Vrai, Caitlin, and Peter check in on the Winter 2020 season!
Date Recorded: February 16th, 2020
Hosts: Vrai, Caitlin, Peter
0:05:42 Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it
0:09:27 ID: Invaded
0:13:58 Uchitama?! Have You Seen My Tama?
0:15:21 Toilet-bound Hanako-kun
0:20:15 Somali and the Forest Spirit
0:23:21 Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
0:23:46 Infinite Dendogram
0:25:15 BOFURI: I Don’t Want to get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense
0:29:20 Asteroid in Love
0:32:45 A Destructive God Sits Next to Me
0:36:46 Magia Record: Puello Magi Madoka Magico Side Story
0:49:36 If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan I Would Die
0:53:10 Smile Down the Runway
0:57:03 The Case Files of Jeweler Richard
0:58:05 Keep Your Hands off Eizouken!
VRAI: Hey there, listeners, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. It’s time for our midseason review, where we look back on, in this case, the 2020 winter season now that we are partway through. My name is Vrai. I’m a writer and contributor at Anime Feminist. They/them. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai, where I freelance a bunch of places and currently tweet a lot about Yu-Gi-Oh, or the other podcast I cohost @trashpod. And with me today are Caitlin and Peter.
CAITLIN: Hello. [Pauses] I’m Caitlin.
VRAI: Really bringing that energy.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] I am a top critic on Rotten Tomatoes! That’s gonna be my bio today.
PETER: The tomato.
VRAI: Heck yeah. All right.
PETER: Okay. Oh, is that it? Okay.
CAITLIN: Yep, that’s me.
PETER: All right, cool. I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate producer at Crunchyroll and an editor at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Awesome. All right. Well, as usual, if this is your first time joining us, what we do is we go over our Premiere Digest and we work from the bottom of the list up. We’re going to try and work through the Red Flag stuff pretty quickly. Peter, as always, I think you’re the only one watching most of these. Is there anything you would like to say?
CAITLIN: Just real quick. Callout post for Peter, because I always assumed you watched these really bad ones just because [of] professional obligations.
CAITLIN: But now you’re watching Plunderer, which is a Funimation show.
PETER: Yeah. I also watch anime titles that other streaming services have as part of my work.
PETER: Although, on that subject, I am strongly considering dropping three series this year just because I don’t know if I can do it. It might be beyond my ability to… This is the first time this has ever happened.
VRAI: That’s real bad!
PETER: Yeah, sometimes I think it would be nice if I could drop them. But this time I’m just going like, is the juice worth the squeeze? One of those is Plunderer. I guess it was in episode 3 they introduced… it’s basically fantasy Leslie Knope, I guess. She works for whatever that military organization is, and she is always trying to build parks for kids, playgrounds, try to improve the local infrastructure. They live in a weird tower.
VRAI: Mm, and where does the threat of sexual assault come in? Because this is Plunderer.
PETER: Yeah, so the Tom Haverford of her town is just constantly facilitating her sexual harassment at the hands of the protagonist. Her count comes from helping people, so he says, “To help this guy who’s a pervert, you have to let him rest his head on your lap and stuff.” She just wants to get a promotion so that she is able to customize her uniform and can make it so she doesn’t have a miniskirt, since everyone in town has seen her panties.
CAITLIN: [deadpan] Cool.
PETER: I think that kind of describes the show. Also, the counts don’t mean anything. You know that game show where the points don’t mean anything?
CAITLIN: Whose Line Is It Anyway?
VRAI: Don’t bring Whose Line into this discussion.
CAITLIN: This just seems rude to Whose Line.
PETER: The premise of the counts is just meaningless. Counts don’t mean anything. It’s like a power level, but it doesn’t mean anything. They never explain why counts are important other than if it happens to be combat-related. It means a power level. For everybody else, the difference between 1 and 900… there’s none. I don’t know why there’s counts in this show. It seemed like a cool premise, except it’s not interacting with it at all. So, all you get is girls getting harassed for no reason.
VRAI: All right.
PETER: [crosstalk] That’s Plunderer.
VRAI: I don’t know if I’m still watching Pet. I’m behind on it and I’m not sure it’s worth catching up on. I was kind of keeping up with it because it reminds me of the kind of fake-deep, edgy series I used to read as a teenager. But I don’t know if that’s a good reason to keep watching it, because it’s not good. It’s never good. And sometimes it’s just out and out offensive. It’s the kind of series that introduces marginalized people for shock value and then kills them off.
Yeah, the reason I had been watching is because I was kind of interested in the main relationship between the two younger guys, one of whom is clearly a lot more adoring of the other one, who’s kind of putting on a front and clearly using him. But the rest of the cast sucks. Everyone in the cast sucks except for the one nice boy.
So, I will probably end up dropping this before the end of the series, and I certainly don’t recommend that any of you watch it. And it’s on Amazon anyway, so it’s fine. No one is watching it.
PETER: Wasn’t there an interesting creator involved in that?
VRAI: Oh, it shares the same director as Samurai Flamenco, but go watch Samurai Flamenco instead.
PETER: Yeah, that was the connection. Wow. Surprising.
VRAI: Yeah. You would think. But no, it’s not even as… It has some really beautiful direction on some of the… because it’s a lot of mind-diving stuff, and sometimes the inner dream sequences are quite pretty, but it’s just not enough to balance out the other stuff.
PETER: Okay. That sucks.
VRAI: Yeah. Science Fell in Love. Peter, is it still exactly the same joke?
PETER: I mean, there’s a much bigger cast now. Everybody’s in on studying “What is love?”
CAITLIN: [Hums a line from Haddaway’s “What Is Love”]
PETER: For whatever reasons you would object to it initially, I’d say nothing has changed. I personally find it entertaining. But yeah, pretty much you know the premise. It’s a sitcom.
VRAI: All right, so I’m still not watching that. Cool. Good to know. One thing I did mean to watch and just did not have time, because life, is number24, which… Caitlin, I hear it’s good.
CAITLIN: It’s pretty good. I’m considering dropping it, not because it’s bad, but just because, you know me, I will drop series if I’m just not feeling it super hard, and I’m not feeling it super hard. Speaking in terms of just feminist stuff, there’s been no female characters. There haven’t been any more fat jokes or anything. So, that’s fine. It’s fine. But the cast is so huge.
VRAI: Mm, that’s always the killer.
CAITLIN: It’s an original series, but it does kind of feel like something based on a gacha game, which is not ideal for me. A lot of these side characters, it’s like, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know why we’re spending time with you. There’s too many of you to keep track of. Your comedy is not working for me.”
The really strong parts are the ones dealing with Natsusa’s injury. Because it was a life-changing injury, he’s still trying to cope with it. The team’s still trying to cope with it. There’s a lot of different forms of grief around it. There’s anger, there’s… [Sighs] What are the different stages of grief? I don’t know. But there are characters who are angry at him. There are characters who are just like, “Oh, no, it’ll be fine.”
You can see that he was a really important part of the team. And when he was injured, it was huge for so many of them. So, there was a really good sense of history there. I just wish the cast weren’t so hugely unwieldy.
VRAI: Seems like an odd choice for an anime original. Is it going to be two cours? Is it just one cour?
CAITLIN: As far as I know.
VRAI: Because if it was two cours, then fine, whatever, you have time to explore a cast that size. But it seems overambitious at best and possibly a bit cynical at worst.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it is a single-cour series, so we are halfway. And it just seems unwieldy. I wish it had much more focused storytelling, because it could have been a really great sports series.
VRAI: That’s too bad.
CAITLIN: Also, lots of queerbaiting, honestly, a lot of them being very physical with each other. —No, it’s unfair to call it queerbaiting.
VRAI: Shipteasey stuff.
CAITLIN: Shipteasey stuff. But nothing ever substantial enough to feel like anything’s gonna come of it. Also, the sports itself aren’t very good. They barely show rugby. So, yeah. It does not live up to its potential, in my opinion.
VRAI: Oh, that’s too bad. All right, so, ID:Invaded or Id:Invaded. I’m genuinely unsure. I dropped this after three episodes. Peter, you’re still watching it. I heard it got buckwild.
PETER: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. But directionlessly crazy? I don’t know. I think the strength of the show is all the psychic realms that they have to go into and the fact that it’s basically just Psycho-Pass except the female protagonist actually does things.
VRAI: That was what I liked about it while I was watching it. Yes.
PETER: Yeah. The director is the same guy as Psycho-Pass actually, right? Otaro?
VRAI: No. No, no. That was Urobuchi. It’s the same guy as Fate/Zero.
PETER: Okay. I mean, Urobuchi… Did he direct Psycho-Pass? I thought he just wrote it.
VRAI: I can’t remember, and I’m not gonna look it up right now.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No, Urobuchi’s just a writer.
CAITLIN: He doesn’t direct.
PETER: Oh, yeah, yeah. Fate/Zero. And Wandering Son? Whoa. Okay. Well, anyway, I think it has the same problem as Psycho-Pass does where it just has a weird boogeyman villain who really just kind of ruins the premise of the entire show. I think Johnny Walker, the whiskey guy, is completely unnecessary.
CAITLIN: Fucking name.
PETER: Yeah. If they just made it a monster-of-the-week—the monster being a cool new psychic plane—investigation series, it would have been very good, alongside the female detective’s development from a rookie into… I guess she’s joined the elite squad now. And she started using the Mizuhanome, the Inception dream-diving machine.
VRAI: Uh-huh. The id well.
PETER: Yeah. And her outfit is like a Sherlock Holmes outfit when she appears there, which is very good.
VRAI: Wait, hold on. I’m gonna stop you so people don’t tweet at us. The director of Psycho-Pass was Shiotani Naoyoshi.
PETER: Okay. I thought there was a Psycho-Pass connection, but beyond just the obvious Psycho-Pass influence.
VRAI: You’d think that! But not that I’m finding.
PETER: Oh, well. Yeah, I don’t care about Johnny Walker at all. I don’t see how he helps anything. But the psychic plane stuff is fun. They might go full Inception and have to dive into a dream inside of a dream soon.
CAITLIN: [Fancifully] A dream within a dream.
PETER: Yeah. It also had the craziest fight scene I’ve ever seen, where she tries to shoot a guy who also had a hole drilled in his head and the bullet went through the hole, not harming him at all.
VRAI: [Amused] That’s not how anything, but okay.
PETER: Yeah, she emptied a whole gun into him and then just picked up a knife and killed him.
VRAI: I hear the production—or rather, I have seen some interesting GIFs that this is the show of the season where the animators are having some trouble. Poor things.
PETER: I mean, I wouldn’t hang out ID: Invaded to dry, just in comparison to many other shows this season. It does have some moments like that. Yeah, those moments definitely exist. You saw what is actually in the show.
But I think the spirit… I don’t know what to call these stupid… Oh, they’re called wells, I guess. I’ll just call them what they call them in the series. Those are always pretty neat. I am pretty much watching the show almost exclusively for those and to see what the girl does whose name escapes me. Momoki? I think that’s her name.
VRAI: Nakane. No, that’s not her name. As in the not-Akane.
PETER: Oh, I see. Yeah, I gotcha.
VRAI: I made a bad pun, anyway. All right. Anything else on that one, then?
PETER: [crosstalk] No.
VRAI: It sounds like that’s basically the same as when I was watching it three episodes in. The dialogue is very, very boring, and the id well sequences are very cool. But they’re also only half the episode.
PETER: Yeah, although now she’s diving into the well thing, So I don’t know if we’re going to get more side investigation stuff with the on-the-site detectives. I like that part as well, but that might be going away now that she’s the new… I mean, I guess they don’t want the serial killer doing all their investigating in the wells for them anymore.
I’m just concerned that once they really get into the Johnny Walker subplot, all the good things are going to go away and it’s just going to be about this stupid boogeyman nobody gives a shit about. So, I might have some different stuff to say at the end of the season.
VRAI: We’ll find out.
VRAI: So, skipping up the list a little bit… I only watched three episodes of this series, and it wasn’t really clicking for me, but I did want to give a shoutout to Uchitama, which Chiaki and Dee are both big fans of this season. And I can see why.
It’s very cute and lowkey and harmless, but the humor gets really absurd and weird. Like, two of the pets argue over who is the coolest in the neighborhood, so they summon each of them there and it turns into a sumo fight, but also it’s a Yu-Gi-Oh card game; and also, at one point there is a giant black hole into another dimension.
It’s a weird show, but in a cute and appealing sort of way. It’s just not something I’m feeling this season. But I think if that’s your kind of genre, it might be one to check out.
PETER: Yeah, it sounded like it went full Pop Team Epic, which I didn’t watch.
VRAI: Not quite that much. It’s not quite that intense. There’s a lot of scenes of them motoring about, chilling, and then it gets weird for a while. So, it’s a lot lower key, but…
PETER: Wait, did you say “muttering about chilling”?
VRAI: [Chuckles] Nope.
PETER: That’s what they do? Okay. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yep. No, they sort of motor around the neighborhood, and they’re all cute pets.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, okay. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Vroom-vroom.
VRAI: You know, like you do. Vroom-vroom. [Chuckles] So, that brings us to the first show on the list that everybody is watching, which is Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, the best anime to have the worst title.
CAITLIN: I mean, I don’t think the title’s that bad if you have some grounding in Japanese folklore, because I pretty much immediately realized, “Oh, like the toilet ghost, Hanako.”
PETER: Oh, I thought it was from Harry Potter.
CAITLIN: No, Hanako…
PETER: Yeah, I know. I’m making— Okay.
CAITLIN: It’s just because I watched Haunted Junction. Hanako is a really common ghost.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, you know. I know. I was making a bad Harry Potter joke.
VRAI: Oh, I’m sure in Japanese it reads immediately. But the English translation… It’s not their fault. I don’t think there’s a better, less awkward way they could have done it. But it’s very hard to introduce to newbies. Which is a shame because this show…
PETER: [crosstalk] Any series with “toilet” in the title.
VRAI: Uh-huh. And “anime was a mistake,” so I don’t blame people for assuming. But this might be my favorite of the season. It’s certainly tied with the one that everybody likes, which we’ll get to at the end.
PETER: My Hero Academia?
VRAI: Yep, that’s it, Peter!
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Vrai loves My Hero Academia.
VRAI: [Deadpan] You know how I’m really into Shonen JUMPlong runners? They’re my favorite.
PETER: Yeah. Okay. Same.
VRAI: But yeah, if you’re not watching this, I feel like you absolutely should give it a shot, because it is just drop dead gorgeous. And the acting is great. And the atmosphere is great. And my feelings.
CAITLIN: It’s so good. Oh, my gosh, the last episode almost made me cry.
VRAI: It is so good! And Tsuda-san was there, and I really love seeing him in things. He’s so good.
PETER: Yeah, it’s really fun. I’ve been seeing a lot of corollaries this season, and I’m interested, especially with the last episode where they’re talking about how maybe somebody is manipulating the rumors, which is basically also the premise of In/Spectre.
VRAI: Mm-hm. And also of Magia Record.
PETER: Oh, yeah. I guess they sort of implied that. I think I’m an episode behind on that one. I guess we’ll talk about it when we get there, though.
VRAI: Yeah. I don’t know. This is one of those that’s so hard to talk about without just falling into not very helpful gushing, because it’s just so incredibly special-feeling, which isn’t very specific. But the characters are all really likable. It’s got that distinct art style. The art direction is good. This is the first time I’ve watched one of his shows, because I missed School Live somehow.
CAITLIN: Really? You would have liked School Live.
VRAI: It’s on my list!
PETER: The list that only gets longer.
VRAI: It only ever gets longer! But yeah, this director has that panel-in-panel style that’s working really well for this show.
VRAI: Yes, Ando. It’s good shit. And also, Megumi Ogata is there, and why would you ever miss a show with Megumi Ogata in it?
CAITLIN: She really is just absolutely legendary.
VRAI: Uh-huh. And the feelings are good. And the heroine is such a good girl, and I love her. And they’re all good kids, guys!
CAITLIN: They are.
PETER: Oh, I was wondering why I was so far down. I guess we just had a lot of Harmless Fun series this season. I was like, how are we already talking about it?
VRAI: It has been on the verge occasionally of touching on some meatier, possibly feminist-relevant themes, but I don’t think it’s enough to put it up in that category, really. So, it’s down here in Harmless Fun, but it’s also quite excellent.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s one of those shows that kind of reveals the flaws in that system because it’s more than just harmless fun, but it doesn’t really have those feminist themes that we look for in it.
VRAI: Yeah, so that’s where it is right now. Anything else we didn’t cover besides “It good, watch”?
CAITLIN: I just love Nene so much.
VRAI: Nene is so good. She’s such a good girl!
CAITLIN: Listen, people need to understand that thick legs are good.
VRAI: [Laughs] You support her daikon legs?
CAITLIN: I do. Thick thighs save lives, everyone. The sooner you realize that, the better.
VRAI: [Laughs] All right. A heck of an endorsement. Somali and the Forest Spirit. You two are both watching this?
VRAI: How’s it going?
CAITLIN: It’s really good. I played catch-up yesterday and watched a whole bunch of episodes in a row, and it didn’t feel like a slog, which is always nice, because I’m not the marathoning type. I really enjoy what it has to say about caring for children.
It’s very much a classic single dad anime with a lot of different fantasy trappings. But the part where the rabbit dad was talking to the golem about like, “Yeah, your child shouldn’t be scared of you. And yes, sometimes I do something that genuinely upsets my child in a way that it shouldn’t. And I apologize when I make mistakes.”
Which is not a sentiment you see a lot in parenting series: the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s also okay to apologize and try to make amends for those mistakes, because a lot of adults don’t like admitting they’re wrong to children. So, that really struck me.
VRAI: Yeah, it seems like a very thoughtful little show.
CAITLIN: It is.
VRAI: And quite lovely. It’s one of those that I was like, “Eh, this looks nice, but I just don’t have time on my watch list.” But it really looks good.
CAITLIN: Any thoughts, Peter?
PETER: I’m enjoying it a lot. I really like it for the exploration stuff. I know I do like anime like this, because I really liked Sweetness and Lightning, but I’m not quite clicking with Somali. I don’t know. I think I feel about Somali the same way you did about If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she is a little bit too cute. I will definitely give you that.
PETER: Yeah, a very one-dimensional child character, I think.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I like her a little bit more. She’s got a little bit more spirit, a little bit more sass. But no, it is more the discussions about caring for children that is interesting to me rather than the actual child herself.
PETER: Yeah. And this got a really big cast of weird monster side characters they run into. I actually need to watch the new episode because I think that’s the one where the bird person shows up, which I was looking forward to. Really love the character designs, so I’m always eager when I watch the next episode preview to see the next one just because the design is so out there, I want to see what the character is like. Yeah, good show, though.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Good show.
VRAI: All right. Yeah, we got a lot of solid middle-of-the-pack stuff this season, I feel like, which is cool. Although our next series is Infinite Dendrogram, which, Peter, you said was the other one you were thinking about dropping, right?
PETER: One of three. Yeah, the other one’s Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, which has all the awkwardness of the ‘90s and none of the good animation. I don’t get why that was ever popular if that’s keeping true to the main one. I’m so bored. But Dendogram I feel is maybe the most cowardly thing I’ve ever watched because—
PETER: —it wants to be fantasy, but it is not brave enough to make a fantasy setting without video game trappings that allow you to easily contextualize everything. If you look at any of the subplots, it’s like, “Oh my God, isn’t it awful that this person’s doing this thing to these helpless people?” but then you realize they’re just video game NPCs and the stakes just fall away. And you realize if the character dies, he’s just gonna get logged out for a day or something. And so, it’s really not about a video game they’re playing.
VRAI: I thought their attempt to gin up some stakes for this one was the AI have permadeath and they’re hyper-advanced AI.
PETER: Yes, they do say that, but then they do not introduce a single AI character that lasts more than five minutes, so…
VRAI: Oh. Well!
PETER: Sword Art Online did a better job of that, I think, because they’re hyper-advanced AI and many of the main characters are those AI characters who have feelings and backstories and constantly have interactions with the main character, so you feel like they’re real people.
In this one, they’re just fodder for evil players to fuck around with. So, you intellectually understand, “Oh, maybe they’re intelligent or they have feelings or it’s really awful if they die,” but this series does not treat them that way, so I don’t get it at all.
VRAI: All right. Well. Be free. Be free, sir.
PETER: Yeah, I’ll think about it.
VRAI: On the bright side, next one up is a good MMO series. It’s Bofuri. Which is good.
PETER: It’s a really fun series. I can’t really think of another series I could really compare it to, because it’s definitely like an iyashikei series, but it’s one with a lot of combat. But those two usually don’t mix together.
VRAI: It really reminds me more of hobby shows like Laid-Back Camp, honestly, except the hobby is “We’re getting together and making friends playing an MMO.”
PETER: Yeah. For gamers.
VRAI: It looks so nice. Silver Link has done a gorgeous job with this show. It’s bright and appealing. It’s well directed. The designs are a little bit doofy, fantasy absurd, but they don’t feel sleazy or fanservicey, and I really like the cast. I’m so surprised at this show. I thought I would drop it after the first episode, and now it’s definitely my favorite chillout show of the season, probably.
PETER: Yeah, I get what you’re saying about the character designs, but also, I think in any MMORPG, who’s gonna make their character not look like the main character that they want to have in a game? But yeah, none of the character designs are problematic. They’re just very weird because they’re all made by teenagers who have very weird aesthetic tastes, I guess, or by… I don’t know how young the sisters are.
VRAI: But that’s what I mean, is that it’s kind of like, “yeah, these are stylish, silly.” This one has a boob cutout window and this one’s a midriff shirt in your fantasy world or whatever, but it’s not like, “And here’s the titty armor with 5 million closeups.” It rides that line very well. These are flashy clothes, but it doesn’t feel like our teenage protagonists are being leered at.
PETER: Yeah, the camera’s not doing bad stuff. Also, I thought it had some really good use of 3D, like in… Oh my god, what’s the fast girl’s name?
VRAI: Oh, no, I can’t remember. Sally. Sally is her in…
PETER: [crosstalk] Sally. Yeah, that’s right. When she got in some early fights, they were doing some switches between 2D and 3D when she was doing some maneuvers against that giant fish. And it looked really good. It was like they hid it. I don’t want to say the CG or animation was as good as Vinland Saga, but I think they hit the transitions about as well as Vinland Saga did.
VRAI: Again, this is the chillout show about playing in an MMO, and nobody dies. The stakes are “I fell asleep in school the next day because I played the MMO too long.” But it looks just better than a lot of shows have the resources to devote to. It’s good. There’s clearly a lot of love and care in here.
PETER: Mm-hm. I appreciated the arc about her having gamer brain.
VRAI: Uh-huh. It was very cute. Yeah, I don’t think it’s gonna turn into anything super epic. It’s just “They have a nice time.” It’s good. And I didn’t watch MMO Junkie, but I feel like maybe this will soothe the hole in some people’s hearts after all of that went down.
VRAI: I’m sorry, Caitlin.
PETER: Yeah, I like it a lot. I don’t know if it’ll enter my—I don’t even know what to call it—my small list of top iyashikei shows that I could probably watch at any time and really feel nice watching them, like Laid-Back Camp or Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless. But definitely, I do not mind watching it every week. I’m having a lot of fun with this show.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s definitely not one of my all-time tops, but so far, it’s definitely one of my favorites of the season, so that’s something.
PETER: Yeah, no regrets watching it week to week.
VRAI: You know what is a chillout show that I super dropped, is Asteroid in Love.
VRAI: Like… [grimaces] Oey. You’re still watching it, right?
PETER: Yeah. I don’t know if I have a whole lot to say about it. I don’t think it’s really done anything bad. I do think some of the characters have weird possessiveness toward other characters that, especially given the studio’s history, has some weird feelings about it, but it hasn’t really crossed the span into anything uncomfortable. I don’t know if I would even be having those thoughts if I didn’t know what else the studio had made. You know what I mean?
PETER: I think its major problem is it’s like an iyashikei, but I don’t get that same vibe. And it’s not a funny comedy either. There’s jokes and peaceful stuff, but it’s just kind of a more throwaway iyashikei. I don’t really get a strong impression off of it, I guess.
VRAI: Yeah. When I did the three-episode review, I said that “cute girls doing cute things” is a really unfair designation for a lot of the hobby anime genre or just archetypal “four girls do a thing” type shows. But boy, I feel like this show deserves the “cute girls doing cute things” label.
PETER: Oh, for sure.
VRAI: Because it feels like it’s not really committed to any one thing that it does. And it ejects the brains of its characters right out into space, like Ao failing a test because she was so busy thinking about a pretty star that she saw the night before, that she writes the star’s name instead of her own on her test. Like, for real?
PETER: Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. And that just seemed to be for a joke, but it didn’t really feel like a joke. I didn’t feel like laughing, so…
VRAI: It’s not an offensive show. But a show has to be really boring for it to be yuri and for me to drop it.
PETER: Sometimes they get into their hobbies a bit, because there’s neat factoids about geology and, uh… the study of space. I forgot—
VRAI: [crosstalk] That’s cool.
PETER: [Unintelligible muttering beneath crosstalk]
VRAI: I know there are some folks in the comments who are kind of into that stuff who’ve been really enjoying those parts of the show, so that’s great.
PETER: Yeah. And they go on field trips to real places, so I definitely know Wilhelm’s gonna have a fun time taking pictures in all the same scenes and stuff. They actually go to the same JAXA museum that’s in Space Brothers, if anybody else has watched that anime, which is extremely good.
PETER: Oh, it’s very good. But they didn’t reference Space Brothers, which upset me a lot, because there’s a scene where the main character in Space Brothers, there’s a spacesuit and he walks up so he can see his reflection in the helmet and imagine he’s inside of it. And they don’t just do that exact same thing with the girls. Why don’t you reference that? It’s very iconic. Space Brothers is more popular in Japan. Watch Space Brothers.
VRAI: It’s just very long, Peter. I feel like a lot of people missed it because it’s very long.
PETER: A little bit. It’s worth it, though. Okay, my takeaway from Asteroid in Love is everybody needs to watch Space Brothers.
VRAI: All right.
CAITLIN: Fair enough.
VRAI: What about A Destructive God Sits Next to Me? Is there anything worth saying about it?
PETER: I feel like if you watched the first episode, you get a pretty good idea of what the series is like. I don’t know if I jibe with it really well. Caitlin, you reviewed it, right? The first episode?
CAITLIN: Which one? Sorry.
PETER: A Destructive God Sits Next to Me.
PETER: Yeah, you didn’t get a good vibe off the main character?
CAITLIN: No, he’s kind of an asshole.
PETER: Okay, I kind of got the opposite vibe, where I feel like a lot of the time, he just wants to be normal and all these people are chasing him around. Maybe it shifts midway or something like that. The blonde guy, I think, is actually evil. And I don’t know how they keep introducing more crazy people like the kid with the scythe or why the kid with the scythe is allowed to walk around the school with a giant scythe. Yeah. I don’t even know what to say about the series, now that I think about it.
PETER: Funny sometimes…
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s still a chuuni comedy?
PETER: Yeah. Funny sometimes, very confusing a lot of the time. And I feel bad for different characters at different times, but I don’t know if I ever feel good for any of them.
VRAI: All right, well, I guess let’s move on, then, because the top half always takes a little longer and we’re down to the last 20. So, I’ll keep it brief.
22/7… I don’t know why I’m still watching it. It has taken the turn that I feel like is becoming more common in idol shows where you get the weird gimmick to bring people in and then you fall back on the archetypes. This is kind of the progression of how it goes.
I like the main characters. There’s kind of a Class S-type thing going on with two of them, which I’m sort of watching to see if it still goes. I’m an episode behind, by the way. But it’s not that I hate it. In some ways I think that it is very well made, and I can see how if you are into idols this would go on.
But I sort of resent that it comes in hard with the main character in the first episode being like, “This is all fake. This is bullshit,” as though she’s critiquing the industry, and it’s ultimately setting her up as a strawman basically, because now the Wall has provided for her every need. It’s providing for her family, and it means she doesn’t have her job anymore.
And it’s a solution to her depression because the stage just makes her feel happy, and it’s what was missing her in her life, and she can write songs again now! Truly, idols are the answer to all of your problems.
PETER: Yep. I should become an idol.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That makes me uncomfortable.
PETER: You’ll never suffer again.
VRAI: Uh-huh. And I’ll talk about it again in a second, but honestly, I respect that a lot less than I do Idol Budokan, which is a show that is pretty unabashedly about idol fandom and very affectionate about hyper idol fans, but is ironically much better at being at least a little bit lightly critical of the industry, which I respect a heck of a lot more than this, “Well, we were going to go in hard, but actually, this is a benevolent thing that is good for them all along.”
So, I don’t know, it was never going to be a huge commentary because it’s voiced by a real group. It is what it is. You’re either into it or you’re not.
PETER: Yeah. I’m watching it as it comes out on Crunchyroll, so I’ve only seen the first episode. I think the second one recently came out. But in just the first episode, I got the vibe where it’s like, “Look at this idiot who’s about to be proved wrong about idols and how great they are.”
VRAI: Yep, that’s still where it’s at!
PETER: That’s just the vibe I got off the show. Very weird.
VRAI: Ah, so, Magia Record. Caitlin, you’re not watching this one? Not into it?
VRAI: All right. I’m into it! Its biggest problem right now is that it’s based on a mobile game—which I don’t mean in that mobile games are inherently bad, but they are structurally not meant to be about a main plot. They’re meant to go on for a very long time and have a lot of characters that have these miniature arcs or character plots that you can take on little pieces at a time and get invested in.
And that’s really hard when you try to come over to a contained medium like anime or film or whatever, where you just have to have one strong through-narrative. But then all of a sudden, “ah, shit, we have all these characters that the audience likes and expects to see,” so now the show feels overstuffed.
Which, Magia Record does have that problem, which is a shame because otherwise— I played a little bit of the mobile game. I wasn’t super into it, partly because it is terrifying to try to come into a mobile game several years into it. It’s deeply overwhelming. Very, very stressful, honestly. But from what I had played, the anime does a pretty solid job at streamlining the story for a passive medium, and it is aesthetically drop-dead gorgeous. So, that alone has honestly been enough to sustain me.
How about you, Peter?
PETER: I definitely see what you mean about the mobile game aspects, because when they go to the grocery store because of the time sale, I was like, “That is a random encounter that they just had.” They have a very short, unremarkable fight, beat the guy, and then the story progresses. Was not a fan of that.
Yeah, it’s weird. Like, I think they pull off the same kind of paper art look that the original Madoka had. But I feel like the actual animation itself isn’t… and… How do I want to describe this? The themes of all the magical girls aren’t as clean as the original Madoka. So, whenever the characters are moving in relationship to this world, I feel like you can really see that it didn’t get the same attention when it came to animating the show.
And none of the girls, the way they fight is very interesting, or I think they’re aesthetics aren’t as cool. And it feels bad because you’re trying to compare the series to one of the most famous anime ever created, which really rode off of its unique aesthetic. So, it feels like almost an unfair comparison, but I guess they’re the ones who decided to try to make this sequel.
Storywise, they’re still building up this rumor thing. I guess it’s kind of like a wait-and-see whether they pull some sort of really cool turn like the first series did, but I think they’re just going to keep it lowkey, because trying to out-Urobuchi Urobuchi seems like a really stupid thing to try to do.
VRAI: I mean, I’m into the relative lesser… I like Madoka, as much as I dunk on it. I really do like it, as I look over at my Homura figure on my bookcase.
VRAI: But I feel like there is a tragedy porn element that one can very, very credibly accuse the original of, that’s missing here. But I also feel like the original had this masterful sense of claustrophobia that’s also missing here. You know?
PETER: Yeah. I also think, in retrospect, Madoka is one of the people who balanced dark magical girls the best, especially given all the things that were inspired by it, which just completely go overboard and that are, in fact, suffering porn. So, it’s a tightrope walk. And I wouldn’t trust too many people to try to pull it off. So, since Urobuchi is involved, I don’t know whether… especially given—
VRAI: He’s not, is the thing. The witch designers are writing this one, which is very interesting to me because I believe they are both women.
PETER: Oh, okay. That’s cool. Yeah, the last episode, I know it’s starting to get into the “awful stuff happening to the girls” part. So, I think this is the moment of truth whether or not it’s just gonna be gross or in service of some narrative.
VRAI: They are doing some interesting stuff that makes me kind of hopeful. The fact that this—
CAITLIN: Oh, but Vrai, you know what Madoka taught us about hope.
VRAI: That it’s good and gay Jesus will save you someday?
VRAI: [Chuckles] But this series seems to be revolving— Spoilers, I guess, if you’re trying to go into this one completely unawares and you’re listening to a midseason podcast. But this one is revolving around the idea that these girls can become witches and turn back, which I think is potentially really interesting as a dynamic shift to the thematic use of witches in the original series.
And there was also a really nice scene at the end of episode 7 where the character who’s kind of the berserker “destroy all witches” type actually gets… It starts out as the kind of traditional “Well, you shouldn’t be so mad about it. It’s okay. We’ll help you really get a handle on things.”
And she snaps back at them like, “Why aren’t I allowed to be angry? Why am I the only one who has to control myself? Because my family is dead. And everything is bad.” And they apologize to her.
And I haven’t seen that many anime that are like, “No, this female character should be allowed to be angry and not pleasant all the time.” I thought that was interesting.
PETER: Oh, damn. I’m probably really gonna like that episode.
VRAI: It was good. There are disagreements as to whether this is going to be one cour or two cours. I think if it’s only one, then it’s going to probably not be able to pay off a lot of the stuff it’s building up. But if it’s two, I think there’s some potential here. I don’t know. We’ll see.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah. It really comes down to the latter half and conclusion.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, let’s move on to In/Spectre, which… Caitlin, you haven’t gotten to talk for a while.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, In/Spectre is… Hm. Hm.
VRAI: I see.
CAITLIN: Um. [Pauses] What…
PETER: Damn. You got me at the edge of my seat right now.
CAITLIN: Yeah, well, I’m thinking about what to say about In/Spectre. So, In/Spectre right now has, I feel like, crystallized into the form that it is supposed to be, which is a lot talkier than I initially would have thought from the first episode. It’s a lot more two characters talking about mysteries and logicking their way through it than actually going out and fighting or actually going out and solving mysteries, which I have mixed feelings about.
And also, a little bit mixed feelings about Kotoko, because she is… First of all: timeskip, two years later. No discourse about age differences here. All right! That’s a big triumph.
VRAI: It’s always nice when we don’t have to discourse.
CAITLIN: It’s always great when we don’t have to discourse. But she is a complete gremlin.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] She is the kind of person who gets knocked on her butt and is like, “It’s okay. It wasn’t as bad as getting deflowered,” just in a way to be like, “I had sex, guys!” Which I know people out there like that, so that seems pretty real. I’m not sure whether or not she and Kuro actually have a relationship.
PETER: Yeah, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
CAITLIN: It’s a little awkward. Like, does he actually hate her, or is he just a tsundere?
PETER: I’m like ten volumes into the manga and I can’t answer that question.
VRAI: Oh, that’s bad!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, great. Great! That bodes really well.
PETER: I mean, they’re still hanging out together, so there’s something going on. He’s like a mega tsun if that’s the case.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I really like Saki.
PETER: Oh, yeah, she’s good.
CAITLIN: I think she’s the most interesting character so far, because her absolute rage and frustration, even though she dumped Kuro, at seeing him with a different girl (question mark?) are pretty believable, pretty real.
When they talk about her losing weight, it looks to me like unhealthy weight loss. Even though she says it’s about her new job, for some reason I really want it to be about her—like, she has some unresolved trauma and thus it has messed with her diet and she has unhealthily lost weight. So, if it really is just like, “Oh, she’s a police officer, so she has gotten super skinny, because that’s how that works…”
PETER: I thought she was implying that her job was really stressful, so she was losing weight.
CAITLIN: Oh, maybe. Yeah.
PETER: I think it was either or it was unhealthy weight loss.
CAITLIN: But she’s definitely the most real-feeling character so far. Yeah, just the one thing is that seeing Saki and Kotoko next to each other made me realize that Kotoko has those toddler proportions that drives me crazy in anime. When it’s all the characters, it’s not so bad, but when most of the other characters are really fairly normally proportioned and Kotoko’s got this big head, it’s like, “Oh, that’s kind of weird. She looks like a child next to these other characters.”
But yeah. I like In/Spectre. I like Kotoko. I like Saki. Kuro is a very interesting character. Do you have anything to add, Peter?
PETER: I also really like In/Spectre. I originally thought it was gonna be a monster-of-the-week thing. But then, especially this story arc, [it] just keeps escalating and escalating until it gets to be… I personally find the dialogue very punchy. I like it.
CAITLIN: It is. It is definitely very punchy.
PETER: Yeah, but it kind of becomes like Death Note, which I don’t know if it’s safe to really describe how—although I guess you’re seeing it a little bit already with… I like how they are looking at mysteries from a different perspective, where it’s not really necessarily about what really happened but about why we’re trying to find out what happened and how the answer will be of service to anyone; or what caused the mystery to manifest itself in the first place; why people are inclined to believe one thing or another.
I think looking at a mystery from all those angles is really interesting, especially in the way it executes itself in the story. And I really love how this arc grows into a really big conflict and the origination of the Steel Lady Nanase and stuff. I mean, obviously, I know what happened since I read ahead, but I think the anime is doing a really good job with it, as well. I think it’s just a super cool series.
VRAI: Last ten minutes. Dee’s gonna murder me. We’re gonna go over. Let’s try and keep it as brief as we can. Idol Budokan.
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. Fucking—the show that I strap in to watch every week, even though I don’t quite know why. Honestly, the show that this reminds me most of is After the Rain—which may surprise some people because I very much don’t like After the Rain—but it is another very prettily animated series about an extremely fraught topic that is normally handled quite badly by media at large. In that case, it was teenagers having crushes on adults. In this case, it is about idol fandom.
And it doesn’t necessarily handle it with all the due grace, and whether or not you get anything out of the show’s small moments of quite nice humanity will depend on whether you can get over that very understandably difficult hurdle of the premise issue. Because every so often the framing will somehow leap up and bite you in the face by fucking up.
I said before that I respect this show a lot more than what 22/7 was doing because… yes, it is about idol uber-fans. And in this case, they are an underground fandom. This is a band that has like 50 fans. But it actually does things, like, the members of the idol group will be like, “It makes us really uncomfortable during these ranking events that they’re pitting us against one another,” or Eripiyo and some of her dude friends will be like, “Yeah, it really sucks that this group has been so mismarketed. They really don’t care about any of the other girls except the ones at the center that they’re really trying to promote, and that’s too bad.”
And that’s not Perfect Blue or anything, but it’s really all I want. I don’t need every idol show to be Perfect Blue. I just want at least that level of willingness to say, “Sometimes this shit is unfair, and it’s game-playing,” not the sort of fake-seeming “Everything is great and awesome, and this will answer all of your dreams.” And because Budokan does that, I am able to buy in a little more to “Yeah, I can see how this is healing and why it means so much to people and how it can be a really great communal thing.”
Although one of Eripiyo’s friends—I forget, fox-face dude—he’s the fucking worst and I hate him every time he’s on screen because he’s full-on like “I’m gonna marry this girl. I just want her to only care about me.” And I hate him. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
And the other thing that makes this show really frustrating is that it runs on the most paper-thin misunderstandings. I take back everything bad I ever said about Fushigi Yugi, because half the time what’s keeping this relationship between Eripiyo and Maina from moving forward is that she just can’t say something in the minute or two that they have for a fan meetup, and so I guess we’re gonna go for another episode with them misunderstanding each other, ‘kay, bye!
But yeah, it has enough surprisingly deft writing in it to keep me going, even though it will probably end up disappointing me in the end. Also, there’s an idol B-couple because the B-couple in a romcom is always the best one, and they’re very good. And honestly, that subplot is the best part of the show. Anyway, so that’s that.
Caitlin, Smile Down the Runway. I dropped it; you didn’t.
CAITLIN: I didn’t. I haven’t. Smile Down the Runway is sort of keeping on keeping on. Ikuto is definitely the protagonist at this point. Chiyuki, she has her own arc. But Ikuto’s got the much more interesting story going on.
They had a competition at a fashion school that he was getting to participate in, and they’re like, “All right, this is the budget you have for this.” And he does well in the competition, but he gets called out for not spending his entire budget, and they’re like, “As a fashion designer, you can’t do that.” And he’s like, “But that is my sister’s money. I can’t spend that much money!” So, it is not addressing as hard the financial realities, but it is addressing them somewhat.
And he’s just a good boy. He’s really sweet. Even though it does follow a little bit of shounen formula, he’s not like a standard shounen protagonist because he’s very quiet, very shy, just very nice. Very nice to watch.
I wish the clothing designs in this damn show were better.
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles]
VRAI: It feels weird that a show about fashion does not look very good.
PETER: Yeah, so boring to look at. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Some of the clothes look okay, but everything Ikuto designs is butt ugly.
PETER: Really loves checker patterns.
CAITLIN: Now, to be fair, I watched real fashion shows, and I look at some of the designs that do well, and I go, “Really? That is butt ugly!”
VRAI: Yeah, but he’s supposed to be a genius savant designer.
CAITLIN: The pajamas he designed in the last couple of episodes? No. No. They’re ugly. They look like clown clothes.
VRAI: All right. I was definitely talking with some people on Twitter who warned me that the manga’s handling of queer characters is not good. Has the anime reached that point?
CAITLIN: That has not come into play yet.
VRAI: I guess we’ll see at the season end. But overall, you’re having a good time? Are you okay with Chiyuki becoming more of a secondary protagonist type thing?
CAITLIN: She’s fine.
VRAI: [Laughs] All right.
PETER: [crosstalk] I feel like the author doesn’t know how to write a plot about a supermodel. So, I feel like her story became secondary out of necessity because the author literally doesn’t know enough to make that narrative work, outside of just dropping in occasionally to see how she’s doing and tying it to his fashion progression or whatever.
CAITLIN: Anytime she starts talking about being a hypermodel, I get that song stuck in my head that’s like, [Begins singing] “I don’t care what my teacher says.” [Returns to normal speech] Do you know what I’m talking about?
PETER: I’m a bad person to talk about music.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, come on. It was in Clueless.
CAITLIN: [Singing] Gonna be a supermodel.
VRAI: [Chuckles] Whenever I think of Chiyuki, I think of that random Randy Newman song about short people. And then I feel really cynical.
VRAI: Yeah. I’m glad that you’re still having a good time with it, though.
Okay. Oh, God, I have to give this… So, one more shoutout before we end, before we get into the last show: The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, or “Dick Justice,” as we call it in the AniFem Slack. I am not watching this anymore. I know Chiaki still is and really is enjoying it as kind of a slow burn.
It means very well. It wants to have a lot of cases about marginalization and societal inequity and a lot of really admirable stuff. I think it’s still kind of cold in its execution, but I think this is one to watch, if nothing else, especially if you’re into case-of-the-week shows. Like I said, I haven’t been keeping up with it, so I don’t really have a whole lot of meaty discussion to add, but it felt wrong not to give it a nod at the very least.
And is there anything to say about Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! that the entire internet has not screamed about already? Yes, it really is that great.
CAITLIN: Eizouken is my weekly watch-with-friends series right now. And it really is just so delightful spending time with those girls.
VRAI: They’re so good! They’re the best. Eizouken and Hanako are definitely my duking-it-out bests of the season. And they’re so different, you don’t really have to choose.
PETER: Eizouken is very good. I really like a show where it’s got a central cast of the core characters and I’m constantly cycling between them, just going like, “That one is definitely the one that is me. Oh, no, wait, no, this one’s being me right now,” where all of them are so relatable, you feel like all of them. They’re like some sort of crystallized portion of your internalized anxiety or something at certain points of the day.
VRAI: Asakusa is a Big ADHD Mood at all times.
PETER: And hyper-anxiety.
CAITLIN: Oh, my gosh.
PETER: “I can’t breathe. What if people will criticize me?”
VRAI: Oh, God!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I love her because at first you think she’s just like a gremlin, and then you actually get to know her, and it’s like, oh, no, she has anxiety.
VRAI: She’s a small anxiety bean. And Kanamori is the internet darling of the season, and she deserves it! I love her.
PETER: Yeah, she could have so easily been a bad, abusive character, too, but they balanced her so well. So well! The instinct is to talk about the visuals in a series like this, but the character writing is, I think, by far the best part of the show, even behind all the Science Saru animation and the crazy, wild spectacle. It’s crazy.
VRAI: No, it’s got a lot. It is really imaginative to look at. But you’re right. I don’t think it would be so joyous and memorable if it didn’t have the heart to back it up. And it does! They’re good and they’re so real.
Don’t sleep on this one, folks. If you’ve been holding back, wondering, “Well, is it actually that good? Are people just getting into it because of sakuga?” I mean, if you were into Shirobako-type stuff about how the process works, this also has some of that, but it is also just a wonderful watch about loving stuff and loving making stuff and being a weird teenager with your friends and—fuck, it’s good! I want to watch Eizouken!
CAITLIN: They’re good girls.
PETER: Yeah. My main thought about it, if I had to crystallize into a snappy line or something, is probably that this is gonna have to be a spectacular year if any series is going to take my Anime of 2020 over this one.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah. All right. I think that wraps us up. Any last thoughts, you two?
PETER: I feel like Dee would probably want me to give Haikyu!! a shoutout. I haven’t watched it at all before this season, since To the Top started, and I actually wanted to do research and ended up reading all of the available manga and [watching] all the previous episodes. So, that was something like 60 episodes and 320 chapters.
It’s extremely good. I think Production I.G has given it one of the best adaptations any Shonen JUMP manga has ever gotten. And it’s a very good story, so if you haven’t picked that up, it’s fun for everybody. It doesn’t do a lot of the shitty stuff other Shonen JUMP titles do either. I mean, it could have a bigger female cast, but other than that, it’s really, really, really good. Lots of great characters.
VRAI: Well, we’ll have some time to visit it more at the season-ender. So, good for all you good, good volleyball boy fans. I’m happy for you.
All right, well, thanks so much for joining us for the midseason, folks. And we’ll look forward to you at the season-end podcast.
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And until next time, listeners, remember that Eizouken is a good reminder of why we’re all here watching anime in the first place.
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