Alex, Toni, and Peter check-in on a light and breezy Summer season!
Date Recorded: August 5th 2023
Hosts: Alex, Toni, Peter
0:02:16 Level 1 Demon Lord & One Room Hero
0:07:57 Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
0:15:16 Dark Gathering
0:21:56 Reign of the Seven Spellblades
0:28:03 Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon
0:37:49 The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior
0:42:01 Gene of AI
0:45:28 Undead Murder Farce
0:53:56 My Happy Marriage
ALEX: Hello, everyone! Welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. We are the podcast of Anime Feminist, the website. We look at Japanese pop culture through an intersectional feminist lens, and today we are diving right into the middle of the currently airing season—that is, Summer 2023. I’m Alex. I’ll be your host today. I’m one of the managing editors here at AniFem. I also have a doctorate, but don’t ask me for medical advice because I can only give you book recommendations. I’m joined today by my co-staffers Toni and Peter.
TONI: Hi, everybody. I’m Toni. I am an editor at Anime Feminist and also a teacher. You can find me @poetpedagogue on various social media platforms. I also create video content for Anime Feminist. It’s good to talk to you all!
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a manager of YouTube content strategy at Crunchyroll. And I quit Twitter, so I guess you would probably find me @PeterFobian on Bluesky or something if you get an invite.
ALEX: Lovely. Thank you both for being here today. So, we’re doing our midseason check-in. If you are not familiar with how that usually works, what we are going to do is we are going to work our way up from the bottom of our premiere digest to the top and just kind of check in on how a bunch of series that are currently on the air are doing. Now, unfortunately, due to time restraints and us being mortal humans, we are somewhat limited today to the series that people on staff are watching and the ones that we feel have the most relevant talking points for our readership and our audience. So we’re gonna go through them, but of course, if you feel like we’ve missed out on something—we haven’t talked about a show where something interesting and relevant to our interests is happening—do let us know! If you’re a patron, you can pop that in the Discord and come and say hi. We’ll also have comments open and all that jazz.
So, unless there’s anything else we need to cover before we dive in, I say we dive in, starting from the bottom of the barrel, as it were, and working our way up to the top. So, I will start us off today. Just before we move on to better and brighter things, I just want to take a super quick detour to talk about Level 1 Demon Lord & One Room Hero, which I am, I want to say, watching. It’s more accurate to say I can’t look away. [Chuckles] But something I kind of want to flag, because it is of interest, is that it may or may not be setting up an enemies-to-lovers relationship between its main characters. Now, I make no promises about that, but I’m just going to tell you where I’m coming from on that.
So, first of all, it’s staying the course in terms of being full of fanservice, very zany, and very silly. It has some vaguely interesting sort of fantasy genre stuff in there. But the main thing that is wigging me out about the show is that it’s doing this thing. So, first of all, nice and easy for me, there is a moment where the demon secretary—who unfortunately exists mostly to be ogled, the poor girl—she makes a comment to the Demon Lord. She basically says, “Why are you obsessed with hanging out with this hero guy anyway? Pfft! What are you, in love with him?” And the Demon Lord just kind of looks sideways and blushes. And the moment moves on. It doesn’t really feel like a punchline. It kind of feels weirdly sincere. So, that was interesting.
The main thing, though, is the kind of genre framing that it’s putting itself into. It’s leaning much more towards “magical girlfriend” than, say, “buddy cop” dynamic. This little demon lord turns up in this guy’s life and is causing chaos and is causing shenanigans but is also very much pulling him out of the rut and is going to sort his life out, is the implication. And the Demon Lord jumps into a very domestic role as well, immediately. He’s putting on an apron and doing the cooking; he’s running the bath; he’s doing the shopping. You know, the ideal sort of… I don’t want to say “idealized wife,” but you know what I mean, that kind of archetype. And then the demon king takes a human form to go out. And the human form that he takes is a scantily clad young woman with fluffy green hair. And for a minute, he has little horns poking out of the hair and goes, “Oops, I better fix that.” So for a second, he looks like Lum from Urusei Yatsura.
And I’m sitting here staring at it, going, “Is that a deliberate homage? Are you making a reference to Urusei Yatsura, one of the most iconic, cool magical girlfriend, ‘cool supernatural girl crashes into the protagonist’s life’ stories? And if so, why?” So, is that gonna pay off? I don’t know. Just something that’s happening. Again, I make no promises. I certainly don’t make a recommendation of the show, necessarily. But that’s a creative decision that is fascinating to me. And I just wanted to let the folks at home know. I may not end up finishing this one, because it’s not quite my thing otherwise, but if people are interested in me pursuing this strange mystery to the end, I mean, I’ll do it. I’ll need more than one of you to ask me nicely. [Chuckles] But I just want the folks at home to know that is a thing that is happening over there in Demon Town. So, Toni and Peter, there you go. That’s not something…
PETER: So if it happens, in your opinion, is that good, or…?
ALEX: That’s a very good question, Peter! Is it good? I don’t know!
PETER: If that would happen, would you be happy that that occurred?
ALEX: Well, I mean, honestly, if they are setting up a weird little love story between these two characters who were once mortal enemies, that would be… I don’t know. It could be fun. It could add a fun emotional center to the show, which is mostly just kind of silly. But yeah, whether or not it’s good, that’s a complicated question that maybe we’ll return to.
TONI: It is worth noting that the Demon Lord does look like a ten-year-old girl.
ALEX: Yeah, most of the time. Well, not even that. It’s like they’ve been shrunken down to a little shitty chibi nugget, basically. And yeah, when they take a human form, they look like a hot teenager, basically. So, again, the show’s not like… Again, they look like Lum. It’s insane. Which, I don’t know. On one hand, kind of fun that they take a very feminine-presenting form but still go by he/him and still go by Demon Lord and stuff. I don’t know. Detaching pronouns from presentation is sort of fun like that. But again, I’m absolutely not making the argument that this is going to be an amazing queer progressive love story of the season. I just— I had to tell someone that I witnessed this, because it has been bugging me. [Chuckles]
PETER: Maybe there’s a future for this.
ALEX: It’s just I watched, you know, multiple hours of this show and I need someone to know. But yeah, again, as for the narrative effect that will have and what that means for us here, I don’t know. That remains to be seen. But again, if people want me to stick through with it and find out, I can take that bullet. [Chuckles] But we shall have to see. We shall have to maybe come back to that one later in the season, depending on what the audience reckons.
TONI: I’m just so fascinated by looking at the different forms of this Demon Lord. She—
ALEX: [crosstalk] Right? Yeah. [Chuckles]
TONI: They— He! I— God! Pronouns! Confusing. Either—you’re right—teenage girl or 10-year-old chibi demon lord thing but femme-presenting [emphasis on the “pre” syllable]. Ah, bleh. Words.
ALEX: Yeah, as opposed to the big, muscly monster that it began as. Yeah, I don’t know. [Chuckles] I don’t know about this one, but I figure I may as well mention it. Let’s maybe move on, though, and come back to that one. From demons onto zombies, to a different supernatural creature, how is Bucket List of the Dead doing?
TONI: Remind me, has there been an episode since the flight—? The most recent one is the flight attendant episode?
PETER: That was the last one.
ALEX: Oh, because it had a production delay, didn’t it?
ALEX: Okay, so, taking into account this one has had a production delay and there’s not too much left to talk about that hasn’t already been covered in the three-ep check-in, how’s Zombie 100 doing? What’s the elevator pitch for how it’s going, for those who may not have read the check-in?
TONI: You want to take it, Peter, since I did the three-ep?
PETER: I imagine I’d say a lot of the same things you have. I like the idea of what it’s trying to do, but I think the execution ends up making it kind of an offshoot of the isekai genre where it’s just like “Guy in new situation experiences total power fantasy, where he’s being unremarkable in his day job, [and] something about it or something intrinsic about him makes him perfectly suited to his new environment.” And, you know, that’s fine, except I think that the way it executes on a lot of his different bucket-list items just kind of feels shitty, the major example so far in the anime being the “Flight Attendants of the Dead” episode where he for some reason specifically wanted to wine and dine a flight attendant, which is very… that’s a very 1970s kind of aspiration.
ALEX: That’s true. It does have a certain vintage James Bond–iness to it somehow. I don’t know. [Chuckles]
TONI: Or, like, people who grew up watching Pan Am.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Yeah, during the golden era of commercial airlines, where everybody wanted to be a pilot growing up, that kind of thing. But regardless, of course events occur, which miraculously ends up with him being locked inside of a liquor store with a bunch of flight attendants. And it’s boys on one side of the table and girls on the other, and everybody has to do an awkward introduction.
PETER: It looks extremely socially painful. But anyway, so, yeah, Akira gets super drunk, everybody drinks a lot, he gets to sort of live out this fantasy, make a special connection with one of the girls while his best friend gets lucky with another one over in the bedroom section of the giant store they’re in. And then, once the narrative is done with the girls, they’re just kind of immediately erotically killed off because they no longer serve a narrative purpose, so that there are no loose ends that the story needs to deal with before it can just have them go on [their] way. He can cross the item off of his list and move on to whatever his next interest is, which… It seemed like it was trying to maybe turn the women into real characters, especially one where she talks about her reason for becoming a flight attendant, but the only purpose of all that was just to serve out his fantasy of making an emotional connection with somebody, but not one that was long-lasting because ultimately that might get in the way of him doing more cool stuff before he turns into a zombie.
TONI: I don’t like it in that sense. It very much frustrates me because it really cheapens the arc of that character who he was getting to know. She has this whole revelation of “Wow, I really cared about doing care work. That was something that was really meaningful to me, and being a flight attendant and labor ruined it for me.” And I thought that was pretty profound. And then she had this desire to continue with that, and then that’s stolen from her by being eaten by zombies, which narratively ends up feeling like it’s stolen from her by the narrative providence that she’s not allowed to have an arc because this is not her story. This is not her wish-fulfillment fantasy; this is his! You know? So she’s gotta die for him to have his thing that he can just check off the list and not have to worry about her anymore or this relationship that he’s starting to build.
PETER: Yeah, it even directly connects the moment where she said she fell in love with her job, when a kid was puking in the airplane, and she was helping Akira heave his guts out after he drank an entire bottle of alcohol. That’s what reminded her that she loved being a stewardess. And then, as her final act, she gets to once again push her hand on his back to make him go away so [Chuckles] she doesn’t endanger him now that she’s been bitten. It’s like, “Oh, I got to fulfill my purpose once more by letting you continue to live out your fantasies while I just die here, I guess—while this zombie literally chews on me as you’re walking away.”
TONI: It really is just the case that women in these kinds of stories just— Well, we’ll see, because we’re gonna meet another woman and I heard she’s pretty cool, from what people say in the Discord. People like the new woman we’re gonna meet pretty soon in Zom 100. So, maybe we’ll get some good female characters.
PETER: It’s possible, but I feel like it’s directly setting up a conflict in their ideologies, because he has his bucket list of items that he wants to do before he dies and she has 100 ways to not get turned into a zombie. And she’s been [obscured by crosstalk]—
TONI: Well, yeah, but there’s another woman.
PETER: Oh, you mean the gaijin weeaboo girl who’s obsessed with samurai?
TONI: I guess!
TONI: I mean, I didn’t know that’s what was going on, but I guess that is who I’m talking about! [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, yeah. She really strikes me as just your classic blonde girl that watched Naruto and went to Japan so that she could become a ninja.
PETER: I might be wrong, but everything I’ve seen so far has led me to believe that’s what she is. And you know, and that could be quite— I did like High School of the Dead, and one of the girls is just like “My character is that I got a katana, and I am really good at using it.” And that’s lit. [Chuckles]
PETER: But with her, I guess she could be fun, for sure. We can see how it goes with her. I don’t know how deep it’s gonna be, but I do think she might be a fun character.
ALEX: Every new dollop I learn of this show is— [Laughs] So, maybe when we come back to this one for the end of season, we’ll have to weigh out the question of “Alright, is the cool factor of the bucket list and the cool ninja girls and everything… does that outweigh the objectification and things?” We’ll have to come back to see if we can answer that question.
PETER: My concern about the main girl, whose name escapes me at the moment, is that it’s basically setting up her to be the type who doesn’t know how to enjoy life and she basically needs the main character to teach her how her entire life philosophy is incorrect and she needs to chill out and have fun, and over the course of that she’ll definitely fall in love with him as well. That seems to be the hook they’re setting up. So it’s just like “Yeah, you may have thought that you had designed a very effective zombie survival strategy, but you were actually just being a really boring person.”
ALEX: [Chuckles] Ah, man. Oh, yes. We will shamble our way back to that one at the end. You’re also both watching Dark Gathering. How’s that one faring?
TONI: Ah… It’s giving Otherside Picnic—only without the lesbians.
ALEX: You sounded kind of tired and sad when you said that, so can you elaborate? [Laughs]
TONI: The animation has just gotten so much worse. It really makes it difficult to have much investment in the spooks, because the spooks aren’t creatively constructed or meaningful in the way that even the ones in Otherside Picnic were. I can’t really be invested in a show that’s supposed to at least spook me out. I don’t think it’s designed to actually scare me. I mean, maybe, I don’t know. But there are some moments in it that are just kind of scary because of the ick factor, like there’s a moment where the doll shoves her hair down his throat and you see a shot of the inside of his esophagus with the hair going down it. And you’re just like, “Well, that looks disgusting. Wow!” And I kind of found that compelling, you know, as a horror aficionado. But otherwise, the scares have gotten less scary, more just sometimes feeling a little cheap or just weird.
Eiko has gotten some development, and it’s been interesting because she… She had a moment in the first episode that was really interesting and made me wonder what’s going on with her. When Keitaro came back and he was like, “Y’all, I hope we don’t get taken on another one of these trips again, to a scary place,” and she just looks at him and gives him this incredibly cryptic expression and says, “But you came back anyways, because you’re addicted to being afraid. You love it, actually.” And I found that to be a really interesting moment for her. It made me wonder what’s going on with her and whether she was purposefully gaslighting Keitaro, or, alternatively, whether she’s seeing this inside of him and seeing this part of him he doesn’t want to acknowledge. And so I was really excited to see where that went.
But the show took that in probably one of the less interesting directions it could have, where she says that not because she’s gaslighting him and not because she’s seeing something that’s latent within him but because she’s just projecting her own feelings onto him because she’s addicted to fears and she’s addicted to spooks, and so she’s going to emotionally manipulate him into continuing to do all these crazy, scary things with her. And I don’t know, I’m just like… I mean, okay, I guess. It just makes her— And I can’t decide if the show wants her to be a villain or to be a character who you root for or the cute funny side character.
PETER: I definitely think it is preferable to just her being the cheery girl/love interest, right? Because at least it gives some point of interest on her.
TONI: [crosstalk] Yes. Absolutely, yeah.
PETER: And it is interesting trying to— I don’t know where this is supposed to lead. It definitely helps facilitate the plot, but it seems to be a sort of character choice that I’m kind of curious where it’s supposed to go in the narrative. So, I do think it’s at least got that going for it.
TONI: Yeah, I think that one of the problems structurally with it is just that with these monster-of-the-week shows, you really have to have compelling monsters. This show doesn’t! It just doesn’t! And I’m much more interested in what’s going on with that thing that took Yayoi’s mother, the weird fetus tentacle monster thing. That looked cool! And I’m like, what is that? I want to know more about that.
PETER: Yeah, Yayoi is great.
TONI: Oh, yeah, she’s fantastic.
PETER: Yeah, she’s great. I do want to say, I was really excited about this anime because I think it was one of the first manga that were free to read when Viz launched their Viz Manga app, and I checked it out—I’d never heard of it before—and it looked really good. The art’s really great in the manga. And Yayoi is just a very interesting kind of… not quite the protagonist, but maybe the protagonist whereas Keitaro is more of the perspective character. I think her quest, as you said, has a lot of interesting elements with it, like her mom’s ghost. And I love her character design, and she’s got her battle outfit with the shark shoes and the big jacket, which looks ridiculous until you realize she’s hiding a crowbar in it.
PETER: She’s a little badass. I love that about the manga.
TONI: Her shoes kind of give Sora from Kingdom Hearts. Whenever I see them, I’m like—
PETER: It does. God! [Chuckles]
TONI: I’m like, oh my gosh, you and your little clown shoes. And by “little” I mean “gigantic.”
ALEX: I mean, you can’t fight ghosts if you’re not cute. [Chuckles]
PETER: You do see her dress normally sometimes, and it’s like, oh, past the eyes, she is just like a normal-looking person. But then she puts on her combat outfit [and] she looks like a frickin’ character from Gash Bell [sic], little combat shoes or something.
TONI: Zatch Bell? I’m crying. I watched that so much growing up. It was, like, my favorite. But yeah, I’m curious to see where this goes in the endgame. But yeah, the week-to-week stuff is not really compelling. I think this is definitely one of those anime that’s like… maybe better just to read the manga.
ALEX: Mm, especially if it has that problem with the visuals. We’ll have to see how that pans out because, yeah, if it’s hitting crunchy visuals at this early stage, it doesn’t bode well for… you know, it won’t necessarily get better from here, which is unfortunate. But then, hey, it’s got shark shoes, so, can’t argue with that. [Chuckles] So, Dark Gathering—let’s leave that with the Scooby Gang for now and come back to it.
Peter, you’re the only one who’s listed as watching Spellblades. Can you give us a quick rundown on some stuff that’s happening there? Is that staying the course as to how it was, or is it biting off some bigger things?
PETER: I thought it was kind of fun-looking in the beginning because it’s straight fantasy rather than being isekai, and obviously it’s got the Harry Potter type school but it was kind of an ensemble cast type deal. I thought the katana girl (once again, we got a katana girl), who speaks in old samurai style with the “de gozaru” stuff, was pretty fun. And you obviously had your cookie-cutter protagonist, but his surrounding cast seemed to be interesting and have their own backstories that weren’t really directly connected to just being amazed by everything that he does, like in most stories like this. And the school was kind of interesting. And it has this style which really looks Demon Slayer–inspired (I’m talking about the animation style specifically) with the way it has a lot of action with rotating cameras and stuff. The opening really looks like that. So, yeah, that looked fun, and it’s mostly been okay since. I actually found out it was by the same creator as the one who created Alderamin in the Sky [sic], which I had really wished back in the day got a second season since that show was way better than this one. [Chuckles]
ALEX: [Chuckles] Oh, dear.
PETER: I’m kind of surprised, based on my experience with Alderamin, which I thought was going in a really interesting direction, with these two— It’s kind of the same situation where it’s the smart guy and the girl who’s just a master swordsman. But the anime ends with this wedge getting put between them, where there’s this princess they have a mutual acquaintance with which approaches the guy and says, “I really don’t think this country has a fair government, and I want to start a revolution and take it over from all of this horrible oligarchy that’s ruining everybody’s lives.” And he knows that if he does that, the girl is a loyalist, so he’s basically going to have to fight his best friend, probably, to the death. And then the anime ends, of course. So I was like, “Dang, this got…”
ALEX: Oh my God! [Chuckles]
PETER: “Yeah, this is really cool!”
TONI: [crosstalk] That’s horrible.
PETER: Yeah. But then I watched this one, and I— So, I know we’re all very interested in Nick’s recent tweet about the first villain of the series being a monster rights activist, which was actually the reveal at the end of the last episode, so we don’t have too much on that besides the fact that she called herself a monster rights activist and has been doing brain surgery—unethical brain surgery—on monsters to allow them to speak like humans so that, I guess, people couldn’t just say that they’re mindless, I guess is the idea. And although she was able to successfully perform the surgery, she couldn’t get any of them to talk, which the monster-loving girl in the main cast was able to do, probably just by being compassionate to them, being somebody somebody would actually want to talk to. [Chuckles] So, she wants to perform brain surgery on that girl to find out what it is about her brain that makes monsters want to talk to her. She’s a very brain surgery–focused character.
ALEX: Okay! [Chuckles] Okay.
PETER: Obviously, this really seems kind of crazy and hackneyed. I’m not quite sure if it’s as bad as Nick portrayed it, because I think the person’s just insane. I think they’re a mad scientist brain surgeon first and maybe a monster rights activist second. But I agree it’s not a good look, and I do have concerns about where the story is, going forward. And so far, that girl has been a pretty prominent character in the story, basically saying, “We should treat monsters better. Monsters are just animals like us; they have feelings.” And there was an earlier event where students were in an underground coliseum, killing monsters, and then one of the monsters led a mini-revolution to try to kill their oppressors and couldn’t talk but it was writing words in the sky and saying, “Who’s getting hunted now?”, which was pretty lit. [Chuckles] So, I do think a lot rides on the conclusion to this story arc, but definitely the villain is pretty, pretty out there and probably not good.
ALEX: So… I mean, we don’t have to have a concrete answer to this at this stage, but is this trying to do a fantasy racism, classism kind of allegory, do you think? Or is it just kind of messing around with “What if monster?”
PETER: I think the racism angle is inescapable, and a lot of these monsters are effectively either slave labor or just being used as victims to gladiatorial combat–type student events. So, I don’t think you can really separate that theme from the goings-on in the plot, whether it’s intentional or not. I’m really tired of seeing this type of stuff in my anime fantasy series, regardless. So, yeah. Either way, yeah, not a good look, regardless, and very discouraging. My hopes are not high that it will finish in a way that is satisfying or maybe good.
ALEX: Well, let’s also come back to that one. We have a lot— I mean, this is what we get for being in the middle of the season, I guess: there’s a lot that we’re going, “Ooh? Uh? Hm? Ooh, okay,” you know, making a lot of question mark noises that will hopefully come to conclusions at the end. But then again, who knows? Maybe this one will also end on an absolute bastard of a cliffhanger, like the other series that you mentioned, and we’ll never be free. Who knows? Love to find out.
PETER: We’re never free.
ALEX: To a different kind of fantasy now, we’ve got Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon. I think that it is healthy for a person upon occasion to have a relationship to a piece of media that is “This is really stupid, and I’m in love with it.” And that’s kind of where I am with Vending Machine right now. How about you guys? [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, it’s gotten a little cheeky in the last couple of episodes, like where he distracts those [people]—I guess they were gonna murder that woman—with pornography by turning into a magazine vending machine.
ALEX: Yes. Yes, he turns into a porn magazine vending machine, and they’re all like, “Ooh, I’m horny now. I’m gonna leave,” and he’s like “Aha!”
PETER: One of them started making excuses like they had a stomach ache: “I need to go to the bathroom.” So, I’m wondering how horny the vending machines anime might get. But to that point—
ALEX: It’s interesting, right?
PETER: Yeah. To that point, it’s been very chaste and kind of goofy and fun, and it seems like all the characters are kinda just quirky and get to do fun stuff. And the main character just kind of really maybe always wanted to be exactly what a vending machine is.
ALEX: Yeah! Yeah, it’s interesting because it doesn’t have fanservice or sexual jokes per se, but it has had multiple gags where either the vending machine himself or one of the other characters… something will happen and they will remark, “Golly, gee. It’s a good thing you’re a box and not a flesh-and-blood man. Otherwise, this would be really awkward and kind of sexual. Ha-ha-ha!” And then they move on. [Laughs]
PETER: But that is not the case! [Chuckles] Yeah.
ALEX: Which is like… You could do far worse, of course. Because it’s an isekai, we have to put it in conversation with that! But yeah, it’s certainly not— I don’t know. There have been scenes where, for example, yeah, the main girl has reached inside the vending machine to get a can out. Or, I think it’s Episode 4, where he’s rescuing that woman, he turns into an oxygen vending machine, which is a thing that exists. Now I know; I have learned. And so, yeah, she’s huffing oxygen from him. And she makes some comment where she’s, you know, obviously, sucking air out of him, and then she’s like, “Wow, you rescued me! If you were a man, you’d be irresistible right now!” And he’s like, “Ha-ha-ha,” and [Chuckles] it just kind of leaves it there. It’s like a weird, kind of sexually charged moment, but it’s mostly just a silly joke and it doesn’t frame the storyboarding around her in a gross way or anything.
PETER: Interesting they all just assume he’s a guy, like “If you were a person, you would definitely be a man.”
ALEX: Yeah, that’s true. I hadn’t thought of that, but that is the joke it keeps coming back to, right? Just “Oh, if you were a woman, this would be fine.” [Chuckles] I don’t know.
PETER: Also, it’s just a little five-minute discussion, but where they bring the vending machine in for advice, I guess, and they just talk about— They keep saying “hygiene,” but I guess they have a problem with STDs. And he just turns into a condom vending machine, and they’re like, “Oh!” And they literally have never seen a condom before, but they figure it out pretty quick. And they’re like, “Oh, this is really great. I guess these stop STDs and shit. That’s great.” And it’s weird that the whole thing was just like, “Condoms are good.” [Laughs]
ALEX: Yeah, everyone’s like— [Laughs]
PETER: [crosstalk] Like, “Oh, yeah, okay! I can get behind that.” [Laughs]
ALEX: It’s a bit unexpected because— I mean, refreshing in a way, because certainly I know that I’ve seen the amount of anime out there that has extreme horny energy but kind of doesn’t acknowledge that sex exists. For all of those, this was like, “Well, we don’t have that much horny energy. We acknowledge that sex exists and sexual health is an issue. And look! Here is a condom depicted on screen.”
PETER: Zero horniness in that scene, too. It’s just like, “Oh, yeah. Sick.”
ALEX: Yeah, the vending machine kind of blushes and is like, “Oh, this feels kind of weird. I’m handing a condom to this pretty girl!” But yeah, there’s mostly just… [Chuckles]
PETER: I think he just kind of felt awkward, because there’s something, I don’t know, very strange for him, I guess, but the two characters who he’s talking to are like village leaders [and] pretty much take it in stride. And they buy a bunch of condoms to hand out, and that’s that. Yeah.
ALEX: And so that’s revolutionized the technology of this world. They got Mentos; they got condoms; they got shampoo. [Chuckles]
PETER: When you think about it, too, a lot of isekai— What do these Japanese high schoolers always bring into the isekai fantasy people that revolutionizes their countries? It’s mayonnaise. They’re always frickin’ making them mayonnaise and shit. And there’s even a joke about that in Executioner and Her Way of Life. It’s like, “Oh, I can teach you guys how to make mayonnaise!” And she’s like, “Yeah, we know. We got mayonnaise.”
PETER: But he’s like, “Oh, no, condoms are actually one of, probably, the most important creations that humanity’s ever made, for a variety of reasons.” It’s kind of crazy that I— [Chuckles] I’m almost surprised that they didn’t have a bigger reaction, but maybe he just didn’t want to dwell on it. But yeah, he just revolutionized the world a little bit just by making this accessible to their culture and putting that into the zeitgeist of the fantasy world that he now inhabits.
ALEX: Yeah, it’s very— I’ve got no idea where this show is going, and that’s kind of fine. It’s sort of working in small vignettes of just his different shenanigans that are going on, that Mr. Vending Machine is helping out with. And I don’t know, it’s rolling along, it’s really charming, and as we said, the bar is very low, but the fact that it doesn’t really have much overt fanservice and only has those occasional cheeky jokes is nice. [Chuckles] Did you have any thoughts on this one, Toni, since you are also giving it a look?
PETER: [Chuckles] Do you have any thoughts?
TONI: I feel like— I like it. I like Lammis. I think she’s a wonderful female lead. She’s delightful. I love that she— It almost feels like I’m reading a little bit of an allegory—okay, this is a wild thing to say, but, like—around accessibility in that she is just so willing to find ways to communicate with him even when he can only communicate in, essentially, yes-or-no or sentence fragments. She’s willing to try to figure out what he’s saying and never gets frustrated with him for that being the only way he can communicate.
ALEX: That’s true. Yeah, that’s nice.
TONI: [crosstalk] And, I don’t know, I know that it’s a little bit of a stretch to say, but it does feel a little bit like… Am I actually going to try to make some sort of disability argument about this vending machine isekai? I guess that’s what I’m doing right now.
PETER: That does remind me— Remember, when the guys kidnap him and they have that magic item specialist studying him and when they bring the vending machine in, they’ve got that document that the town had made, which was like a flowchart based on what vending machine phrases, “This is what he’s trying to say,” that everybody used to communicate with him… What you just said made me think of that. I don’t think I really appreciated that in the moment.
ALEX: Yeah, that’s true because, yeah, not only is Lammis communicating with him; she’s making sure that everyone else can as well. Yeah! Even if that’s not intentional allegory, I think that’s sweet. If that resonates, then hell yeah.
TONI: It just makes me like her and makes the story feel very sweet. It could have very easily been a much meaner story about communication, and instead it’s a story about people actually trying to communicate with each other effectively. I don’t know. Any show that makes Diet Coke and Mentos the way that you defeat a villain…
PETER: Yup. [Chuckles]
TONI: [Chuckles] … it gets a thumbs up from me. So, I enjoy it. [Chuckles] I can’t say that I’m super caught up.
ALEX: I mean, that’s all right. Yeah, I do appreciate, too, that it has been quite imaginative, like, “Alright, here are the limitations. This guy can only communicate in pre-programmed phases that a vending machine would say and can only use items that you may find in a vending machine.” But it’s using that in a very interesting way. So, is this the— Okay. I was gonna say, “Is this the exciting fantasy series of the season?”, but there’s other ones to get through as well, so let’s not dive in and make that claim just yet. But hey, Vending Machine’s a lot of fun.
Again, sort of hopping fantasy genres again, I will pop up to Helck, which always kind of sounds like I’ve got something stuck in my throat: “Helck.” Chiaki is watching this one and has a couple notes for us. “So Helck himself remains a mystery. He’s a ridiculous protagonist, but it feels like the supporting cast really fills in for him just being a himbo. Vermilio, the Elite Four general, remains a firecracker and the show is mostly lighthearted absurdist comedy. There’s a serious story that never gets lost underneath it all, but it remains weird and funny—” question mark? I appreciate that, Chiaki. [Chuckles] “When the story turns serious, a limb or two gets chopped off. There is a bit of a tonal dissonance there, but I think the story itself is really starting to pick up around Episode 4.” So that is Chiaki’s notes on Helck. Again, we’ll come back to that one at the end of the series and see how it’s progressing forward with that one.
So, skipping over some other ones in the Neutral Zone— There’s a lot of stuff that’s sort of neutral. We’re kind of presuming it’s just staying the course and flowing along as it has been. Again, if we’ve missed anything, do let us know.
That takes us up to our It’s Complicated bucket, which I will start here with The Most Heretical Girlboss Queen: From Villainess to Savior [sic], which a couple of us are watching, but I’m the only one on the call, so let me take the mic here. This one’s— I— Okay, so where I’m sitting on this one is that I kind of wish I was more emotionally invested in it to match how conceptually interested I am in it. As Dee said in the three-episode check-in, it is pretty intriguing because it’s kind of moving the villainess isekai genre into almost a different kind of genre conversation because its tone and its stakes are so different. Instead of the villainess character being the haughty romantic rival or just school bully antagonist, she’s a villain! She’s a tyrant! She is straight-up evil.
And so, our main character has been reincarnated into this villain’s body and is like, “Oh, my God. I’m not just trying to save my life. I’m trying to save the world… from me,” and has different powers, different political stakes attached to that, which, yeah, is pretty cool. I’m still struggling to really latch on to any of the characters, but I appreciate that it’s going for that. And hey, yeah, if you’re interested in this idea of the villainess reincarnation story and are not really vibing with others that have mostly been romcoms up to this point, including things like My Next Life as a Villainess and Endo and Kobayashi Live!, which I loved earlier this year, then hey, if you want that darker tone, this is perfect for you. Unfortunately, it turns out I do tend to prefer them as romcoms, but that is entirely just me, and I’m going to stick with this one to see what it does.
The real only thing that’s kind of made me go “Ugh” about this one is, I believe, in Episode 5 there is a whole aside where the two main boys have an aside and have a whole conversation about how “Princess Pride is really just a helpless girl who’s clearly deeply afraid of something and it is our duty to protect her.” Which, on one hand, I understand where they’re coming from, because a couple episodes ago she did run into a battlefield to save somebody’s life and put herself in a lot of danger, and I can understand it being stressed out about that since you care about her. But framing it in that way and phrasing it in that way of “Oh, she’s a helpless girl, and us as the boys who care for her, we should step up and protect her,” that kind of undermined her strength and capabilities that we have seen her exhibit. And yes, she’s obviously afraid of something, because she has all this knowledge of the game world that no one else does, and is using that for good, but they don’t know that, so it’s— Yeah, it made sense, but it was just kind of a “bleh” kind of moment undermining her abilities.
But on the other hand, as well, it was at least nice that the two people, who I presume are gonna be her kind of dual love interests, they were not butting heads over her. They were not getting all shitty and love triangle–y. They were like, “No, no. Let’s bond over this. Let’s bond over our desire to protect this girl,” which, yeah, was kind of nice. And I don’t have too much else to say about that one thus far. I’m kind of interested to see where it goes and what sort of climax it builds to, because it’s getting through things sort of slowly, watching the characters kind of grow up as Princess Pride slowly kind of nullifies various characters’ tragic backstories from the games and changes their characterization by making sure that those tragic backstories don’t happen, because she’s there to stop them and is there to not be needlessly wicked and evil as she goes along. So, yeah, definitely interesting potential there with that one, but I’m just waiting for it to really hook me personally. But that’s alright. That is a thing that happens sometimes.
The other one in our— Oh. Anyone have any questions or queries about that one before I scoot along?
PETER: Mm, sounds like a lot. I might check it out.
ALEX: Sounds like a lot. [Chuckles] That’s kind of what this section is for, because the other one here is The Gene of AI, [for] which we also have some notes from Chiaki. It says, “It’s keeping steady, and what I reported from the three episode check-in is still pretty much true, though Episode 4 delves into some creepy deepfake technology and kind of tut-tuts about how idealized realities can usurp the real world but kind of overlooks the concept of the actual people being deepfaked and fails to really express just how creepy that is, because the focus of the week is a high school boy who installs illegal mods in his virtual reality dating game and turns one of his partners into a classmate so you can see her naked. The show punishes him for losing touch with reality but really doesn’t drill down into how unnerving or gross this is for the girl who was being AI’d into being nude and how ick it is for people to incorporate real people into their fantasies in this kind of exploitative way.” So, yeah, interesting tech stuff going on with that one still, that, again, we will return to in due course to see how that one’s going and, yeah, if it’s still playing with sort of progressive ideas or if it just ends up being more of a mixed bag. We will see.
PETER: I do want to say it’s kind of a frustrating series, because it’s got a very interesting style and is obviously influenced by if not Astro Boy then specifically Pluto [in] its art style and themes, but it does generally seem to want to explore a lot of concepts around artificial intelligence, and all of these subplots kind of feel like they’re in different worlds because many of them don’t seem to cohere into a single, consistent reality they’re all living in, with a lot of the different ways it’s presenting AI. They don’t seem like they could exist at the same time, even though they’re supposed to, and it does generally feel like it’s always kind of exploring one aspect while missing maybe the greater existential issue that the scenario it’s created presents.
As with the AI deepfaking thing, it’s just kind of like, “Oh, isn’t this weird for this reason?” And I always find myself going like, “Well, yeah, I guess. But that’s like my third-greatest concern around that idea.” So, yeah, I don’t know if it’s— There’s their central plot around the main character and, I think, the death of his mother that has to do with this weird, illegal brain-copying technology. Not quite sure how she’s involved yet. I don’t know if, once it gets more into the plot, it’s going to— Since obviously that’s the central premise it wants to explore, it might have a better idea around what it’s doing while it’s kind of doing this environmental worldbuilding, mini-scenario type situation. So I’m hoping that turns into something a bit stronger. But for the meantime, yeah, it’s just like, what are you doing?
ALEX: Mm-hm. Okay! [Chuckles] Interesting. Alright, thank you for that input. So, yeah, Gene of AI. Come back to that one. Very prescient, obviously, at the moment with a lot of conversations about AI that are happening, though, again, if it’s touching on them in relevant ways or not remains to be seen.
Up into our final category and our second-to-last entry for our purposes today. That is Undead Murder Farce. Best title of the series, for sure, by name alone. I’m not caught up on this one, so I would love to pass the mic to you guys to see what the heck’s going on with this one.
TONI: I like it! I could spend the entire time that we’re talking right now talking about how much I love the dynamic between the two protagonists. I could spend just as much time talking about how happy I am that the male lead has nipples and that he’s hot and that they’re—
PETER: Representation! Yes. [Chuckles]
TONI: Hot boy representation. Male nipple representation. #FreeTheNipple.
ALEX: I mean, that’s a good point. You don’t really see that super often! [Chuckles]
TONI: You really don’t. It’s really shocking! I was even watching Superman, the new Superman show, today, and he took his shirt off and there was no nipples, and I’m like, “Come on! Opportunity wasted.”
PETER: [crosstalk] They stole Clark’s nipples?
TONI: They stole Clark’s nipples! Apparently on Krypton they don’t have nipples, I guess. Anyways, I do definitely appreciate all of the hot men in the show. That makes me very happy. I know that it’s basically “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Show,” and I don’t mind that. The pacing concerns me slightly because, as Vrai pointed out in their three-episode review, they really jiggled around the different plot elements. So, originally the murder mystery is the first thing, and then there’s kind of a flashback to Aya and Shinuchi— Is it Shinuchi or Shinichi? Ah, gosh, hold on.
PETER: Tsugaru? Shinuchi.
TONI: Shinuchi. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Shinuchi.
PETER: And then he became Tsugaru.
TONI: Yeah, Tsugaru. He called him Tsugaru, Shinichi—or Shinuchi. So, originally, them meeting is a flashback that happens after the murder arc. And I think one of the concerns that Vrai pointed out, that I think it’s accurate, is like, okay, so how are they going to make this all cohere? How are they going to make it feel like whatever loose ends that it started with are wrapped up, like when it comes to, for example, all this heavily leaning into how both these characters are united by having been denied bodily autonomy, with them both having had their humanity and body parts stolen by this imperialist character, this—I believe—British aristocrat? And the chances are that the show’s not— It doesn’t seem like the show’s gonna get there by the end of the season. And I really hope that they do, because that’s really interesting. And I would also like for them to return to Japan and explore a little bit more of what’s going on with this whole de-yokaification, because that was just thrown in there and then never explored.
ALEX: [crosstalk] Yeah, I was gonna say, yeah, that was—
PETER: [crosstalk] That’s a really interesting idea.
ALEX: Yeah, I was gonna say— Sorry. I was gonna say, I was almost a bit disappointed to hear that they spend most of the show in Europe stacking up their roster of, you know, Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and all [those] kind of folks, because I was like, oh, the setting of the first episode and that sort of alternate Meiji era and with the sort of supernatural allegory for civilization and westernization ripping the spirit out of a country, that was fascinating to me. And yeah, I agree with you guys! I hope it comes back to that, because that was kind of the juice for me and I’m sort of less interested in seeing them run around with all [Chuckles] the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as it were.
TONI: Yeah, it would be very frustrating and I honestly feel like it would undermine, largely, that point, because it’s like, well, if this is supposed to be an anime that has anti-imperialist themes, then why are we spending so much time hyperfixating on these western cultural icons, pretty much uncritically? It’s kind of baffling! But I also think maybe I was mistaken. I think part of the problem is that because that came first, that set me up with this idea of what the themes of the show were gonna be, and then it didn’t follow them and I was like, “Well, I guess… Oh, well.”
PETER: Oh, so this is coming back to why maybe they should have done the murder mystery first.
TONI: Yeah, because then I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up so much about that! [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, that’s really true. I can definitely see how from a Japanese director’s perspective that might not have occurred to them at all. [Chuckles]
ALEX: Maybe they were like, “We have to frontload the episode where you see him shirtless a bunch.” Maybe that was the thinking. [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gotta get that— “We know why people want to watch this,” yeah. “Gotta show that we have nipples.”
PETER: I do want to say, I love the interactions between… it’s Aya (right?) and Tsugaru.
TONI: Yeah. And yeah, they’re great. They’re fantastic.
PETER: Yeah, the back-and-forth, the fact that they’re both kind of— As you said, they’re both victims of this guy, right? It’s not making light of what’s happened to them, but they’re able to find humor in their shared problems. And it’s pretty much the subject of their constant— They’ve turned it into an in-joke between them that I can only imagine is extremely annoying to everybody around them. But I love the fact that they’re always making jokes back and forth, while everybody else is just forced to sit through them. It’s great. They’re both so funny.
TONI: The number of jokes that the show makes about Aya not having a body, just being… I was about to say “a headless torso,” and then I’m like, “Wait, that’s a Grindr profile.” She’s the opposite of a Grindr profile.
TONI: She’s a torso-less head!
PETER: Yeah, she can’t [obscured by crosstalk] Grindr, no.
TONI: No, she can’t. But Tsugaru could, oh! But anyways, I still think this is a very satisfying series in some ways. I think that the stylish writing, the incredible animation, the general atmosphere is very fun to watch. I just— I’m not entirely sure it’s going to end up being as substantial as I wish it could be. And as Vrai has pointed out, the discussions of bodily autonomy are very reminiscent of something like Case Study of Vanitas with the backstories of certain characters in that. But anyways, I’m gonna go ahead and… I think that’s all my thoughts on that.
PETER: It’s also worth mentioning… we’ve probably mentioned this in the various write-ups, but Mamoru Hatakeyama’s directing it, so it’s not just the animation that’s great; the direction is amazing. Hatakeyama also directed Kaguya-sama and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. So, I don’t know, it’s an experience watching the stuff this dude makes. Yeah, just the shots, the composition, the pacing. Once you’ve seen something he makes, you can spot them very quickly again. A very unique style. So that’s another reason to check out this series even if nothing else, for some reason, has piqued your interest.
ALEX: Interesting. We’ll come back to that as well, of course, and see, yeah, if it can bring all those themes back together and tie up in a nice bow. Maybe it won’t. But hey, nothing worth losing your head over. To bring us to the—
PETER: [crosstalk] Mm-hm. Oh, [obscured by crosstalk].
ALEX: I’m sorry. I’m— What’s the opposite of being on fire? Because I am that today. To wrap this up, though—
TONI: Commit, commit, commit!
TONI: Commit to the bit! Take a cue from Aya.
ALEX: I’m trying! I’m trying. I’m just so tired, Toni! To wrap this up today, though, we’re going to talk about My Happy Marriage, which is at the top of our Potential list. A bunch of us are watching this on staff; I’m the only one on the call, so I’m going to do my level best to give a nuanced read on this one because this one is a little bit tricky.
TONI: I’m watching it, too, so…
ALEX: Ah, yes, you had listed— “Just if I get Netflix, LOL” is what you had written yesterday. [Laughs] Which, fair enough.
TONI: And now I have.
ALEX: Certain password-sharing shenanigans. Oh, my gosh. Well, okay, so I will say my piece, and then see what you think. See if you agree with what I’m putting down, because I’m enjoying this show. It took me an episode or so to warm up to it, but I’m really— I like looking at it. It’s very pretty. I think the pacing is interesting. I kind of wish it had introduced the supernatural element a bit earlier and folded in more naturalistically. But the main thing I think we need to talk about for our purposes here is the way this show is constructing the protagonist’s autonomy—or the way that it’s not doing that. Because this is in a tricky spot where, as many people have pointed out, it’s kind of following what we now consider the Cinderella story formula. Certain issues come with that, but there is also a very sincere power fantasy in that that I really don’t want to dismiss.
This is a character who has had a terrible time in a power structure that she couldn’t escape from. In this case, she was a child in an abusive family. But then, she persevered, and sort of as a cosmic reward for that—I suppose you could read it that way—she’s been now taken out of that situation and is now on the way to better and brighter things and is in the hands of someone who is powerful and who will protect her from that structure. And if you are someone who resonates with that experience, I imagine that is very powerful and very moving. Not to say that there is a one-size-fits-all power fantasy for people who have been in abusive situations, of course, but certainly I remember—following from discussion around that spate of obnoxious Cinderella retellings that we have been having, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bad Cinderella and that godawful Amazon jukebox musical that they made, where the very shallow read of that archetype was “Oh, we have to make the Cinderella character a go-getter girlboss who don’t need no man! And that’s how we make the story feminist!”—certainly, I saw a lot of response to that that was like, well, that’s not really the point of the story, and a lot of the catharsis of the story for people who do resonate with it, coming at it and thinking you can quote-unquote “fix” it by adding agency in that way kind of undermines what’s going on there. So, it is definitely a nuanced and complicated discussion around that, and I certainly don’t want to write this show off as like, oh, well, she’s not doing much so it doesn’t have any literary value.
However, it is also really worth interrogating how Miyo is acting or not acting in the story, because she is the heart of the story. A lot of the stuff is happening to her and a lot of the conflict surrounds her, but she doesn’t really have much input in it. I believe Dee said in the Slack, it’s getting a bit to a point where we are hitting the halfway point in the story and she’s still in a place where she is mostly a reactive protagonist. And that’s an issue. Obviously, we’re coming at this from a, you know, feminist analysis point of view. That’s what we do here. We don’t have “feminist” in our website title just for fun. So obviously, it’s an issue there. But even just from a more basic storytelling point of view, it is kind of an issue, because you have a main character who is not impacting the story, who is not moving a narrative forward through their personal motivations or their choices. That can get frustrating and can lead to the question of “Well, why are you the protagonist of this story if it’s all just sort of happening to you?”
So, let me know what you think of this, Toni, but what I’m really hoping for with this show— I want to be optimistic. I have my fingers crossed. I really hope that it reaches a point where it hits a nice middle ground where it does appeal to that romantic and personal-fulfillment fantasy of being rescued from a situation, but also we let Miyo do some more stuff and come into her own, and even if she’s not a real go-getter and a badass, we are seeing more and more scenes and more and more plotlines where her decisions and her thought processes and who she is as a person actually move the story forward. That’s what I’m really hungry for, and I have my fingers crossed that we get to that point, but I’m kind of wary about it at this stage. I don’t know. What do you think?
TONI: Yeah, I mean, one thing that I often think about when it comes to stories about women—and women who are survivors, especially—is like: how do we make it so that the story is not just depicting them as objects to be moved around, as glorified MacGuffins?
And often, the thing that I look for and I’m always curious about is: does she have choices that she makes, active choices that she’s making? That she is deciding: which route is she going to go on, and is that going to significantly affect the story outcome? Whether she chooses to do this or chooses to do that. And as of now, I haven’t really seen— it seems almost like a foregone conclusion in most scenes how she’s going to respond, and the foregone conclusion is always going to be— Keep in mind, I’m only about three and a half episodes in, and I’ve watched halfway through Episode 4. And in almost any scene, it’s going to be that she is beating herself up, saying something horrible about herself, somebody else has to remind her, “Actually, no, you are worth valuing, worth treasuring,” and then she either internalizes that or she does not, and usually it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other, or she feels it a little bit but then it doesn’t really make a huge impact on her sense of self.
Which, I mean, of course, it’s a very long arc of her healing. But I really am curious to see, is it going to be that she eventually is going to be able to, for example, in the situation where Kaya— Kaya is her sister and is just a total bully. And the level of cruelty that this family shows to her is just incredibly painful to watch, to be honest, especially the scene where Kaya essentially assumes that she had been thrown out.
ALEX: Yeah, when she meets her on the street and just… Yeah.
TONI: Weirdly, that scene was actually the most painful thing that I’ve seen so far.
ALEX: I thought that was interesting, too. No, it is painful, especially because it shows that— like, that’s after Miyo has spent some time away from the family, starting to get a little bit more confident. She spent some time with someone who actually likes her and wants to take care of her, in [the] form of both her fiancé and the housekeeper who’s been really nice to her and she’s befriending. Yeah, and then the sister turns up and does her normal power-trip thing, and you can see the trigger occurring and you can see Miyo— Not to say all that good work has been undone, but it felt very emotionally honest in how it’s just like, “Oh, hey, spending some time away from this horrible situation wasn’t a magic fix.” You can see her reverting. You can see her sinking back into her shell, and not just in the street. That emotional feeling follows her home, and she has to sort of build herself back out of it. Which, yeah, you know, that’s how emotional triggers work! It felt very real, even if, as I kind of mentioned in my three-episode check-in, some of the abuse does feel a little bit over the top, for melodrama. So, yeah, I think it’s in Episode 4. It’s particularly brutal, yeah.
TONI: And I think what I really appreciate about it is, as you just said, it is a show that is playing with these kinds of gradations of her beating herself up, right? And she had started to beat herself up a little less by that point. And then after that happens, her behavior just goes right back to where it was when she first met the male lead, and it’s emotionally devastating to watch and, I think, also is somewhat realistic to the actual backsliding that happens as an abuse survivor when you reencounter your abuser, you know? [Chuckles] You’re reencountering, and that person will try to find ways to worm their way back into your life to regain the power that they had over you. That’s just accurate. And when it happens, it is devastating. But yeah, I think that for me, it is still very difficult for me to know what direction the show is going to go in terms of: is she going to develop community beyond just her now-fiancé? Because, God, as Dee said in the Slack, I would really love to see her make some female friends, so it’s not just, you know, kind of—
TONI: You were saying?
ALEX: I mean, I do like that it has established she’s becoming friends with the housekeeper and she also had a fellow maid that she was friends with, that she met back up with, in, I think, Episode 4 or 5, which was sweet, because then, yeah, you don’t have the dichotomy of “All the women are the wicked stepmother and the evil half-sister characters.” You have others that are also alright human beings! [Chuckles] But yeah, it would be good to see her building that community and to see that— Again, emotionally, it makes sense that this character arc to her being more confident is a very slow-burn one, because that’s often how this works in real life. But again, this is a story; this is fiction. And so, there are certain needs or wants that the audience has, and one of them is seeing a more proactive protagonist and is seeing her develop at a pace that is rewarding in terms of [how], yeah, we want to see a main character who has autonomy, who is the main character for very tangible reasons. And so, yeah, that’s going to be the main sticking point, I think, with this one, because I think it does have a lot of potential. I certainly don’t want to write it off. I certainly am enjoying it and want to keep enjoying it. But that’s going to be the main question for our purposes here.
But that is about all we have time for today. We have taken our journey through a lot of fantasies that are happening this series, and a lot of different interesting ideas being played around. Maybe not so many progressive themes to chew on this season but, hey, we got hot man nipples, so it’s not nothing!
Thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard, you can find the rest of our reviews and essays on our website, AnimeFeminist.com. We’re also on the social medias: AnimeFeminist on Twitter, on Mastodon, on Cohorst—Cohorst?—Cohost, and on Bluesky as well. We’re on Tumblr, animefeminist.com.
If you really liked what you heard, of course you can come along and help us keep the lights on; you can join our Patreon at patreon.com/animefeminist. That can help you get access to a lot of fun things like the Discord, like bonus podcasts and bonus mini-reviews. You can also buy our merch at shopanifem.myshopify.com. And… I’m doing it again. I’m looking for a fun pun to carry us out, and I already used up my “Don’t lose your head” one. Toni, Peter! Help me out! Or just grab a crook—a hook—and pull me off the stage. You’ve been in the theater, Toni. You know how to do that.