Toni, Caitlin, and Peter try and fail to check-in on the biggest anime season ever in a reasonable amount of time.
Date Recorded: November 19th 2023
Hosts: Toni, Caitlin, Peter
0:02:06 A Girl and Her Guard Dog
0:03:26 The Kingdoms of Ruin
0:05:16 Protocol: Rain
0:07:52 The 100 Girlfriends Who Really Really Really Really REALLY Love You
0:15:08 The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons
0:17:33 Tearmoon Empire
0:19:22 Shangri-La Frontier
0:20:11 Paradox Live THE ANIMATION
0:27:23 My New Boss is Goofy
0:42:20 Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
0:49:10 Firefighter Daigo: Rescuer in Orange
0:56:48 Our Dating Story: The Experienced You and the Inexperienced Me
1:00:36 I’m in Love with the Villainess
1:10:28 The Apothecary Diaries
1:16:40 16bit Sensation
TONI: Hello! Welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. My name is Toni. I’m a contributing editor here at AniFem. And with me are Peter and Caitlin.
CAITLIN: Hello. [Assumes a deeper voice] I’m Peter Fobian. I speak in a gravelly voice. [Returns to normal voice] No, I’m Caitlin, the community manager and an editor at Anime Feminist, as well as the community manager of the Discord.
[A few seconds of silence]
PETER: That was good? No, uh, social links or anything? You’re good? Okay.
TONI: Oh, I thought you were gonna introduce yourself, Peter!
PETER: I could. I was just… Somebody took, like, a body shot at me right at the beginning, so I’m a little thrown off, okay, so… Yeah, I’m Peter Fobian. I’m YouTube strategy and content Crunchyroll. I’m an editor at Anime Feminist. I’m on Bluesky now; it’s just my name.
TONI: Alright. And I’m Toni. As I said, I’m a contributing editor. My Twitter handle is @poetpedagogue, though I’m going to very soon not use it at all. But you can also find me on Bluesky and Instagram at that handle.
Alright, so we are here to talk about the season that is, fall 2022 [sic]. So, this is the mid-season podcast. It was recorded on November 18. It’s probably a week from now that you’re hearing this. So, just so you know, things might be about a week out of date, but these are our thoughts based upon what we’ve seen so far as of November 18. So with that in mind, with no further ado, we’re going to go ahead and get started with our Pit of Shame shows.
Alright, so, Caitlin, it looks like you have continued to watch A Girl and Her Guard Dog despite all of your best intentions.
CAITLIN: Yes, I sure have. I’m going to be quick because there are so many shows that we’re watching—
TONI: So many.
CAITLIN: —and I don’t want to spend a bajillion years on the bad ones and not get to the good ones. A Girl and Her Guard Dog in my premiere guide said, “Oh, well, he doesn’t seem like he’s grooming her. It just seems like she has a crush on him. And I know eventually they’re gonna start dating.” Well, there was a line in a recent episode where he says to her, “Oh, it looks like you’re growing up. Growing up into the body type I like, I mean!” And…
TONI: [Shuddering] Ugh.
CAITLIN: Ew! Ew! I literally yelled at my TV. But yeah, no, it’s bad. Also, the production is completely coming apart. There are scenes where characters speak and their mouths don’t move, or their mouths do move and no sound comes out. And their faces are off model all the time. So, yeah, it’s a really bad show, but it is at times funny bad. Even if you’re into age-gap romances (Which, I’ve said before, whatever! You know, you like what you like), it’s just not a good show. It’s just not a good show.
TONI: Alright. So that was A Girl and Her Guard Dog. Wait a second. Peter!
TONI: No, you’re not— It looks like you’re watching The Kingdoms of Ruin!
PETER: I am, yeah.
TONI: What is that? I don’t even know what that is!
CAITLIN: Ha, the regret in your voice!
PETER: Oh, that’s the— I’m not sure if it’s based on a manhwa. It’s like a fantasy title. Yeah, it was pretty far down there because it— I didn’t read the premiere review, but I assume it was because there was just, I don’t know, so many red flags. But it gets worse, I guess. The main character wants to kill all humans because they killed his mother figure who taught him magic, who was a witch. All humans want to kill witches because they got technology and they didn’t need the witches anymore. The witches said they’d resurrect her for him, and I’m not quite sure why he didn’t go for that. But instead, he resurrected this other, unrelated girl to trick them and then let them all be killed.
So, he wiped out the entire population that his beloved teacher came from. And now it’s becoming one of those shows where he’s bent on revenge and there’s the one girl who loves and forgives everybody at all times and she’s slowly going to soften him by the end of it, probably. But he’s already effectively committed genocide, so I feel like it’s sort of too late for any sort of moral recovery on his part. And he’s definitely going to kill a lot more people. So, it all just sort of seems pointless.
TONI: We love a genocider redemption arc. Okay! Red Flags. It looks like none of us are watching any of the Red Flags shows. So, that includes Family Circumstances of the Irregular Witch, Undead Unluck, and The Vexations of a Shut-In Vampire Princess. So, the next one on our list is Protocol: Rain.
PETER: I don’t even know what that one is, yeah.
TONI: There’s too many anime!
CAITLIN: So, Protocol: Rain, it’s—
TONI: Too many.
PETER: Yeah, this is a huge season.
CAITLIN: It’s an esports anime.
PETER: Oh, what? Why am I not watching the esports anime?
CAITLIN: Well, because it’s not very good, Peter.
PETER: Oh, no!
CAITLIN: It’s not very good.
PETER: MOBA? FPS? What are they playing?
CAITLIN: It’s an F— [Laughs] It’s an FPS. Actually… They actually did make some kind of thing in a game engine. It’s ugly. It’s like…
PETER: Oh, I see it, yes.
CAITLIN: … N64-level graphics, so don’t—
PETER: [Laughs] I see it! I’m looking at it.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] I know nothing about esports. I cannot comment on how accurate [it] is or is not to the field. Seems like a lot of the people in it are real assholes, and that seems accurate from what I know! I give it credit because two of the players are girls, and that’s rare in esports! Esports are very, very unfriendly to female players.
PETER: That is true.
CAITLIN: And when we see the players playing alone or in front of their computers, they’re usually either butt naked or in their underwear, and that’s accurate.
PETER: That’s true.
CAITLIN: One of the characters is an actress, and it turns out that her public image is very— She has to hide that she plays esports because it’s antithetical to her public image, which is ditzy and pure, and she’s actually super foul mouthed and a complete slob.
PETER: That’s very Kare Kano.
CAITLIN: However, there is an imouto…
PETER: I’m just looking at the screenshots of this thing. I’m blown away. I need to check this out. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: It’s not actually a good series, but it’s not bad enough for me to tell you not to watch it, at least not at this point.
PETER: Well, you’ve successfully convinced me to pick up this anime that’s in our Yellow Flags.
CAITLIN: I’m watching it because it is an opportunity to earn money for me.
PETER: Oh, okay.
CAITLIN: But you do your own thing, Peter.
PETER: I do that shit for free, yeah.
TONI: [Laughs] Alright. So, we don’t have any notes on MF Ghost. We don’t have anything to add about KamiErabi. We don’t have anything on Demon Sword Master of Excalibur Academy. God, what a mouthful of a title for that… really just is so boilerplate. But Peter and me are both watching the 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You. God, I had to make sure I set the right number of “reallys” for that. So, Peter, tell us a little bit about how that’s going for you, and then I’ll give you some of my thoughts.
PETER: Yeah, it’s… I like it a lot. I think it’s really goofy. It’s definitely… I kind of watch it and… you know, Girlfriend, Girlfriend Season 2’s out, and I thought Girlfriend, Girlfriend was really out there. And watching them next to each other, I’m like, wow, it’s not. And in fact, the only thing they’re doing in Girlfriend, Girlfriend right now is still talking about how just having two girlfriends is too much even though it’s obvious he’s going to end up with four. 100 Girlfriends is already… already has four girlfriends. He’s already kissed them all. There’s been no kissing yet in Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
PETER: That’s like the first thing they do…
TONI: No kissing?
PETER: Oh, God. It’s so obnoxious. They’re trying to get a kiss in, but everybody’s like… I don’t know. It’s a pain in the ass.
TONI: And yet, my impression is Girlfriend, Girlfriend, of the two, is probably the more gross and horny.
PETER: A little bit. Also, the blonde girl roofied the dude twice. So, yeah, I might be falling off that one a little bit. And I feel like they just don’t want to commit to the poly aspect, I guess. Whereas, yeah, yeah, in 100 Girlfriends, was it Episode 2 where he came up with the solution… like, both girls wanted his first kiss, so he just kissed them both the same time? [Chuckles]
TONI: Yeah, he did! It was…
TONI: It was… I don’t know, Caitlin. As somebody who’s gone to circuit parties and done a fair share of fun times, kissing two people…
CAITLIN: I’m just trying to…
PETER: He’s trying his best.
CAITLIN: At the same time?
TONI: Caitlin, I’m telling you! It’s a good time! Okay, that’s enough—
CAITLIN: You know what, I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it.
TONI: You don’t knock it till you try it!
CAITLIN: I’m picturing… Okay, no, I’m not—
CAITLIN: To be clear, I’m not talking about “ew” as in the act is gross. I’m talking about “ew” because I am picturing it as a spectator.
PETER: Oh, no, they even said, “We must look like we’re trying to summon a UFO right now.”
TONI: [Chuckles] Okay, so, yeah, I mean, the funny thing about 100 Girlfriends is that for a show that is about a kind of horny and silly concept, it really doesn’t… Like, it does have some cheesecake and fanservice shots, but they never feel like they are gross in the way that often these things are. It’s only when the characters are, themselves, feeling kind of horny and sexual and are in a sexual mood that it’s doing that.
PETER: Yeah, it gets into the teenagers’ horny headspace, right?
TONI: Exactly. And I mean, there’s moments that are horny but for comedy. I mean, my favorite joke in the whole series is probably when Hakari is getting tickled and she says, like, “Oh, my gosh, I was so close. Because I was so close to ecsta-pee!” I just… I died! I thought it was so funny. I actually think the horny humor in this show… This show is one of the very few shows that has horny humor that I think is actually good. Then again, I am a Monogatari stan, so maybe I should eat my words.
TONI: Maybe that’s just more me than anything else.
PETER: You just started watching that, like, was it a month ago, and now that’s how you disclaim every single anime opinion that you have! [Chuckles]
TONI: I clearly have no taste! Okay, so, other things, though. Disability rep. I’m really surprised at this show because I think that, in general, it’s… I get— Okay, first of all, Shizuka is perfect, and I talked a lot about this in the three-episode review. I think her arc is wonderful.
PETER: Yeah, it’s very sweet.
TONI: I was a bit disappointed with how the big climax of the swimsuit episode—or the water park episode—was her having to quote-unquote “yell,” which is really just “say anything” to try to get Rentaro’s attention because he couldn’t find her. Did not love that that was played as this big, dramatic moment of her triumphing over her, quote, “fear,” because that just makes it an overcoming-disability narrative that I find kind of gross. And in general, that episode, I thought, was one of the weakest of the series. There’s issues in that episode with consent around clothing. There’s issues of gender essentialism, with who gets to defend who. It was very much giving the Ouran High School Host Club beach episode in that regard.
Okay, but yeah, I think in general this show is overall quite, quite good with some bumps in quality, as seen in the swimsuit episode. But I don’t know. What do you think, Peter?
PETER: Yeah, it’s kind of like a “two steps forward, one step back” thing. I’m glad that even… I kind of thought that… I didn’t like that her shouting… I thought it at least kind of made up for it in that she only managed to whisper and it was just because he’s such a powerful boyfriend he was able to hear the subsonic noise of her yell and come over. So, it was played down— Or if it played it straight and had her yell or something, I would have been more disappointed, but they kinda did some goofiness that padded it a little bit, but yeah, it would have been better if she just didn’t need to do that. So, I guess I just hope they don’t put her in that situation a lot and respect the character that they created. You know?
TONI: Yeah. And I will say that the show is also interesting because the other girlfriend that was introduced… I forget her name. What’s the name of the girl who’s kind of like…? I think it’s literally like something AI, like Nano AI. Nano Ai?
PETER: Oh, yeah, Eiai, Eiai Nano, yeah.
TONI: She kind of reads as autistic to me, which, on one hand, I don’t always love characters who are autistic coded and also robot coded because I think that that can be a dangerous stereotype about autistic people. But also, high-key relatable. Anyways, I don’t want to belabor this show. It’s decent. If you want a zany harem comedy that is somewhat horny but also just silly, it’s a good one to watch. You’ll probably know by Episode 2 or 3 if you like it or not.
Moving on, it looks like you are watching The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons, Caitlin. So, did you want to tell us a little bit about that?
CAITLIN: Sure. It’s a really sweet series about just growing up without parents in a situation where you are supporting your siblings, your support system looks different from people, you’re dealing with grief. But what I wanted to talk about for this podcast in particular is the third brother. There’s a plotline where his best friend, Uta, who is a girl, gets asked out, and he’s freaking out because it’s like, “I’m going to lose her. We’re not going to be as close anymore. She’s going to be spending all this time with her boyfriend,” and he’s jealous. And their other friend starts being like, “Well, you could date her.” And he thinks about it. And eventually he’s like, “No, I really want to just stay friends.”
Meanwhile, the guy that Uta went out with is like, “Why do you talk like a boy all the time? You know, you’re such a pretty girl. Shouldn’t you act more feminine?” And she’s like, “What?” But she doesn’t just reject it, because that’s not really how people respond to these things, how young girls respond to these things, right? She has a few days of being really hurt and sad and, like, “Do I need to be more feminine?” So, it’s got some fairly nuanced character work and storytelling. It actively avoided falling into these very expected tropes, but in a way that I appreciated. And yeah, it’s a nice show! I recommend it. The subtitles have been fixed.
TONI: I remember that being the main subject of the ANN preview guide reviews. It’s just like, “Well, I would like to review the show, but subtitles.”
PETER: It was like that CG bear in Golden Kamuy. I feel like that’s all anybody was able to talk about, and it’s like, “Okay, is the show good?”
CAITLIN: I am gonna keep using “What you are doing here is a carcinogen,” because that’s a funny line in its own right.
PETER: Oh, yeah. You gotta keep that.
TONI: Alright. Moving up the list, Tearmoon Empire.
CAITLIN: I mean, it’s a fun show. It’s kind of like a spiritual successor to My Next Life as a Villainess. Personally, I think I like this one more. People fucking love My Next Life as a Villainess, and I enjoyed it, but it’s not a show that has really occupied my brain space ever since it ended. You know, it’s not a big, revolutionary… like Mia has to learn how to be a good ruler and a just ruler. Mia has to be a less shitty person because she doesn’t want to get guillotined. And being a less shitty person is leading to people liking her more, to her being able to form better alliances, not making enemies of every single other person in power. So it’s not revolutionary in its politics or anything, but it’s fun! And it does say that, sometimes, rich people deserve to get guillotined. [Chuckles] So, you know, it’s got that! I like it.
PETER: Definitely a more attractive central premise. The visuals I keep seeing of her fleeing from a guillotine on a horse and stuff really make me want to pick it up.
CAITLIN: It’s fun. It’s a fun show. Not blowing my mind or anything, but I’m enjoying it.
PETER: Banger opening, too.
TONI: So if you want something that’s a little bit more goofy but where you get a little bit of that villainess isekai itch scratched, Tearmoon Empire could be for you. You are watching Shangri-La Frontier, Peter, sounds like.
PETER: Yeah, I don’t really think there’s anything worth discussing on the show. It looks really great. It kind of dragged in the beginning because it got really bogged down in game stuff, and now it’s starting to introduce those two girls that were in all the promotional material. Kind of interested in getting into them, but right now it’s just video game stuff, so…
TONI: Gotcha. So we will move on, then. Nobody’s watching A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special nor Ragna Crimson nor A Playthrough of—
CAITLIN: I guess we didn’t find it special!
TONI: Uh-huh. Aha-aha-aha. Nobody’s watching Ragna Crimson. Nobody’s watching A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life. You are watching Paradox Live: The Animation! So, thoughts, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: So, this season there are two shows about illusory rap battles. I very much prefer Hypnosis Mic.
PETER: Yeah. The tragedy of the show was it was at the same season of Hypnosis Mic.
CAITLIN: Nobody is watching this show. Nobody is— I am the only person watching this show. Even Jared, who was so excited to watch this show, is not watching this show with me. Nobody in the world— Well, nobody in the English-speaking sphere is watching this show except for me.
TONI: We have one person in the Anime Feminist Patreon who asked us to talk about it, one singular person.
CAITLIN: Oh, well, this is for you! Okay, this is for you! I hope you enjoy it!
CAITLIN: The thing is, when this show loosens up and decides to have fun, it can be fun. The last episode I watched was kind of a silly filler episode where a bunch of characters were trying to get the money to buy a really expensive album. And there was a moment where one of them was eating really spicy curry for reasons, and the other ones just started having a little impromptu rap session about spicy curry, and it was really cute and fun and it made me smile, and honestly, that was the first, maybe second time I have actively smiled watching that show. It’s just—
TONI: That’s damning.
CAITLIN: It’s so dour at times. They all have trauma. And using the phantometal, which gives them the ability to create illusions while they rap, which they only do on stage… And they don’t have them integrated into the episode. Out of all of the episodes so far, except for maybe the newest one, which I haven’t watched yet, there have been four rap sequences at the end of the episode. Completely CG. A lot of the illusions you could just do with modern technology, to be honest, with, like, light shows and stuff. But after they create these illusions, they have a trap reaction where they relive their worst trauma.
TONI: [groaning] No!
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] And then, over time, they start getting worse and worse reactions. And I’m just like, “Why are you doing this, bro? Is it worth it? Is it worth it?” There’s this whole monologue about how, like, [Assumes a gloomy voice] overall, everything that’s important to them is taken from them. [Returns to normal voice] Like, they lose their memories. Why? Why? Why? Just do the show without the illusions!
PETER: Didn’t VIVINOS do a music video about this on YouTube, and it was like a horror series? I think it was the same concept.
CAITLIN: The thing is, though… boy hot. Unfortunately.
PETER: I saw the PV. All the characters were very well designed. Yeah.
CAITLIN: The character design is excellent. And there are a few— I don’t like the rapping in it. So, ANN recently did a This Week in Anime column about it, and someone—I think it was Nick—was talking about, like, it’s kind of weird that these shows are about hip hop, which is a very distinctly Black-originated form of music still very dominated by African American culture, and there are no dark-skinned people in sight. And they’re appropriating a lot of the aesthetics of it. I think Paradox Live does it a bit more, because Hypnosis Mic is a little bit more goofy. But, you know, I wanted to mention that, and there was someone in the replies to that article saying, like, “Yes, I am Black. I am, in a lot of ways, in the target audience for this because I love joseimuke mobile games and mixed-media projects and idol stuff, and I absolutely do feel weird about the appropriation of Black culture.” So I did want to bring that up.
But yeah, no. And the lyrics are bad. The lyrics are really bad in Paradox Live. I can’t really speak towards the skill of the rappers, but the lyrics… I just… Hypnosis Mic wins in every way. Hypnosis Mic is so silly and fun and goofy, and it bears absolutely no resemblance to any reality or humanity, in a way that just makes it really enjoyable. So, yeah.
TONI: Alright. Are we ready to move on?
CAITLIN: Oh, good! I get to monologue again!
TONI: Yeah, Overtake. It’s your—
CAITLIN: Overtake, I’m not going to talk about very much. There’s not a whole lot to say about it. It doesn’t touch for very long about the economic realities of formula racing, which is fine because we don’t need two series about the people trying to stay afloat amidst a very expensive… thing. I don’t know. I’ll talk about Bullbuster in a minute. There’s not really a lot of female characters. There’s just the main character’s ex-wife, and then there’s a race girl who’s friends with a couple of racers.
She’s in high school, so it’s a little weird that she’s doing the race girl thing when she’s still 17. But she’s cute. She’s cute. Her main character [note] is that she’s childhood friends with one of the people on one team but also has a crush on this huge flirt who’s a popular racer and for a team that has a lot more means. I feel like, because of the animation and the character design, she feels like she has more personality. I find her a lot more likable than that type of character I typically do. No, she’s really cute. But there’s not a whole lot there to talk about in the particular purview of this podcast discussion.
TONI: Alright, so that was Overtake. So now, we go on to My New Boss Is Goofy, which I guess I’m the only one here who’s watching that. First of all, I would like to direct our readers to Alex’s amazing and very thoughtful article about it on our site, which goes into its depictions of recovering from workplace abuse and how it can be important to have just very sweet and fluffy representation of PTSD and recovering from it, in addition to the more heavy and dour representations of it—which, you know, I agree with. I think it’s really important that we are able to— I think it helps to destigmatize PTSD that we have shows like My New Boss Is Goofy and helps to make it something that can coexist with just your everyday life, you know, having PTSD. A lot of us have PTSD and we have to go through our lives and find ways to exist, even in new environments, and having representations of what that can be like—well, in a situation that is ideal—is nice!
I will also say… I know in my premiere review I had talked about it as being fujoshi bait or fudanshi bait. And to an extent it’s continued along that trajectory in terms of continuing to really tease the idea that, mm, maybe these two will get together. Ooh, look, they’re holding hands! Ooh! Oh, my gosh, they’ve moved in together! What? Spoiler alert, I guess. But I will also say it’s becoming more and more clear that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the show is not going to follow through on queer representation, because, first of all, Kinjo… There’s a confirmed bisexual character named Kinjo, and it seems like there might be something going on where the protagonist is starting to just try to understand what it’s like to be in community with queer people and then maybe might be having his own little crisis of identity, but it’s very much understated and very beneath the surface of all of his interactions with his boss, because pretty much all the time he’s around his boss, he’s blushing and… And much of their interaction… some of their interactions are very almost-romantically coded.
Like, in their most recent episode, there’s a moment where Momose’s abusive former boss calls him and then his new boss, Shirosaki, kind of steps in and defends him a bit, but in a way that empowers him to be able to speak a little bit for himself rather than requiring Shirosaki to speak for him, and it felt very coded similarly to when you see moments in shows where a person, with the help of their new boyfriend or whatever, confronts their former abuser.
But it almost feels irrelevant to me whether or not they end up getting together. This show still feels queer, and it’s feeling more queer as it goes on. And Kinjo is feeling more and more like not a character who’s just bisexual to check a box, but they feel like somebody I would know, and I’m enjoying the show more and more as time goes on. So, I would recommend My New Boss Is Goofy. It’s a very lovely time. It’s a very nice show to come home to and relax watching. Very sweet. And, you know, it’s becoming more and more queer. So those are my thoughts on My New Boss Is Goofy. Hopefully, it’ll encourage some of y’all to check it out.
So, in the following sequence we’re talking about Migi & Dali. We’re gonna talk about child abuse, troubled teen programs, applied behavior analysis, ableism, violence against children, especially children in the foster care system and disabled children and queer children. So if that is not something you want to hear about, just skip to where we talk about Frieren.
Alright, now to a show that has the complete opposite vibe in every single way possible, Migi & Dali. So, Peter, it looks like you’re watching this.
PETER: Oh, hell yeah.
TONI: What did you think of Migi & Dali so far?
PETER: It is very different from what I expected. I knew I was all in because I knew it was by the creator of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto. And from the promotional material stuff, I expected it to be just two twins being very eerie, doing stuff to fool people into thinking that they were one kid while living in an adoptive home or something. But I didn’t know that it was this murder mystery that they were solving around their mom. And also, it’s just gone off the deep end with strangeness.
It’s very weird. It’s almost got— The way it’s staged, it almost feels like a horror manga, like something Junji Ito would have made, with just the bizarreness of these kids and the setting around them. But I don’t even know how to dissect what’s going on right now. It’s been doing some stuff recently, like… I still don’t know how I feel about the weird mom who forced one of them to dress in a diaper and be a baby for a while. I don’t know if that was supposed to turn him into a good child by just doing his childhood over again or something. That was a weird segment.
TONI: Oh, I have things to say about that. I have a lot of things to say about that segment.
PETER: Thank God. Yeah, I probably just want to leave it over to you, then, because I’m sure you’ll have a lot of opinions on that and Dali’s new strategy of solving all his problems by crossdressing.
TONI: Oh, God! [Laughs]
PETER: But it is a very crazy show. I am enjoying it a lot even though sometimes it’s so weird, I’m just like, “What is the show trying to do? What is it about anymore?” And then it somehow comes back to “Oh, we gotta figure out who killed our mom,” and I’m like, “Oh, yes, that’s what the show’s about, even though he’s dressed as a baby right now.” Yeah, it’s fun. It’s weird as hell, but it’s super fun.
TONI: I’ve definitely heard some comparisons to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which I would definitely agree with.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I wasn’t gonna say it but it feels like the town is like Morioh from Diamond Is Unbreakable, the way the people act and stuff.
TONI: Yeah, or the prison from Stone Ocean, you know. Very similar vibe.
TONI: Okay, so a few things. Yeah, absolutely. You think, going in, that it’s going to be like a series of sketches about how the twins use their dual identity to fuck with people. And sometimes it’s that. But much more often it’s these much more complex arcs of characters. And we’re starting to see our twins differentiate from each other. Like, Dali is becoming very clearly the brains of the operation whereas Migi is becoming the person who’s doing all the acting and putting it all into action through his performances, right?
TONI: A few things. Okay, so, the baby sequence, the baby sequence. Ooh. I have to be honest. If there’s anything that reminded me of, it really reminded me of what I had heard from friends who had been to troubled teen programs.
TONI: Yeah. Okay, so, let me explain. It’s not so much the baby stuff, but just the general atmosphere of paranoia and child abuse and torture. You can look up those programs, but I know multiple people— So, for those of y’all who don’t know, I’m autistic, and I went through applied behavior analysis as a young adult, which is like one step removed from a troubled teen program essentially, right? And so, I remember when I was in applied behavior analysis, they would make us play with blocks, like “Okay, y’all, build a block tower!” Goo-goo-gah-gah! And we were, of course, teenagers, being asked to build a block tower. And then afterwards, after we’d build this block tower, they would pick apart all the different social interactions that happened while we were building the block tower and make statements, in front of everybody, about how we fucked up this social interaction or fucked up that one and how we need to improve our social skills.
And… this is very vulnerable for me to mention, but… And, to me, the words that they were using, they described it as— The words that they use to Migi and Dali, they described it as conditioning, right? So, applied behavior analysis, what I went through, is based upon the principles of operant conditioning. And I think this show has a sophisticated understanding of that kind of— And so often, children who have experienced the kind of traumas that Migi and Dali have gone through are then put through these kinds of programs, of applied behavior analysis or in spaces like group homes and stuff like that.
So, even as uncomfortable as those sequences are, to me they’re uncomfortable because they’re getting at something fundamental about the way that teenagers who have experienced this kind of organized abandonment are treated. I know that’s a very heavy thing to say! But the thing is that what I experienced is actually a lot less bad than my friends who went through troubled teen programs. And keep in mind, when you go through a troubled teen program because you’ve misbehaved in somewhat of the same ways that Migi and Dali maybe have, you literally get kidnapped from your family in the middle of the night, sent to this boarding school, where you then are forced to do all sorts of horrible things and experience literal physical torture, often, and abuse, and then that’s supposed to fix you, right?
So, again, to me, those sequences really just felt heavy in a way I did not expect. And I felt torn because it was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is reminding me of so many of my experiences of my friends who have been literally physically tortured in these programs or physically tortured in conversion therapy,” right? That happens, in the middle of this show that’s a horror comedy! And on one hand, it’s like, is it making fun of these experiences in a way that’s a bit disrespectful? Or is it representing them in a way that’s funny because it’s a little too real, you know? And we have to laugh because otherwise it hurts too much, you know? But the thing is, I don’t think that anybody who’s watching this, who’s created this, have been through troubled teen programs or any of this shit, right? So it’s very strange watching it as somebody who has been through something adjacent to it and has had several friends go through them.
PETER: I don’t have any knowledge of any of that, so I obviously didn’t pick up any of that with the baby scene. But I do say, as somebody who has not had any those experiences, I did kind of get this feeling, watching the show, even though the twins end up in a seemingly happy family—you know, their adoptive family—there did seem to be some sort of underlying narrative distrust of the foster system and the parents themselves even though they seem nice.
TONI: [crosstalk] Yes, absolutely.
PETER: And then the way that the boy scouts group kind of facilitated the bullying that they experienced as Hitori. There is kinda this ambiance of distrust around the way these two kids are being treated even though, surface level, it seems like they’re part of a nice community and maybe it’s just that one family being weird. So, you saying that does kind of coalesce a general atmosphere that the series has for me, although I have no idea where it could be coming from or where it’s going with it.
TONI: That’s the thing: it’s kind of Wonder Egg–ing right now. You know? [Chuckles] It’s just like, “Here’s this bad, heavy thing!”
PETER: [crosstalk, humorous] No, don’t say that! No!
TONI: “Here’s that bad, heavy thing! Where’s it going? Who knows?” I also think that—
PETER: Please, don’t Wonder Egg.
TONI: And it’s really fucked up that his adoptive parents give him up, without a fight, to this person who’s clearly gonna torture him!
PETER: Yeah, that was also weird.
TONI: Fucking weird!
PETER: It definitely has something to do with the power that family has in the community, but yeah, that kind of makes you trust less their aptitude as good parents, right?
TONI: As for Dali constantly crossdressing, like, girl, you’re an egg. Smash the egg. The chick that cannot escape— What’s the line from Utena? The chick that cannot escape its egg will die without being born?
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
TONI: So, yeah, Migi & Dali, a lot of stuff going on in that. We will see where it ends up. We will definitely return to that in the season wrap-up! Alright, Peter, what’s going on in Frieren? [Sighs] I know that this is the number-one most requested thing that we talk about on the Patreon, so we gotta talk about it.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I want to say— I was way ahead on this series because I actually picked up the manga after we did a manga recommendation podcast where they brought it up. And I got two volumes, I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty good,” but I kind of dropped it. The anime, I think, really does a lot with the material and has made it super, super great. It’s one of the best-produced anime this season, easily.
TONI: Oh, yeah. By far.
PETER: And definitely, I enjoy it a lot more than [the] manga. I think I like the story now, even though the manga just kind of left me going like, “Okay, this is fine. I’m not going to keep going with it.” So, definitely worth checking out. It’s very well produced. Kinda reminds me of the first episode of To Your Eternity, where you’re just wowed by the orchestra and the visuals and the pacing and just the way they brought everything together.
As far as the show, I think it’s… I’m— Maybe this is resolved, but early on I kind of had this weird feeling that it had this kind of paternalistic vibe around Frieren where, even though she’s like 1000 years old and all these people are—they’re human-age people; I think maybe dwarves live a bit longer or something, so they’re like 20s, 30s—are kind of treating her like a child. Which, I mean, maybe, proportionate to age, is true. But they’re kind of teaching her how to live life and not even directly, like you should do that. They seem to be kind of coordinating behind the scenes to make her experience certain things so that she has a better understanding of mortality and the value of life, even though they’re just sorta showing her something. It just kind of feels like they all decided together that she needed to get some valuable lessons so they kind of put all these landmarks in her path and kinda… I don’t want to say “bullied her into it” but kind of manipulate her into taking on an apprentice, that sort of stuff.
And that felt a little strange for me. But I do feel like it’s moved away from that a bit now that we’ve kind of got the central cast together and the story’s moving forward and it’s gotten more into Frieren’s personal story. The paternalistic vibes, I think, do not feel so bad when you do learn a bit more about Frieren’s past and find out that her master forced her into forced isolation for 500 years—for reasons, good reasons, that become apparent later on. So, she is kind of inexperienced at life in general, despite her age, which I think might have been something that they picked up on, and that might have motivated them to say, “Hey, we gotta help her out.” So, that feels a bit better.
But besides that, I think it’s just a really well-produced fantasy series where it kind of does a lot of time jumping and it just plays with time in interesting ways. Obviously, it’s got some stuff going on with Frieren and Himmel that it’s building up to. I know that the fans are really into Frieren×Himmel romance, which I think is super weird because he’s been dead for 28 years at this point, honestly!
TONI: Yeah, that’s a lot.
PETER: … I think. She was over 1000 years old when she met him, too, so that also feels weird. So, that aside, I guess it’s good that he’s already dead so I don’t need to worry too much about a potential romance. But yeah, it’s really cool right now. I love her interactions with Fern and… I can’t remember the dude’s name. Whatever the boy’s name is. He’s funny.
TONI: Stark, the coward, yes.
PETER: He’s got some late Berserk vibes. Maybe my only complaint now is that I feel like a lot of the girls have this kind of monotone thing going on. Even the demon girl that they fought in the most recent episode just kind of acts exactly the way Frieren and Fern do, and I’m wondering if the writer is maybe a bit too one-note when it comes to female characters. But besides that, yeah, it’s great.
TONI: Yeah, I think that Frieren consistently does not have a lot to chew on in terms of social justice themes. But I will say there’s a lot to talk about in terms of the demons. Hm. Because the demons, to me, remind me of— They remind me of two things. They remind me of this idea of philosophical zombies, because they’re essentially philosophical zombies. They look and they act like people and they can pretend to be people, they pass the Turing test, I guess, but they don’t actually have human emotions and form meaningful connections with each other or other people, right? They just want evil, chaos, destruction, whatever.
PETER: Yeah, they’re pure evil.
TONI: So, philosophically, that’s interesting, right? Because I’ve always been interested in the idea of the philosophical zombie. I’ve always found that… But fundamentally, I’ve always also wondered whether a concept of the philosophical zombie was originated to justify colonization and enslavement and stuff like that, right? Because, you know, the history of Western philosophy and the history of these kinds of discourses of “Oh, they don’t actually have souls. They don’t actually have emotions or family structures or anything. They’re just savages,” that’s literally what was said to justify colonization, right?
And what are our heroes doing? They’re going in and they’re… And there was one moment that really, really bothered me in Episode 8, where the demon is remembering his past and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, I remember Frieren. She was a slayer!” and you see all of these bodies of what look like women and children demons just in this pile… well, not “pile” but littered across a landscape, that presumably Frieren killed all of them. But it was a little bit like “Okay, got it. So, we’re just supposed to be cool with genocide as long as we imagine our enemies to be philosophical zombies. Okay, got it.”
So, don’t love that. I really don’t love that. I’ve always hated that in fantasy stories. I’ve always hated the idea of orcs or, you know… And if that’s gonna be the fundamental conflict of the show, is her battling these philosophical zombies, I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to keep watching.
Alright, Firefighter Diago: Rescuer in Orange [sic]. Is there anything to say about that?
CAITLIN: It’s Daigo.
TONI: Daigo. Okay, thank you. Thank you.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [Sighs] This is also a money-making opportunity for me, or else I totally would have dropped it. So, the lone fem— It’s just— The characters feel so distant. You know what I mean? I just don’t feel like I know who they are as humans. The one major female character, who really wanted to join the rescue corps and wasn’t able to get a position there, even though she went through the training with flying colors and it’s definitely because of institutional sexism, she still—it’s two years later—still not getting to do it, as of the last episode I watched, which… I think I’m caught up. She had a meeting with a guy about a different special service because her family was killed in a huge hotel fire ten years ago and she started getting super mad on the newscast and this guy from the fire department whisked her away.
But here’s the thing. So that’s the first episode since the very beginning where she gets a major role. That episode was so slow and boring. And I’m not talking about just, like, a mature adult drama. I mean, literally slow. Like, characters would have a conversation like: “So what do you think?” [Pauses a few seconds] “I’ll do it.” Don’t you dare edit out those pauses, because that was an accurate representation of what that show was like. [Laughs]
PETER: Violating every law of podcasting, but I’ll do it for you, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: So, yeah, there are a lot of much better shows to watch the season. If you’re watching for female characters, there are shows that do better, more interesting things. And yeah, it’s gotten to be kind of a slog, and I don’t think I would be watching it if it weren’t a potential show to review at the end of the season.
TONI: Alright. Dang shame, because I like me a hot firefighter. Ballbuster [sic]! Ballbuster [sic].
CAITLIN: Nope, nope, nope!
TONI: What happened?
TONI: I thought people were like…
CAITLIN: [Chuckling] It’s— Well, no, it’s— No, it’s Bullbuster!
TONI: Ball— [Guffaws] Did I seriously do that? I feel like I’m revealing so— I’m revealing so much about my sexual life on this podcast. First I reveal that—
PETER: That was a classic Freudian slip, yep.
TONI: First, I revealed that I’m a circuit queen. Now I reveal that I… that I like— Mm. Okay, never mind.
CAITLIN: Okay, anyway! Moving on!
CAITLIN: It’s fine. The main thing of the show is that it is very critical of capitalism.
CAITLIN: Well, see, they’re this very small company. They were a construction company, and now they’re trying to figure out what’s going on on this island where all the animals are turning into these giant beasts that are very aggressive and attack humans, so all of the people had to be evacuated. But the thing is, there is no profit in this. It was a small rural island; these people don’t have money to pay them to do this. No one’s paying them. They have no source of profit. And it is a very expensive operation. So, they are constantly struggling with having enough money to fund it.
They want to have a lab test what they’re getting from these giant beasts, and the lab is just like, “Oh, well, we’re not a charity. You should be paying us more to do this. Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.” And I saw someone in the comments in Crunchyroll being like, “It seems unrealistic that a lab would refuse to test something that important.” I’m like, no, I have friends who work in labs. The technicians, yes. They would want to do that testing. They would see the import. The guys who make the decisions? Oh, no. Oh, that is a very accurate portrayal. He also hit on the female technician who is helping the protagonists. So, you know, it’s a pretty solid show, not super memorable. There was one thing that I disliked, which is they got an intern and the intern was refusing to work after six o’clock—
PETER: Hell yeah.
CAITLIN: —because interns are not allowed to do overtime. And that was shown as him being just really obnoxious, and the company that he was interning at, that he was being contracted from, didn’t want him back because he’s such a stickler for sticking to the contract and the rules. And this was shown as problematic behavior. Like, the protagonist got really, really mad at him. And I’m just sitting here like, “No. No! He’s right!” I mean, sure, in this case, it is a life-or-death scenario, but (A) you shouldn’t be using interns for that kind of work and (B) that’s not how it is in most careers.
So, yeah, he was absolutely correct and you should not be treated people who want to— He says it sets a bad precedent for him to do work that is not outlined in his contract. He is correct! He is absolutely fighting against toxic work culture. And he did end up pulling through. They got mad at him for looking at his smartphone while he was on standby, and it turned out that he was actually taking the initiative and doing some really helpful work. So, he wasn’t just like a villain or a thorn in the company’s side.
But yeah, it was… It’s a pretty fun show. Once again, it’s a very, very busy season, so I wouldn’t say pick it over something that sounds more interesting to you or that has more people recommending it. Just, you know… It doesn’t have a lot of giant robot action, if you’re looking for that, but it does have a couple of cool ladies. And, you know, yeah, it’s fun.
TONI: Alright, so maybe that could be a fun time for some of us. Alright, moving on up. Oh, you’re gonna continue to get to monologue, Caitlin, because now we have Our Dating Story, because no one watched Berserk of Gluttony. So, I’ve heard this one is a mess!
CAITLIN: Honestly, I don’t think it’s as bad as some people were saying. If you’re listening to this, Alexis, I’m sorry—well, as far as the story has gotten. The main problem is that the two main characters are terminally boring. They throw in a jealous twin sister for drama. It’s very silly. It’s very silly. I don’t want to get into the whole thing, but it’s goofy as all hell. But on the other hand, it does really well with conversations about consent. Like really, really well.
There is a scene a few episodes in where they ended up having to room together out of hot springs. And Runa is like, “You’ve been really patient! Do you want to just do it?” And Ryuto’s like… Internally he’s like, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” But then he’s like, “Well, yeah, but do you want to do it?” And she’s like, “I mean, you’ve been waiting really well.” He’s like, “Yeah, but do you want to do it?” And she’s like, “Not yet. I think I will, but not yet.” And he’s like, “Okay, then we’re not going to.” So, it is really good about its conversation around consent! There is no point where he’s like, “Oh, I’m gonna have to control myself staying in this room with this pretty girl! Oh, what if my boner takes over?”
PETER: He’s affirmative consent king.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You know? But they’re just such… And he sticks up for her. There was episodes where there were a bunch of rumors flying around and he hadn’t told everyone that they were dating yet, and he was like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m gonna say something,” and then at the end of the episode he’s like, “I know these aren’t true because she’s my girlfriend.” It is not a good thing that she had all of that sex, and I wish the show did more to examine her actual relationship with sex and her body and enjoying things with her body, because it seems like she never enjoyed sex. That’s how it comes across. [Sighs] But also, it’s very clear you shouldn’t shame people for having sex. It’s bullshit to villainize people and treat them like sluts because they have had sex. So, you know, it’s still complicated but I wouldn’t recommend this show, just because the characters are super boring people.
TONI: Alright, well, you heard it here first, folks, maybe, that they are so boring. Alright, so nobody here is watching My Daughter Left the Nest and Returned an S-rank Adventurer. I’m in Love with the Villainess, none of us are watching. I’ll be honest, I’ve read the light novel, and all the infodumps about magic mechanics just bored me to tears and I had to stop. And it was just feeling very boilerplate, so that was my opinion of the light novel. But Vrai has an update for us on the anime, which I’m going to be reading and I have not read yet, so I’m going to be very excited to hear what Vrai has to say.
So Vrai says, and this is from them: “I really put my mind into meeting the series halfway after bouncing off the manga hard around the Episode 2 equivalent, because I know people really love it and I will say, I am finding myself won over to its sincerity. I think Rae probably comes across better in the novel, but I do understand what the author’s going for, creating a character who treats herself as a punchline because media and lived experience have taught her being a lesbian makes her unlovable. That doesn’t excuse her being a creep, but it’s compelling psychology and sort of grimly apropos since Vexations of a Shut-In Vampire Princess is basically over there playing the ‘boundary-pushing lesbian who never expects to be requited’ trope completely straight. And Rae’s boundary violation is pretty much contained to those first three episodes, after which it settles out to a standard level of Tsundere Business” (capital T, capital B). “It’s also worth noting that there’s some yikes-y racism in the most recent episode where the rude, upstart foreigners from the ‘new-money’ country have very Arabic-coded designs.”
Vrai continues, “I do appreciate that Claire’s classism is being set up as a real character flaw that the series seems intent on digging into, which a lot of villainess stories kind of gloss over. Pretty sure there’s a commoner uprising brewing in the background. This was a Narou novel, so those early bits feel very write-as-you-go, but the anime has finally gotten firmly to where you can sense Inori formulating what she wants to say with her story. Its best moments are messy, not unlike [how] Yuu Watase is messy, and I respect that. I do think Villainess suffers for being adapted after MagiRevo. Villainess came first and was a trailblazer, and I think it’s a more ambitious work. But MagiRevo has an adaptation team that was willing to be merciless about cutting out the light novel bullshit like worldbuilding infodumping, so it felt more immediately gripping.
I’m told Villainess has an issue where its second novel is both the longest and really dense plot-wise, so it seems like the adaptation seems like it’s just unhurriedly adapting the first book, warts and all, rather than streamlining the early bumps, cutting the first book down into maybe half the season and risking having to stop partway through an ambitious plot. I kind of think adapting it that way does this show a disservice, though. This is a pretty budget-friendly adaptation and I haven’t got a lot of confidence that we’ll get a second season. So every week I have an enjoyable time, but I find myself itching for it to get to the really good stuff, that I can tell it’s building up to, but the anime probably isn’t going to get to. I’m invested enough now that I’ll probably circle back and try reading the novel in the future.”
Alright, so that was Vrai on I’m in Love with the Villainess. Moving on up, we have Shy, which Peter and I are watching. I almost feel like with Shy, it’s hard to know exactly what to talk about because it’s just nice! It’s gently disability affirming, you know, with the character who’s… is it quadriplegic? Is that the term for it?
PETER: The nurse one?
PETER: She’s a double amputee, right?
TONI: Double amputee. That would be the proper term probably. And it’s not like she magically cured herself of that, although her prosthetics are very, very effective for her. And the main thing I found most thematically evocative is the relationship between the two main characters, Shy herself and then… I almost said “her girlfriend,” but that seems to be where it might be going eventually.
I found that Episode 2 really touched me. I was really just… I think that it really made a thesis statement about heroism and what it means to be a hero and the psychology of what it can feel like to be saved and how psychologically painful it can be to be in the vulnerable position of being saved and also feeling disempowered from that and questioning, like, what does that power dynamic mean and how do we disrupt that power dynamic? I found [it] really compelling, and I do wonder if the show is going to continue with investigating that and kind of digging into that, because Episode 2 still remains by far my favorite episode of the show so far. But in general, Shy is really good and I’m really enjoying it. Yeah, Peter, what are your thoughts?
PETER: I definitely… Yeah, I like all the ideas it’s touching on. I agree with you. I thought 2 was pretty interesting. In addition to what you say, I also think it kinda got into survivor’s guilt, both for the other people who would potentially be endangered and even for the people who might be trying to help you because they’re putting their own lives at risk. So, yeah, I thought that was kind of a pretty new idea I hadn’t seen many series of this type really engage in, so that was cool. Definitely liked the nurse character. I know the most recent episode kinda got into the concept of boys being accepted into the magical girl fandom space and being able to idolize and aspire to be like [a] magical girl’s character rather than being rejected for being weird or anything like that. So I think that’s all good.
I do worry sometimes that it is going to treat— The whole thing about Shy is she’s shy, right? And I feel like this series might be treating her a bit differently than it’s been very accepting of other characters, in that I am worried that it’s leaning toward her needing to get over this, you know, if she’s on the job or something like that, rather than trying to lean in with the same sort of acceptance it has for other characters. I also think the villains are pretty interesting since it seems to be a bunch of kids who are distrustful of adults as sort of a surrogate for authority, with the implication that they have been betrayed by adults or have been failed by them in some way. I’m sure we’re going to get more on that later, but I think that’s pretty cool.
And hopefully… It kinda reminds me of early My Hero Academia with Shigaraki and his gang before they just absolutely failed to deliver on that. So, I’m hoping it gets into some more interesting concept, especially because it’s portrayed the heroes—or at least most of them—as so benevolent. So, yeah, there’s definitely a lot to chew on. I find it interesting, although I don’t know if I’m really enjoying it, past some high moments, like I did like Episode 2. I think there’s a lot of explaining, and I wish it would show a little bit more than tell. But I think that’s just personal taste since I’ve seen plenty of people enjoy it, and the production’s good as well. So, yeah.
TONI: It’s so enjoyable to watch Masaomi Ando get to go ham on a production with a high budget, because so often he’s working with these shoestring budgets at studio Lerche. And getting to see him really… Like, there’s some sequences in Episode 2 that had some of the most interesting animation I think I’ve ever seen in an anime.
PETER: Oh, yeah. Every time Stigma shows up, it’s just some crazy visuals.
TONI: Absolutely. And Ando has always been good with horror. Like, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, the Mitsuba episode is legitimately terrifying, legitimately one of the most horrifying episodes of anime, which is funny because I don’t normally associate Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun with horror, but yeah. And I mean, he, of course, is also the School-Live director. Or School-Live [pronounced “school liv”]. I don’t know how you pronounce it. But yeah, so, it’s a good-looking show. I’m really enjoying it. It sounds like we’re both having a decent time. And it sounds, Peter, though, like you more respect it maybe than you’re really loving-loving it.
PETER: Yeah, I want to see a bit more, for sure. Right now, I guess I’m wondering whether it’s even gonna get it done in 12 episodes. But who knows? It could be two cours [and] they just haven’t announced it yet, or what.
TONI: I really hope it gets that.
PETER: [crosstalk] It remains to be seen.
TONI: I hope it gets that.
PETER: Yeah, I’m gonna keep watching it.
TONI: Alright. Apothecary Diaries. Both of you are watching Apothecary Diaries.
TONI: I know that it is definitely an AniFem favorite from everything I’ve heard, so I want to know why… Tell me why I should watch this show, because I have not started it.
CAITLIN: Aoi Yuuki playing the protagonist, who is a complete and total gremlin?
TONI: Okay, I’m already… She’s very good at that, so that’s a good reason.
CAITLIN: Uh, your turn, Peter. Give a reason.
PETER: Um, that’s tough. I think it is… There’s been quite a bit of… I don’t know how to say it best… several, numerous series lately that place in this sort of fantastical China version of the inner palaces, and usually there’s some sort of murder mystery type series, kind of like Raven of the Inner Palace, going on. I definitely think this is the greatest of all of them. The production is actually pretty out of this world. I think it was Episode 4 where… it was some scenes where it’s just somebody’s eating, and the animation was pretty out of this world. So, the production can really wow you, depending upon the episode and what they’re trying to do.
But that’s just visual, so that’s a little shallow. I don’t know if I have a whole lot to say analytically. I’m just really enjoying the show. I like the characters a lot. I think it’s got a really good sense of humor and cool intrigue, and it’s always kind of talking about poisons and stuff. So, she’s kind of got her own little area of knowledge that keeps becoming relevant in this environment where everybody’s trying to kill each other all the time. I don’t know, it’s fun. It’s a good vibe.
CAITLIN: I had a conversation with someone who is on the spectrum who was saying that they were really able to relate to how Maomao kinda sees the world and interacts with the world. So there’s that. Also, her interactions with Jinshi, who is the male lead, are always super-duper fun. He is so used to every woman finding him sexy, and she is just not into it, and he loves that she’s not into it.
PETER: Yeah. Want a supercut of her almost throwing up every time he tries to hit on her.
CAITLIN: Oh, she makes such good faces.
PETER: Yeah, really good faces.
TONI: I’ve heard that it’s engaging with ideas about patriarchy and navigating patriarchy within these systems of domination. Is that a thing that’s going on?
CAITLIN: So, Maomao, the main character, grew up in the red-light district and she’s kidnapped and forced to come to the inner court, where it’s all women. And she tries to hide, for example, that she is literate because she doesn’t want the bonus she would get to [go to] the people who kidnapped her and sent her here. The women are… they are living in a largely women-only space, but they are still very subject to the whims of the men who control them. One of them, there is an episode plot where one of them is being given away to a soldier. You know, they are here, theoretically, to serve the king. So yeah, it does engage with these things within the structure of the medical mystery show.
PETER: Yeah, I mean, it does touch on… I guess it’s just kind of part and parcel of the genre of the Chinese inner palace type things, where basically, ostensibly, I think everybody there’s sort of slaves, servants, or kind of kept in there in one capacity or another. I do remember there’s a moment where Jinshi kind of brings up the reason that Maomao’s there, and she’s like, “Oh, yeah, I was sold into slavery, dude.” [Chuckles] And they kind of try to get revenge against the people who had essentially just kidnapped her and sold her to the palace by her breaking a vase so they were going to charge the people who had sold her to slavery, which didn’t seem… I guess that’s nice, but also, I don’t think Maomao really felt like she was in a position to say, “Well, you know, if you really felt bad about it, you’d stop buying slaves and creating the market for people like me to get kidnapped.”
She is very kind of… I don’t want to say “resigned to her position” but kind of realistic. She was trying to keep her head down, so I think that her contract would essentially expire and she’d be let free after a certain time. I know there was some sort of two-year time limit they were talking about earlier. And unfortunately, she was unable to entirely escape notice, so I don’t know if that’s affected her long-term prospects of freedom, since she really wants to go back to her normal life. I feel like the mysteries and politics in the series are kind of taking precedent over the reality that she has been sold into slavery and is just trying to make it through her indentured servitude until she can return to her home, her father, who… I don’t even know if he is aware that she is in the palace right now or thinks she might be dead. Yeah, it is something that is touched upon in the plot, but not really the focus of the plot.
CAITLIN: I read the manga, so I know the answers to all these questions.
PETER: Oh. Is the outlook positive? [Chuckles]
PETER: Okay. Alright. So, maybe there’ll be more developments on that front in the season wrap-up.
TONI: Okay, so, the last one we have is 16bit Sensation: Another Layer, which I believe only you are watching right now, Peter, but I know our Patreon wanted us to talk about. So, what do you have to say about that?
PETER: Okay, I’m actually a bit behind on this one, so I hope my mentions are still relevant in regards to this one. I really like the concept, this eroge artist who’s allowed to go back in time and kind of participate in the creation of the media which got her into being an artist and a game developer, this PC-98 era of Akihabara where she’s able to engage in the development of these games. I think it’s cool having that perspective character be a woman and kind of just showing how the sausage was made back then and touching on her participation in the fandom. There’s even a scene where she meets a girl on the street who’s too nervous to buy those types of games herself even though she really wanted to, so she kind of helps her go through the shop and suggests her some games and helps her buy them and the girl gains more confidence from that. I think all that’s great.
What I’m worried about—and I’m only on Episode 4 at this time—is that the reason she’s been sent back is essentially to help the boy who is working at this game development studio she keeps wandering into and doing work for, who, I guess, is kind of resentful that games are moving beyond PC-98 into Windows. He’s more of a computer nerd than anything else. So it’s kind of like she is helping him accept the transition to this new… not medium, but generation of technology, and kind of developing his passion for the fandom as well. I feel like that would be disappointing because it’s just kind of like, I don’t know, she’s just sent back in time so that a guy could feel better and keep making video games or something. I hope that’s not the direction it goes.
It recently kind of teased that it might be introducing the person that is responsible for her traveling back in time. But at this point, yes, it’s just kinda her being super genki and a real mess of a character a lot of the time, and it seems like it’s pulling a bit away from teaching us more about the development of PC-98 games, which is the central premise. So, kind of mixed feelings. The concept I really liked. I hope it’s going to lean back into that and that we’re going to get more of why she in particular was sent back and that it doesn’t involve this guy’s just being resentful that people aren’t going to have to type in DOS anymore as a main narrative point, because that’s really fucking boring and I don’t want her, such a cool character, to be sent back just for the sake of one person not losing their motivation to make games. You know what I mean?
TONI: Yeah, that would feel like it’s very much deprioritizing her agency or any kind of meaningful…
PETER: She’s like his manic pixie dream girl sent from the future or something.
TONI: Exactly, and that’s just boring. But okay, so… This is a very extensive season, but I will say I think it is one of the better seasons we’ve had in the last few years. I’m pretty happy.
PETER: Oh, yeah, agreed. Yeah, one of the problems with there being so much anime is also so much of it is so good that it is really hard to watch all of it, yeah.
TONI: Yeah, and I’m definitely gonna go back and check out Bullbuster, Apothecary Diaries, and a few of the other ones once the season’s over.
PETER: Hell yeah.
TONI: Alright, so that has been Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. If you like what you heard, you can subscribe to this podcast. If you really like it, please leave us a rating and review.
You can also find us on various platforms @AnimeFeminist. We are also on TikTok @anifemsite. We now have a Bluesky. We have a Mastodon. We have an X/Twitter account, but we’re trying to pivot away from that more lately, so please try to follow us on other platforms. We have an Instagram. And we also have a Patreon, where you can subscribe and you will get access to our bonus episodes. So, this month we are having bonus episodes about Baldur’s Gate 3 and about what we’re watching lately, so you can hear me gush about how much I love Monogatari some more. As if you don’t get enough of that.
PETER: You’ve worked it in, yeah.
TONI: Also, you’ll get access to our Anime Feminist Discord, which is a wonderful place to talk with other justice-minded people about anime and also just geek out and have a good time. We also have Ko-fi, if you want to make one-time donations. And without further ado, you can roll the music.