Dee, Chiaki, and Vrai check in on the 2020 Summer season, from Spidermanders to cyborgs!
Date Recorded: August 15th, 2020
Hosts: Dee, Chiaki, Vrai
0:02:49 Monster Girl Doctor
0:07:53 The Misfit King of Demon Academy
0:12:26 Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited
0:16:01 The God of High School
0:30:15 Mr Love: Queen’s Choice
0:39:24 Digimon Adventure:
0:41:38 Diary of our Days at Breakwater
0:43:06 Super HXEros
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, the managing— Wait. Ah, shit! No, not really. I’m a managing editor. I’m not the managing editor. I need to change my intro text. All right. Phew. Cut. Cut. We’ll try again. From the top. All right, take two.
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, an editor at Anime Feminist. You can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can also hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers Chiaki and Vrai. If y’all would like to introduce yourselves.
DEE: By “bad” you mean “good.”
VRAI: Yeah. I mean, they have their audience.
CHIAKI: Quality trick tweets.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai. I’m the managing content editor at Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai, which is where I post my freelancing stuff and also Yu-Gi-Oh feels. And you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
DEE: And today we are doing our midseason check-in for the summer 2020 season. I thought this was going to be the shortest podcast in our recorded history, but then Chiaki went and watched everything. So I guess we’ll be actually chatting about a decent number of shows here.
The list is reasonably short, but we are going to keep it just to the new shows that are currently running. This will include stuff from the spring that got delayed. We’ll do sequels and Netflix shows probably in the end-of-season. We should have a little extra time to talk about some of those, and Netflix did drop a few this past little bit, so that’ll be exciting. But for today, we’re just focusing on the new stuff.
For folks who have never joined us for one of these before: welcome. Get comfortable. Grab your beverage of choice. Or maybe don’t get comfortable if you’re doing this while driving, as most people do with podcasts.
What we do is we start from the bottom of our premiere digest list, and we work our way up. So we start with the shows that were maybe a little bit more on the side-eye as far as feminist content goes, and then moving into things that were maybe a little bit more relevant for a feminist-friendly audience. So we will be starting almost from the very bottom of our list. Chiaki, you are keeping up with Monster Girl Doctor, and it sounds like you and Mercedez are both enjoying this one, yeah?
CHIAKI: Yeah, I like the show mostly because it’s not just T&A, for the most part. There is a lot of T&A, and it goes into a little bit of the medical fetishism, where Dr. Glenn is constantly feeling up his patients in a very medical way, and so there’s a lot of fanservice in that respect. But there’s also a story developing.
Overall, I really like Sapphee, Glenn’s assistant, as a character. And—you know, Mercedez probably agrees with me as well—I just kinda chant “Go get it, girl!” every time she gets kinda horny for Glenn because she deserves it. But yeah, overall, if you watched this show first episode and thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll keep watching it,” then yeah, by all means. But if you watched it and went, “No, this is too weird for me. This is not my thing. It’s objectifying too much,” definitely not your show. More of the same, basically.
DEE: I guess one question with this—because I know for a lot of folks the horny element, the sexualization element, isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker if the characters are treated well and especially if consent is taken into account—how does the series handle that, as far as… I mean, you’re talking about the medical feeling-up. Is everybody having a good time in this horny show, or does it lean into questionable consent issues?
CHIAKI: So, a lot of people just go, “Well, Glenn is a doctor, so obviously this is why they’re doing it,” even if it gets into sort of a really kinky moment. Latest episode, they had a centaur basically just go straight into BDSM, like blindfold, gagging, and harnesses. Honestly, I was just kind of amazed or agape, like “Where did you find harnesses like that for a centaur out in the middle of nowhere? Okay, I guess this is just happening.” But at the same time, the patient just said, “Yeah, no, this is great. My depression is cured.”
DEE: [Chuckles] Oh, God
CHIAKI: Which is also a little…
CHIAKI: Weird, I guess?
VRAI: But if I recall your live tweet thread correctly, it also included aftercare in its BDSM subplot, which… unusual.
CHIAKI: Yeah. No, it’s very nice that the person who is… It’s a little skeevy in the sense that the centaur who was getting tied up is literally owned by another centaur.
DEE: Oh, no!
CHIAKI: Master–servant relationship.
DEE: Okay. This rabbit hole just keeps going deeper, doesn’t it?
CHIAKI: If you’re into it, okay, great. But if you’re not, definitely hard-stop somewhere. But yeah, no, her mistress is basically like “Yeah, I really care for you. That’s why I want you around. I want you to be in your top condition.” That’s some good things to say in a real BDSM relationship.
DEE: Yeah, just the “literally owned” is always such a sticking point in these damn shows. You can do those plots without the literal owning. Ugh, okay, well…
CHIAKI: And there’s also some human trafficking issues that are explored, minorly racist undertones of monsters-versus-human supremacy things going on, overall going towards diversity. Monster people also want to live alongside humans. The whole city is developed around that concept.
DEE: Yeah, and that’s pretty common with these monster people stories, I think, so far as an element [of them] goes. So, sounds like a lot. Sounds like a bit of a mixed bag. But as far as horny shows go, sounds like you could do a lot worse.
CHIAKI: There are a lot worse horny shows this season.
DEE: So there’s that.
VRAI: If you came looking for a horny show, maybe there are a few interesting things in there, but don’t go to this horny show looking for the interesting things first. Would that be fair?
DEE: Okay. That tracks, that tracks. Yeah, this is in some ways kind of a horny season, which is maybe why I’m not as up to speed on this one as I am others. I’m not going to talk as much this time around, folks.
I guess we’ll move on from there, then. So the next one, we probably don’t have to spend a ton of time on this one: Misfit King of Demon Academy. Chiaki, you’re also keeping up with this one, yeah?
CHIAKI: [Chuckles] Yeah. So, the most unfortunate thing about this show is that the main character is named Anos.
CHIAKI: What, we’re like six episodes in now and I’m still calling him a butthead. I also call his two main girl interests Icy and Hot because they’re into ice magic and hot—well, not hot magic—fire magic. [Chuckles]
DEE: Hot magic heats up your team real good!
CHIAKI: But pretty much, it’s very much a show about Anos trying to figure out what happened to him. He died 2,000 years ago and now he’s reborn. And it’s not like he’s a person with Demon King powers. No, he’s literally the Demon King, just off doing his own thing trying to reclaim his kingdom—from school, because of course.
DEE: Because why not.
CHIAKI: Some political intrigue. Yeah. Some political intrigue. The characters are generally well treated. There’s no overt fanservice, but the character development could do [with] some work. Icy and Hot literally fall for him the first episode that they’re introduced.
DEE: Sure. That tracks for this kind—
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Yeah, just because that happens.
DEE: Okay, this is one that I actually know almost nothing about, as far as shows that are on our list. I guess it’s not technically an isekai because the character always existed in this world, but it kind of follows that “overpowered protagonist reborn” structure, doesn’t it?
CHIAKI: Yeah. So, he’s extremely powerful. He has a deep connection to all magic in the world. And part of the charm in the show definitely is that, exactly. He gets confronted by a demon that can stop time. And he just says, “Well, I can just make time move again because I’m just that powerful.” And the show just runs with it. And it’s kind of like a “Fuck yeah” moment, but like… okay, that’s cool, I guess. [Chuckles]
DEE: It does make you wonder how they can maintain conflict, though, if he can do that with everything.
CHIAKI: They recently introduced a new character who’s also a reborn character from his past. And he’s equally powerful. Well, not as powerful but fairly powerful that they’re even in terms of sword-fighting capabilities. Anos was using a stick to fight him, against a sword. But the action keeps up, and I think the focus is more on the political intrigue of why Anos has been forgotten 2,000 years later and this other demon lord, Avos, has replaced him as the supposed Demon King to be reborn.
DEE: Sure, sure, sure. We put this in Red Flags. Would you say…? It doesn’t sound like it’s a Red Flag show at this point. How would you, from that kind of feminist perspective…?
CHIAKI: Yeah, it’s definitely more of a Yellow Flag. It doesn’t really treat anyone aside from Anos with a lot of development. Everyone’s just there to be around Anos. But Anos, himself, is compassionate in the sense that he’s transcended all sorts of human constraints and just does his own thing, follows his own sense of justice, basically.
DEE: Okay, so, sounds mostly harmless. I’m not interested in watching it, but it sounds like you’re enjoying it, so that’s good. So, folks at home, if that sounds like your jam, go for it.
Okay, sorry, Chiaki. You do have to kinda keep talking for a little bit longer here. The next one on our list is Millionaire Detective, which I watched the first episode of and then was like “I’m good.” But you’re keeping up with it. This is a carryover or a delayed show from the spring that is now airing in the summer. So, it won’t be on the premiere list for folks at home, but we rolled it in from our spring list.
CHIAKI: Yeah, Kambe sucks.
DEE: Mm-hm! He does. That’s why I dropped it after the first episode.
CHIAKI: Yeah. I never finished the first episode last season. I started watching it, for whatever reason, because it takes me like three hours to watch a single show sometimes. I never finished the first episode, and I picked it back up this season. And I finished the first episode, where the dude just lets him fall into the river and I’m like “Wow, he kind of sucks.” From there, I kept watching just because… It’s got snappy visuals.
DEE: Oh, it’s really well made. It’s got style coming out of its ears. If Kambe hadn’t sucked so bad, I definitely would have stuck with it.
CHIAKI: And definitely Kambe continues sucking. That’s the biggest problem. And the show kind of alludes to “Maybe capitalism is bad” in the latest episodes. Kambe has to really learn that just because he has money and can settle everything with a check doesn’t mean that that necessarily makes him a good person. But at the same time, I feel the show just kind of celebrates… The show is about his wealth, ultimately.
DEE: Oh, yeah. That was another vibe I got in the first episode, that the camera was just making love to how rich and hot this dude was.
CHIAKI: Yeah. So even if you kind of critique his sociopathic use of money, it doesn’t really hit home because his foil is constantly getting sidelined by the fact that Kambe can— It’s more the foil, the other detective… And the other thing is I can’t even remember half the show’s cast because they’re just all bland.
CHIAKI: Aside from Kambe, it’s literally just like “Yeah, you know that guy, the other cop.” His partner tries to be a conscience for him, and it helps. But I feel like ultimately, the show’s like “Okay, well, Kambe grew a slight amount of conscience, and instead of just buying everything out, he paid money in a way that it would result in a preferable outcome to everyone involved.”
DEE: Mm-hm. So, I think I’m good with staying away from that one. Are you enjoying it? I mean, you said you’re keeping up with it, but it doesn’t sound like you like it that much.
CHIAKI: I’ll definitely admit, I just watched it just to have it to mention for this podcast. I’m not necessarily watching it with any real sense of investment.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah. Okay, so that’s a ringing endorsement. [Chuckles]
DEE: And from that, we will move on to the next one. You get to take a little bit of a break here, Chiaki. I can talk, I guess, with Vrai for a little bit. The next one is The God of High School. It is the “shounen-style”—I should say “shounen-style” because it’s technically not a shounen, I guess—anyway, shounen-style battle anime with a tournament arc. And I am enjoying this, but Vrai, it looks like you dropped it.
VRAI: Yeah, I can see why you’re keeping up with it. I think I’m done with it. Like you, I really like the main trio. I think they’re fun.
DEE: They’re so good. I really like the cast. That’s why I’m sticking with it, honestly. I just really like the cast.
VRAI: Yeah, I totally get that. And I think I was just so charmed by the comedy moments in the early going. I guess it’s not that far from the early going now, depending on how long it runs. But I was also just… I don’t care about the tournament stuff.
VRAI: I acknowledge that the fight scenes look nice and that I don’t care because it’s not for me.
DEE: Yeah. I thought episode 4 finally was able to kind of weave the character arcs into the fights in a way that I thought actually gave them some stakes. But there’s also a certain level of predictability with stuff like this where obviously the main character’s gonna win, because if they don’t then there’s no story.
So, yeah, I do agree with you that the parts of the fight—I kind of appreciate the animation, but I’m also lowkey zoning out. And then when we get into the more character-driven scenes, I lock back in again because I do enjoy the main trio a lot.
VRAI: Yeah, and that predictability you mentioned is kind of what killed it for me. I was really kind of zipping along with episode 4. I thought they had a nice little plot for Mira realizing that she doesn’t have to throw away her life for this; what’s important is for her to do what’s right for her. And everybody comes together and supports her, and it’s nice because I really like Mira and her friends.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I like that. I thought that was a good twist for her character because I really thought they were just setting her up as “I’m out to find a husband, and, look, I found one. He’s so strong!” So I thought that episode was a nice way to give her a little bit more heft.
VRAI: But then at the tag of that episode is… You know, part of what Mori says to convince her not to marry this creep is “I can’t believe you’re gonna give up when you’ve come so far in the tournament. Don’t you want to pursue your own goals?”
And then we hard-cut to her being beaten into a bloody, hospitalized pulp, because now it is time for Daewi to have his feelings about his plot arc and she is so much fodder for that, and I’m like “Okay, not only is this predictable, but also any emotional investment I might have outside of the predictable demands of the shounen plot means nothing. I’m good!”
DEE: Oh. Yeah, see, I thought episode 5 did a nice job of building on that. DaewI’s episode is… I really liked that one. Made me feel a feeling, episode 5. And one thing they really zoom in on in that episode… which, it doesn’t necessarily make sense with the whole nanomachine thing that they’ve got going on, but they zero in on that episode on… Mira got hurt in her fight outside of the tournament in episode 4. And instead of asking to get that fixed, she just went into the battle injured and Daewi took advantage of that. So he attacked her injury, basically, and that’s why he beat her so badly.
So there is a little bit of a pullback there in terms of “No, Mira’s super strong. She just kinda got screwed.” And then their move… I don’t know if it’s a spoiler for folks at home, but they have found a way to write the tournament arc so the trio are working together going forward as opposed to against each other. So I’m curious to see where it goes from there, now that they’ve really settled into it being like, “No, these are our three protagonists, and they are working as a unit.”
VRAI: Okay, maybe I’ll see what you have to say at the end of the cour, and maybe I’ll pick it back up.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I mean, you don’t have to keep up with it. I know, like me, battle anime are kind of a tough sell for you, but I like what it’s doing with the characters. I am tentatively hopeful for Mira not to just get completely sidelined. And we’ll see where it goes.
But yeah, God of High School has been a pleasant surprise for me this season. I thought I would fall off because of the punchy fights. [Chuckles] But they’ve managed to hook me with the characters, definitely. So that’s where I am with that one.
VRAI: Yeah, and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes once it shakes the tournament shenanigans. So I can definitely see why you’re wanting to keep with it.
DEE: Yeah, and I get the sense that a shoe is going to drop and things are gonna get supernatural and weird. The most recent episode has brought in some outside forces that are going to… Yeah, I think this tournament is going to implode fairly quickly. But we’ll see. So yeah, I’m curious to see where it goes. In a really strong season, it might not have been a show I kept up with, but because I stuck with it as long as I did, now I’m invested in the cast, so I’m gonna stick with it through the cour at least.
VRAI: Rock on.
DEE: And we’ll see how it goes from there.
Okay, next one, we are all watching. This might be the problematic fave of the season: Appare-Ranman.
VRAI: This is like the platonic ideal of problematic fave.
DEE: It pretty much is, right? Okay, who wants to start?
[Silence for a few beats]
VRAI: I was watching—
DEE: Okay, I’ll put this out there because we said this in both our reviews and we should probably just always start with this: the character designs were a mistake.
DEE: Somebody on staff… So here’s what I think the show is doing. It’s got this turn-of-the-century adventure novel vibe to it. Jules Verne gets a shoutout. That’s what the show is going for, as far as narrative tone.
And part of those adventure novels are these broad stereotypes as people ventured out into the world—and I should also specify, Western novels, mostly by imperialist and colonialist writers—this “venturing out into the unknown and meeting the mysterious Other” shit, right? And I think Appare-Ranman wanted to start with that and then flesh out the cast in ways that wouldn’t adhere to those tropes, that would be less expected.
So they started with “Every character will have a stereotypical design.” And they did not consider real-world power dynamics and how there’s a difference between a Japanese team creating a couple of characters who look like stereotypical Japanese characters versus a character who looks like a stereotypical Indigenous person or a Black man or what have you.
So, yeah, I always want to start with that: the character designs were a mistake. I don’t think there was any malice in them, but there was definitely insensitivity.
VRAI: Yeah, I really think that that is the big stumbling block. And you can really see what they intend to do with Kosame in particular because there are so many jokes affectionately at Kosame’s expense about how he sort of has that two-faced element of wanting to smooth things over and then immediately being super annoyed about it, but also ingratiating the second he actually needs to talk to anybody.
And those are very funny scenes because they are embedded in the writing team’s knowledge of their own culture. And it clearly wanted to do that with a bunch of different cultures and it oopsed.
VRAI: But also, I really love the whole cast!
DEE: I know! That’s the thing. All of the characters are extremely endearing. And they run the gamut from being… Other than Hototo’s character design, I think Hototo is generally a well-written character. And the same with Jing… what’s her first name? Xialing?
CHIAKI: Yeah, Xialian.
DEE: Yeah. I think that they’ve had enough time on screen to be more fleshed out, in terms of very humanized characters. I think that somebody like Crazy TJ, who is the sole Black character in the cast… And again, I am not the foremost authority on this, so, Black folks listening, please comment, let us know if you’re enjoying this show. I think he runs more closely into deeply problematic territory, but at the same time, he is kind of charming, so I find him likable. He’s just a swashbuckler, right? He’s just out to have a good time.
CHIAKI: I feel with TJ, he’s been very aloof in the story so far.
DEE: Yeah, I agree with that.
CHIAKI: And depending on what kind of role he plays at the end is really going to decide whether he’s truly a problematic character or not.
DEE: Or if they’re trying to do the work with him that they’ve done with the other characters to make them more fleshed out and humanized.
And one of the things I like about Hototo is that they haven’t shied away from the fact that Indigenous people were being attacked and there was a genocide going on, fundamentally. They’re not trying to just pretend like everything is fine with him.
And so I do appreciate that the show is… It’s not reveling in that. It’s not like we see a bunch of violence on screen or anything like that. But I do appreciate that the show is acknowledging the oppression of the time period, both with Hototo and then with Xialian, with her whole arc about them not thinking women can drive race cars.
CHIAKI: They still can’t. [Chuckles] They still think that way.
DEE: Yeah, well…
VRAI: It is a little bit simplified, I think, whenever it tries to do these things. Like Hototo is angry at the one dude who killed his dad and sort of implicitly—
DEE: And he’s also twelve. [Chuckles]
VRAI: He is also twelve. And also Xialian’s episode is very, like, “I’m gonna be the bestest lady one, who does it better than all the dudes, and therefore they will all respect me” kind of plotline. But again, the show just has so much energy and sweetness to it that it’s hard for me to get mad at these things.
DEE: Yeah. And again, it takes place in a fantastical alt-history version of reality that is very much playing into broad adventure narratives. So I don’t expect it to be a deep and complex reading of marginalization or oppression.
I go to these kind of shows for that “hoo-rah” narrative, that “Yeah, punch him in the face! Show him what’s up, Xialian!” You know what I mean? I think there’s different ways to approach that. And I think there’s an escapist way and I think there’s a more realistic way. And I don’t think Appare-Ranman has at any point tried to pretend it is a show about realism. So that element of simplification does not bother me at all.
I could totally see why it would bother folks. If that’s a dealbreaker, I get it. But I think within the narrative style and genre it’s operating in, I’m okay with it being more simplistic with that aspect of its story.
CHIAKI: Speaking of the realism, though, the calculations that Appare does while he’s driving… not extremely accurate, but I freeze-framed and looked at some of the calculations like, “Oh, these are actually kind of legitimate calculations that they’re making.” So I’m like, “Oh, they did their homework.”
DEE: That’s cool. I didn’t know that. Yeah, I like that Appare is starting… I like that they’re giving him an arc, too, because he kind of plays into that “aloof genius who doesn’t understand humans” character type. And I like that they’re pushing on that a little bit to be like, “Well, a lot of it is just that he’s been kind of alone his whole life because nobody ever took him seriously.” And now he’s around other people who are also kind of trying to push the envelope, and he’s able to open up and kind of develop relationships with people.
So, I like what they’re doing with his character because I think sometimes… Vrai, I think you mentioned in your premiere review that characters like Appare can be really obnoxious. The worst iterations of Sherlock Holmes are like the worse version of that character. You know what I mean?
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, I really liked the camping scene where he is completely useless at everything that isn’t cars because it would be so easy—
DEE: Yes! That was so cute! That was so cute!
VRAI: It would be too easy for him to be super talented!
DEE: He tried so hard to help everybody and he was so bad at it, and then Xialian’s finally like, “Could you take a look at my car?” and he’s like, “Yay!” and runs off to help. No, that was very endearing.
Again, I think the show has just done a nice job of endearing me to everybody in the cast. And I hope they continue to do that with the characters like they’ve been. The stuff with Gil I ended up liking quite a bit this most recent episode. So yeah, I hope they can continue to flesh folks out and keep it light and fun but also give it some emotional weight as well.
So yeah, that’s our problematic fave. Any other thoughts on that one?
VRAI: I think, just for folks at home to get, tonally, an idea, if you were into the goofier episodes of Samurai Champloo or Trigun, this might be your bag.
DEE: Yeah. To me, again, other than the eyebrow-raising character designs, I think it has a lot of mass appeal in terms of the level of fun, the energy, the likeability of the cast. So, once again, there are things that I totally get if they’re dealbreakers for folks, but I know all three of us are really liking this a lot, and Lizzie’s keeping up with this one as well and really likes it. So, the team is enjoying this one.
Okay, next one up… I think we can get through this one quickly. I hope we can, because we actually are talking more than I thought we would at this point. The next one is Mr Love: Queen’s Choice. I dropped it three and a half episodes in because I was bored out of my mind. But Chiaki, you are keeping up with this one still.
CHIAKI: It’s fine if you drop it. It’s not that great. All the guys are coming out to be more involved with the protagonist’s life now. There’s a huge conspiracy about a secret organization of evil people that are kidnapping psychic people. The protagonist still does not have a name, named Watashi in the credits. So you can tell she’s not very fleshed out aside from the fact that she has a mysterious past, I guess. I’m calling her Princess Potato Chip, because that’s what one of the characters, a pop idol who is also secretly a super hacker—
DEE: Of course he is.
CHIAKI: —and a psychic… This is what you’re dealing with. Yeah, everyone’s basically like a cop but also can levitate in the air, a CEO who also moonlights as a chef and makes flan for a girl that he knew when she was five.
DEE: She has flan-nesia. [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: She has amnesia! Yeah. [Chuckles]
DEE: No, flan-nesia. All she remembers is flan, so it’s flan-nesia.
DEE: And here’s the thing. As you were describing Mr Love—and this was my hope with the first episode—it seemed like it could be ridiculous in a fun way, right? Because some otome stories have… Oh, God, what’s the one we really liked? I’m blanking on the name and I have it downstairs in a box.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Code Geass?
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Tokyo Renka?
DEE: No, try again.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Not Code Geass; Code: Realize.
DEE: Code: Realize. Yes.
CHIAKI: Code: Realize.
DEE: But also Tokyo Renka. When they lean into “This is kind of ridiculous, but you’re going to become endeared to these characters and you’re going to have fun with it and it’s gonna get wild…” Like, you describing Mr Love, it sounds wild in a really fun way. But it’s so blandly executed.
CHIAKI: Yeah. That’s definitely the problem. All the guys are kind of… I don’t know. They’re assholes, especially the CEO guy.
CHIAKI: Everything is played super straight. That’s the other issue. Wild things are happening, but everyone’s like… It’s kind of like that one episode of CSI where they’re hacking and two people are hacking on the same keyboard, and it’s played straight, right?
DEE: [Chuckles] Yeah. It’s joyless. And I’m like the foremost defender of otome adaptations, but I think they have to have joy. If the adaptation is joyless, then it’s just not going to work because then you’re not going to endear anybody to the cast, and that’s like the central conceit of an otome, is that you’re supposed to like the characters. So, yeah, Mr Love was a big disappointment for me.
Are you going to keep up with it, or was it another one you were just kind of watching for the midseason?
CHIAKI: Yeah, more that than out of enjoyment. I do enjoy just calling her Princess Potato Chip while I’m live-tweeting it, so I’m keeping it up for that reason.
DEE: For the tweets. Sure, I get that.
CHIAKI: For the tweets.
DEE: [Chuckles] Speaking of shows that you’re keeping up with partly for the tweets…
DEE: Okay, so we are skipping over Lapis: Relights. Only person on the team who’s keeping up with that is Mercedez, who was initially going to be on this but had some jetlag-related feeling under the weather, so opted out, so hopefully we’ll have her on for the series finale and she can talk about Lapis. So we are skipping that and going into the trash show of the season, Gibiate [pronounced “Jibby-Ate”]? “Jibby-It?” “Jibby-Ah-Tay.” However, you want to pronounce it.
DEE: Well, they say “Gibia” [pronounced “Jibby-uh”]. They call the monsters the Gibia, so I know that part is that.
VRAI: It’s definitely “Gibiate” [pronounced “Jibby-Ate”], though. That’s the name of the disease. They say it in the first episode and never again.
DEE: Oh, do they? Okay, I couldn’t remember. I’ve been calling it “Jibby-It.”
VRAI: [Chuckles] I mean…
DEE: That’s how I’ve been pronouncing it.
Nobody in that writers’ room ever heard an idea that they didn’t think was a good idea. That’s where I am with this show.
VRAI: And it’s awesome.
DEE: It is, but I confess the shine of it wore off a little bit these last couple episodes, because for some reason it is insistent that it also wants to be a serious historical drama. And every time it dips into the past and loses the monster camp, my eyes start to glaze over, because I am mostly here for the CG monsters, because they are inspired. Inspired. Everything about them. Whoever designed and animated them did a tremendous job. The way their limbs just flail awkwardly off screen… It’s phenomenal. The only person who knew what kind of a show they were working on is the CG animators.
But yeah. So, this one is not good. I think we can all agree on that. But how are y’all feeling about it at this midway point?
CHIAKI: I love it.
DEE: Do you still? Okay.
CHIAKI: I still love it. I even like the historical drama because, again, it’s like a slightly historically accurate interpretation of things that happened in the past and then adding in the characters who were right there at the time before falling into a time portal.
DEE: [crosstalk] Plot hole. Into a plot hole, yes.
CHIAKI: Plot hole. Plot hole, yeah. To be transported into modern day post-coronavirus Japan.
DEE: [Chuckles] God!
CHIAKI: No, that only adds to the camp for me.
VRAI: Yeah, for me sincerity is such a key part of what makes good camp to me that… I am kind of lowkey playing Revue Starlight ReLive on my phone during those segments, but I’m not mad about it, because the writers are so clearly history nerds who are like “I want to tell people about all these battles I think are cool!” And that’s enough for me. [Chuckles]
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, they’re into it. They’re into it. I can’t fault them. They’re writing a story they’re into, and props to them for that.
VRAI: And shallow as it is, I do kind of like the little character moments. I like that they’re trying to do that. I like the totally gay soldiers who are pining for each other, and I like the monk dad! He is so…!
CHIAKI: [Laughs] Monk Dad and Mom.
DEE: [crosstalk] The character beats are charmingly awkward, yes. Yeah, no, I ship Monk Dad and Mom.
Ugh, here’s my other thing, though. They’ve completely done nothing with Kathleen, which sucks because I feel like they started her off—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, she’s a non-character.
DEE: The first couple episodes, she felt like… She obviously wasn’t going to be the big, tough superhero, because that’s why the Edo Bros were brought into the story. But in episode 2, when their camp got attacked, they were off slaying a bunch of monsters outside, but she was still shooting down a couple and rescuing her mom and shooting her way towards the door. So she wasn’t the center of the action, but she was holding her own. And I was fine with that.
The past few episodes, all she’s done is gotten into trouble and been attacked and needed help. So in the three-episode review, I was like “Yeah, they’re not really doing much, but they’re not getting damseled, either,” and now I feel like that is not true.
And it’s kind of annoying because I was also promised a pink-haired badass in the opening credits, and we’re halfway through the show and she ain’t here yet. So I don’t know what’s up with that.
VRAI: Yeah, where’s my JoJo lady?
DEE: Yeah! Yeah, she needs to join this cast soon because I need me a badass lady in this monster-hunting world. So right now I’m rooting for the Spidermanders, which is probably not a good sign.
CHIAKI: No, I think that’s the best character of the season.
DEE: [amused] The Spidermanders?
VRAI: Spidermander, MVP.
DEE: The entire army of Spidermanders. Although I do have to say the flappy monsters are also exquisite.
DEE: All the monsters are good.
VRAI: I just love the lip sync creep, where it was a little bit off before, in episode 4, and now it’s gotten to the point where audio will sometimes happen and the lips will not move at all. And I love it! It’s so good!
DEE: Yeah… There’s a lot happening with Gibiate. So we’re kind of liking this. I feel like we’re recommending it, kind of. It’s a lot. I’m curious to see how I feel over the next couple episodes, if the shine continues to wear off for me or if I start to have more fun with it again. So, yeah, we’ll see how they write this madcap adventure across Japan with monsters. So, road trip!
Okay, next up. Vrai, real quick. You are keeping up with Digimon Adventure Colon. You having fun?
VRAI: I am. The most recent episode, which for me is episode 10 (episode 11 is going to go up between when we record this and when it goes up, but I won’t have seen it), was real bad. But up until then, it’s mostly been pretty fun. Sora keeps getting sidelined and I’m real sad about that. It’s become so bad that it’s almost a running joke now on anime Twitter.
DEE: Oh no.
VRAI: Yeah. So the first introductions of all the characters were pretty good. Mimi got a really good episode. Hikari’s not in it yet, really. But this last round, they went from giving each kid sort of an introduction episode where they did the Champion forms into, straight after that, doing the first Ultimate Evolution without any room to breathe. And those moments are supposed to be character development things, and there was a lot of time spent on that.
And I don’t necessarily mind that they’re doing things differently from the original show, but it felt really rushed and bad and very perplexing given that this is apparently going to be a 66-episode show. So it’s not a good sign, the most recent episode, but I’m not put off of it yet. I’m still holding out hope, but yeah, it was not a good sign. It was not just structurally rushed. The episode itself felt very “We are manly shounen fight because we fight,” and it had been kind of a nice surprise that the show had avoided that up till now. So we’ll see.
If folks are looking for more in-depth Digimon stuff, there’s another podcast that, full disclosure, they invited me over to be a guest on it at one point. Podigious does episode reviews of it, and they’ve had Nick from ANN and I think Rose was on there as well and I was on there. And they’re fun, and they’re more in-depth dives into each episode. So yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at with Digimon, and it’s gonna be 66 episodes, so see you guys in a year.
DEE: Hey, get comfy. That’s fun. It’s nice to have shows that you can just pop into and have a good time with.
Okay, next up, Vrai, Diary of Our Days at Breakwater was another spring delayed show. You kept up with it for a little bit, but it looks like you’ve dropped it. Anything new to let folks know about it from the last time we talked about it?
VRAI: I mean, it hasn’t changed much from my three-episode review back in spring, but I wish this was a five-minute short because it’s very good and fun at being like “Here’s our cute moe art style. And also, we’re doing gross facts about fishing,” and that’s kind of a funny disjunction. And I have continued to enjoy those bits.
But then there are 15-minute stretches where it’s just these, not just archetypal, but flat club characters who I do not want to spend time with at all. And I eventually just hit my limit, and I can’t anymore.
CHIAKI: So it’s like real fishing.
VRAI: Yep, exactly like. Had to throw the moes back.
DEE: [Chuckles] Oh, yeah. So, yeah, it sounds like there’s nothing… Like, if you’re enjoying it, cool, but it just sounds like it wasn’t for you, which is totally fair.
VRAI: Yeah. And it is pretty harmless. It even has done one or two underwear gags and not been skeevy about it. So it’s a pretty harmless little show. It’s just I lost my ability to can.
DEE: You couldn’t stick with it. Yeah, I get that. That’s definitely a thing that can happen sometimes where it’s just not for you.
Okay, next up, I’m going to pronounce this “Superheroes” even though there is an X in the word “heroes,” so I don’t know. “Super [gutturally] Cheroes.” [Chuckles] Maybe that’s how it’s done.
Chiaki, you’re watching this season’s Abenime.
DEE: How you liking it?
CHIAKI: First of all, it’s “HxEros” [pronounced “Eg-ZE-ros”].
DEE: Oh, okay.
CHIAKI: Yes. “HxEros.”
DEE: Oh, okay, because there’s “eros” and there’s X and… Okay. Yeah. So, right on.
CHIAKI: Important. Anyway, this is definitely the lesser of the horny anime this season.
CHIAKI: The whole focus of this show is just “It’s okay to be horny.” It is an entire cour of anime at this point—well, half a cour of this anime—has been devoted to just saying, “It’s okay to be horny.” And that can just be done in one episode, honestly.
VRAI: I was really going to try to watch this. And I got halfway through the first episode because I read Caitlin’s review, and I’m like “Yeah! You know what? We could use a sex-positive anime about how it’s okay to be horny, especially if you’re a teenage girl, because there’s a lot of repression there and I like your Yamada’s First Time.” And then I got halfway through the first episode, where it wasn’t just “It’s okay to be horny”; it was also “If you’re not horny, you’re a shell of a human being.” And I’m like “And I’m good!”
DEE: And that’s why I never started it. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Mm-hm. Apparently we can’t have sex-positive anime that don’t shit on people who don’t personally want to have sex. [Sighs]
DEE: It is unfortunate. It’s why I like Yamada’s First Time, because I never felt like it did that, which was great. So, yeah… Chiaki, is there anything else in particular you want to say about this one? Anything about it that’s changed since the three-episode review?
CHIAKI: They did introduce a broader number of the members of the cast. A space alien has joined them who is just dead set on making sure everyone can get as horny as they can. One of the cast members is exhibiting different types of horny. Everyone’s exhibiting different types of being horny. So, one of them is “I only get off with 2D girls and comics. And that’s my jam.” And I’m like, “That’s cool, because that’s kind of where I am at.” But aside from that, it’s still just “Yeah, everyone needs to be horny.”
VRAI: Didn’t they do some body-swappy gender stuff too with the alien?
CHIAKI: Yeah, I mean, that’s my jam. But also, it was maybe 20 seconds, which is enough for me. 20 seconds and definitely, yeah, anime of the year for me.
CHIAKI: But anyway, I don’t recommend.
DEE: You don’t recommend it, though. [Chuckles]
DEE: Okay, noted.
VRAI: It’s a bummer.
DEE: That is kind of a bummer because at first it sounded like it could have been a fun bawdy comedy, which… it’s so hard to write those, and it sounds like this one couldn’t get there. So there’s Super… Say it again for me, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: HxEros [pronounced “Eg-ZE-ros”].
DEE: HxEros, thank you.
Okay, next on the list, I dropped this like a hot potato after episode 3: Rent-A-Girlfriend. Chiaki, once again, you get to talk. Monologue for me.
CHIAKI: [Groans] Kazu’s just… He’s such a terrible character.
DEE: He sucks so bad, right? And at first he had glimmers of being an interesting character in episode 2, I thought, where you start to strip away some of these… In episode 1, he’s got all these misogynistic tendencies, but then he kind of realizes it and apologizes for it.
And then you start to realize he has this deep-seated low self-esteem, no real self-confidence in himself, and that’s where a lot of this is coming from. And I’m like, “Okay, let’s examine that. Let’s examine how everyone around him is telling him he’s a worthless human being and how that’s probably having a huge impact on his life.”
And then episode 3 is just like… then he just became like the ridiculously horny, disaster, hapless harem protagonist, and I lost all interest in the show. Sounds like that hasn’t changed.
CHIAKI: Yeah. It’s like the boyfriend who doesn’t change.. The thing is that he’s constantly telling Chizu, “All right, I’m gonna tell my grandma that we’re splitting up. I’m gonna tell her. I’m gonna tell her,” every single episode.
CHIAKI: And then, by contrivance, by him just slowly falling in love with her, he’s just become like “Well, can we postpone this? Because it’s not an opportune time. Oh, at this moment, we really should not do it.”
Chizu also feeds into just letting him have his way a lot of the time. She doesn’t put her foot down, which is also a huge detriment to just shutting it down. And I get it, that she’s doing it because the show must go on, as far as devoting whatever Rent-A-Girlfriend is about.
VRAI: Whatever that may be.
DEE: Whatever it is.
DEE: Yeah, that was really the thing with episode 3. The conflict started to feel more just contrived, like “Well, clearly this has to happen because it’s a harem romcom,” as opposed to being driven by the characters’ actual personalities and hang-ups and things like that.
CHIAKI: Yeah. So I’m definitely feeling it’s just tiring at this point to watch a lot of the times. The latest episode, they introduced the third girl in the opening, the one with short black hair. She’s kind of thrown in to mix things up. She knows that Chizu’s a rental girlfriend.
And Kazu’s trying to play it up with his friends that they’re still dating, because their friends know his family and if they ever found out that he’s paying to have Chizu be his girlfriend, his grandma would find out and she would be heartbroken. Yeah, the entire show is based on the premise of “We can’t let Grandma find out because her heart will break.”
DEE: Aw. Yeah…
CHIAKI: And the other thing about the grandma… She was the best character in the show, just being this excitable grandma who plays gacha games from the hospital. And that was kind of exciting.
DEE: Yeah, I thought she was fun in the early episodes.
CHIAKI: Yeah. Episode before the latest one, she just got out of the hospital and invited Kazu and his family to come to a hot springs resort with her as celebration. Of course, she invited her friend from the hospital, who is Chizu’s grandma, to come along as well with Chizu. And so, they stick Chizu and Kazu into a room because, of course, they’re dating and it’s a love com, whatever. And Grandma invites Chizu to go and take a… Well, they just wind up in the hot springs together. And the grandma just straight up feels up Chizu.
DEE: Ah! Bad! No, thank you.
CHIAKI: Yeah, so that’s definitely something to look out for. And she’s like “Oh!” And it’s not even like “Oops, I’m accidentally fondling a boob.” It’s more like she’s like, “Ey, this is like a lucky sukebe”—like a lucky pervert opportunity.
DEE: [pained] Ah!
CHIAKI: And yeah, she’s just straight-up going for it. It was like “No…”
DEE: I am definitely never going back to Rent-A-Girlfriend. So, good luck with it, I guess. For those at home who are enjoying it, power to you. We had put it in the It’s Complicated category. It sounds like we can move it down at this point, pretty solidly, maybe even all the way to Red Flags. Which is a shame because it had potential.
CHIAKI: I didn’t even talk about Miki [sic], Kazu’s ex-girlfriend, who’s just straight-up manipulative.
DEE: Yeah, I talked about her in the three-episode, so I don’t think we need to spend too much time on her.
VRAI: It does suck that apparently her dub voice actress has been getting threats on Twitter because the internet is terrible.
DEE: Yeah. Because her character sucks, so I guess that means she does. Yeah, the internet is terrible sometimes.
Okay, that’s all the time I want to spend on Rent-A-Girlfriend. We’re getting close to the top of the hour, and I want to make sure that we have plenty of time to talk about Deca-Dence, which is our top show on this list. And I think that it is still solidly sitting at the top of the list this season. I’m not even sure where to start, other than to say that I really, really like this one. How are y’all feeling on it?
VRAI: I also really enjoy… Can we give a spoiler warning and just tell people “It good, please watch it,” so we can actually talk about it in some depth? Because I feel like we’ve been trying to preserve the twist a bit.
DEE: Yeah, there’s a twist in episode 2 and so, folks at home, if you haven’t seen it yet and you don’t want to be spoiled, I would say read my three-episode review. We’ll link to it in the show notes because we always do. And that doesn’t spoil anything, and that will give you a good idea of where the show is. We all really like it. So, turn off the podcast now if you don’t want to be spoiled, because we are just going to talk about Deca-Dence for the next five minutes or however long.
CHIAKI: And don’t forget to subscribe to our Patreon.
DEE: Oh, yeah! Smash that like and subscribe button!
DEE: Okay. So, now that the folks who don’t want spoilers have left, Vrai, spoil away. How did you want to start us off here?
VRAI: I’m so glad we have another show that’s just fucking weird. We haven’t really had one since Anime-Gataris, and I am so here for the mixed art styles. And I don’t know if it necessarily has an idea where it wants to go beyond a broad concept of “Capitalism Bad,” but I am having a good time. Although if it doesn’t let Natsume in on the conspiracy by the end of next episode, I’m gonna start to get annoyed. That’s where I’m at.
DEE: Yeah, I think it’s so far done a pretty good job of balancing Natsume and Kaburagi’s stories, where you’ve got Natsume living inside Deca-dence on her own sort of personal actualization journey.
And I like how she and Kaburagi have mutually inspired each other. He’s taught her some important life skills and given her somebody who believed in her and would actually support her in her goals; and then watching her strive to achieve those goals has inspired Kaburagi to fight back and do what he wants instead of just listening to what the folks on high tell him he has to do. And I like this concept of bugs basically being, like, “people who think for themselves,” I guess, who don’t just follow the prescribed path that was given to them from the start by what other people think they need to be.
So, so far I think the show is doing a good job of balancing their two stories. But I do agree with you that now that we’ve hit this midway turning point with Kaburagi going back into the game, it’s time for Natsume to become a part of that story. Those two stories need to start weaving together more clearly, I think, going forward, for this to be a successful show.
But honestly, at this point, I have no reason not to trust the writing and directing. I think it’s been really well paced. I think it’s done a good job of balancing action with character, with these really interesting plot twists, with these thematic touchstones about, like you were saying, this kind of anti-corporate model.
There’s some discussion of ableism in the series, as well, with Natsume, since she has a prosthetic arm, and how accessibility works and access to resources and things like that, which I think is really, really interesting. And I really like Natsume.
So, that’s where I am with it. It’s gonna be one of those shows where I think the ending is gonna make or break it, because it is so reliant on where it’s going. It’s not just an episodic have-fun type story. But it’s good so far. I’m really, really excited to see where it goes.
Chiaki, you’ve been quiet.
CHIAKI: No, I just wholeheartedly second what you just said. Really enjoying it, and definitely something that needs to… I want to see what’s actually happening, what’s going on. I know they kind of hinted at it, foreshadowed in the very first episode, but Natsume definitely needs to be brought into the loop a little bit more now.
DEE: Yeah. Take down the system. At this point… and I have to be careful because endings are hard, but I have really high hopes for Deca-Dence. I think this show could be special. But again, we’ve still got half a cour and I don’t want to get too hype, because shows disappoint sometimes and endings are hard.
VRAI: Yeah, on the one hand, I’m very hopeful because it’s done so many interesting things. And on the other hand, I’m a little cautious because it clearly… I don’t think this is a Trigger knockoff anime, but it clearly has some nods to Imaishi’s work in particular. And one of the things Imaishi’s work is known for is having more heart than brains, which is not so good for his endings. And I’m hoping Deca-Dence does not follow in that particular footstep.
CHIAKI: I do feel that there is a very complex world-building under the surface of the show. The show is definitely teasing that there’s a bigger thing going on. And I’m expecting at this point that there’s going to be a huge bang at the very end, I’m hoping.
DEE: Did you guys ever watch… Well, so, the director for this, Tachikawa… I mean, Mob Psycho is kind of his big one, which is an adaptation. It’s a tremendous adaptation. But did either of you ever watch Death Parade?
VRAI: No. I was kind of aware of it, but I didn’t see it.
DEE: That was Tachikawa’s big director, screenplay, creator… That was his big original work prior to Deca-Dence. I would not describe it as a perfect anime, but it had a consistent throughline, start to finish, and absolutely stuck the landing, I thought. So I have a lot of faith in him because of that. I think he has a coherent idea of what he wants to do with this, start to finish. That would be what I would say. How well that translates overall, we’ll see.
VRAI: It’ll be interesting how it starts to answer the questions of interfacing, because Kaburagi can go back and forth but I don’t think the same can be said of Natsume. There are certain areas of his world that she physically, I don’t think, can get at because she can’t decouple from her body. That kind of stuff is really interesting to me, and I want it to hurry up and get there.
DEE: Yeah, I’m curious to see where the cyborgs are living, because I think they’re living elsewhere and then are plugging into these bodies inside Deca-dence itself. So, I think she could get to wherever they are. I’m just not sure of where that is.
CHIAKI: Yeah, that’s what I’m guessing too.
DEE: It sounds like they’re inside Deca-dence, sort of, in their own area or nearby or something like that. They have a base that they are living in. They’re like physical beings, but they’re just not within the same space.
CHIAKI: Yeah, it seems more like the cyborgs, Kaburagi and everyone else, are the ones who are living in their own bubble because the world is too polluted or whatever to live on the surface. And they could eventually surface to that bubble that the corporations have made for Deca-dence, which is like a microcosm that they’ve set up, like a model town except with real people in it.
DEE: Yeah. Okay, at this point, we’re sort of speculating and maybe that’s a sign that Deca-Dence should just get its own podcast when this is over. But we are at the top of the hour, so unless there was anything that we needed to call out for folks at home, I think we’re probably ready to wrap.
VRAI: I don’t think so. No, it’s a good show. Definitely, if I were to say, “Watch one show from this season and then go back and work on your backlog,” it’s this one.
DEE: Yeah. Again, I have too-high hopes for this one, so I really hope the second half is as strong as the first and it ends up being a good, complete story.
Okay, so, yeah, that’s the season. I would not call it a strong one, but there are definitely some highlights. So, hopefully, folks at home, you can find some things to check out. Okay.
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