Vrai, Alex, and Peter (with a guest appearance by Toni) try to cover the wealth of excellent titles in the 2023 Spring season!
Note: During this episode Vrai mistakenly attributes Yurikuma Arashi (2015) as having been partly inspired by the 1995 sarin gas attacks; the series that pulled inspiration from that event was Penguindrum (2011). We regret the error.
Date Recorded: July 22nd 2023
Hosts: Vrai, Alex, Peter
0:00:00 Intros/Content warning
0:03:25 Tengoku Daimakyou (Heavenly Delusion)
0:11:32 My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lvl999
0:14:33 Dead Mount Death Play
0:17:38 The Dangers in My Heart
0:20:58 Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion
0:24:19 Otaku Elf
0:29:11 Hell’s Paradise
0:36:32 Oshi no Ko
0:48:08 Insomniacs After School
0:52:34 Yuri is My Job!
0:55:44 Skip and Loafer
Sequels & Carryovers
1:00:53 The Ancient Magus’ Bride Season 2
1:04:34 Birdie Wing: Girls’ Golf Story
1:08:27 Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury
1:11:50 Tokyo Mew Mew New
1:15:15 VINLAND SAGA Season 2
VRAI: Hey, AniFam. Just as a heads-up, when we get into the Oshi no Ko section of this podcast, we are going to get into talk about online harassment, suicidality, and death by suicide, talking in pretty nitty-gritty detail about both Akane’s arc and the real-world death of wrestling star Kimura Hana. So, please take care of yourselves, okay?
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. My name is Vrai. I’m the managing content editor for AniFem. You can find me kind of, sort of technically on Twitter @WriterVrai, and I’m also on Mastodon.social at same. With me today is, once again, Alex and Peter!
ALEX: Hey, everyone. My name is Alex. I’m a contributions and technical editor here at AniFem. In my other life, I also do writing and research on queer representation and fiction for young people. And I have in fact officially finished the thesis, so I can stop talking about it in my introductions to these podcasts.
VRAI: That means you’re Dr. Alex.
ALEX: I am. I am indeed Dr. Alex. I don’t have a doctorate in anything to do with anime, but if you want to introduce me like that or rock that out, I will happily take it!
VRAI: You know I will absolutely do that.
ALEX: Thank you, Vrai. [Chuckles]
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, I feel like if I had the option, I would definitely introduce myself that way, so…
ALEX: I have already snuck it into my email signature wherever possible. [Chuckles]
ALEX: But Peter?
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a manager of YouTube content and strategy at Crunchyroll. I am @PeterFobian on Twitter.
VRAI: Radical! Before we get into the meat of things proper, normally we do the social spiel at the end, but I wanted to pop right up at the top here that we officially have an AniFem TikTok that we will mostly be using for premiere- and recommendation-related stuff, sort of bookmarking seasons. So, they’re already up this season, and going forward, because they’re a little bit faster to make, you’ll be able to get sort of a preview of mini-versions of what our faves from any given season are. And we were a little late to the party, so you can find us there @anifemsite. That’s A-N-I-F-E-M-S-I-T-E.
Alright, putting that aside, we are gathered here today to look back at the extremely packed spring 2023 season. If you’re joining us for the first time, welcome. Here’s kind of how things work. We have a mid-season and a wrap-up podcast, and, using our Premiere Digest as a guide, we start at the bottom and work our way up. A lot of the shows that are on the lower half of the guide, we talk about more in depth in our mid-season, and we tend to kind of skim over them in our wrap-up just so that we’ll have time to talk about stuff like sequels. So, we’ll make a note here if anything major has changed, and if not, you can go back to our mid-season to look for more in-depth convos about those series.
Let us start with something a little bit unusual this round. Toni wasn’t able to be on this podcast. They just got slammed with a bunch of other-job type stuff. But they did record a few of their notes about Heavenly Delusion ahead of time because they and Peter were the ones who managed to get through it all. And we’re discussing, still, whether or not we want to do a dedicated podcast for it. It kind of depends on Toni and my emotional energy and finding a third person and all of that jazz. But I know that they were up and down about it throughout and, I think, ended up disappointed overall with where it ultimately led things, especially with the leads. So, I will defer to them on this point.
TONI: So, Heavenly Delusion is a show I honestly wouldn’t recommend, at the end. It’s really sad because I was really enjoying the worldbuilding and the suspense and the characters for the first few episodes. But as the show went on, the problems that I even noticed at the beginning with trans characters and with just general lack of interest in the social themes that it’s presenting got worse and worse. And I’m going to explain a little bit what I mean by that.
So, the story has two main arcs going on. We have Tokio and their thing in the Promised Neverland–like facility, and then we have Kiruko and Maru up traversing this apocalyptic waste. And Tokio’s story, I would say, fares a lot better. Over and over again, it gives the sense that the way that Tokio and her cohort have been kept in the dark about their bodies and about sexuality is a humongous way in which they can then be manipulated and used and denied bodily autonomy. And it really communicates these ideas about reproductive justice through Tokio’s arc in particular, because she’s really, over and over again, kept in the dark and denied agency over her body. And her arc ends with the ultimate denial of agency over her body. And I guess thematically what it is giving is that being kept in the dark is the ultimate disempowerment; the ultimate way to rob somebody of bodily autonomy is to just teach them nothing about sex. And I think that’s not a bad message to have. And I think that the intrigue and suspense of that facility arc is really powerful, and I really enjoy it.
But this show does not do well with Kiruko and Maru’s arc towards the end. It just totally loses me, specifically because of how it treats Kiruko as a trans character. Now, I’m going to spoil a little bit of what happens towards the end so, if you don’t want to hear what happens to Kiruko, feel free to skip to the end of this section about Heavenly Delusion. She finds Robin. Well, they find Robin. I shouldn’t say “she.” They find Robin. And Robin decides to rape her and make them his sex slave (I know I’m using “she” and “they” interchangeably; it’s very confusing) and, in doing so, kind of reads all of these different fetishes onto Kiruko’s body, and this series really explicitly says it. It’s like Kiruko becomes at once the defiled woman, as the sister character, [and] the male protector because of Haruki watching his sister be raped and her body being defiled like that.
It’s obviously a rape fantasy. And it’s very voyeuristic, because it’s kind of representing this way that Haruki clearly has feelings for his sister. And so there’s also an element of voyeurism here. And it’s just really gross and totally unnecessary and is effectively trans trauma porn. It’s done artfully, but ultimately that’s just polishing a turd. And what makes it even worse is that Maru’s reaction to it continues to center his romantic feelings for Kiruko, and he just does not know how to stop centering himself for even a second! And it’s supposed to be cute, but it’s really just not! And it’s great that Maru is not literally assaulting Kiruko anymore, but it’s just very frustrating. Add to that some general incoherence of some of the episodes, and it’s not really worth watching at the end of the day. I’m very frustrated. Anyways, that’s my thoughts on Heavenly Delusion.
VRAI: Peter, did you have any kind of last two cents that you wanted to add as the other person who finished the show?
PETER: Yeah, I’m sure Toni’s gonna go over all the most salient points. I will say I do think that they pretty definitively stated that it ended on a down since the sexual assault portion of the story was all the way up until the final episode. I think it was the first half of the final episode. Even problematic elements aside, I really do think it, at least personally, really hurt the central dynamic of the story for me, because in addition to Maru being very resentful of Kiruko’s searching for Robin after he becomes romantically interested in them, it kind of ruins the buddy dynamic that they had going forward. And I feel like it kind of leaves it off in a place where he’s just being very belligerent and forceful even though there’s no returned feelings.
So, I don’t think there’s any way out of that. The cool, friendly relationship they had, the back-and-forth is kind of ruined by him constantly trying to kiss Kiruko and getting really butthurt whenever Kiruko maybe shows romantic interest in somebody else or even something that could be perceived [as] romantic interest if you took a huge leap. I feel like that really blew all the air out of the central dynamic of this series, which was very disappointing. I think some of the larger plot stuff was pretty interesting, but I don’t know (I’ve been keeping up with the manga) how much interest I have in pursuing it now that there’s just this wedge that’s been formed between the two characters that you see most often that has made their relationship extremely uncomfortable, even outside all the shit that happened with Robin.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s pretty tough to root for a bickering friends-to-lovers dynamic when one of them is acting like an entitled douchebag the entire time that is owed access to their friend’s body. That kind of sucks!
PETER: Yeah, it’s real bad.
VRAI: Alright! Well, we’ll leave that where it lies for now and move up to a slightly happier-end output, which is My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lvl999. Alex, you were in a weird place with this one because—for once, the podcast is coming out after the recommendations—you recommended this one. You and Dee did.
ALEX: I did, yes. So, the first bit of good news for our purposes here is that basically all of the stuff that I found frustrating about the show seems to be front-loaded in the first half, which means we’ve already covered it in our mid-season and our three-episode check-in. It does have some bumps along the way, but I honestly ended up enjoying this one. And shout-out to my partner and my housemate, who are the ones who inspired me to stick with it, because they diligently watched it with me for my three-episode review and they were like, “No, I want to see what happens next!” [Chuckles] So, as a sort of group watch every weekend, that was a very fun experience.
And you know what? There have been romcoms that have made my heart go dokidoki and made shoujo bubbles appear around me to a greater degree, but I did really like this one. It’s sweet. It’s got a nice… It works its way towards a nice power balance between the two leads. And the finale works its way to a place—without spoilers, of course—where it nicely mirrors where they started and gives you a nice sense through that parallel of how far they’ve actually come. And I would be interested in a second season, to see what’s next for their relationship dynamic. I mean, I would be excited for the idea of a second season just on principle, because it is very exciting to have this so very shoujo series look so nice consistently all the way through and obviously be treated with some nice production value. That on its own is exciting. And yeah, obviously I had some nitpicks with it, but it was just a nice time, you know? Getting past that rough stuff with the stalking jokes and the little-sister shenanigans earlier on, it came to a nice place, you know? It came to a place where, yeah, I would happily recommend it, though obviously with those couple of caveats and content warnings that we have flagged in the recommendations.
VRAI: Yeah, just eavesdropping on folks who are fans of the source material, I know that people have mentioned in passing that after this point where the anime leaves off, it opens a lot of exciting, new ground for their relationship to develop, so it would be nice if it got more material. But if not, I believe you can read it in English on Mangamo, which is not the best online manga reader but…
PETER: It’s definitely not the worst!
VRAI: It’s not the worst either, because it is not the Square Enix one. You know, it functions. So, yeah, you can also read the ongoing manga if you liked what you saw in the anime and it doesn’t get a continuation.
Speaking of things that are getting a continuation, though, I am sad to report that I watched three times as much anime as I usually do this season and something had to give, and since it’s getting a second cour right now, that is Dead Mount Death Play. I just didn’t have time, so I’m only halfway through the first cour, but I do want to go back and watch the rest of it. Are you up to date, Peter?
PETER: Yeah, I finished it. I don’t know what I really have to say about this one, though. It’s just… It’s a lot of shenanigans. And obviously there’s this mystery plot developing around this mysterious sigil that—I can’t even remember what the guy’s name is—the magician discovered.
VRAI: Polka-kun! I know that’s his host’s name, but how did I not know—
PETER: No, no, no, the magician guy, the one with the mustache?
PETER: He discovers the sigil. He’s the one doing the investigating at scenes, right?
PETER: Yeah. But yeah, Polka’s involved now. So, I enjoyed myself, but I feel like they really just… since it’s split-cour, they dropped you in the middle of it… everything’s investing in these small pieces that are eventually going to come into some bigger revelations and we just haven’t discovered anything yet, so I kind of feel like I don’t know what to say about the series yet since there’s been no payoff whatsoever, beyond just if you’re enjoying the series’ hijinks.
VRAI: I’ll hope that it comes together a little better, then, because that was sort of why I fell off from Durarara!! I felt like it was spinning too many plates and couldn’t tie them all back together when it came down to it.
PETER: I wasn’t gonna say that but that’s literally my feeling. Yeah, it’s like Durarara!! You could watch like three episodes and go like, “Did anything happen?”
VRAI: No, but it was cool vibes!
PETER: Yeah, “Was there any plot development in the three episodes that I just watched?” It’s hard to tell until later on with… I can’t remember the writer’s name.
VRAI: Nagita [sic], I think.
PETER: That’s why I wasn’t as hot on Durarara!! as other people were when that series was huge.
VRAI: Narita! Sorry, I have to correct myself now. It’s Ryohgo Narita.
PETER: Mm. Yeah, so I enjoyed myself. I have no idea where this is even supposed to be going yet.
VRAI: I just hope things work out well for the bartender and her two girlfriends, who I presume are weed-smoking girlfriends.
VRAI: I guess we will put a pin in that one for now and check on it… I think it’s in the winter that the second half comes out. So, fingers crossed that it manages to tie things together. Check back on our mid-season talk for this one, folks.
Something that I did finish—and I was, kind of sadly, the only one—was The Dangers in My Heart. I talked a lot in the first half about the stumbling blocks that this one had in the first half with just an abominable opening and some boob nonsense sprinkled throughout. But behind-the-scenes peek, this one very narrowly got cut from the recommendations list, and the only reason was that I put those posts together, I was in charge of writing up or helping write up like four other things, and it was at the bottom of the priority list and there simply wasn’t time.
But I do recommend that folks check this series out, because I think ultimately… It’s getting a second season and I’m going to watch it and I’m going to enjoy it, I think, but… It ends up in a really nice place where this becomes this story about two kids who are just extremely awkward, and the show very nicely balances the fact that this is the most middle-school thing on Earth, where they’re both sort of trying to suss out whether the other one likes them, and the other person is not getting it in this or that way. And they do manage to make some progress by the end. It ends on a really beautiful place of feeling like they found somebody else who understands them, and they’re kind of getting to undefined, nebulously “Do we maybe like-like each other?” kind of way that feels really natural.
Again, because the manga author is a woman, I think she has a really deft touch for things like dealing with the running background plot about Yamada having a stalker, but it’s in a really mundane way where he just keeps showing up and inviting himself to things that her friends are doing or asking her friend over to do something, hoping that she’ll feel awkward and go along so that her friend will be alone, or cornering our protagonist when he’s alone and being like, “Hey, can I get her contact info from you? I won’t say who it’s from.” And he’s just a very realistic lowkey creep.
Even though it’s full of jokes about being a middle school cringe fail nerd, I also think it has an element of naturalness that I found really appealing, and I was really rooting for them by the end. It’s one of those things where these kids are not gonna make it forever but this is a really good first relationship, and you’re happy for them and watching them get better as people. And the production is kind of soft and nice. And it’s just a nice show, putting aside the caveats that we discussed in the mid-season. So, yeah. Hopefully, because it continued to improve so steadily all throughout the first season, hopefully the second season will be just strength to strength and you will see that in the recs post when it comes out.
PETER: Whomst among us was not a middle school cringe fail nerd?
VRAI: Considering the job we ended up in? High probability.
VRAI: Oh! So, jumping up the list a little bit, it feels like we should take a moment to talk about Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion. Peter, you were the only one, I think, who finished this. Lizzie is a fan of the webtoon but they dropped the anime, I believe.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I feel really bad making this comparison, but I got very similar vibes to My Home Hero, where the adaptation made it difficult to tell how good the source material was. With My Home Hero, I’d heard really good things about the manga, but none of the story tension or horror or the visceral scenes really felt like they landed, just because the adaptation didn’t lead into them well or manage to create that sense of atmosphere. I kind of got the same feeling with…[hesitates] Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion. I don’t know. I can’t think of a way to shorten that title when I say it out loud. Raeliana. We’ll say that.
VRAI: There you go.
PETER: But I was finding it difficult to know what emotions it wanted me to feel at certain points, because you’ll get a single scene where it jumps from her being afraid for her life and then trying to keep up this persona that’s been her public face in the face of some imminent danger in a very tense social situation that could affect the Duke’s reputation, and then going hog wild in a comedic way where she just empties a gun at a dude that she doesn’t like and then making a joke. And this was all in one scene. And I was like, I don’t know what this is: the adaptation not managing to move these moments into one another in an effective way, or if the source material just kinda jumped around emotionally like this. And that was unfortunately how I felt about the majority of the plot developments.
It was hard to really get a read on how I was supposed to feel about most things. And it was another series where I kind of just felt like the plot was on fast-forward. I don’t know how much was adapted of the original source material, but it felt like everything was moving at an extremely quick pace, which also contributed towards me just feeling like I got whiplash in half the scenes.
VRAI: That’s a shame.
PETER: I wish I had more nice things to say about it since I know it’s got a really stellar reputation, and I felt like it probably had some unique ideas in it. But I couldn’t ever sync up with the story that I was watching, I guess.
VRAI: Yeah. So this is maybe one where we encourage folks— I believe it’s on one of those free-to-read sites, so it’s a pretty easy investment if you want to go check it out. I can’t remember if it’s on Webtoon, the website. But yeah, this is maybe one to check out for reading and not so much the anime adaptation, which is too common a story. But we live in hope!
PETER: [I] think you can also buy it physical.
VRAI: Oh, nice. Right, because they’re binding webcomics now. That’s cool. Skipping up a little to something else that showed up on our recommendations post, Alex, do you want to give a little shout-out to Otaku Elf? It seems like it sort of stuck the course from mid-season, but…
ALEX: It very much has, and I won’t talk too much about this one at the risk of repeating myself from the recommendations. But this one’s nice, folks. It’s just a nice time. Really, there are only a couple things to flag. You know, the thing that I mentioned in the recommendations post where there’s kind of a joke… In the way that you will have a side character and have one joke attached to them, her joke is that she has a straight-up gambling addiction, which seems, you know, not in the best taste. And the other thing, which I really didn’t expect, is this show is sad sometimes! My silly nerd elf show is sometimes sad, in a very bittersweet and moving kind of way. You have this great throughline about [how], yeah, this elf character is immortal, so one of the reasons she is so anxious and so shut in is because the world has changed so rapidly around her and she’s really trying to keep up with everything.
And you also have this great little plotline where the human character, Koito… her mother died when she was quite young, and her mother was the previous shrine maiden in the role that she’s currently in. And so she has this thing where she’s trying to step into the shoes and emulate this woman that she’s never actually met. But her relationship with Elda, the elf, the goddess, is kind of this little bridge to kind of rebuilding her relationship with her mother, who she doesn’t remember. It’s very sweet. It’s also very silly, has a lot of things that will make you chuckle. But as I wrote, even all the way back to the first episode, it has this interesting extra depth that I was pleasantly surprised by, that I think really elevates it. And yeah, I would say put this on your shelf next to slice-of-life supernatural comedies like, say, Flying Witch or even Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. It’s that kind of vibe. It’s a fun, chill time to spend.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s gonna go in the watch list, next to Healer Girl, of recent seasonal anime that I wanted to watch and simply could not make time.
ALEX: Ah, yes. As we keep saying, summer’s looking a little bit dry, so maybe we can take the time to come back to some of these from more bountiful seasons.
VRAI: Peter, you mentioned that you, too, have been quite busy, so you finished only a paltry dozen shows, which means you had to drop A Galaxy Next Door.
PETER: Yes. Although, to prepare for the season, I read all of the manga that was covered by the anime, which I can say pretty much stayed the course. We talked about how it had a kind of problematic premise with the guy being kind of magically enslaved to the girl. However, that just created a venue for them to be very open and communicative about their situation and try to resolve it, like two mature and respectful adults. And they do resolve it. They manage to pull the thorn out of him so that there isn’t this magical contract between them anymore, this marriage proposal made by her alien tail. But of course, it turns out they actually do like each other, and it turns into a nice little romcom.
I really love the work of this series’ author—mangaka—and I think they just have a really good way of creating these low-stakes series that really dive into characters’ personal feelings in ways that avoid a lot of typical anime tropes, typically by making characters communicate often, explain their feelings, and reach understanding, which is very odd for the genres that they work within. I mean, you could either watch the anime or read the manga. I would probably recommend both. Big fan of Sweetness and Lightning, too. Just any time this mangaka makes something, I’m probably going to read it.
VRAI: I know that Dee hadn’t had a chance to finish it, but she was enjoying it as well. And the production seems, if not shiny-sakuga stellar, then pretty solid. So, this might be one for folks to check out if they want a very chill, communicative romcom about adults, eh?
PETER: Yeah, yeah. It’s a very… What do you call it? It’s a nice comfort show. Nothing super dramatic’s going to happen. It’s going to be really sweet. All the characters are great, and you can just visit them once a week or all at once if you’re binging it post-season, something like that. I recommend it.
VRAI: Cool. I accidentally skipped over one, so we’re gonna do that now. Hell’s Paradise! A series that I did and did not finish, in that I fell a few episodes behind on the anime but I have read the manga to a little bit beyond where the anime ended, and it’s pretty much a panel-for-panel remake, so I feel like that counts.
VRAI: [In prolonged thought] Uh…
ALEX: [crosstalk] Okay.
VRAI: That’s kind of my mood.
PETER: Not sure what to say, huh?
ALEX: That noise doesn’t bode well. [Chuckles]
VRAI: I think it’s really interesting, and I’m looking forward to at least continuing to read more. We’ll see if I have time to go back and watch more of the anime, because MAPPA’s making pretty MAPPA work. You know, commentary about their exploitative working conditions goes here. I think I said this in the mid-season, but this series is doing a lot with gender. I’m not sure if it’s doing a good, but it is doing a gender.
PETER: Mm-hm. Well, I don’t know if I can really comment on that aspect of it. I do want to say I think Yuji Kaku is one of the more interesting people working in the Shonen Jump environment. Hell’s Paradise itself is a pretty short series at only 13 volumes. I read the whole thing and I really enjoyed it. It was kind of refreshing to read a shorter shounen action series that had a pretty satisfying ending. I haven’t gotten that in recent history from… Actually I’m not sure if it was Shonen Jump or Shonen Sunday. One of those two [obscured by crosstalk].
VRAI: [crosstalk] It was Jump+.
PETER: Jump+. Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, regardless of how all that, I actually think you’re gonna enjoy it more later, Vrai, with some of the new characters they introduce.
VRAI: Rock on.
PETER: I do think it is very good for having parity between its co-leads. Typically, in this sort of situation where there’s a guy and a girl main character, something like Fairy Tail, the guy absolutely takes over when it comes to plot importance, and there’s usually a romantic element that develops over the plot. And I really respected that (this might be a bit of a spoiler, but…) they remain platonic, and in fact, their mutual understanding and their development, as spurred by one another, becomes very central to the progression of the plot. So, I felt like there was a lot of equity between the two of them in a nice, cool platonic relationship with the two main characters, which is very unusual for Shonen Jump, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the story.
VRAI: Yeah, yeah. And I… [Sighs deeply] When I make big ughs, dramatic ugh sounds about the gender of it all. “This whole thing smacks of gender.” I do think it’s one of those “You tried” type series, and I do continue to find it interesting, if a little bit fumbly. It’s really trying to talk about male and female as a set of traits rather than— On the one hand, it wants to talk about coded-male traits and coded-female traits and how people have a mix of those and that’s a good and healthy thing and it makes you a more rounded person. And you see that with both Sagiri and Gabimaru. And then, it gets into the bad guys, who, because they are shapeshifting plant monsters (also are body shapeshifters) and [are], on the one hand, kind of cool and interesting, and their ability to shed gender is a sign of enlightenment… but also they’re alien monsters, and the one of them who is cis and femme all the time is there to be a sexual assault victim, and I don’t love that! It’s not shown on screen but it’s implied. So, it’s so much. [Chuckles nervously] I don’t think I have a coherent thesis on that. It’s just “Well, you made an attempt,” and I feel like when I put the bar on the floor for shounen handling gender…
VRAI: It’s a little more “Oh, you!” than being wildly offensive, if that makes sense.
ALEX: And as always, our pitch submission box is open if someone does have feelings about this and wants to articulate that in 1000 to 2000 words. [Chuckles]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Please do! It really is— And I feel like what gives me some forgiveness towards it is the fact that it is trying to do this stuff with Sagiri, trying to talk about emotional openness with Gabimaru, making Nurugai the sort of typical “What? I had no idea you were a girl” type character but not giving her a complex about that; she doesn’t give a fuck. And I actually kind of want to tip my hat to the anime for even showing a little more restraint than the manga with Yuzuriha, where I was kind of worried it would be gross!
PETER: Oh, you mean her ninjutsu? [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
VRAI: Well, and even with her outfit, you know? She’s got a very revealing outfit because she uses seduction Fujiko Mine–style as a tool, but the art is fairly matter-of-fact about it, which I appreciate.
PETER: Yeah, there are a surprising number of Fujiko Mine parallels in this show.
VRAI: I’m definitely going to read the rest of the manga. I think it is more interesting and thoughtful than a lot of battle shounen that get as far as an anime. I think it is still flawed or rudimentary in some other ways that it would absolutely not get away with if it weren’t a Jump show, because, let’s be real, we’ve all put the bar on the floor. But I don’t know. I’m glad to be following it around, especially because it is short and manageable. So, yeah. Especially if you’re into body horror. The body horror continues to be choice.
PETER: Oh, yes. It’s very good.
VRAI: Also, the place where they ended off the anime is cheap. It’s just a cheap plot cul-de-sac that goes nowhere!
PETER: Oh, yeah, yeah. That development in the manga, it was very… I was just like, “Why’d you put this in? And are you going to do anything with it? Oh, you’re not?” I think maybe he realized that he didn’t really want to do it after all [Chuckles], right after introducing it.
VRAI: So, yeah, if you are a shounen battle fan already, this one has a lot going for it. If you are not somebody who likes them at all ever, unless you’re super into body horror, like Annihilation, The Thing type stuff, this one’s probably not transformatively brilliant. It’s just interesting and ambitious, and I respect that about it.
I can’t believe that I’m the only one on this call who watched Oshi no Ko.
PETER: Yeah, our whole staff watched it except for…
VRAI: Except for you two!
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles]
ALEX: I’ve watched the first couple episodes. And of course, I’ve had the opening theme song stuck in my head for about a month, if that counts. [Chuckles]
VRAI: It’s good!
ALEX: So I am— It’s so… YOASOBI. They make the good shit, and I’m so glad they’re getting so many gigs for doing anime openings. Excellent workout music, as well. But I know that we… “we” being the staff and also the general, broader discussion about this show has been a little bit up and down all over the place. In our TikTok, for example, which you plugged before, we described it as “It’s a mess but it’s our mess,” and I would love to hear more about that and what that means.
VRAI: So, a while ago in the AniFem Discord (which y’all can join if you become a member of our Patreon), somebody mentioned, unrelated, talking about old ‘90s shows where you would sit through a show with a shit male protagonist because all the secondary female characters are really great. And that’s relevant.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Oh, dear.
VRAI: Other people are warmer on him than I am. I think Lizzie and Chiaki don’t at least abjectly hate him. But Aqua is a tough protagonist for me and a real hurdle to recommending the show. In fact, my partner outright refused to watch the show with me because, in their words, they hate watching shows where genius boys monologue about how much smarter they are than everyone else.
ALEX: [Chuckles] And that is a whole genre.
VRAI: Yep! Mm-hm! Toni covered a lot of this in their write-up recommendation. I’m going to be pointing people towards that a lot. But yeah, it’s a case where he does get better as the show goes on, mainly because you can feel the manga author going, “Shit! Fuck! Shit! I want to write romantic subplots into this,” and so at a certain point he throws out the bone that “Oh, man, I notice that as I’ve been aging my mental age is really syncing up with my physical age, so it’s not at all creepy and weird if I start to have romantic tension with these other teenage girls!”
ALEX: Right! [Chuckles] Okay.
VRAI: So he becomes a little bit more like… It becomes less obtrusive, the problems from the first episode. But there are multiple intrusive plot elements where basically he will do something that everyone’s like “This is a bad idea!” or “This is invasive of somebody’s privacy!” but it’s fine because it worked out for the best.
And I think the one that went around discoursing for everybody that we can’t responsibly not talk about is Akane’s introductory arc, where essentially Aqua goes onto a reality dating show because the producer cast him basically as a trade for information about his mother. And while he is on there, one of his co-stars, who is sort of shy and having trouble standing out and she’s really worried about representing her agency well and feels like she has all this weight on her shoulders about not just her but her parents and the people who are repping her and her burgeoning career off the stage and into other media, she kind of gets pushed into a corner of needing to act more dramatic so that she will make an impact and get more screen time, you know, which leads to more roles. And in the heat of the moment, she gets frustrated and slaps another character who is the show darling, everybody’s fave.
And they immediately make up afterwards, but she gets the villain edit, which I’m sure those of you who have ever watched reality TV are probably familiar with, where you cut out the surrounding context so you only have the heightened, dramatic moment where this person looks terrible. And she gets death threats on social media and eventually spirals to the point of attempting to commit suicide, at which point Aqua narrowly saves her right before she steps off a bridge.
And so, the reason that this is so very tasteless is that… The manga author talks a little bit about how he was partially inspired by the live-action Kaguya-sama cast and how they got a lot of harassment, and so I think this is meant to be something of a gestalt. But you can’t get around the fact that this is, in a lot of ways, one-to-one drawn from the death of Kimura Hana, who was this absolutely brilliant young wrestler. And she went on this show called Terrace House, which was sort of known as the chill hangout reality show, where people just go and they talk and maybe they fall in love but everybody’s having a good, sweet time.
And allegedly, she was encouraged to sort of play things up for the camera. And she had an argument at one point where she accused another cast member of touching or damaging her ring gear, which is a big deal; ring gear’s very expensive. And that’s it. That’s the whole argument. She gets a villain edit and receives an absolute deluge of hate mail and harassment online, a lot of extremely racist because she was mixed race. And she took her own life. And it was a horrible story. There’s currently a lawsuit going on, where her mother is suing Fuji TV, because a lot of the reason that Hana felt so backed into a corner is that the producers basically told her that if she pulled out then they wouldn’t be able to air the show and that would basically be on her shoulders.
And Kimura’s mother herself actually commented, when the episode of Oshi no Ko came out, that she found it extremely triggering. And she was honestly extremely classy about it in her comments, where she didn’t disparage the show for existing, but basically what she said was this was triggering, to be reminded suddenly out of the blue of something that so resembled her daughter’s death. And the fact that the producers didn’t approach her in any way about discussing what might be an ethical approach to telling this story, didn’t even have the conversation with her, felt like sort of a dire oversight in this show that is being praised, I think justly in some ways, for shining a light on the exploitation of young people in the entertainment industry.
And I think it is a mark against the show, especially given that after that episode aired, the series had a recap episode (it’s only 11 episodes long and a recap), and the recap episode is, in light of that context, a little bit disgustingly self-congratulatory. You know, I think it’s one thing to be proud of the work you’re making, to talk about the fact that this is something that should be [talked] about. A few weeks back, as we’re recording, we actually included an interview with YOASOBI about their influence for the song and how they too felt the truth and the pull of what the series is doing. It’s clearly a powerful thing. I really like the show overall. But this is just a sad and upsetting thing, and it’s just wildly irresponsible and it sucks.
ALEX: Yeah, well put. Well articulated. I knew some of that context, but not all of it. I mean, I have no kind of place to comment as I haven’t watched that far in the show, but it certainly highlights a really interesting kind of dark, gray space where maybe you earnestly want to make a critique of the entertainment industry, drawing from real life, but if you draw too much from real life, you risk hurting the people who are still very much in that space and who in real life have been hurt by that space and exploitations that you are fictionalizing. Which, there don’t… Hm. There doesn’t seem to be… There’s no way we can wrap that up nicely in this short segment, but it is a very interesting discussion that has been raised.
VRAI: It is also worth noting that when we talk about discussing real events, that’s something that anime does a lot. Yurikuma Arashi [sic; see corrective note above] was partially inspired by the sarin gas attacks. But that was 25 years afterwards, something like that, 20 years maybe. Kimura Hana died in 2020, which was weeks before the relevant manga chapter came out. But I think that is a major caveat, given the goals of the show, and, I think, something that should be talked about. I also think that— I think this is still, in some ways, a special and important show. I do think that. It sort of is interesting and will be interesting, as the series gets older, goes on, and finishes, to see how it codifies what is acceptable as criticism and what gets swept aside in the name of chasing this greater good.
So, yeah, it’s a heavy series; it’s a fraught series. I love the female cast so much. Every female character is just really well rounded, really interesting. The idol arc after Akane’s introduction is really moving and Aqua’s barely in at all, so you get to watch the girls all interact and get closer. And I think I mentioned this in the mid-season, but I think what’s so great about the series and something that I’ve really been hungry for is it’s this show that’s very frank about the pitfalls of the idol industry without shaming these girls who are still drawn to it and still feel inspired by it. And I think that that’s a very hard needle to thread, and those storylines, consequently, can be very moving. So, yeah, it sort of inevitably got renewed for a season 2, because it was on everybody’s lips for at least a minute there, and I will absolutely be watching it. But yeah, it’s definitely a fraught one. So, we will see!
ALEX: We will see, for sure. Now, to hop genres again, completely…
VRAI: To another show that only I watched! You fucks!
ALEX: I wanted to get to this one; I really did. This is Insomniacs After School. It had elements in that first couple episodes I did find very interesting, but again, it’s a terrible case of just there were other things that were more compelling that were taking my time this season. I may go back, or… I don’t know. What did you think, having been the brave soldier who actually watched it all the way through?
VRAI: [Laughs] It’s a good show, right? It’s a show that I respect more than I liked. I never really clicked with it, even as I sort of got through the back half—maybe watching it at 1.5 speed. You’ll never know. I really got a handle on and appreciation [of] where it was going with the main cast. It’s a very pretty show. There are cute cats in it. And I think that there’s something extremely “your mileage may vary” about shows like this that are extremely slow and quiet and meditative, where either you click with the vibe or you don’t. And I just kind of didn’t. And I can sort of winnow into why that is. I think that the secondary cast is a lot weaker than a lot of the other boy/girl romcoms that aired this season. They’re a lot less memorable. The leads are extremely well developed. The arcade lady, who’s their senpai, is very cool and definitely a trans cat girl. That’s just my headcanon, but I’m sticking by it.
VRAI: But yeah. What it is is it’s a quiet contemplative romcom that sometimes, around the edges, talks about anxiety and chronic illness. And so, the anxiety, chronic illness, insomnia stuff was the stuff that I was primarily interested in. And it is not the show’s fault that it is primarily interested in being a romcom. Not even a romcom; it’s more of a straightforward romance. It’s a very… not stodgy, but serious, little show. So, it is not the show’s fault that it made those decisions. It just meant that it was harder for me to stick along with, because I was less invested in the world. I do think it has some really beautiful conversations about those subjects as the two get closer.
Magari is still not the protagonist. She’s very much the secondary character. But the show does give her space to not be the magical manic pixie dream girl who is improving this guy’s life. There is time given to talking about how she’s been influenced by having heart trouble as a kid and how she’s got these anxieties about whether she might die young and how she has these frustrations with feeling pitied by other people around her. And it gives serious weight and time to those discussions. So, it feels like it respects her beyond being a love interest, which I really appreciated. And there’s a lot of talk about anxiety and fears of abandonment.
I think it’s skittering around the edge in some places of “You don’t need therapy; you just need to find somebody to fall in love with!” Like, it’s not saying that, it doesn’t feel like it’s purporting that, but nobody even floats that as an option, and of course, it’s because mental health care is a very different subject in Japan. There’s a lot more stigma about it even than there is in America, where there certainly is a lot. And so, a lot of the focus is on these two people, through each other, learning to basically do talk therapy with each other about why they have these anxieties around going to sleep and take steps towards being better. And yeah, it’s a good show. It’s well told. It looks pretty. I think if you are looking for a quiet romance series, boy/girl romance series… It wasn’t for me, but I think it is worth recommending that people give it a shot because it is good.
ALEX: Nice. Very nice.
VRAI: Please, God, someone else talk now. Alex, you talk about Yuri Is My Job.
ALEX: [Chuckles] I will. I will. Please, take a breath. Go off the stage. I will stand up. So, in fact, Yuri Is My Job, we actually already did a full podcast watchalong on this, because there is just so much to talk about. And this is a series that’s been on our radar for a while, all the way back to recommending the manga a few years ago. Now, obviously, there’s more of it and there’s this adaptation! So, you know, take a chance to get hooked in.
This one, I really enjoyed, as we did discuss in that other podcast, but [it] is, I feel, important to mention here it has a couple of adaptational stumbling blocks and it makes the decision to end on kind of a weird note that…not undoes the themes that it was building up, but sort of loops back in on itself and attempts to wrap itself up with a nice bow in case it doesn’t get a second season, presumably, but in a way that it’s like “Didn’t we just establish that these characters are very messy and all these things can’t be resolved super quick, and actually this place is far more complicated than we’ve been letting on?” And the show goes, “Nah! No, no, no, nah, it’s fine. It’s cute! So, here’s the curtain call. Wasn’t that great? Okay, bye, everybody, end credits,” and [Chuckles] you’re sort of left going, “Huh?” Combine that with the fact that it also adds an unusually high amount of boob jiggle fanservice in the final episode… Ends on a bit of an odd note, shall we say.
But all the material leading up to that was great, really interesting stuff. Have a look at this one if you’re interested in messy teen interpersonal drama, if you’re interested in the way it interacts with and not deconstructs but, let’s say, plays with and plays on the tropes of the history of yuri and Class S and the way that those tropes kind of provide a scaffold for these characters to try and understand their relationships—to mixed results, shall we say. It’s very fun! It’s very good. If you’re looking for a show [where] there’s multiple queer characters so it’s not a representational failure if one of them is perhaps problematic and messy because they’re all very problematic and messy in their own different ways, it definitely has that going for it as well. So, if that piques your interest and you haven’t checked it out yet, maybe go have a peek at our wrap-up podcast or just go dive in and start watching the show and see if it’s for you, because it may not be for everybody, but I think it has a lot to offer.
VRAI: Yeah, I will continue to be the “one guy” evangelist of Yuri Is My Job, the best schoolgirl yuri currently running. But you summed it up nicely, and then we talked about it for a whole hour.
ALEX: We did. And we could have kept going, because, again, thematically and character-study-wise, there is a lot to chew on. So, again, if that sounds like your kind of jazz, then go to that café, sit down with a cup of tea, and see what happens.
VRAI: [Chuckles] Skip and Loafer is the last of our non-sequels, and it is very one of those shows that’s like “This was stupendous.” Also, it was just kind of nice, and the kids are good.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Yeah, I’ll be real with you. One of the reasons that Insomniacs fell off my radar is because Skip and Loafer was just filling that niche for me, and it was filling so incredibly well [Chuckles] that it would have paled in comparison. Yeah, this one was nice! It was really, really good! Again, I won’t say too much at the risk of repeating what I already wrote in my recommendations and also, yeah, because, Vrai, as you folks covered in the mid-season, if you want to dig into discussion, there are things that you can sort of pick apart, but also, any issues that it does have only stand out because for the most part it is just fantastic. It is just a really well-put-together kind of combination coming-of-age drama and high school slice-of-life, warm-and-fuzzy-feelings show. I feel like it walks that line in a very, very competent way.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, honestly, I was left very sad that, of the large slate of boy/girl romcoms this season, that Dangers in My Heart was the one that got a second season and not SkipLoaf, because I feel like, as much as I enjoyed Dangers, it left off on a very tidy place and SkipLoaf has this huge cast that I want to see more of!
PETER: Yeah. I think there’s only one character I do not like in that whole series, and everybody else feels like they maybe don’t necessarily have their own storylines but definitely could. It’s weird. It’s a comfort show where everybody’s kind of got a hangup but it’s about how they are able to navigate it by having such a supportive group of people around them. Definitely one of those comfort, feel-good anime that you can just watch every week, knowing that it’s going to be nice to watch and you won’t feel very challenged by it or get any nasty surprises. I just want to shout out… My Clueless First Friend was also in this zone for me. Definitely, if I had to choose between the two, I’d say Skip and Loafer was leagues ahead in terms of production quality and content. But both of them were just these really nice shows that I was looking forward to every week.
ALEX: Nice. Yeah. The one thing… Maybe it’s best we don’t get into this now just in case of spoilers, but I do want to give a shout-out, as well, to Nao-chan, of course, the certified cool auntie and mentor character, who is just, again, as I said in my review, just so warm and refreshing in a media climate where trans women and trans fictional characters are being treated with such suspicion and vitriol. Just the way she was handled was so matter of fact I found [it] very sweet. Are you caught up on the manga, Peter? Because I just heard—
PETER: I only read what was going to be adapted.
ALEX: Okay, because I know that I have seen manga panels floating around of Nao-chan’s backstory, pre-transition, and hanging out with Mitsumi as a little kid. It’s a very cute scene. And the anime kind of alluded to that moment, but it didn’t include it, so I wondered if that was something that had been cut for time or something that we may get to later in the story.
PETER: Well, I mean, Nao-chan was definitely one of the characters who I felt really had some thought built into her backstory and with the intention of developing them more later and having some story arcs. I haven’t read that in the manga, but it does not surprise me to hear that.
ALEX: Okay. All right. Well, I had a moment of worries that, ooh, did that backstory get cut for some reason? But if we haven’t gotten to it yet in the story that has been adapted, then that’s okay. [Chuckles] That reassures me a little bit. And again, fingers crossed for a season 2, because, as far as I’m aware, this was a very popular source material and the series did very well.
PETER: We can hope for a season 2, but if not, I definitely plan to get into the manga. It’s very nice. I hope they do a physical release, too.
VRAI: Oh, it’s digital only. [Corrects self] No! No, no! It’s…
PETER: Is it physical?
VRAI: It’s definitely physical. I worked in a bookstore; I’ve seen it.
PETER: Let me take a look. I guess I will buy that right now.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Peter’s like, “Hang on, pause the recording. I have to run out the door.” [Chuckles] “Skip and Loafer’s calling to me.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, wow, yeah. You can preorder volume 8 right now. Yeah, I’m probably gonna buy all this.
VRAI: Yeah, I believe the anime covers the first four volumes, just like Yuri Is My Job.
PETER: Mm-hm. And Galaxy Next Door was maybe three or four volumes. Dang. I’m gonna, yeah, buy all this right now.
ALEX: [Chuckles] So while Peter’s doing that, while Peter’s on a little shopping spree, [Chuckles] should we bop down our list into sequels?
VRAI: Yes, let’s do it! Peter, take a break from ordering more SkipLoaf to tell us about season 2 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. I know that a lot of folks were turned off from this series specifically because of the, I think, anime-only ending of the first season.
PETER: I wouldn’t really call it an ending. It is just a stopping point until they release the second cour, because it’s a split core, I think, starting in October, swinging back up in October. So, I don’t know if they were trying to wrap anything up; they were just taking a break in production. I can say, personally I have been keeping up with the manga ever since the first season came out, which was one of the first animes I worked on at Crunchyroll, I want to say like five years ago. So, near and dear to my heart, this series. That said, this whole arc felt, dare I say, underwhelming after the first arc. It kind of blows out the world. Chise enters this new college. There’s a ton of new side characters who are classmates, and just none of them particularly interest me.
I know a couple of them obviously have some backstory, but just like Dead Mount Death Play, it’s very slow in developing these narratives, and just a lot of confusing things are happening while this is going on. And I just really needed it to do something. I believe that something is finally happening, so maybe the next season will have a bit more juice, but it’s just a little bit frustrating in the way it kind of… Because Chise’s development was so core to the first season and she feels a lot more complete now and I don’t think it’s really found its new hook yet past whatever it’s planning with Philomela. And I guess we have yet to see if there’s anything there, now that that’s finally coming to light. That said, the production’s still great. Lots of cool magic stuff. Really great art. And it’s got its moments, for sure. But I’m really hoping that I enjoy the next part, just because I feel so close to the series personally.
VRAI: Yeah. And yeah, it’s really focused on her doing school stuff rather than the romance background stuff, yeah?
PETER: Not even then, ‘cause I feel like Chise being a Magus rather than a Sorcerer means she’s kind of leagues outside of the experience of everyone else at the school. I don’t even know if she really needs the lessons. It’s more just exposing her to the broader culture and society, which you find out… I think that might be the most interesting part, where you get exposed to the fact that all these Sorcerer houses are extremely like, dark-fantasy noble-house backstabbing, assassinations, poisoning, that kind of thing. But within the school, all of that’s sort of off limits so you only kind of hear about this on the periphery. If it can get into that stuff, it could be interesting. But you’re not really being exposed to new, cool magic stuff either since Chise’s already super powerful, being a Sleigh Beggy, having a dragon arm, having Joseph’s left eye, all that.
VRAI: Cool. Alright, well, we’ll see how that continues to shape up as it goes along. I know people have big feels about it and also are constantly in anguish about it. Alright!
Time now for a shout-out to Birdie Wing: Girls’ Golf Story [sic], a show that is absurd, that I like very much. If you liked Akiba Maid War last year, you should be watching Birdie Wing. That is my two-second pitch. It has everything that a stupid, absurd sport series should have, but it’s about women. So, you know, you have secret techniques and extremely homoerotic rivals and absurd effects that have nothing to do with anything. The main duo have what I like to compare to as a very Banana Fish–y type vibe where Eve is extremely Ash-like as this troubled punk kid who’s come from a hardscrabble background, and then Aoi is this young, sheltered Japanese girl who nonetheless is able to get a rise out of out of this seen-everything, world-weary blonde, and it’s very good, except that Birdie Wing is not troubled by last-minute tragedy porn. And— But— So, Birdie Wing is a hard series to sum up in a couple of minutes because it just— In the three-episode review for this series, I said that it perhaps wasn’t absurd enough, and I rescind that. The first four—
VRAI: It basically takes like five episodes to get its feet under it, where the first couple episodes have this air of it [wanting] to be about shady mafia dealings and there’s characters who imply vague sexual menace if Eve loses, and then nothing ever comes of that, and there’s a little bit of light fanservice here and there. And then all of that immediately goes away after that first four-episode arc is done. And it just becomes about ever-escalating silly golf matches and solving mafia grudges with golf and the phrase “I’ll kill you in golf” said with complete seriousness! Birdie Wing is awesome!
ALEX: [Laughs] I feel like that’s something we can adapt into everyday conversation, just “Ah, I’ll kill you with golf!” Not actual death threat, but “I’ll kill you in [insert hobby of your choice].”
VRAI: On the scale of gay, it is slightly less gay than MagiRevo or Witch from Mercury insofar as there’s no kiss or confession, but it’s one of those shows that uses a lot of language around… The entire thrust of the show is this deepening emotional bond between Eve and Aoi. Aoi is pretty vocal about being physically attracted to Eve, who is doing the typical hiding-her-feelings, gruff, “I’m indifferent to you” type thing for a lot of the show, with an end goal of language like “I want to be with her forever” type stuff, where it’s like, okay, there’s no heterosexual explanation for this but we’ve just not said it’s gay. Which bafflingly puts it in the category of being slightly less explicit than Kandagawa Jet Girls, a show that is objectively worse as a girls’ sport series, even though I’m fond of it. But yeah. So, Birdie Wing is very silly, I feel like it flew under the radar for a lot of people, and you should watch it, folks at home, because we deserve more women-led sport shows that are just stupid, that are just gloriously, amazingly stupid.
ALEX: Yes, we do. Well put. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Alright. Speaking of Witch from Mercury, we’re not going to spend a whole lot of time on this one because, like Yuri Is My Job, we did a full recording, a full hour for the first half, and we will be doing a corresponding one with the same guests for the second half. So, we’re gonna save a lot of the discussion for there. I will just in the meantime echo what I said in the write-up recommendation that I did for it, which is that it is a beautifully ambitious show. I love all the characters, and I feel like it pays off their emotional stories well. I think it basically was set up for a glass-cliff type fall where it’s been five years since Iron-Blooded Orphans stopped airing, never mind since it started. And it had a lot riding on it, it had half the runtime of an average Gundam show, and it still managed to pay off an extraordinary percentage of what it set out to do, which I think is pretty incredible. It’s extremely gay. I love my girls. I’m full of feelings.
ALEX: Yeah. No, this was good. I watch Gundam now! [Chuckles] Or at least, I’ve watched one. This one got me. So, yeah, I don’t have too much to add to that, especially because you and the podcast guests will say it better than me, but this was really good! Again, though it may have had some breakneck pacing in the second half as it ambitiously endeavors to cram everything in there, I don’t think it was a detriment. There’s a longer, perhaps more elegantly paced, better version of it that exists in an alternate universe somewhere, but I am still very happy with what we got here, and I really hope that it helps prop open the door (or kick open the door, perhaps) for other series that are going to be doing similar things, now that we know, through Gunpla sales, that this does work.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, that’s right! People bought, like, the most Gunpla ever for the gay Gundam series, so suck on that! Sorry, I’m okay.
PETER: It’s a very unique series because I feel like it really accomplished a lot and grabbed everybody’s attention so much despite pretty common sentiment that I feel most people left the ending feeling like they were only scratching the surface of what they could [have] accomplished given the world they designed and all the characters they had built up that really didn’t get a payoff. There’s definitely a lot more they could have done [with] the series if it got a full traditional Gundam run. The ending, I feel, was satisfying, but it’s kind of a triumph and a tragedy.
VRAI: Yeah, a lot of characters had to go and sit in the side character waiting room, the literal side character waiting room, for multiple episodes, which is very funny to me!
ALEX: I mean, there’s still room— [Chuckles] There’s still room of course, for a movie. Which, you know, if we’re still going off that Utena parallel, we could have Gundam Witch Adolescence of Utena equivalent. Could be fun.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I just don’t think Miorine can dismantle the entire space corporatocracy in one movie, but I’m willing to watch her try.
ALEX: [Chuckles] Well, I don’t think Suletta can turn into a car either, but ya never know. [Chuckles]
VRAI: I believe in her.
PETER: [crosstalk] It’ll be a spaceship in this case, yeah.
VRAI: Alright, ah-dah-dah… I feel like I got a lot of my feelings about Tokyo Mew Mew New out on the write-up, but I want to shout it out on the podcast anyway for folks, because I think this is another one that kind of flew under the radar because it was on HIDIVE. And I was surprised how much I really ended up liking it by the end, because when we talked about the first half coming out, I was a little bit lukewarm, like, “Well, I enjoyed things about this, and I will watch more because I really like these girls in their friendships.” It gets exponentially better in the second half.
You can still sort of feel the fact that magical girl teen shows like this are just better when they have a longer running time, like a PreCure-style running time, where they can stretch out and spend some time doing character episodes. And this one, like Witch from Mercury, is running at half of that, with 24 episodes, so it ends up with things where [with] the storyline about the mysterious Tuxedo Mask type who keeps showing up and what is his secret identity, you end up noticing that Ichigo has to get rescued a lot so that he can show up and we can marvel at how mysterious he is. And that wouldn’t be notable if you had a bunch of character episodes in between, but since you’ve strung this all together, it kind of sticks out. That sort of thing.
But it’s just so sincere, and it’s really going hard on the environmentalist angle! There’s a lot of dialogue about how maybe the aliens aren’t wrong to want to kill us all, because look what we’ve done.
ALEX: Damn! Alright. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah! Yeah! Mint is a girlboss CEO who’s going to go into inventing wind power, and I love her. And… Yeah. I don’t know, it’s just so sweet in a way that I feel like you don’t get a chance to see all that much because a lot of… You know, right now in the magical girl space, we sort of have the Madoka-likes, you’ve got PreCure, and you have gacha-game–style ones. And so, even though this is a legacy remake that’s there for the 25th anniversary, it was kind of a nice reminder of the fact that there is in-between room to stretch for shows like this, and it was a really good time and I got a little teary at the end. I don’t know, give this one a shot. I’m really kind of broken up about the fact that it’s a subtitle-only release because this would be a great show for, like, 10-year-olds.
ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm.
PETER: I feel that way about most magical girl shows.
VRAI: Yeah. It bums me out. It bums me out a lot. But yeah, give that one a shot. It is cute and nice. My only complaint, other than the fact that early on the dudes all kind of suck… Which, even then, the show gets better at. By the second half, it’s writing them consciously towards “Oh, this toxic masculinity is your character flaw. Okay. Okay, okay, cool, cool.” But I wish it had leaned harder into the fact that, even going back to the ‘90s, Mint always had a crush on her cool onee-sama, and you could have done more with making that requited. And no, just having them in parallel framings with all the straight couples doesn’t quite do it for me, but an attempt was made.
ALEX: An attempt was made. Does that take us to the end of our list?
VRAI: Not quite! It’s not on the list here, but I would be remiss, because we didn’t have time for anybody to actually write it up for the podcast, but it made a guest appearance on our TikTok. Peter, please tell the people at home about Farmland Saga, by which I mean Vinland Saga season 2.
PETER: How do I even summarize it? Regardless of how you feel about the first season, which was kind of a very intense historic war seinen series, the second season is where Vinland Saga kind of reaches its thesis statement, where after being victimized by war and then becoming part of the engine that causes suffering and enables slavery and all that, Thorfinn is sort of left with nothing. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. He has no reason to fight anymore. He doesn’t want to cause any more suffering, and he ends up becoming enslaved himself. And through his interactions, essentially being an owned farmhand, he kind of develops his personal philosophy around violence and overcomes his hopelessness to create a conviction to find some sort of place in the world, or create it, where people can live without fear of war or slavery, which, of course, he believes can be achieved by going to Vinland, which is what the Vikings called the Americas.
So, I want to say that this part of the series is a pretty hard watch. They do not sugarcoat how slaves are treated. I feel like it even makes a conscious attempt to portray somebody as a “good slaver” who is absolutely not good. And there are no good slavers, but your advanced perception of that individual kind of makes the realization that you can’t own people and be a good person. A lot of really bad stuff happens. And the second season kind of ends with [Thorfinn] deciding, with his new friend, who was also a victim of war and slavery, to achieve something within this world where people can be free of that sort of suffering and fear. And that’s kind of where the series was headed the whole time. So, yeah, a lot happens, despite the fact that a good half of this season was just them trying to grow some wheat.
VRAI: Honestly seems like another series that could have a whole watchalong or retrospective about it.
PETER: Yeah, it could.
VRAI: That’s a lot of meat on them bones.
PETER: Yeah, even outside of the thematics, the series has been really acclaimed for its accurate portrayal of the multiple regions it takes place in, for its historical accuracy, the accuracy of the drawings. I think the guy’s got a museum in the Netherlands now and won some sort of cultural award. So, it’s kind of in the vein of Golden Kamuy, where you can learn a lot about the time period and the history of all the wars and kings during that time, get a really good idea of how the people lived and the things they wore and the tools they used, because all of it’s era appropriate, in addition to this very unique plot idea and all its accompanying themes. So, yeah, lot of meat.
VRAI: I feel like maybe that’s a hook for some folks who might have been worried that the first season ended up being “Hey, cool robot” about all the horrifying, dramatic violence going on.
PETER: Yeah, Thorfinn definitely starts off as kind of a Sasuke type. He’s got a lot of man pain and he ends up killing a ton of people. But all of that was just setup toward what happens in the second season. So, I can see a lot of people thinking that the series was sort of taking Thorfinn’s position seriously rather than showing how somebody can end up transforming from a victim into an oppressor, I guess.
VRAI: Rock on. Yeah. That’s another show on my infinitely long watch list. We’ll see.
VRAI: But yeah, that’s good to know. And it’s nice to know that there are shows that manage to get multiple seasons that do have those things to say and unfold at a leisurely pace rather than just self-insert isekai power fantasy number 687. So, I’m happy for it. I’m happy for it and all the fans and sorry that we weren’t able to get stuff done. Peter’s super busy at Crunchyroll, Caitlin has been traveling and doing family stuff, and Toni is still working their way through season 2. So, sorry.
But yes, I believe that takes us all the way to the end of this incredibly packed season. Thank you so much, AniFam, for joining us. Even at going overlong, we didn’t have a chance to cover everything or everything in depth. I am sorry, CJ, by the way. So, please leave your thoughts down in the comments below if you want to talk more about stuff we mentioned here or talk on a show that we missed. We always love to hear from folks.
If you liked what you heard, you can find more at animefeminist.com. If you really liked what you heard, consider going to our Patreon—patreon.com/animefeminist—or our Ko-fi at animefeminist. Those help us pay the bills, pay our contributors, our wonderful transcriber. Our Ko-fi in particular is where we save up for long-term goals, like right now we are working to pay our contributors and editors more because they work hard to make the content you see on the website.
Thank you so much for joining us. And as we head into the dry summer, just remember: sometimes, anime is good.