite my talk about sequels above, this is one sequel where I’ve seen the show immediately prior to it. So, this ends up with the title of the only sequel I can/will touch here and now.

Steins;Gate 0 takes place in the winter after the events of the first anime. It’s on a separate timeline from the very last episode, where Rintaro decided to walk away from time travel rather than using it one last time (trying to be vague to avoid spoilers). As you’d expect, the sequel definitely demands that you have seen the first show, and it doesn’t give any time at all (beyond some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flashbacks) to refresh viewers on the show either. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Steins;Gate, you’ll probably be a bit confused.

For me, this also isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve grown very accustomed to the English dub of the first series. The Japanese voices aren’t too bad (with the exception of Daru), I guess… but it doesn’t sound/feel the same.

Anyway… Three episodes in, I’m quite enjoying Steins;Gate 0. It has the same tone, art style, and character designs from the original anime. It proves to be an interesting premise about how this alternate-timeline Rintaro is dealing with the outcome of his decision to walk away. (Again, trying to be vague.) My biggest concern, though, is that the original Steins;Gate was a slower-paced, atmosphere-heavy, and character-heavy show… and this sequel seems more willing to move more quickly, and to push aside almost everyone to focus on Rintaro and a new cast member named Maho.

Part of it may be the fact that this is airing in Japan as a direct continuation from the original. I also wonder if they’re doing this as a 12/13 episode series, as having it be 24-to-26 would allow them to slow down a bit more, I’d think. Either way, only time will tell to see how it all turns out, and I am excited to see where this goes.

Megalobox

75c8ff7a84bac94f275d2a1c0c8f05601522906376_fullI went into this not knowing what to expect; the name sounded cool and it being an original anime helps too. I was curious about it and honestly, even after the first episode, I was hooked.

Megalobox takes place in some sort of post-apocalyptic Japan, but with this major 1970s punk vibe. Junk Dog, our main character, is an underground boxer with no legal ID; he and his mentor Nanbu stay out of debt by agreeing to throw matches and manipulate bets. Boxing here is done with special equipment called “Gear” strapped onto your arms and back (which helps add more power to their punches). After a run-in with the world champion Megalobox fighter, Yuri, and the businesswoman financing the worldwide Megalomania competition, JD decides he wants in. With a forged ID and the name “Joe”, he enters Megalomania and aims for the top.

This show is gritty, well-paced, dramatic, dark, and keeps you engaged from start to finish. Everything has this hand-drawn vibe to it, the lines don’t have that particular look of having been touched by computer animation (even though it probably has been). The music is also awesome. This show is actually a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the anime Ashita no Joe, but you don’t need to have seen that show to watch this one.

And, please, do watch this one. Whether you’re all about action or you like some drama, Megalobox has a lot here going for you. I’m loving this show, and I think you will too.

Persona 5 the Animation

1ac5964acca6075b83c1dd8329ce76661523323666_fullMy feelings about Persona 5 aren’t easily explained, but it’s best summed up as “I like some parts, and dislike others”. Unfortunately, the game’s story was one of those dislikes, but it won’t stop me from giving the anime a shot.

Visuals and aesthetics wise, the anime feels very much like the game, featuring screens, animations, and transitions that were present in it. Indeed, it feels like they cut them straight out of the game and lifted them into the anime. It’s impressive.

Unfortunately for the anime, it also feels like they cut the story beats straight out of the game and lifted them into the anime. Things move along at a bit too fast of a pace, things only ever seem surface-level, and they seem content with just mentioning the main points and moving on. It’s difficult to take a video game (where you yourself can control the pace) and implement it into a non-interactive medium, but Persona 5 the Animation feels like a clip show rather than an actual animated retelling of the story. I wish there was more expressiveness, or they at least let scenes stay their welcome. I will certainly commend them, though, for sticking extremely faithful to the story thus far.

Ultimately, the anime’s goal is to get more people interested in the game and playing it. Or, at least, that’s what I assume its goal is, because I, as a fan of Persona, feel underwhelmed by what we’ve gotten here. I probably won’t be continuing with this show.

Magical Girl Ore

3c7c9222cfa33e21bdcae187bdd007591521854044_fullI knew the basic idea of this show was about magical girls that transformed into muscular boys in their magical form. … What I did not know was how far they’d go to take the idea of magical girls and knock on its side.

Magical Girl Ore is the story about a young duo named Saki and Sakuyo who are trying to form an idol group but happen to just be terrible at it. Due to the power of love triangles, Saki and Sakuyo realize they can turn into “magical girls”… which are more like magical boys. They use their magical boy-girl forms to defeat demons and to protect each other and protect Sakuyo’s brother, Mohiro, who’s part of a much more successful male idol duo.

This anime enjoys doing everything out of the ordinary. The “mascot” character looks like a yakuza boss, the leads themselves look like overly-muscular guys in cute magical girl outfits, the demons they fight are these muscular humanoids with cute faces, and they fight them by literally punching/beating them to death. It plays on even more tropes as well (such as the “running to school late with toast in your mouth”) and also manages to do this all with a bright color palette and more expressiveness than you’d ever expect. It’s a magical girl show that’s also a comedy and is just full of contradictions.

This show is weird. But probably in a good way. I’d recommend giving it a look, I plan on sticking with this myself.

Umamusume

11d01819ab5ca0f94ebdbc1f82f345181525472777_fullI’ll be honest. I only looked at this series because it seemed the most-talked about new anime of this season. I came into it expecting myself to not like it. I know it’s not a great way to come into a show, but here we are. And the end result is… it’s surprisingly pretty okay.

Umamusume seems to be a cross between a slice of life anime and a sports anime, with a sprinkle of idol and fantasy animes for good measure. It’s the story of Special Week, a horse-girl whose mom got her enrolled in the most prestigious horse-racing academy in Japan, Tracen Academy. Upon arriving at the campus, she came across the most famous horse-girl in Japan, Silence Suzuka, winning yet another championship. Special Week became inspired and vowed to join the same horse-racing team as Silence Suzuka, so that she too can become among the best racing horse-girls in Japan!

To me, this show seems like a strange concept (although a lot of anime is just a strange concept taken to its extreme), but it seems to be delivering upon it fairly well. Special Week, although perhaps a bit too ditzy or naïve, seems interesting enough on her own, and I enjoy a number of her friends. That being said, I quite despise the character Trainer (seemingly the only male character in this show). They say first impressions are important, and my impressions of him were nothing good. I’m honestly over creepy/pervy male characters in anime.

All in all though, like I said, it’s a pretty okay show. I’d suggest finding someone else to tell you if Umamusume’s worth your time, but I won’t say it’s not. I expected it to be bad, and I came out pleasantly surprised, but not surprised enough to want to stick with it. But if it piques your interest, go for it!

Crossing Time

0a87bda81e1bf231e22dbece79f5eb411523241970_fullI’m adding onto my plate, once again, a short-length show. I get a real kick out of them, but short-length anime are really only the side dishes for the main course meal that is the full-length shows I’ve reviewed above.

Crossing Time operates on a simple premise: two people are stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a train to pass, what happens next? Each episode features two different people having different conversations and different relationships (classmates, senpai/kouhei, teacher/student, etc.). The anime had a surprisingly emotion-filled first episode (and it saddened me that we probably won’t see those girls again), but I believe it to be a comedy show. The 3-minute length usually leads to a quick turnaround from setup to punchline, which is effective.

This show proves to be an interesting one, and I’ll be keeping it around on my watch list. It won’t be the funniest or most serious thing you see, but like I said, it’s a side dish, for those times the main course just isn’t enough to fill us up.

Wrap-Up

This season doesn’t stand out to me as one of the best, but there’s still certainly things to enjoy.

I think my biggest problem, personally, is I don’t have much time to devote to watching the current shows, since I have other projects and things to take up my time, in addition to working. Beyond this list, there may be a few other shows that I could push myself to try, but I’d say 3 shows is enough for me (along with 1 short-length one) right now.

What shows have you enjoyed thus far this season? Any thoughts you have so far? Let me know below! I honestly was a bit surprised by how underwhelmed I was by Persona 5 the Animation, I was expecting myself to stick with that one.

Anyway, until next time, talk to you later!

My Look at the Winter 2018 Season

I’ve done this once before, so why not do it again? Funnily enough, the last time I did it was for the winter season last year… I doubt I’ll end up doing this for every new season, but I wonder if this will really end up being only a winter season thing lol.

So my life has changed a lot since last winter. Free time is something I have a lot more of now, and I actually feel motivated and interested in anime again. It’s been quite a while since I’ve actually felt interested in anime, and it’s kind of refreshing.

Anyway, we’re not here to be sentimental! Let’s get down to the shows!

Pop Team Epic1768802a0cdfbcf8842dc17e39b06d381511957656_large

This show is something I’ve heard about long before its airing; images of the manga are relatively easy to find online, featuring the simply-drawn main characters sporting some highly-detailed middle fingers. So coming into this season, I was at least curious how the anime was going to go.

My verdict: the anime is actually quite a bit of fun. It’s a sketch comedy show, but you never quite know what you’re gonna get with each new sketch. The first (and 3rd) episode featured a sketch taking place in France, introduced by some random French animator, all done entirely in French. A number of sketches poke fun at the anime industry and anime production itself, but beyond that, there’s other sketches that are just the two main characters, Pipimi and Popuko, screwing around with each other.

All in all, I think it’s really enjoyable. The comedy pacing is really good, and the show just keeps them coming and doesn’t stop. This anime is being called the “shitposting” anime online, and it probably isn’t an untrue statement; in reality, though, this is an adaptation of a parody 4-koma manga (meaning, every “story” is told in just four panels).

The show probably won’t win in the visuals department, but it’s good enough to get across what they need to. (Also, some sections are intentionally drawn really bad). The opening theme (shown from episode 2 onwards) is really cool sounding and the animation is great; the ending theme and animation are both okay.

I only see a few downsides to this show. Firstly, the running joke where each episode is the same thing twice – only with different voice actors and slightly different lines – is gonna get old pretty quickly, I think. In fact, I think it’s already pretty old by episode 2. It was a fun gag for the first episode, but, I am tempted to just turn off each new episode after the halfway point. Secondly, I really wish there were more long segments/sketches. Obviously they’re limited with how far they can stretch the source material, but so much of each episode is just seconds-long sketches, and it’s… I dunno… hard to keep your enthusiasm? I’m failing to describe it properly at the moment.

Gripes aside, this is a lot of fun, and I’ll certainly be continuing with it for this season. I suggest you try it out too!

Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san89990

This anime, I’ve seen going by a number of English names, such as “Skilled Teaser Takagi-san” and “Takagi-san, the Master of Teasing”. I saw this show mentioned on Twitter (I forget by who), and I decided to take a look.

As you can kind of guess by the English title, this show is about a girl named Takagi and a guy named Nishikata – Takagi is really good at teasing Nishikata, and oppositely, his attempts to get back at her fail spectacularly every time. Each episode is divided up into segments, also sketch-comedy style; the premise of the show is pretty much established in the first segment of the first episode, and it’s stays just like that for the rest of the runtime – excepting the few moments where you see hints of an actual friendship between these two, which the show likes to throw to you every now and then.

It’s hard to call this show really entertaining, particularly because its central joke is pretty repetitive: Nishikata tries to do something to tease Takagi and gets out-teased by the master, or master Takagi sets up Nishikata to be teased and he overthinks it. It’s fun as something to just have on and relax to, though; it’s not going to wow you in any regard, but it’s easy to digest and it helps distract your brain for a little while.

I do wish we had more moments with these two actually being friends without all this teasing thing going on, but I think those rare appearances are all we’re gonna get every episode. It’s a bit of a different dynamic if you look at it as two friends teasing and playing around with each other, rather than as one classmate who decided to pick on the other and it delving into a competition.

We’ll see how the rest of the series goes, though. I’ll be sticking around for this one.

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At Studio Trigger’s panel at AX2017, this is one of the shows that they announced, being done as a co-production with A-1 Pictures. Having recently finished Kill La Kill and already being a big fan of Space Patrol Luluco, I was certainly interested to see what would come of this.

In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity has been ravaged by these giant beasts called klaxosaurs. They’ve concentrated themselves into these city-sized domes called Plantations, where they train special kids in boy-girl pairs to be able to pilot these giant mechas called Franxx, which can be used to beat back the klaxosaurs. Our main characters here seem to be Zero Two, an outsider who’s a bit of a wild child, and Hiro, a boy who felt like a bird with clipped wings.

But that’s all the information I can really tell ya. We’ve established (to some extent) what the world is… but where are these characters going from here? What’s the point of any of this? I feel this is one of those slow-start plots where things will ramp up later, but it’s weird coming into this from Kill La Kill where everything you needed to know was established by the end of episode 1.

Combine with this the fact that I’m not liking the character Zorome (who Hiro is currently battling against), the fact that the Franxx are controlled by the guys who hold handles that stick out of the girls’ butts (seemingly just to make a suggestive-looking pose), the fact that the main character looks super plain and doesn’t really have that engaging a personality, and the fact that I’m getting some Aldnoah.Zero-esque vibes out of this show… I think I’m gonna sit this one out. I’ll be listening to see what others say about this show as it keeps going, though.

Despite this being touted as a collaboration between Trigger and A-1 Pictures, I really wonder how involved Trigger actually is with this show. I suppose that without reading the Japanese credits and learning more about what company is filling what roles, though, I won’t know for sure. This feels very much like an A-1 Pictures-esque show (as meaningless as that is to say, though, because anime studios are commonly not the ones that direct the course of a show).

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Do you remember that video/GIF that’s gone around featuring a bunch of cats in a marching band? If you don’t remember or haven’t seen it, feast your eyeballs on this adorableness! Anyway, so that’s an anime now. (Actually, it’s been a manga since 2012…)

This show is, oh my gosh, another sketch comedy. Instead of two main characters, though, our cast is a bunch of cats – although a few of them do get named and short descriptions. The sketches in the comedies are relatively simply affairs, like cats getting their head stuck in a box, or a bunch of them finding a pot to fit themselves into (it’s actually surprising how many bags/pots/balls full of cats there are here).

When you get right down to it, it’s simple, it’s adorable, it’s colorful. It’s probably aimed at kids, but that wouldn’t stop an older audience from enjoying it as well. Each episode is only 3 minutes each so it’s a pretty easy thing to get through either way.

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I first heard about this show as “the girls going to Antarctica anime”, and it didn’t really pique my interest. I felt that it’d be a slice-of-life anime where cutesy girls just screwed around in Antarctica, playing down any downsides and promoting the upsides.

A Place Further Than the Universe, though, is more like a drama anime. Yes, all the main characters are girls, and they’re as energetic and cute as they come, but this isn’t a slice-of-life show.

Our first main characters are Shirase and Kimari. Shirase is the daughter of an Antarctic expedition member, and has wanted to travel to the continent herself to try to find her mother, despite receiving backlash and ridicule from those around her. Kimari has felt like she hasn’t been taking advantage of the life she’s been given, following through the paces of going to school and home each day without ever doing anything spontaneous or incredible. They’re quickly joined by two more girls: Hinata, who’s gung-ho and charismatic, and Yuzuki, a child actress who’s always felt alone. The four of them don’t even start as friends (as they admit in episode 3), but have instead bonded over their mutual desire to travel to Antarctica.

It’s hard to describe the feelings this show gives you. As someone who came into this sure that I wasn’t going to like it, I have to really stress how much the show got me to turn that opinion around. The plot goes through its process of ups and downs, the downs making those ups feel all that more exciting; you get engaged, excited when at least one small thing goes these characters’ way, and feeling worrisome when it seems their plan is falling apart. Tie this together with some amazing visuals and a nice sense of comedic timing, and all in all, this show is just a fun ride.

I’m for sure sticking with this anime, and I recommend you try out the first two episodes to see if this is an adventure you’ll want to embark on as well.

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I honestly can’t remember where I heard about this show. Probably from Twitter. Either way, here we are.

Slow Start is basically your standard slice-of-life. Our main character is Hana, who took a year off from school because she was sick. She entered into an all-girls high school not knowing anyone, but pretty quickly found herself three friends: Tama, the energetic girl; Eiko, the reasonable motherly girl; and Kamu, the short and always hungry girl.

As far as slice-of-life shows go, this one’s pretty alright. Slice-of-life shows at this point need something to make them stand out, and for this show, it’s the fact that Hana was out of school for a year. It leads to a lot of misconceptions and Hana telling a lot of white lies because she’s embarrassed to say she’s been out a year. Beyond that, though, this all takes place in an average Japanese high school with the students doing relatively average things. If you compare it to slice-of-life shows like GJ Club or Non Non Biyori, honestly, it’s hard to find anything that really makes this one remarkable. Viewed completely on its own, though, this show is still fun and provides that slice-of-life feel.

The character designs are fine enough, although each girls’ eyes look like something out of 2006’s Windows Media Player. But my goodness, nothing in this anime ever seems to sit still. Characters are always moving, swaying, or doing something. (To be honest, saying “always” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but still…) The opening and ending themes are both pretty okay, in regards to both song selection and animation quality.

I’ll probably keep this one around, simply because I haven’t jumped into any slice-of-life shows recently. This one isn’t a particularly standout show, but it still isn’t bad.

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This is another one I’ve heard about through Twitter (as will the last show I look at). Specifically, I’ve seen it mentioned due to the fact that it’s a yuri show, and I follow someone on Twitter who’s a particular fan of yuri shows.

Citrus focuses around two girls, Yuzu and Mei. After Yuzu’s mom got remarried, her and Yuzu moved to a new city and Yuzu entered into a new high school. There, after a public argument with a student council member for not following the dress code, Yuzu is introduced to Mei, the student council president, and the two start off on the wrong foot. … Although they’ll have a lot of time to make things better because, as it turns out, Yuzu’s mom married Mei’s dad, making them now step-sisters!

To be honest, the first episode rubbed me the wrong way. From the starting conversation where Yuzu and her old friends were comparing guys and talking about having dumped them, to Yuzu’s confrontation with the student council leading up to Mei feeling her up (in public!) to find her cell phone and take it, to Yuzu stumbling across her homeroom teacher kissing Mei behind a school building, to the highly-awkward interactions between Yuzu and Mei in the bedroom they ended up sharing, leading up to Mei pushing Yuzu over, forcing her into a deep kiss, and then getting up and leaving the room. Episode over.

I don’t have anything against yuri shows. I’m a big fan of Sakura Trick – in that one too, it features multiple characters kissing each other, but the difference is that Sakura Trick establishes these characters as already being friends and having consented to it. In this show, it was pretty much a near-total stranger that forced Yuzu to the ground and kissed her, without being asked “is this okay to do?”

I’ll stop short of calling this a bad show, though. The backgrounds and camera work in this first episode are nice-looking, and remind me of Studio Shaft. But nice visuals won’t make up for how uncomfortable I feel watching it. Sorry, but I’m not going to keep going with this one.

Laid Back Camp5ac5fff410cb66c57ce0d2ea2617d08d1515076527_full

Hey look, another show I heard about through Twitter. Crunchyroll’s Twitter account mentions this one a lot (along with A Place Further Than The Universe), so I decided, okay, let’s take a look.

Laid Back Camp is an anime about camping… and it’s laid back. Yep, that’s all the description you need, alright, good bye!

Okay, to be more specific, Laid Back Camp is about a group of five girls who end up going out and camping together. Our main character seems to be a short girl named Rin, who enjoys just going out and camping by herself, but she ends up becoming a friend to a girl named Nadeshiko, who jumps in head-first into this camping thing with much enthusiasm. The group is rounded out by Chiaki and Aoi, president and vice president of the Outdoor Activities Club, and Saitou, Rin’s friend who brought them all together.

This is a pretty relaxing show. The slow pacing while Rin is out camping somewhere, just sitting, enjoying the scenery and stuff… it’s nice. The show has its energetic moments too, especially where Nadeshiko is involved, but it’s overall a slow and enjoyable ride. The backgrounds are also amazingly done, and the opening credits are done in English, amusingly enough (the opening theme song is also my second favorite of this season, behind Pop Team Epic).

I’ll be sticking with this one as well, although I do feel it may fall to the wayside as I have so many shows to attend to.

Honorable Mentions

I’ve sat here and gone through eight different shows here, but there may be some names you’re surprised to not see on here. So let’s run through them:

Violet Evergarden – Trust me, I want to watch this so badly. I really do. But unfortunately, Netflix isn’t simulcasting this show here in the US, like it is in many other countries around the world (including Canada!). It disappoints me, because lack of simulcasting is pretty much the biggest complaint I think a lot of people have with Netflix, but at least most other people in the world get to enjoy it weekly. I will be watching it once it comes out on Netflix here!

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m still a relatively new fan to anime. The first show I watched was the original FMA, back in 2012. It’s been a bit over 5 years for me, and there’s a lot of classic shows that I haven’t yet gotten around to (if I ever will). Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride  – This is a show that has been recommended to me. However, I’m not going to delve into it just yet… besides, it didn’t even start airing this season; this is the second cour, as it began airing last season. Hard to count that on this list.

Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles – This is like the last show I’ve heard mentioned a lot for this season. It doesn’t seem like a bad show, but given how I already have about 6 I’m already planning to watch this season, I think my plate’s a bit full right now. This may be one of the ones I return to later on down the line!

Wrap-Up

So that’s my thoughts on a number of shows this season. What do you think about them? Are there any that I haven’t mentioned that are worth checking out? Do you have different opinions on the shows I’ve talked about here? The comment section below is open and it’s hungry for people’s words! So please don’t keep it starving!

Anyway, my next review is coming up this Friday as well! And then starting next week is Funimation February! See you all then!