Fall 2022 3

Our first dull concrete shot of this post.

I try not to read reviews of shows until I’ve seen them myself, but even with that I got weird vibes from the reactions to Akiba Maid Sensou, shock, amusement, disgust. As for the episode, yeah, pretty much those things. We start in 1985, where a couple maids get out of a limo, and one is shot to death by a third maid. Flash forward to whatever now is, late 90s I guess, and we meet Nagomi, fresh in town to become a staff member for the Oink Doink Cafe. We meet another newbie, dour, threatening Ranko. There’s the usual first-day-on-the-job antics, and then, after a jerk customer makes the manager grovel, Nagomi is told to deliver a letter to the Wuv Wuv Moonbeam cafe. Ranko insists on accompanying her. We witness some employee harassment, the letter turns out to be a threat, the head maid at WWM starts slapping Nagomi, then Ranko shoots her. They run off, chased by the other maids, Ranko killing them all to the tune of a happy song done by one of Nagomi’s coworkers back at the cafe. And so Nagomi, understandably in shock, finishes her first day on the job.

Innocent fun in the world of maid cafes.

The episode was intended to surprise us, and Nagomi, so I don’t expect every episode to have a shower of gunfire and blood like this one did. They wanted to show us straight up what the series could do. But where is it going, and what the hell is going on? Are we going to watch as the seedy Oink Doink Cafe rises in prestige in the cutthroat maido business? Are we going to watch sweet, innocent Nagomi turns bad and murder a lot of people? The premise is intriguing, but, while obviously a fantasy, the realistic setting make it hard not to wonder where the police are in all of this. I mean, the entire staff of a cafe got wiped out. There’s a disconnect here I can’t get rid of. As for the production, PA Works does its usual great job with visuals and animation. Well, next week I’m sure we’ll get a little backstory.

If you look closely, you’ll see there’s a guy falling.

Next we have Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana – The Teardrop Crystal, set in a placid village in a cute fantasy world. Our hero, Shiloh, keeps having the same dream where “Love” asks him to go out and help people. He wakes up and we meet a walking potted plant, and two kids who caused trouble in the village the day before and he took in. They help him pick apples and things from a friendly tree, and he delivers them to the village where there’s a guy named Elazul threatening a fairy girl Rachel. It’s cleared up. Elazul was out of his head with desperation to find his beloved Pearl. Moving along, they learn Pearl is in a scary cavern and they go off to rescue her.

The word “sparkle” should be a tip-off.

Based on a game, obviously. The artifacts and that vision Shiloh and Elazul have which looks like a 3D map, give it away. Thankfully there are no stat screens or leveling up, at least not yet. It’s a first episode where they have to introduce a whole world and its characters and species, so I didn’t expect a lot of action, still, the slow pace bothers me. It’s trying hard to be cute and dwells on it too much, the fairy-woo factor is often too much. Once we’ve learned enough I hope they can pick up the pace, and now that we have a crisis to end the episode we’ll get a chance to see what the show is capable of, and maybe get more of the unfolding story, which is obviously Shiloh going out into the world he’s never given much thought to.

Bocchi the Rock starts with a flashback of Hitori’s not carefree kindergarten days.

In Bocchi the Rock! we meet Hitori, a girl with no friends and some social anxiety issues, who watches a TV interview where a member of a hit band said he was an introvert. She decides to learn guitar and join a band. In three years she’s so good at the guitar she’s uploading videos to YouTube and getting rave reviews and 30,000 followers (wow!), but her anxieties still keep her from reaching out for bandmates, and all she can do is play in her closet and upload. Then, after taking her guitar to school as an icebreaker (a failure), a girl named Nijika spots her and steamrolls her into playing at a club, where she meets the laconic bassist Ryo, and we get a lot of self-esteem issues from Hitori, until she learns that Nijika and Ryo love her YouTube videos (they don’t know it’s Hitori) so she winds up playing from inside a box. Now that that ordeal is over, she’s determined to play with them some more, hopefully not from a box …

And she does.

We have a winner! What a great opener! They do the almost-impossible: present Hitori’s exaggerated but genuine fears and anxieties in a both sympathetic and funny way. Seiyuu Aoyama Yoshino does a great job. Her interior monologue is calm sadness until she gets anxious about something and sounds like she’s strangling herself. You can hear self-loathing and rage through it all, but, amazingly, it’s still funny, universal, and shows us what that quiet person sitting next to you in class is really thinking. Meanwhile, we see entertaining things going on all around her–quick visual gags, little fantasies, and normal life. It also knows when to skip–watching Hitori slowly learn to play would be a drag on the series, so they just jump a couple years, also we never actually see her first live performance. Why should we? We know it would suck. The show has plays with the TV format as well: after a bad first rehearsal she monologues that she will never play guitar again, and the closing credits start to roll, eight minutes early, until Nijika interrupts it. Great fun throughout. Along with SpyxFamily, this is the best I’ve seen this season so far.

A 500-yen coin tossed into the prayer slots of a temple, from a girl wishing for a boy.

The new school policies of Fuufu Ijou, Koibito Miman are insane. The students of this high school have started to require that students live as couples in little apartments, boy and girl. They can’t choose their partners, but if they get enough positive points (cameras in the living room) they can switch partners after a month. Nerdy Jiro is partnered with pink-haired gal Akari, to the consternation of both. Jiro has a thing for childhood friend Shiori, while Akari has the hots for handsome boy Minami, who are also paired off. Akari is direct and rude, but tries to be nice to Jiro for the happiness points. Jiro just can’t handle the situation, especially because it looks like Shiori and Minami are getting along just fine … Meanwhile, some of the interactions between Jiro and Akari are getting a bit … dokidoki.

I can’t help but try and figure out this system. What a massive amount of manpower it must take to monitor each couple and rate their progress. And if they get enough points they’re allowed to desert the person they’re living with, if the other agrees. Can you imagine the heartbreaks and fighting that will happen if one partner chooses to break it off, but they can’t because the other one doesn’t want to? Also, it’s mentioned that if they don’t get a positive score, they can’t graduate?! Ah, ridiculous. And the show seems not to care that gay people exist … The characters basically play their stereotypes. Akari is blunt, Jiro falls into anxious nerd fantasies, Shiori is nice and dull, and, well, Minami seems like a nice enough guy for a handsome school idol. It’s pretty, full of bright colors, and this ridiculous situation is played lightly, appropriate for what is basically a high school romance. Still, I’m not terribly interested in seeing how it all plays out.

Our second dull concrete shot of this post.

I hadn’t intended to watch Chainsaw Man, not a fan of gorefests, but I’d heard so much hype from western media that I felt that I should at least give it a try. And so I watched as our hero Denji, deep in debt to the mafia (deadbeat dad), selling body organs and killing off demons to pay the debt, with the help of his faithful half-dog half-chainsaw demon Pochita, whom he saved and had become his best and only friend. Finally, living on bread, he’s lured out on a mission, but it’s a trap, and soon he’s being cut up by zombies. Left for dead, because he is, Pochita manages to lick up a little blood, and the two form into one fearsome being. They rise out of the dumpster, wipe out the zombies, including the boss, and then some government folks pop by, and he’s befriended by a pink-haired woman, and so a new life begins, one where he’ll actually get fed.

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m denji.

Pretty much what I expected. A despairing and hurt hero who manages to rise up and change his life, well, with the help of Pochita and the people at the end. Nothing new there. The fighting was as bloody and violent as advertised. Still, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. Well, it did a terrific job of setting up Denji’s sad situation and his friendship with Pochita. Also, it looks great, movements that almost look 3D at times, well-choreographed action and vivid, splashing blood. Denji’s dramatic rise out of that dumpster with the light shining on him was a great moment … In other words, it’s well-told and the production values are great, but for me … I suppose I’ll have to keep watching to see what makes this show so special, but I don’t know if I have the time and patience for that.

Asahi, from a distance.

Renai Flops is set in a slightly futuristic world where present-day anime things happen to our HS hero Asahi. After hearing a TV fortune-teller list some fortuitous things, stairs, corners, dogs, etc, he heads off to school and bounces off a cute girl (bread in her mouth, etc) at a corner, then a girl falls down some stairs on him, a guy (thought he was a girl) sexually assaulted by a dog, etc, all leading to them all hating him for things he didn’t do, and so he gets to his reassigned class and finds that all the girls and the boy are there, oh, and the teacher too (a subway incident). Transfer students and a new teacher in one day! Through the already eventful day he manages to make peace with most of them, except for Aoi, the bread girl, who later confesses to him.

Naturally surrounded by all the girls he had trouble with earlier, and the teacher.

Not sure where this is heading. They throw embarrassing but familiar meeting scenes (well, the cleaning robot taking that one girl’s bra is new to me), and I suppose he’s going to interact with them, often with face slaps, except for Aoi, who already made her intentions clear, which throws me into some confusion. He can’t just pick her–what about the other girls, and the sexy teacher? And what about Ilya, the boy? So, with no idea where the show is heading I’ll say that the light art is nice to look at, Asahi seems like a nice guy who just wants to avoid bad situations, his buddy Yoshio is a typical buddy, and the futuristic world is amusing.

Big Ben for some reason.

I held of on posting this because of one more series, Urusei Yatsura, a remake of one of the great classic manga and anime of the 1980s, more out of curiosity than anything. So the story: the earth is being invaded. Meanwhile our hero, Ataru, keeps trying to get forgiveness from his beloved Shinobu, but his eyes keep wandering too much for her taste. The aliens decide, for no reason whatsoever, that if a randomly chosen earthling can defeat an alien, they won’t attack. Ataru is the one picked! Right! He’s ready to defeat this alien and win the love of Shinobu. His opponent …

She needs no introduction …

And the game is tag. Ataru chases Lum around for half the episode, not easy because she can fly, and, after getting Shinobu’s agreement to marry if he wins, runs around on the final day shouting “Marriage! Marriage!” … and wins. But, as you might have guessed, Lum thought he was proposing to HER, and now they are to be married, which is fine for the aliens but not so much for Ataru and Shinobu. So we got a love triangle between a pure maiden, a boy easily distracted by his libido, and an alien girl in a bikini. Hijinks and explosions abound, old-school.

… but Shinobu might. As for Ataru, who cares?

I think we’ve figured out most of what every episode in the future will be about, but can this 40 year-old story, legend though it be, stand up to modern scrutiny? I never watched the original, but this new version has the same Takahashi Rumiko vibe you get in the splendid Ranma 1/2. Silly gags, slapstick and confusing relationships. It looks and feels like an old-school gag manga, for good and bad. It’s surprisingly fast-paced–I wonder if the original was that way, and it’s welcome. On the other hand, there’s so much pointless craziness going on that it wears you down, and I got tired of Ataru’s near-constant shouting by halfway. Also there’s a disconnect. It looks like the 1980s, with dial phones, but did I see a smartphone or two in one scene? Well, that doesn’t matter. Bottom line is, if you’re curious about what the show, or the iconic Lum, is all about, this episode will give you a good idea. Whether you want to keep watching is up to you.

That’s it for the previews. Bye!

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