Chatty AF 205: 2024 Winter Season Wrap-Up (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist April 28, 20240 Comments

Vrai, Peter, and Alex take a much delayed look back on the 2024 Winter anime season, where some of our bottom titles managed to pull out some good content before the end and top titles that took an absolute nosedive in the second half.

Episode Information

Date Recorded: April 27th, 2024
Hosts: Vrai, Peter, Alex

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
Red Flags
0:02:11 The Witch and the Beast
Yellow Flags
0:06:49 BUCCHIGIRI?!
Neutral Zone
0:12:52 Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss But I’m Not the Demon Lord
0:15:11 ‘Tis Time for Torture, Princess
0:16:36 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!
0:17:20 Mr. Villain’s Day Off
0:17:52 The Demon Prince of Momochi House
0:22:56 Delicious in Dungeon
It’s Complicated
0:27:00 Solo Leveling
0:29:13 Sengoku Youko
0:31:40 Metallic Rouge
Feminist Potential
0:39:29 Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!
0:46:42 Brave Bang Bravern!
0:53:22 A Sign of Affection
0:57:56 The Dangers in My Heart
1:03:23 The Apothecary Diaries
1:08:04 Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
1:12:41 Outro

VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. My name is Vrai. I’m the daily operations manager here at AniFem. I am on Bluesky sometimes @WriterVrai. And with me today are Peter and Alex.

PETER: Hey, I’m Peter. I am manager of YouTube strategy and content at Crunchyroll and an editor at Anime Feminist. I’m @PeterFobian on Bluesky.

ALEX: And I’m Alex. I’m our technical editor here at AniFem. I have a doctorate but I cannot offer you medical advice, I can only talk ad nauseam about queer books.

PETER: Damn. That’s a good intro.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Thank you.

VRAI: Word.

PETER: Worm.

VRAI: [crosstalk] Worm. Worm, worm.

ALEX: I was at school for five extra years so I could make that dumb joke. [Chuckles]

VRAI: And you have earned it. [Chuckles]

Due to a quirk of scheduling and life things and people traveling and getting sick and all of that, this is an especially late wrap-up for the winter season. This might be the first time that we do a winter wrap-up and a spring mid-season back to back. We’ll see. But it’s alright. We’re gonna get through this. So cast your minds back about a month and think about the season that was.

If you are unfamiliar with how our seasonal podcast works, we use our Premiere Digest just as a useful rubric to follow so that people can have a visual for the order we’re going to do shows in. You know, shows can move up and down the Digest as they develop, but we just leave it as it is for easy reference. We start at the bottom, we go up, and because this is the wrap-up, at the end we will be discussing sequels. In order to leave more time for that, we will usually sort of skim over shows that we talked about in depth at mid-season that haven’t changed a whole lot as they ended.

With that in mind, I think the Red Flags show that I wanted to stop and touch on, because I hear that it actually ended up going some interesting places even if the adaptation is a little bit barebones advertisement for the manga type stuff… that is The Witch and the Beast.

PETER: Oh, am I the only one watching it?

VRAI: Yeah, it’s just you because I didn’t have time.

PETER: Oh, boy. Well, they introduced the church, of course. And whereas I think in the beginning of the series we kind of got the impression that witches were… because, you know, you have the super beneficent witch who’s like the hero of the town and then it turns out she’s doing human experiments and all that. Kind of sets up witches as someone that you can never trust. They do kind of pull back on that later on and show that, at the very least, a lot of witches being evil might be the result of the church actively vilifying them, as you get several sympathetic witches who are either being hunted or framed for doing stuff by the church and some other organization. I’m not quite clear whether to distinguish between the church and this other organization, who are trying to kill/capture them/steal their magical artifacts for their own political, governmental aspirations. So, I don’t know if they’re really trying to do anything thematically with that, like how women have been historically, basically how witches used to be utilized…

VRAI: Vilified by the church, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Or they just want to create an atmosphere where they can have sympathetic witches and generate more of a feeling of “You can’t tell who you can trust up until the very ending.” So, I don’t quite know where they are really going to land there. Although, especially with the ending, it’s kind of impossible to tell where the series was gonna go, because I think they take an elevator that takes you to another dimension, or maybe there’s just sort of a hollow Earth kind of thing going on where there’s a city that’s populated entirely by vampires, and that’s where the series decides to end.

VRAI: Sure!


ALEX: Cool!

PETER: So there’s a lot going on at the very end there. Definitely made things less simplistic than it first appeared. And I want to say… I think our big point of discussion when it started off was the nonconsensual kissing as part of the story, right?

VRAI: Right, yeah, and when it comes back it’s consensual. Didn’t I hear… I think?

PETER: Yes, I believe there’s two points after that, and both were done consensually with the sympathetic witches. It’s kind of a messy situation. She thought she was dying and said she always wanted to have her first kiss, so it’s kind of a… They tell her to close her eyes, and she ends up kissing… I can’t even remember the character’s name, it’s been so long. And the other one was with the girl who had been… (Did they kiss? I can’t even remember.) … another girl who’s framed for murdering a bunch of townspeople because the people wanted to kill her and set the town against her. So, either through a kiss or something else, they end up making the exchange, and that one’s done consensually as well. So, they definitely pulled back on it.

VRAI: Yeah, this is one where I might roll back around and see about picking up the manga. It feels like the kind of maybe sort of not always… [Pauses for a few seconds] messy. There we go. It sounds like the kind of story that maybe you could appreciate the points where it hits a little better if you’re flipping through pages as opposed to having to watch an extremely kinda stiff, middle-of-the-road adaptation. So yeah, I kind of hope folks will pitch us on this one, and maybe I’ll get a look in on it later. But yeah, so, that’s just what I wanted to touch on because I feel like by the end, it sounds like it at least goes up to It’s Complicated, and I feel like it deserved a little talk.

PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I agree. It’s definitely very messy, but I think a lot of our concerns are not gone, but at least not nearly as severe as we thought they might be, right?

VRAI: Right, for sure. Alright. We’re going to skim past some other stuff and touch back in on Bucchigiri. Did you finish this one, Peter? I did.

PETER: Yeah, I finished it.

VRAI: Today actually.

PETER: Same.

VRAI: I think the second half is better, honestly.

PETER: True.

VRAI: Once it just lets Matakara be the protagonist, I actually found it kind of enjoyable to watch in the back half there. I feel like that’s where it was hiding all of its emotional stakes.


VRAI: And so, at that point, it even did some interesting stuff with Mahoro. Kind of. It didn’t really fully develop that thread, but it at least had some interesting ideas about how she sympathizes with him because they both really care about their brothers, although as near as I can tell, Matakara doesn’t want to fuck his brother. [Sighs]

PETER: True.

VRAI: I hate brocon/siscon characters so much. But yeah, I think that the second half definitely had [the] sense of emotional stakes that I was looking for, the fight scenes… [Sighs] Utsumi is so good at action. I feel like I said this at the mid-season, but she really has a wonderful eye for beautiful, bright, kinetic visuals, especially in a comedic setting. You know, even in the first half that was really grinding my gears, I would laugh at least once that episode and it really felt like it flowed you along and was easy to watch. So just from a sakuga action-comedy perspective, it was really interesting in that way. I think the trouble with the show holistically, though, is that Arajin just sucks, like so bad. Arajin made me wish, “Man, I wish I was watching Araragi right now,” which is an unforgivable sin.

PETER: Really sets expectations. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yeah! Because I don’t mind protagonists who kinda suck and then have to have growth and become better people and all, but usually with a protagonist who kind of sucks, either it’s more of an ensemble thing so it’s ameliorated by the other characters—which I think was supposed to be what happened here but didn’t—or they start growing a little faster, or they’re at least fun to hang around and watch even if they’re terrible and you want to kind of throttle them. No, Arajin is just this black hole, this one-dimensional black hole. And I think it’s not helped that we hear so much about how he and Matakara used to be close as kids but you don’t actually get any flashbacks of them before the falling-out until literally the last episode. So it’s like, oh, wow, I wish I could have been emotionally engaged with this thing that was lost before now, where instead I’m just like, all your other friends are better, Matakara! Literally all your other friends are more supportive and better and I want to support their desire to support you.

PETER: Yeah, even all these characters who were basically introduced as psycho delinquents, all of them became more sympathetic than Arajin by the end.

VRAI: They really did!

PETER: And it doesn’t feel like he grew at all, right? Didn’t he— Even when he was using his Senya power for good, didn’t he use the same “I don’t want to be a virgin anymore” catchphrase when he activated his power?

VRAI: So, he— Yeah, well, originally he made his second wish: he wants to wake up Matakara from being possessed by, basically, his fears of abandonment. Which, hello, emotional resonance. There you are. I was looking for you. But then that’s not enough, so he has to go back to his virginity wish, and I’m like, “Okay. Yeah. Okay. Sure.” And then, it has genuinely kind of a nice little closer, and then it does a little 30-second stinger that’s like “And we set back up the status quo!” Why?

PETER: Yep, he’s still after Mahoro. She still hates him and is obsessed with her brother. And it’s just everybody’s a lot happier than they used to be.

VRAI: And Senya’s back even though he, last we saw him, had finished his unfinished business and moved on with his totally-not-his-boyfriend. Which, by the way, is also where the consensual homoeroticism in this series was hiding, in the back half again.

PETER: Yeah, it seems like there are a lot of male–male pairings wherein it’s all about… it’s like a singular desire to continually fight against one man with your shirts off kind of deal, right?

VRAI: Boy, do I have some history to tell you about.

PETER: [Chuckles] I would just say, it’s not just Senya and… I don’t remember the other genie’s name, but (God, I can’t remember any of…) the two gang leaders and all that, right?

VRAI: It’s… I want to say it’s Izaya [editor’s note: Ichiya] because I was thinking, “Why does this Arabic person have a Japanese name?” I kept getting stuck on. But yeah, I don’t know, this was… I feel like I still don’t recommend this. But I at least felt like I hadn’t wasted my time by the end because there was enough good stuff in that latter half, you know? But I still think maybe just if you’re an Utsumi completionist this is one to go for.

PETER: Yeah. Or if you wish X 1999 had a happier ending.

VRAI: I— Okay.

PETER: [Chuckles]

VRAI: You know what? Okay. I’m not gonna pooh-pooh an X reference in the year of our Lord 2024.

PETER: You’re welcome.

VRAI: [Chuckles] But yeah, that’s— I think most of the other stuff we covered in the mid-season, so we will move on from this one and go ahead and jump up to [sings a jaunty tune while stalling for time] Villainess Level 99. Nobody here on the— Oh, no, Alex, you did.

ALEX: I did.

VRAI: So, again, this is a weird one because the recommendations are officially out before we did the podcast. But do you have any additional audio notes about Villainess Level 99 besides the write-up?

ALEX: Yeah. We’ve got a lot to talk about today so I’ll keep this short and sweet. This was a very entertaining show. I ended up really liking the protagonist. As Lizzie highlighted in the recommendation, most often when we see the kind of gag where it’s like, “Aw, this isekai protagonist is actually so overpowered it’s a problem for them,” that’s usually much more associated with these male power fantasies or attempts at being self-aware parodies of them. So it is genuinely refreshing, even if it’s still very goofy, to see that with a female protagonist. And yeah, Yumiella’s fun. She’s very good at dark magic and very strong. She’s very bad at social interactions but she still makes friends and, dare I say, even falls in love. 

And she comes to the end with a new goal of ending discrimination because there’s a whole shallow but sincere plotline about how people with dark magic and with black hair are ostracized in this society basically because of a bad PR campaign against the demon lord, who used to be friends with the king, et cetera, back in the day. It’s not the deepest thing in the world, but it is a very kind of earnest attempt at being like, “Hey, historical prejudice comes from somewhere and it’s often politically motivated,” which, you know, I appreciate even if it’s not super, super deep and complex. Most importantly, of course, there is a very conspicuously computer-animated dragon, who is very cute and looks very silly, and I love him. So yeah, Villainess 99. You could certainly do far worse in terms of your reincarnation-in-a-video-game isekai. And yeah, if you’re looking for something, just kinda fun little popcorn watch with a deadpan but funny protagonist, give this one a shot. You may enjoy it.

VRAI: Rock on.

ALEX: Rock on.

VRAI: ‘Tis Time for Torture, Princess I did not finish. It wasn’t terrible by any means. It’s just that this was a very full season, and more so than a lot of shows in this iyashikei comedy subgenre, it had a hard time developing out its ensemble enough to prop up the fact that it’s just one joke.

ALEX: I was gonna say—

VRAI: So it’s not bad, but I really couldn’t—

ALEX: [crosstalk] I was gonna say, you didn’t finish the show, but it kind of sounded like if you’d seen one episode of the show, you’d seen all the episodes of the show, you know? Like from its sort of setup.

VRAI: A little bit. And they do have an expanding cast roster, but even within that, it kinda had trouble distinguishing characterization gimmicks enough to make it feel varied and exciting to stick with. I know Samantha over at Anime Herald really ended up having a good time with this one, so I think it might just be a case of “right place, right time” where you just want something bite-sized. I feel like it could have been a short, but it’s not bad. But yeah, if I were to make an active recommendation-wise, it’s just you could be watching Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, though.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Yes, yes.

VRAI: Yeah. 7th Time Loop. I unfortunately dropped the ball on this one. Dee did finish this series and quite enjoyed it, but I forgot to get notes from her before the podcast started. So I will just give a general blanket nod to it that this was another really nice little villainess isekai this season that unfortunately they’re just… The way life happened at people this season, it just kind of got overlooked a little bit, and I am sorry about that. But it was nice and it was enjoyed, if villainous isekai are things you are into.

Alright. Mr. Villain’s Day Off, didn’t have time, dropped it. Same kind of issue as ‘Tis Time for Torture. Alex, it looked like you dropped it as well?

ALEX: Yeah. A very similar thing. Life happened at me this season and I ended up prioritizing things [where] I was much more invested in the story. This is probably a very lovely little chill sort of supernatural slice-of-life kind of thing, but I cannot tell you because I didn’t finish it all the way. That’s nothing against the show. It’s just, yeah, as you say, different priorities given the goings-on.

VRAI: Do you want to talk a little bit about Demon Prince of Momochi House? Because you were anime only on this one and it looks like you finished it.

ALEX: Yes. Indeed, yeah. So I heard good things about the manga, but I have deliberately stayed anime only just so I can see how I can judge it on its own merit. I’m still very interested in checking out the manga, especially because the word on the street is that this is a little bit of a disappointing adaptation. Because I enjoyed this but also found it a bit frustrating, and I will tell you why, because that’s what we do here. 

As a monster-of-the-week kind of urban fantasy character-based ensemble thing, really enjoyed it. Some fun creatures, some fun character beats. The thing that rattled my chains about it towards the end was that the female protagonist… it’s not fair to say that she gets sidelined, because she is kinda involved in the climax, but the climax isn’t about her. Everything that happens, as the emotional crux of this season finale, hinges on Aoi, the male love interest, and his backstory, his powers, his dilemma and his relationship with the villain. The villain, it turns out, has manipulated Himari, our protagonist, in the past. But other than that, he sees her as so irrelevant to the whole thing that he pisses off to the spirit world and leaves her behind. Now, this turns out to be his undoing because she follows them through and ends up rescuing the boys and helping out. They do the physical fighting and she sort of provides the support and saves the day with the power of empathy and kindness, which is great for her. 

It’s just that she… Like I said, it’s not— She feels like a pretty big question mark and kind of a void of character development and character detail in relation to the boys around her, especially Aoi. Again, Aoi I find a very interesting character. I like him a lot. I think his deal is fascinating. It’s just a bit glaring that you get bits and pieces about his whole deal across the whole season, you get a whole half-episode devoted to his backstory, again, the villain is very invested in him, and then Himari, you get like a smidgen of knowledge about her parents at the very end, and then the season finishes. Now, it’s entirely possible this is because her backstory and her life and her growing motivations are so important that they’ll come back and be the center of a much more climactic arc. But again, I haven’t read the manga, and if this finishes here and it’s the only adaptation that we get, we’re left with her being a little undercooked as a protagonist. 

And that’s certainly not something that’s unique to this show. I’m sure we’ve all watched or read various things that… hey, hey, this is the female lead character, but she has significantly less going on than her much more interesting love interest, who we’re looking at through her. It ended up feeling a bit like that, and that was very disappointing, in that I began the show with all these questions about Himari like “Ooh, cool, what’s her family legacy? What was her life like in the orphanage? What does she really want beyond just wanting to have a family?” And I still had those questions about her at the end. And that was a bit of a bummer considering how entertaining the rest of the show was. You know?

VRAI: My understanding, just from listening to manga fans talk, is that even early on, the adaptation really slashed and burned a lot of Himari character moments, even just little things, in order to blaze through more material faster. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that had a cumulative effect where it would be more satisfying to get to an arc where you’re learning about the love interest and still holding back her… because even if it’s not about her at that moment, she still feels lived in and enjoyable as a character. And I also would assume that, yeah, her details are part of a later arc, but if you’re not getting that in a one-season adaptation, then, you know, that’s… Yeah.

ALEX: Yeah, the curse of the single-season adaptation, as we have talked about before. But that’s interesting—

VRAI: Yeah, it’s the one-season yuri curse.

ALEX: Yes! Oh my God, it’s spreading to non-yuri titles! But that’s interesting to know. I am definitely inspired to check out the manga, so don’t worry, Momochi House fans. I haven’t been switched off by the anime. If anything, I’m eager to see what the differences are in the source material.

VRAI: So, that’s a big ol’ “Read the manga” recommendation from us, I think. I think certainly Dee would say that as well. She and Caitlin are both big, big fans of the Demon Prince manga.

Oh, moving on up, Delicious in Dungeon is so good! I love it so fucking much.

ALEX: [Chuckles] This is ongoing, so I think we just do a quick little pit stop for lunch with this one and then come back to it at the end of the next season wrap-up. Is that what we’re thinking?

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, I think so, just to keep things moving along. Yeah, this one’s sort of in a unique position where, since it’s airing continuously… it’s now like 17 episodes in as we’re recording… It certainly got to— This most recent episode is definitely peak “Oh, Laios is like so autistic” energy, which I love, when he has an entire fight with Shuro about Shuro being annoyed at him for not realizing that it was annoying that he was tagging along on these outings that Shuro wanted to spend time with his sister, at which point Laios, relatable king, said, “How was I supposed to know that you didn’t want me there if you didn’t tell me? How was I supposed to know that you were annoyed?”

ALEX: Oh, my boy.

VRAI: I love him.

ALEX: I will say, as well, I think the— We mentioned this earlier. We all love Marcille, but she is kind of like the one girl in the cast. And the ratio of female characters to male characters is slowly evening out a bit the further we go along, which is exciting. And we get a bit of Falin before—no spoilers—you know, she vanishes again. We go back into the gameplay loop of having to find Falin in the depths of the dungeon again. Which, I wish we could say more of her because her dynamic with the group, where it turns out she is presented as this wonderful ethereal sister character and they’re like, “Oh my God, okay, she’s just as weird as the rest of you. She is just as weird as her brother.” [Chuckles] It’s so much fun that I— I don’t know. We’re hitting a point where we’re actually ahead of where I caught up to in the manga, so I’m going to have to catch up and all be along for the ride, not knowing what’s going to happen next, which is kind of exciting. 

It’s a good ‘un. You know? It’s delicious. [Chuckles] It’s just consistently very fun and I really don’t have too much to bring up in terms of concerns. There’s that bath scene where Marcille and Falin are being tender and a little bit gay together. It’s not necessarily a fanservice scene, though, I don’t think. It’s pretty— I don’t know. It’s pretty tasteful and non-sexualized. It’s gals being pals, I guess! What do you think?

VRAI: Oh, those gals are such pals.

ALEX: [Chuckles] And I like that bit from—

VRAI: Shoutout to the person on Tumblr who noted that between the first scene where Falin gets dressed after they rescue her and the scene where everybody’s falling asleep that she and Marcille have switched underwear.

ALEX: [Laughs] Wow! Okay! Good for them!

VRAI: Or she is wearing Marcille’s underwear. Which, you know, I’m sure you could come up with a non–gals-being-pals sort of explanation for that, but I refuse to.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Also, Kabru is here now and he is such a freak. I love him. Someone in the Discord referred to Kabru and Laios as like the ADHD-versus-autism struggle, where there’s just enough comorbidities between those two that you can really annoy each other.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Ah, that’s beautiful.

VRAI: I love this show and I feel like it’s really striding confidently into the places where there’s more to chew on. And I don’t know, it’s really good. But we’ll leave it there for now because it is ongoing, so we’ll be able to check up on it at the end of spring.

Alright. Solo Leveling seems like it was deeply disappointing! Peter— Yeah, yeah, Peter, you finished this one.

PETER: Yeah.

ALEX: Are you deeply disappointed?

PETER: I mean, I think it’s pretty much the same as what I was describing it as before. It’s a lot of fighting, a lot of the main character being— It kind of reminds me of Berserk, where originally it was just hardcore, super edge violence, because I think Miura started writing that shit when he was like 15 or something, right?

VRAI: I think 19, but yeah. Yeah, he was young.

PETER: Kinda the same vibes off this. Like, I think at the end of the series, the main character unlocks necromancer powers or something, which is super cool. So, I don’t know if there’s really just much to look at in this. He’s just going to keep fighting big guys and getting more and more powerful and stuff. I think maybe— I don’t know too much about the series besides the fact that it was super popular going in, but I guess it was just based on cool art and cool fight scenes. I think that’s kind of the driver. If anything, I’d say, at this point, I know we were kind of disappointed that it doesn’t get into the anti-capitalist stuff, but it might be kinda going into Randian-type stuff, because it’s like—

VRAI: Oh, hate that!

PETER: Yeah, a lot of companies don’t seem to like— There’s like one good group that’s run by a small cadre of very talented people and then just a bunch of corporations that are trying to vampire off of everybody’s success and steal their talent and that kind of thing. And it seems like the main character might soon end up butting up against some larger corporations that want to squash competition, move in, and get profits off all this. So, I mean, that’s just a… it’s a maybe…

VRAI: Monopolies are bad.

PETER: … but I was getting some vibes.

ALEX: Okay, so some vibes more than the more overt satire and criticism that I naively and optimistically thought were gonna be there from the premiere. [Chuckles] Alas, alas. That’s alright. Whatever. [Chuckles] Can’t have ‘em all.

VRAI: Oh, well. So, Sengoku Youko. I regret to inform you all that I kinda lost steam on this one—

PETER: Same.

VRAI: —in the last couple episodes after they sort of bench… [pauses] Shakugan. After they kinda bench Shakugan close to the end of the series… [Sighs] I don’t know. Something about that episode was just… She’s not dead, totally! She’s just asleep and could be asleep for centuries, so she’s functionally out of the plot now, and the male protagonist can be sad and angy [sic] about it.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: And wow, that episode sure does understand the intercutting of death and life, as she dies and these new babies who are born after her and her yokai are brought— And I just…

PETER: What?

VRAI: I let out a long sigh, so long that my soul escaped my body.

PETER: You’re saying she has death babies?

VRAI: No, no, no, they’re rescuing a woman who’s pregnant and in labor.

PETER: Oh, okay.

VRAI: And they’re twins, and she names them after Shaku and her demon—er, her yokai. And see, it’s the intercutting of life and death, Peter.

PETER: [crosstalk] Ah, yes, I see.

VRAI: Do you understand?

PETER: Yes, I understand.

VRAI: Yeah, it was just… it was all a little—

PETER: [crosstalk] I’m nodding, just like Pop Team Epic right now.


VRAI: It’s not bad, but it’s all extremely “babby’s first themes” for me. And I think something that kind of threw things into sharp relief is the fact that Caitlin mentioned that this is a very early manga for him, so I should probably not be expecting the kind of thematic complexity he came to and is known for later with Spirit Circle and Planet With. And so, at that point I was just like, “Maybe I’ll finish this but I don’t know. Nyeh.” It’s not bad, but it is very “Well, this is a well-told shounen that has the beginning of a thought that will be more interesting later in his career.” And with everything else this season, I just kinda lost enthusiasm. I’m sorry, folks at home.

So, Metallic Rouge was a show that was committed.

PETER: [Sighs]

VRAI: I watched it. I did watch the last, like, four episodes on two-times speed because I was… no, 2.5, because I was real annoyed by that point.

ALEX: [Chuckles] Oh, no, that doesn’t bode well for… I mean, the pacing was already so breakneck. Why would you speed it up even more? [Chuckles]

VRAI: To free me. To free me of it. Yeah, it’s every bit the Detroit: Become Human anime that I was afraid it would be in the first episode, and then also a little bit worse somehow.

PETER: Yeah, I feel like… I don’t know if I wasn’t paying close enough attention or just if nothing really fit together actually, because I still don’t know if they really properly explained why Rouge— I guess it seemed like she had amnesia in the beginning because all those people were actually her siblings. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding what was happening. And it seems like the whole abolitionist subplot was just something that the villain had manipulated the robots into doing.

VRAI: Yes, Peter! Yes, the legion of oppressed people fighting for freedom were, in fact, controlled opposition. That was a thing that happened in this show.

PETER: [Sighs]

ALEX: Oh. Huh.

PETER: Okay. I was hoping I just completely lost the plot and didn’t understand. I mean, in a more literal… I literally lost track of the plot, because it got real confusing there in the second half. I feel like if it had just stuck with what it was doing in the beginning, it would have been a lot better. But instead it did this crazy-ass— It just kept getting… Every episode, it felt like I was falling through a trope into an even deeper trope. It was like playing 13 Sentinels, where you think you’ve discovered the truth but then they are like, “Actually, there’s time travel. Actually, it’s a simulation. Actually, I know I’m your daughter but I’m actually also your parent. Actually…” [Chuckles]

VRAI: Oh, I read Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles back in the day.

PETER: It was hard to believe that I was even accurately interpreting what I was watching anymore.

VRAI: The thing is, I don’t think Metallic Rouge would have been a good show if it had been 24 episodes, but I think it would have allowed me to spend enough time with the characters that I would have at least felt a little conflicted about how reductive and badly conveyed its themes are.

PETER: Yeah, they really threw that little sister in in, what, the last two to three episodes just so you could feel bad for her.

VRAI: Oh, my— My God, yeah. We have a little sister character who shows up, does a face turn within one episode, becomes Rouge’s chance to become a responsible authority mentoring figure for somebody, and dies one episode later, and I am expected to feel bad about this. That was painful!

PETER: It was so crazy. Yeah, by the end you’re just kind of in disbelief. Things are moving so fast and changing so much. And none of it’s sticking.

VRAI: Yeah. We rushed through a bunch of characters. We did a thing where we farted around talking about how “Well, yes, it’s bad that this entire group of people is oppressed, but some people from that oppressed group might be violent and trying to overthrow their oppressors, so who can say which side is worse?”

ALEX: Oh, my God. [Chuckles]

PETER: Did it— What was that— [At] the end, did they give them the ability to kill humans, though? They got rid of the Asimov code or whatever, right?

VRAI: Yeah, Rouge’s thing is supposed to be that she’s learning free will by learning to make choices for herself, I guess. And so, yeah, she ultimately decides to kickstart the program that was hidden in her that will overwrite the Asimov code because her creator felt bad that they did… you know, she felt bad about doing a whoopsie to all of these sentient beings. And then for literally 30 seconds, the villain who’s been in the background the entire time and had almost no lines pops up to be like, “Surprise! When you when you did this Code Eve overwrite, it was actually a secret double plan to turn all of the Neans into an enslaved army that can be used by the evil aliens.” And then within 30 seconds, the protagonists are like, “Lol, no, it’s not. We heard about that. And it’s okay: your brother hacked it offscreen, so that actually isn’t even a problem. Don’t even sweat it.” Why did you include that twist at all?

ALEX: I love hearing about all of this out of context.

PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, and also, there were aliens.

ALEX: [crosstalk] I feel like I’ve heard a loud crashing noise behind me and I’m looking over my shoulder but the wreckage is already gone. You know? [Chuckles]

PETER: I think— Was it the episode— It was one or two episodes before the finale that they introduced the aliens, right? And I just remember going, “There are aliens?”

VRAI: [crosstalk] No, they— No, the aliens had been around.

PETER: Had they?

VRAI: The visitors— Yeah, the Visitors were mentioned in like Episode 1. And also, there are evil aliens sort of nebulously. But this is the first time that we’ve heard that they’re actually an active threat that we need to worry about, and I guess at the end they did a hilarious sequel hook where Rouge is fighting them. Also, this show ends with the two female leads fusing together into one body forever and it doesn’t feel gay at all. How?

PETER: [Chuckles]

VRAI: How, Peter, did it do that? I wanted to ship them so bad, and it gave me nothing.

PETER: Yeah, that’s true. In the beginning I felt like that was the one strength of this series, but by the end the magic was gone, right?

VRAI: Yeah, because Naomi should be an interesting character because, you know, she’s Rouge’s handler but she’s conflicted about it, but then it turns out that she’s actually like the oldest artificial human who was made by the aliens as an emissary, but also she is also undergoing her own journey towards self-determinism. But this is all done in the least interesting way possible and that makes me angry because Naomi should be a great character. [Sighs] The show was bad. The show made me really angry.

ALEX: I’m just going to reiterate my earlier point about how hearing all this out of context is like I’ve just heard the screech of a car crash out my window. It’s like, “What was that? Did you see that?”

PETER: Yeah, it probably sounds wild since you haven’t watched any of it.

ALEX: [crosstalk] “Did you see that go past?” [Chuckles]

PETER: [Chuckles] “What’s going on?”

ALEX: That’s disappointing, though. I’m sorry it was bad! That sounded like it had—

PETER: You’re rubbernecking on our tragedy right now.


VRAI: Oh, and we did the buddy cop trope where you have the marginalized cop die tragically so that his bigoted partner can learn a lesson.

ALEX: Oh, my God!

PETER: Oh, that’s true, yeah.

VRAI: The show fucking sucked! Let’s move on. Let’s move on to things that were good. Not Fluffy Paradise. We all quite resolutely dropped it. From what I’ve heard from our readers, it just got worse.

ALEX: Ugh, yay. [Chuckles]

VRAI: But you know what was good, Alex? Cherry Magic was really good. Tell the people why Cherry Magic was really good.

ALEX: Yeah! I’m going to pop this as my pleasant surprise of the series. I don’t know what exactly I had expected going in, but I did not expect to really like this as much as I did. I got really hooked into this. I really, really enjoyed it! As Toni said in their recommendation, it starts with this goofy premise about mind-reading and uses that as a vehicle to talk about communication and how it’s important in relationships, and it shows us a relationship. Given the vast amount of anime romcoms are still about teenagers, it’s pretty refreshing and exciting to see a grown-up adult relationship playing out on screen, let alone a relationship between two men. And I think I mentioned the pacing last time and how I appreciated that. You know, there are a couple of moments and little miscommunications in this that other shows could be content to drag out for like six episodes. Cherry Magic just nicely breezes through them. It’s like, “No, it’s okay. They’ve had a conversation about it. They’re sorting it out.” You know, it’s over in an episode, or we only get one cliffhanger out of it instead of something the length of a soap opera. 

So, yeah, we get this really satisfying arc about Adachi kind of opening up to people and realizing that a lot of his cagey normie-hating behavior was sort of his own fears of commitment and of being hurt and of his own inexperience. Kurasawa, his love interest, gets some nice development as well, where he’s like, “You were the first person I fell in love with first. And usually I’m a relentless people-pleaser, but I really get something out of this. And I should also learn to be a bit less prickly and possessive and jealous,” because that’s a BL trope that doesn’t work super well when you actually have a boyfriend. And it’s sweet.

I think there’s a bit more of the manga to be adapted if it finishes before the source material finishes, but it ends on a really nice note. Even before the— I won’t spoil things, in case people haven’t watched it yet. But the show does quite a funny—I thought—thing where it’s like, “Look, we’re not gonna get a second season. Let’s just make sure this is wrapped up real nicely, put a big ol’ bow on that and make sure the audience knows they live happily ever after. Okay? Great! Bye, everybody!” [Chuckles] Which is a little bit of breakneck pacing at the end there, but I also appreciated it because it just sees them off into the sunset in a really lovely way after a surprisingly lovely story about falling in love as a grown-up and also having telepathy because you haven’t had sex before you turned 30. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think the manga was 13 volumes, all told. And by God, this was a crew that knew they were only going to get one season because that’s how the industry does, and I respect the hell out of that. Toni alluded to this a little in their write-up, that definitely the last couple volumes of the manga go into a little more depth of them facing struggles, moving in together, and other societal issues as a couple. So that’s worth probably picking up the manga for, to have those additional details fleshed out. I also want to note, just because I think it’s nice, that the manga artist donated a chunk of proceeds from the live-action adaptation to Marriage for All Japan.

ALEX: Aw, that’s nice!

VRAI: I just think that’s really sweet.

ALEX: That is sweet.

VRAI: She’s really— Yeah. So I think that’s nice.

ALEX: [crosstalk] Well, I think we should mention, as well… because last time we talked a lot about the sort of fujoshi character they work with who really ships the two main characters, we were kind of wondering, like, “How is that gonna go?” Just to bookend that, she shows up for maybe 30 seconds, collectively, of screen time in the second half of the show, so you don’t really have to worry about her being a big part of it, [Chuckles] because she’s just kind of only there for that one-off joke. Which is, on one hand, a bit of a shame that she doesn’t get any more development, and on the other, that’s fine with me because then we don’t get extended scenes of nonsense of her shipping her coworkers. [Chuckles]

VRAI: And honestly, just as a background runner, I really didn’t mind her.

ALEX: Yeah, it’s a cliché that I know… I always roll my eyes when it turns up, which is not to say that those characters can’t be good and funny. It’s just like as a go-to cliché, it’s like, eh, come on. But she’s fine. She’s fine. And again, she’s really not in it. And it really is about this earnest exploration of their relationship. And the B-plot is cute too, the B-couple with his— [Chuckles] my favorite detail being the other guy is an author, and he’s like, “I’m really keeping this under wraps, this crush I have,” and then immediately Adachi is like, “Hey, wow, the love interest in your latest book is really different. It really sounds like…” and then he describes the boy that the author’s fallen for. He’s like, “Ah, damn it! I’m not as cool as I thought!” [Chuckles] It’s full of sweet moments like that. I definitely recommend it, yeah, for BL fans or even just romance fans. You know? Just give it a shot.

VRAI: It’s really good. And you know, it looks a little— I also really respect productions that follow the stand-up comedy rule of structure, as far as sakuga goes, where you put your second-best joke first and your best joke at the end and people will forgive mushiness in the middle, because this does look a little wobbly in places in the middle stretch there, but the finale looks really nice. And I don’t know, this was just a really smartly made show.

ALEX: I was gonna say, the animation is a little stiff, but I don’t hold that against it because as you say and as we have talked about repeatedly on here, shows in this kind of supposed niche, queer media, shoujo, etc., they often get less resources. So it always feels a bit mean to be like, “Well, it didn’t look very good,” because that’s punching down, really. But I did appreciate, as you say, they obviously saved up a little bit more of the fluid animation for the more tender, intimate scenes that you get towards the end, which made them look real nice, even if some of the rest of the show is really wonky. So they obviously, as you say, had an eye for where that energy needed to go to really sell the emotionality and the intimacy of it. And yeah, that was nice.

VRAI: Speaking of men tenderly embracing, can I tell you about Brave Bang Bravern, a fucking great show that I love?

ALEX: [crosstalk] Please, please, please, please, please. Please tell me about Bravern! What the fuck happened in Bravern? [Chuckles]

VRAI: I love Bravern! It’s so stupid! It has no thoughts in its head, but it has a lot of feelings!

ALEX: [Laughs]

VRAI: Bravern is so gay. And my God, does it commit to being gay in the best way. So, okay. Let’s see. Yeah, there remains, throughout, the millstone around its neck that Bravern is set in a military setting and it has not thought about this thing. It’s not actually interested in overt military propaganda. For the writers, the military is basically an aesthetic setting where you can have extremely ripped characters who have access to cool weapons and cool jets and they have camaraderie together, and they do missions and stuff and training sessions, so you can have training montages. And wow! Gee! Whiz! But it’s okay because we’re not referencing any real-world conflicts. We’ve made up aliens for the military to come together across nations and fight.

PETER: Is this Top Gun?

VRAI: There are multiple visual homages to Top Gun. Little more Independence Day in terms of “We’ve made up an alien.” So to me, that’s— Or the comparison that I made is that it’s less Captain America: Winter Soldier and more the first Captain America movie, you know?

ALEX: [Chuckles] Ah, yes. A little less critical, a little more fun punch-‘em-up kind of thing.

VRAI: Yeah, where it’s not overtly— To me, those kinds of things are worth even a little more critical dissection because they’re almost more insidious. Because they are about aesthetics, they are basically doing an advertising job for military conflict and militarism by just showing off the cool, fun aesthetic elements detached from, you know, the war crimes. And yes, there’s what turns out to be [what] I guess was supposed to be a really dark joke that turns into an increasingly escalating runner about how the CIA is torture happy. But then there’s nothing else like that in the show so it’s just extremely weird. And so, yeah, when you have military stuff detached from the fact that the military is a horrible institution with uncountable amounts of blood on its hands, I think that’s almost more irresponsible. You know? It’s not worse than something like Gate, but I think it is more important to dissect in some ways.

All that being said, I still have to recommend Bravern because [speaks in singsong] it’s so gay! It’s really gay! [Returns to normal speech] From the beginning, it really leaned into the homoeroticism of the super robot genre, that kind of hot-blooded young man, and how this robot is extremely horny to have this pilot inside of him. And let me tell you, folks at home, it committed! There was a robot-related love confession and there was a beautiful beach date in the moonlight!

ALEX: That’s beautiful.

VRAI: It was.

ALEX: That’s beautiful. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Uh-huh! Yeah, it was!

PETER: Did they run along the beach together?

VRAI: Yeah, they did! Under the moonlight! And it was majestic!

PETER: Did they make use of perspectives that it looked like they were the same size?


PETER: Oh, okay.

VRAI: Which makes it better!

ALEX: [Laughs] Just like a giant robot holding hands with a regular-sized human.

VRAI: Yeah. A giant robot preparing to, before they were interrupted, you know, perhaps tenderly debauch a small human.

ALEX: [Snorts] Oh, the logistics of that seem worrying, but I support their love. [Chuckles]

VRAI: [Chuckles] It’s just so joyous. And it’s not just that. It’s that the climax of the show comes down to… you know, this runs on shounen… er, giant robo emotions over logic, where the power of gay love is going to save the day from the aliens, and I think that’s beautiful. It has a little bit of fanservice throughout, but it’s sort of equal opportunity, as it were. I was also really pleased that Lulu, who’s… she’s sort of introduced early on as very childlike and basically rapid-grows across the course of this series, she really got to be a protagonist in her own right, which I found really satisfying, and that was great. And most of the other female characters besides her are sort of background, but so are most of the characters who aren’t the three main characters. 

And it’s just also a really well-done parody of mecha because Obari has been making mecha of varying qualities for years and years. You know, even as somebody who’s really only a very casual mech fan, I could tell the broad strokes of what they were parodying, and folks on social media every week were coming up with multiple screenshots of “Ah, here is a very specific show that it is doing a visual homage to,” like every week. So, it’s just— Inherent problems with its setting aside, it is a really well-made kind of goofy, exuberant, very gay show that I loved a lot.

ALEX: Excellent. Excellent. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yay for Bravern. Alright, last of the winter seasonals is A Sign of Affection, which I never did get around to watching since I’m a manga reader.

ALEX: Mm-hm. Okay, yeah, to pivot to a completely different genre…


ALEX: This was nice. This was really nice. I think I’ll just reiterate what I said in my write-up, which is that I… The thing that I really enjoyed about this and was really impressed by is that it didn’t feel like a “Capital-R Representation is important” kind of show. Obviously, that’s been a lot of the conversation around it, because there is a concern with underrepresented groups like people who are deaf or hard of hearing finally being the stars of shows like this. You want to be sure they’re getting it right, which is obviously… you know, the conversation around that will still be complex and, again, is something I can’t speak to as I haven’t had that experience. But I really appreciated how it really just felt like a very earnest shoujo coming-of-age story. It had a nice mix of more realistic emotional moments but also very rosy and sparkly idealistic ones. And it was just really nice to see this heroine who would normally be marginalized just be, yeah, the heroine, be a good ol’ shoujo heroine and just have this narrative about coming out of her shell and falling in love. 

The rem— The relation— Bleh. The romantionship [sic]— What am I saying? The romantic relationship is quite sweet, as well. They work out a really nice dynamic. They have a few cute moments where it’s really about them learning to communicate with each other and sort of see each other across their different lines of life experience. There’s a really cute bit where they watch a movie together and he puts it on mute and puts the subtitles on because he wants to know how she experiences watching movies. And I thought, isn’t that a great little flying the flag for how important closed captioning is? I wonder if we have an article about that. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Hm! Mm!

ALEX: But yeah, again, I would love to hear pitches or comments or otherwise from people who share the experience of Yuki. But this was… I really enjoyed this. This was really nice, you know? Just a nice, very warm and cozy shoujo romance. And—

VRAI: And looks great, too—

ALEX: And looks great!

VRAI: —speaking of the curse of shoujo.

ALEX: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah! It looks great consistently through, and that article that I linked to in my write-up, which is a sort of behind-the-scenes production notes about not just the care they went to with animating the sign language but the whole thing, including listing out some nice visual symbolism, that I was like, “Oh, I had not registered that on a really conscious level. That’s really cool.” So yeah, it’s obviously a show that’s made with a lot of love. It’s not a slapdash production by any means, in terms of how it looks and how it feels and the characterization. It’s a very… just a gentle, soft, very character-focused coming-of-age story that’s just very carefully and lovingly put together. And yeah, I would definitely say check it out if any of that sounds like your kind of jam.

VRAI: Yeah, among the details from that really good Sakuga Blog write-up, [something] even I didn’t know is that in addition to the manga research and consultation things, the series composer for the anime adaptation is a professional sign language interpreter, which I thought was really cool.

ALEX: Mm, yeah, yeah! And yeah, I mean, this, Cherry Magic, others, I mean, hell, even Bravern, every show that we get that comes out that represents something a little bit of nudge aside from the mainstream, it helps hold the door open for the next thing that will be even bigger and even better. So it’s always nice to see the effort and the passion being put in from people all over the industry, you know? It’s nice.

PETER: Yeah. And I do feel like there’s been kind of this movement away from romance series where there’s a lot of pining and misunderstandings that prevent characters from getting together and more about characters who enter relationships and then it’s about them being in a relationship, which as a longtime anime fan I really appreciate. There’s some great shoujo back then, but that’s simultaneously great and also, it’s been 50 episodes and they’re still… I don’t even know if they like each other yet. So, that’s been good to see.

VRAI: Well, speaking of that, let’s move into sequels! And this is in alphabetical order, but it is the funniest way to do it. So let me tell you about Dangers in My Heart, a show where they don’t start dating until literally Episode 24.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

PETER: Oh, my God. Well, maybe I was wrong.

VRAI: Well, here’s the thing. And by the way, this is a shounen series, so shoujo should not shoulder all the blame for this. I did a write-up for this so I will try to be concise. But I really loved this show. And it sort of grew on me steadily all throughout the first season after really, truly, just the worst cold open the first episode has ever had in the romance genre. But it just steadily becomes a better and better show. And maybe it’s partly because we had multiple shows this winter season that we’re about adults who get together partway through and then spend the rest of the series navigating more mature concerns, and maybe it’s partly because the characters are 12, going on 13, but it really didn’t bother me that most of this series is about sort of fretting in the gray zone of “Oh, God, what is this? What are feelings? Why am I so sweaty and horny?” because it’s not as though the characters don’t have forward progression and are sort of getting closer throughout. But it feels sort of waffly in this sort of “Yeah, this is how it is at 12 years old when you get your first romantic crush and maybe you sit together after school and maybe that’s what dating is because you can’t drive anywhere because you’re 12.”

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: So it felt appropriate to the age group to sort of spend a lot of time on this sort of will— It’s not even will-they-won’t-they, honestly.

PETER: When they.

VRAI: It’s pretty clear. Yeah, when they. And I will say that the show throws in a couple little nods at “Oh, maybe they’re gonna make it! Maybe they’re gonna get married!” because this 12-year-old is like, “I’m always going to like this girl!” Oh, you’re very sweet. And her parents kinda have a similar dynamic to the two of them, and I don’t know if I buy that, but I do think that this is the story of a really good, sweet first relationship that’s going to be good for both of them. And Kyotaro is just really an attack on me personally as a former 12-year-old edgelord who had trouble figuring out other people and was extremely awkward and cringy. He definitely gains some people skills and sympathy/empathy abilities that I wish I would have started developing at his age, which is maybe a little wish-fulfillmenty, but I think the show… The show is really good about having sympathy for being 12 and all the ways that 12- and 13-year-olds can suck. Honestly, most of the dudes who aren’t Kyotaro really suck for a lot of the runtime of the show, in ways that are a little too real. But it’s also not overly nostalgic about a school setting like I feel like a lot of school romance series can be. You know, it’s not a “These were the best days of our lives” kind of series.

PETER: Yeah, that’s horrifying.

VRAI: Uh-huh, right? And it’s— I think— The manga is written by a woman, Norio Sakurai, and the adaptation was done by Jukki Hanada, who folks might know for doing the adaptation of Bloom Into You and for writing A Place Further Than the Universe. He’s also, of course, famously the Love Live guy. He’s really, really good at doing emotional coming-of-age high school drama type stuff. And between the two of them, it feels like a really grounded human story, even when they’re doing the tropes of “It’s the school festival, and it’s New Year’s, and we’re going on the school trip!” It just had a really refreshing liveliness to the dialogue. And I really liked how even though this is about a male protagonist, and it’s honestly really about pushing him and even eventually the boys around him towards this more empathetic, positive masculinity in a way that’s really sweet, but even before he starts to open up to others, it really writes the girls in his life with care.

But let’s talk— Alex, please tell us some about Apothecary Diaries, because this is another one I didn’t finish because I’m a manga reader, although I am working my way through it. I’m just extremely behind. I’m like halfway through Season 1!

ALEX: [Chuckles] So I was gonna say “Apothecary Diaries is fun” which doesn’t seem like quite the right descriptor for a show that’s about forced political marriage and poisonings and sex work of varying degrees of consent, but it’s a show that sucks you in. The episodic mysteries are still really fun. I mean, entertaining. Entertaining and engrossing is what I mean. The things that are happening in them are not fun like “Oh, yay! Isn’t this a nice time?” But it’s like… You guys know what I mean. It’s interesting how— I mean, no spoilers here because you’ve probably seen the announcements, but the season ends with a big card being like “See you in Season 2!” So it obviously feels like it has room to not rush through the story, and in fact it leaves some things hanging quite openly. It ends the season instead on sort of a more personal closure kind of moment where Maomao kind of gets to play The Parent Trap, which is not what I was expecting for a subplot, but it is interesting.

PETER: Yeah, that is not the direction I thought that would go.

ALEX: [Chuckles] But it’s— So I’m excited there’s gonna be more of it to keep expanding the world, keep getting into the deeper mysteries of what’s going on with this conspiracy that seems to be bubbling away in the background. The main things that I have to praise, as I did in my write-up… Maomao herself, who is a fantastic gremlin protagonist, who is this great mix of very cold and logical and only cares about plants and poisons in some ways but also has this real sense of justice and this empathetic streak that makes her a very contradictory and interesting character; and, yeah, the show’s overall focus [is] on “How do all these women survive and, dare I say, even thrive, for some of them, in their system that really strips them of their agency?” because they’re all just existing as humans in varying states of play. 

And it’s just really interesting, you know? It very rarely gives us shallow female characters that are just evil and scheming or just sweet and motherly or just victims. It’s always got a little bit of a mix of stuff going on with them, and that’s… you know, I appreciate that, especially— I mean, you know, you would hate to have a show that is set in this kind of setting in this world of courtesans and court intrigue and then just not treat the courtesans as people. That would be… Like, I’m sure that exists. I’m lucky enough to have not seen it, and I’m happy to report Apothecary Diaries is not that. So, I’m excited for continuation, whenever that will come rolling down the track.

VRAI: Yeah, I’m really excited to get back to it in earnest. My partner and I have been having really interesting conversations about the usages of fantasy China as this… sort of like shoujo did in the ‘70s with western Europe, like Germany and other European nations, where it’s this vaguely far-off exotic nation where you can set stories about more challenging themes because there’s that level of distance, except in this case there’s also a history of a lot of war crimes that Japan has done in China. This is my soft way of saying I really want somebody to pitch an article about the use of China as a fantasy setting in manga.

ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm. I would love to read that, also. I will say that. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Right? But yeah, no, this is a series that I… It’s a really great series that I’ve really been enjoying the manga of and can’t wait to get caught up on the anime because the visuals are lovely. And it’s so nice that it’s gonna get a Season 2.

ALEX: Mm-hm, mm-hm. Which, again, yeah, it obviously has high production values and obviously feels like it doesn’t have to cram everything in and finish up the story, which, like I said, does leave you in a bit of a cliffhanger for some things. But it’s okay, because we’re gonna come back and see how it all unfolds.

VRAI: Yeah! Before we go, Peter, did you want to throw in any last thoughts about Frieren? I think that you are the only person on staff still watching it.

PETER: Wow, surprising. I do think it is very good, although in the second half it kinda— I don’t know if I said this on a podcast or just on Bluesky or something, that it kinda just entered into a shounen tournament arc. It definitely did do that, although I thought the outcome was pretty great. The good thing about tournament arcs is you can introduce a lot of new characters, and a lot of them were pretty entertaining and interesting and might appear later in different capacities. So that’s great. I don’t know if they spoke of anything regarding a new season. But it definitely set up for the next stage of the story, which seems like it’s going to be about… or at least a new element to the story, which seems to be about how Fern is actually going to become super important to humanity’s development with magic. I don’t really know how this plays into the greater themes. 

But then again, they kinda— I don’t know. The first part was very slow and meditative, and there was a lot of thinking about mortality and how little time we have in this world and how we can, I don’t know, create a big influence on somebody who lives for 1,000 years if we’re really cool, I don’t know. But just whatever it was doing in the first half. That was pretty interesting, but I think it’s kind of… it still references Himmel a lot as a way of buttoning up some of the subplots or stories that come with regards to Frieren (the character, not the anime). But I don’t feel like— I think the series has kind of just entered its own velocity and is now talking about the here and now rather than reflecting on Frieren’s past, which I think was kind of necessary because I don’t know how long you could keep that theme running without it becoming kind of obnoxious anyway.

So, yeah. All that’s to say I’m not sure if I can say too much that has not already been said about it in regards to themes or anything, besides that it still… definitely the best animation was done in this part. So, a lot of new sakuga, a lot of fun character dynamics, but much less navel-gazing if that’s what attracted you to the series.

ALEX: [Chuckles] I mean, that’s interesting to know, because I have had this on my list to watch. I have just been a little sensitive recently to stories about how life is precious because we’re all going to die. So, on one hand, it’s interesting to know that it doesn’t stay in that meditative kind of state and on those themes for a long time. On the other hand, that’s a little almost disappointing, because it really seemed like that was kind of the thing that made the show special. I don’t know.

PETER: Yeah, it definitely seemed like the thing that first distinguished it from a lot of other series for me. But now they’ve just invested so much time in all the characters that are happening right now. You get the sense early on that it might be pulling the same trick as To Your Eternity, where you’d get to see Fern’s entire life pass by or something and Frieren would continue on. But I just think there’s too much going on now. It’s just gonna be the story of these characters, which Frieren is just going to have a unique perspective on as a character who’s been around for however many hundreds of years.

VRAI: How’s that old saying go? You either die a hero or live long enough to have a tournament arc?

ALEX: [Laughs]

PETER: [deadpan] Oh, yeah. That is a famous saying, yeah. Mm-hm. You either get canceled by Shonen Jump or you’re publicized long enough to have a tournament arc, I think is the original saying.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Ah, yes, yes. I know it well. And if you want— We covered the demon discourse during Frieren’s first season, and also we published an article about it a few months ago, so you can pop it on that if you want to continue with that particular chat.

Any other last thoughts for stuff before we wrap it up for today?

ALEX: I think we can wrap it up, wrap it up all nice and tight in a big ol’ scarf because it’s winter. This is the winter season, so we need a winter pun!

VRAI: [deadpan] Yeah, it’s still winter.

ALEX: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Uh-huh, uh-huh! Definitely.

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