Fall 2019 4

A seedy hallway to begin Kabukichou Sherlock

Kabukichou Sherlock brings us a guy named Watson looking for a club where detectives hang out. After watching a song and dance by a cross-dresser who doesn’t shave, he meets a few while they’re getting briefed on another Jack the Ripper case. Since Watson has a case of his own he wants Sherlock to take, he winds up bugging Sherlock while the latter figures out the truth about the latest murder, and presents it, rakugo-style. The killer is apprehended, and other stuff happens.

Not much of a plot synopsis, but most of the episode involves Watson reacting to all the weird people, and watching Sherlock’s brilliant deductions, often at the expense of someone else, like that hostess club lady. These deductions, by the way, are the only things this Sherlock has with Doyle’s. Otherwise he’s kind of seedy, rude, and, well, he performs bad rakugo. But he’s confident, and while eccentric he gets the job done. The other detectives have their own quirks as well, and I’ve already mentioned that in Kabukichou everyone is weird–too weird; the show tries too hard to be edgy. I guess the main story will either be finding Jack, or working on the case Watson has, whatever it is. This episode was so full of oddball sequences that they don’t even get to it.

Hikari’s new school.

This is going to be a short post. Turns out there’s only one other show on my list: Rifle is Beautiful. In it, first-year ditz Hikari had worked hard to get into this school because it has a (beam) rifle club, but (stop me if you’ve heard this before) the club was shut down, though they’ll reopen it if Hikari can recruit three more members. This she manages to do, and the episode is only ten minutes in. We got the sensible friend Izumi, the tsundere Erika, and the quiet, silent Yukio, and the rest of the episode is spent explaining the sport and cute girl-bonding, a lot of the latter.

Not a lot of shooting though …

I am tired of the “not enough members” plot so I was relieved that they dispatched it so quickly. Apart from that I’m a little worried. Yeah, it’s all very cute, but the pacing is off. Extra seconds here and there where nothing happens, and I wondered if I had missed a joke. In fact, several gags fell flat because they were delivered so slowly, and at times I didn’t get the jokes at all. If you want to watch because of the beam rifles, while they do spend time explaining the sport, they don’t spend a lot of time shooting. It was more of a CGDCT show with chats over picnics or snacks, with no rifles in sight. I suppose since the girls are ambitious about shooting we’ll get more rifle action later, but just be warned that this is indeed a cute girls show as much as a sport show, maybe more so.

And that’s it for this season. As for my personal situation, the shit that was going to hit the fan last spring (nothing bad, just a job transfer) is hitting in the next two weeks, and I won’t have time to watch anything, let alone write about it, so I’m probably going to go back into hiding for a while. Someone asked me if I was going to cover Chihayafuru 3, and I’m not sure yet. I enjoyed the series five years ago, but the longer a series runs, especially when I suspect the main situation, especially the love triangle, isn’t going to change much, the less excited I get about it. Anyway, everybody, enjoy the new season!

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Fall 2019 3

Lovely countryside to start Watashi Nouryoku …

In Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!, there’s a nobleman’s daughter named Adele who has adopted the name of Mile as she goes to prep school in a neighboring country. Actually she originally was a Japanese girl named Misato who always stood out because of her abilities and who died heroically, so a “god-like” guy sends her to an alternate world, where, she begged, she would be completely average. Well, technically she is … Anyway, she gets used to the new town, meets some nice girls, and then learns that children have been disappearing recently. Naturally she and the other girls get roped into saving them among some entertaining infodumps. Oh, and she has a magical cat mascot character who is actually a nanomachine.

It’s not really a CGDCT show because there’s some actual danger, but I don’t know what the story is going to be. Mile has no ambition except to be average, and there’s no hint of a story yet. But what we get is amusing. Mile is fully aware that she’s in an isekai and can snark about similarities and contrasts, such a recognizing a tsundere. She also has an issue about her height and development that is cute, but they wear out the joke. I’m a little interested in the nanomachine angle; it’s the source of what they call magic, “any technology, sufficiently advanced” and all that, but I doubt that they’ll go into too much detail. This is a light, silly show after all. It’s not bad, and close enough to being a CGDCT show that it an pass for one.

Not the sign you expect to see to open a show about jet-skiing.

Kandagawa Jet Girls stars Rin as an overenthusiastic girl from a fishing village who transfers to a Tokyo school for reasons they don’t bother to tell us. Once there she does the “girl taking in all the sights instead of getting to her dorm” bit (I hate that) and along the way meets most if not all of the girls who will be friends and rivals in this jet-ski-with-lasers show. Her roommate, Misa, is cold, aloof, and obviously has something bad in her past, and much of the episode is spent with Rin constantly getting in her face in a “let’s be friends” kind of way. Then Rin pisses off, er, someone from a school with a big jet-ski club, and so there’s a jet-ski duel on the Kanda River. It isn’t finished when the episode ends, though Misa the shooter has taken a couple of lasers to the butt, and we get a close-up view …

In a rare, fanservice-free moment, Rin and Misa on the bridge look at a couple of jet-skier/laser-gunner girls they’ll meet very soon, 

That’s more the point of this series: the butts and boobs we see everywhere. I read on the RC preview that the director has promised the girls will keep their clothes on, but they’re stretching this rule, and their clothes, to the limit. As for the story so far, well you can figure it out. The ep2 preview has Rin proposing a jet-ski club, we have the rival school, we will meet the other pairs of girls, Misa will loosen up and bond with Rin … The most amusing part for me was Kandagawa getting shut down just so two girls can settle their little spat. But I’m not into jet-skis, lasers (especially when they don’t move at the speed of light like they should), and the semi-clothed girls, in itself not a negative point for me, have such ridiculous proportions. Yes, that kind of show.

That girl behind the caption is going to get sliced up within seconds.

We get a multi-episode dump from Mugen no Juunin: Immortal. In this first one we start with a guy and a girl getting hacked down by bad Samurai. Only the guy gets up kills the terrified murderer and his cohorts in graphic and bloody fashion. After that we meet Rin, whose father was killed by members of the Itta-Ryuu, and as for her mother, possibly worse. She needs a bodyguard for her revenge and seeks out Manji, who, because of a curse, can get sliced up (as we see) but cannot die. Together they seek out the first of the revenge victims, leading to a grotesque revelation about Rin’s missing mother and more blood.

Yes, it’s bloody, and moody. When someone’s not fighting or dying in the story, they’re dying in flashbacks. A quiet scene with no killing feels like a respite. To help this mood along there is almost no music, only ambient nature, or a repeating noise of a mill wheel. And, in spite of the subject matter, it’s beautiful to look at. The colors are subdued or absent unless they want to make a striking point, like with Rin’s red kimono. Altogether it sets a somber mood that sucks you right in. The story is told calmly and patiently but is never dull, in fact speeding things up would ruin it. An impressive start to a show I probably won’t continue watching only because it’s not one of my preferred genres, but the start of this reboot is very promising. Oh, and it’s got Tsuda Kenjiro as Manjii (He’s everywhere this season) and … Sakura Ayane as Rin?? I don’t associate her with this kind of role, but she does a fine job in the first episode.

Kufa gets ready to off some bad guys.

Assassin’s Pride starts with Kufa Vampir polishing off a bunch of magical ninja types (except the tough one, who escapes), but too late to save who we learn is Lord Esnes. This doesn’t seem important since Kufa is soon off on his new duty of training and supporting young Melida, a noble girl, who is supposed to exhibit “mana,” magical powers by now but can’t, suggesting that she’s illegitimate, and also doomed. If she doesn’t show any mana soon Kufa will have to kill her, and indeed he’s on his way to do just that when he finds her menaced by “lacanthropes” of the halloween-pumpkin variety, which I didn’t know existed. He saves her and decides to do a ritual that manages to give the girl some mana, but wasn’t he just supposed to kill her? Now he has to keep all this a secret from three different factions …

Five minutes ago he was preparing to kill her.

Considering the typical anime visual style and the faux-European backdrop, I didn’t expect the episode to give a sombre aura similar to Blade of the Immortal, stretches of time without music, long serious fades, lots of death, but that’s what I got. Kufa is an assassin after all, and we spend a lot of time listening in to his serious, businesslike internal monologues as he decides whether or not to kill his cute, but clumsy and powerless young charge. But his serious tone doesn’t mesh with the bit at the end, with the vial and the kiss, and made the scene, and the story, confusing. Not sure what’s going on in Kufa’s mind; does he admire the girl’s determination, or maybe he’s fallen for her? Not sure I want to find out, but a promising start, with a tone I didn’t expect.

Juuzo’s drab office–aren’t all detective offices drab?

In No Guns Life we meet Juuzo, a hard-boiled detective of sorts who has an enormous revolver for a head. He often works on the behalf of other “extended” people, made that way by technology by your good friends (not really) Beruhren Corporation. There’s more backstory, but for now we’ll get to another extended guy who has abducted a boy from an orphanage and begs Juuzo to look after him. Juuzo arranges a meeting with a nun from the orphanage, but it turns out she (and the orphanage) have other stuff in mind for their kids. So there’s a gunfight or two (Juuzo does NOT fire his gunhead, and it’s suggested he needs someone else to do that) and a cool surprise concerning the boy, Tetsuo, who’s on a train that Juuzo punches out just as the episode ends … Aw, wanted to see the fight.

Yes, it’s absolutely absurd, but not bad at all. Juuzo is a frightening sight but isn’t a bad guy, just hard-boiled with a probably dark past. He works alone but obviously has some social anxieties, like pretty girls scare him a little so his revolver-head goes into chibi mode, and that makes him a little less frightening. There are obvious holes in the story, like Juuzo carrying that boy around when cops are looking for an extended doing just that, and the train-punching was a little ridiculous, but I pretty much bought it. It looks very good, a nice shadowy brown noirish feel to it. Don’t know if I’ll follow this one, but I’m curious about the sidekicks we see in the opening, though we already know who one is, and I want to see what other augmentations this world has to offer.

Fall 2019 2

Chuubyou begins with someone desperately swimming.

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy has a nice transfer student Hijiri who just wants some friends and a nice, quiet high school life, being accosted by four boys with strange delusions about themselves. There’s the adventure-show boy, the one who’s possessed by evil spirits, one who only likes 2-D girls (a shame because otherwise he’s handsome and somewhat normal) and one who’s simply an asshole. It doesn’t help that Hijiri is wearing an eye-patch due to an infection, thus labeling her as somewhat mysterious. The episode is spent with Hijiri reacting to whoever is being silly in front of her at the time. Though the fact seems to be that she IS being targeted. Maybe by “The Agency,” or some other power, or is it the boys’ overactive imaginations?

The boys, maybe apart from the asshole, are actually altruistic and willing to help people out, only their overenthusiastic delusional behavior makes it hard to cope with them. I spent much of the episode feeling sorry for Hibiki–she just wants to fit in. I guess the show will spend time winning her over though I can’t see her becoming as nutty as they are. The question is do I want to watch it. All of the boys’ passions are predictable and you can see where the joke is heading, and the adventure-show boy Noda is constantly in someone’s face and gets annoying fast. I dunno …

I wish I had seen the first season of High Score Girl, but since I didn’t I’ll give it pass.

Null hard at work making Peta.

Null Peta stars a genius girl named Null who tries to create a copy of dead sister by tossing items like flowers and stuffed animals into an machine. She winds up with a enormous plushie with dangerous mechanical oddments that can pop out, along with a lotus root. The robot, Peta, is delighted to see her again, transforms into a supersonic jet plushie thing, and whisks her off to school, the long way, around the world. End of episode, because it’s only about six minutes.

We don’t know anything about the sister who died, and that’s a little unsettling since the show comes off as almost pure slapstick. I don’t know how they will balance that issue, maybe they’ll just ignore it. As for what we get, well, there’s just not enough time for them do anything more than a few gags. All I can say is that I don’t think I laughed at a single one of them. It’s not bad, but nothing stands out, and it’s too short to make a decision.

A shot of the Underworld.

Let’s turn to Mairimashita! Iruma-kun. The titular character is a fourteen year-old kid who’s had an unfortunate life, and now his deadbeat parents have sold his soul to a demon named Sullivan–for Iruma to become his beloved grandson. Iruma, who has learned to never say “no” in order to get by, is forced to agree, and the next thing you know he’s attending the entrance ceremony at a demon school, where he inadvertently causes a ruckus by chanting a spell and draws the ire of the class rep, Asmodeus, and so they have a duel. You know, the usual first day of school stuff. Oh, by the way, if the discover he’s human they’ll eat him.

It’s good cheerful fun. The story is told quickly with very little infodumping. We usually learn the rules of the demon world after Iruma has just managed to nearly break them. Along with being a demon story the show looks like it will equally be a silly school comedy. One of the highlights for me was the school song, all about humans being nothing but food and the like. Still, I’m on the fence with this one. I liked the first episode but I suspect this is one of those kid’s stories that will go on for many years, you know what I’m talking about. Not sure I’m up for that, but a promising start.

Val x Love begins with a saying they proceed to overuse.

Now we have, oh dear, Val x Love, where we meet big, scary Akutsu, who is really a wimp at heart and wants nothing more than to study alone. After seeing the commotion he causes at school just by looking that way, he goes home and we learn that there are nine girls living there, too. Not his idea. The girls act in various ways toward him, from harsh to reassuring, while managing to show a lot of flesh. Why is this happening? Apparently his job is to be their lover (all of them) because they’re valkyries and need sexy times to power up and defeat the Akuma who are threatening the city and the world. Except one of the girls who thinks Akutsu is useless and refuses to live with them. We get one such situation to end the episode.

Uh, guys, there’s a monster coming. Guys?

Okay, for an ecchi fantasy comedy episode one isn’t all that bad. It nicely teases the mystery of why those girls are living in Aktsuki’s house against his will and lays off the fantasy elements until the battle. After which all is explained and it will probably become a “girl of the week” series. The girls are all various types, the tsundere, the mechanic girl, the motherly one, the student council president, the idol, etc, but none of them apart from Natsuki annoy me. And I have sympathy for Akutsu with this tremendous burden (though some would disagree) he doesn’t know if he can handle, not to mention those important entrance exams coming next year … Still, this show is for fans of ecchi most of all.

Keishichou Touhanka 007 begins with nothing but heavy breathing. Not what you think …

Keishichou Tokumu Bu Tokushu Kyouakuhan Taisaku Shitsu Dai Nana Ka: Tokunana, or Keishichou Touhanka 007 (still too long), has a rookie cop Seiji in a city where humans, elves, etc, live peacefully together, though there are still crimes … Seiji finds himself a hostage in one, a bank robbery to steal a diamond, along with the hard-boiled Ichinose, who as it turns out works with a squad of special talents. Seiji is taken onto an armored car and manages to disrupt things there so that the squad can catch up and stop the car by partially blowing up Rainbow Bridge. Don’t you know it, next day Seiji is transferred to the special squad.

First of all, why even have the fantasy elements? This was a straight-up crime and action story apart that a couple of the robbers were beastmen–with bulletproof vests and machine guns. They might as well have been human. Second, the story was not all that interesting. The robbery and chase bits have been done all over and not just in anime. I was a little interested in how Seiji was going to turn things around, and his absurd strength at one point suggests he might have a special ability of his own, but it’s hardly enough to get me interested. The other squad members were all types–marksman, geek-girl, swordswoman. Nothing felt fresh or certainly not original. Too many other things to watch.

Babylon starts with a look at a Tokyo river, probably with dead bodies in it.

Babylon dumped three episode on us at once but I watched only the first one. Another hard-boiled story, but with no elves or beastmen, only cops, doctors, and politicians. We start with a raid on a pharmaceutical company who was getting falsified data, and detective Seizaki and his younger partner Fumio discover a weird and creepy document from a doctor, who is then found dead in a bizarre situation. They further discover that the secretary to Mayoral candidate Nomaru, and a woman, frequently visited the doctor in the weeks before. The detectives bring some allies in to help the investigation, there’s a stakeout of some more characters, and a shocking turn at the end.

Stakeout.

Frankly, the final bit was a bit too much, but it made the investigation all the more interesting if you choose to watch, and why shouldn’t we? The revelations come fast but the pace is calm and serious. Calm fades to black between scene changes, and much of the time they don’t bother to play any background music. It also feels by the book–at one point Seizaki asks help from a local jurisdiction rather than doing it all themselves, and the pharmaceutical company raid produced hundreds of boxes of dry documents to work through. Thankfully the show edits out the boring details. What bothers me is that this is a huge case, and names and connections come so quickly there’s not much opportunity to take it all in. But if you want a straightforward investigation show this might fit the bill.

We start with a sunrise over the majestic savannah.

To finish off installment #2 I watched Africa no Salaryman, where, after a majestic look at African wildlife, we turn to the more mundane world of Lion, a middle-manager, and two subordinates, Lizard and Toucan. The show is arranged by small scenes, like taking the subway and getting accused of groping, getting lunch, and a mixer, basic urban salaryman life except everyone is an animal and displays their traits from time to time. One running gag is Lizard losing his tail in bloody fashion. Lion is a decent sort, a good boss. Lizard (Kenjirou Tsuda, his second appearance in this post–He’s in Keishichou too) is okay, like a settled-in family man, and Toucan is the young, undisciplined type who keeps getting into trouble and getting others involved in it.

The element of danger is amusing. You get the idea that one of the predators might eat someone, in fact, we see the “high school girl late for school running with toast in her mouth,” only she’s a predator cat and instead of toast it’s a zebra leg. As for me I wish someone would eat Toucan. There is way too much of him in the episode and with all the trouble he causes and tries to fob off on others I wonder why he still has a job, or is even alive. He’s annoying as hell. Like I said, the others are just fine and I’d like to see more of them. Well, they’ll probably switch focal characters around. Even so, after watching Toucan’s antics for 25 minutes I don’t know if I want to see anymore. And Lizard losing his tail got old fast. The art is simple but it fits the situation. The movement is occasionally-distracting CGI. Some of the gags are good, but not enough for me.

Fall 2019 1

Hisashiburi! Here I am ready to look at the new Fall 2019 shows that I care to watch. As usual I am going by the Random Curiosity list unless something else interesting pops up. Again as usual I won’t do every show. Season 2’s where I didn’t watch season 1, sports shows (usually), or those that revel in gore. And I will once again start each review with a screenshot of the show’s first moment or two.

Hataage! Kemono Michi starts with an aerial view of an arena, but we won’t stay in the real world long.

We start with Hataage! Kemono Michi, where an animal-loving pro wrestler named Genzo is summoned mid-match to your typical European-type isekai, by a princess who wants him to kill monsters, i.e., animals. He refuses rather violently and then has to run from the guards into the village, where the townspeople run from him because he looks like a pervert (wrestling attire). He causes trouble, saves a wolf-girl, molests a beastman (so furry!), and then manages to be some use by befriending some cerebuses who were threatening the city. So at least he has some cash to buy clothes.

That would not be my reaction to seeing a cerebus.

The execution isn’t all that great. They linger on moments when Genzo is petting, or molesting, fierce animals too long. The art and animation is mostly average. I do like the concept that the way Genzo (and we) treat animals (petting them) comes off as perverted to them. And his dream of getting humans and beasts to get along is certainly noble, though how much of that is because he’s perverted that way remains to be seen. Not all the monsters in the show are warm and fluffy, there’s a giant ant near the end for example, but Genzo doesn’t seem to mind. As to my own perversions, I am hoping he gets to pet the catgirl. For isekai, wrestling, and catgirl fans.

Some magical glowing thing to start Shinchou Yuusha.

Next is Shinchou Yuusha, where a goddess named Ristarte, wanting to level up, has to find a human hero for a particularly nasty world called, er, Gaeabrande. She chooses a handsome boy named Seiya. Trouble is, he doesn’t like anything he sees, or rather, he is overly suspicious, though the show calls it “cautious.” To him, Ristarte might actually be evil, the food she gives him might be poisoned, and he’s not about to step foot in Gaeabrande until he’s leveled up a little, all to the consternation of Ristarte. Once there, he tries to buy too much armor, overequips himself with healing potions, and suspects the friendly villager to be evil shapeshifters. After he overkills a weak slime he gets the attention of an upper-level demon … and runs away.

See, that’s the thing. I’m a cautious person myself, and I would probably do many of the things Seiya did, only two sets of armor would be fine for me. So while I can get Ristarte’s frustration over his inactivity I think much of the time he’s behaving the right way. What sets me off about him is his callousness. There’s no reason to look that coldly on everything you see. They try to soften it with his interaction with a small girl, but it’s hardly enough. On the plus side, veteran Seiyuu Aki Toyosaki does a splended job as Ristarte, though the character is in enraged reaction mode so much in this episode that it wears you down. Nice visual reactions, though. Hopefully they’ll find a good balance as the series progresses.

Joro’s fingers twitching …

Ore wo Suki na no wa Omae Dake ka yo has the cleverest opening so far. We meet a nice high school boy nicknamed Joro, his genkii childhood friend Himawari, who apparently is jealous of his friendship with the alluring student council president. There’s lots of romantic, tinkly music in the background as both girls ask Joro on a date–and well, there are some confessions, and I’ll leave it at that because explaining would ruin the fun.

Here it comes …

The show does an excellent job of not showing its cards until the right moment, and when it does, it completely overturns your expectations. The only clue we get is the ominous opening scene to which everything else is flashback, and the glimpses of some girl following Joro around, so I expected a plot-shift but not the one I got. I especially liked the show’s “reboot,” for want of a better word, though while I understand the need for the repetition it made the second time around drag a bit. On the other hand, Joro’s responses usually salvaged these moments. Joro, by the way, is nicely played by Yamashita Daiki. Now that the revelations have occurred I guess the show will shift to a more mundane story but considering the fun of the opener I’m not too worried.

A quiet medieval(?) lab to start Honzuki.

Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan o Erande Iraremasen starts with a small girl named Myne being mind-melded by a priest to figure out what makes her so damn clever, and so we get our story. She was a young woman who loved to read books, who died (I think a bookshelf fell on her) and she woke up in this world, a poor peasant girl with no books to be seen. We meet her family, pay a visit to a market, and not even words, though they have numbers. The one book she encounters is very expensive and she’s not allowed to even touch it. Finally she decides to hell with it, she’ll make her own books!

She says this a lot.

This has the quietness and pace of a healing show, pauses where people just walk and see things, but since there’s actually a plot I figure this show is instead intended for young girls, or anyone who wants to see someone invent the printing press in an isekai. There’s a nice angle in that Myne is probably better educated than anyone in her village, including the nobles, and it gives her an educated adult’s perspective inside a cute little girl’s body. How she’s going to break out her impoverished peasant status and meet others who actually have an education might be interestng to watch, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. Still, a sweet and gentle show.

Obviously an allusion to the new high school year.

Next it’s Houkago Saikoro Club, where a shy girl named Miki has no fun at all and, despite living in Kyoto, doesn’t know how to have fun. Naturally she has a nearly literal run-in with a classmate named Aya, and they go exploring, much to Miki’s worry and fear. After seeing some lovely spots they see the stern class rep Ono go into a building and learns she works in a board game shop, so they all have a lovely time along with the scary manager playing Marrakech. So soon Miki will learn to have fun, friends, etc.

It’s basically a “lonely girl makes friends and learns to have a good time with a set activity as a theme” show, here being board games. This means two things, first, the early episode are going to drag as Miki manages to crawl out of her shell, and second, we are going to learn a lot about board games. I don’t know Marrakech the game, but the rules were explained clearly and simply (well, it IS a fairly simple game) and I could easily see how much fun it could be to play. I don’t know if that will be enough. None of the characters were terribly interesting. … finally, I kept waiting for some punchline about Aya going commando, but it never came … Anyway, the show will be enjoyable for board gamers, at least.

Choyoyu begins with eggs.

In Choujin Koukousei-tachi wa Isekai demo Yoyuu de Ikinuku you desu!, better known as Choyoyu, we meet seven high school prodigies who do everything from ruling Japan to doctoring to entrepreneurship, who are all somehow on the same plane that takes a detour and crash-lands in a medieval European isekai. Tsukasa, the PM, wakes up first, is fed mouth-to-mouth by a sexy elf, and meets a wolf-woman. When the others wake up they are feted and then decide what to do to get back home and replenishing the village’s meager supplies. They hold off some nasty soldiers and that’s it for episode 1.

I like isekai shows but this is getting a little ridiculous. This is the third or fourth in this post alone! This is one of them where the human visitors have a big edge in power than the locals, just having a samurai girl among them takes care of that. Not that I dislike that; it simply means that the show will be mostly happy and fluffy, like Slime, rather than gritty. The high school prodigies are all mature beyond their age, and entirely altruistic, not quite so believable. Tsukasa says an important goal is not to ruin this world, a nice pronouncement, but I can’t imagine a high-schooler, even a PM with diplomatic skills, saying that. On the other hand, this business of the legend of the Seven Heroes is intriguing, and I am a little curious as to what will happen next …

Azur Lane begins appropriately with the blue sea.

Finally there’s Azur Lane, another show of Anthropomorphic girls/warships. The girls range from deadly serious (Enterprise) to silly and goofy (Unicorn, Laffey), and years ago they successfully fought off alien invaders called Sirens. We meet a lot of girlships in the first episode as they either talk coolly about an impending crisis, or run around doing cute things like losing stuffed animals. But the crisis hits. They are attacked by two girlships (Akagi and Kaga) and an exciting but confusing battle starts up, confusing because at this stage I don’t know who’s on whose side. Anyway, K and K declare war and withdraw after Enterprise shows up.

The Enterprise is the coolest character of the lot.

In the flurry of infodumps we’re presented with before the battle, we have four, er, navies, I suppose. The Union and the Royal represent the US and UK, obvious, while Sakura and Iron Blood represent factions you can guess. What’s odd is that the Japanese fleet are bad guys … in an anime! So my guess is that Sakura at least will see the error of their ways and turn good to help them fight the Sirens whose technology they are currently using, hence the rift between factions. This will happen muh later in the series, and I’m not sure I have the desire to see it happen. The whole thing is pretty generic. I liked some of the transformation bits, and while I said the battles were confusing they were often fast and exciting as well. But so many girls and ships to remember, and none of them really standing out. I think I will give this one a miss.

Kyoto Animation #2, the Key games

Through the years, KyoAni’s high productions have sometimes been bogged down by weak source material, but they can elevate it too. Look at their early days with gamemaker Visual Studio Key. KyoAni adapted three of them: Air, Kanon, and Clannad, with an Afterstory.

I’ve never played the Key games and I’d be bored if I did. Silly stuff about nice boys being kind to troubled girls who usually have some supernatural issues. The studio, I understand, worked with the same structure–humor, serious, heartbreak, in all these games, probably for all of your girl choices.

The first I watched was Kanon (after Haruhi I would watch whatever KyoAni did). Some people wondered why they bothered to do Kanon when another studio had recently done it (poorly, from what I hear), but they shut up when the episodes started coming out. KyoAni’s was far superior.

From Kanon I remember a couple of things, apart from how beautiful the romantic snowy scenes look. mostly the episode where Makoto the fox girl is slowly dying or rather fading in Yuichi’s arms. At one point the music fades with her, down to a repeating series of crystal notes, as if Makoto was dissolving to her essence. And at the end, they tie the end of the episode to the actual OP, one of the few times I’ve ever cried out an “OH!” watching a show. You see, the one complaint I had had up to then was that the ED sequence, especially the music, seemed tacked on, an abrupt jump, but here, after a heartbreak scene, music flowed into the ED.  “OH!” Possibly unintentional by the creators, but “OH!” anyway.

When I first moved to Japan in 2012, I was on a train to my new workplace, my new life, in Toyama, passing through snowy hills and towns where Kanon could have been set. I had Last Regrets playing on my MP3 player. I started to cry.

Once, watching the new episodes of whatever season it was (before this blog) I watched an ep1 of some show, something about idols, with terrible CGI. Disgusted, I then turned to my Netflix DVDs and watched the first episode of Air.  … A girl popped a soap bubble, and I gasped. “That’s right! This is real animation!” Now, it’s unfair to compare a forgotten idol series watched on my computer to Air on a bigger-screen TV, but I don’t care.

Air was beautiful to look at, summer in comparison to Kanon’s winter, but like Kanon, elegant. Sadly, I can’t remember any more of it apart from the moment when the young girl’s twintails ribbons unwound of their own accord. Because it was based on a multi-ending game, no anime could have nailed the landing perfectly.  For me I couldn’t figure out why the hero was suddenly a crow.

How DOES a linear TV story do justice to all the girls’ endings? Amagami SS had the best solution when it simply rebooted to another girl after four episodes, but that often entertaining high school romance series style doesn’t fit the atmosphere of KyoAni’s Key stories.

Which leads us to Clannad, and Clannad After Story, with an amazing finale that made no sense at all.  Plotwise Clannad was more of the same, except elevated by KyoAni, and Afterstory took us down darker paths than we expected. Two episodes before the finale it seems like Tomoya, who had already lost his wife Nagisa (I argue that for gods sakes he should have chosen Tomoya. Kyou or Ryou would be fine too, even Kotomi if you keep her away from a violin … but NAGISA?? The dullest girl of the lot? but I digress…), he loses her daughter too and collapses in grief.

It should have been the end of the story there, but the creators had earlier snuck in that rising lights image, and the girl and the robot. The ensuing messy thing that followed rose out of the grief, went back in time to Nagisa’s giving birth, but with a happy ending. It was absolutely ridiculous, but with the blobs and lights, and the girl and robots enveloped in the snowstorm (the girl says “Papa” to the robot, a moment that almost rescued the entire sequence). The scenes that followed managed to salvage the point. The people you live with and can help are your life. Plotwise the ending could not hope to succeed. Emotionally it overwhelmed me.

Kyoto Animation gave those three silly Key games an elegance and joy more than their worth, one that I believe no other studio could have given them.

KyoAni, well I have to write something, #1

When I first heard of the fire and watched the death toll slowly going up, I felt that I had to say something. So I wrote a long, increasingly drunken blog post, which, on Saturday, I decided not to post. It felt too personal. But every day after I felt that I wouldn’t be happy unless I expressed a few things.

Which is basically the point of this blog: I want to talk about something. So I will cut that long post into smaller ones. I might do two, or three, or more, but no matter how many or how few there are things I need to say about Kyoto Animation, the best anime studio in the world. Sorry, no images. You know where to find them.

For this post I must start with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It came early in my anime-watching life. It was one of the first series I fell in love with (the others being Azumanga and Sailor Moon–the secret’s out!).

I hate to pull a “back in the day” on you, but back in the day, April 2006, no one knew that this series existed. Hell, while they had a good reputation in the industry, most hardly knew that Kyoto Animation existed. There was no hype at all. The only reason I heard about it was because some other bloggers had managed to watch the first episode and had freaked out:

It’s funny … It stars a “combat waitress from the future” … But that’s not what’s really going on …

I was sold and watched it.

People who haven’t seen this franchise yet, I beg you, I absolutely BEG you, to watch the same first episode I did, The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00, I beg you again. The episodes on DVD are not in the order that we watched it. The show did not air in chronological order, mostly.

The reason I’m begging so much is that the Mikuru Asahina episode is the best first episode I have ever seen, not only in anime, but on any TV show, maybe in fiction. No one had ever introduced their show in such a bewildering and delightful fashion.

Through ep00, which is a depiction of a bad, obviously amateur movie (KyoAni depicting the bad light and editing faithfully), we meet all the main characters except the most important one, until the end. Moreover, we have a narrator guiding us through the mess; he’s trying to help us along but he’s also snarking at things he doesn’t like, and is often saying the exact thing we’re thinking (Who changed Mikuru into a T-shirt?). By the end of the craziness this speaker is our friend, and turns out he’s the main character, Kyon. We had learned in a roundabout way that, whatever more happened in further episodes, we could count on Kyon. There’s also some weird light, the evil cute witch girl jumping on Mikuru for apparently no reason, and that cat who ups the weirdness by, well, I won’t say–none intended for that crap movie they were making, oh, and the green-haired girl laughing. All in that jaw-dropping first episode.

No one had seen anything like it. Haruhi Suzumiya became a viral and by episode 3, a mainstream hit. A sensation.

KyoAni kept up the animation quality though the story dipped a couple times before it regrouped and gave us what I call the “Yuki Rocks Trilogy,” and a magnificent final episode (air-date 14, DVD 7, please watch this one last to get the great finale the series deserves (Mahler!)–obviously I am an “air date” man).

Soon every anime fan had heard of Kyoto Animation, and what they were capable of.

2019 Summer 4

Nice blue fantasy world sky to start Cheat Magician.

Isekai Cheat Magician is yet ANOTHER show where some high school kids are plucked out of our world and into a generic western fantasy RPG setting. This time it’s Taichi and Rin, who get sucked into a magic circle and find themselves on a grassy plain and are immediately menaced by a killer horse. Fortunately some adventurers rescue and befriend them. They reach a town and the kids decide to become adventurers too, though they don’t have any magic, or so they think. Turns out their power is through the roof, and so the sexy magician Lemiya is going to start training them in episode 2. Through it all, Taichi and Rin act like it’s all a minor inconvenience.

Taichi broke the magic level detector!

I’m having trouble thinking of anything to say about this show. It does all the isekai tropes, except in a slower, duller way than usual. There was the brief spat between the kids because Taichi tried to sacrifice his life to save Rin and leave her all alone in that strange place, but even that was done in a dull way. Well, we do have an inkling of how they got there–someone tried to do a conjuring spell but was interrupted by an evil organization who are now going to look for them, so we know what the main story arc is going to be. As for the characters, Taichi has some guts. Rin has nothing but a ponytail. The rest are generic RPG characters, even the giggling green leaf that maybe got crushed. Maybe it will get better once the plot gets rolling.

I have no idea what those things are.

In Machikado Mazoku an average, clumsy, impoverished high school girl name Yuko, awakens with horns and a tail. Her mom sighs and admits the family’s dark past, that they’re from a line of demons and that their power was mostly sealed away by the good guys, magical girls mainly. Now that Yuko’s true form has been awakened she has to kill a magical girl and spill her blood on the demonic object that her mom was using as a doorstop. She finds a magical girl, Momo, who not only rescues her from a truck but takes pity on her and gives her some bread. At school the next day her friends have no problem with Yuko’s horns and tail, think they look cool, and tell her there’s a magical girl in class A, Momo in fact, who again doesn’t consider her any threat at all and even gives her some combat advice.

As you can guess this show is crazy low-budget slapstick throughout, and some of it works. Everyone gets some good lines, and Yuko handles her transformation in an appropriately silly fashion. There’s no question of where this is going, either, since we see Yuko and Momo being best buds in the OP, and the show also hints that Momo is actually quite lonely. At least Yuko has a nice mom and little sister; Momo sits alone in her big house with nothing but a cat. On the other hand, part of the curse Yuko’s family lives under is near-poverty, and nothing in the show, demon heritage aside, suggests they deserve that. On the whole, if you like cuteness and silliness you might like this show. As for me, I’ll probably skip it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough.

Your typical Academy City suspicious building.

Next is To Aru Kagaku no Accelerator, starring, well, you know. First, some thieves rob a compressed air research facility which was, this being Academy City and all, also developing a weapon to defeat Accelerator. The thieves then visit the hospital where Accel’s getting some bandages removed and Last Order is planning a celebration with some of the sisters and acting cute. The bad guys, led by a typical Index-style crazy girl, retreat with a drop of Accel’s blood–genetic material!–so he chases them down, grins evilly a lot and, well, it’s over quickly.

Who me? No!

As I expected, a simple standalone episode to start things off. Reintroduce the important characters and give Accel a lot of chances to be his bad self, oh, and gratuitous fanservice of course. Nothing we haven’t seen before. I wonder about the Sisters attending a party for Accel, but Last Order might have something to do with it, anyway, it’s not like this franchise has ever made much sense. I just hope its less senseless than the sprawling mess that was the last Index series. It probably won’t be so bad. After all, the nutty Railgun series was almost coherent compared to Index.

We won’t stay in the real world long.

Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki Desuka?, which I will call Okaa-san Online like everyone else, stars Masato, an average high school boy, and Mamako, his hot and rather stifling mother. He fills out a questionnaire and then gets whisked to, sigh, a MMORPG come to life, which is, what, the third one this season? Still, Masato is happy to be there, but less happy when his mom shows up too. Some generic king gives him the rundown–it’s a beta game, choose your sword, etc. Mamako pulls out two swords instead of one, and turns out to be ridiculously overpowered, though quick to gush over Masato’s low-level attack. This is too much for Masato, who says some mean things and then feels bad about it. So they set off to recruit other adventurers.

I suppose the only thing you can do with “sucked into a game world” story by now is to add an interesting twist to it, and the story makes it quite clear that it’s all about mother and son bonding with the fantasy tropes just there to be mocked. Fortunately it’s not a bad first episode. There are some good gamer jokes, aided by the fact that Mamako is stuck in the Famicom days. She also does a good job embarrassing her son constantly, in a sweet, loving way, and Masato’s exasperated reactions were usually good and well-timed. I look forward to next week where Mamako will continue to point out that her son’s choice of adventurers are all female. A-la! … Okay, she never said “A-la!” in the episode, but she’s the type who could.

The inside of a slimy dungeon.

Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darouka: Familia Myth II, or DanMachi season 2, starts with your average dungeon crawl scene to remind us who the characters are, but it didn’t work. It’s been four years since season one and while I remember Bell and Hestia, of course, some of the others I can’t really recall. Anyway, the Apollo Clan pick a fight with them and Bell gets beaten up by Hyakinthos, about the only one of the Apollo group that can fight. Next thing you know, Hestia and Bell are invited by Apollo to a fancy ball, and they are challenged to a war game, whatever that is. We’ll find out next week. But at least Bell got to dance with Aiz in a lovely little scene first.

Bell and Hestia haven’t changed.

As I said, I don’t remember all the details, except that the gods can act like jerks. Why Apollo is mad at Hestia’s group I guess we will find out. At least Hermes has taken a liking to Bell. As for the episode itself, it was more of the same, a better-than-average fantasy adventure comedy with some fun characters. Hestia gets to show off both her kind and goofy angry sides. I just Bell would just hurry up and level up already. I’m tired of seeing him roughed up.

A gritty, rainy urban street.

To finish this series I looked at BEM, where the Lower (poorer) district of a city is being threatened by a watery monster who can flee to the sewers and kills people by drowning them. Also a young detective named Sonia who spoke too honestly to her Uptown boss and got banished here. She chases a thief, gets rescued from a car by a guy in a suit, and then finds the thief drowned. Next day, after learning just how corrupt this district is, various people get drowned again, the guy in the suit fights the monster, Sonia shows up and freaks out a lot, as you would expect someone who has never seen a monster like this before. In between the suit guy and two younger colleagues talk about how to become human, and it is worth it?

The good guys, I think, pause to talk philosophy.

Apparently this is a very old franchise, but it looks modern in its style and smartphone usage. It also tries to be very stylish and sometimes succeeds–the jazzy BGM helps. But while I was intrigued by the three heroes talking about humanity, and the monster having happily thrown his away, not every worked. You’d think the public would be more aware that there was a serial killer on the loose, and we got no reason as to why the monster just wanted to kill and laugh evilly. As it was he was just a generic serial killer to get the plot rolling. Sonia as the “girl scout” cop was too generic, and at the end of the episode, she seems to have recovered from her shock too easily. Still, this could turn into an entertaining series.

That’s it for this season. Since there’s nothing I saw that I feel I want to write about every week I think I will go back into hibernation mode until my current situation is more settled, which may mean in the Fall. Well, enjoy the series you liked.