Winter 2018 #2

I believe that’s a piece of glass.

To start this second post we have Itou Junji: Collection, only we don’t because I don’t care much for horror. So let’s turn to Grancrest Senki, set in a fantasy world where a royal wedding will put aside years of fighting between the Fantasy Alliance and the Factory Federation. Well, we can’t have peace and harmony, can we, so a demon lord interrupts and kills a number of people. The bride turns her back on the would-be groom (why?), the brief alliance is shattered, and the world is plunged into war again. A couple years later we meed Siluca, a mage who’s contracted to a lord who doesn’t sound very pleasant, but the carriage is halted by people from another country or dukedom or something, and Siluca is just about to kick their ass when this handsome, somewhat stupid lad named Theo rides in, HE fights the baddies, and barely wins. So Siluca makes him fight two-headed monster just for kicks, and after he barely beats that (and gains experience points), she decides to run off with him instead of that duke. So they take over another dukedom in about five minutes and now Theo’s a duke too.

Siluca knows what she wants.

Theo is overwhelmed by this, as you can imagine, while Siluca is having a great time manipulating him. Also, he knows she’s manipulating him, but he doesn’t seem to have the gumption to stand up to her. For one episode, this is entertaining to watch, especially Siluca, who I believe has ideals to save and heal their troubled world but is so practical and full of guile that it’s easy to forget that. Theo is more of a tool, but he’s supposed to be the brave, heroic, and boring one. As for the world, I can’t figure it out. There’s chaos power about, which sounds bad, but people use it for good, too. There are the warring factions but also nasty monsters and spiders around too. Where do you start saving this world? Well, I expect this show will run for at least 100 episodes so I’m sure it has a plan. As for me, apart from Siluca’s guile there wasn’t much to enjoy, just another fantasy story, with the usual character designs and not great animation. Besides, I avoid long series.

Don’t see Devilman Crybaby yet, and I’m not following Nanatsu no Taizai, so …

Sanrio’s misleading opening shot.

Last time we had multiple episodes of girls who find exciting new things to do which will make their lives shine, and now it’s the boys’ turn. After watching Sanrio Danshi, I think the girls got the better deal. But it starts well, with a sword-duel which is tragically broken up by one character who dies, only, alas, it’s just a school play and instead we get the story of Kouta, who loved Pompompurin figures as a boy, especially the big stuffed one his beloved grandma gave him. An unpleasant bullying incident turns him against both Pompompurin and his grandma, and you can pretty much guess what happens next. Thus his high school life doesn’t shine until he unwittingly encounters three other high school bishies who all love other Sanrio figures, and so our story begins! … I’d rather go to Antarctica.

I knew pretty much the setup going in, and there are a few things going for it–the school play bit was clever, and the bullying and the granny dying before Kouta can apologize was effective, predictable as it was. But it can’t mask the fact that this is a show about cute boys loving things only cute little girls are supposed to like, no matter how much they’ll obscure it with male bonding and friendship. There could be a chance if the show manages to use the Sanrio characters as ironic counterpoints to bishie-bonding, threats to Hello Kitty that the boys must unite to fight, but it looks a trifle too realistic for that. Besides, why didn’t Kouta just hand the My Melody keychain back to Mizuno the moment they got out earshot of the girls? Why the absurd chase? The creators aren’t thinking through this enough.

An ordinary city street to begin Citris.

Citris is yet another show this year where a high school girl starts on a fascinating journey of discovery, trouble is, most of it they can’t show on TV. It stars Yuzu, sluttish high school girl who secretly isn’t, whose mom gets remarried, so they move to a new place and an ultra-conservative all-girls school, where Yuzu immediately and accidentally breaks most of the rules, is disciplined for it in an interesting way by the school disciplinary president Mei, has more troubles, spots Mei making out with Yuzu’s homeroom teacher, goes home and discovers Mei is her new stepsister! Desperate for some acknowledgment from this seeming ice princess, Yuzu antagonizes Mei into kissing the hell out of her, rather to Yuzu’s surprise. It’s an interesting first day in school for Yuzu!

Hi Yuzu! How was your day?

I frankly don’t really want to watch a yuri show, and I still might not watch this one. The premise is absurd, with Yuzu’s mom marrying a man who just vanishes, leaving Yuzu and the husband’s daughter, who, by the way, is an heir to the rich expensive school they both attend, and which Yuzu attends without anyone telling her anything about how the place works until a side character gives her an infodump. But the first episode is done very well, primarily because of Yuzu. They do a nice job setting her up as a scary delinquent girl while at the same time showing her as a human being, a normal girl who just wants to make friends and get along in a new place, while her life gets more complicated by the hour. And while her sluttish attitude might be fake there is a toughness to her. Wonder how she’ll react to the kiss, well, we KNOW how she’ll react because the girls make out in the opening credits. We haven’t learned enough about Mei yet, but I wonder what attracts her to Yuzu, maybe the fact that she’s completely different from the other people in her life, or she was basically abandoned. Anyway, there’s a lot to chew on in this episode. Again, I don’t know if I’ll keep watching …

First day of school, so they have to do the cherry blossom thing.

Slow Start features Hana, a girl about to enter high school and is worried about making friends, and at first her fears are justified when she sees all the other first-years already seem to know each other from middle or elementary school. Then everyone discovers that it’s Hana’s birthday, and three girls whom Hana had been envious of before come up to congratulate her. Next thing you know they’re all BFF–see Hana? That wasn’t too hard! Now we can settle back and watch a nice Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show.

Eiko, Kamuri, and Tama befriend Hana.

Most CGDCT shows get off to a slow start because characters have to be introduced and their personalities and quirks revealed, but ironically Slow Start starts off pretty quickly, maybe due to Tama’s genki loquaciousness, in fact she goes on too much for my tastes, but it wasn’t a major issue, and it did help drive the episode. Eiko is the tall, possibly mature one, but there is something intimidating about her that I can’t figure out. She seems to be the magnet that draws everyone together. Possibly my favorite is Kamuri, one of those tiny types who talks about food when she says anything at all. So far it’s a good mix. Their conversations have some energy to them, which is good because they talk about nothing at all. A better start than average for this kind of show.

Don’t trust anything you see in Pop Team Epic.

Pop Team Epic starts as a typical, bland high school rom-com concerning idols, while I double-checked my information. However, it shows its true colors just after the OP and we wind up with a surreal series of short sketches involving two weird girls with male voice actors. It stops midway through (with a preview of the rom-com’s next episode) … and starts all over again, with female voice actors this time. Nothing else changes, I assume, because I just skimmed the second half.

Well, my coworker who described the show (while shaking her head in confusion) told me it was weird, and it certainly is. Whether the surreal, sometimes grotesque humor works for you or not is up to you. For me it worked some of the time but not all, and that is all that can be expected for a show like this. One thing that bothered me was the length. There is too much going on for a half-hour show; I was burning out at about the fifteen-minute mark, which is where the show sort of ended anyway. Are all the episodes going to be like this, repeated with different seiyuus, or is it really fifteen minutes and this was a tricky first episode ploy, or is it really going to be fresh material for 24 minutes? I guess we’ll find out next week, but they really ought to make it shorter.

Hey Kero! Good to see you! How you doing?

After that it’s time for some normalcy, so here’s Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Hen, a sequel to one of the most charming anime series ever made. Sakura’s just entered middle school and the show takes about half its time settling us into her routine. Kind father, meanie big brother, Kero hasn’t changed, etc. Tomoyo, the world’s most adorable stalker, sits next to her at school. Eriol’s in England, Syaoran’s still in Hong Kong but he comes back midway through, Yuki’s fine, so are the other kids, everything is happy … until she puts a pin Yuki bought her in the same box as her old pendant. After that it’s mysterious things in dreams, Clow Cards turning clear, mystifying everybody, until a nasty wind scattering the cherry blossoms (really this show has the thickest storm of cherry blossoms I’ve ever seen in an anime) forces her back into old role, but with an upgraded pendant and wand.

I doubt that this sequel can live up to sequel, but that’s hardly the sequel’s fault, and it tries hard. It knows it has to tell us how everyone from the original is doing before it can get to business, and when the story kicks in it’s almost like we never left. The mystical aesthetic this time is clear crystals and shards, but there are still plenty of bright colors around. Most importantly, it manages to make things a little scary for its young audience while keeping the overall happy vibe going. I don’t think fans of the original will find much to gripe about.

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