Chatty AF 201: 2024 Winter Mid-Season Check-In (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist February 18, 20240 Comments

Vrai, Alex, and Peter check-in on the 2024 Winter season, where quite a few titles with a lot of potential have a lot riding on their second halves!

Episode Information

Date Recorded: February 16th, 2024
Hosts: Alex, Peter, Vrai

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
Red Flags
0:01:30 The Foolish Angel Dances with the Devil
0:02:09 The Witch and the Beast
Yellow Flags
0:02:29 BUCCHIGIRI?!
Neutral Zone
0:11:47 The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic
0:14:25 Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord
0:18:03 Tis’ Time for Torture, Princess
0:18:44 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!
0:19:47 Mr. Villain’s Day Off
0:20:16 Ishura
0:21:23 Doctor Elise: The Royal Lady with the Lamp
0:22:52 The Demon Prince of Momochi House
0:26:56 Delicious in Dungeon
It’s Complicated
0:30:51 Solo Leveling
0:35:06 Sengoku Youko
0:36:50 Metallic Rouge
0:41:56 Fluffy Paradise
Feminist Potential
0:42:31 Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!
0:51:58 Brave Bang Bravern!
0:56:09 A Sign of Affection
1:10:11 Outro

Further Reading

2024 Winter Premiere Digest

2024 Winter Three-Episode Check-In

VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast! This is our winter mid-season check-in. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I am daily operations manager here at AniFem, I’m on Bluesky @writervrai, and with me today are Alex and Peter.

ALEX: Hello, everybody. Good to be back. I’m Alex, one of the managing editors here at AniFem. I’m also a recovering academic. You can find me on Bluesky @arhenderson.

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

VRAI: Thank you, thank you. Now if this is your first time joining us for one of our seasonal casts, just as a reminder, we go following our Premiere Digest that we set up at the beginning of the season. Sometimes shows will have changed position from where they were based on that assessment of their first episode or two. You know, we also have a three-episode check-in. But we continue to use the Premiere Digest order, just because it’s easy to reference. It’s an existing list that people can look at and keep track of.

We’re actually going to start in Yellow Flags this time because there’s not really much to add for the Red Flags category. I dropped Foolish Angel Dances with the Devil three episodes in because besides the kink elements—which I feel like the show was a little too mired in having them be nonconsensual as the only way it could figure out to get the characters into them, which is a bummer—and beyond that, it was kind of discount Kaguya-sama, which could be enjoyable, but there’s just a lot of other stuff to watch this season.

PETER: Mm-hm.

VRAI: Yeah. Which… Yeah. And The Witch and the Beast is kind of puttering along, doing what it was doing when we noted it in Episode 3, although, Peter, you mentioned that there haven’t been any more forced kisses since that premiere, which is nice.

PETER: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll have something to say at the end of season, but right now I don’t think there’s anything… there’s no significant updates.

VRAI: Alright, let’s go on to Bucchigiri, which, Peter, you and I are both watching, and so is Caitlin, off screen from us. [Starts to speak, then falters] Are you an Utsumi person?

PETER: Like, a fan?

VRAI: Yeah.

PETER: Aspects of Utsumi, I’d say. I like— Yeah, yeah, there are things I like. Some stuff—I don’t want to say, “I’m not a fan”—I’m just not particularly interested in. So, I think Bucchigiri is kinda representative. I definitely think it’s really bombastic. I love all the character designs. Love the energy and the sense of humor and stuff, although I find the plot— It feels like I’m watching Tokyo Revengers now, actually. So, I wasn’t expecting that!

VRAI: I mean, I guess, broadly in that it is about a school gang war. But that’s very broad.

PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah. Well, also, the aspect where there’s one guy who’s starting a fight with two other gangs so that he can come in and defeat both of them because of a single negative event he had with one of them that drove him absolutely insane [Chuckles] and caused him to decide to kill everyone.

ALEX: Well, you know how high school is. [Chuckles]

PETER: Yeah. Yeah, [Chuckles] formative period, I guess. It’s doing it with a lot more bombast than Tokyo Revengers was, for sure, now that he’s got, I don’t know, an idol group that performs honeypot performances so that he can recruit people into his gang—and of course, people being possessed by djinn that gives you a tramp stamp. But… So, obviously a lot of stuff is about to happen. But up until now, it’s kinda been playing very, I guess, straight with its premise, dare I say.

VRAI: Heh. Ha-ha-ha.

PETER: Yeah. I don’t know, Vrai, do you have any strong feelings?

VRAI: Meh. So I’m, like, Utsumi neutral. I watched and enjoyed the first season of Free! but never did watch the second season. Similarly, I just kinda… I liked SK8 well enough, but I was watching other stuff so I never quite managed to finish it. I pretty much don’t count Banana Fish because she was so tightly bound by the producer, who really wanted to keep it exactingly faithful to the manga, which still bums me out. But… So, I like the things that she does well. Like you said, she has a really great eye for action and solid comedic timing when the joke isn’t “Lol, gay.” I think the colors that she uses in her shows are really amazing. 

For me, she kind of sits in the same pocket as Kojima in terms of auteurs who I’m really glad are out there doing their weird little thing, because I love when artists get to do their extremely idiosyncratic stuff that they’re clearly passionate about, but also, at least as of Bucchigiri… and obviously, this is different for a woman creator versus a guy, just in terms of what she’d naturally have to be pushing against to get stuff made. But I think… I don’t know, something about Bucchigiri’s production says to me she needs somebody who can push back against her in a productive way—not somebody who just tells her no, because I’m sure she’s faced a lot of that in her career, but somebody who says, “Hey, I know you like this trope a lot, but maybe you have stuffed too many of the tropes that you like into one package and they’re all fighting against each other and it’s really loud and it’s not making a cohesive story that doesn’t feel exhausting to watch.”

PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah. I think, definitely, somebody to kinda keep things on course, because it does seem like a lot of the things that have happened was just because. [Chuckles] You get the feeling the director finds that entertaining, so that’s why they’re there.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yeah. And it’s also— I think Caitlin mentioned this in her three-episode write up, but it is getting to the point now where you always try to give artists who write a lot of homoeroticism into their anime grace because we know, whether it’s the Witch from Mercury situation or Sayo Yamamoto talking about having to put her foot down with Yuri on Ice and then disappearing from the industry for the past seven years, that there’s still a lot of censorship as far as depicting queerness in non-yuri-and-BL projects. But I don’t know, I feel like I’ve reached a tipping point where… Utsumi, please stop just— What do I want to say? I need a second. Um… She overwhelmingly seems to like including homoeroticism in her work but as a punchline, and it’s starting to bum me out. 

I will say that when I heard that the premise for this was “Our protagonist (who sucks so bad and I hate him) punches dudes, and then they fall in love with him,” it’s not as assaulty as I feared it would be. So, you know, star for that! But I don’t know. It’s weird because I’m so frustrated with this. The two female characters that we have suck a lot, and I do hate them. We’ve got our protagonist’s mom, who is way too invested in his sex life, and he constantly shits on her. And we have the teenage girl who’s chronically manipulative and also wants to fuck her brother—and has a horrible hairstyle that I hate.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: That’s a bummer. And yet I say all this, but at the same time, Utsumi’s so talented in terms of visual flow. This is a compulsively watchable show. And obviously, I’m not even getting into, because I shouldn’t, all the conversations to be had around this show and its use of Arabic imagery and graffiti and street culture and whether or not that’s appropriative. It’s just a whole thing. And I wouldn’t even call it emblematic of Utsumi. I think it does a disservice to what she does well, because it’s like too many of her pet favorite things but not at the height of what she does— I think I would suggest people watch SK8 the Infinity or the first season of Free! over this. Like, Caitlin, who is the biggest Utsumi fan, is not super into this one, and I feel like that says a lot.

PETER: I think SK8 definitely… the main character isn’t so aggressively shitty and a coward. You feel like it’s gonna turn around at some point in Bucchigiri, but in the meantime the starting point for the main character in SK8 is just much more enjoyable.

VRAI: Mm-hm. It’s running out of time—

PETER: Yeah, it is, yes.

VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s running out of time for Arajin to suck less, frankly. And I’m not a fan of horndog protagonists, but he’s a horndog protagonist who also is completely— I know it’s supposed to be implying that he feels this deep, debilitating guilt over running away when his childhood bestie was getting beat up and not doing anything, but I don’t care because we’re halfway into the show and he hasn’t done anything for anybody besides literally being led around by his dick!

PETER: Yeah, this show and Metallic Rouge, I’m feeling… I’m just like “You’re running outta time. You gotta start doing stuff.”

VRAI: Yeah. So, yeah, I’m glad Utsumi’s working. I hope she gets another show to work on after this. I think that this show is a mess.

PETER: Yeah. It is really nice to look at. If I have to say one thing about Utsumi, though, it’s just I am glad that these things exist, just because they have interesting male character designs, because, God, so many shows is just a dude with short black hair and I’m so bored of that. They were getting really hard to tell apart. [Chuckles] I’m very appreciative that these guys look interesting. But that said, the main character in this one is a guy with short black hair. At least it’s styled.


VRAI: Ah, so close. Is there anything to say about Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic?

PETER: I actually just want to say I’m kinda really enjoying it. I think it’s avoided a lot of the usual isekai pitfalls. The main character’s mentor is a very tall, very strong woman who is apparently kind of intimidating to other people. But she seems like a very developed character. She’s actively influencing his outlook and teaching him how to become a better warrior. I don’t know if there’s really— First responders or something might have a particular appeal for this anime, since that’s kinda what she acts as in addition to being a fighter. And I also think— He was isekai’d with the top girl and guy in his class, who are both kind of fun characters. I think the guy’s kinda taking a backseat, but the girl’s also fun. 

It’s one of those scenarios where I think the main dude felt very like he wasn’t good at anything in life, he was kind of bottom of the class, somewhere down there, didn’t really stand out, so in the isekai, he’s got— I guess it’s kinda like the male power fantasy, where he is finding a role for himself, although it’s not something that he was naturally good at. He’s actually having to work really hard, but he’s glad to have direction. And the girl was very high performing but felt very claustrophobic in all of the expectations that she had on her. And she was really into RPGs like Dragon Quest and stuff, and this world kind of appealed to all the sensibilities that she was forced to ignore, to be perfect all the time. And they haven’t really done any of the usual bad stuff either. So, I feel like the— I can’t remember either of their names. Main guy’s great. Main girl’s great. I think Rose is a really cool character idea. So, it’s been pretty entertaining. I’m sure somebody’s gonna point out something bad it’s doing that I forgot, but I’m really enjoying myself.

VRAI: Right. The bar is in hell for the genre. So, enjoyable and not actively doing something terrible? Sometimes, you know, that’s not a bad thing.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah. And Rose is very good.

VRAI: Nice. Alright, nobody is watching Weakest Tamer. This has been quite a season for the crew. Just a peek behind the scenes! So, I think Cy really liked the first episode of that one but maybe fell off. However, Alex, you have been really enjoying Villainess Level 99.

ALEX: I have indeed. Kind of unexpectedly! I think that it’s not going to be for everyone because a lot of humor kind of relies on the protagonist being very deadpan in her delivery, not because she doesn’t care and is a very emotionless person, but I… Okay, it’s not my business, I don’t think, to make a call about whether or not an anime character is neurodivergent coded or, least of all, neurodivergent representation. But I will take this point to steal a joke from my friend who I’m watching this with, who said, “Everyone’s worried about her dark magic, but I think her real superpower is gaming and autism.” [Chuckles]

VRAI: [Chuckles]

ALEX: I find her very endearing. She’s very, very good at the things that she is good at. I think that the mention that I made in the three-episode check-in was that she’s very good at playing four-dimensional emotional chess in terms of working out what people are interested [in] politically and the social strata of all the nobility and stuff at the school she’s at. But with something like a conversation with one of her classmates, she’s like, “Alright, and now, I will go to what I know about this, which is you gotta say, ‘Yes, that sounds interesting! Wow, that’s really cool!’ You just gotta keep them talking, and they’ll think that you like them and it’ll be good for you.” She’s a bit more out of her depth and kind of relying on whatever social script she can get her hands on in terms of more day-to-day interactions. But she’s making friends. It’s setting up, I think—and this is mostly foregrounded in the opening animation, which I think is very sweet—that she is the strongest person alive in this world, basically, and she’s met a boy who genuinely thinks that’s really cool and wants to work with her and gets all kind of blushy and endeared whenever she does something terrifying! [Chuckles]

And I don’t know. It’s not gonna blow your socks off, I don’t think, but it’s fun and it has some fun dynamics. And it’s got a little bit of plot and intrigue happening. Like, sometimes you’ll have these sort of isekai shows, whether villainess or another power fantasy or another genre, whatever it may be, where everything’s kind of just easy for the protagonist from the get-go and there’s no questions or mystery about what is going on around them. But there’s some stuff going on. There’s some characters [where] you’re thinking, okay, what’s your motivation? Are you manipulating this girl? What do you want? Why are your powers like that? What’s the dealio with the otome game’s original protagonist? Why is she behaving this way around you? How is it going to diverge from the plot? It’s doing stuff, and it’s also doing funny and interesting stuff with the whole RPG mechanics as well. So, you know what? I am enjoying this, which is good because we have multiple villainess scenarios this season. Give this one a shot, if that’s a trope that you’re interested in, I reckon.

VRAI: Nice. Yeah, my issue with the premiere was mostly that it spent a lot of its run time farting around and waiting to the end of the episode to get to the thing that’s apparently the first scene of the manga, which was the most fun part of the episode. So, I’m glad that now that it’s thoroughly into the meat of the source material, it’s been a lot of fun. I don’t know that I’ll go back to it, but I’m happy for folks who are enjoying it.

Alright, well, we need to keep moving on because we’re… Yeah, gonna motor on along. I don’t really have anything to add for ‘Tis Time for “Torture”. I’m a couple episodes behind, but it’s basically— It’s the kind of show that’s still exactly what it was when I reviewed the premiere, which I quite liked a lot. If you didn’t get into that first episode, this is not the show for you. It is doing the same thing every week with new characters, and either you find it cozy or you don’t. But I like it a lot. It is absolutely top-tier food porn, except of course for the other food porn show this season.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: 7th Time Loop, nobody on the call is watching. But Chiaki did a short little write-up for it on the third-episode check-in, which I believe still holds true. She and Dee are both continuing to really enjoy it just as a nice little character romance of the… I think they described it as the “Why is my fiancé acting like this?” sort of subgenre of romance. And it’s another title that seems really fun, has a dynamic sort of heroine, and I just have not had time to get to it. But yeah, that sounds like if you’re looking for a villainess series that’s more solidly in the romance genre… And it’s using the time loop mechanic to really believably give its heroine all of her many multifaceted skills that she can pull out in X situation. It seems like it’s doing really well.

Mr. Villain’s Day Off, I was enjoying, but I feel like I’m too far behind on it to comment. Seems like you’re the same, Alex?

ALEX: Yes, yeah. I haven’t. It feels like a good show to put on and binge while you’re chilling out and doing other stuff. That is not to say that it’s worth less because it’s a silly, fluffy supernatural comedy show, but I… Yeah. That was kinda the vibe that I got. I think I’ll return to that one at the end of season and see how we go.

VRAI: Mm-hm. Ishura, I think I will come back around to talk about at end of season. I didn’t end up writing the three-episode for it, because we were just stacked for time, but… You know, I’d love to tell you how it’s doing with the protagonist we met in the first episode and her PTSD, but I haven’t seen her again because every episode keeps introducing entirely new characters who are all going to be joining in this tournament. And they’re interesting little side stories, but it was starting to get to the point where… “Oh, no. At the rate you’re going, you’re going to be introducing so many things that you’re going to get to the tournament at the end of this anime. We can’t be doing this.”

ALEX: Oh, dear.

VRAI: Which… yeah. So, yeah, I’ll catch back up on that one and let y’all know at end of season. I think that one, because it’s on Hulu, has sort of gone under the radar, but it is interesting in some ways.

You checked in on Doctor Elise.

ALEX: I did. I’m not fully caught up to that to the mid-season mark, but I watched a couple more episodes and it confirmed my kind-of prediction that once the setup of the first episode is finished and she gets launched back into the fantasy world but with all of her knowledge of two whole lives, it kind of just goes back to being a more typical, straightforward reincarnation isekai/villainess situation, which is fine but is a bit boring (bless its little heart). Which is a shame because it’s kind of an interesting premise. It’s like, yeah, she’s bringing modern medical knowledge back to a sort of medievally-ish, generically European fantasy world. But I unfortunately maintain my review that the setup of the first episode, where a former villainess fantasy character has to live in the real world and deal with modern technology and learn to be a better person… that would’ve been a more unique and interesting setup and I would like to have watched a whole show of that instead of it going back to something more familiar. But, you know, if you like that more straightforward genre, give it a shot.

VRAI: You don’t see as many reverse isekai with the villainess genre, which is too bad.

ALEX: [crosstalk] You don’t. Yeah.

VRAI: There is a show from a few seasons ago that dabbled in that a little, but I feel like that’s spoilery, so we’ll leave that aside.

Moving on up, you and Peter are both watching The Demon Prince of Momochi House. And you’re an anime-only viewer, right?

ALEX: I am indeed, yes.

VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, no. You— [obscured by crosstalk]

ALEX: So, first of all, also, thank you to Dee for being so sad in the three-episode check-in that no one else was watching this that I said, “Look, Dee, please dry your tears. It sounds interesting; I’ll go check it out.” And I am enjoying it! I think there’s a couple of crunchy things that I will want to talk through and maybe content-warn people about, but it’s fun. It’s like a nice little monster-of-the-week Japanese folklore kind of series that sets down some interesting stuff, and I’m really liking the vibe and the aesthetic. I would be interested to check out the manga and see how it’s different in terms of pacing, because from what Dee has said, it’s compressing some stuff and really scooting along through things to— I don’t know if it’s to its detriment, but it’s a bit (what do they say?) utilitarian in its adaptation.

VRAI: Yeah, she mentioned it was almost going double time through the manga and—my understanding is—cutting a lot of the fun flavor, especially with the heroine, which seems like a bummer. So, I think her stance was like “The anime’s okay.” Still, she really loves the manga and highly recommended it.

ALEX: I will take that recommendation for sure.

VRAI: Yeah, I know that a lot of the personal space stuff, at least according to Dee, reads differently in the manga because of the room it has to breathe.

ALEX: Yes, the personal space thing was one of the crunchy things that I was gonna mention, which was already mentioned in the three-episode and I think is tracking along. I can totally understand why it’s uncomfortable, but I think that the narrative, even this much more compressed version, has put enough work in that I understand from context, like, okay, this guy has not had a normal life at all because he’s been sucked away into this supernatural spiritual role when he was a child, and he’s very touch starved and kinda doesn’t know how to behave. And so, that characterization makes sense. And also, I think I’m a bit more forgiving of it because the rest of his characterization… he’s just a nice boy. He’s not smarmy or gross or deliberate about it. He seems quite sweet. And you could do far worse for, I don’t know, overbearing shoujo male love interests. [Chuckles] So, I think I’m alright with it on that.

The other thing I will mention, which, again, I was fine with, but I can totally understand people being uncomfortable with, is there’s a brief cross-dressing gag in, I think, Episode 4, because some classmates come over and Himari, the protagonist, is like, “You guys can’t… If they find out that I’m living with three men that I’m not related to, it’s gonna be a shambles. There’s gonna be a scandal in town.” And the solution that the spirits come to with that is to dress in beautiful kimonos and wigs and be like, “Hello, classmates! We are Himari’s sisters!” And she’s like, “Oh, my God, you guys are so embarrassing.” [Chuckles] So, the joke I think is less “Ha-ha, men in dresses” and more “These goofy yokai don’t know quite normal human conventions and are just trying to be helpful. And they look great.” So, that was my read on it, but I can understand being a bit icked out by that along the way. [Chuckles]

VRAI: I’m wishing well for it. The manga’s been on my to-read list for a while since I know Caitlin and Dee are both fans. So, yeah, I really hope folks give one of the versions a shot because it’s nice to see shoujosei do well.

ALEX: Yeah, I mean—

VRAI: Any last points to add for it?

ALEX: I mean, I was gonna agree with you. I think I am interested in checking out the manga. And we have that mug and shirts and everything else that’s like “Watch more shoujo,” and I am also trying to follow that creed. So, [Chuckles] I’ll be sticking with this one until the end.

VRAI: [Chuckles] Let’s move on to, I feel like, certainly in our corner of the internet, the show of the season, which is Delicious in Dungeon, which is kind of everything I could have wanted from a manga I really, really like.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Yeah. No, I’m a couple episodes behind, but it seems to be adapting the manga quite directly, which means that it’s doing everything I liked about the manga but in color and in motion and with great voice acting. So, [Chuckles] I don’t have anything to complain about. I also don’t know that we necessarily have anything we need to check in with or flag for our purposes here. What do you reckon?

VRAI: Not especially. You know, we’re sort of getting to the point now where it’s dialing away from… You know, I love her, but I think that first volume and the first episode or two go really hard on Marcille as the sheltered picky eater who’s the no-fun girl. And I think it backs off of that quickly, but it’s still a thing that can be annoying to people.

ALEX: Yeah, no, I—

VRAI: But yeah, I think it’s well backed off from that. And also, I just want to say we’ve been watching it dubbed and it’s a great dub. It’s a great dub. SungWon Cho is Senshi, and Casey Mongillo is Chilchuck, and I’m just always glad to hear them in things. And also, the gal from Fear Street is playing Marcille and doing a really good job.

ALEX: Oh, hell yeah. Lovely. Yeah, I heard that SungWon Cho got the role in the dub. So, I’m watching in the Japanese, but honestly, I’ll go back and rewatch it in the dub just to get that and just to support him because, yeah, good for him. I will say as well on Marcille, yeah, I totally agree. I had that same moment of “Okay, she’s the only girl on the main cast and she’s very much the neurotic, naggy kind of character,” which may be a bit uncomfortable, but also, I was torn between that and being like, “Oh, she’s so me! That’s exactly what I would do in this situation!” [Laughs] I find her so funny and so relatable. But yeah, she gets more depth, I think, the further you go along, so now I’m like, “Okay, she’s just like me for real, but in a more balanced kind of way!” Plus, we either have met or are about to meet some more female adventurers to kind of balance out the ladies in the cast, I believe, so that is also good.

VRAI: Yeah, it’s starting to introduce more of the female characters. And yeah, seconding that Marcille has that “extremely gifted kid in the real world for the first time” energy, and it’s powerfully relatable.

ALEX: She cracks me up. She’s so good.

VRAI: It’s such a bummer that it’s on Netflix. But yeah, I love it a lot, my partner and I watch it together every week, and it is a delight.

ALEX: Isn’t that funny that for all of us who are much more embedded in the anime scene, being on Netflix is like “Aw, it’s a whole nother streaming service. It’s a bit more inaccessible,” whereas I will talk to normies (you know, I mean that affectionately) who only watch anime on Netflix and would consider getting Crunchyroll or HIDIVE an extra kind of thing. So, in that way, it’s actually more accessible to the rest of the wider world. So, I don’t know, funny dichotomy going on there. I don’t have a point to make with that, just an observation that I’ve made recently talking about anime with people. They’re like, “Oh, yeah, I watched a bunch of this stuff because I was on Netflix, and it was real good.” I was like, “Oh, that’s right. People only watch Netflix anime.” I’m embedded in this. I’m up to my neck in this world, so I kind of forgot. So in that way, it’s nice, because that means it may reach a wider audience in that sense.

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. And it’s captioned in English, unlike certain services I could name.

ALEX: Mm, indeed. Hm.


ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: But moving on to Solo Leveling, which seems like it really just kind of discarded the things that it was… potentially interesting about its worldbuilding.

PETER: Yeah. Like Villainess Level 99 (I was foreshadowing), it also has a dichotomy where it turns out— I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a video game, but there are definitely… It’s like the main character is special because he’s the only one who can see his heads-up display and get quests, so little windows appear and say, “You have a quest,” and he has to complete the quest, then he can level up. And so I think he’s the only person in the world who can level up and knows that there’s quests. So I don’t know if the real world is a video game or something like that. 

But rather than, I don’t know, explore some sort of horror you might experience when potentially discovering that the entire world that you thought reality that you existed within might be a video game or is some sort of video game for some sort of higher being, it just is a means for him to amass a lot of power very quickly and a really convenient narrative means by which he can— Any sort of plot point can be introduced very conveniently because he gets a quest for it, and he has to do it. Otherwise, bad stuff happens to him. There’s a penalty if he doesn’t do the quest. For example, he gets betrayed by some people, and he gets a quest to kill all of them or his heart will stop. That is the penalty. So he basically has never—

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: —never killed anyone ever before, he is obligated to kill all four of them or he will die, and that’s how he becomes a murderer. [Chuckles] And the framing is “Oh, well. It’s me or them. The dungeon wants me to live, so this is the only choice I have.” And then he— He was in a situation where they were going to kill him because they were bad guys, but definitely… I don’t know if that was supposed to absolve him of the guilt of murder when he potentially could have run away or something like that. So, yeah, he kills all those guys and completes the quest. So, it kind of is a way of, I guess, directing his actions. So, I don’t know where or if this is supposed to lead anywhere just beyond keeping him moving and keeping him leveling up and being really cool.

ALEX: Have we seen any more women? …Would be my question, because I have not checked back in with this one since I did the three-episode. And yeah, are there still like three female characters only? Have they gotten any more screen time? That’d be my main question for the moment.

PETER: Yeah, the traumatized healer is still traumatized. They have shown the cool blonde girl a couple more times. They talk about how she completed a quest all by herself or something—or cleared a dungeon; nobody knows about quests. And he still has his sister and his mom, who are very nice people who need him to definitely keep making money so that he can support them. And that’s… Yeah, no other women, yeah.

ALEX: Okay. [Assumes a deadpan tone] Yay. [Chuckles]

PETER: Yeah, so no, I guess, is the short answer. It’s not doing anything with the capitalism thing—

ALEX: Man!

PETER: —or the new video game thing it introduced, either.

ALEX: That’s kind of a bummer, because like I said in the premiere review, that was the thing that was the most interesting about it for me, was that worldbuilding thing of “Hey, yeah, if isekai mechanics existed in the real world, it would absolutely capitalize on it and make it a money-making hellscape real quick.” So if it’s not digging any deeper into that, that’s kind of a shame!

PETER: Yeah, we’ll see if this whole… because they introduce the idea of bad parties who will… they kill some sort of adventurer and then they can loot the dungeon or something like that, and maybe that’ll expand back out into talking about how the whole structure of this thing sets people against each other, kind of (what do they call that?) the prisoner’s dilemma type situation. But based on what’s happened so far, I think it’s just gonna be about him doing cool shit.

VRAI: Right, it’s just a vessel for action scenes, which is a bummer. That’s too bad.

PETER: Mm-hm.

VRAI: Moving on, I don’t actually have all that much to add about Sengoku Youko. I think it’s really luxuriating in that nice, long episode run that it’s got, so we’re still really getting to hang out with the cast and establish stakes, which, you know, is extremely novel.

PETER: Yeah. Remember two-cour anime? Crazy.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Or even more!

VRAI: [crosstalk] Wild! This one’s three cours!

ALEX: Goodness gracious! [Chuckles]

VRAI: I feel like I’m a little bit grading on a curve because shounen, specifically battle shounen. So, if I really wanted to drill down and be mean, I could talk about how so far it’s set up that men are fighters and women are communicators to the point that even Shakugan, the katawara that allows her to do combat fighting, is a guy, of course. But I don’t actually feel that up in arms about it. I am glad that my only concern—or the one major concern I listed in my three-episode check-in—was whether Tama was going to keep being kind of sidelined, and the episodes that have come out since then have really let her blaze on ahead as the talker of the group, so I’m happy for now. It’s kind of a novelty, watching a show that has time to set up its story but clearly has ideas.

PETER: Yeah. And therefore, probably not a whole lot to say until we’re at least at the wrap-up, if not later.

VRAI: I suspect so, yeah. I imagine we’ll get to at least— Presumably, we should get to something fairly meaty to chew on by the end of Episode 12, but yeah, it’ll still be in its first third, so we’ll check back in later.

On the flip side of a show that has a lot of time to really set up its themes and its characters and let you get into their dynamic, Metallic Rouge is happening.

ALEX: [Laughs]

PETER: Yeah, what the heck? [Chuckles]

VRAI: Been referring to it— Or at least, I’ve been referring to it in the Slack as a two-cour show with its legs cut off.

ALEX: Oh, no!

PETER: Yeah, I really liked the last episode, and I feel like if it was kind of Cowboy Bebop–esque, you know, a bunch of non-related episodes with them just kind of palling around and maybe fighting a robot at the end of each episode, that would be pretty neat. But it definitely has some sort of larger plot it’s trying to construct around these events, which doesn’t seem to really know what it’s doing with the themes that it’s playing with.

VRAI: Yeah. I liked Episodes 5 and 6, honestly. I felt 5 was really pretty and doing a lot of cool surreal imagery. And I think when the show is tightly focused in on just Rouge and this fun thought experiment about a single AI sort of feeling her way towards self-determinism and also cool episodic space adventures are happening, I think that the show’s really fun when it does that, like you said, like Bebop or… not quite Dirty Pair—it’s not madcap enough for that—but like space adventure stuff. I think it’s good at that. But then you have stuff like Episode 4, where it’s this extremely yikesy, heavy-handed story about oppression that’s really thudding and poorly paced and just doing a lot of violence to dark-skinned characters to try and drive home a point that’s not as smart as it thinks it is.

PETER: David Cage–esque.

VRAI: It really is “Press X to emancipate” levels of bad. It bums me out because when the show is on, I actually really have a good time with it.

PETER: Yeah. And it feels like that part is gonna be… It’s integral to the larger plot since it’s about artificial life, right? So, I feel like there’s no escaping that becoming a larger part of the story. Our early experience with it has not been great, so it’s something I’m not looking… I’m not too optimistic about, I guess I’ll say.

VRAI: I will at this point, despite the fact that I enjoyed him in the premiere, discount Knives the Joker has really worn out his welcome by now.

PETER: Is he dead actually? I feel like he died at the end of the episode.

VRAI: No, no, Team Rocket’s blasting off again. We didn’t see a body. He ain’t dead.

ALEX: [Laughs]

PETER: I guess so. He was just kicked toward the planet Earth so that he would burn up on re-entry, was the idea. But yeah, I guess there’s no body. That’s like… Yeah. But yeah, he hasn’t really done— He’s… I don’t know. He’s not even really funny anymore, although him turning into a dog was some deranged… [Chuckles]

VRAI: That was some really fun animation that I enjoyed, yeah.

PETER: Yeah, the chase scene was extremely good. Yeah, when the show wants to be funny, it’s really funny. So, as you said about Episode 5, I’m kind of glad we have an idea of what the hell Rouge is doing at all, because it seems like she was very at odds with her own sympathies hunting down these AI people who are just trying to live like normal humans. But we’ll see where that’s going to.

VRAI: Yeah, we really started the show a third of the way into the show, it feels like, and rushed a bunch of developments that weren’t necessarily earned, and it was an absolute death for the pace and enjoyment when they split up Rouge and Naomi, because their dynamic is easily the best part. But it was also too soon to come to that conflict. And it’s weird. It’s weird. Every time the show tries to do earnest drama on that level, it feels like it’s been floundering, I think because it doesn’t have time. I don’t know. So, it’s one I’m gonna watch till the end, I think, but I don’t think I recommend people pick it up. You know?

PETER: Same here. I’m just hoping I can get as much fun out of it as I can and just try to be optimistic about everything that happens without setting my expectations high enough that I crash. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Right. Yeah. I was gonna say maybe it’ll end up like Vivy, but Vivy wasn’t really so much actively bad at its thought experiment as it was stronger at its individual character stories, and then the overarching thematic stuff didn’t really tie together. So that’s not quite the same thing. Ah, well.

PETER: [Chuckles] Agreed.

VRAI: [Chuckles] But I think everyone kind of dropped Fluffy Paradise. Chiaki was the only one sort of keeping up with it, and I think I will refer folks back to her three-episode check-in, which was to the tune of, you know, it’s fluffy and then sometimes it’s extremely heavy handed in a not-very-nuanced way about its weird, stapled-on racism plot.

PETER: Yeah, I’m morbidly curious about what’s going to happen with that. But just the rest of the show hasn’t been enough to keep me watching it.

VRAI: Alright, that moves us up to our top bracket. I am an episode or two behind on Cherry Magic. So, Alex, do you want to go?

ALEX: Oh, my gosh. So, yes, I do. Thank you. I have a lot of big unorganized feelings about Cherry Magic that I was not expecting to have at the start of the season. I kinda want to talk a little bit about— It’s kind of a spoiler, technically, but I also feel like it will maybe encourage people to jump in. Do you mind if I do that, Vrai, given that you yourself are a couple episodes behind?

VRAI: Yeah, go for it, go for it. I don’t—

ALEX: The slow burn has ignited and they’re actually gotten together! This is not gonna be one of those love stories that drags on for as long as it possibly can. And so now we’re actually going to see them in a relationship, which is really interesting, I think, because… I have no idea if this is intentional or not, but I think the show’s doing a weirdly good job at playing with the kind of weird—weird in a beautiful way—the beautifully weird, sideways intimacies and unconventional trajectories that queer relationships can sometimes take. In this case, it’s like, okay, first base is telepathy and literally reading his mind and finding out he’s in love with you. Second base is pining for each other from afar and working out your confusing feelings for however many months. Third base is a big, dramatic confession of love in the middle of the street! And fourth base is maybe going on a date? [Chuckles] 

And obviously, without the telepathy, I feel like that is extremely relatable to… not necessarily all queer relationships, obviously, and not exclusive to queer relationships either. But I feel like sometimes you can have that… they can take that kind of funny, non-normative shape where you will end up with “Yeah, maybe you actually go on a date and hold hands after you have dealt with all of your complicated feelings of figuring yourself out and realizing that you’re in love with each other and what that means.” So I’m excited to see how that goes, honestly. I think it’s sweet. There are a couple of things that— Did Toni make some notes on this one, as well?

VRAI: Ah, yeah, they did, they did. Yeah, they also mentioned that… you know, we’ve gotten our love confession, so now we get to see the relationship develop.

ALEX: I was gonna say, did they mention the extra subplot, which is one of their female coworkers really ships them together? [Chuckles] Which is, um, hm, maybe… Okay, it’s in that spot where in the context of the show it’s kind of funny, because it’s this telepathic comedy of errors where he brushes up against her, reads her mind, and she’ll be like, “Oh, I really love Adachi,” and he’ll be like, “Oh, what the hell?” and then will flinch away, and so he doesn’t hear the second half of her thought, which is “I really love Adachi in a relationship with Kurosawa,” who is his love interest. She’s a full-blown fan girl of the idea of them together. 

And so, yeah, so, multiple times, to the point where it’s just getting silly, he’s like, “Wait, is she in love with me?” But she actually does not… that’s how she feels! She wants to see them smooch. So, yeah, in the context of it’s a misunderstanding via mind-reading, you know, sure, not a bad joke. But obviously, the trope of… [Laughs] That feels like it’s a joke from about ten years ago. Is that a read that anybody else gets? Does that feel like it’s slightly more maybe old-fashioned, maybe tired, maybe insensitive?

VRAI: Yeah, I’m thinking that the sort of in-universe cheerleader for the love interests… I mean, it’s not that old. There’s a version of it in Bloom Into You, where the ace character is sort of really invested in…

ALEX: Oh, for sure. I’m thinking more specifically in terms of the fujoshi character who wants to see these hot men all over each other and is maybe meant to be an audience surrogate in that way. And that’s kind of most of what she’s got going on as a character.

PETER: Like Kiss Him, Not Me.

ALEX: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that too. But this especially… She’s not the protagonist in this. She’s a side character in this BL series who wants to see the characters hook up. Which, you know, in the context in the universe, those are your two real human coworkers, so that’s a bit… Yeah, I don’t know. What do you think? [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yeah, no, it’s one of those— I think Toni mentioned, not in their notes but just as we were chatting, that they were also sort of enjoying the way this specific character was used for the comedic shenanigans. Yeah, I’m… I don’t know. I personally maybe don’t think that the broad, zero-sum question of “But is BL fetishizing?” is necessarily super useful, is increasingly less useful as the genre expands and changes. For more than a decade, there’s been a lot of change in who’s making it and who’s reading it, and maybe who’s always been reading it, but also who it’s marketed toward. But yeah, I think it maybe echoes the ghost of that question in the worst possible way when, yeah, like you said, there is now this character who’s, yeah, supposed to be there as the fun audience surrogate, but the in-world logic is “This person is drooling over her actual, in-universe, real coworkers,” and that’s kind of weird and uncomfortable.

ALEX: Mm. But I guess… Yeah. I guess— [Chuckles]

VRAI: Especially when Sasaki and Miyano had a really nice little quiet episode beat about that, where they go to the movies and they feel sort of uncomfortable about the fact that they’ve gone to a BL movie and the mainly female audience who are there are whispering about whether they’re there on a date, and they feel really uncomfortable about it.

ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm.


ALEX: Yeah, I guess maybe it’ll come down to, like, what else does the narrative do with that? What else is she as a character? That’s kind of the main thing that’s sort of nibbling at me. 

But honestly, yeah, I’m enjoying the show an unexpected amount, and I am really enjoying the pacing, too, that now we’re progressing through this complicated-feelings-and-pining stage and now we’re gonna have to work out… Well, first of all, we’re gonna have to work out… This is a huge worldbuilding question. It’s like, if these two are now in a relationship, are they ever gonna have a sexual relationship, and does he lose his telepathy? That’s gonna be so fascinating to find out. Because we’re like, “Well, of course, he’ll lose his mind-reading powers,” but then one of my friends was like, “Wait, no, what if the magic is homophobic and so it doesn’t count it as quote-unquote ‘losing your virginity’ with someone of the same sex?”

PETER: [Chuckles] “What if the magic is homophobic?”

ALEX: Real questions. Very serious worldbuilding questions.

PETER: [Chuckles]

ALEX: But anyway, look. [Chuckles] I was gonna say we can get into those deeper questions further along. But yeah, for the midpoint, I am excited to see that it’s pacing along the way that it is, and now we’re gonna get a story about two adult men trying out a romantic relationship and what that’s gonna look like for them. That’s going to be really interesting, I think, and really nice.

VRAI: Yeah. And Toni also mentioned that they were really looking forward to how the show was starting to unpack Adachi himself as a flawed protagonist who kinda has this misanthropic disdain for other people that maybe he should get over, in addition to… as he’s working on this relationship. And, yeah, I think that’s nice, because I think in the first episode he’s sort of deceptively bland. You know?

ALEX: [Chuckles] Yes, I think so.

VRAI: Yeah. I also want to shoutout for folks at home, if you’re somebody who really leans towards the negative side of… you see a fujoshi character in-universe in a show and you’re like, “No, I don’t want to deal with that,” I have not watched it yet but the live-action drama version of Cherry Magic is really well regarded. It’s also on Crunchyroll. And the scriptwriter for the live version changed that character specifically, where instead of being like the fujoshi cheerleader character, she’s actually aro-ace.

ALEX: Huh!

VRAI: So, I think that’s neat.

ALEX: That is neat. Would you look at that?

VRAI: Alright. I’m going to try and be quick about Brave Bang Bravern because I’m the only one watching it, which is a shame. It’s a sad shame. It makes me sad. This is probably the show I look forward to the most every week, and it also sort of really frustrates me because, like apparently is the running theme of this season, it’s kind of running out of time, it feels like, to pull off what I had initially hoped would be sort of a satire or subversion of all this really bombastic military imagery that it’s had from pretty much the word go. Because yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s still very homoerotic, but it’s weird that six episodes in I’m still not sure whether it’s going to commit to an actual sincere romance between Lewis Smith and Isami despite the deep, soul-connecting conversations and extremely sweaty boxing matches and Top Gun imagery everywhere. 

I’m having a hard time because it’s such a fun send— It’s a fun tongue-in-cheek parody of super robot shows, right, where Bravern is enamored of heroism and he projects his own in-universe music and title cards behind him when he introduces himself, and he takes the time to do a special attack on the enemy anime robot so that it can speak human language because, you know, they need to be able to monologue at each other. And there’s a lot of really fun notes like that that are clearly because Obari has been making super robot anime for a long time. But I also think that if it’s just doing that, sort of a goofy but sincere super robot thing, it really makes all of the extremely pro-military stuff really uncomfortable, because I cannot stress enough that the first episode of this anime opens with what appears to be a fully militarized Japan and America doing fun practice engagements together in Hawaii, and then aliens attack a Hawaiian naval base, and nobody says anything about how this may or may not be connected to history at all.

PETER: I didn’t know that part. That’s a bold move.

VRAI: It’s very odd in its omission. And then in the second episode, Isami, our protagonist who’s been chosen to drive the super robot, gets waterboarded by US intelligence, which is really dark, and we haven’t gone to a place quite that dark again, except for maybe all of Tokyo got bombed and there weren’t any civilian survivors?

ALEX: Oh, geez. Okay!

PETER: Okay.

VRAI: Yeah, it’s really kind of tonally all over the place, but also we have all these big, moving speeches about this brotherhood of soldiers who are going to band together to save one another’s countries and the entire world and rapturous discussions of how cool X or Y ship or plane is. It’s like, “Okay, this is all sort of interesting, but I need you to be going somewhere with it.” And at that point, I’m just realizing I want this to become Samurai Flamenco, and then I get sad and a little bit salty because Samurai Flamenco is about to become lost media in America.

ALEX: [Groans]

VRAI: Yeah. I really want this to come together and pull off doing a thing, because I think it’s just this cocktail of extremely potent imagery and potential themes and gay shit, which are all of my favorite things. But I don’t know. I’m not super confident that it’s going where I hope it will. You know?



ALEX: Well, that sounds like, uh, a lot, in the official definition. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yeah. Again, it is the show I easily look forward to the new episode of the most every week.

PETER: Yeah, all I see are Twitter clips, which are pretty insane. All of them are very insane.

VRAI: It is truly a show that never quits, which I do think I mean affectionately. At the end of the day, I love a show that will be unrepentantly weird at me. Alright, let’s—

PETER: Well, looking forward to hear if it pays off in the end.

VRAI: Fingers crossed. Let’s close out on A Sign of Affection. I am not up on the anime, although I have read and really enjoyed what I’ve read of the manga. So, yeah, y’all go ahead.

ALEX: So, first of all, I think the most important thing to say is that I can’t comment on the representation of disability in the show. I would defer to our deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members on that one. And indeed, there’s still some really interesting discussion that was happening, even just in the comment section of the premiere review. As a love story, though, as a coming-of-age story, I am enjoying it. I think it’s doing a nice balance between its more comedic moments and its very personal-stakes, very lowkey, very gentle story about a relationship coming together. Because, in an unexpected fun parallel to Cherry Magic, the main couple of this is also getting together during the runtime of the show! 

But it’s also about a main character who is really consciously trying to come out of her shell and expand her world and is not always 100% sure on how to do that but is doing her absolute best and is… You know, it’s slow-burn but it’s rewarding to watch. She’s putting herself out there, she’s having new experiences, and she’s surrounded by… Well, I really like her… I don’t remember her name, but her short-haired supportive, cool friend. I love her a lot. And I love the bartender love interest of her that they’re really… They also have a romantic subplot, but they’re mostly bonding at the moment about how they like rooting for Yuki and Itsuomi to get together, which I think is really cute. 

And yeah, the biggest sticking point for this one for me so far—and I don’t know exactly what the narrative is doing with it—is the childhood friend character, who is… I want to say he’s like the other point in a love triangle that’s happening, but Yuki doesn’t really seem interested in him beyond the platonic.

PETER: Oushi?

ALEX: Yes, him, the one who was… Did you make a joke, Peter, earlier that he learned sign language just to be a jerk to her? [Chuckles] So, yeah, he’s kind of overprotective and overbearing and also goofs around and teases her and curls his finger up in her hair and tugs on it and stuff as if they’re still little kids. And it’s kind of a weird dynamic. I feel like the story is doing something with that, where it’s like, “No, no, this is a pain in the ass, and this is something that she needs to navigate,” but it hasn’t quite drilled into it enough that… There’s possibly a narrative purpose for this, but at the moment, just on a purely emotional level, he’s annoying the shit out of me and I could do without him. [Chuckles] What do you think, Peter?

PETER: Yeah, it’s interesting because he’s the one being an annoying turd but also he seems to be the one who is most aware of… He’s someone who’s most, I guess, knowledgeable about deaf people since he grew up around one, so he knows that if you just come up behind them and hit them on the shoulder, they can’t hear you coming up behind them so it can potentially startle them. I’m glad it is interested in that kind of stuff. I believe, in the manga, they had some consultation, so I am hoping that that stuff is accurate, but yeah, again, none of us really can say for sure since we haven’t experienced that ourselves. 

It’s interesting how it’s incorporating that into the story because I think Oushi is very aware of that kind of stuff and he’s obviously romantically interested in Yuki, to the point where he potentially learned sign language just to talk to her, but it’s also kind of obvious that he’s being overbearing and doesn’t really think of her as completely an autonomous person. So, he doesn’t think she should have gone to college and kind of wants to keep her safely away from other people, it feels like. Meanwhile, her actual love interest, Itsuomi, is like the other side of the coin, where he is very physical. He kinda walks up and immediately… He literally grabs her by the head and stuff like that. So, all that stuff could potentially be problematic. However, she also— And she’s kind of admitted that that might normally be a problem, but she’s kind of given affirmative consent, saying, like, “Oh, if it’s you I don’t mind.” So he kind of has carte blanche to do that. And again, I don’t— It’s a very complicated situation. So, she’s said it’s okay, but again, I don’t know what that experience might be like for someone there. Vrai, you said you knew the exact situation under the writing?

VRAI: Yeah, so, Morishita did an interview that they included… It’s on Kodansha’s website and it’s also at the end of the first volume. It’s actually a writer–artist team who do the manga. I know they did some interviews, they mentioned doing a lot of reading, and then they have someone who is an active consultant who did ongoing work with them for the manga, Yuki Miyazaki. She’s their supervisor, specifically in terms of sign language and how it is used for communication in the manga. So, yeah, I think, obviously, the fact that they worked hard— You know, working hard at something doesn’t mean “And therefore they nailed it in every respect,” but I do think that they are taking it seriously. I will say, I am not somebody who is hard of hearing. I have processing issues, which affect… Like, I use captions and stuff, and I have hard times in groups of noise, but it’s a different thing. There’s overlapping issues, but it’s not the same thing as being part of the hard-of-hearing community. 

But I think it is worth shouting out the discussion that Alex mentioned. There was definitely some talk about whether or not Yuki as a character is… if there’s maybe an infantilizing element to her because she’s so sheltered, which I think is an interesting discussion to have because I think the modern landscape of anime is very influenced by the fact that during the moe boom there was definitely this trend of making a character quirky in such a way that it ends up coming across as disability coding sort of inadvertently, but also the purpose of that is to make this character cute and adorable and like you want to protect them and have them depend on you. And I think it grew and evolved and changed from there where now you end up with series that are visually very influenced from that start, like Air and Kanon and all of that stuff. But you move in and you get stuff like Bocchi the Rock or… [Sighs] Oh, God, I can’t remember her now.

ALEX: [crosstalk] Stardust Telepath, even, from last season?

VRAI: No, oh, I was thinking of the wonderful girl from BanG Dream: It’s MyGo, who was just, I thought, a really sensitively wonderful depiction of autism coding. And I think that it’s grown and changed and allowed for that in some ways. But I also think there is still that strain out there on the other end of things where you get, like, The Day I Became a God, where at the end the main character takes the 12-year-old girl who needs a round-the-clock caretaker away from care because, you know, he’s in romantic love with her, which means that not having any medical training is fine.

ALEX: [ironic] Love will heal. Love will fix it all.

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah.

ALEX: Which, I mean… Let’s say, I think that what Sign of Affection is doing well is not presenting her disability as something that needs to be fixed or she needs to quote-unquote “overcome” to live a quote-unquote “normal” life and have a normal relationship. That’s obviously something that’s pervasive in some of these narratives, and I think… I don’t know, I think, as well, the fact that Yuki is the protagonist and the point-of-view character is going a long way to endearing me to it because even if the representation isn’t 100% spot on, it comes from a better place than… It has a different vibe, rather, to something where the main character is… you know, his hearing is fine, but we’re looking at this deaf character through his perspective and through the lens of “This is a love interest.” With any kind of anything, who you are looking at and whose perspective you’re being asked to identify with changes the energy of a story and can really change the tone of the representation of any kind of marginalized experience. 

So, definitely something that is interesting to me about Sign of Affection is, yeah, that it’s Yuki’s story, first and foremost. We pop off into other characters’ point of views [sic], but we’re very much being asked to identify with her. And so, yeah, she seems like a rounded character to me. As you say, there is kind of the concern maybe she’s a bit cute, maybe she’s a bit sheltered and a bit, for want of a better word, childish, but I think that’s something she herself in the narrative is aware of, and she’s trying to grow past that. Which would be even more interesting, then, if Oushi, the pushy childhood friend, is kind of being presented as an antagonistic force, because he is kind of trying to keep her in that state and is like, “No, no, don’t go out with these people. I gotta check up on you all the time. Make sure you’re meeting your curfew.” She’s like, “Stop. Dude!” to the point where she feels like she has to lie to him and be like, “I’m going to the library,” when she’s actually meeting up with her love interest, because she knows he’ll get weird about it.

PETER: [Chuckles] Yeah, she lies to him so much.

ALEX: [Chuckles] I don’t know, I can’t make the call because the story’s not finished, obviously, but it feels like it’s engaging with that at least or trying to complicate it, maybe not as the main thematic thrust of the story, but it’s in conversation with those discussions that you mentioned, for sure.

VRAI: Mm-hm. I just thought it was interesting the way that— What happens when you layer different character experiences onto existing genre conventions, right? Yuki is in some ways like the very archetypical sheltered shoujo protagonist who is… you know, she’s in college but she’s also coming out into the world and coming of age, in a sense. And so, you have the fact that she’s sheltered and kind of naive, and how does that intersect with stories that have been told about and stereotypes that have been layered onto hard-of-hearing and deaf protagonists? I just think that’s interesting. 

And it’s also worth mentioning—and Toni wrote about this in their three-episode check-in—the sense that they mentioned, as somebody who is not deaf but is more broadly disabled in other ways, sort of really vibing with this as a story about a disabled person navigating how to date an abled person. And yeah, I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’m glad that this show is here.

ALEX: Mm-hm, yeah! Yeah, yeah.

PETER: Yeah, it definitely does seem, if nothing else— The degree to which it’s getting it right is something that we can’t say, but it seems very self-aware that there are a lot of pitfalls and kind of a spectrum of experience that it’s dealing with, and I think it’s trying to kind of address it from both sides, where there are general truths about her condition but also it’s how her personal experience fits into it, like the stuff about her potentially being startled by people and how she individually says it’s okay if Itsuomi does that kind of stuff. I think they’re trying to play in that space. And yeah, yeah, while she is sheltered, I think there’s definitely… Like, one of the reasons, I believe, in character she said she wanted to go to university was because she felt too sheltered by her experience in a school specifically for children who are hard of hearing. And I think that’s one of the reasons why she’s attracted to Itsuomi, because he’s always traveling. And it seems to be building into her wanting to kind of share in that experience and see other parts of the world and stuff.

VRAI: It looks pretty.

ALEX: There is also that.

VRAI: I’m just happy it looks pretty.

ALEX: There is also that. It looks very nice.

PETER: Yeah. Production’s great.

ALEX: And again, as always, it is lovely to see a shoujo/josei adaptation looking nice and having production values. [Chuckles] Yay! That’s always very exciting in and of itself. But yeah, we’ll have to come back to that one in the end, of course, see how it all wraps itself up.

VRAI: Alright! Thanks for joining us, AniFam! If you liked what you’ve heard or read here, you can check us out at You can also check out all of our social media by going to Most importantly, if you want to help us continue to make the site and the content on it, including paying our lovely transcriptionist, please consider going to or Every little dollar really does help us continue to do what we do.

Please drop your own thoughts in the comments. Especially, again, we would love to hear from folks on stuff like Sign of Affection because it’s a really rich, complicated topic that deserves to be talked about more. And until next time, remember: it’s important to eat a nutrition dungeon meal.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: [Obscured by outro music] I don’t want to know what that is.


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