Content Warning: Discussion of sexual assault, grooming, disordered eating
Vrai, Mercedez, and Peter dig deep to find the winners of a somewhat sparse season.
Date Recorded: August 13th, 2021
Hosts: Vrai, Mercedez, and Peter
0:01:59 Peach Boy Riverside
0:02:56 Idaten Deities Know Only Peace
0:04:34 Battle Game in 5 Seconds
0:05:39 TSUKIMICHI -Moonlight Fantasy-
0:07:27 Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan
0:09:24 How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
0:10:11 The Great Jahy Will Not be Defeated!
0:13:15 Girlfriend, Girlfriend
0:15:44 Dungeon of Black Company
0:17:28 Duke of Death and His Maid
0:19:08 Drug Store in Another World
0:21:07 Detective is Already Dead
0:22:08 The Case Study of Vanitas
0:30:35 Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicles
0:30:51 Remake Our Life!
0:35:50 Night Head 2041
0:38:49 Sonny Boy
0:43:55 Kageki Shoujo
0:57:05 Aquatope on white sand
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. This is our summer 2021 midseason podcast. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I am the managing content editor for Anime Feminist. You can find my freelance work on Twitter @WriterVrai, or you can find the podcast that I cohost about trashy media @trashpod. And with me today are Mercedez and Peter.
MERCEDEZ: Hello, y’all. [Chuckles] Oh, God. My name’s Mercedez, and I am an editor here at Anime Feminist, as well as a freelance Japanese-to-English localization editor and a journalist. You can find everything I do on Twitter @pixelatedlenses, where I just talk about a little bit of everything that I’m doing.
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m associate manager of social video at Crunchyroll and an editor here at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Yay. Now if you are new to our seasonal podcast, what we do is we go from the bottom of our premiere digest list and move our way up. That doesn’t always mean that shows have stayed where we put them in the digest, but it is the easiest way for folks to follow along and for us to keep it consistent, basically. And we’ll discuss any issues as they crop up. All right. This is also going to be a weird season because it kind of sucks. It’s a thin one!
MERCEDEZ: It’s not good. It’s not good this year. It’s not good.
VRAI: We’re going to try to keep it to two minutes and under on all of these lower shows. As per always, Peter is watching everything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s stuff we need to go into in depth. Mercedez, looks like you have dropped Peach Boy Riverside.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, I am trying to allocate my time to things that spark joy this year.
VRAI: No, fair. So is there anything updated since your three-episode check-in that was the tipping point for you to drop it?
MERCEDEZ: I just am still angry that it’s out of order! They’re trying to do this Haruhi Suzumiya thing where it’s aired out of order. But you know what the difference is: I like Haruhi Suzumiya; don’t like Peach Boy Riverside. Even though I really like Coolkyousinnjya—which, cancel me for that. I know he’s not great. But I like him as a writer—hm, sometimes. I don’t like that the show is being aired out of order because all of these emotional things that I’m supposed to feel, I don’t. Just feel empty.
PETER: Yeah, it’s definitely no Haruhi.
VRAI: Yeah. But you are not watching Idaten Deities, which is also the same author.
MERCEDEZ: God! I didn’t know that, but I can only imagine how that one’s going.
VRAI: Yeah, Peter, how’s it been since episode 1 closed with a graphic rape scene?
PETER: Well, it was okay for a while. I’m going to be completely honest: I actually really enjoy this series, because the majority of it is like this weird Dragon Ball–meets–Shaman King fusion action series with a really cool visual aesthetic. But yeah, it definitely has a lot of Coolkyousinnjya’s not-great stuff in it. There have been a couple… no outright rape scenes, but definitely some weird sexual assault, weird fetish stuff that keeps punctuating all the good stuff, you know.
VRAI: I want to punch that man in the face so bad.
MERCEDEZ: I’ll just say, it’s a shame because Coolkyousinnjya has written stuff that is completely bereft of sexual assault that is really good. And why this man has chosen to sink the Church of Cool into sexual assault is very upsetting! Please stop. I don’t like it. It’s bad!
VRAI: It’s a bummer. All right, well, that’s a shame because it does look really cool visually.
PETER: Yeah. It’s just, you know, sometimes you just watch A Clockwork Orange and decide, “I can do that.” And you can’t do that.
VRAI: Oof. Yeah.
MERCEDEZ: Oh no.
VRAI: Tsukimichi: Moonlight Fantasy [sic].
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] I did—
VRAI: As I recall, this was fun parody, but— Oh, go ahead.
MERCEDEZ: I think you just skipped over Battle Game in 5 Seconds, which Peter is also watching.
VRAI: Yeah, no, I skipped it on purpose.
VRAI: I can’t imagine that the battle royale series is continuing to be anything other than a battle royale series.
PETER: Actually, did we cover that in the three-episode?
VRAI: I don’t think we did. Is there something to add?
PETER: I do just want to say episode 2 in particular is just like a festival of content warnings. It’s got sexual assault, stalking, suicide. It’s… Yeah.
VRAI: So it’s still an edgelord battle royale series.
PETER: Yeah, I just want to… Anybody who read our episode 1 and was just like “I’ll give it a shot,” just know that episode 2… Afterward it’s not… Episode 2, it’s just a standout, like “Holy shit, this is really dark.” So be careful.
VRAI: All right. Good to know. All right, moving up into Yellow Flags, Tsukimichi: Moonlight Fantasy [sic]. Mercedez, you tabbed this one as mostly a fun isekai parody series, but it did have the really tiresome slavery jokes. Has it balanced out? Is it better?
MERCEDEZ: Y’all? This might be the first harem that I’m kind of like “I’m here for it!” [Chuckles] Which is not what I expected! That’s not what I expected. I keep wavering between “Am I gonna drop this or am I not?” But here’s the thing: is my girl, the orc princess. I’m here for her.
PETER: Oh, she’s the best.
MERCEDEZ: I’m talking orc princess supremacy. She’s so cute. I love her. I really like Mio, the black spider. She’s very much a character that I like. I like those characters that, like, they feel like they might kick me. Yeah, she’s very much that character. I kind of like it. It’s nice to like an isekai. It’s nice.
PETER: Yeah. It’s just got big Tenchi vibes since the main two girls are just Ryoko and Ayeka, if Ayeka was kind of a sadomasochist.
VRAI: All right. That definitely has an audience for somebody and I’m glad.
PETER: Yeah, I’m glad how they’ve handled Polite Miss Piggy, too. They haven’t done any weird stuff with her. Yeah, she’s great.
MERCEDEZ: Shockingly bereft of fat jokes.
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, zero.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Which is wonderful. Which is wonderful. I’ve been waiting for them to crack a fat joke. And y’all, they haven’t. [Chuckles] And it’s great. It’s great.
VRAI: The bar is on the floor, and it managed to step over.
VRAI: And isekai has been dire for a while, so that’s nice.
PETER: We made it over the bar.
MERCEDEZ: It’s good.
VRAI: Nice. Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan. How is it balancing out the “saying unfunny things to children” versus the “actually funny backstage segments”?
MERCEDEZ: This show has become that meme of “Don’t you just want to go apeshit sometimes?” And it’s nice because Uramichi is also very conscious of, like, he works with kids, so there are things that we cannot say in front of kids. And so, some of the jokes have leaned more towards… it just so happens that the kids do something that incite the joke, but they’re not at the expense. At least that’s how I feel. They’re less at the expense. Though I do continue to be worried with how much I’m vibing with this very misanthropic man. [Chuckles]
VRAI: It’s been a hard 2020 New Game+.
PETER: He’s a very relatable professional gymnast/children show host.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah.
PETER: I’ve gotta say, I’m not a fan of the choreographer, though. I wish that that character wouldn’t exist. Very Persona-core.
MERCEDEZ: Big Junpei energy.
MERCEDEZ: It is good. I’ll say I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think you’re either gonna like this show and find it hilarious, you’re gonna hate it and find it exhausting because the world is already filled with negativity, or you’ll land in the middle.
VRAI: That’s all the reactions.
MERCEDEZ: I do worry Uramichi is going to end up snapping. This man is on the edge. [Chuckles]
VRAI: That would be a dark ending to that show.
PETER: Yeah, I was gonna say, that’d be a bad twist. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: This man is very on the edge. Constantly worried for his mental health and for the fact that he drinks a lot. He can’t go to bed without drinking or sleep medicine. Uramichi, please get a counselor. [Chuckles]
Peter, anything to add about Realist Hero that is not in Chiaki’s three-episode review? I guess she went into episode 4 or 5, I think, actually.
PETER: If she went into 4 or 5, she probably included that they are gonna be in a harem probably. So I think that’s pretty much all there is to say. I was hoping the creator was enough of a civil engineer otaku that they would spend all their time just talking about country building, but gotta stick with the classics, I guess.
VRAI: Fair. Yeah, that’s… Well, let’s move on from that.
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles] Let’s do it.
VRAI: This is one of the late premieres, so we haven’t really talked about it much. But Mercedez, I’m sure you have some things to say because you’re covering it at ANN, which is The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, so I’m just gonna be frank real quick. Episode 1 sucked. Episode 1 sucked. It was not funny. This formerly strong demoness was just a screaming child, and I hate that trope. I spent most of episode 1 very concerned because she only wears a T-shirt as an outfit. And I do mean only a T-shirt. No leggings, no pants, no shoes.
PETER: I want that T-shirt, though.
MERCEDEZ: I do want that T-shirt for real, though.
And then episode 2 came around, and I… Because I ended my ANN review with a plea to the forum to please understand that this might not be my thing, but I’m trying to be professional. And then episode 2 came around. And I was like “Wait a minute. Maybe the anime gods heard my pleas.”
And they gifted me a character named Druj. And Druj is like… She’s like if KonoSuba’s Darkness was a demon girl with yellow-green hair and also was living the high life. Because she’s a very sadomasochistic character. And that worked for me, and I was like, “Maybe Jahy Good?” I don’t know. It’s still too early because this is only two episodes in and it’s a two-cour series! Which, why?
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, God, it is?
MERCEDEZ: [Through laughter] Why? Stop it, anime, stop! I don’t know how they’re gonna stretch this.
PETER: The most surprising series for two cours this season.
MERCEDEZ: I believe it’s back-to-back, so I guess we should be thankful for that. But it’s not bad. I’m sure there’s people who like it. She’s got big Nagatoro energy, and I ended up liking her, so there’s hope yet, I guess.
VRAI: So it sounds kind of like one of those ensemble comedies where it’s basically impossible to judge until you get all the main characters in.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. It’s like if Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle met Devil Is A Part-Timer, a little bit. She has all of the energy of Princess Syalis, except she’s not as funny because Syalis didn’t scream; she just killed demons.
VRAI: And it had a better director. Moving on.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s too early to say. I think it’s got an audience, for sure. Why it has two cours… I don’t know why I was asked to do it—I guess because I’m bringing my expertise to the table in some fashion.
VRAI: I hope it turns out good. I really do. It’s gonna be weird checking in on that one, but we will! At the season-end, we’ll check in and see how it’s doing.
MERCEDEZ: I’m professionally committed to check in on it, so…
PETER: That’s a heck of a commitment.
VRAI: Next on the list is Girlfriend, Girlfriend, which I have meant to check back in on and haven’t.
MERCEDEZ: Same. Same.
VRAI: Chiaki has a pretty thorough sort of vibe check on how the polyamory stuff is developing, which is to say basically the same as my premiere review, where it has moments of relatability but then it just slides into being a regular love triangle show wearing a hat.
MERCEDEZ: That’s the coward’s way out. Like, let everyone love everyone. Either commit or don’t, Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
VRAI: I mean, I’d be down for a show that was about a V and not a triad, but from what I’ve watched of it, Girlfriend, Girlfriend is not smart enough for that.
PETER: Yeah. Well, and you also have to remember that there’s two more girls in the opening. Right now they’ve got… the MeTuber girl wants to get in on their relationship, I guess because they know her secret identity. I actually have no idea. She jumped through some very small hoops to arrive at the conclusion that she wanted to join their polycule.
So I felt like it was at least kinda… God, how do I be fair? I would not say it was… I mean, Chiaki wrote it all, right? It’s trying to do a polycule thing and tripping a lot, but it seemed like an honest effort. But now you got the MeTuber camping out in their yard until the dude agrees to add her as one of his girlfriends.
MERCEDEZ: These are all high school kids, right? These are just high school kids, right?
MERCEDEZ: God, that’s a lot of stress. High schoolers, it is not worth it. [Chuckles]
PETER: I appreciate that the MC… I mean, we’re coming off Rent-a-Girlfriend, who just had… I can’t remember that guy’s name. He sucks.
PETER: Yeah. The MC is just a big dummy, and I respect that.
VRAI: You know, the show is smart in that regard, in that if he wasn’t, it would be completely intolerable at all times.
PETER: Yeah, he would just seem like a scumbag two-timer.
VRAI: Mm-hm. I will try to catch up on this one before we do the season end. No promises, but I will make my best effort.
VRAI: So for now, let’s put a pin in that. Peter, anything to report of interest on Dungeon of Black Company? Is it just about him being the best capitalist? Or does it have actual things to say?
PETER: I never got the impression that the series is trying to say capitalism is good. It kind of reminds me of Tanya, where it’s just like… I mean, he fails a lot, too, but it’s… Oh, what am I trying to say?
Capitalism sucks, it’s dehumanizing, and this guy is trying to use it as a weapon, but now he’s on the bottom and he’s suffering as one of the victims of capitalism rather than its beneficiary. And he sucks because he believes in it. Know what I’m saying? Does that make sense?
VRAI: I do. I guess I’m trying to ask if the joke… Is it catharsis that a rich dude is now suffering under capitalism? Or is this like a “We’re gonna realize the system sucks” story? What’s it going for?
PETER: I think it’s like 50/50 the humor is that he is getting owned, like getting dropped from CEO to salaryman, but also it is leaning into a lot of those same tropes as Realist where he… I don’t know. He does have a harem going, so…
PETER: Yeah, you just can’t escape the isekai themes. But I definitely think it is going like “Ha-ha, this CEO is getting owned by capitalism. Isn’t it funny?”
VRAI: All right. So people should— I’m just gonna go ahead and keep recommending people watch Cells at Work: Code Black instead.
PETER: Yeah, I mean, that one’s way better. Yeah. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. Duke of Death and His Maid. I know Chiaki was really warmed up to how this one was developing into less fanservice, more of a romance with occasionally ecchi highlights. You have anything else to add about it?
PETER: What did I…? It’s like Crash if James Spader was afraid of cars.
VRAI: You mentioned a movie I love very much. That’s tempting.
PETER: Yeah. Or that girl just really wants to die. I don’t know. A lot of the romance stuff is made very weird by the fact that she is just trying to get him to kiss her, and if he does, she will literally drop dead. So it’s got a weird kind of… I don’t know what to call that fetish. [Chuckles]
But early on it was kind of uncomfortable because it seemed like he was very uncomfortable with the way she was acting around him. Now it has gone more of the way of a consenting romance. It’s just that they keep playing chicken with the fact that if they touch she will die instantaneously.
VRAI: All right, so it has fully inhabited being Anime Pushing Daisies. I respect that.
PETER: Yeah, it’s kind of like a high school romance where they never kiss, except it’s got a very good reason that they never kiss. Rather than just “Why aren’t they kissing?” you can go, “Oh, I know why they’re not: there’s consequences, real bad ones.”
VRAI: That’s kind of cute, honestly. Maybe I’ll go back to that. I don’t know.
Drug Store in Another World. Anything worth noting with this one?
PETER: It’s been surprisingly wholesome and a pretty chill show. They do have one episode where the dude makes a love potion, which turns out to be an aphrodisiac kind of thing. The scene doesn’t get too bad. It kinda stood out because a lot of this show is pretty charming and wholesome.
VRAI: Okay, because Alex’s review of the first episode was pretty gross.
PETER: Oh, I guess in the first episode they had the thing with… I don’t know what’s up with that girl. She’s just really—
VRAI: [Deadpan] Women are hysterical, don’t you know?
PETER: She needs herbal tea. I mean his solution was “Have some calming chamomile tea” or something, and then she’s fine after that.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Excuse me. He gave her some sleepy-time tea as a solution?
PETER: Yeah, yeah, she stopped trying to murder her boyfriend.
MERCEDEZ: Oh, God.
PETER: [crosstalk] And she comes back. Yeah, the whole reason he makes an aphrodisiac is because their relationship is going really well but she wants to have kids and he’s super busy, so she’s trying to make some stuff happen in the bedroom or something.
VRAI: Oh! So, non-consensual drugging. Okay. Love that.
MERCEDEZ: I was gonna say, to me the solution seems like maybe we sit down and talk.
PETER: Oh, that’s what he says. He says, “You two should really talk.” I think he talks to the guy, too, and he’s having the same problem. And he’s like “Wow, you two should talk to each other.” I don’t know if she was intending to give him the drug without his knowledge or if she was just trying to give him a little pep in the bedroom since usually he’s so tired at the end of the day.
MERCEDEZ: Like some Isekai Viagra? [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, I guess.
MERCEDEZ: That feels cursed. That feels cursed. I’m sorry I said that.
PETER: Yeah, I guess her storylines get a little dodgy. But most of the time, he’s just reinventing superglue or that bitter stuff that keeps your pets from eating things they shouldn’t. That kind of thing.
VRAI: All right, so it’s doing how it does.
Detective Is Already Dead.
PETER: I should’ve believed the title on that one. Siesta is a cool character and I liked that she was the Sherlock Holmes and he was the Watson, but then in episode 2, she’s already dead and he’s the new detective and the most important character now.
MERCEDEZ: Oh, wow. So she’s actually dead. Wow.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That sucks so bad!
PETER: Yeah, yeah. He’s hanging out with this girl in high school who, when Siesta died, I guess she donated her organs and that girl got her heart. And so she has the urge to hang out with him because that’s what happens when you get a heart transplant: you are attracted to people that the person who the heart previously belonged to is attracted to. You know how that happens, medically?
VRAI: Yes, obviously.
PETER: [Chuckles] Yeah.
VRAI: Did she get this girl’s super detective powers?
VRAI: Oh, wow, I fucking hate this.
MERCEDEZ: Vrai, detective powers aren’t stored in the heart.
PETER: Yeah, she didn’t get the brain, just the heart.
VRAI: Okay. Well, that sucks on ice, and so, let’s move on to a show that we’re all watching, which is The Case Study of Vanitas, my baby, my problematic fave.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, so I’m just gonna say, I’m still on the fence: do I watch this or not? Because I’ve never seen anything by Mochizuki Jun and I’m like “Am I gonna like these vampires or am I not?” So sell it to me.
VRAI: All right. Well, possibly you haven’t seen anything by Mochizuki Jun because she has only written two series and one at the beginning of her career that got cancelled. But she worked on Pandora Hearts for a decade, and now she’s been working on Vanitas for seven years, so big, long epics are her thing.
So, Vanitas… I don’t know how well I can sell it to people who aren’t into the exact niche of things that I am into. But it is a Bones anime, so it is incredibly beautifully animated. It is full of both good children and trash gremlins. It takes place in this steampunk kind of alternate history world because magic McGuffins changed the course of history, so there’s a magical system at work. And it’s extremely horny. I have missed vampire stories where—
MERCEDEZ: Wait, wait, pause. Did you say “corny” or “horny”? Because that’s two different vibes.
VRAI: No, fair. It’s an extremely horny series.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Okay, it’s with an “H.” Okay.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Horny vampires.
MERCEDEZ: [Intrigued] Oh.
VRAI: Yeah, these are different vampires: they’re born and not made. But it is very much in the Anne Rice erotic vampirism tradition of stories where the biting is very metaphorically layered as being sexual and being about sexual relationship and power dynamics revolving around this inherently violent but also erotic act.
And I have missed that because I think there— A lot of vampire anime in particular recently have been very much about “We stapled the name ‘Vampire’ on here so that we can have near-scenes of sexual assault with the shoujo heroine and it doesn’t really actually mean anything for the story at large.” But with Vanitas, these questions of identity and sexual desire and power dynamics between people who are physically intimate with each other is integral to the story and how it plays out.
A lot of people very understandably got put off by the nonconsensual, very bodice ripper-y kiss where Vanitas assaults Jeanne in episode 3. And it’s bad, it’s the worst, I hate it, and I don’t blame anyone who walks away, not just because that scene is pretty repugnant, but also because that relationship is going to keep on being real important.
And I actually like how it develops going forward, but it’s the understandable issue that people have with a lot of BL, where, okay, there’s a super interesting relationship, but you’ve poisoned it from the roots by kicking it off with assault! That’s not okay!
PETER: That guy’s the main character, too, so…
VRAI: Yeah, and—
MERCEDEZ: I just want to say that I’m so glad someone finally said his name out loud, because I have been pronouncing it “Vuh-NEE-tuhs,” like “fajitas.”
VRAI: I mean…! I think there is some wiggle room in that the story and Vanitas himself are both not at all trying to paint him as a good dude for doing this. His whole thing is he hates himself and he wants everybody else to hate him as much as he hates himself. But it’s still a really gross and upsetting scene, even if this is a relationship that, going forward, is a lot more about agency and characters realizing and giving themselves permission to ask for what they want and that kind of thing.
Also, Noé is a sweet and perfect Good Boy. He is our main vampire character. And he loves to learn things and he’s easily excitable and I love him so much. Caitlin did point out in the three-episode review that there is a little bit of racialized imagery with him where his fiancée, who is related to the Marquis de Sade—her name is Dominique, because we’re doing this—she is a domme.
MERCEDEZ: [Chuckles] Wow.
VRAI: But there’s a running gag where she puts a leash on him so he doesn’t wander off because he’s excitable and—
MERCEDEZ: Wait, wait. No, oh, no. Is the main character brown?
VRAI: Yes, he is!
MERCEDEZ: God! [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah, it’s… Yeah.
MERCEDEZ: Japan, get it together!
PETER: Is Noé supposed to be the main character or is it Vanitas?
VRAI: They are co-leads.
PETER: Okay, okay.
VRAI: Yeah. And it’s a one-off gag that’s gone after that one episode, but it still sucks. You can understand why this is my problematic fave. But also, I think there is some really beautiful stuff in there about human relationships, and there’s a lot of stuff in there about— God, I’m so bad at describing things that I like, as opposed to things that I think are bad.
MERCEDEZ: No, no. Well, I think you’re doing a good job. I can definitely see how it’s got stuff that might be fraught, but it’s fraught in a sexy way or fraught in an intriguing way, fraught in a good, “Ooh, read this novel” way.
VRAI: Well, and the central conceit is about: Noé is looking for this book, which Vanitas turns out to have, and what he can use it to do is save vampires whose true names have been corrupted by this mysterious force. And so there’s a lot of stuff in there about the faces we put on in front of others and our true selves and layers of constructed identity, which is absolutely my shit!
And also, the composer is the lady from Madoka and the director is the Monogatari guy.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, well, time to watch this.
MERCEDEZ: [Chuckles] Time to watch this.
VRAI: Absolutely all-star cast! And aside of that one really gross scene with Jeanne, I love the women in it. Domi and Jeanne are both very good. They’re not sexualized in terms of the camera.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, it’s time to watch this. Time to shift it from “Planned” to “We’re gonna watch some today.”
VRAI: It is also extremely deeply homoerotic because Mochizuki Jun loves to write about amorphously defined relationships where everybody’s kind of flirty with everybody else and we don’t put labels on it really. So, big “everybody’s bi and disastrous” energy.
MERCEDEZ: I mean, this is just appealing to me more and more.
VRAI: Yeah! I don’t blame anybody who hits those content warnings and is like “Nope. I’m the fuck out of here!” But God, it’s everything that is all of my interests, and it is a gorgeous adaptation. And it’s going to be two cours. It’s a split cour.
PETER: Oh, wow.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Wow. Everybody gets a second cour. Everybody! Love it.
VRAI: I’m very curious to see how that will go because we’re currently motoring along into the third volume as far as a pretty one-to-one adaptation, and the manga, after running for seven years, is only up to nine volumes.
MERCEDEZ: Oh no. Oh no.
VRAI: Because it’s a monthly release, so…
MERCEDEZ: Well, I guess we’ll see when we get to that second cour, huh.
VRAI: Yeah, I maintain the Bones is pretty good at doing an anime-original content (fight me), but we’ll see. So yes, I’m glad that I have convinced one person. I am sorry about my rambling, everyone at home.
PETER: It was all worth it.
MERCEDEZ: I love it. I love it.
VRAI: Yay! Now that we’ve spent a solid ten minutes on that… Seirei Gensouki. Is there literally anything worth saying about this?
PETER: Uh… No.
VRAI: All right. Scarlet Nexus, nobody is watching. Remake Our Life. Mercedez, I know you’ve been really liking this one.
MERCEDEZ: Y’all. Okay. So I came down pretty hard on it when I reviewed episode 1, because I don’t think any show is worth a 50-minute premiere episode. I don’t care how good your show is, I don’t care what you’re adapting: 50 minutes is too long. And they didn’t really use the 50 minutes well, I think. It was very slow, and it was a lot of table setting.
But y’all, this show moved from mediocre to pretty okay. I am really enjoying it. It’s this weird blast from the past of a 2006 that I never got to experience as an adult because I was obviously a child. But it’s really interesting because it’s drawing on all of these tropes from 2000s anime, specifically from the middle-of-the-decade anime. There’s been all these insert songs, like they had “Freckles” by Judy and Mary from the Rurouni Kenshin opening.
VRAI: No, it’s a Haruhi Suzumiya thing now. We can reclaim it.
MERCEDEZ: Oh, okay, yes! And yeah, they had “God Knows,” which… I cried because it’s one of my favorite Haruhi Suzumiya songs. And even all of the table setting for that episode mirrors the actual Haruhi episode where that song is inserted and it’s really good.
I mean, there’s some fanservice. But I also think you could handwave that as it’s pulling on tropes of the genre and of the decade that a 2006 anime would have been made in.
I really like it. I definitely have a ship for the show, and I remain terrified that this show is going to shatter my heart, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sure that there’s a fan translation of the novels out there, and I’m not interested in finding it at all or being told. But I’m just cautiously optimistic. A little bit irritated that we’re getting a clip show this week. But I really like it. It’s a really good exploration of a college experience. It’s just really good! It’s really good. I’m liking it, which I didn’t expect.
VRAI: Nice. That’s nice. It seems like a good, quiet slice-of-life show.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, and it’s actually dealing with… The last episode, before this clip show that we’re gonna get, started to deal with overwork and exhaustion and how you cannot push yourself for the sake of your studies or what you’re passionate about, which I really appreciated. It’s a solid show. I would really like to see us get the light novels, for sure. But it’s a solid show.
There is a character I don’t like because I don’t like her voice, and that is Aki. She’s like 18, 19. She sounds like a five-year-old. Stop doing that to women. There are women that have naturally high-pitched voices, but hers is that really cutesy voice that no real-life person, I don’t think, ever speaks in.
PETER: And then there’s the senior. I don’t know if she’s graduated or not, but she looks like she’s in elementary school or something.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know why they do that to characters. And granted, there are women who do look younger than what their age is, but I don’t think it is… It’s a weird trope of having an adult woman who looks like a six-year-old.
VRAI: Yeah, don’t love it.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, but it’s a solid show.
VRAI: Good. All right, I want to kind of motor through these last neutral-zone shows so that we will have the last 20 minutes to really talk about the top three. I think there’s a lot to talk about with them.
MERCEDEZ: Do it.
VRAI: So, Re-Main. Peter, is there anything to say besides “It’s a nice show about good boys doing sports”?
PETER: I am very concerned that the girl who has semi-blackmailed him into playing water polo… It was his girlfriend and he doesn’t remember, and she’s actively manipulating him to get him back into water polo, much like some other characters have done to him. I don’t like this whole subplot about how people think he should play water polo so they’re kinda making him do it rather than him deciding that he wants to do it. Also, she’s doing that and they were previously in a secret relationship or something. That is really gross. But the sports stuff itself is good.
VRAI: All right. Keep an eye on that going forward. I know those elements of him being pressured versus deciding he wanted to do have kind of always been there, so it will be interesting to see if it comes to a head or if the series realizes what it’s doing with that.
All right. Night Head 2041. Mercedez, you are keeping up with this one?
MERCEDEZ: I… I guess I am.
VRAI: A stirring endorsement.
MERCEDEZ: I guess I am. Is it just you and me, Peter? Are we in the trenches for this one?
PETER: I think so. Honestly, I don’t really have much to say about it. Just stuff is happening all the time. I’m not sure what it’s going for yet.
MERCEDEZ: It is this weird mix of Psycho-Pass, Mardock Scramble, and Akudama Drive, but it’s nowhere near as good as any of those. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: It’s visually alive. There’s stuff everywhere: psychics, weapons, 2041! [Laughs] But it’s just like… I don’t ever know what’s really happening. I’m so confused!
VRAI: [crosstalk] I know it’s also—
MERCEDEZ: It’s a reboot, which I think is worth saying. It is a reboot of a franchise from 2007, I believe. But I don’t know what’s ever happening in this show.
PETER: It’s from 1992, so it’s definitely one of those early ‘90s dark city, psychic powers anime.
MERCEDEZ: It’s from the year I was born!
PETER: Oh, wow. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: [Chuckles] Yeah, I think it has really interesting worldbuilding and really interesting lore, but that lore kind of has it in a chokehold, because it’s all of this interesting stuff but there’s just not enough space to explain this entire world to a viewer.
I will say, shoutout to my girl, Kimie Kobayashi, who when she arrived, I was like “She’s mine. She’s mine!” because she has that red and black hair. She’s got that kind of cool, cyberpunk, futuristic outfit, and I was like “Yeah, she’s my favorite now. Only I get her.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Definitely the best character design.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, but then it’s just so confusing sometimes. [Chuckles] It’s so confusing.
PETER: Yeah, it’s like “Oh, this looks great.” Actually, for a 3D show… It’s one of the best 3D shows I’ve ever seen, probably.
MERCEDEZ: It’s really good!
PETER: Yeah. But what the fuck is happening? I don’t know. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: And they never slow down, and I have to give Night Head 2041 that. Keep on truckin’. Take me on this 90-mile-per-hour trip and don’t explain anything to me.
PETER: One thing we should probably bring up is it is a dark psychic series, so there’s a Damien kid who’s making high schoolers commit suicide and stuff like that, so there is some content warnings.
VRAI: Very “Inject 1992 direct into my veins and everything that comes with it.” All right. So if people want that, it’s that, but with really nice 3D CG graphics.
MERCEDEZ: And good sound design. I like the sound effects. They’re solid.
VRAI: Fair enough. All right, then nobody is watching D_Cide Traumerei the Animation. That moves us all the way up to our last three shows, which… Does anyone want to start with Sonny Boy? Because I don’t know what it’s doing, but it sure is doing it.
MERCEDEZ: I don’t even know what it’s about, so I would love to know.
PETER: I’m glad that other people have landed on the same thing as me where it’s like “I got nothing, dude. Not yet.” [Chuckles]
VRAI: So it’s this classroom full of 39 kids. Their school gets sucked into a void one day, and they discover that from the school, there is an island out there that they’ve been isekai’d to. And this island is like the hub to a lot of different other alternate realities. And so far, every episode has been like a model exploration of a different societal issue in a vacuum, basically. So, it almost reminds me of Space Dandy—which, same director—where there were some incredible individual episodes and it never quite added up to the sum of its parts, but I was glad I watched it.
I’m wondering if Sonny Boy will end up being something similar. I really love the flat animation style. I think that some of its points have been interesting, like the third episode is basically: they are looking for these missing students who have become this world’s version of hikikomori, and about whether they exiled themselves or whether the social structure forced them out, essentially.
So I think it has a lot of capital big-I “Ideas,” and I love watching that play out. It is a little bit cold.
MERCEDEZ: That’s interesting, actually. That’s really interesting. I held off on watching it because I was just like “I don’t know what this is about.” But now I’m intrigued.
PETER: Yeah. It’s also Madhouse. What a blast from the past, dude.
MERCEDEZ: Oh! Okay, see…
PETER: And Shingo Natsume. So, what a combo. It’s very ‘90s-, ‘00s-core anime with its creators and even its studio and its aesthetic as well.
MERCEDEZ: See, and that has me intrigued. I wish someone would have told me that, because I probably would have given it a try for sure. Because it sounds like—to put a Western genre label on it—like portal fiction, that going to another world, but what would happen if you got to explore all these pocket universes.
VRAI: Very like, yes.
PETER: [crosstalk] Like Sliders? That show that everyone still knows about, Sliders.
VRAI: I still know about Sliders.
PETER: Oh, thank God. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: No, that’s intriguing.
VRAI: Yeah, like I said, I’m not sure what it plans to add up to or if it will have a satisfying cap on it, but I do like it.
And I will note, for people who were uncertain, I mentioned that the main girl in the first episode has very Manic Pixie Dream Girl energy, where she seems like she’s just there to kind of provoke the main guy into growing and changing and shaking him out of his comfort zone. That’s definitely changed. They still do a lot together, and he maybe has a crush on her, but she’s gotten to do a lot more outside of him.
And there are also three or four other really interesting female characters. And it’s a no-fanservice show, which is cool.
PETER: Well, we’re gonna see about that, I guess, with the introduction of the teacher.
VRAI: Oh, right, well… I place adult fanservice on a different plane.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, I guess if it had to be anybody… Yeah, I guess it’s real… we got to wait and see what it turns into. I’m just praying that it doesn’t become Lord of the Flies. I really do not want it to be.
VRAI: I mean, it kind of is Lord of the Flies in that Lord of the Flies was a very… Despite the fact that people keep trying to fucking teach it as a universalized story, it was Golding doing a very specific critique of British schoolboy narratives where they were a “civilizing force,” quote-unquote, to other nations.
And that first episode is a lot about kowtowing to authority even when it’s dangerous, and they had all of those bomb shelter and World War II pieces of imagery and some pretty horrifying corpse shots. This is definitely a very specific societal critique.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, I was gonna say, everything you just described sounded really specifically like a very specific Japanese baby boomer experience, especially with war imagery. That’s something the Heisei generation doesn’t know at all. That’s a very Showa concern, which I guess is who would be also making animation at this time. That’s fascinating!
VRAI: It’s a really interesting show.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, well, I’mma just type a little X onto the Excel doc and add myself into the mix on that one.
VRAI: Also, there’s lots of good cats, and none of them have died so far, thank God.
MERCEDEZ: Hey, that’s what we’re here for.
PETER: Good cat season.
VRAI: Good cat season. All right, moving on to Kageki Shoujo, which I have a lot to say on this, so please, you two go first.
MERCEDEZ: It’s so good! It’s so good! It’s so good. What more can I say?
MERCEDEZ: I mean, in fact, I could say a lot more, but you go, Peter. You go.
PETER: Oh, wow, it’s on me. Okay. I read the first volume of the manga first, so it’s been kind of weird watching this kind of story when I basically know everything that’s going to happen. I could say I’m disappointed that they toned down Sarasa being a Roboco-level Shonen Jump–referencing machine like she is in the manga. Yeah, she’s making not nearly as many references, which makes me sad.
VRAI: You gotta pay for those, Peter.
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
VRAI: They were doing good to get Ikeda to sign off.
PETER: It’s a new world. It’s been good so far. I have complex feelings about the bulimia subplot since I feel like they just kind of left it hanging. And they’re just like “Wow, that sucks, but I guess somebody said something nice to you, so you’re probably going to be okay,” even though the double standard is still there. And I don’t know what the message was supposed to be there.
MERCEDEZ: I would actually like to take a moment to dig into that, because that subplot really bothered me with its resolution. And I don’t know if it bothered me because I also taught high school girls in Japan. Well, teach and taught.
But it felt like… [Chuckles] First of all, the teacher suffered no consequences. That woman still has her job. She got no consequences, but also it was like “Oh, someone said something nice, so you no longer are coping with this harm that you did to your body. It’s all better. It’s all better.” And I felt like in the manga—in the prequel manga—it at least kind of gave a little bit better of a resolution. I don’t know. I don’t know.
VRAI: The anime does reference the kind-of resolution of the manga, which is where… Actually, they really don’t. It comes up, but in a different context.
Because in the manga, which wraps up kind of abruptly, at least because the series was canceled on its seinen run and then started up on its shoujo run, where the teachers were like… they realize that she has been purging and they say, “We’ve failed her as a teacher by telling her just to lose weight and not helping her, so we’re going to put together this healthy eating regimen for her. And that’s our job as authority figures.” Whereas in the anime, the mean teacher brings up that “I need you to start reporting to me what you’re eating,” but that level of culpability for the professors is gone.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. And I guess I should say, full transparency, I’m also reviewing this on Anime News Network, and I was pissed. And I also should say someone got on my case because they were like “Oh, it doesn’t need a content warning,” and I was like “This episode, it needs a content warning.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] It needs.
MERCEDEZ: It absolutely does because you see her. On one hand, I laud Kageki Shoujo for being very transparent about… We see—oh, what is her name? Ayako? We see Ayako vomiting. We see her doing the action to purge. And it’s not sweetened. I think, actually, the sound design is that all of the sound kind of drops out and it is just atmospheric, her vomiting into a toilet.
And so on one hand, they didn’t shy away from how harmful this was. But y’all, they let that teacher off the hook. And it made me mad in the manga, it made me mad here, and it felt like a missed opportunity to just have this be like “Oh, well, you’re gonna be okay because I believe in you.” When in reality, there are loads of Japanese girls right now doing that, and I guarantee you they are not going to be okay.
And for a show that is clearly not afraid to delve into those topics, I just wanted so much more from that part. But I guess they’re sticking to the source material, too.
VRAI: It fits, I think, into this tradition of a lot of shoujo where they have these intensely sympathetic and often raw depictions of societal ills that can be very validating for a person to see on the page.
This is kind of how I feel about—it’s not shoujo, but the same tradition—In Clothes Called Fat, Moyoco Anno’s manga, where there will be these extremely raw things, that “You’re not alone. This is real and it hurts and it’s painful,” but then they don’t go that extra step of critiquing the system behind it, which I think a lot of Mari Okada’s works have this same issue.
And Kageki Shoujo really seems to fall into that, where it is ready to note these problems with the Takarazuka system, but at the end of the day, it shrugs a little bit and it’s like, “Well, no fatties, though…”
MERCEDEZ: Right. And I think a simplistic reading of this would be to say, well, maybe that’s just how it’s handled in Japan. The woke reading of this, though, is that Japan is not in a bubble and Japan is a country that deals very poorly with bodies that do not fit within a very narrow spectrum.
And there are absolutely women in Japan that definitely probably had the thought of “Huh, that kind of sucks that all Mr. Onodera did was be like ‘It’s all right. You’re beautiful how you are. You’re good. You got that pretty voice.’” I’m pretty sure there were women in Japan who were like “Hm. That felt lacking.”
VRAI: Yeah, it frustrates me, but part of me also wants to give it the sympathy of, like, it is nice for somebody to tell you you’re okay as you are when you’re a teenager. Like, both.
MERCEDEZ: Oh yeah. And absolutely, it’s amazing that they addressed it. They didn’t soften the fact Ayako was clearly living with an eating disorder. They didn’t talk around it. They even say the words, I believe, “eating disorder.” And I think they even say “bulimia” in the subtitles, so I’ll shout out the translator for this series for also not pussyfooting around that, too.
VRAI: Yeah, the anime I have really enjoyed in a lot of ways. It’s really colorful. And in some of the cuts, I understand, because the prequel manga in particular is very talky and you just can’t do that on screen. I do think there are one or two places where it, in making those cuts, has lessened the impact of the manga. I actually made a thread about the big one, I think, which is the handshake scene where—
MERCEDEZ: Yeah! They took the oomph out of a lot of the emotional impact of that.
VRAI: Yeah, because with the Ai stalker subplot, in the manga, we see this handshake scene that was traumatizing for her the first time where it goes on for a really long time and there’s these uncomfortable sound effects of him squeezing her hand. And that’s why she said, “Let go. You’re a creep,” even though he didn’t mean to be a creep.
And it’s this interesting, nuanced story about how men can be imposing and scary without meaning to, and that doesn’t mean they’re bad people, but they still have to address that the harm they did is real. Because then it shows that scene again from his perspective, and it’s this magical shining instant where you only zoom in close on the hands and he thinks he’s finally got out what he wanted to say as opposed to it being this very long, uncomfortable silence.
So, it shows both those perspectives while still validating her. But the anime only shows the scene once, if I recall right.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah, it does.
VRAI: And it sets it at what we would call a mid-shot, where we see them both from the waist up, which the eye reads as an objective shot. It’s not in somebody’s POV. It’s “what really happened,” quote-unquote. And it’s only like a beat or two, and then she says, “Let go, creep.”
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, because that was part of the impact. You realize how uncomfortable she is because this handshake has been going on for a century. And you’re like “Oh, yeah…” And then I guess I’ll say maybe that’s because they just couldn’t fit the animation in for that long. It does feel like a missed opportunity.
VRAI: It’s such a pivotal moment for her character development that it feels like a… Cut the budget somewhere else; that moment has to land.
MERCEDEZ: Right. And it’s weird, because they went very hard on Ai’s… the sexual trauma that she dealt with. They did not cut corners there, and I was like “We could have gotten more of the handshake scene,” which also is kind of important to her.
VRAI: And I was talking with my partner—she’s @Sunsh1neG0th on Twitter; that’s “sunshine” with a 1 and “goth” with a 0—she told me it would be okay to mention this. But she has had experiences in her life that are not unlike Ai’s.
And for her, it was kind of an alienating depiction, not because she thought it was gross or lurid or anything, but because the way the manga builds up this abuse Ai goes through, it’s under these almost three or four layers of distancing. Not only is her mom… Her mom is a famous actress, but she’s also disregarded as sort of a slutty person. And also she doesn’t know who her dad is. And also they have this distanced, uncomfortable relationship. And all of that leads to this very common abuse that happens to a lot of people in very normal situations, not daughters of distant famous adult actresses.
And so for her, it was almost this kind of thing where, while attempting to be respectful, it was making it as this thing that happens to other girls, not just this thing that happens to a lot of people. And oddly enough, we ended up swapped in that way where she was a lot more touched by Ayako’s eating disorder subplot emotionally, whereas I felt a little more distanced from that as somebody who’s had lifelong troubles with food and disordered eating stuff.
So it’s very interesting to me the way this manga is extremely heartfelt and in the right place, and I like the characters a lot. But I think it hits different for people depending on how close you are to what’s being depicted. And I don’t know what that says about the series.
MERCEDEZ: I think what it says is that, in a really actually quite relatable way, it is messy like real life is messy. And I think that’s maybe why both Ai and Ayako’s stories hit me.
I will say Ayako’s hit me harder because I am a fat person and I did suffer with disordered—I won’t say “suffered”—I lived with disordered eating through high school and most of college. And so it hit me. I mean, I cried, and I think I even mentioned that in my review. I was like “Wow, this really hit me hard.”
But I like the messiness because real life is never clean cut. It’s never “you go from point A to B.” And I actually kind of find comfort in that. It’s good stuff.
VRAI: I’ve been really grateful to my wife for watching through this with me, because you need an emotional support buddy and this is generally not her genre. She really doesn’t like these grand backstage Glass Mask descendants, because they tend to take place in these realms of female competitiveness, they mark out the heroine as exceptional and not like those other girls. And I think Kageki Shoujo is trying really hard to combat that, but those elements of female backstabbing stuff is still there and kind of stressful.
Okay. Any last thoughts that we missed? Kageki Shoujo’s a lot. And I like it, and I want more people to watch it, but—
MERCEDEZ: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure.
VRAI: But it’s a lot.
MERCEDEZ: It’s a lot. Yeah.
VRAI: That only leaves us a couple minutes, but I do want to stop to give a moment for Aquatope on White Sand, which is very lovely.
MERCEDEZ: It’s so good! Slow burn for days! It’s so good! It’s also two cours.
MERCEDEZ: It’s back-to-back, thankfully, because I love these kids so much.
VRAI: For those of you at home who may not know, this is a loose addition to PA Works’ “Working” series about women and their jobs. It kind of follows on from Shirobako and Sakura Quest.
I’m still not convinced that there’s going to be romance in this series, honestly. I want it. Don’t get me wrong: I want them to be a couple, but there’s just enough of that background threading with Kukuru’s dead sibling that I have to wonder if they’re gonna be like “Oh, she’s like the sibling you never had and she’s come back to you now!” So I’m letting myself down in advance and for it to just be a nice friendship story.
MERCEDEZ: No, Vrai. I’m quoted on Wikipedia for going hard on this show.
VRAI: I respect it. I respect it.
MERCEDEZ: I firmly am reading this as a yuri with a variety of queer characters. It’s just gay times at the aquarium. And it’s gonna take a while, but I’m here for it. I’m so here for it! I love this show so much.
VRAI: I want you to be right so bad. And it’s so pretty, and it’s so chill.
MERCEDEZ: I will say the one thing that continues to lowkey bother me is we have this magical realism of this little god who eats some fish heads and eats some fish in the background. I’m really waiting for that to kick in, and we are at episode 6 this week, and we haven’t gotten a lot, but then I keep telling myself, “You know what? This is gonna be a two-cour series.” So it’s all right if it doesn’t immediately kick in, because the show has the breathing room to take its time.
I like it. I like it. I like everyone. Everyone’s so good.
VRAI: The whole cast is really nice and good. And it’s just a soothing thing to sink into every week.
MERCEDEZ: Mm-hm. It’s so pretty, too. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful series. The animation is really nice. Any time that Kukuru and Fuka get on the bike together, you’re guaranteed a wallpaper-quality screenshot. So good!
PETER: And they love doing the thing where it’s the ocean, but you can see the stars reflecting in the surface of the ocean, all the time.
MERCEDEZ: It’s so good! Ah!
VRAI: Yeah. It’s just a nice, quiet show about young women figuring out their life and making friends and figuring out who they are, and I really like it.
MERCEDEZ: I will say my biggest concern now is that in episode 5, we were given a timeline, a deadline for when Fuka will be leaving. And I’m very concerned because I keep saying, “Oh, it’s two cours,” and then I’m like “Oh, God, how are they going to stretch this material until the in-world September?”
VRAI: Time skip.
MERCEDEZ: But that’s what I’m worried, is that they’re gonna do a time skip. But then if they do that in the first cour, what’s gonna happen in the second? Is she gonna come back? Oh, she could. They come back as adults and fall in love! Yay! See, it writes itself in my head.
VRAI: It’s good. It’s good.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, it’s really good. It’s really good.
VRAI: As always, if you are new at home, we will not be covering Netflix series—those get their own podcast—and carryovers and sequel seasons will not get discussed until the end-of-season podcast. There’s a lot of them, but I think we’ll have a lot of room because I don’t think we’ll need to talk about some of those Red and Yellow Flag shows again.
MERCEDEZ: [Chuckles] For sure.
VRAI: Until next time, thank you so much for joining us, AniFam. We really appreciate you.
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MERCEDEZ: Go get yourself an ocean girlfriend.
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