Dee, Vrai, and Peter look back at Winter 2022’s hidden gems and many disappointing endings!
Date Recorded: April 24th, 2022
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, and Peter
0:02:47 Love of Kill
0:03:29 Akebi’s Sailor Uniform
0:05:47 Miss KUROITSU from the Monster Development Department
0:06:10 Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated as a Total Fantasy Knockout
0:10:23 Salaryman’s Club
0:19:16 Tokyo 24th Ward
0:26:19 Requiem of the Rose King
0:30:08 My Dress-Up Darling
0:34:38 Sasaki and Miyano
0:39:23 SABIKUI BISCO
0:45:45 The Case Study of Vanitas
0:49:15 Princess Connect! Re:Dive Season 2
0:53:30 Ranking of Kings
Viewer Debates Resurface Arounds Alleged Japan-Korea Colonization Allegory in Ranking of Kings
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, one of the managing editors at AniFem. 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 Peter and Vrai. If you all would like to introduce yourselves…
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate editor of social video at Crunchyroll and an editor at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai. I am the managing content editor at Anime Feminist. You can find my freelance work on Twitter @WriterVrai, although it is currently on lock because [chuckles darkly] this year started out with my partner and I having to literally flee our home in the dead of night to get away from somebody safely, which is also incidentally why I haven’t watched a lot of this season’s anime.
DEE: That is an incredibly valid reason. We’re glad you’re safe, and we’re glad you’re joining us.
DEE: Yeah, Vrai is pinch-hitting for Mercedez, who has also had a very hectic past month and kind of fell behind on some stuff, so we’ve got Vrai joining us for the series finale even though we had Mercedez for the midseason.
This is the winter 2022 retrospective. (I say “twenty” so many times in that, it sounds wrong when I say it.) This is probably going to be a weird one, folks at home. Due to various scheduling kerfuffles, we’re recording a lot later than we usually do. We’re like three episodes into the spring season at this point, which means my memory has just booted everything from the winter season, all the finer points, out of my brain to make room for the new stuff.
So, if we miss important content warnings or plot points from things, it’s probably just memory loss on our parts. Feel free to make comments in the… in the comments (ha-ha) on the post on our website so we can try to get those covered. So, thank you in advance for your patience, and we hope this episode is still entertaining and educational.
As we usually do with these, we’re going to start from the bottom of our premiere digest and work our way up. Because Peter is the only person who watched anything from Yellow Flags down and we have quite a few carryovers and sequels we want to have some time to talk about in this one as well, we’re going to just sort of blaze through those right here at the beginning.
Peter, was there anything in that bottom category that maybe started to do something different from what it was doing at the midseason, or something you specifically want to call out as a fun show people might enjoy? Anything from there that you want to talk about before we move into the stuff that we’ve all been watching more of?
PETER: For Love of Kill, it’s everything that I said before, but I also think I should probably add that it’s also a problematic age gap now.
DEE: It got worse! Hooray! Good job, Love of Kill.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, yeah. I didn’t think it could get worse. But apparently, Song Ryang-ha (I think is how you pronounce his name) fell in love with Chateau back when she was extremely young, and I think it’s like a five-plus age gap. But she was basically a kid when he first encountered her, and that’s the source of his romantic affection for her now.
DEE: Ooh, don’t like that.
PETER: Yeah, that sucks. Yeah, I hate everything about it now.
DEE: So it wasn’t good already, and then it somehow got worse.
DEE: So, terrific!
PETER: And at Mercedez’s advisement, I watched all of Akebi since the last podcast, somehow. I definitely get that… There is a lot of good in there. Some of the subplots were extremely nice. There’s a lot of stuff where it’s like Akebi meeting her classmates and being really curious and wanting to make friends, so she kind of learns more about their perspective on the world, and I do think there’s a lot of good, fleshed-out characters in the series. So, she kind of learns what that person’s perspective is, how they see the world, and kind of follows them along for a while. And in that way, it was really good when it was on with that.
They also had a really good subplot with… They want to use the gym in her old elementary school and she’s from one of those rural towns where it’s like one kid per classroom. And when she calls her teacher she says, like, “Me and seven of my friends need to use the gymnasium from the school if that’s okay,” and her teacher ends up crying because she’s so happy that she made friends.
PETER: Yeah, she only has one kid per class—same with her younger sister now—and she always worries that all of her graduate students won’t be able to make friends after being in a lone classroom for so long. So, yeah, really touching stuff like that.
But I feel like the camera is very Sound! Euphonium-y, and it does just weird stuff that makes me not trust it all the time. Like, we went over the toenail clipping and the smelling thing. And then there’s a scene where she goes fishing and her friend catches a fish so she takes a picture of the fish and sends it to her dad who’s a fisherman or likes fishing, something like that. And he replies that she has pretty hands. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s creepy. That’s a very creepy response. Why on earth did you do that?” Just stuff like that. It’s like I could never trust the series 100%.
DEE: That’s, ugh, such a weird whiplash when you have pretty good character writing clashing up against kind of a fetishy camera. Yeah, that is unpleasant.
PETER: So I think if the foot thing threw you off in episode 1, you’re gonna get maybe five or six more whiplash moments like that over the course of this series. So, I guess, use that as your barometer for tolerance. It does not stop there, is what I’m trying to say.
DEE: Good to know.
PETER: No, but there is good. I also want to emphasize that.
VRAI: I know you guys on the midseason kind of skimmed over Miss Kuroitsu and Fantasy Knockout, both of— Well, okay, I actually ended up dropping… I dropped Miss Kuroitsu, not because I hated it, but because life happened and I disliked the fanservice with Wolf and found it kind of insulting enough that I had to nope out on that one.
DEE: Me too.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah.
VRAI: Fantasy Knockout, I got through half of and speed-ran the finale before coming on the podcast today. My feelings with it are basically where they were when I did the three-episode review in that it can be kind of charming, it can be kind of shouty.
I feel like it can also dip into a little bit of misogyny where Tachibana is… In order to make Tachibana this wish-fulfillment figure, which I think is great and the point of the series, it kind of can dip into this incidental side effect where every other woman in this show can be a little bit misogynistically portrayed by comparison, at a low-key level, where they all just kind of suck or they’re vain or shallow or self-obsessed.
DEE: Aren’t… Sorry, I mean, I think that’s a fair point, but isn’t… I mean, from my understanding of Fantasy Knockout, doesn’t every character kind of suck?
VRAI: They all do kind of suck. It’s just…
DEE: It hits different with the female characters than it does with the male ones?
VRAI: Uh-huh. It wasn’t enough for me to nope out on it for content reasons. It just kind of is one of those things that I think can come with the territory with TSF.
DEE: Oh, can you…? Sorry. For the folks at home who don’t know what that means, can you… TSF, can you explain?
VRAI: Yeah, so, TSF stands for transsexual fantasy, and they are works where a character—almost always a male character—wakes up and has been magically transformed into a girl, a cis girl. There are occasionally the other way around, but not very often.
So, yeah, I think a lot of the wish fulfillment is, for a series like that, about the character being able to indulge in stereotypical femininity. I think that that’s good and great. It just, in this case, means that a lot of that comes along with being beloved by every dude on planet Earth, and if there are other female characters, they may or may not get short shrift.
Which all sounds really negative. I think it’s fine. The season kind of ends treading water with where it started, except that they were able to open up to each other a little more as friends. They’re still not acknowledging the blatant mutual crush they have on each other. There may or may not be a second season. It’s fine. If you liked the first two episodes, it’s like that for 12.
PETER: Yeah, the end event is that Tachibana has the charm status effect above her head for Jinguji. And that’s how they close it out. So I think that’s their way of acknowledging a mutual crush, with a game status effect.
DEE: Okay, so it’s implicit, but…
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles]
DEE: It feels pretty obvious?
PETER: Just saying it, I was like, man, [chuckles] it sounds even less impressive than I thought it was when I watched it.
VRAI: It’s one of those things where it’s about as noncommittal as any comedy series that is a romance but isn’t actually going to have the couple get together at the end.
DEE: Mm-hm. Hey, to my understanding the light novels are ongoing. So who knows? Maybe, someday. We can hope, right?
VRAI: In ten years, maybe they’ll end up together.
DEE: [Laughs] Okay, so it sounds like if you enjoyed the first few, you would continue to enjoy that one. And again, Chiaki’s written some very good articles on TSF fiction, so I would recommend reading those if you’d like a primer on the genre. She loves it but also understands some of the issues inherent in it and the good and the bad. Like most things, it’s complicated.
VRAI: Take even my opinion with a grain of salt because I think TSF, as it is so overwhelmingly written, is so very special to transfemme folks specifically, in that it tends to gear towards that emotional place, that… you know, at a certain point, it’s not even for me either.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah. And that’s okay sometimes, right?
DEE: You can acknowledge that.
All right, Peter, was there anything else you wanted to mention about Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest, or did it pretty much stay the course from the midway point?
PETER: I think all the other isekai basically just stayed the course.
DEE: Okay, good to know. Then the next one is Salaryman’s Club, which you and I both watched. We talked at the midseason that we were both enjoying this one a lot. I don’t feel like I have a— Okay, I have a little bit to add. But for the most part, I did continue to really enjoy it through to the end. You too, I take it?
PETER: Yeah. I was curious how you felt about the final Miyazumi subplot with the boss.
DEE: So, I liked the aspect of them being willing to address corporate sexism and harassment. Folks at home, just as kind of a quick sum-up, what basically happens is one of the main characters and the one female coworker in this office go out for a business drink with the vice president, and the other guy’s… he’s like a corporate sponsor or something, right? He’s not in their company, but he’s somebody very important to their continued success.
PETER: I thought it was like the president’s son or something.
DEE: Maybe that’s what it was.
PETER: Because he said something about his dad.
DEE: I did mention that my memory has booted all this stuff out, so I don’t remember the specifics. This other dude gets trashed and is uncomfortably hitting on her and trying to force her to drink even though she doesn’t want to, and Miyazumi sort of subtly… I mean, he steps in, is basically like, “Hey, you’re bothering her. Leave her alone.” And it turns into this whole kerfuffle where the guy claims that he violently attacked him, which is not what happened; he was just trashed and fell over.
She is very grateful to him for stepping up and sticking up for her in that moment. But her opinion is effectively ignored by the higher-ups and Miyazumi gets in trouble. And they’re able to solve it and kind of get through it.
I liked that arc in the moment because, while it would have been nice if the higher-ups had fucking listened to her, it was very true to the moment and I think it showcased how important it is to have coworkers who will stick up for you in those situations.
What I didn’t like is that at the end it kind of just gets glossed over. Nobody gets in trouble, but it didn’t feel like there were any repercussions for the assholes who… especially the vice president, who kind of enabled this behavior because he’s more interested in profits than people. That was probably my one critique, is: I kind of wished the vice president had to…
PETER: Suffered any consequences? Yeah.
DEE: Some kind of consequence. But again, it is sadly true to life, as well, that he did not. So, I was glad that the characters we liked were okay and got to continue working with each other.
PETER: In addition, I don’t even think it was just him not suffering consequences. I think he was actively exculpated by the narrative because… I mean, in addition to him protecting the guy who was… I don’t know how to describe it.
DEE: Harassing her. Yeah.
PETER: Yeah. … actively harassing a woman, he also basically participated in fraud, telling that guy to fake injury so that they could get Miyazumi fired, just because he wanted to close down the badminton team because he doesn’t think it’s a good allocation of resources within the company. And then at the end, you see him talking to the president and the president’s like, “Yeah, I know you committed fraud, but you just do it because you love the company so much.” And it’s like, what? [Chuckles] That’s not a good reason to commit fraud, man. So, yeah, I did not like the conclusion to that. Miyazuma [sic] was a bro, though.
DEE: Yeah, he did kind of exactly what you should do in that situation in a way that I really enjoyed, yeah. The other thing… Yeah, I agree. That’s my biggest critique, is that everyone was like, “It’s okay, though,” and I’m like, “No, it’s fucking not!” But on the more positive side, one mini-arc in the second half that I really liked was the newcomer to their team who worked in the QA department, who had quit badminton for a while because he and his wife got married and she had a kid pretty quickly, and so he quit badminton so he’d have time in the evenings to help balance out domestic work and child-rearing with her while their kid was still really young.
And that way, she was also able to get her degree on the side. And now she’s getting a career as a writer and the kid’s old enough that he doesn’t need as much constant attention. And so, it gets to a point where she’s like, “You know, I’m in a good place now. Our son’s in a good place now. If you want to go back to playing badminton, you totally can.” And he does. And I really liked that arc because it didn’t vilify it or even make him out to be a martyr. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I can’t believe you made this incredible sacrifice.”
It was very matter-of-fact. But kind of a broader social expectation is that the man dedicates himself to his job and the woman handles the child-rearing. There are lots of studies that have been put out in recent years about the large percent of domestic unpaid labor that still falls on the wife in the household in Japan. So I really liked the way the story wedged that in without making a big deal of it, but it was still a really nice arc about parents splitting duties and helping each other realize their goals and dreams. So, I thought that was sweet.
PETER: Yeah, I think the main characters were all great. I just think that it’s like the story had trouble identifying and reaching a suitable conclusion for the villains in the story. Or maybe even a conclusion. I could see him getting off scot-free but just framing it so that you know, “No, this guy is actually a bad guy,” rather than going like “Well, you made a mistake but you did it because you just wanted the beverage company to succeed. That’s why you committed fraud.”
DEE: Yeah, he could have at least apologized and said, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have done that. It was wrong.” Something.
PETER: He didn’t apologize. He didn’t have to do anything. He just got off, yeah.
DEE: No, no.
PETER: Yep, that sucks.
DEE: No. But all the badminton arcs were good. Everything with the main cast was fun. So, yeah, I liked that one a lot. I hope we get more… I would like to see more sports anime about adults also balancing their sport with their day jobs or their family lives or what-have-you, because it’s a different scope and offers different storylines, so even though in a lot of ways it followed some very similar sports anime plot beats, it did it in a way that felt very fresh and new. I loved all the bits with them working at their soda company to make this soda that sounds terrible but is apparently delicious. [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, even at the end there, they kind of introduce that new idea where their final opponents… It sounded like they were basically just hired as badminton players, like they didn’t really have to work too much, because the company just wanted to use them as a promotional tool. So, that was like the breadth of their duties. Meanwhile, the main characters had… they were expected to work in addition to playing badminton. So, yeah, there’s a lot more angles that you could go in specifically with that corporate sports league. I think it’s really fascinating and I want more stories about it.
DEE: Yeah, no, me too, for sure. Yeah, I hope it did well. I have no idea how well it did in Japan. I hope it did well and that it encourages more stories like it, because I think it was an anime original and I had a good time with it. So, yeah.
PETER: I believe so, yeah.
DEE: Peter, did you want to… We should probably move on. Did you want to say anything about Orient before we jump into the It’s Complicated category? I know the last time you told us about the female character and how she had a really good arc and then it immediately turned into a weird fanservicey thing. I don’t know if there was anything else you wanted to touch on with that after that midway point, if they dropped the weird fanservicey elements or if that continued to be a thing?
PETER: The last half was just sort of about exploring the main character’s mysterious past that resulted in him being overpowered. I do think maybe it’s worth mentioning that his… You know, he has to be exceptional in some way: he’s the main character of a shounen anime. He’s got a goddess inside of him. What’s that anime about the French vampire hunters where the guy is possessed by his sister?
DEE: Oh, uh… [Chuckles] Le Chevalier D’Eon.
PETER: Yeah, Le Chevalier D’Eon.
DEE: [Chuckles] Yeah, Le Chevalier D’Eon.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, it kinda has that thing going on.
DEE: Sorry, there’s no vampires in that, so you threw me off! [Chuckles]
PETER: Well, whatever they are!
DEE: There’s, like, zombies. Zombies, yeah.
PETER: Yeah, the liquid… the mercury zombies or whatever you call them. I don’t know specifically what they’re supposed to be. But yeah, it kind of pulls that thing where his powerup is letting this obsidian goddess within him possess him. I don’t know if that’s a mainstay of the series, but I do think it’s interesting that the source of his power comes from a holy feminine that resides within him.
DEE: That is kind of neat. You don’t typically see that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It can’t be as offensive as Le Chevalier D’Eon, though.
DEE: Oh, that’s a show I really liked, but boy howdy, once I found out that it was about an actual person, it got, um, difficult. We don’t have time to talk about Le Chevalier D’Eon.
PETER: I think it’s a split-cour show, Orient, so maybe I can touch back to see if it completely… I don’t know what to expect. But I can check it back in that one for sure.
DEE: Okay, cool. Yeah, keep us posted. Okay, moving up into the It’s Complicated category. Peter, Vrai, we didn’t get to talk about this one at all at the midseason mark. So, tell me about Tokyo 24th Ward.
PETER: Oh my God.
VRAI: It tried.
PETER: Yeah, it sure tried. [Chuckles]
DEE: [Laughs] A shining recommendation. Do you want to go into a little more detail?
VRAI: It was kind of… So, it basically did what I was afraid it was going to do, but not as badly as I thought it was going to. So, it starts out with all of these really lofty ideas where it wants to talk about… I swear to God, and I have zero proof about this, except for the fact that the series composer is also a game writer and worked at Nitro+chiral, the studio that Gen Urobuchi carried on his back, but this really in some ways feels like a response to Psycho-Pass in that it is about a crime-detecting system and privacy and all of that, but it also wants to get into all of this stuff about protest art and community outreach. And it had a lot of, I think, interesting ideas about it. But in the end, it didn’t really commit in the way that an Akudama Drive did and it ends up pivoting to being about “save the girl.”
DEE: Oh no!
VRAI: Because… So, the crime-detecting system is powered by a human brain, and that’s why it was initially scrapped, because it was unethical. And then the female character who dies… And mysterious phone calls from her kick off the series. It turns out that her brain from her vegetative body is powering the system, and it’s in pain, so all of these visions of possible futures that the main characters have been getting are basically like her anxiety dreams. And so, it comes down to “Actually, our choice is not whether an authoritarian state is better for preserving [sic] crime or whether we should abolish the police is the way to go. Actually, it comes down to how we need to decide what to do with this singular person who is the ghost in the machine.”
DEE: Oh, that’s… that’s disappointing, because those two concepts sound interesting, but then they mashed them together in a way that it sounds like they did not jell at all.
VRAI: Yeah, and it also kind of handwaves it at the end, in that she disappears and they decide, “Actually, humanity’s going to work together to decide what we need to do, because there aren’t any easy answers.” And so, the guy who works for the cops and the protest street artist guy are just going to have to work together to decide on a resolution, and it’s like, thanks, we’ve solved nothing.
I did kind of enjoy, throughout, the focus that the series has on the importance of community outreach. The himbo, who is our point-of-view character, is a baker, and the woman who came up with the… not the Psycho-Pass system, but our stand-in for it… before deciding it was unethical, she became a teacher and wanted to build this school. And so, it has some, I think, interesting and on-point ideas about what is actually helpful in building and sustaining a community. But it also takes some really loaded images of police violence and protest and decides to have a fun little intellectual exercise without having an actual answer.
PETER: Yeah, they were doing… It seemed very intentional and directed for a while. Like, the bad guys who were running the system, they were using mass surveillance and they were trying to get that pushed through. They had active copaganda campaigns. They had planted Andy Ngos inside the resistance movements to take conflicts that they had with the police out of context to turn the public against them.
DEE: [crosstalk] Wow.
PETER: Just all of this— Yeah, yeah. It seems so pointed when they were doing it. There was even a point where the guy is like, “We need to get all these people out of these buildings so that we can rebuild them. And also, we’re trying to pass this bill so that we can pass our system.” And it’s like, “Wait, so if we evict these people, if they refuse to leave the property, then we can have them arrested. And then they’re felons and they can’t vote, which means they can’t vote against our system and our bill will pass as well. It’s a win-win.” Just shit like that.
PETER: Yeah, for a while I thought they were even going for this narrative where they were saying a system that’s run by unjust individuals cannot be just, although it schemed more toward… When they were talking about it, I think that the concept was “A system founded in an unjust act cannot be just,” which was sacrificing the girl’s zombie brain, I guess, which… a bit less pointed. But it seemed like they were really trying to make a statement about things happening right now. But yeah, the conclusion, I would say, kind of pulled a Deca-Dence, where they had to make an appeal to the system itself to stop doing evil. And in this case, it was their childhood friend, and they were able to, I don’t know, give her emotional closure so that she could pass on and the system naturally ended.
DEE: That’s not a proper… It helps nothing in the real world. You made all these real-world connections and then end with fantasy.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, just completely detached. Of course, the villain is able to springboard off that to overcome the grief about his dead wife and daughter, which was what was driving him to arrest people to take away their rights to vote or whatever.
DEE: [Scoffs] Of course.
PETER: And so, there’s no bad guys and everybody is living and like, “We have problems, but we’re going to solve them together,” interwoven community type shit at the end.
DEE: That feels like a wild solution, given everything that happened before it especially.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, that guy was a villain, like a real-world villain. And again, just like Salaryman, it was just like, “Well, he realized he had made a mistake.”
DEE: So, that’s unfortunate. That explains why it didn’t make our recommendations list.
PETER: [Chuckles] Yeah.
DEE: [crosstalk] Neither of you tagged it for the disappointing conclusion, so that is too bad.
VRAI: It doesn’t even feel like it completely ate itself alive like a Wonder Egg Priority. I think Deca-Dence is a good comparison, or Muteking even, where it hits that finale and it’s like, “Oh, you didn’t quite have it committed there, did ya?”
DEE: Yeah, they couldn’t quite commit to the points they had made earlier. Yeah, that happens sometimes. Okay, anything else about Tokyo 24th Ward, or can we move along?
PETER: [crosstalk] Probably a couple essays’ worth, but I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
DEE: Yeah, honestly, it sounds like it. If you want to write up a piece about it, I think that would be terrific. It sounds like there’s a lot to talk about, even if it is, you know, critical. Could be really good.
Okay, next is Requiem of the Rose King, which is ongoing, so we’re only going to talk about the first 12 episodes, the first half. Vrai has read the entire manga, so they’re aware of the story but not watching the anime because of the sometimes dire production values. I will say we talked about that at the midway point. The production values are significantly better in the back half because there’s not as much war. And as long as the show doesn’t require a lot of dynamic movement, you don’t necessarily notice how little animation there actually is because some of the aesthetic choices are, I think, pretty effective for the kind of story it’s telling. So, when it hits a big emotional beat, it tends to do well. I don’t think I have a ton of new thoughts about this one at this point because, again, it’s ongoing, and I’m still kind of at that place I was in the middle where I’m not sure I’d recommend it but also I can’t look away. It is a very compelling melodrama. I have to give it that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yep, that’s the experience!
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a very compelling melodrama with what I assume are some problematic ideas about intersex people. But it also exists in this historical time period, so some of that is built into the fact that it’s doing a historical series. But I’m sure some of that is also just narrative flaws. Again, folks at home, we would love articles about this! This is not our wheelhouse. But Richard is a compelling protagonist and I feel bad for him at the midway point. Things, without many big spoilers because—
VRAI: He’s my son and I love him.
DEE: Some huge stuff goes down at the midway point. But, so, without any spoilers, I will say that Richard definitely goes through the wringer. And I’m curious to see where the back half of this tragedy goes. Peter, anything you want to add?
PETER: I don’t know if I have a whole lot to contribute to any sort of analysis of it. I can say that I, at the midpoint, am finding it a lot more engaging than it was previously. I made this comparison when we were chatting a bit earlier, and I hope it doesn’t drive anybody away, but I feel like this might be closer to a Code Geass I could appreciate—I don’t really like Code Geass personally—because I think it has the same sort of… it’s not going to end well for anybody and it’s gonna be very melodramatic and there’s gonna be a lot of tragedy. But in Code Geass it’s about a subjugated population and there are a lot of innocent characters that I thought did not deserve that sort of thing. And while there are a couple characters who definitely don’t deserve to be caught up in all this in Requiem for the Rose King, I think definitely most of them kind of deserve it for trying to… you know, the Game of Thrones… All of them want power.
DEE: It’s a lot of scheming nobles. Yeah.
PETER: Yeah. So, when they get their just deserts, I don’t really feel bad for them. I mean, Richard probably being one of the ones who I would say is… [Chuckles] well, at least starts out as more of a victim. We’ll see where that goes, but…
DEE: Yeah, basically the characters who are marginalized within their world you feel sympathy for. Like, him and Anne, I think, are the two who I feel the most sympathy for. But a lot of them, I’m like, “You’re kind of a shitbag, so you dying here is just like… Yeah, I mean, you were barreling towards that, weren’t you? Just as fast as you could. And you sure did get there. You sure did get to that death.” But it does sort of center itself around a few sympathetic people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think that’s… Yeah, the second half does a better job of focusing around Richard and one-on-one relationships, so especially Richard and Henry, who, despite the many, many years between them, in this fantasy realm that the story exists in they do have a very compelling relationship. So, I wouldn’t say I condone it, but it is compelling. And that is the show in a nutshell.
Okay, let’s talk about My Dress-Up Darling, which I dropped at the midway point. I talked in detail about why, so I’m just gonna shut up for this one and y’all can talk about it here.
VRAI: Okay, so, I did want to touch on it briefly because I didn’t end up finishing the anime. I do follow the manga, which is currently not in the English release all the way up to the end of the anime. It ends… it’s up right after the tanning debacle. But I did want to say that actually, I almost dropped it right out at exactly the same moment you dropped the anime, and then took like 20 minutes and was like, “Well, I borrowed this for free. I’ll just keep reading.”
And I ended up sticking with it because I find the characters really compelling, and this is basically exactly what I thought would happen when I looked at the anime: is that, when you are reading this in a manga, I can kind of skip past the gross shit, like why do you have that horrible joke about pubic hair, and why is there fanservice of a middle schooler, and why are there so many panty shots, and why can’t this just…? [Sighs] But in a manga, it’s easier to page past those things quickly and linger on the moments of: hey, these two leads are really sweet and I really dig their dynamic and I enjoy the earnestness of how it treats cosplay and love of cosplay, even if I think it’s well-meant dedication to “Cosplay should be for everyone and it’s okay if you don’t look exactly like the character”
… I think it’s really well-meant. I think it’s a little bit lip-servicey in that ultimately, besides some background characters, the manga’s treatment of a fat character is a character who has large breasts and slightly prominent hips doing a masc cosplay, which is not even as much as Complex Age got into doing cosplaying while fat, and I did not think that that one hit a super high bar!
VRAI: So, I think its heart is in the right place. I really like the leads. I’ll probably continue following the manga. But it’s really hard for me to recommend this series, both because of how the natural guided format of anime requires sitting through those gross things at a set pace… It’s a series that I hesitate to recommend. Even though there are parts of it that I like a lot, the parts of it that kind of suck stick out all the more for it. You know?
DEE: Mm-hm. No, I think that’s extremely fair. Again, I dropped it, so I’m in agreement. Peter, did you have anything you wanted to add to it?
PETER: I just want to… I agree on the points that it has a lot of problems, but I do really like the main characters. I like the framing around their affection, which I think a lot of romances just… I don’t think you necessarily need to explain why someone’s attracted to somebody else, but I do think it is nice when characters are able to articulate what attracts them to another person and it kind of feels lived in and real, and I think this series accomplishes that very well.
That said, I also believe that it has effectively… In a genre where characters remain completely oblivious to the other’s attraction for literal years, sometimes decades, this series has perhaps managed to jump the shark, like them not being aware that they’re attracted to each other with a love hotel scene. I believe they announced the second season and I do like this show, but I am worried that if it continues this thing where they’re not dating and somehow not aware that they like each other it’s going to become super grating. So that’s my primary concern. Oh, well, that, or it does anything else that’s… [Chuckles] not good out of nowhere that I have not learned of yet.
DEE: That and also the fetishization of teenagers and the issues with artificial skin darkening that have been creeping around, so, yeah.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, beyond the many issues that we’ve brought up so far, the subplots and general themes.
DEE: Yeah. I did enjoy the two main characters a lot. That was why I stuck with it as long as I did. I just wish they were in a show with less bullshit. [Chuckles] I’m sorry, folks. I’m just older and there’s too much anime out there and there’s other stuff I can watch that I don’t have to wade through the bullshit on. So that’s where I am with that one.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah. Or they were college students or something. That’d be nice, yeah.
DEE: Yeah! Just make them college students! That would be so much better!
Okay. Let’s move on to something that was nice and probably doesn’t require any caveats, Sasaki and Miyano. I don’t have a ton to add about this one from the mid—
VRAI: I love it. They’re my children.
DEE: Yeah! It was really good! I don’t have much to add from the midway point. Most of the stuff I talked about there, it continued to do. I think it did it well. I like that— You know, we talk sometimes about how BL and yuri series will exist in this magical realm totally separate from our world where the idea of queerphobia just doesn’t exist. And sometimes that can be really nice and those escapist stories are good. But when that’s all you find, it starts to feel like the entire genre doesn’t exist in the real world, as if queer people can’t exist in the real world. So I really enjoy series like Sasaki and Miyano or, as an older example—not that old, but a couple years ago—given, as stories that actually engage with the characters realizing that… like, Miyano coming to terms with the fact that, “Oh, I liked a girl, but now I like a boy. So I…” And he never uses the word “bi,” but he effectively says, “I guess I like both girls and guys.” And then there’s a subplot with a supporting character where his brother comes out, and he kind of has to recalibrate his life and think about something he’d maybe never thought about before, where he might not have been homophobic necessarily, but insensitive towards queer people. And so, that idea of navigating that in the real world, I like that that is somewhat in the story here.
There’s also a few moments where it very lightly touches on the way reading something only in fiction but not seeing it in real life can lead to fetishization of it, with the way Miyano talks about gay people and ships real-world people and his friends are like, “Hey, please stop doing that. That’s weird and uncomfortable.” And there’s a scene at the movie theater where they come out of a BL movie and these girls who are coming out of the movie are like, “Do you think those guys are together?” And it has this kind of uncomfortable element of “OMG! IRL BL!” So, I like that it touches on that a little bit. I think it could have gone harder, but ultimately, this is a very sweet, soft romcom, so I just don’t think that was ever going to be in the cards for it. But I really like these kids! What about you, Vrai?
VRAI: Well, I do also like that— I like that those moments are allowed to linger and be uncomfortable. But I do think it also threads that needle nicely, of… You know, sometimes, as long as it’s not the only thing that’s out there, sometimes you do want absurd, really tropey romance series, and that can be a nice source of solace. So, I think this is having a really nuanced dialogue with that thing that’s kind of always a question if you’re a fan of yuri and BL. So, I just really liked it. It’s so, I think, unassuming when you look at it, but the writing is so smart and the visual directing is so subtle and it’s doing a lot of cool stuff with masculinity and these kids are just nice and I can’t wait for season 2.
DEE: Is it getting a…? It is getting a season 2, because they announced that at the very end. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, too. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops. It is a slow burn, but… I guess, folks, skip ahead 15 seconds if you don’t want to hear a spoiler. It’s a slow burn, but they get together at the end of this season. So, a second season would be navigating their relationship with them dating, and I think that would be also really nice to see because you don’t always get that with these shows; you get “They get together” and then it ends. So, I’m looking forward to that. I like how supportive all their friends are. Their friends just assumed they were dating before they actually were, and they were just like, “Oh! I mean, that’s fine. We’re fine with it. We just assumed you guys were together.”
And yeah, you’re right. Some of the stuff he does with masculinity and Miyano, like dealing with the fact that he has kind of a feminine appearance and not necessarily liking it, but then sort of coming to be more at peace with that part of himself… I don’t know. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really well done, and yeah, the visual direction is terrific. So, I don’t think I have any critiques! Do you, Vrai? I think it was just a nice show that I liked. I know some people found it boring. I did not. I found it soothing. So…
VRAI: It is definitely a show that you want to be in the mood for, because I noticed that if I watched an episode and I was… I would end up feeling a little bit antsy, but if I was just there to chill out and vibe, I had a really good time with it. Because I don’t think it really drags. It’s just going at its own pace, and you have to be there for that or it won’t be a good time.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think that’s absolutely, absolutely fair. It has a pace that it sets in the early episodes, and if that’s not for you, that’s okay. But that is very much what it wants to do with itself. So, yeah, I enjoyed it. Okay, cool. That one was nice and simple.
Next on the list is—this is our final new show, and then we’ll get into the carryovers and sequels—Sabikui Bisco. We don’t have to spend a ton of time on this one because I think most of my thoughts from the midway point carry forward. Peter, you did also finish this one to completion. What did you think?
PETER: I would say I enjoyed it. I think I wish it was like a 24-episode series since… I think it was episodes 3 to 6, where they were kind of journeying, needed a bit more room to breathe, because the last six episodes, they were soulmates and they had this Trigger-esque escalation of ridiculous conflict that ended in wild superpower god fights type stuff.
DEE: It was great! [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, I’m not complaining about any of that. But I think if it was two cours, they could have done more with… Also, just them exploring the world and running into more ridiculous creatures would have been fun. I really wish the series had more room to breathe in the middle to develop the friendship, develop the world, that kind of thing, because it had to devote… I think it was like five or six episodes… to just the last arc with fighting—I don’t remember what he was called—the mayor or something.
DEE: The corrupt politician.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
DEE: The corrupt politician kaiju, yes. [Chuckles]
PETER: Who fortunately was defeated.
DEE: But I am glad that you described this Trigger-esque because I definitely had that thought with this one, too, where I was like, this kind of feels like it should have been animated by Trigger because it has that similar… powerful bromance feelings and progressively-escalating-to-the-point-of-absurdity action scenes in a way that was very confident and fun. I just had a really fun time with this one. That’s where I am with it.
I wish more action fantasies were like Sabikui Bisco in terms of pacing, partly, and then, also, I thought the way it handled its female characters was pretty good. They’re side characters but they’re not sidelined. Tirol shows up back at the end and kind of helps them get around. And then Pawoo winds up playing an integral role in the final fight, which I really, really appreciated because there’s a kidnapping arc in the center that makes sense in context but I was like, “Pawoo better get to do something cool before this is over or I’m gonna be pissed!” And so, I was really glad at the end when it kind of hit that point where it’s like, “You’re the only person who could possibly do this thing that we need done to defeat the big bad,” and she’s like, “Hell yeah.” So, I liked the way it wrote its female characters. I would say, not quite as good as Radiant, but as far as my action fantasy tier go, it’s sort of up there in terms of how I appreciated the way it handled them.
PETER: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] The shounen bar has been cleared!
DEE: The shounen bar has been cleared. Well, and that’s… I mean, one common comeback when we talk about female characters in shounen not getting a lot to do is “Oh, well, it’s targeted at boys, so the main characters are boys. What do you expect?” And I’m like, “Yeah, the main characters are boys, but the girls can still do shit. You can have subplots that are also important to the story. They don’t have to just stand there looking around.” And shows like Radiant and Sabikui Bisco, I think, do a good job of showing how you can have a supporting cast that also does things, a supporting female cast in particular. So I really enjoyed that about it. I liked the central… I called it a bromance. Milo actually says he loves—he uses the word “ai”—he loves Bisco. So, however you want to read that at home is up to you. It’s open to interpretation.
VRAI: I was about to say, is at least as gay as Promare? Because that’s what I heard.
PETER: There’s the Pawoo moment at the end, though.
DEE: There is… I mean, it’s either a weird polyamory with siblings with somebody in between them, or…
PETER: [crosstalk] That’s not good.
DEE: No! … or it’s Milo just has a platonic… it’s a platonic love, which, hey, I’m okay with. I like it when boys can say “I love you” to each other. I think it’s sweet. So, again, open to interpretation, however you want to read that one. I really like—
PETER: Pawoo is definitely romantically interested in Bisco, though. She basically said, “I demand a prize for defeating the enemy, and that will be Bisco.”
DEE: [Chuckles] They smooch. They did have a smooch. So, like I said— You could argue that it’s queerbaiting, but I don’t think that was the intent. I think the intent was, again, kind of this powerful, I guess, asexual love story between the two leads. I’m not sure how else to describe it. I enjoyed it.
PETER: [crosstalk] When you’re so close to your bro you briefly share the same soul? Yeah.
DEE: Exactly! They’re literal soulmates, which doesn’t have to have romantic connotations to it, I don’t personally think. So, again, we don’t have time to dig into all those layers there. But I enjoyed— Yeah, I just had a good time with this one. I like that… I mean, it doesn’t go as hard on the progressive themes as I thought maybe it might at the beginning, but I was kind of okay with it. They punch the corrupt politician in the face and they defeat the pandemic, and I’m like, “This is nice. I like this. I like this aspirational escapism where you can punch these big world problems in the face. This is fun.”
So, yeah, overall, I had a good time with it. Again, I would not call it a progressive manifesto necessarily, but I think it’s a really fun show. If you like action fantasy, I can think of very few reasons why you wouldn’t have a good time with this one. Also, the worldbuilding is just delightfully weird and imaginative. The creatures that they run into are so good! The floating puffer fish… I clapped with giddy glee in episode 4. So, yeah. Yeah, this one’s a recommendation from me, for sure. Okay. And other than some very mild fanservice and Pawoo’s outfit, which I’ve talked about before being cleavage heavy, there’s not a ton to warn folks about either, which is also great.
Okay, we have sequels and carryovers galore. I’m gonna real quick say Kiyo in Kyoto was a very nice show, and that’s about all I’ll say about it. I’m gonna recommend it in one of our monthly recs, so y’all should become patrons for $1 and then you’ll see that monthly rec. Yay! And then I’m gonna go up the list. So, I fell behind on Saiyuki and Lupin Part 6, mostly because my HIDIVE sub expired and I just was too lazy to bring it back. So, I haven’t gone back to those yet, but I might at some point. Vrai, let’s talk about The Case Study of Vanitas for a minute.
VRAI: [Inhales deeply, speaks in quiet singsong] I love them.
VRAI: No, I think it’s—
PETER: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] You have 59 more seconds.
VRAI: Yeah, no, there we go. Uh… I don’t even know at this point. It’s really pretty. I thought it was good. I would like another season, please. These characters give me feelings.
DEE: Yeah. Well, they’re caught up on the manga, so it might be a bit, although Bones has done a pretty good job— If the show was successful—and I really hope it was—if the show was successful, Bones does a pretty good job of keeping franchises going while they wait for more manga material with anime-original movies and things like that. So, I’m hoping we do see more Case Study of Vanitas. Or… Or… Hey, Bones, you know what you could do in the meanwhile? You could adapt the entirety of Pandora Hearts. Just saying. Same author. Same mangaka. You could do that for me. That would be so great!
VRAI: Hold that torch, Dee. You hold it.
DEE: I’m gonna hold that torch forever. Yeah, so, the anime is a… As far as faithful adaptations go, I think it’s really, really good. I think it did a very good job with the source material. [Sighs] I don’t even know. There’s so much we could talk about with this one, I’m half-tempted to be like, “Maybe we should just do a separate episode on it.” The manga’s still ongoing. The anime pretty much—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Honestly, we could.
DEE: The anime pulled up basically to the last chapter and then parked the bus. And they found a good stopping point, so it’s not like you end on a cliffhanger or anything. It does a lot with trauma and healing and community (that’s Mochizuki’s bag; she loves it) and the varying spectrum of queerness and what that might mean to different people and characters. I think it ends up doing good by its female characters, where at the beginning it felt like maybe it wouldn’t. I think that Jeanne and—oh my God—Domi both get really good arcs about agency and individualism and honoring themselves for themselves, which is kind of the… I mean, every character kind of has that arc as well, but I like that they get rolled into it as well. It’s not just about the boys. Yeah, I like it. You know, it’s a messy series, I think, in a lot of ways, but, again, it’s one that is very compelling and, I think, very emotionally sincere in a way that resonated with a lot of folks. So, I hope folks at home liked it.
VRAI: Yeah. It is intensely faithful to the manga, panel-for-panel at some points. My only complaint is that they kind of straight-washed Domi a little bit in that they took— One of the only things that got cut was a lot of background scenes of her flirting with various girls. A couple of them survived, like a couple of scenes she has with Jeanne, but I don’t know, that bummed me out.
DEE: Yeah, they did have to trim some of the bonus material where you get to see Domi being more openly bisexual, so that is too bad that the anime didn’t get more of that in there. Although I will say I think in some ways it went harder on Noé/Vanitas. Some of the erotically charged material in the anime went way harder than the manga did! So, in some ways I think it found other ways to kind of balance that out. So, the anime is still plenty queer, I would say.
VRAI: Yay! Yeah, no, you know, we could do a retrospective on this easily.
DEE: [crosstalk] We could, it might be worth it.
VRAI: And I feel like a chunk of the staff is watching it, so…
DEE: Yeah, maybe that’s something we can look into at some point. Hey, folks at home, let us know if you’d be interested in a full Vanitas retrospective where we could really dig into these characters and all their messy connections with one another. Okay, Princess Connect season 2. Peter, you and I both finished this one. Vrai, I know you were watching it, but I don’t know how far you got.
VRAI: I’m not done. I’m hoping to!
DEE: Yeah, good luck! I would say it’s worth it. My very short recommendation for Princess Connect season 2 is it’s worth watching. I really enjoyed the first season. I think the second season, the plot gets maybe too convoluted for its own business, but it [continues] to connect (ha-ha) to the characters and the main four and their emotional journey with each other, and especially Pecorine and… Karl? No, Karyl!
DEE: … and their relationship with each other. Throughout all the buckwild literal gods, I think, fighting each other, it stays grounded in those relationships, so I continued to care even as the story got kind of silly in the back half. Their relationship is really, really nice to see play out, and I… Yeah, I really enjoyed this one. Again, like with season 1, I thought the middle dipped but the beginning and the end brought it home.
VRAI: Yeah, honestly, the only reason it didn’t just go by the wayside like most of the stuff I watched the season is that I really like Pecorine and Karyl.
DEE: They’re lovely.
VRAI: Oh! My feelings.
PETER: Then you should definitely finish this season.
DEE: And Kokkoro’s a lovely… Yeah. And Kokkoro and Yuuki are both great. Yuuki’s still a sweet baby, although he’s getting some memories back. But he’s still a good, supportive boy, and I like him. I really like him as a protag.
PETER: [crosstalk] The memories are that he was always a sweet baby. [Chuckles]
DEE: [Chuckles] Basically. He was always a sweet baby. He can just… He can vocalize it more.
PETER: The meta plot is very convoluted and I don’t really have much affection for the central plot or any of that kind of stuff. But so, yeah, this one, it did more plot stuff, which meant less fun hijinks, so in that way I think season 1 was a bit funner, but I do think the conclusion to the epic conflict is spectacular and very good to all the characters, so in that way I’m kind of glad that they did do the conflict because you got to see everybody’s happy ending.
DEE: Yeah, I think I said in the three-episode review for the first season that Pecorine was actually the main character and Yuuki was sort of like a Trojan horse, almost. And I think that really held true. I really liked her arc of her kind of finding her worth just as an individual rather than as a princess, and this community she built up around her and how important that was and protecting the kingdom’s people rather than just protecting them because she’s royalty, and then combined with her relationship with Karyl and the friendship that they found there, and Karyl, who was very codependent on this one person, being able to also find that community aspect and be able to reach out and help other people as well. I thought those character arcs really were what tied the whole story together, so no matter how wild and away from the emotionality of the main characters the plot got, it always came back to those characters’ stories. And so, yeah, I thought it hit really well at the end, as well.
VRAI: Yeah, no, I’m just glad that it transpired— I don’t know if it’s officially or just we all observed this to be the case, but I’m very glad that the anime exists as basically an AU of the game because that means I don’t have to deal with the weird high school stuff that made me stop playing the game.
DEE: [Chuckles] That is… I believe it’s that these characters might be isekai’d or trapped in a video game type setup. That is very briefly hinted at and then they don’t ever discuss it, and I’m a-okay with that!
DEE: Yeah. And it has a good ending. The series is popular enough. Maybe it’ll end up getting a season 3, but it really doesn’t need one. I think season 2 wraps up all the plot points really well and, again, the character arcs really well, so it feels like a very satisfying conclusion to the story. So, season 1 was a huge surprise favorite for me and season 2, I think, carried that through. So, it’s a nice one, folks, if you can handle a little fanservice and boob nonsense, and it’s pretty mild and kind of tongue-in-cheek and playful. It’s a fun time, again, with some really good character arcs for its female characters, which is terrific.
Okay, so the next one is Ranking of Kings, which by the time this podcast drops our season recommendation post will have come out. And I’m sure people will be like, “Why isn’t Ranking of Kings on here?” So, I guess this is where we talk about how this show kind of lost us in its back third. Vrai and Peter, you both finished this one as well, right? I think like the entire staff watched this one. And I think we all had a very similar reaction to the last third of this series, which we were extremely high on at the midway point, I do have to say. If we picked ongoing shows as recommendations, it would have been like top rec for fall. So, what a difference a cour makes. Who wants to start? [Chuckles] How do we begin? Why did show—?
VRAI: [crosstalk] Fuck the Ouken fight so much!
DEE: Yeah, how did this show lose you? How did you go from it being your top pick to a show you’re not even gonna write a recs post for, I guess would be my question. Vrai, do you want to keep going? You started with “Fuck the Ouken fight,” so…
VRAI: Yeah. I think… [Sighs] I mean, it’s not just that, but I think that fight that went on for, my God, at least a quarter of the cour, is kind of emblematic of what ended up happening with the back half in general. It’s what happens to a lot of shounen series that I initially like and then that lose me: is that they start falling more heavily into some of the more… they get away from their strong, initial concepts and start leaning more and more heavily on established tropes, which can be fun when they’re sprinkled throughout. But if you run into a whole bunch all at once, such that the things that made the show stand out and unique start to fall away, then why am I even watching it anymore?
Specifically, I got real bummed out that very early on into the second cour, the show started to lean pretty heavily on Bojji’s lip-reading so that they just didn’t bother animating sign language anymore, in a way that felt pretty lazy after they’d taken a lot of care with that in the first half.
I didn’t like that Bojji’s power-up arc meant that now, despite him being this character who was really heavy on communication in the first half and empathy, it just turned into “Do your empathy by fighting harder with your now-unbeatable technique.”
And also, the fact that we always have a healer meant that the show keeps dragging out suffering for these characters. But nobody’s ever going to die. So it just feels like I am endlessly sitting through this session of pummeling after pummeling, but it’s not going to stick or mean anything in the long haul. And that was exhausting. And it pissed me off.
And also, the racism.
DEE: [Laughs] Yeah, so, I guess for folks at home who didn’t hear about this, backstory with… hey, look, all these characters’ names have fallen out of my head again. The king, Bosse, because he’s the boss.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, Bosse and Miranjo.
DEE: Yeah, Bosse and Miranjo. Their backstory, which… And I will fully admit I did not pick up on the subtext here. I read this very differently until I saw some articles that were doing some kind of one-to-one shots and showing how this was very clearly kind of propaganda. The way Miranjo’s backstory is told is… Guys, correct me if I’m saying this wrong. It’s kind of the way that revisionist historians in Japan talk about Japan’s Invasion of Korea, in that it was like, “Oh, we came and we gave them all this great technology. And they just didn’t appreciate any of it and they resented us,” even though what was actually happening was colonialism and people were being exploited and oppressed. So, Ranking of Kings, the way it tells that story is the way that a conservative movement in Japan tells the history of World War II and the invasion of Korea. Did I cover it pretty well there?
VRAI: That is my understanding. Yes.
DEE: Okay. Yeah, and ANN did a really detailed article that kind of went into showing some of the cuts from the manga and how they compared to some actual photos and things like that, which we should be able to link to in the show notes, I think. And so that was the first sort of flag that threw up for me.
I do also want to make a quick addendum to the point you said about the lip-reading becoming more and more of a thing so nobody was signing. I did some reading on this, and obviously I’m not speaking for the entire deaf community. I cannot do that. But I did some reading from some members of the Deaf community talking about how sign language and English or Japanese or whatever language… Those are different languages, so lip-reading is effectively like… It’s kind of like translating. It’s like a second language, right? So, if somebody’s like, “Oh, I can also read lips,” and you’re like, “Oh, cool. I don’t have to sign at all,” it is kind of like being like, “Oh, I never have to bother learning your first language.” So, the fact that they just—and even the characters who know sign language—stop using it is strange and kind of ableist, is, I think, what I would say. It doesn’t really fit with maybe the way the story should have told that, especially with how much time it spent in the first half talking about accessibility and Bojji not trying to be someone he isn’t and leaning into who he is and his own strengths and things like that. So, I did want to just kind of add on to that point.
Yeah, I mean, my biggest thing was part two really wanted me to give a shit about Bosse, and I don’t know why. They really wanted me to sympathize with him and, I guess, feel bad for all the murders, and I never did. I felt like he used his children… I thought the show was doing a thing about toxic masculinity and the older generation literally devouring the younger to stay in power, which I thought was really interesting. And then it’s just like, “No, Bosse was sad and didn’t want to be brought back to life anyway, and he felt really bad about taking all of Bojji’s strength to keep himself strong, so I guess he gets to go to heaven now.” And that was the main… Yeah, the racism threw up the flags, and then everything with Bosse from there to the end… I just couldn’t. I could not in good faith recommend it after all that, as much as I loved the first half and everything with Bojji and Kage and their wonderful teacher, Despa. But that’s where I was. Peter, how about you?
PETER: I kind of felt like the… You know how Game of Thrones was a pretty popular show that everybody liked until they ran out of source material, and then it turned out they didn’t have any idea and the directors weren’t that good and they had to come up with ideas on their own suddenly? It felt like that except I know that they were still using the writer’s main stuff. It honestly felt like the second half was done by a different person, is what I’m trying to get at, essentially. I do think Wit did their best—
DEE: No, I think that’s a good way to explain it.
PETER: Thank you. I think Wit did their best to really sell it, but it’s just like, I don’t know, everything was set up and then they just had no… or the author had no idea how to conclude the story. The Ouken stuff just… I really… I thought that Ouken’s arc, much like everyone else’s as it was initially set up in the first cour, was very fascinating and I couldn’t wait to see what they did with it. But then they fought him for like eight episodes and it came to nothing.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah. Absolutely nothing.
PETER: All of it was just to set up the Miranjo–Bosse thing. So, the whole fight was pointless. And that just felt awful, especially after how long they’d dragged it out. And yeah, as Vrai was saying, it seemed very conflict free since, before, people would lose limbs and stuff and then effectively everybody walked away from the Ouken fight just perfectly fine. Yeah, of course there’s all the unfortunate similarities to certain elements of propaganda, World War II propaganda.
But that Daida–Miranjo thing at the end where he declares his love for her came out of nowhere and was just a bad idea.
DEE: I didn’t even talk…!
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
DEE: I didn’t even talk about that! That’s how checked out I was by the end. Yeah, um… God, everything with Miranjo and…
PETER: [crosstalk] Pretty much everything around Miranjo, yeah, is bad. I think they come at her story from so many different angles and with so many different time skips that I never really felt like I really gained a full understanding of what actually happened and was able to empathize. Or maybe I did and it just wasn’t good enough to make me empathize. It just felt very hackneyed. And then the ending was wrapped up in a package that distanced her, and then the Daida proposal thing came out of absolute nowhere and was very gross. And that was just suddenly the ending, after all of that tremendous buildup in the first 12 episodes.
DEE: She’s so much older than him!
PETER: It’s gross, yeah.
DEE: I mean, we don’t know how old she is, but she’s definitely an adult. Well, and there’s this troubling undercurrent between her and Bosse that I think is kind of leaning into this idea of codependency and like he was her whole world and so she did everything for him to the point of it being toxic and self-destructive and hurting other people, that I think the show could have done something interesting with. But because it basically just goes, “Oh, these poor, sad people. Feel bad for them. And now they go to heaven,” it’s never able to really hit on those elements, so it ends up having this kind of troubling storyline that feels like Bosse was kind of grooming her and then she was kind of grooming his kid and now it’s this weird cycle of adults with children spouses. I know Miranjo and Bosse were never spouses, but there’s very much this “I was in love with him; he was my whole world” aspect to it. So, I don’t know if the show even knew what it was trying to do there. It does kind of feel like the mangaka just sort of started scrambling at the end.
PETER: Yeah. It kinda Wonder Egg-ed itself.
DEE: Yeah, it kind of Wonder Egg-ed itself. [Chuckles] God, is that going to be a description we use from now on? “Boy, that show really Wonder Egg-ed it, huh?” [Chuckles] Oof. Yeah. So, folks at home, if you were wondering why we didn’t recommend Ranking of Kings, I think that gives you a wide array of reasons why it kind of lost our goodwill in the back third. And that’s a damn shame because Bojji and Kage are great and Hiling was great, and they deserved a better finale and to be the focus instead of getting sidelined for this subplot with his shitty dad that I continued to not care about.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Honestly, the first half is so great, I almost recommend it on its own, but it doesn’t quite stand alone.
DEE: Yeah, I don’t know if there’s really a good stopping point.
PETER: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] Yeah, like watching the first nine episodes of Wonder Egg.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, it’s kind of an interesting comparison point. Both Ranking of Kings and Princess Connect kind of went off the rails plot-wise, but Princess Connect continued to connect it back to the main characters’ stories with each other so that it worked. Ranking of Kings did not. It lost that core heart that it had in the first half, and I think that’s really what… Because plots can get weird, and I will follow you, but you have to be able to link it back to the reason the show clicked in the first place, which in this case was Bojji’s journey and his friendships and connections and all that good stuff. So, womp-womp, Ranking of Kings.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh! I also want to say I really did not like that Kage felt sidelined after Bojji became king and decided that he should leave just out of nowhere. That just felt ridiculous, completely ridiculous, so I couldn’t jive with that entire arc. And then, Bojji, after all that struggle to become king, becomes king and then decides to just hang out with Kage instead and leaves to go on some sort of quest instead of ruling the country after all that. I just… It blew me away that that’s how the series ended, as well.
DEE: I sort of liked the idea of Bojji being like, “No, no, no, this, this isn’t mine. I want to start something of my own. I don’t want to just inherit from my dad.” I liked that element, but I thought it was weird that they went through the whole process of him becoming king and then having it happen. When Daida was like, “You should be king,” Bojji should have been like, “Actually, no, that’s not what I want.” And then I think it would have clicked a lot better, him being like, “No, I want to go do this other thing instead.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, that would’ve been cool.
DEE: And then he and Kage went off together. Because, really, the final little bit with the two of them back on the road, I was like, “Okay, good. The series in theory is getting back to what made it good,” which is the two of them going on adventures together. But yeah, I agree with you. The final episode, there’s a lot of bouncing back and forth between “This happened and then this happened and then this happened, but not really” that it’s kind of hard to get a grip on.
But okay. We need to move on. I think that’s enough talking about Ranking of Kings. We don’t have time to get into 86 because there’s so damn much to talk about! 86 technically ended this season—
VRAI: Speaking of things that super need a retrospective.
DEE: Yeah, 86 technically ended this season. I think we’re just gonna… Let’s just… Hoo, I’m about to commit myself to a thing. I think we should commit ourselves to an 86 retrospective, because there is a lot to pick apart in that and there are other voices I would like to get involved in that conversation.
PETER: Yes! [Chuckles] Yeah.
DEE: So, I think I want to put a pin in that one. I will have a recommendation for it on the site. It’ll be up by the time this podcast goes live. So, folks, you’re welcome to read that if you want kind of just an overview of my—anyway—my general thoughts on it. And then, we will do our utmost to schedule a retrospective for this one and come back to it with a wider array of voices to talk about this very complex, messy show that was also very sincere in its message about how fascism was bad actually, which I genuinely appreciated. There’s a lot more to it than that. It engages with that in a way that I really respected the complexity of it, but also season 2 was kind of a mess. But yeah, we’ll talk about that in more detail at a later date, I think, is a good idea.
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