Chatty AF 189: 2023 Summer Wrap-Up (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist October 15, 20230 Comments

Alex, Toni, and Peter wrap-up the small and disappointing Summer season by talking about its handful of bright stars.

Episode Information

Date Recorded: October 14th 2023
Hosts: Alex, Toni, Peter

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
Red Flags
0:02:20 Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero
Yellow Flags
0:04:42 Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
0:16:14 Dark Gathering
Neutral Zone
0:19:43 Reign of the Seven Spellblades
0:28:45 Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon
0:32:29 Helck
0:33:07 BanG Dream! It’s MyGO!!!!
It’s Complicated…
0:35:13 The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior
0:42:34 Gene of AI
Feminist Potential
0:44:59 Undead Murder Farce
0:57:22 My Happy Marriage
Netflix Jail
1:01:31 Ōoku: The Inner Chambers
Sequels & Carryover
1:02:45 The Duke of Death and His Maid
1:03:28 Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts
1:04:10 NieR: Automata
1:09:39 Outro

Further Reading

2023 Summer Premiere Digest

2023 Summer Three-Episode Check-In

2023 Summer Mid-Season Check-In

ALEX: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. You are tuning in today to our season wrap-up for summer 2023. We have a big vending machine full of anime in front of us, and we’re going to put some coins in and see what comes rolling out. My name is Alex. I’m one of the managing editors here at AniFem. I’m also a recovering academic who studied queer fiction. Ah, here’s something new: you can find me on Bluesky @arhenderson. I’m joined today, once again, by my valiant cohosts Peter and Toni.

TONI: Hi, I’m Toni. I’m a contributing editor at Anime Feminist. And you can find me on Twitter @poetpedagogue and on Bluesky @poetpedagogue, and I also help run the AniFem TikTok.

PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m manager of YouTube content and strategy at Crunchyroll. I’m an editor here at Anime Feminist and I’m @peterfobian on Bluesky.

ALEX: Alright, so we have a check-in ahead of us. There are a few funny things this season that we have. Quite a few of the ones that we talked about last time are continuing onwards into a second cour. So what we’ll do is we’ll do a little sort of an update on them rather than discussing them as finished shows, because obviously we will save that for when they’re actually wrapped up at the end of season when that applies. We also have the slightly odd case of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, which hit, I believe, nine episodes and then has gone on to an indefinite hiatus [pronounced “high-ah-tiss”]. Hiatus? [Pronounced “he ate us”] Oh, “he ate us.” That’s a bit appropriate for a zombie show. So we’re gonna take [obscured by laughter] to talk about one—

TONI: [Laughs]

PETER: Oh. Hm.

ALEX: [Chuckles] We’re gonna take the chance to talk about it today because I don’t know when exactly we’re going to get a chance to talk about it next and that one has given us quite a lot to chew on—

PETER: Oh my God.

ALEX: —throughout the season.

PETER: So this is the podcast?

ALEX: Yes, this is what you get when I host, baby!

PETER: [Chuckles] Alright. Damn.

TONI: You’re starting to sound like a certain headless detective.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Oh, yes. We’ll get to that as well. [Chuckles] Again, nothing worth losing your head over. Ah, should’ve saved that ‘til later!

So before we get into it, we’ll start off where we started last time, which was a quick check in with Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero, which, I flagged last time, was behaving strangely—well, not strangely—surprisingly like a romcom in a lot of ways. Now we have an update on that from our co-staffer Caitlin, who says the kind of romcom element sort of fades into the background and indeed the horniness mostly levels out, which is good because it never really meshed well with the larger plot about the actual characters, the people who were formerly adventurers who have now retired. 

So, here’s what Caitlin says: “It does an excellent job of examining how the aftermath of defeating the Demon Lord and the fame that came with it was traumatic for Max, Fred, and Leo. They don’t give details of what exactly happened in those ten years. Max’s burnout, Fred’s cynicism, and Leo’s feelings of betrayal speak for themselves. The conclusion even touches on the uselessness of the cycle of violence. It’s not as fantastic when it comes to its female characters. Yuria, the team’s offensive mage, shows up in flashbacks and she’s awesome. She’s the loner who gets drawn into the main party, which is not a role typically occupied by a female character, which is pretty neat. Also,” and this is quoting verbatim from Caitlin’s notes, “she’s ripped as fuck! However, she’s moved on from her life as a hero to being a stay-at-home mother and we literally never see her face. The Demon Lord doesn’t really accomplish anything in the end, but the Demon Lord and Max are implied to be in a relationship.” So there you go. I did in fact pick up on the vibes. I wasn’t going bananas! “Overall,” Caitlin says, “it’s not really something I can recommend on a feminist or feminist-friendly level. But when it’s on, it’s on.”

So there you go, good listeners. That is the verdict on that one. Maybe has some surprisingly deep and intricate stuff to chew on in terms of its themes. However, I will say, I guess, if you are interested in the broad thematic thread of what happens after the heroes defeat the bad guy and the party disbands, we do have Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End airing this season, which may scratch that itch without all of the fanservice and zany comedy. So, hey, you got— Variety is the spice of life. It’s good to have multiple things doing this kind of stuff around to suit different tastes.

Moving on from that one, though, to the one I mentioned before, that is gonna give us a lot to talk about, even if it’s not officially finished, and that is Zom 100. So, first of all, I just want to quickly say I hope that everyone who is working on the show is all right, because the kind of production delays that it has experienced and, of course, the indefinite break, they often speak to something going a bit awry at the studio in terms of, perhaps, crunch, things going wrong. I don’t know the full details, but I just want to extend a… you know, I just want to make it clear we’re not sitting here complaining about the story not being finished, because obviously the well-being of those animators and studio people comes first.

So, on to the zombies, though. I’m going to pass the mic to Peter and Toni for this one because, as far as I know, you have both kept up with it, and I have some interesting questions about what we sort of started talking about last time. We were projecting that these new female characters were about to be introduced, and I’m very curious to find out how they have shaken out.

TONI: So, it’s interesting because, Peter, I remember when Shizuka was first introduced you had some concerns that she would just turn into this character who was there to have her worldview be shattered by a hero’s kindness and love and totally change and he kind of… not fixes her, but kind of fixes her. [Chuckles] You know? I’m curious: did that end up playing out kind of like the way you thought it would or was it a little different?

PETER: Well, I would say… In all their interactions, it’s kind of like he’s the one that has the joie de vivre and she has to learn from him how to enjoy life, rather than just kind of analytically optimize her way through life. I think the series’s overarching narrative is kind of on his side as to what the correct way to live is. And she, the more they go on, is taking notes from him on how to (what’s the saying?) enjoy the flowers or whatever. And although her intelligence obviously comes in handy a couple times, like when they have to set up the zombie trap or something like that—obviously her intelligence is an asset—I feel like the anime thinks she is incomplete, in that she needs him to show her how to actually enjoy her existence in any way. You know what I mean?

TONI: Yeah, yeah! I do have to admit, the moment when she embodies her inner Kongming, I found very delightful.

PETER: That was funny.

TONI: Because she was just kind of geeking out in a way that I just love to see. But yeah, it is interesting because I feel like that trope is most— We usually see that with girls, right? We usually see this Manic Pixie Dream Girls kind of thing, only this time he’s kind of the Manic Pixie Dream Boy, you know? I also think, though, that it is interesting how her arc ends up being connected to his, because I found the most compelling arc of the show was around Episodes 6 and 7. And he ends up in this situation where he is experiencing really severe retraumatization from reencountering his former boss, falling back into old patterns of behavior and kind of falling under his boss’s control. 

And I really appreciated how she kind of had to take on the role of pulling him out of that and find it within herself to believe that she could stand up for herself and have joy in life, and how that then rippled outward and she’s kind of paying it forward with him. And in general, I found that arc really, really compelling in terms of… For anybody, I think, who’s had an abusive boss or been in an abusive workplace and had trouble standing up for themselves, I think they’ll find something to see of themselves in that arc—I found, anyways. It was really meaningful for me.

PETER: Yeah. I think they definitely do share in common allowing their lives to be co-opted and directed by somebody else for that person’s benefit rather than their own—in his case, his boss; in her case, her father. So, I do think that, yeah, that’s an area where she stepped up because they had that kind of shared background and she didn’t want to see him falling into the same trap that she had.

TONI: I will also say, though, that the show seems to have this engagement with gendered violence and gender-based violence that feels very… just like it’s present but not really commented on in depth, right? Like, for example, there’s a moment where she gets sexually harassed by his boss, where he asks— I forget whether she allows him to fondle her breasts or whether she finds a way to kind of skirt around it without directly confronting it.

PETER: I don’t think he actually makes contact, but he is basically telling her about all the stuff he wants to do to her. Yeah.

TONI: Right. And that just kind of happens. And, you know, it’s implied by the narrative that this is disgusting and gross and this is yet another reason that this guy is a scumbag and another aspect of [audio cuts out]. But it’s not like she’s the center of the narrative, right? And similar to, like in the first episode, where the sexual harassment that the woman is being sexually harassed by Akira’s boss and she then gets turned into a zombie… It’s obviously a little better because Shizuka doesn’t get turned into a zombie and is the one to say, like, “No, fuck this dude. You’ve got to break out of this cycle.” And she takes narrative charge in that sense, right? So I guess she is kind of like a co-protagonist in that story, more so even than in the show at large. So I guess it’s not fair to say she’s not the center of that story. But her experiences as a survivor… that aspect of them isn’t really addressed in any profound way, which is interesting. I’m not sure.

PETER: Yeah, it was interesting that we kind of got her background during that arc, just to sort of key in their connection, when, really, she wasn’t the one that was experiencing any sort of personal strife that was relevant. You know what I mean? Well, not relevant to her but relevant to what was going on with him. Akira has just got pulled back into a toxic relationship with his boss and is falling back into his old habits of just letting himself be told what to do. And then suddenly, you’re hit with her background, which I thought was a very surprising way of going about that.

TONI: But I thought it worked really well.

PETER: Yeah, totally, because she sees in his relationship with his boss— I think that’s one of the things that helps her open up to him, too, is that she sees that they both essentially had a very similar experience leading into the zombie apocalypse.

TONI: No, I just really loved that arc. And it was very personal for me as somebody who’s had abusive bosses and has struggled with trying to accept that I don’t have to be constantly hypervigilant. If you’re interested in another show, by the way, that deals with this, this season has My New Boss Is Goofy, so…


ALEX: That’s true. They’re taking similar themes in a very different genre. [Chuckles]

TONI: Very much so.

PETER: Summer also had My Tiny Senpai. So, you know…

TONI: That’s true.

PETER: You can check that one out, yeah, yeah.

TONI: [Chuckles]

ALEX: What I’m hearing is— So, Zom 100… It kind of sounds like it’s sort of improving in terms of how it’s actually giving the female characters some interiority and screen time, because last time we checked it, it was like all the women are the hot flight attendants and the girl he had a crush on at work who’s now dead. That seems good! It sounds like, as predicted, this show has a lot going on for it still. Are there any sort of closing thoughts on this one, again, taking into account this is not the finished version of the story?

PETER: It’s tough. Yeah, I feel like, even now, our discussion is kind of going around in circles. There’s definitely a lot of good stuff there, but it’s also just a lot of weird, wacky, zany stuff happening at the same time. I think especially now with the final episode, they kind of set up, I want to say, the anti-Tendo. So I’m curious if they really have some kind of big ideas around somebody who, I guess, wants to do 100 evil things before they turn into a zombie! [Chuckles]

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: But if it’s got more— And the other guy kind of came from the same place of being kind of a… or, I don’t know, I guess, the other side of toxic Japanese work culture, in which case he just kind of gave up on having a career, left his company, and was just sort of, I don’t know, trying to scrape by. So, there could be a lot more material there. It just kinda remains to be seen. You never know if it’s going to zig or zag with Zom 100, I guess.

TONI: 1000%. I think this is a show that has really high highs and some really low lows. [Chuckles] But it never gets low lows to the point where it’s show ruining. I don’t foresee it pulling a Wonder Egg Priority or anything like that. You know? I think in general this show— In general, it is consistently thoughtful in how it’s dealing with workplace trauma. That is one thing I can say for it. And it’s consistently… I’ve found it to be consistently a show that I want to come back to rather than feeling like I’m coming back to as a chore. And it’s definitely beautifully animated. It has never stopped being gorgeous. So, I’m really excited to see where it goes next. And I don’t know, I kinda like shows that I don’t know whether it’s gonna zig or zag! As long as it’s not zagging to the point of being devastating, it can be kind of fun.

PETER: Yeah. And I mean, even then, its lows, I think, are just kind of shallow or maybe a little exploitative. I would take any of its lows over, like, literally the first chapter of Undead Unluck.

TONI: Yeah, so maybe it’s not so much high highs and low lows, more just like high highs and then some really irritating moments, but likely nothing that will—well, depending on your tastes, you know—nothing that broke the show for me.


ALEX: Okay, well, that is good to know. Listeners, we will return to Zom 100 when it does finish. Again, we don’t know when that’s going to be, but we’ll be keeping an eye out and we will keep you informed of what’s going on there. In the meantime, though, next up on our list, we’re going to check in with Dark Gathering, which is continuing into a second cour, I believe, so this will just kind of be a check-in. How’s that one going? Has that one done anything that’s really sort of floated your boat or really irritated you that the audience should know about? What do you folks reckon?

TONI: Did we both drop it at around the same point? Because I dropped it around Episode 5 or 6.

PETER: Yeah, I think so. I read a bit further into the manga since I still think the manga has been more enjoyable. But yeah, the adaptation is not really drawing me back in. It’s [obscured by crosstalk], very by the numbers.

ALEX: [crosstalk] Okay! Womp-womp. That’s my bad. We could have just… [Chuckles]

TONI: I’ll say why I dropped it. I just kinda started to feel like it was engaging with very, very heavy themes but not in a very deep way, where it was just like, “We’re gonna talk about group suicide! Yeah!” And I’m like, “Did you have to, though? Did you have to?”

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: Yeah. It was kind of Wonder Egg where it’s like, “Let’s talk about teenage suicide. Oh, it’s being caused by ghosts.” [Chuckles] It’s just like, oh, man. Do you really want to talk about…?

ALEX: Uh… No, I don’t! [Chuckles]

PETER: And I don’t know how I feel about the girl either, the love interest girl and her… I don’t know, [obscured by crosstalk].

TONI: She’s so manipulative!

PETER: Yeah, she’s just an absolute psychopath. So, I don’t know how to feel about that at all.

ALEX: Sorry, I was just gonna say I love how Wonder Egg Priority has given us a great benchmark for so many different kinds of fuck-ups. [Chuckles]

TONI: I mean, Zom 100 I don’t foresee Wonder Egg–ing, but Dark Gathering… it’s not Wonder Egg–ing because I was never invested in it!

ALEX: [Chuckles]

TONI: Like, I always thought it… From the first episode, it was very, very shallow discussion of very heavy things, like abuse of sex workers. And it’s never stopped being that. So it’s like— Yeah, anyways, that’s my thoughts on Dark Gathering, and that’s why I dropped it.

PETER: Yeah, I think that the main draw is Yayoi hunting ghosts, and Keitaro is just kind of a nothingburger, but if he’s the kind of straight-man slash-bait character. That’s fine. But then you have Eiko in as the love interest, who is like… I mean, I’m glad it’s not Yayoi, but all of her jokes are the fact that she actually stalks him, like, puts hidden cameras on him without his knowledge and shit, and she is actively trying to pull them both into dangerous situations because she likes it when he protects her when she has ensured that they’re both in a life-threatening situation. That’s just kind of like… I don’t know. It’s not even executed in a way that I find humorous, so it’s just less goofy, more creepy. And the only thing I really have left that I like is Yayoi being a little nightmare demon, scaring the shit out of these ghosts. And there’s only so far that’ll get you.

ALEX: Maybe if someone comes back to that, we’ll check in with Dark Gathering when it does finish, but maybe not, because it sounds like maybe there’s not too much there for our interested parties to have a look at. In maybe a similar vein, how’s Reign of the Seven Spellblades doing?

PETER: Oh my God.

TONI: Oh my God.


PETER: I honestly—

TONI: I didn’t finish it, but I saw some of what you posted and I’m very, very curious what on earth was going on in those screenshots.

PETER: I don’t— I don’t— I don’t— I feel like I don’t even know how to… or if it can even be judged. I think last time we had the concern about the one character who was pro-magical-creature-rights turning out to be just somebody that experimented on brains. They defeated that character, and they kind of just pulled an Orochimaru and went like, “Oh, yeah, I definitely kind of went off the deep end, but I’m willing to help you guys out now. Also, you cut off my hand and I turned my hand into a little sentient monster that’s fun and is like Thing from The Addams Family.” 

But now they introduce this new plot. Early on, there’s these people that wander around the labyrinth of the school, who might kill/kidnap students. One of them is this bodacious succubus lady. You learn her backstory. They were trying to, I guess, do some eugenics by using succubus wombs. All of them have, like, a womb power. Also, the womb can hold magic, so that’s really great for girls in the series, I guess.

TONI: [Laughs]

PETER: They teach Pete that when Pete— I don’t know if we talked about it last time: Pete is a Reversi, who is somebody who changes gender sometimes when they sleep. And when that happens to Pete, Pete is invited by this magical singing enby to the magical LGBT variety club or something. They all have a nice time. I was sure it was going to turn out they were all evil, but no, they just like to hang out, hold little concerts, and drink juice or… I don’t know if they’re [obscured by laughter].

ALEX: [Chuckles] That’s— wow!

PETER: [crosstalk] So that’s going on. Yeah. And then they’re just like, “Oh, Pete, since you can turn into a girl… because, you know, when you’re a girl, your magic aptitudes change and you can store mana in your womb.” And Pete gets kidnapped by the succubus lady. Turns out she’s trying to draw a bunch of boy energy to use for her experiment to create, I don’t know, the ultimate demon womb. It’s not quite clear. She’s trying to— There’s like an ultimate spell called the Grand Aria that every mage can develop. She developed hers by collecting boy energy. But of course she kidnaps Pete, who emerges from the boy coma that all the other boys are trapped in because Pete turns into a girl when they sleep, right? So, starts staging an escape while everybody else is trying to rescue Pete. 

It turns out that magical enby from before is like a partner, family guardian to the succubus, each of them are assigned one, and they’re all castrati. It’s an entire subfamily of castrati. Each of them is paired with one of the succubuses, and their magical falsetto boy song can, I guess, if the succubuses go crazy, can— It’s just a mixer, so I don’t know if that was the specific purpose of the song. So, there’s just all of this. I don’t know what to do with this.


PETER: I don’t think there’s anything [obscured by laughter]. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how you could possibly critique all of this confusion. I don’t know if it’s really— It’s doing a lot of gender stuff, for sure.

TONI: Peter—

ALEX: And it’s not finished either.

PETER: So detached from reality. Yeah.

TONI: You can cut this if you view it to be inappropriate, but this whole series is just giving… Have you ever seen that copypasta that’s like “Twink gets railed by his transsexual goth girlfriend, gets himself boy preggers, and has to go to the boy-necologist and get a boy abortion”?

PETER: [Chuckles] I’ve not seen that.

TONI: It’s giving that.

PETER: It’s got at least half of that, yeah.

ALEX: And this is only the halfway point, right? This is going into a second… This is going for a full 24 or 26 episodes.

PETER: No, no, it was a 15-episode season instead of a two-cour because they had to really cover this succubus woman’s arc. There was a little bit interesting stuff there, with, like— Ah, God. She goes to school for the first time. They have magic pheromones that drive all the boys wild. And this one guy who leads the safety commission keeps introducing himself to her and then casting a spell that essentially is just like a spell that kicks yourself in the dick.


PETER: So, every time he would say hello to her, he gets exposed to the pheromones, he starts getting aroused, and then he kicks himself in the dick with magic. And after like two months of that, once a day, he finally, I guess, starts psychologically associating the smell of her pheromones with dick pain and he doesn’t get aroused by her presence anymore and he’s conquered her pheromones, so he can be a real friend to her, which was his true objective the whole time.

ALEX: [crosstalk] Wow! I cast no horny!

PETER: Yeah, yeah! [Chuckles]

TONI: I just wish that there was a compilation film of this, of all the craziest moments, so we could do a drink-along postmortem for this show, because that seems like it could be a fun time.

PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah. You’re definitely just like, oh, what will they do next? Yeah, but she ends up joining his crew. She of course falls in love with him because he went to such an extent to have a real relationship with her that’s not defined by the magic just making him thirsty for her. Actually, he has a guy that likes him that doesn’t like her because he’s afraid that her pheromones will make him not gay for the student council president. But anyway, a lot of girls like this guy. They all accuse her of—

TONI: Wait, he’s afraid that he’ll get turned not gay.

PETER: Yeah. Oh yeah, ‘cause he’s gay for the student council president, but he’s just like, “You’re gonna try to seduce me with your pheromones and make me not hot for the student council president anymore.” So he doesn’t trust her.

TONI: I feel like everything in this show that would have made me want to watch more of it happened after I dropped it, and now I want to go back and watch it just to see this train wreck.

PETER: Yeah, it’s wild stuff. But so, the little bit I think that was in her arc was that after she ends up hanging out with this guy and getting a crush on him because he went out on such a limb for her, a lot of other girls in the school have a crush on this guy, too, sort of seducing him with their pheromones, I guess missing the 60 times he publicly kicked himself in the dick in front of her, because it was in the lunchroom and stuff. Everybody saw that.

ALEX: [Laughs]

PETER: So, eventually it gets to the point where she gets so turned down by all these people just assuming that she was trying to seduce this guy and she’s not actually useful that she ends up getting in a lot of fights from getting bullied and turning… She was made into the monster that you see her as in the end of the series. So, maybe there’s something there. I don’t know. I feel like I’m just hitting all the plot points now. It’s crazy. It is a crazy series.

ALEX: Do we need to do a retrospective, a whole hour-long episode about this series? It sounds like it has a lot going on—for better or worse. Neutral statement. It’s a lot. Okay, so, just to clarify, is this show finished at a slightly longer season or is it continuing through the fall?

PETER: I am 99% sure that Episode 15 was the final episode, yes.

ALEX: Okay. All right, so I misread. So it’s continuing into fall, but only for a little bit. So there you go. You can watch it in its entirety and see all of that. I don’t know how to wrap that up or segue out of that. That sounds… [Chuckles]

PETER: Yeah, if somebody feels like they’re in a place where they can judge or critique this show in any way, hit us up in the comments, because I don’t know what to do. I watched the whole damn thing.

TONI: If you love mess—

ALEX: [Chuckles] It’s put you in a stupor.

TONI: If you love mess, hit us up.

ALEX: I mean, our pitches are open! This sounds like there’s like several articles’ worth of stuff going on here. Okay, well, I was not expecting fucking any of that from where we started. And now [obscured by crosstalk].

PETER: [crosstalk] Remember how we were just like, “The animal rights themes might be bad”? [Chuckles] That seems so long ago now.

ALEX: [Chuckles] It seems like it’s thrown so much at you, it’s like a century’s worth of content and thoughts. Okay. Okay! Do we need to do an episode on this? Let’s— Pfft! Let’s discuss. Anyway, thank you, Peter. That was Reign of the Seven Spellblades.

PETER: Sure. It’s what I’m here for.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Uh… Wow, yeah. How do I— Okay, I’m just gonna move along. I’m just gonna move along and keep on rolling down the road.

Next up, we have Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, which I think we all watched. Maybe the unexpected, if not favorite, unexpectedly charming show of the season—at least by isekai standards. Although, I will say this one would… It kept alternating, like, it would pleasantly surprise me by doing something that was sort of unexpectedly progressive, and then a few minutes later it would unexpectedly surprise me again by doing something that kind of wasn’t. For example, there’s an episode where they’re out adventuring and Lammis gets her period, and so Boxo turns into a menstrual hygiene product vending machine and helps her out, just casually completely revolutionizing the medical technology in this world like he did with the condoms. No big deal at all. That was pretty cool. That was pretty neat. You don’t see menstruation acknowledged or made a plot point very often in anime at all. So that was a pleasant surprise. I thought that was pretty neat.

PETER: Yeah, it’s also nice just seeing the girls see it and just go like, “Oh, this is what it’s for. That’s really cool. They’re very convenient.”

ALEX: Yeah! [Chuckles]

PETER: And nobody’s aghast or cracking wise or anything like that. They’re just like, “Dang, this is really… Man. How convenient. How useful.”

ALEX: Yeah, that was cool. But then also, like an episode or so later, there’s a scene where… I want to describe this correctly. There’s a foster home in a dank, wet cave full of the most wettest, saddest Dickensian orphans you can imagine. And Boxo goes down there to help and he vends food and clothes and toys, and it’s all very wholesome and nice. And then he looks into the camera and is like, “Wait, am I just teaching them to accept handouts and rely on handouts?”

PETER: What? Oh, I must have missed that line. Damn. That’s messed up, Boxo.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Yeah, and it’s just like— And then the show just moves on. And they defeat some bad guys who are trying to hurt these cave orphans. It’s so… Ah! Anyway, I was like, “Boxo, you are so far…”

PETER: [crosstalk] More perfect victims, you could not find. Yeah.

ALEX: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I’m not gonna make a call and say Vending Machine is either very regressive or very progressive. It’s just kinda doing its thing. It’s just kind of fun. It clears the low bar that isekai have of not having a scumbag protagonist. It’s got some fun characters. It’s got the same janky aesthetic sensibilities and weak-ass worldbuilding as most things in the genre, the complaints I have about most things in the genre, so I’m not gonna lob them at Vending Machine specifically. But you know what? It was fun. It was fine. I’m ultimately going to recommend it, not in a way of, like, “Oh, my gosh, you have to watch this thing and it’s amazing,” but in terms of “Yeah, it’s fun, relaxing. Pop it on in the background and enjoy the really creative applications of different kinds of vending machine technology.”

PETER: Yeah, it’s a chill vibe.

ALEX: It’s a chill vibe. Do you have any thoughts on this one, Toni?

TONI: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, I only watched about five episodes of it. And it was fun. It was nice. I just felt a little bit like, “Well, I don’t feel—” I think in general, with a lot of episodic shows like this, I tend to just kind of not feel super compelled to watch the next episode, and so I eventually fall further and further behind. So, yeah, that’s what happened.

ALEX: And that’s fair enough. You’ve got other things on your plate this season.

TONI: Oh, boy, do I.

ALEX: [Chuckles] So, yeah, Vending Machine, not too much to say, which is fair enough. It’s just out here doing what it’s doing. And good for Vending Machine.

Next up, we are going to check in with Helck [pronounced with an ejective K], which is also— Sorry, again, I have that noise in my throat every time. Helck, we have some notes from Chiaki. “The second cour is ongoing this season. But the plot thickens as Helck and company make their way home for the events of ep 4, where they get blasted into the horizon. The characters continue to be zany, and there’s a question of whether this is supposed to be a comedy or a more straightforward fantasy series.” But yeah, that’s Helck. And there’s really not too much to say about that one. And again, we’ll check back in with it at the end of the season when it wraps up. We’ll see how it plays.

We also just have a quick note on BanG Dream! For a longer version of this, you can look forward to our recommendations post. But the short version is that it’s very good at capturing a sense of these are very high school problems but they are earth-shattering for the characters, that sense of emotional stakes. The CG is perfunctory and not amazing but not at the level of being distracting. And… These are notes from Vrai. Vrai likes that Anon is a gremlin with depth and that Tomori is autistic coded in a way that doesn’t feel infantilizing. As somebody who’s probably not going to watch any other BanG Dream! properties, it’s quite nice and feels very self-contained. As you can hear, listeners, I’m losing my voice. This is not the anime’s fault; it’s just the way that it’s going.

PETER: Oh, I thought you were really choked up about BanG Dream!

ALEX: I’m really choked up about BanG Dream! I’m like, is there one on here that I can make a joke that’s like “Oh, this anime gave me a cold, it’s so bad!”?

TONI: Well, I’ll also say that BanG Dream!BanG Dream! is full of melodrama and mess, so I don’t know, maybe… making you tear up a bit remembering all those girls…

ALEX: [Chuckles] All those powerful moments!

TONI: Just want them to be okay! I only was able to get through one episode of this, and then I was like— I disagree with Vrai: I think the CG is extremely distracting. But that is my opinion. That is my honest opinion. I will say it’s interesting that it has the same series composer as given and the better part of Flip Flappers, a.k.a. the first, like, six episodes of Flip Flappers. So I think in general with this show probably the case is that the writing is not the problem. The writing is, from what I’ve heard, quite good. It’s just the animation that will either make the thing—

ALEX: [crosstalk] And that’s the trouble with this being a visual medium that we’re talking about, of course, is that your mileage will vary on how much the aesthetics and the look of the show will put you off or switch you back on.

So, next up is the one that I get to talk about with my creaky little voice, which is The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior. Now, maybe this is the one that did give me a cold, because this is the one where we get to talk about our favorite thing, which is portrayals of slavery in fantasy anime. Yay!

PETER: [deadpan] Mm-hm. Great.

ALEX: Which I will say I was not expecting. And I am so disappointed because I was really ready to recommend this show as being like “Well, it’s not for me, but it could be for somebody else.” It’s doing interesting stuff with its female characters—mostly just the lead, to be fair. And, you know, it’s playing with genre in a fun way. [Sighs] But then it did a bunch of things that I— I’m just gonna tell you what happens. I’m just gonna tell you what goes on. 

So, to be fair, the story generally does come to the conclusion that slavery is bad. Low bar, but it’s there. Human trafficking is bad. Kidnapping children to sell them and talking about human beings as merchandise is a bad thing that villains do. And we do have a whole plotline where the good guys break into a trafficking ring, free all the captured people, and beat up the bad guys running the place. There’s even some very dramatic imagery of Princess Pride as a breaker of chains. Generally, the narrative takes the stance that slavery is not so good and not a fan. 

However, also, I need to talk about a character named Val. Val is one of the only darker-skinned characters in the cast. Unfortunately, you can possibly tell where this is going. He’s originally introduced as an antagonist early on in the show. He’s from a foreign kingdom. He’s attacking people and doing bad stuff, and it’s a plot point that Pride has to save someone from him to change the plot of the otome game that she has been zapped into. So, Val is captured and imprisoned after this battle and Pride gets to decide how to punish him for his crimes. And so, because Pride is trying to be good and trying to be diplomatic and trying not to be the tyrant that her character is in the original run of the game, she opts not to execute him but instead to bind him with something that they call a fealty contract, which is a magical agreement that places certain supernatural limitations on him. So, even if he tries, he physically can’t hurt members of the royal family or citizens of this kingdom, for example. He can’t do more crime, things like that. 

So, I was talking to a friend about this and he said, “Wow, that’s a really interesting magical allegory for the way that incarcerated people have their agency removed by the state.” And I said, “First of all, there’s a podcast episode about abolitionist theory and anime that you might want to listen to.” [Chuckles] But unfortunately, I don’t know if it—

TONI: Yes!

ALEX: But unfortunately, I don’t know if it is trying to be an interesting allegory or any kind of comment on that, because it’s played so straight and is presented very much as Pride doing something good, because, again, she’s trying to be nice, she’s just trying to be good. And so what she does is she basically engineers a technicality that means he gets to go live his life. You know, don’t get it twisted: he’s still absolutely under her magical control and is physically compelled to do what she tells him to. But he can also just kinda be a guy. And I thought, that’s uncomfortable and played into a couple of racial stereotypes and tropes, whether the author meant to or not, because, again… enhanced by the fact that Val is basically the only character with a character design with a darker skin tone.

PETER: Also great.

ALEX: Oh, yeah, you know, just great. I was ready to just let that go, and then Val comes back [Chuckles] and becomes very plot relevant. And we get this [Sighs] excruciating sequence where he’s basically being kind of twisted out of shape and is in horrible pain because he is physically compelled to do whatever Pride says, and this compulsion has also led him back to her to ask for her help, whether he wants to or not. Ah, and it’s just like— He spends a whole episode either being bossed around by people, physically messed up by this magic spell, or punching walls and stuff because it is the only way that he can reclaim some autonomy over his body and express some anger, basically. He’s a bit unhinged this episode. Which, on the one hand, I could understand being in that emotional state. But you know, looking at him as, like, “Oh, this is the decision they have made to characterize this character,“ it’s very animalistic. It’s very… eugh! 

And the crux of all this, of course, is that he’s actually just very sad because some kids he’s friends with got kidnapped by human traffickers and he really just needs to calm down and give in and ask Pride for help. And because Pride is nice, because Pride is being nice, this whole overlong sequence ends with him sobbing in her very benevolent noble arms, and it’s uncomfortable. And it goes on way too long because the pacing of the show is not amazing to begin with. [Chuckles] And it’s just like… It’s all capped off by the fact that, yes, they go off and defeat this human trafficking ring that’s selling magical kids, and it’s all very heroic and very nice, but it’s still like, “Hey, Pride, you basically own this guy.” And in fact, her being like, “I order you to XYZ,” is part of the thing that saves the day in the end. 

So the fact that she has this physical compulsion over him is narratively positioned as a good thing. And then, there’s all the— Oh, I’m not even… Not going too deep into spoiler territory, but you get to the final episode and it’s kind of just like, “Oh, they’re all friends now. Don’t worry about it. He’s even calling her Master in kind of a jokey, flirty way!” And I’m not going to comment on whether that’s unilaterally good representation, bad representation, complicated. I’m just gonna tell you that it made me uncomfortable! And I imagine it will make a lot of other people uncomfortable as well. And so, yes, that unfortunately is where it leaves off with Last Boss Queen.

PETER: Yeah, not great. Seems like it really comes from the kind of position where you think laws and justice are the same thing. And, uh… yeah. That stuff at the end sounds like it’s getting a little too freaky.

ALEX: [Chuckles] And I say, it mostly blindsided me because, again, you have these two versions of, effectively, slavery. Like, why is having power and control over a living being cool and even kind of chivalrous when Pride does it but it’s evil and nasty when the other guys do it, you know? Maybe they’re not exactly the same, and maybe as far as the show is concerned that’s like comparing apples to oranges. But it really stood out and it was just this bizarre dissonance to me that really just soured any goodwill I had left for the show, which is unfortunate, because, you know, we want to give these female-led villainess shows… want to give them a shot! But this one just [mutters incoherently] did that! So, that unfortunately is my report on The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen.

Ah, next up, though, we have The Gene Of AI. Peter, are you still keeping up with this one? We have some notes from Chiaki, but we’ll hear from you first.

PETER: No, I don’t have anything, so I’m curious what Chiaki thinks.

ALEX: [crosstalk] Not a worry, I’ll [see] what Chiaki thinks, and I will read from Chiaki’s notes. “Gene Of AI really wants you to think about robots and humanity, but I think so much of it gets boring when half the episodes fail to contribute to an overarching story. The series starts out teasing the viewer with crime thriller potential, but instead you spend several episodes asking again and again what makes a man a man. Sudo’s role as a Moggadeet, who’s a doctor who will do anything for a price, teases he’s going to be doing some cool stuff, but he mostly just does extremely normal things, if a little unconventional—for example, fixing a teddy bear. And the series ends with a promise for more to come, and it kinda sucks because the show really does spend the entire season doing what it did and suddenly in the final episode just slaps a gun in Sudo’s hands and tells him, “Copies of your mother are in a fascist-controlled African nation ravaged by civil war. Good luck.”

PETER: [Chuckles] What the…?

TONI: Wait, what?

ALEX: That’s all the information I have! [Chuckles]

PETER: What the fuck? It’s what we were baiting in so many fucking daily cases and stuff like that, and then that’s [Chuckles] waiting in episode 12? Jeez!

ALEX: So, Chiaki says, “I read ahead on the manga and Gene Of AI actually kind of ends there and a sequel Gene Of AI: Red Queen starts up afterwards. And Red Queen is more interesting—”

PETER: [amused] Red Queen!

ALEX: [Chuckles] “—is more interesting and is the thriller that I wish Gene Of AI had been, but  also, do I want to see a season 2 of this? No, not if I have to convince people to watch season 1.” So, that’s where we’ve landed on Gene of AI. Had some potential, it sounds like, but mostly kind eh, paddled around until—

PETER: I think we said this last time, but really, every type of scenario it presents you with, it always kind of buries the lede and asks the least possible interesting question about the scenario that it’s come up with. So, [obscured by crosstalk] end, though!

ALEX: Which is unfortunate— Yeah! [Chuckles] “Here’s all these interesting philosophical questions. And then here’s this…” Oh, my God. So, that’s alright. Maybe one of these days we’ll have a really solid cyberpunk series that delves into everything that we’re looking for. In the meantime, though, Toni, do you want to tell me about Undead Murder Farce?

TONI: Yeah! So, Undead Murder Farce is fantastic. Just show of the season, maybe show of the year, depending on what else pops up. I think that it’s— Hm, there’s so much to it. First of all, it’s got this absolutely iconic visual style from Mamoru Hatakeyama, obviously. But as the arcs have gone on, there’s become this really interesting divide I’ve noticed between Aya and Tsugaru’s kind of cynicism and more cold way of looking and feeling towards the people around them. And I think it’s fair to say that Shizuku is weirdly starting to feel a little bit like, at least in the last arc, she was the heart of that arc. Right? 

She was the one who was actually empathizing with and connecting with the people whose lives are being torn apart by these murders and stuff. Now, of course, Tsugaru and Aya ultimately do the right thing in the end by these people, in terms of trying to solve the murder and get to a point where clarity can help create a more lasting peace. But Shizuku really felt like she was… How do I put this? Like, her intimate connections with the people around her were the heart of that last arc. And those intimate connections also felt explicitly queer. I mean, and Shizuku has been explicitly queer since the middle of this show. At one point, Carmilla is doing her whole predatory-lesbian bodice-ripper thing, and Shizuku says to her as a burn, “Excuse me, I’m used to somebody who’s much, much more experienced than you are.” And obviously, that’s Aya, right? And so, in this last arc, Shizuku practically is just falling into another group of naked women every couple episodes, but it never feels—

ALEX: [Laughs]

TONI: It’s very sweet and it never feels exploitive in that sense, except for certain scenes with Carmilla. But you know, as I said, she’s that bodice ripper—

PETER: [crosstalk] That’s her thing.

TONI: That’s kind of her thing. And the fact that there’s so many other lesbians or queer women in this show, and Aya and Shizuku, I think, it really balances that out. I’ll also say, I mean, the last arc is about— How— I cannot think of something that’s more apropos nowadays, given what’s going on with the conflicts between Israel and in the Gaza Strip, than the ethnic cleansing that’s happening in that last arc. It was really difficult to watch for me at times. I mean, there’s one shot that just feels like it captures the brutality of that kind of ethnic cleansing, where one of the characters, one of the monster hunters, just kind of used his chains and just starts beheading civilians, just people who are— And it felt to me like the show was trying to start to— 

I’m not entirely sure what the show is saying, to be honest, about ethnic cleansing. I’m still kind of working through that. But it seemed like the show was interested in the experiences of marginalized people and how they form these kinds of communities where they can be safe and comfortable, but also then how those communities can end up, because they’re so insular and because they’re so separatist, potentially exacerbate the problem. And I’ve really, really loved this show, and I really hope it gets a season 2. 

And also, Tsugaru just continues to be so incredibly hot! And I love that he’s a fucking theater kid, constantly quoting rakugo performances for no other reason than to annoy Shizuku. And it brings me so much joy every time Aya tells Shizuku to smack him because it just feels a little bit like— It’s just got this very bratty sub/dom throuple dynamic that I just find so fun and queer. It’s just such a queer show and I love that about it! And it’s so— And the OP… I know this isn’t really a popular opinion, but I love the OP.

PETER: Oh, the OP slaps. That’s an unpopular opinion?.

TONI: Yeah. I’m gonna be writing the AniFem recommendation for it, but I am a huge Undead Murder Farce fan.

PETER: Yeah. I definitely had mixed feelings about the final arc. I think it really got gratuitous with the death and stuff, which, as you say, can be useful if it’s trying to say something. However, I don’t know. I’m wondering whether, based on what you’re saying, I was maybe looking at it in the wrong perspective, since I think this series was largely pretty bloodless leading into this final arc. Like, during the whole caper with Sherlock Holmes, I don’t think anybody died at all. And there’s only the vampire locked room murder mystery arc where somebody was killed. 

And then you just enter this arc where people are dying left and right. And in regards to the insular communities, I feel like there could have been something at work there. However, the way that it played out was kind of confusing to me because the victims were largely just, I think, mostly children, young girls, of this murderer, who was supposedly taking revenge against both villages, I guess, trying to harm each of them as much as possible by killing their children. Which, that doesn’t seem like a great way to go about it. Maybe punish the people who are doing evil things rather than basically innocent kids. And ultimately, they let her go because they feel that she was, I guess, morally in the right for doing what she did, because both villages were largely guilty of something. 

But yeah, basically just killing a lot of girls, tricking them all into starting to hurt each other, and then fucking off didn’t seem like a just way to go about that, but then it was kind of framed that way in retrospect. And also, yeah, the way they went about the mystery, like where… oh, my God, what’s the guy’s name? Rakugo.

TONI: Tsugaru?

PETER: Yeah, he was supposed to create a distraction, and he just murders three guys. He could have just knocked them out, but he seemed to take a lot of enjoyment out of basically mutilating them to death. There was just a lot of collateral damage that seemed unnecessary. And I don’t know whether that was supposed to tell me that he and Aya are just not good people after all while Shizuku is the good one since she was actually empathizing with them, or whether the series just decided that it would be good to start using a bunch of extraneous death just as set stages for the drama in the final scene. You know?

TONI: Yeah. And I think, to me— I really agree with a lot of the critiques you’re making, especially what you just said about Tsugaru not just becoming complicit but an active participant in the bloodbath happening in the werewolf village. That was really difficult for me to sit through. And it kind of is like a little bit of that problem with anime where it’s like, okay, it’s allegedly against violence but it’s like, “Oh, look. Ooh, cool violence,” right, you know? So, yeah, I definitely understand where you’re coming from with that critique. Yeah.

PETER: And also, the one who was not killed in the village, probably the one most deserving of some sort of revenge, was the old crone in the werewolf village who was actively practicing eugenics. [Chuckles]


PETER: I was like, so your revenge involves not killing the one most at fault. Obviously, she’s just gonna start doing what she was doing again. So I don’t really know how any of this— How did any of this create a better world or actually enact some sort of vengeance against the people who are most deserving of it?

TONI: Yeah, I’ll be honest, your critiques are— Your critiques are really swaying my opinion! [Laughs]

PETER: [Laughs]

TONI: I know I came out really strong pro-this-show, and now I’m like, “Oh, gosh, you’re right. Oof. Ouch.” I will also—

PETER: Yeah. I almost felt like I was missing something at certain points because that arc was moving so fast and so much was happening. But yeah, just the death kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. And the thing that you said about Shizuku, her being the key to solving the mystery by empathizing with them, kind of… it clicked in my head how the other two just had zero empathy, meanwhile, and seemed to actually, yeah, be active participants in this bloodbath and, in retrospect, when they had the choice to judge the person who was responsible for murdering all these young girls, just decided that she was without blame and free to go. And yeah, with all that together, I’m just like, what? What the heck? Yeah.

TONI: No, that’s a really apt critique of this arc, I think, honestly.

PETER: Yeah, very strange. I don’t know what to say. Yeah. I feel like it ended in a really odd place because it’s obvious they’re going to go to London and look for her body now. So I don’t know if we have a season 2 incoming or something. But it definitely kind of really puts a different spin on the kind of fun-loving— Shizuku’s kind of the stick-in-the-mud one, right, and the other two are the jokesters, but they seem a lot more menacing now and then it just suddenly ends.

ALEX: Hm. Well, maybe, yeah, a sign to—

PETER: [crosstalk] Wait, were you also watching this, Alex?

ALEX: I was— I— [Chuckles] So, funnily enough, this one kind of… I was interested in it, and then it transpired that it was not all going to be like the first episode and was mostly going to be them kicking around in Europe with Sherlock Holmes and other public-domain characters, and I was less interested in that, so I dropped it quite early. But that is very interesting. It sounds like, yeah, it’s got a lot going on, it is maybe a little bit complicated. But hey, that’s alright. That’s good to discuss. Good to have complicated ones to sink our teeth into. So, we can still look forward to your recommendation write-up of that one, Toni.

For now, though, let’s wrap up, at least for the moment before we get into sequels, just a couple of them, where I will talk about My Happy Marriage, which is the top of our list here. Did you watch any more of this one, Toni?

TONI: I unfortunately lost access to Netflix around Episode 4, and I just didn’t want to afford— I didn’t want to pay for Netflix anymore.

ALEX: That is all right. Well, I will give my two cents on this one while obviously, again, saving space for the recommendation that is forthcoming, ‘cause I ended up really liking this one. I still have a couple of gripes with it, mostly just small frustrations about kind of the same things we talked about last time in terms of the construction of the main character’s agency over the plot. Though I will say, again, without spoilers, it does come to a pretty satisfying conclusion in terms of her slow-burn growth towards regaining some control over her life and saying, “Wait, I want something now, and I’m going to try and fight for it with the powers that I have.” And, you know, last time, we talked about this very complicated sort of dynamic between the fantasy of an abused person being rescued and being protected and being taken care of in that way, and the kind of narrative need for your female protagonists to be doing stuff, to be impacting the narrative in a way that is satisfying. And that’s going to be different for each person. 

And I think— So, rather than putting down a unilateral stamp on this series, what I will say is it is a gradual journey of a person—a young woman, specifically—coming from a very bad place, gradually learning to feel safe, gradually learning to feel okay, and gradually learning to feel happy and like she can want things, and then coming to a finale where she starts to enact that. Now, whether that gradual pace is satisfying or frustrating to you may depend on how you feel about this one in the end. Although, of course, this is getting a second season, which is pretty exciting, if only for just “Oh, my God. This shoujo/josei series is getting high production values and a continuation. That’s so exciting! It never happens!” You know, you got to take any win like that where you can. But also, it is extra satisfying to me because I see, okay, well, in the TV version of the story, we are going to see her continue to grow from this point, and even if it is slow and steady, it’s gonna keep going uphill—I hope, at least. Based on the trajectory of this first season, I have high hopes that this is going to continue in that direction. 

So, I think this one may be divisive for people: some people may find it boring and unsatisfying; some people may really resonate with it. I think this is one— You know, see what it’s putting down and see if you’re picking it up, is where I land on this one. As I said, I really enjoyed it. I really enjoy, also, how it gets sort of into the bigger world or deeper political machinations in the second half. Again, still a little frustrating that it’s kind of like, “Miyo is at home learning to love herself and learning to enjoy how she looks and learning to have her friends and things,” and her husband is out doing the actual political plot. That’s a bit meh. But there’s also a cool magic sword-and-gun fight, and I can never argue with that. [Chuckles] So, as I said, I think people may have complicated feelings on this one, depending on your tastes, depending on your experiences, maybe, but I really liked it and I’m excited to see more of it. And that is My Happy Marriage.

And that is the end of our initial list. So let’s go into a couple sequels before the clock runs out for us. I’ll also take this chance to give a quick shoutout to our Netflix jail series of the season, which is Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, which kind of dropped in between summer and fall, in a weird sort of place, so we’re bottling it into summer. This one has been a little divisive on the team, again on that question of aesthetics, as we talked about before. Some folks reckon that the visuals really detract from the deep character plotlines going on and detract from the drama of it all, whereas others think that it’s not that big a deal. So, you know, see how your eyeballs react to the series. But general consensus is that this is a really interesting, fantastic alternate-historical drama that gets into a lot of really interesting intricacies in terms of gender and power and autonomy, all sorts of juicy stuff. What I will say for now is look forward to our recommendation write-up, if that’s not already by the time this goes live. So, that is Ōoku: The Inner Chambers.

We also have a quick note on [singing a quick tune] (doot-de-doo-doo!) The Duke Of Death and His Maid season 2, which Chiaki says, basically: “If you watched the first season and you liked it, you’ll want to watch the second season. It expands well from the first cour to encompass a larger entourage of characters that’s a lot of fun to be with. Also, there’s a musical number once in a while, and that’s cute. Keep in mind the show is still pretty horny, and Zain, one of the few male characters, is a lech. But besides that, Duke and Alice are a sweet couple.” And speaking of aesthetics and visuals, “the 3D computer animation also feels much more fluid and refined than in the first season. So, the show is what I wish RWBY was,” says Chiaki. “And it once again ends with a cliffhanger begging for a season 3. And honestly, I’m here for it.”

Also from Chiaki, we have a recommendation of Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts, which, the short version is— Again, I will direct you towards our recommendations that are coming soon. The short version is this sort of gets past its initial kind of beauty-and-the-beast theme and is genuinely a treat once you get past the kind of scandalous element of the premise. And it does do some interesting stuff with its themes of fictionalized racism and class and things like that. But again, I will leave Chiaki to speak for Chiaki and for this show when that recommendation comes out.

To wrap us up for this month, season, whatever we’re in, [Chuckles] I once again pass the mic to you, Toni. Can you tell us a little bit about NieR: Automata?

TONI: Yes, NieR: Automata. Okay, so, I’ll be honest: I found the game frustrating. I was not a huge fan of the game. It was funny because all my friends were telling me it’s the greatest game ever played and I was like, “Is it really, though? It just feels like bargain-bin Bayonetta.” But anyways— In terms of the actual action. I didn’t really enjoy the battle mechanics. But I found the story interesting in the game, but I found myself struggling with the relative convoluted nature of the plot, the kind of gestures at existential philosophy without really digging deep into it or having meaningful engagement with what it means to create a life, like existential philosophy is often about. 

And then, so, I approached the anime kind of with this little bit of “Okay, animes based on games are usually not very good.” And I will say, overall, I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s been a show that is inconsistent. Like, the first episode is a horrible introduction to the show because it’s just basically a shot-for-shot remake of the prologue for NieR: Automata and offers nothing, is giving us nothing for the people who’ve played the game. But what I’ve really found enjoyable is when the show completely diverges from what the game is doing. When the show is just doing its own thing, it’s been by far at its best. 

Like, I think one of the episodes— James mentions in his review for ANN that I believe it was episode… maybe— I don’t remember which episode, but one of the episodes that’s Lily’s flashback is based upon a play that was put on in the NieR: Automata universe—or not in the universe but set in the NieR: Automata universe. And that episode was really powerful. It actually made me cry. It was just so thoughtful around the contrast between how people, even within horribly oppressive and dehumanizing systems, can find ways to value each other and care for one another, but how that care for one another can be weaponized by the system to reinforce what it’s doing. I thought that was really powerful.

Yeah, just in general, when it’s doing its own thing, it’s really enjoyable. And then there’s another scene where 9S and 2B are just kind of wading around in the water and having a good time—completely anime original. Love that scene. 

But when it’s just kind of replaying the same arcs of the games, the best I can say about it is it’s very beautifully animated and very visually interesting. But in terms of just offering much outside of that, not really. It’s just a very beautiful version of the game when it’s not doing its own thing. So, I guess what I’m saying is when it’s good, it’s good, but I would say about 60% of it is just kind of replay of the game dialogue and ideas and music, and at a certain point, that just kind of feels a little bit like “Why am I even watching this?” So, yeah, good and bad. At a certain point, it did feel a little bit like a chore to watch, but not in a chore to watch in an actively painful sense, just in a “Well, kinda bored now because I’ve already seen this” sense.

PETER: Damn. Early in spring, it really looked like it was going to diverge into its own story. So, sad to hear that it was just a little bit extra content on top of the same thing.

TONI: Yeah, no, it’s not doing the branching story thing that we were all hoping, because we know that Yoko Taro sometimes likes to, in an adaptation, do this completely different kind of thing, kind of like how there’s different routes in NieR: Automata with different things. This is not that. Right now, up until the ending, it’s been very much just routes A and B of the game, because A and B are from 2B and Nines’s perspectives, and it’s just that arc of the game plus some side content that is frankly much more enjoyable than the main story.

PETER: Okay. Damn.

ALEX: Cool. Well, thank you very much. Now, Peter did promise/threaten to give us a disaster report on Mushoku Tensei, but we may have to save that for a Patreon bonus, for time.

PETER: Oh my God, a bonus podcast. Jeez.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: I guess, yeah, if we get requests, I could do that, for sure. Jeez. Okay.

ALEX: I mean, if you’re in the salt mines already, you may as well, I don’t know. We’ll see if people request it.

PETER: [crosstalk] I know all the awful stuff that happens. So, yeah. Just hit me up; I’ll tell you everything if you really want to hear it.

ALEX: Wonderful. For now, though, we are out of time. That is gonna do us for today. I made it through the whole wrap-up without completely losing my voice. Anime hasn’t killed me yet, and it won’t! [Chuckles] So, thank you so much for listening and coming with us on this journey through the season wrap-up. The obvious pun here is that summer was maybe a little dry compared to the bountiful harvest of the fall season that we’ve just started. And you know I love an obvious pun.

So, thank you for sitting with us today. If you like what you heard, you can find the rest of our podcast and non-podcast content on We are also on all the socials: Twitter/X, while it still lives; we’re on Bluesky; we are on Instagram and TikTok, of course, which Toni valiantly helps manage; we are on Tumblr; we are around the place. We have merch, which you can find on our site. And we have a Patreon, most importantly of all, where if you really like what you heard, you can come along and help us keep the lights on and fairly pay our contributors and our editors for their hard work.

And that is gonna do us for today. Again, thank you for listening along. And thank you to my valiant co-hosts once again. And… I don’t know. Should I do one of those zombie puns to take us out? Should I do a werewolf pun, a headless pun, or should you just kick me off the stage before I start talking smack?

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