Caitlin, Alex, and Peter check in on an absolutely packed Spring season and it’s many good dads, rap battles, and games of volleyball!
Date Recorded: May 14th, 2022
Hosts: Caitlin, Alex, and Peter
0:02:45 Skeleton Knight in Another World
0:03:35 Trapped in a Dating Sim
0:05:27 Tomodachi Game
0:06:42 The Greatest Demon Lord is Reborn as a Typical Nobody
0:07:59 Ya Boy Kongming!
0:13:36 SPY x FAMILY
0:21:36 Love After World Domination
0:24:41 Healer Girl
0:28:10 Aharen-san wa Hakarenai
0:37:22 Fanfare of Adolescence
0:42:47 The Executioner and Her Way of Life
0:49:51 BIRDIE WING -Golf Girls’ Story-
0:54:15 Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie
0:59:55 Heroines Run the Show
1:11:28 Dance Dance Danseur
CAITLIN: Hi and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. I’m Caitlin, one of the managing editors at AniFem and a reviewer at Anime News Network. Today I am joined by my fellow staffers—AniFem staffers, that is—Peter and Alex. Go ahead and introduce yourselves.
ALEX: Hi, I am Alex. I’m also an editor here at AniFem. In my daytime life I’m an exhausted but passionate academic. I know I introduced myself like this sometime last year, but now it’s more accurate. I am just about to submit a doctoral thesis about queer fiction. And you could find me on Twitter @TheAfictionado.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate manager of social media at Crunchyroll and an editor here at Anime Feminist. On Twitter I’m @PeterFobian.
CAITLIN: And on Twitter I am @alltsun_nodere.
So, we are currently at the midpoint of the spring 2022 season. And honestly, this has been a pretty strong one so far.
ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, agreed.
CAITLIN: So, the recurring themes of the season so far seem to be rap battles [chuckles] and dads.
PETER: Good dads.
CAITLIN: Good dads, with a little bit of crossdressing mixed in.
PETER: Lots of volleyball, too.
CAITLIN: Lots of volleyball.
PETER: Every rom-com has a volleyball game in it for some reason. I don’t know why.
ALEX: Ah, might be a new emerging trope.
CAITLIN: Yeah, rap battles and volleyball. [Laughs]
PETER: Yeah, girls’ volleyball, rap battles.
ALEX: Young love, forged in the fire of high school volleyball.
CAITLIN: I mean, you know, that’s just sports anime.
So, as usual, we’re going to talk about things starting from the bottom up, skipping over the lower categories including Pit of Shame and Red Flags, unless Peter, who watches all of the trash anime every season…
PETER: [Slightly skeptically] Mm.
CAITLIN: Not all of it, just most of it.
PETER: Most of it, yeah.
CAITLIN: …has any updates on anything that has changed significantly. So, Peter, is there anything that we need to know about any of these?
PETER: I think pretty much everything for Pit of Shame and Red Flags was kind of covered in the first episode. I do think Skeleton Knight is actually, as far as power fantasies go, really good because it’s just a dude being a sentai hero and running around living his best life. But it starts probably the worst way it ever could. I don’t think they know how to balance any of that content, and that’s just very unfortunate. Also, the elves are from Canada in that series; the magical forest of Canada.
PETER: It’s like if the entire anime wasn’t centered around him trying to take down an elf sex slavery ring, it probably would have been really fun. But that kept it from being fun.
CAITLIN: Ah, well, I’ll refrain from making jokes about Canadian accents.
PETER: Mm-hm. I guess I should mention really fast that I think Otome Game… What should I say: it tried? It’s trying to challenge Leon’s negative perceptions about otome games.
I think it textually had him walk in with some perceptions that were based on his own prejudices being forced to play the game, that he sort of overcomes. Like, he perceived the MC as a rotten schemer because that’s how he was playing the character, not because that’s how she actually was. So, when he meets her, he’s just like, “Oh, it’s just because I was trying to beat the game and being extremely mercenary in all my social interactions.”
And also, he hated tea parties because he didn’t like playing them, but then he thinks real tea parties are lit and gets super into them.
PETER: The only problem is the main villain… I think it’s heavily implied it’s his sister, who is playing the new MC. She’s basically doing the same thing as he is but is a villain for some reason. And he’s kind of an asshole. I think it’s trying to say, like, “Oh, he’s broadening his horizons and challenging his own perceptions,” but it pretty much says all the girls are stuck-up rich girls. He regularly criticizes them for their appearance or their weight or something like that, so he’s just a dick in the first place.
I feel like the author was trying to do something, but they probably should’ve stuck with another genre. I probably talked about this too much already. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: [Laughs] We’re gonna run out of time to talk about the best ones! [Laughs]
PETER: [crosstalk] That’s it. That’s Otome Game.
CAITLIN: All right, well, now onto Yellow Flags. There’s another kind of game—multiple other kinds of game, such as the Tomodachi Game, which, Peter, you are also the only one watching of the three of us here.
PETER: Mm-hm. I’m kind of disappointed in this one. I thought it was going to be kind of like King’s Game, but I think it’s trying to be Kaiji except it’s got so many rules that it’s absolutely impenetrable. Like, you need to take notes, you have to pay attention the whole time. It’s all really super-specific debt-exchanging and is not as fun as Kaiji. So, I kind of bounced off of this series. Yeah, just sort of a disappointment.
CAITLIN: Yeah, sounds like just a death game series that’s trying too hard to be different.
PETER: Also, all the characters are bad so there’s nobody to root for, really. It’s just kind of a… Yeah, feels bad. Lots of better death game content out there, I think.
CAITLIN: Such as Danganronpa.
PETER: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, yes. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, no, I love— Actually, I do love Danganronpa, but I said that with a trace of irony in my voice, but I really love Danganronpa, so… Danganronpa’s good.
So, nobody here is watching RPG Real Estate. And Peter—
PETER: [crosstalk] No. Watched the first episode. That’s it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, there was a funny joke in the first episode. And now, Peter, you are once again the only one watching The Greatest Demon Lord Is Reborn as a Typical Nobody.
PETER: Yeah. It’s basically just a power fantasy… I think reincarnation is replacing isekai as the new fantasy default, where some demon lord reincarnates himself 3000 years in the future. It always turns into him having a mini-harem of girls around him. At least this one’s kind of honest about it, I guess.
But I thought the most attractive part about the series early on was: he was so powerful that he didn’t really need to socialize with people normally, as the demon lord or whatever he used to be that the great hero… I can’t remember which one he is. So, the first episode is him just trying to have a normal conversation with a girl, but he only knows how to grandstand, and it’s very awkward.
But by episode 2, it’s already forgotten that, and that was honestly the only… the charming point of the series for me. So, it’s just him kicking people’s asses and having a bunch of girls hanging out with him that really like him. One of the girls textually wants to start a harem for him.
CAITLIN: [deadpan] Cool!
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great.
CAITLIN: All right. So, moving—
PETER: Anyway. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: [Laughs] Moving on, we have the show where Peter is the only one not watching it. What a twist of fate!
PETER: That’s crazy!
CAITLIN: Ya Boy Kongming.
CAITLIN: Oh, my gosh! Which, Alex, how have you felt about it?
ALEX: So, it’s fun. It’s a fun time. It definitely wins the prize, I think, for best one-sentence premise of the season.
ALEX: Though I definitely agree with the issues Vrai brought up in the three-ep, where it’s having this weird issue where Eiko, the main girl… In theory, her motivation is what’s driving the plot, but she’s not actually doing super a lot.
ALEX: And it’s in this weird… I notice this imbalance where basically all of her team of tacticians, as it were, they’re all dudes and the only other female characters have been her sort of shitty rivals. That being said, the most recent episode ends with her kind of bonding with this other musician on the street who is also a lady. So that might help tip that balance a little bit? I’m hoping.
Because yeah, it’s still a lot of fun. You know, ancient Chinese rap battles are… It carries all the musicality off. It carries the vibe off. It’s just fun and it’s kind of silly to enjoy, but it just has that… you know, that little niggling issue, niggling away at the back of my brain.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that too. And in fairness, it seems like a lot of it is just Kongming planning stuff out and everyone else is just like “What are you doing?” and Kongming is like “Don’t worry about it. I got you, boo.” And then he pulls off his plan and it goes incredibly.
PETER: Is he a demon lord that reincarnated himself 3000 years in the future?
CAITLIN: Oh, Peter, do you not know about…? [Chuckles] Do you not know about Zhuge Liang, courtesy name Kongming, the greatest strategist of the…?
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. I play Dynasty Warriors, and I’ve heard of him, yeah.
CAITLIN: I have actually not consumed— The thing that I know that I like that I would know most about Romance of the Three Kingdoms from is Princess Jellyfish.
ALEX: Okay! Huh!
CAITLIN: I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but one of the characters, Mayaya, is very, very into Romance of the Three Kingdoms. She is obsessed with it to the point where she cannot function. Everything in life is related to Romance of the Three Kingdoms. And so, everything I know about it I’ve learned either from her or I have learned from my oft-mentioned husband Jared, who does like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and will explain things to me—sometimes when I don’t want him to.
CAITLIN: Which, that’s marriage, baby.
ALEX: Do you feel a sense of a connection to the bar owner character who is also a massive Three Kingdoms nerd and that’s why he hires like Kongming? [Chuckles] Do you look at him and feel a familiarity?
CAITLIN: Yeah, yeah, I feel like Eiko when they’re sitting there talking about it and she’s like, “All right, I hope… I’m glad you guys are having fun.”
ALEX: [Chuckles] So, yeah, I think, yeah, this one’s fun, though I’m still holding out to see if it does a little bit better by its women characters, because it’s been a bit [imitates a creaky door] on that front so far. And it can only carry itself on the sheer cool factor of reincarnated music manager Kongming for so long.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, fortunately, it doesn’t have to carry itself for that long because it is a single-cour series.
ALEX: This is true. This is also true.
CAITLIN: I’m not sure if the anime— The anime is definitely still running. I’m not sure if the manga is still running, though.
ALEX: Hm. I don’t know. Yeah, I mean, apart from her taking over the world of music, I’m not quite sure what sort of conclusion it could build to. Could go on forever if they wanted to, if they want to keep building that same joke.
PETER: Oh, it’s still going.
CAITLIN: Oh, it is? Okay.
PETER: Nine volumes and counting, yeah.
CAITLIN: All right. So, new question, exclusive to this season probably: where do you think this one ranks in the rap battle series of the season?
ALEX: [Chuckles] What are the other series that have had rap battles? I know Aharen-san has…
CAITLIN: Aharen and Kaguya-sama.
ALEX: Oh, okay. I have not kept up with either of those at the moment, so I don’t know but…
CAITLIN: Oh my gosh! Well, I’ve been watching all three, and this one definitely wins.
PETER: Oh, wow.
CAITLIN: The rap battle was better than anything that they had even in Hypnosis Mic. Which, in fairness, Hypnosis Mic does not have the best… I’m not a big rap person, but even I could tell that… Yeah, no, this one was actually really good.
ALEX: I mean, I guess it’s one professional and one Kongming. [Chuckles] So, it’s elevated, perhaps.
CAITLIN: And just like everyone else, shoutout to the translator Jake Jung for absolutely nailing that.
Next one, everyone is watching on the team. This might be a first. Every single member of the AniFem team is watching Spy × Family.
ALEX: That’s because it’s good! It’s just a good time.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s so good!
ALEX: It’s just a rollicking good time. [Chuckles]
ALEX: It’s just a good time. I think the most recent episode came out in the middle of last night for me. I haven’t watched that one, but I can’t think of anything to flag content-wise. It’s good, you know, because it’s doing stuff, like, Yor is obviously meant to be sexy and attractive, but it’s not obsessed with sexualizing her. Anya, we could say, is one of… I don’t know, is she one of the great young girl protagonists of our time? Could be! [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Okay, no, I’ve got stuff to say about Anya because, honestly… Once again, for those of you who are new around here, I work in early childhood education. Anya is fantastic because… She’s younger than she says she is. She’s probably like four. And so, the way she’s… She’s telepathic, she can read people’s minds, and it would make it so easy for that to be like “Oh, she’s so precocious. She always knows what’s going on because she can read the adults’ thoughts.”
But if you think about it, if adults are standing around having a conversation around a small child, the small child doesn’t understand what they’re hearing. They’re going to sit there and use their small child logic to make connections, which a lot of the time don’t make sense, because small children don’t really know a whole lot about the world. And so, Anya is doing that with the thoughts that she can hear. So she does know things that she isn’t supposed to, but she doesn’t necessarily make sense of them.
And also, in the latest episode, you do start to see the limitations of her pretending to be older than she is, because the difference between a four-year-old and a six-year-old is massive!
ALEX: Mm-hm. For sure.
CAITLIN: So, of course she’s going to struggle socially when she gets into school. She does not have anywhere near the maturity. And this is a lighthearted series, so it’s not going to be like “Well, Anya is also deeply traumatized and her emotional development has been harmed from being abandoned over and over.” It’s not getting into all of that. But even then, just the developmental age difference is so huge that it makes sense that she would have a hard time accomplishing the goals that have been set out for her.
So, I really appreciate that about the show, and I appreciate everything about the show. I love Loid, I love Yor, I love Franky. Loid and Yor both unreasonably hot.
CAITLIN: You got great Dad Content. This is the first of the dad anime that we’re talking about this season. Loid, nailing it, doing his best, does not always understand what it means to be a dad. But just the moments where he just dads out are adorable.
Yor going Wine Mom: fantastic.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Yes! Yeah, there’s something to be said for… None of these people are equipped to fit nicely into a nuclear family, the ideal, the very normative kind of thing. And yet, here they are being genuinely really good parents and all getting along and supporting each other. And isn’t that just lovely?
ALEX: [Sighs fondly] So, yeah, Spy × Family good, I think, is right on that. Did you have anything to add, Peter?
PETER: I kind of have… It’s almost like, “Oh, it’s great, I love it,” and I can’t think of much else to say about it. It’s great.
PETER: I love the manga. The anime’s super great. I feel like the only criticism I could say is like, “Oh, the comedic direction isn’t as good as Kaguya-sama,” which feels like an unreasonable bar to set for any series.
Yeah, I really like that they’ve expanded some bits, like when they’re celebrating after Anya gets into the school. They expanded that chapter out a bit to include some action scenes in it, which are good.
CAITLIN: Oh, the Loidman stuff was great.
ALEX: [crosstalk] That was so good.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. So, I think, a really great adaptation so far, and the manga I always consider to be extremely immaculate. So, yeah, it’s just a super fun series. I basically recommend it to everybody. I don’t really have any big caveats about it, or maybe any caveats. So, if you’re listening to this, basically that means by default I’m recommending it to you, no matter who you are. So, that’s it. Yeah, it’s great. I love it.
CAITLIN: I predicted that Spy × Family was going to be a huge hit series because it’s got the stuff that people love about anime. It’s got the goofiness, it’s got the action, and it has none of the… I mean, and people also come to anime for the fanservice. Let’s be honest here. But that also drives people away. It doesn’t have any of the weird discomfort that makes some people walk away from anime. There are no weird sexual shots of Anya. Halle-fuckin-lujah!
ALEX: Yep, that’s good. That’s certainly good.
CAITLIN: Low bar!
ALEX: [crosstalk] The bar is on the ground, but it’s pole-vaulted over it, and we love that.
CAITLIN: Loid and Yor are attractive, and so if you want to go out and find thirst of them, you can. Oh boy, can you find thirst, though, especially of Yor. [Chuckles] But it’s also not just constant shots of Yor’s tits or… I mean, I would have no complaints about any kinds of shots of Loid.
But yeah, no, so I looked at this—and I’ve read a good chunk of the manga, too—and said this is going to be the big hit of the season, this is going to draw people in, this is going to be a big crossover thing. And lo and behold, Crunchyroll should hire me for marketing because I nailed that one! A difficult problem.
PETER: It is in fact the most popular anime this season.
CAITLIN: [Mock-amazed] What?!
PETER: Wow, unbelievable.
ALEX: So, let’s hope it stays the course. Let’s hope it pulls it off all the way through.
CAITLIN: If it follows the manga, then it’s going to be fine.
PETER: Yeah, it seems like the only thing that could really… unless there’s a production disaster for some reason at Wit, that could make it bad, but it seems like they have found a good pace following the manga, and we know the manga’s good, so it’s a pretty good investment of your time.
ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm, mm-hm.
CAITLIN: All right, um, nobody is watching Miss Shachiku and the Little Baby Ghost, which is fine because that show was boring and cloying and every—
CAITLIN: Nobody is watching Love All Play, which…
PETER: I don’t even know what that is.
CAITLIN: Um, it’s a badminton anime.
PETER: Oh, another one? Wow.
CAITLIN: Yeah! Yeah, this is the third one?
PETER: Yeah, yeah, three badminton anime, wow. Wait, was Attack No.1 badminton or tennis?
CAITLIN: That was tennis.
[Editor’s Correction: Attack No. 1 is about volleyball]
PETER: Okay, okay. Three badminton anime. Three badminton…
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Love After World Domination. All right, so, Mercedez is also watching this, but of the three of us, Alex, you are the only one watching it. What do you have to say?
ALEX: [crosstalk] Well! I think I flagged this on the list because I’ve meant to catch up with it because Mercedez said that they enjoyed it so much, but I have not done that yet.
CAITLIN: Oh, no.
ALEX: Oh, so, man. Sorry about that.
PETER: [crosstalk] I’m watching it.
ALEX: You’re watching it?
PETER: Yeah, I’m watching it.
ALEX: [crosstalk] All right, I throw it to you. [Chuckles]
PETER: [Chuckles] I’m surprised I’m the only one watching it, actually. I really love the premise of this series, and I had like zero faith they’d actually be able to keep it fresh for 12 episodes, but they’re frickin’ doing it, man. It’s really… It’s a super charming show. I really like it.
I think they’ve managed to make the premise even better by just expanding the cast out and introducing more of the weird characters that are either in the Gelato 5 or the… I can’t remember. They’re called Gekko… Not Gekkostate. That’s from Eureka Seven, right? They’re Gekko something. They have the same name.
CAITLIN: [Growls quizzically]
PETER: Yeah, yeah. But Fudo gets hospitalized, so the evil organization sends him a “get well soon” card, and it’s like “Get better so that we can be the ones to end your life,” with flowers or something like that.
PETER: And they just keep coming up with new ideas to make it funny. Like, there’s a scene where the evil organization’s meeting, deciding what to attack next, and Desumi keeps… she’s like “The beach. An aquarium. An amusement park.” And he’s like, “Why are all these date locations? Why do you want to make all these date locations?” You two know the premise, right?
ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm, which is why we are interested in it, because it sounds like a lot of fun.
PETER: Yeah. And she convinces them to attack the amusement park so that she can go on a secret date with Fudo. It’s very good. It might be too cloyingly sweet in isolation, actually, but they’ve just got all these zany characters around them that add a lot of flavor to the series. So, I think it’s really great.
My only caveat is it’s a little cheesecakey. I mean, the main girl’s costume, Desumi’s costume, is—
CAITLIN: I’ve seen a lot of shots of her garter-clad thighs.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. She definitely… That’s an outfit. So, yeah, there’s that. But it’s pretty vanilla besides that. They don’t really… I mean, there are scenes where… There’s one scene where she has to hide him really quick so she ends up sitting on his face to get him below camera level when she gets a surprise video call. So, there’s a few scenes like that, maybe two or three. But yeah, besides that it’s just very innocent, like them holding hands for the first time or stuff like that. So, super charming. I really like this anime.
ALEX: That is excellent news. I will definitely jump on and catch up with that one.
PETER: Yeah, it’s on my top recs for the season probably.
CAITLIN: Yeah. My plate is pretty full. I would think about it if I were not at capacity already.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, it’s a packed season.
CAITLIN: It is! It’s a really busy season! Well, there’s I’m Quitting Heroing, which no one is watching on the team. Healer Girl, none of us three are watching it.
ALEX: That’s another one, yeah, that I have meant to catch up on but I haven’t had time yet because, again, Dee has given it such a glowing review in the three-episode. And the first episode was really charming.
It’s nice to think that… I don’t know. It’s a cute, wholesome magical girl show and I’m just intrigued with the idea that it is a fully scored musical anime where they will burst into song and sing their feelings in the middle of a scene. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. I’m sure other ones exist, but I don’t know. [obscured by crosstalk] to see.
CAITLIN: [Crosstalk] Yeah, there’ve been…
ALEX: Maybe they will also have a rap battle, and that’ll be the fourth.
CAITLIN: There we go!
PETER: A straight musical anime is very unusual, though, you’re right.
CAITLIN: It is definitely unusual. They’ve existed but…
PETER: Closest I can think of is Symphogear, and that’s because singing makes their attacks more powerful.
CAITLIN: Nerima Daikon Brothers is one.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh. I don’t know that one.
CAITLIN: It’s like impossible to find these days. Yeah, I know [for] the people who are watching it, everyone seems to really love it. And the first episode was definitely cute. And there were things about it that I really appreciated, like, for example, their singing is not a cure-all. People have chronic illnesses. There are issues that are too much for them that they need to go to the hospital for. But it just… you know. Busy season, not totally my thing, so…
ALEX: Yeah, like Love After Domination—World Domination, that is—I’m probably going to loop back and check this one out later on. Maybe now that I’ve maybe dropped a couple of things we’re going to talk about in a minute, maybe I’ll have more space! We’ll see. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: All right. We’ve got Estab Life, which Vrai is watching; none of us. Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer. It seems that no one on the team is watching it. I didn’t even watch the first episode. It was like the last series to premiere and I was burnt out. I was done. So, no one’s watching it. Nor is anyone watching Ao Ashi.
PETER: Oh, no.
CAITLIN: Sports anime just not— Well, boys’ sports anime not getting a lot of love this season.
PETER: Well, there’s just so many soccer anime out there. And Blue Lock’s on the horizon, so…
CAITLIN: Blue Lock sounds like a deeply stupid series, to be honest.
PETER: I can say I’m super excited about it.
PETER: My favorite soccer anime is… Well, my favorite soccer series is Cramer. But after Days and Cramer, my bar is pretty high for a good soccer series.
CAITLIN: Well, Peter, also you are shounen trash, which I say affectionately of course.
PETER: I am. But wait, is Cramer shounen? I don’t know what Cramer is.
CAITLIN: Cramer is shounen, but I’m saying that Blue Lock is like the most shounen-like approach to soccer possible.
PETER: Oh. I think the only shounen sports I’ve really gotten super high on was Haikyu. And will Blue Lock be as good as Haikyu? I doubt it.
CAITLIN: Very few things are as good as Haikyu.
PETER: Yeah, yep. One of Shonen Jump’s best manga.
CAITLIN: For example, Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is not as good as Haikyu! I’m sorry, that was a weird transition! [Laughs]
PETER: Yeah, it was an interesting transition. I guess they play table tennis, which is a net sport, so…
CAITLIN: They play… Okay, they play a lot of games.
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
CAITLIN: The most common recurring joke in the series is that they’re both really competitive, Raido thinks he’s going to be able to beat Aharen, and then she kicks his ass at whatever they’re playing.
PETER: Yeah, he is doomed to lose at everything. I do like the repeating bit where if he manages to get a draw or even if he loses, he says, “Okay, now the two of us can defeat the world,” and then they lose to their first opponents every single time. He’s like, “Oh, wow. It’s hard to beat the whole world at this sport.”
CAITLIN: He galaxy-brained himself out of a victory at Old Maid. And Alex, you were really hard on this, first episode.
ALEX: Yeah, the first episode did not really impress me, and I think… I don’t know, I just… Yeah, I saw that very small, babyish character design and I was wary. So, I’m really happy to hear that people are enjoying it and it’s not making it weird. Maybe I will go back and give it another shot because, yeah, I’ve heard good things. I’ve heard it’s a very chill, kind of… I don’t know.
Does it stick with that kind of deadpan humor, or is there more energy throughout?
PETER: Oh, yeah.
CAITLIN: Very, very deadpan. Most of it is just Aharen and Raido doing some activity while Raido has his internal narration. There’s a couple of jokes about them not smiling very much, and they’re both like “What? We smile.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, they don’t get the fact that both of them are like that.
CAITLIN: “We smile. What are you talking about? Can’t you see me smiling?” they say with a completely blank expression.
PETER: He puts her on a multi-week course to become more expressive and thinks he really accomplished something, and then they take a selfie and he realizes they’ve made zero progress.
PETER: But I definitely understand, based on first impressions, being really wary of the series, especially with some of the early jokes. Like, with that eyedropper joke, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
CAITLIN: That was really… Yeah, the way they—
PETER: [crosstalk] I was like, is this gonna get sexual like with her dropping the…?
PETER: And it didn’t go there.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] The way they animated the fluid was a little bit like… Mm, okay, I guess once again it’s my job to be the crude one. Kind of looked like a cum shot.
PETER: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s what it was. She had splatters all over her face. And I was waiting for them to make a gross joke, but instead it was just the fact that she was afraid to have anything to touch her eye, so he had to hold her head still. The joke was him pushing her face to get the eyedrop in.
CAITLIN: Now, once again, having worked with small children: extremely relatable feel.
PETER: Yeah. She’s just physically small but… Yeah, I really trust the series now because I feel like they’ve put themselves in a position where the easy way out was a raunchy joke and they never ever ever do it. They seem to be aware that’s an option, but then they do something that’s even funnier, that was probably harder to do than just to hit the lowest common denominator.
I really endorse Dee’s comparison to Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless. I think it’s more skit-based, but it has the same kind of energy where everybody’s really well-meaning and quirky and everybody else is very accepting of those characters’ quirks and their quirks interact in very funny ways.
CAITLIN: And it’s just chill vibes. 100%. I do want to point out both positive and negative. There was a skit where Raido gained a bunch of weight because Aharen was force-feeding him constantly. Yeah. So, and then she started reading about dieting because she was like, “Oh, I need to help him lose weight now.” And then he thought she was wanting to diet, and so he started exercising and he lost the weight.
PETER: To help her diet, right? [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: To help her.
PETER: [Chuckles] And in the process loses the weight, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, it was very good-natured, but there’s some fatphobia going on with that one. Weight gain, generally not super funny. But on the other end of the spectrum, introducing Aharen’s little brother—he’s very sweet—who…
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Ren. Yeah. Aharen Ren.
CAITLIN: I have the joke spoiled ahead of time for me, so I knew what was happening with that. But the fact that he just likes to dress as his big sister and she’s just like “Yeah, of course, wear my clothes,” and they don’t make a joke out of that itself other than—
CAITLIN: Yeah. Other than, like, he looks a lot like her. And Raido got confused.
PETER: [Chuckles] Yeah.
CAITLIN: Or they’re not making any transphobic or gay panic jokes or even just being weird… anything with gender identity. Right now, he is Reina’s little brother who likes to wear her clothes. And it’s really sweet. It’s really sweet.
ALEX: Okay, interesting.
PETER: I don’t know how it was done in the manga, but it’s like they specifically added in that post-credit scene just to give you context and to let you know that Aharen is super compassionate and supportive of her brother wanting to try her clothes on. So that was great.
ALEX: Aw, that’s nice.
PETER: Mm-hm. It’s pretty sweet.
CAITLIN: Now, Peter.
CAITLIN: I do have a question for you.
CAITLIN: I notice that Aharen is listed under “romance” on Crunchyroll.
PETER: Yeah. Oh, is it?
CAITLIN: It is.
PETER: Oh, wow.
CAITLIN: So, do you think… Are they dating?
PETER: Ah, I don’t… It feels super platonic to me. Even though she holds his arm as they’re walking, I think that’s just because she’s weird and doesn’t… I mean it’s established she has problems with how to gauge… what do you call that, personal space?
CAITLIN: Physical boundaries…
PETER: Yeah, yeah, but I feel like they played that really well, as like she actually doesn’t know and she kinda likes walking arm-in-arm with somebody, maybe because she’s so short and some people might walk into her or something like that. But I don’t know. I haven’t really gotten any romance vibes out of the two of them. It feels like they’re just great friends. That is weird.
CAITLIN: I think it’s ambiguous. The opening theme song seems to frame it very romantically.
PETER: Oh. I should rewatch it.
CAITLIN: But in the actual content of the episodes, it’s ambiguous. It could very easily go either way, because they do spend a lot of time walking arm-in-arm. Or the things that they do a lot of the time are couple-y things, like giving each other food constantly…
PETER: Yeah, feeding somebody the lunch that you made for them is a very big romance trope.
CAITLIN: Yeah, so is it romantic or is the joke partially that they’re doing these romantic signifiers and not realizing it? I don’t know.
PETER: Aharen does it for her friend, too, though. So…
CAITLIN: That’s true. So, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s deliberately ambiguous. I don’t know if it’s gonna get defined later. But I was—
PETER: I just googled it and it autofilled “Do Aharen and Raido get together?” on Google.
CAITLIN: Okay, wow!
PETER: And the top answer is: it’s never explicitly confirmed, although most people agree that they are. [Laughs]
CAITLIN: Well, there you go.
ALEX: Interesting. [Chuckles]
PETER: I don’t… If it’s not confirmed, I don’t… That’s weird. Okay. I like them more as platonic friends personally, but yeah, I guess you just interpret however you prefer. No problem with that.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You know, as I told a group of four-year-olds the other day, that’s one of the great things about fiction: you can interpret it different ways and neither one is necessarily wrong or right. I was asking them about Where the Wild Things Are. Do they think Max actually left his room? Was an interesting conversation. [Laughs] Media literacy starts early!
ALEX: Oh yeah. You gotta get ‘em into that good… [Chuckles] English lit criticism at a young age.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Critical thinking.
ALEX: Funnel them in.
PETER: [crosstalk] Big mind… screw. I don’t know what you call it at that age.
CAITLIN: That’s a weird way to put it! So… [Chuckles] Moving on! Let’s just leave that behind. Alex, you are the only one watching Fanfare of Adolescence, which had—
PETER: Yeah, I’m curious about this.
CAITLIN: Yes. It had a wild first episode.
ALEX: Yes. So, I’ve been keeping up with the horse boys because I have been waiting patiently to see if it does any of the things I flagged that it might do in the first impressions.
CAITLIN: [eagerly] For example, being super gay?
ALEX: [struggling to form a sentence] Yeah… what… Okay, I’ll get to that.
ALEX: The first thing I was interested in… I was like, is it going to focus on the one girl on the team and unpack her feelings about being a young woman in this male-dominated sport? It hasn’t done that yet. She hasn’t had a lot of screen time.
Then again, there are also quite a few members of the boys in the ensemble cast who also haven’t had a lot of screen time and are kind of coasting along being the trope they were introduced as in the first episode. So, uh, no, I think that’s maybe less of a gender bias thing and more just like it’s a big cast and they only want to focus on a certain amount of boys.
The second thing was: potentially exploring the main character’s relationship with the idol industry, which he has left. And it’s not really explained why, but it’s kind of implied he has this negative relationship with it. Now that has come to fruition.
At our halfway point, our dramatic unfolding of events is… The idol agency is trying to take him back. They have not taken his retirement seriously and are kind of like “Come on. What are you doing joking around, wanting to be a jockey? This is where you’re going to be remembered. Don’t you want to be famous? Please come back and make us lots of money,” which he is not comfortable with.
And it even gets into all these shenanigans, like one member of the agency has been filming a documentary hanging around the horse-riding school, but when they actually edit together and post it, it’s basically like a cringe fail compilation of him learning to ride and being really bad at it, and they’ve posted it online as a manipulation thing, being like “Look how bad he is at this. Fans, don’t you want him to come back onto the stage?” So that’s pretty awful.
And then he gets injured. This is our big midseason climax. He gets injured, and the idol agency is like “See? You’re not going to be able to ride horses anymore. Come back.” Which… I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting to see at least one facet of the entertainment industry play so obviously as the antagonist.
What I am less keen on is the fact that the industry is kind of represented by this one particular agency that he works for, and the agency is mostly represented by the CEO, who is this older woman who is so obviously designed to be—paraphrasing—“fat and unattractive,” and that’s how you can tell she’s evil.
CAITLIN: [knowingly] Mm.
ALEX: She’s the only character in the entire cast who has a different body shape, she wears what looks like too much makeup, she’s just like… It just feels very uncomfortable that she is so obviously the villain but she is this woman we’re obviously meant to find unappealing, especially in contrast to all these pretty teenage boys. That rubs me the wrong way, even though in some ways I’m down for a manipulative layered girlboss villain. I don’t know. It’s an archetype I can get behind, but it’s just…
CAITLIN: Well, let me tell you about a little series called Birdie Wing.
CAITLIN: And Clumsy Executioner and Her Way of Life!
ALEX: Gosh. Yeah, so, Fanfare, I’m tentatively interested to keep seeing where it goes. But I don’t know, I’m also like… [imitates a creaky door] Come on. Can we do something a bit more nuanced with this?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m gonna stick with it because I am curious and because I’m the only one watching it, so I am the voice for the people!
ALEX: But I may also just drop it because it’s… eh, it’s all right. It’s a bit boring in places. There’s not enough horse content for an anime about horse riding.
ALEX: But I get that they’re hard to animate, so… [Chuckles] It is what it is.
CAITLIN: Is it still just like… Does it just have random points of becoming a Lisa Frank fever dream?
ALEX: [Laughs] Honestly, not as much as I would like.
CAITLIN: Aw, boo!
ALEX: [crosstalk] It’s not going [audio cuts out], even if it goes full Battle Club, and I am annoyed.
Oh, yes, and to answer your previous question, it still has had a couple of moments where it’s like, “Ooh, is there tension between these boys? Perhaps you could imagine them kissing and buy merchandise.” But it’s kind of mostly just the camaraderie and the joy of sports boy friendship. So I don’t know. Maybe it will give us another bridal carry and flying cherry blossoms moment towards the finale.
CAITLIN: [deadpan] They’re just such good friends! Much like the main character—
ALEX: [Obscured by crosstalk]
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Much like the main character of The Executioner and Her Way of Life.
ALEX: Ah, yes. Great gal pals. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Ha-ha! See what I did there. This series is honestly… incredible.
ALEX: Mm-hm. I’m enjoying it. I’m having a whale of a time.
CAITLIN: I’ve been enjoying it a lot! It is absolutely wild.
CAITLIN: So, I think a lot of what got flagged in the early discussions in particular was Momo and her obsession with Menou’s thighs, et cetera, which has kind of fallen by the wayside. She’s still kind of uncomfortably obsessed with Menou, but also (A) it doesn’t seem to be so much about physically invasive ways of showing it as much as, like, “Ah, my ribbons! She gave me these ribbons!”
ALEX: Yeah, it’s just like this girl has a big crush on her mentor, on her senpai, and that comes through in a variety of ways.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Also, she’s being occupied a lot of the time by Princess Ashuna, who is like six feet tall, completely covered in muscles, voiced by M·A·O, and is just ridiculously hot? I don’t know!
ALEX: [Laughs] I think I… Did I say this in the three-episode? Her outfit is ridiculous…
CAITLIN: It’s insane!
ALEX: … and skimpy, but she’s showing off her abs, so I’m kind of… That’s a bit different, at least. That’s fun!
CAITLIN: She’s workin’ it! And it’s not like she has boob jiggle or anything.
ALEX: That’s true, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah! Honestly, the show is… What I’ve been really impressed with about… I mean, I’m going to talk about Executioner and Birdie Wing here because they’re both kind of the largely-female-cast yuri shows… yuri-ish shows of the season. They’re paired together on our spreadsheet, and there’s enough commonalities that we may as well talk together. They have primarily female casts, men barely figure into it, and they are both really great examples of when you have a lot of different types of women, you can get away with certain tropey things.
ALEX: Yeah, because they’re not the only one.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Because it doesn’t [audio cuts out] all girls! Like, yeah, Momo is kind of obsessed with Menou in uncomfortable ways, but there’s also forms of affection and attachment that are, I think, less creepy? It’s complicated with Executioner. [Chuckles]
ALEX: Yeah, we’re putting together some stuff about, yeah, the time jump stuff, which I’m like… I am a sucker for time magic. It is so interesting to me, so I am very curious as to where that’s gonna go.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I don’t want to get into spoiler territory with this too much because if anyone’s listening and they haven’t watched it, this is some really plot-twist stuff.
ALEX: It’s fun to discover for yourself as you go along, so we really need to…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, exactly.
ALEX: I don’t think there’s anything we need to spoil with content warnings, I don’t think.
CAITLIN: No. Like, there is stuff that are both like, “Really? [dubiously] Really? Really?” [Returns to normal voice] and then are like [Astonished] “Really? What! Oh my God!”
ALEX: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah! [Chuckles] It’s like… Do you ever watch a show or read a book, engage with a story, and you’re like, “I’m enjoying this now, but if I had come across this when I was a teenager it would have, like, rewritten my brain chemistry”?
ALEX: That’s what I’m getting with Executioner. It has, yeah, again, all-female cast, it has that badass, really cool magic, fun fight scenes, and then that “Ooh, are you falling in love with the mark?” kind of romantic thing. Yeah, I’m having a whale of a time with it now, and it’s appealing to… You know, if I had watched this when I was like 16, 17, I would have been obsessed with it, I think! And that’s always a fun relationship to have. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: I totally get that. And something I really appreciate about it is that… It has its all-female cast. It doesn’t seem to feel the need to keep the girls pretty all the time. They make some really weird faces. There’s no real fanservice. I mean, Akari’s outfit definitely highlights her boobs.
ALEX: Mm-hm. But.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Although I personally loved in the first episode when Menou was talking to… what’s his face? The dude that she mercs.
ALEX: [crosstalk] Oh, yes, our fakeout protagonist.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, there was a girl with big boobs!” and Menou’s like, [clicks tongue] “Big boobs are nice.”
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] But women age; they’re not all just teenage girls. They make weird faces. Some of them are tall, some of them are small. They’re not just like moe archetypes. They don’t feel like they exist to be cute and desirable.
ALEX: That being said, now that you’ve mentioned women of all ages, it’s a bit rough that one of the villains is a quote-unquote “old crone” who wants to be young again. That’s a bit [imitates a creaky door].
CAITLIN: [hesitantly] Yeah… Also…
ALEX: I’ll say maybe it’s alleviated a tiny bit by the fact that she’s not the only woman in the cast and there are others with different motivations, but it’s still a, you know: creaky door noise. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: And the magic… But they don’t feel like they all just exist for the sake of the male audience, right?
ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm. They feel like characters who are just doing stuff.
CAITLIN: Yeah! And the magic… Well, it’s like so many series about men, where, like, “Oh, well, yeah, this series is about men doing things and women exist in the world; they’re just not important to the story.” Men exist in this world; they’re just not important to the story! All the stuff is being done by women.
And I love that the magic is kind of goopy and kind of gross. Kinda body horror–ish at times without being super graphic. Yeah, it’s a cool series. It’s a total wild ride. It has its ups and downs, but overall, I’m really enjoying it.
So, Birdie Wing I am an episode behind on, but I am also enjoying that wild ride.
ALEX: Oof. It is a wild ride, to be sure.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] Every episode, I’m just sitting there just fucking losing it. Like, Vipére just unzipping her jacket and…
ALEX: Oh my God. So, like… eh…
CAITLIN: To steal a phrase from ANN—not stealing the joke necessarily, because I did think of this on my own before reading it—her magic crotch stank?
ALEX: Pft! I guess that’s what it is, huh. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: I mean, Eve says it’s perfume.
ALEX: [skeptically] Mm.
CAITLIN: But, you know, she is unzipping her jacket—or her… whatever you call that garment.
ALEX: Her weird slinky snake one-piece thing.
CAITLIN: So, you do think… If it’s perfume, she’s putting it somewhere, so, you know, she’s making choices.
ALEX: Strategic application. Uh… Oh, Birdie Wing. So, I think I gotta tap out of Birdie Wing.
ALEX: I think I’ve had enough of its shenanigans. Mostly, I just want to ask them, you know. I’m just like, “You know you can make your seedy, dark mafia golf underworld… You know you can make that setting threatening and feel dark and dangerous without constant sexual menace. You know you can do that, right?”
CAITLIN: [pretending to be stubborn] Laa!
ALEX: Like snake lady. As you have said, she has that whole thing going on. But also, there’s a bit later where there’s the two… you know, the lady who looks like Sephiroth and the other kind of mafia don lady. They’re talking and they’re like, “Ooh, we should get Eve to work for us. Even if she’s not playing golf, we can pretty her up and she can, you know, serve the fans.” And that all coming in after the show has absolutely hit me upside the head with the information that Eve is meant to be 15 or 14…
CAITLIN: Oh my God.
ALEX: [Chuckles] That coming in, I’m like, “Do we have to be doing this? Can we not just stick to ridiculous shenanigans without this element?” I don’t know.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, I totally get it. And I was totally bowled over by the reveal that Eve and Aoi are 15. And I was very upset because I had found Eve very attractive up until that point.
ALEX: [Laughs] Because her character design and her demeanor…
CAITLIN: She doesn’t look or act 15. She’s out there—
ALEX: Yeah, I read her as like 20 or 21 or something in that first episode and wrote the review imagining that, and then the next episode she’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’m competing in this under-15s golf tournament.” I’m like, “You’re what? Excuse me?” [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah, so that… Like, Lily looks like she’s like 15. No, I totally thought Eve was like 20. But also, Catherine and Rose, they’re there and they also activate my bisexual genes, so…
ALEX: [Chuckles] No, fair enough, for sure. But… [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: And it’s so wild and over-the-top that it doesn’t bother me as much, and since it is an all-female cast it doesn’t make it feel like a predatory lesbian sort of thing.
ALEX: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s totally fair. Again, you have that fun spectrum. And if all of your women are varying shades of ridiculous, [chuckles] that’s representation, that’s fun, it’s what we deserve. But just… Yeah, I don’t know.
CAITLIN: It’s fair, it’s fair.
ALEX: On a personal taste thing, I was like, I don’t know that I have the extra energy to put up with this kind of stuff. But, hey, I will keep listening out to hear what shenanigans it gets up to every week.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, I totally… It’s also lowkey enough that I can just sort of [be] like, “Mm, let’s just slide past that.”
But anyway. So, let’s move on to Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, which I’m not watching and Alex is not watching. But Peter, now you get a turn to talk!
PETER: I’m the only one watching all the rom-coms this season. What the heck’s going on?
CAITLIN: Hey, I’m watching the best rom-coms.
PETER: The best one…
CAITLIN: Yeah! Kaguya-sama. Obviously.
PETER: Oh, okay. Oh, yeah, yeah. Fair enough.
I really like Shikimori. It’s a great show. I think it’s really handled… Its premise is kind of perilous and could have gone in a really bad direction since it fundamentally is playing with societal expectations and gender roles, that kind of thing. But I think it’s handled it very well, very gentle touch on it.
It never makes jokes at any character’s expense. And the result, even if things don’t turn out how they approached the situation with or how they wanted, it’s always like they are happy with what happened—if that makes sense—in the end. It’s never at anybody’s expense, and everybody’s sort of satisfied with the result at the end, even if it doesn’t necessarily line up with their expectations going into whatever the scenario is that they’re messing with in the show.
And it’s very textual, too. Even the first episode, they have that situation where even Shikimori’s friends who are in the group kind of pressure her to throw the game because girls not putting up as good a performance as guys is kind of expected in a date.
CAITLIN: [ironic] It’s cute when you lose!
PETER: Yeah, it’s cute to lose to the guy so he can show you how to bowl or something. And she says “Fuck that” and bowls a perfect game. And at the end the characters who suggested it, they’re just like, “Wow, what a badass.”
PETER: So, yeah, at the end, everybody… You don’t feel bad at the end of any of the jokes, I guess is what I’m trying to say.
I also think it really is successful at portraying them as extremely horny teenagers without getting leery or uncomfortable about it. Shikimori offers to let Izumi taste her ice cream, and he’s licking the ice cream and you could see that she’s like “Oh!” while watching him.
PETER: And then he notices she’s looking at him really weird and he suddenly gets embarrassed. And that—
CAITLIN: Which is another gender reversal joke.
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
ALEX: Yeah, that’s true.
PETER: It was obviously a horny teenage moment, and it wasn’t at anybody’s expense. It didn’t sexualize them either. And it does that a lot, just little bits like that, and I think that’s really good because they are probably horny teenagers and…
CAITLIN: Yeah. Get it, Shikimori.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I appreciate it comes from… Both of them have moments like that, as well. Sometimes they even kind of intentionally activate those sort of moments, like Shikimori… I think she was eating a s’more and she licks some marshmallow off of her thumb while looking at Izumi. And it’s targeted, but again, it doesn’t go overboard or anything like that.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. But she’s actively flirting with him.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, she’s 100% flirting and he gets really bashful about it. So, again with the reversal thing. It’s just been very cute about all of that stuff. It’s stayed fresh. Very sweet series.
Basically all my concerns about Shikimori are kind of external. It’s produced by Doga Kobo, who does not have a good track record—not in quality, but in making shows that are extremely uncomfortable to watch, like Wataten and UzaMaid.
CAITLIN: Now, however, on the other hand, when Doga Kobo is on, they are on.
PETER: You mean context or just visually? Because visually they are a great studio.
CAITLIN: I mean, they also did Sleepy Princess and Nozaki-kun.
PETER: Oh, did they? Okay, okay. Yeah, then never mind. Okay, then I have less concerns.
CAITLIN: But those were both Mitsue Yamazaki, who, honestly… If Mitsue… So, the reason I didn’t watch more Shikimori is: the first episode, I thought, was a little bit flat comedically. If Mitsue Yamazaki were directing it, I would be watching so hard, because honestly the kind of dynamic they have in it [snaps fingers] is my shit.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I was surprised you weren’t keeping up with it. But I definitely get it. It’s a little bit more understated than a lot of the other rom-coms out there.
Oh, the other issue is, I guess, at the beginning of this season, we learned that the entire studio got COVID or something.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah!
PETER: And after today’s episode, this being the 14th, so episode 6 just came out, I think they’re delayed for a couple of weeks or something, because I guess it’s finally hit that point in the schedule. So, I hope everybody’s fine and…
CAITLIN: I hope everyone’s okay! I’m with you! Solidarity!
PETER: Yeah, I’m glad they’re delaying it rather than trying to soldier through at the expense of the show and the people working on it.
ALEX: Yeah, absolutely.
CAITLIN: It’s really hard to work when you have COVID.
PETER: Yeah, I’m glad they decided to say, “We’ll just take two weeks to catch up” or something like that. I feel like that’s the best thing they could have done. But yeah, a great show, another one I can pretty much recommend without any caveats.
ALEX: Hm. Cool. I’ll have to get on that.
CAITLIN: All right. So, let’s talk about Heroines Run the Show, which I would shift down to “It’s Complicated.”
ALEX: Oh yeah? Mm-hm?
CAITLIN: Yeah. So—
ALEX: I’m not caught up on the… Aw. I think—
ALEX: Are there six or five episodes out at the moment? Because I’ve missed a couple because I was…
CAITLIN: Six? There might be seven at this point.
ALEX: I think I only got up to… Aw, I can’t remember, I’ve been watching so much anime over the last couple days!
CAITLIN: I know, me too! I’ve just been slamming everything!
ALEX: So, Caitlin, what were you going to say? [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Okay, well, so, first of all, I want to say, I don’t understand what HoneyWorks is fully. It’s a Vocaloid thing, but also there’s a bunch of different anime and it’s like a whole media mix thing and the canons interact with each other but they’re not necessarily… I don’t know. It’s like a cinematic universe.
ALEX: Mm, everything’s gotta be a cinematic universe these days.
CAITLIN: HoneyWorks Cinematic Universe. I don’t… This is my first time engaging with it, so I don’t know, maybe there’s a whole bunch of stuff.
So, okay. So, the first thing I want to say is… And I do like the show, but it is probably the one I’m closest to dropping. It’s just very typical, like “Oh, these two guys are picking on the hardworking heroine, but over time they are coming to care about her,” which is a pretty common shoujo trope and has never really been my favorite one. So, a lot of the stuff in the more recent episodes doesn’t feel really earned.
And also… [Chuckles] So, the new episode, we get to the makeover arc!
PETER: Oh, no.
ALEX: [crosstalk] Oh…
CAITLIN: [mock-excitedly] Yeah! That’s right! They give her a makeover.
ALEX: [crosstalk] Oh, please tell me they don’t touch her eyebrows, her beautiful eyebrows.
PETER: Yeah, don’t touch those eyebrows!
CAITLIN: They didn’t touch her eyebrows, but they did get her a haircut, they have her learn to do makeup, they go out and buy her more fashionable clothes, because she’s gonna be going to a concert with them and she needs to be presentable. And they’re like, “By the way, our manager dressing like this is honestly a little embarrassing anyway, so we should probably have done this a long time ago.”
And so, I have really complicated feelings about makeover arcs in general because I feel like a lot of people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum do experiment with more feminine presentation/less feminine presentation at some point in their lives if they haven’t just barreled full-fledged into femininity from the very beginning. I mean, I know I have, and I know a lot of other people who have.
Generally when you get that, (A) it’s a trope. It’s something you see a lot with a lot of non-feminine girls in fiction. And so, it’s something that is okay in isolation, but as part of a pattern it starts to get…
And also, it wasn’t her choice. Once they bring it up, she’s just like— Because she has other priorities in life, right? She’s on the track team. She’s working. Performing femininity is work. It takes developing skills. It takes learning. It is a lot of work learning to do that sort of stuff. It takes time. It takes effort. And so, she has so much going on in her life that does she have time to add this onto it?
And it’s never been an issue for her before, but the moment that the boys start talking about it, she’s like, [sighs] “I’m really not cute. I could never be a heroine because I’m so not cute.” And I would be a lot more comfortable with it if she was the one who initiated it, she was one who was like, “You know, I’d like to try getting a new haircut. Can you guys help me with that? You guys… you live in this world.” Things like that.
Also, the new theme song is terrible.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Oh no!
PETER: Wait, they changed the opening?
CAITLIN: No, the ending. They changed the ending, which before was so cute.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, I liked that.
ALEX: Oh, yeah, I really liked the ending, with all the girls hanging out.
CAITLIN: I know. And now the one is just like “Girls are just like this. Tee-hee-hee!”
PETER: Yeah, that’s discouraging. I was one episode behind. I guess I’ve missed a lot. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah, a lot happened in the new episode. Dee compared it to the song… Oh, I can’t remember the exact title, but it’s the one that’s like “Just for yourself” in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the Discord.
CAITLIN: Which felt spot on! So, yeah. So, this one I might end up dropping if… It’s definitely going to be lower priority.
PETER: Yeah. I’m glad you said that. I was kind of having the same feeling where her relationship with the guys feels very archetypical and not great. I really had no interest in the dudes whatsoever. But I thought—
CAITLIN: They’re really boring.
PETER: Yeah, Hiyori is a great character, and to be honest, the thing I’m most interested in was her dynamic with her classmates Juri and Chizuru, which they just are never going to spend any time on. So, it’s just like this—
CAITLIN: Right, or her track or…
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Her succeeding at the thing she’s passionate about rather than just having to earn the approvals of these two asshole idol boys. I don’t really see the appeal of those guys. So, yeah, it just seems like the series had a lot of cool things that it could be doing, but what it is doing is just not too interesting to me.
So, next up we have Deaimon, which Alex and I are watching. Dad show! Woohoo!
ALEX: Another dad show. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Another dad show! Although they keep calling him her father figure, but he’s really more of an older brother.
ALEX: Yeah, I was gonna say that he’s… They’re like, “You’re gonna be like a father to her,” and I’m like, “I don’t know that he needs to be. I think we can have it be less easily defined than that. They can just be more like intergenerational pals who have things in common.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, like an adult male figure in her life, which is good to have. But yeah, which feels… [Sighs] I like this show. I really, really do. I’m really enjoying it. Parts of it feel a little calculated. The wagashi stuff is really interesting, but it also feels a little bit like an advertisement for wagashi because it is losing in popularity compared to Western sweets a lot.
ALEX: Oh, okay. I was gonna say a lot of it does feel like a beautiful tourist brochure for that region and all of its traditional delights and its history, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Some shows are made to advertise a place or a product, and they can still be really great stories.
CAITLIN: And the wagashi stuff is really cool. It’s really interesting. And also, them being like, “Well, you have to be like her dad” is like “Dads are popular these days, right? We’ll try to make him like a dad figure for her,” when that’s not really the dynamic that I’m getting.
And I like Nagomu, a lot. I’m just gonna put it out on the table: he’s my type.
CAITLIN: I am— Yeah, Peter, who has done many of these podcasts with me is like, “Yeah. That sounds right.” I love ‘em goofy, I love ‘em kind of useless, but sweet. I love them goofy and kind of useless, but sweet. And Nagomu is basically all of those things.
ALEX: Yeah, and it’s fun having him [as] the counterpart to this very serious child [chuckles] because it’s normally… I don’t know. I mean, certainly I would say it’s more common to have the dad be the grizzled, serious one and the girl is the little ray of sunshine, but it’s the other way around, which is kind of fun.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Well, and she feels more like an actual child than a lot of the single-dad anime where it is just like she’s basically a pet. It’s like, “No, she’s a person.”
I think a lot of the potential dynamics, especially for a child who has been basically abandoned by her parents, are kind of smoothed out. But at least she’s not just kind of sitting there. Cough, cough, If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Murder the Demon Lord or whatever it was called.
ALEX: I was just gonna say, we do meet one of her parents finally.
CAITLIN: We do.
ALEX: And it’s… uh… eh…
CAITLIN: [Chuckles nervously]
ALEX: I don’t know. With the tone and the vibe that the show wants to go for, it couldn’t have dragged that out any longer than it did. It makes sense that they wrapped it up nice and neat pretty quickly and easily.
CAITLIN: But it didn’t feel real.
ALEX: I kind of wanted a bit more from it, mostly because I really enjoy these kinds of people, especially young people, who have had a rough time and whose parents or adult guardians haven’t been there for them in the way they should, but then they find other rewards in other relationship dynamics. Those stories are really meaningful to me, and they can come through as dramas, they can come through as comedies, they can come through as more slice-of-life, come through as a bunch.
I just… I don’t know. I get that this show is going for chill vibes before anything else, but I just wanted a little bit… I don’t know.
CAITLIN: It was too clean for a messy situation.
ALEX: Yeah, yeah. Like, embrace the mess a little bit. Give us more of… I don’t know, something. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah. I do think—
ALEX: I’m gonna stick with this one, though. It’s quite charming even though it feels a bit… I don’t want to say shallow. It feels like it’s not as deep and interesting as it could be with the dynamics and the stuff that it’s dealing with. But again, that’s not… I don’t know.
It’s going for a certain vibe and maybe the issue is… I don’t think the issue is with the show itself. I think it’s just what I maybe expect and want from this kind of story as an audience member, and they were not compatible. That’s fine. We’ll see how we go.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, I’m gonna stick with it. But yeah, it’s a little soft.
So, all right, last show to talk about is Dance Dance Danseur, which is a sports anime but ballet. Which, there are moments where it feels like it’s working a little bit too hard to shove ballet into a sports anime format. I was screaming in rage at the screen when Junpei just got up in the middle of their competition.
PETER: Oh, yeah, kind of ruining the performance?
CAITLIN: Yeah. And I don’t know if I was supposed to be rooting for him, but I was so angry.
PETER: When… how do you say his name? Ruo or Lou or something like that?
CAITLIN: Luou, yeah.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I did like the visuals when he finally is— Well, first of all, when Chizuru is just like, “Fucking kill him!” [Laughs] She does the thumb-over-her-throat motion. I thought that was great. And then, Luou, when he just goes Sicko Mode [chuckles] and they’ve got all this impressionistic shit, like showing him as a demon, that’s neat.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that was really cool. That was a cool shot.
PETER: Fucking throws him across the stage. [Chuckles] Yeah, yeah. So, at least in the adaptation, I feel like MAPPA did some really cool stuff with that moment on every end, except for “What the fuck are you doing, Junpei?”
CAITLIN: Yeah, visually it’s great. And I do think… Because it’s been really frustrating for me, because Junpei, in true sports anime protagonist fashion, basically comes crashing into this world that he knows nothing about, is determined that he’s going to be the best, and he has this natural talent.
I don’t think the series has been addressing the toxic masculinity in the sort of way that we were hoping for in the beginning, because he does just sort of come in and be like, “I’m doing my thing.” Even if he eventually decides, “Actually, no, it’s not lame to do ballet. I’m gonna do ballet regardless of whether my friends make fun of me for it. You know, regardless of whether… They’re already bullying Luou for it. They’re probably going to bully me for it.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Rough arc.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that was… And the rivalry thing is really, I feel like, overplayed.
CAITLIN: And why is he being chosen to be the prince? He’s got the natural talent, but he’s still a raw beginner. It felt very forced, very sports anime.
But the last episode does kind of start to address it, where he’s finally having this talk with someone where he’s like, “I don’t care about doing things the way everyone else does!” And this old lady is like, “Well, your ballet is beautiful, but to progress…” and she’s explaining the nature of ballet in a way that he is finally understanding and connecting to, and he goes and he apologizes to Luou for being such a butthead.
So maybe the show has reached a turning point, but it’s been both really interesting and a really frustrating experience to me so far just because he’s so [groans] just constantly… just like “Stop! Stop, Junpei! Stop!”
CAITLIN: “Junpei!” Just very egocentric.
PETER: Mm-hm. I have appreciated, at least personally, that I think they show a lot of his feelings to be a result of this internalized bravado he has, which is part of this toxic masculine ideal that he’s learned since he was younger and was more into ballet.
And I definitely can… I understand anybody that doesn’t like him, especially after the bullying arc that was extremely harsh, but I do think the series is making an effort to say a lot of him being a shitheel is because he’s kind of at war with his own desire to do something that’s not considered masculine, but he also wants to be masculine for, well, first, cultural pressure and some fucked-up stuff regarding the death of his father. So, it seems like at least an effort is being made.
I don’t know how much of it is me just comparing the series favorably to Welcome to the Ballroom, though, where I’m glad that Miyako… I wish she got more development, but I guess I’m glad that she’s not like the girl in Welcome to the Ballroom, who is just a Cadillac that two boys are fighting over who gets to drive her. Yeah, so in that way it’s a lot better.
Also, specifically, in reference to him being prince, it seems to be a result of something that I also am kind of not super keen on with the series. It seems like Chizuru is really using Junpei to manipulate Ruou [sic] into doing ballet in a way that feels very… I don’t know, I guess “manipulative” is the best word. She’s a great character on her own and I wish she was being less underhanded about all this. It just doesn’t feel great. So, yeah, definitely…
There’s a lot of good stuff I like in this but also a lot of just small issues and some really rough content. So, I definitely understand people if they would just go like “Nah, screw this guy.” [Chuckles] For sure.
CAITLIN: A lot of secondhand embarrassment.
PETER: Oh, yeah, that too.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] A lot of secondhand embarrassment.
PETER: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] Yeah, a lot of cringing for Junpei.
CAITLIN: If you cannot deal with secondhand embarrassment, do not watch this show! It hurts. It hurts. So, yeah, I feel like with this one, it’s gonna depend on how the back half of the show is gonna go.
PETER: Yeah, agree.
CAITLIN: So… But we are way over. I am going to get yelled at for once again… Every time I host, we go over for one of the seasonal podcasts.
PETER: As is tradition.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] So, you know, I’m just keeping the proud AniFem decision— [corrects self] “decision”— tradition! [singing] Traditioooon! [Returns to normal voice] There, now Dee has to forgive me because I included a line from a musical in it.
CAITLIN: So, anyway, we hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Chatty AF. If you like what you’ve heard, tell your friends about us.
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