Winter 2021 1

My stay-at-home order was lifted this month so it’s back to the office for me. I won’t have as much time to watch, but I’ll at least try to do the first episode posts and maybe follow a few things. As usual for the previews I’ll add a screenshot of the first comprehensible moment of each episode.

Tatoeba Last Dungeon has the sky seen from a forest, with a lizard about to fly overhead.

We start with, oh dear, the title, Tatoeba Last Dungeon Mae no Mura no Shounen ga Joban no Machi de Kurasu Youna Monogatari (I’m waiting for the nickname). A young boy named Lloyd, weak at everything, nevertheless leaves his village of Kunlun and travels to Azami to enlist in the military, if he can. He goes to stay with a witch named Marie, who is freaked out about how much power he actually has, actually too freaked out, too many times. Then off he goes and rescues what turns out to be royalty, Senlen, from a big bug. He also lifts her curse while he’s at it. Naturally she’s smitten. We also meet some other candidates, such as Riho the corrupt mercenary and Allan, a jerk. Everyone is amazed at his abilities, while he doesn’t seem to notice. But the surprise at the end is that he doesn’t pass the test, a mystery for next week.

Just an overpowered kid.

I’ll cut this show some slack for the first episode introduction lags, though I will say they handle it better than some shows. Exposition is handled well, just a few lines here and there in a context where the explaining makes sense. As more characters are introduced the show cuts nicely from one to another, and they interact well. The thing is, I’m not terribly interested in Lloyd, who’s pure and strong and therefore dull, not to mention overpowered. I’m more interested in Riho, able to spice things up by being her sneaky self. So, after the too-long intro scene with Marie the show finds another gear and settles down. And there’s the question of why Lloyd failed the test (which we didn’t see). I’ll see if I want to watch another episode after a week.

Ura Sekai Picnic starts with a vivid blue, which I believe is foreshadowing.

Next it’s Ura Sekai Picnic, where we see a girl named Sorao lying in a still stream contemplating how awful her life it and how it will end soon, when another girl, Toriko, shows up in this wasteland, and they confront a “Wiggle-waggle,” what will drive you mad if you stare at it. Nevertheless they destroy it, retrieve a metallic cube, and back in the real world Toriko sells the cube for good money. Hey, Sorao, let’s go wiggle-waggle hunting again! Turns out both girls have been to the other world before, and while it’s dangerous and spooky, maybe it would be enjoyable to explore if you had a partner … Sorao, not a people person at all, finds herself drawn to the idea.

Toriko and Sorao find something sellable.

Whoo, this was a weird one, and fun to watch. Part of the fun is that the show asks more questions than it answers. What IS that other world? for one thing. Why is it there? Is it a manifestation of our fears? Then why are two people (and there are more) experiencing the same thing? Why is Toriko wearing heels in such a dangerous place? It helps that you have no idea what is going to happen next, or how the threat is going to be presented–the episode did an excellent job of that. The problem is that it’s going to be hard to sustain this abnormality and keep us guessing for a full season. You see one wiggle-waggle, you see them all, in spite of how the show looks, grainy and threatening, like urban legend photos. That could be another issue. Is this going to be an urban legend of the week? We go through two this episode, the WW and the “press the elevator floor buttons in the right order” shtick. But even with mentioning the things that could go wrong, the strongest thing in the show was not the creepiness, but Sorao and Toriko themselves. We’re in Sorao’s head so we have a start with her, but what is Toriko’s take? Both are very interesting characters that I want to learn more about. If I keep watching, and I probably will, I’ll of course do just that, and that’s not mentioning the other girls we see in the OP, or that dead guy in the other world.

This isn’t actually the first shot of Yuru Camp 2, but just look at it!

So I come back from my first week back on the job, tired and grouchy because all the bars are closing early because of you-know-what, so what should I do? How about Yuru Camp 2? The perfect choice. The opening bit, where a younger Rin sets up a tent in the living room because she wants to read, set the mood perfectly. And nothing after that disappointed. First we get Rin’s first attempt at camping (day-camping, with her dad in the lodge above), and she makes some rookie mistakes and almost starves because she couldn’t cook the rice. But her mom thought ahead and stuck some curry cup noodles in her bag.

If you’re hungry enough …

Just like the first season, there are no major disasters, just minor inconveniences, along with the serene music and pretty countrysides and lakes. We move to now, where the other girls text about their upcoming holidays, plans about places to visit (to Aki’s chagrin, because she’s too busy working), all of which look lovely. While Rin plans her New Year trip and I make notes about places to look up when the episode is over. And that’s about it, apart from Rin taking off on her solo trip, to Iwata, I believe. The pace and timing are just as good as in the first season, and it might even look a little better. So, already I know this is going to be a good season, at least 24 weekly minutes of it.

Literally “In the beginning.”

Tenchi Souzou Design-bu takes place in heaven, where God’s design team whips up new animal prototypes for approval. We follow this through newbie Shimoda, an intermediary between God and the designers, though they themselves seem to have no trouble talking to the Boss … Well, it’s good to have someone to follow. The designers have quirks and favorite animals. Tsuchiya the senior designed the horse, which was such a success he tries to make everything horsey. We also have Mizushima, who designed the snake, to the ire of Kanamori because the snakes keep eating his birds. Through the episode we see the development and approval of the giraffe, the red-eyed frog, some birds, the anteater and the armadillo. Some designs show more promise than others …

And it’s delicious!

I dunno if I want to watch a whole season of this. It’s amusing enough. The engineer Higuchi pokes holes in the weirder designs. God seems to approve of some animals on a whim. Tsuchiya is a bit of an artiste and makes some bizarre things, but I think it will get stale after a while. It’s mostly set in this heavenly meeting room with pillars and blue sky for a ceiling, and I don’t want to spend too much time there. Shimoda just stands there and reacts. I’ll see if I’m in the mood for more next week.

Japanese high schools always seem to have these unused rooms and corridors.

We turn to Jaku-Chara Tomozi-kun, where we get our average high school loser Fumiya, who is excellent at a game called Attack Families and lousy at everything else in life. So he goes around moping. He has a meetup with the #2 ranked AF gamer, who turns out to be the friendly school idol Aoi, who, outside of class, is blunt and rude, and she is disgusted that the one AF player better than her is this loser classmate. After a lot of talk and insults both ways, she convinces him that life is a game that can be won, and she’s going to show him how to do it.

The key thought here is that only a bad gamer blames the game for a loss. It’s a line Fumiya uses early against a classmate, and Aoi turns it right back on him, only the game she’s talking about is Real Life. Fumiya can argue that he was born with lousy stats to begin with, but they both know that’s a lousy excuse. You can level up, and if you don’t even try then you’re not much of a gamer to begin with. That’s the thinking Aoi uses to win him over; these are two serious gamers talking in a common language. So now Aoi has small and medium goals for Fumiya for his leveling up–smile more, talk to girls, get a girlfriend to start with, and we’re probably going to get a bunch of scenes of Fumiya embarrassing himself trying accomplish them. I don’t know if I want to watch that, but I admit the way they set up the situation interested me, and I both like and dislike both main characters. Hopefully Fumiya will stop moping as much, and while I find Aoi’s coldness a turn-off, I like how she has at least the kindness to help a gamer she admires improve his life. This is another “I’ll see how I feel in a week” series.

Just another day in high school—KABLOOIE!

Finally I watched Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? an isekai show where a whole classroom of students gets blown up and reincarnated isekai-style. Our hero, er, didn’t catch the name, wakes up as a spider hatchling and watches with horror as all the other hatchlings start devouring one another, and then the mother comes and eats some more of them. She runs away, finds she can gain skill points, etc, and almost starves to death before deciding to do a little sibling-devouring herself. It’s basically an episode of discovery, she can do this and that, and manages to slowly level up as she manages to kill a frog. Meanwhile, her classmates are living as princes and noble-people, elves, and one cute monster, and looking forward to their future. Our spider-hero, however, is desperately trying to survive by eating nasty things and not get killed …

It’s a pretty good twist on the isekai, especially the contrast between her and her classmates. What makes it especially fun is the spider’s voice–Aoi Yuuki. She’s always been great at going over the top, and her wild thoughts and snarky comments make the spider’s dire life funny, even as she’s eating the corpse of a toad. Just as Okasaki Miho’s voice bears much of the weight of the slime show, this spider show rests almost entirely on Yuuki’s back. Fortunately, in this episode at least, she’s more than up to the job. In terms of the plot, I have no idea. Will she get reunited with her classmates? Does she even want to try? After all, she was pretty much a loner on Earth. Plus we get the usual questions, like why they’re all there? Do they have a purpose? Not every isekai show has an answer for those questions, but it would be nice to know going forward.

One thought on “Winter 2021 1

  1. “Japanese high schools always seem to have these unused rooms and corridors.”

    Maybe a real thing because of the ongoing demographic collapse? I mean, there’s been many schools closed because of it IRL, so it stands to reason that increasing disuse would also be A Thing.

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