Chatty AF 103: Fall 2019 Mid-Season Check-in (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist November 24, 20190 Comments

Dee, Vrai, and Peter check-in on the Fall 2019 season!

Episode Information

Date Recorded: Sunday 17th November 2019
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Peter

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
0:02:59 Kemonomichi: Rise Up
0:03:17 Kandagawa Jet Girls
0:04:28 ORESUKI Are you the only one who loves me?
0:05:49 High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even In Another World
0:06:23 Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life?!
0:09:43 No Guns Life
0:14:27 Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia
0:18:13 Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
0:22:40 Blade of the Immortal
0:27:09 Babylon
0:30:54 Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun
0:33:06 Special 7
0:33:39 Outburst Dreamer Boys
0:41:46 Stars Align
0:50:00 Ascendance of the Bookworm
1:02:33 Sequels
1:04:13 Outro 

More on This Season

DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, the managing editor at AniFem, and I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers, Peter and Vrai.

PETER: Hi, I’m Peter. I am an associate producer at Crunchyroll, and a contributor and editor at AniFem.

DEE: Ooh! Title change. [Laughs]

VRAI: It’s fun to track those through the old episodes. That’s like a fun Easter egg is: what does Peter do at Crunchyroll this week?

PETER: “Producer” sounds a lot nicer. It makes me sound like I’m doing crazy things that I’m really not doing.

DEE: I assume you’re sitting on a bed of money, smoking a cigar? Something like that.

PETER: Making those big anime live-action movie adaptation deals.

DEE: [Laughs]

VRAI: Oh, yeah.

DEE: Exactly.

VRAI: Hey! I’m Vrai. I’m a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. I am on the internet. You can find the places that I freelance by going to my Twitter, @writervrai, and checking the pinned tweet, or you can find the other podcast I cohost by going to @trashpod.

DEE: Oh, right, and you can hang out with me on Twitter, @joseinextdoor. That is “j-o-s-e-i.” Not “i-e.” That’s a point of confusion a lot, turns out.

And today we are checking in with the Fall 2019 anime season. Now, we are recording this about a week before it’s going to go live, so, folks at home, if something wild happens in the next week in the shows and you’re wondering why we didn’t talk about it, that’s why. Our scheduling just kinda worked out this way. But, we still got, definitely, to the midway point, so we’ll have up through episode six or seven of a bunch of shows. 

And this was a very busy season. Sequel-heavy, and then a lot of new stuff that we were tentatively excited for going in, and so this week we get to check and see how all that is holding up. I will jump through… We’re gonna go off this like we usually do. The premiere digest… We sort of rank the shows based on different feminist-relevant concerns, and—what’s the word?—positives. Can anyone at home tell I am sleepy today?

And so we’re gonna use that list, kind of starting from the bottom and working our way up with the “Red Flag” shows, and some of the “Pit of Shame” shows as we somewhat lovingly (jokingly? I don’t know; some word) refer to them as. I’m not watching any of those. 

Peter, Vrai, is there anything in those lower categories that you wanted to bring up in terms of: maybe it did something that surprised you, in a good or a bad way? Or you just really need to holler about a thing. Anything in there that… ?

VRAI: Not super… I ended up dropping Kemonomichi because it kind of hit that plateau where it stopped doing the cool, gimmicky things that I was there for, and all that I was left with is stuff that was either mediocre or kind of shitty, so… ended up dropping that one after episode three. 

Kandagawa Jet Girls is still a show that I’m watching and have no excuse for watching. I don’t know how to report to y’all on the baiting front. It did replicate the Yuri on Ice shot, which is fucking bold if it’s not gonna go anywhere with it.

DEE: Oh, wow. 

VRAI: Uh-huh. I dunno. It missed an episode because of the hurricane, so it’s only on episode five, so it’s still doing the weekly episode. “Here’s a new batch of girls with large boobs doing jet races.”

I will say that the visuals have kind of tanked, but I’m still watching it, and I couldn’t tell you why, nor do I recommend that anybody else watch it.

DEE: Vrai, we know why you’re watching it. You’re watching it ’cause it’s gay. That’s why you’re watching it.

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, that’s why. That’s entirely why. 

DEE: [Laughs] And that is fine, so… I’m glad it is scratching that particular itch for you.

VRAI: It’s a dry desert of a season, man. Sometimes you gotta suck on a cactus to live.

DEE: [Laughs]

DEE: And with that ringing endorsement, Peter, anything in that bottom chunk that you wanted to highlight?

PETER: I don’t think that our first episode review of Oresuki really did justice to how awful it is, and how much all the characters are awful, and they deserve every bad thing that happens to them. Which is fine—I like watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—except it insists that all the characters are somehow good, especially the main character, who is easily the worst of them. I’m not quite sure why it can’t just be about shitty people. Especially since it seems to be genre-aware. 

Kemonomichi I’m still watching, but I do agree with Vrai. It’s kind of falling into this thing where they’re always trying to get money, which isn’t very interesting anymore, since it’s just the same problems. Lots of animals, not enough money.

VRAI: Kinda had one joke, and stopped caring enough to try to execute it with aplomb.

PETER: Yeah. Same thing happened with Cautious Hero, where it’s just… He’s not… It still wants him to be cool as well as ridiculously cautious, so he can’t do anything too outlandish, or be made to look a fool. So he just ends up blowing up corpses 800 times to be too cautious, or spending 8 hours doing pushups in a room, neither of which is very entertaining. 

So it’s like they ran out of their two jokes already, which is a little disappointing. Sensible… Kemonomichi had a much stronger start, but I thought Cautious Hero… At least the goddess was really entertaining, I guess. 

Mayonnaise had an extremely graphic sexual assault scene, probably even more lovingly animated than Sword Art Online: Alicization.

DEE: Oh, shit. So it went from being a dumpster pit to legitimately triggering.

PETER: Uh, yeah. That episode was… It keeps going between the awful things happening to people and then this sort of lighthearted, spunky kids doing stuff. It’s very tonally dissonant. But that scene sort of really stood out to me. So, yeah. I’d say be very cautious of it if that stuff bothers of you. —Bothers you. What am I saying?

DEE: [Laughs] Maybe we’re all tired.

VRAI: It’s been a long week. 

I forgot to… Average Abilities. Folks, I dropped it after episode three. Folks in the Discord have been saying that the horrible pedophile lady hasn’t come back in subsequent episodes, but here’s the thing: I don’t care. This show lost my trust pretty thoroughly. 

PETER: She’s gone, and it’s become mostly nerdy pop-culture references in this fantasy world sphere. I think the show got a lot better, actually. 

DEE: Light novel readers have said that those first three episodes did a weird hack job, and the horrible pedophile character isn’t even in the novels. 

VRAI: I’ve heard that.

DEE: And, again, none of us can 100% confirm this, so, careful at home, folks. But it sounds like the anime made some weird choices and maybe the reason the show started to get better was they went back to the source material, which, again, a lot of the people I know seem to really like. And nobody had mentioned those as issues when they were recommending the light novels to me, so that might be what’s going on there. Make of that what y’all will. 

PETER: I actually think it’s really kind of a… It’s become kind of a tokusatsu thing, ’cause that seems to be Miles’ fandom, so she keeps inventing new spells just based off of different common shows, stuff like that—Sentai—and using those techniques. There’s one guy that has a golem that pieces itself together from many disparate parts, and she starts screaming because they’re doing a buildup transformation sequence, and it rocket punches her and she’s very happy about that. Just that kind of shit.

They do do this weird thing where it’s like, one of the girls has a very tragic backstory where her parents were murdered and she was taken in by some adventurers who were also murdered, and it was like… Yeah, it had the intense music playing [that] zooms in on her crying as she sees blood flowing out of her loved one’s chest, and then it just cuts back to all the girls kind of looking very nonplussed, and… Yeah, just kind of like, “Oh, so that’s her tragic backstory, huh?” I don’t know what the point of that was. 

VRAI: It’s very proud of how genre-aware it is, that show. Which it sounds like… It was already getting a little tiring when I dropped it. It sounds like it gets more that.

PETER: Mm-hm. Perhaps. It’s… Yeah, it’s just hijinks now. 

VRAI: Yeah, I mean, if that’s people’s thing, that’s good. I’m just… I am at capacity for that particular joke. 

PETER: Especially with isekai stories. It feels like all the shows this season are just random, genre-aware hijinks, which I guess is what the genre might have devolved into at this point. 

DEE: No, we are… We’re definitely at that point in the life cycle of the isekai fad, is the parody stuff. But, my thing is, if your idea of a parody is to just call it out and then do nothing new with it, it’s… That’s not actually clever. It gets exhausting pretty quick. So… But, again, it sounds like Abilities has at least become sort of a pleasant, cotton-candy type show. And that’s fine. As long as the lesbian pedophile isn’t in there anymore. 

PETER: Oh, yeah.

DEE: That was the big… 

PETER: Episode three was the last appearance, so… And no other problematic characters that I can think of since.

DEE: Oh, that’s a relief. 

VRAI: Dee, tell me about the nice Man-Gun-Head? 

PETER: [Laughs]

DEE: Yeah. Peter, are you caught up on that one too? I know you started it, but… 

PETER: I’m on episode four, I think. 

DEE: Okay. Yeah, I am fully caught up on No Guns Life, or as Vrai calls it, “Man-Gun-Head.” I mean, you really have to kind of enjoy pulpy genre mashups, I think, to appreciate this one. And obviously not everyone’s going to. 

I by-and-large have a good time with it, although I will say the last couple episodes have started to lose me. I’m hoping that it’s just a sort of sophomore slump in the manga writing, ’cause a lot of the time that’ll happen with long-running manga, where they start off with a cool idea, and they suddenly have to serialize it week-to-week and things get a little rough as they figure out what the hell they’re doing, and then it finds a groove and then it either falls apart or it becomes something really fun. So, I’m hoping this one is going to find its mold—its groove—in another episode or two.

So, two things happened in the last couple episodes. First is the side characters have all kind of been shuffled to the side so they can introduce these other big organizations that Juzo—Man-Gun-Head—is interacting with. 

They brought in some kind of interesting characters, but I think the show is at its best when it’s focusing on that core “found family” vibe that it had going in the first few episodes with Juzo and… I’ve forgotten the kid-who-he-rescue’s name, and also Mary. Tetsuro? Tetsuro. And so the fact that it’s gotten away from that… I think that was sort of the heart of the show, and so I’m hoping it returns to that heart. 

The other thing is, we have spent a little more time with Juzo’s trans landlady, and she is very much a… your pretty typical anime parody character in terms of constantly talking about how cute the boys are in a way that’s not 100% threatening… You’re not supposed to read her as a bad guy, but she’s definitely supposed be read as, “Oh, weird.” And it’s exhausting and made me angry. Thankfully she hasn’t been in it much. So, I was able to kind of get past it, but I could totally understand if folks were just like, “No, fuck you,” and just turned it off at that point.

Other than that… Other kind of feminist-relevant flags… There’s a decent bit of cheesecake. As you noted with the first episode, Vrai, there’s a lot of ladies with their boobs out a bit. It doesn’t really bother me, because they all appear to be adults. They all have internal lives and backstories and things they are doing other than having their boobs out. 

There’s a new character who gets brought in in the last couple episodes who is very busty, to the point where it seems like every time they draw her, her boobs get a little bit closer to falling out of her shirt. [Laughs] But they’ve already established that she has a complicated history… a working relationship with Juzo. 

She runs this organization and is very dedicated to trying to keep a balance between… They’re tamping down on Extended violence. They’re trying to stop these Extendeds who have kind of gone berserk, but she’s trying to keep it from turning into mass discrimination of, “Oh, we’re just going to incarcerate all of them because we don’t trust them.” 

So she works with Juzo on that front. So it’s not like she’s just a pair of boobs walking around. She has a character. So, it doesn’t really bother me that the way she’s drawn is kind of cheesecake-y. And there are some shots that they… The cameraman clearly wants to lovingly frame her butt. But, eh. I dunno. I can’t get worked up about that.

VRAI: Sometimes in life you have to pick your battles.

DEE: To be fair, she’s very confident and kind of owns it in a way that doesn’t… Again, not a real human being, can’t actually own her sexuality. But that sort of T-and-A sexiness, especially in a noir series… It just doesn’t really bother me. I’ll get it if it bothers other folks, but the trans landlady was the big kicker for me in the last couple episodes.

VRAI: Maybe I’ll wait to hear from you to see if it sticks the landing before I go back and catch up.

DEE: Yeah, I’m curious to see where this current arc is going and how they’re gonna work Tetsuro and Mary back into the story, because it was… I think it was much better when it had more of an ensemble vibe to it.

VRAI: I like the good kids and their dumb dad.

DEE: But yeah. I’m still mostly enjoying it. So we’ll see how it goes.

I think the next one… Peter, did you want to say anything about the new Fate anime? Babylonia?

PETER: Uh… It’s… [Laughs] There’s not too much… It’s Fate at its worst, where it’s just… The main character has no personality. It’s like Fate: [Unlimited] Blade Works, or… yeah. Main character is the main character from the mobile game, so it’s the one who doesn’t have any personality. All of their decisions are based off of your own choices. And then they don’t make any commitment to a personality when they convert it to an anime. 

VRAI: Mm-hm. And they picked the dude protagonist because they’re cowards.

PETER: Yep. And that as well. So it’s just this blank-slate character. Mash is a very “I wanna make people happy”… I dunno. That archetype, where it’s just they’ll do anything they can to help people because all they have in their body is compassion. So, nothing they do is ever surprising. 

And then they keep on showing up… Characters pop in and out and blow stuff up and it’s well-animated, but kind of… I dunno. That, and just a bunch of expository dialogue that literally doesn’t make any sense at all.

DEE: Oh, yeah. No, that sounds like a Fate series.

VRAI: Yep.

DEE: [Laughs] Sorry to the folks at home who love Fate. Maybe we can get Caitlin on one of these and she can talk it up, ’cause she enjoys it more than we do, I think.

PETER: Yeah. I mean, I found things to like about Unlimited Blade Works. I thought Rin was a really good character, and they had some other characters who actually had some character conflict going on, which was interesting. 

But Babylonia just… And there’s none of that. It’s just all the bad parts condensed into a single anime.

DEE: That’s too bad. I was hoping the stuff with Gil would be interesting, but it sounds like not so much. 

PETER: Yeah. The conflict… It doesn’t make… It’s a bunch of time-travel shenanigans too, so it’s not like we’re going after a big Grail and people are backstabbing each other to get to it, too, so even the pursuit is hard to understand, too. 

Yeah, it’s bad. And it’s just doing… I can’t think of anything extremely bad, but it’s just doing the usual Fate kind of randomly… There’s just a bunch of sexy characters all around, a lot of them of questionable age. 

DEE: [Laughs] Yeah, the costumes. I have seen the screenshots.

PETER: Rin for some reason, now… I know she combined bodies with a goddess or something, and then Rin’s personality was subsumed by the goddess, so Rin doesn’t get to be a character anymore, but they still get to use her character design. 

DEE: Oh my God.

PETER: And she wears a bikini everywhere. So… Yeah, I don’t like that.

DEE: [Through pained laughter] Yeah, I don’t care for that either. 

PETER: She’s probably the best character in Unlimited Blade Works, so… And Zero, too. She was cool in Zero. So, I would be… If she was back, I would be kind of excited for that, but it’s not her. It’s just her character design, which feels gross. 

DEE: That’s too bad. I was hoping that one would build on itself well, ’cause I didn’t have a chance to try it, but I wanted to see what other folks had to say. 

PETER: I know some people are excited about Gilgamesh and… Oh God, I can’t remember his… 

VRAI: Enkidu?

PETER: Yeah, yeah. I can’t really speak to that, but there might be something there that people would be looking for. So, Caitlin might be able to write something on that.

VRAI: I feel like if it was notably gay, I would have seen it on my timeline, but… 

PETER: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah, maybe if AniTwitter isn’t popping off about it, then maybe there’s not much to enjoy. 

DEE: Well, I mean, if you’re gonna keep watching it, keep us posted. Maybe it’ll pull itself together at some point, but… 

PETER: I kinda have to. It’s Fate, so… 

DEE: Yeah, that’s fair. It is part of your job. Quite literally.

Okay, let’s move on. Peter, you kind of already gave your feelings about Cautious Hero, and we do need to jump through these a little bit quicker. I was really high on Cautious Hero after episode two. I thought episode two had moments of Slayers-esque brilliance that made me very, very excited—and it almost immediately fell apart in episode three, because, like you said, it’s really just the same joke over and over again. 

The characters don’t grow. They started off kind of both being somewhat endearingly awful, and then by the third episode, the protag is the dude… ‘Cause I still like Rista, the goddess, a fair bit, but she’s pretty much just there to scream about how wild the protag is. I can’t believe I blanked on his name.

VRAI: He’s so generic. Who would bother?

PETER: Seiya? Is it Seiya?

DEE: Seiya! Yeah, that sounds right. But he’s just… By episode three, he’s just being a jackass to people. There’s nothing… In the first couple episodes, you got the sense of, “Oh, he actually does care about his mission and helping people, he’s just sort of callous about it and doesn’t always understand cause and effect,” and it was kind of amusing. 

“Jamie is on Fire!” is one of the funniest things. I laughed so hard my roommate came out to check on me.

PETER: Oh, when he set fire to the village?

VRAI: [Cackling]

DEE: Yeah, he sets fire to the village, ’cause he wants to make absolutely certain they’re dead, and then there’s these shots of, “The market is on fire! Jamie the fruitseller is on fire!” 

VRAI: [Continues laughing]

DEE: I think it’s the fact that they gave the character a name just so they could set him on fire and… 

PETER: Big “Cabbage Man” vibes.

DEE: God, right? And then Rista’s like, “You have to stop! Jamie’s on fire!” 

And Jamie was fine. They put the fire out, and then they got chased out of the village and little kids threw rocks at them, and I was like, “This is great. This is a very amusing dynamic, where they go into towns and they technically save the town, but they make a big mess of it.” Again, very Slayers vibe. 

But Seiya just sucks and isn’t very fun, and they brought in some new characters who I was hoping would inject some life into the story, and they’re really just also there to react to how absurd Seiya is with his cautiousness, and so… 

Yeah, I somehow finished episode five even though I did not want to finish it. I was done about halfway through. I was like, “I’m done, but I’ll go ahead and wrap this one up.” And it just… I don’t care anymore. And it’s a bummer, ’cause, again, I really enjoyed those first two episodes, but it didn’t have anything else in the tank but that one joke, basically.

VRAI: And it was kind of a bummer ’cause it’s one thing to be like, “Eh, they’re all awful people.” I, too, enjoy Always Sunny, but the fact that Rista, despite being a goddess, has no ability to change the course on anything except be color commentary started to be what was especially grating about the one-joke-ness of it. And also I think the limit I hit was when he had the training arc with Cerceus.

PETER: Oh, the sword guy.

DEE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was when things started to sour for me.

VRAI: Yeah, and it was like, “Maybe it was actually good that he was such a relentless dickbag. Maybe that was actually good for this guy that he tormented.” And they make lip service towards, “You should apologize,” but that’s never actually shown, so it’s so very clear that the show does not care about him being a better person except when the mechanics of the one plot beat require it. And then I was like, “Well, I’m done.”

PETER: His cautiousness is almost always justified, ’cause it turns out, oh, no, what he did was actually smart and the right strategy, which kind of deadens the “overly cautious” part. And then he doesn’t ever suffer consequences for the situations, like setting the village on fire. Kids threw rocks at him? I don’t even think he reacted.

DEE: No.

PETER: If he was screaming and running away and talking about how if a rock hit you in the eye, it could take your eye out, ’cause he’s really cautious, or something like that—

DEE: [Laughs]

PETER: Then that would be a funny aspect to the “cautiousness” part, if his threat assessment was off, or something like that. But it never is, and he never suffers from consequences. He doesn’t care about the rocks. So, there’s no comedy to his character at all. And it’s a comedy series, or I think it wants to be. I dunno.

DEE: It was. It just… Again, it had a joke, and it didn’t know how to make more jokes, or how to make you—you know, endear you to the characters, so even when it wasn’t being funny, you were still having a good time. So, that’s a bummer. I was really excited about that one, so that’s been my biggest disappointment so far. 

Let’s move on though. Peter, you’re watching Blade of the Immortal. How is it? Pretty good? Let’s go through these next few quickly, if we can.

PETER: Yeah, this adaptation’s pretty good. It seems like they had enough of a budget to make all the characters look good; got to give them some really good voice actors; some good thematic stuff. The opening still sucks, just like the Bee Train one, which is unfortunate. And they manage to creatively do some stuff with fighting, so that even though they can’t animate all of the cool stuff, they still give it a good vibe. 

So I feel a lot better… I feel like this is a good adaptation, as opposed to the first adaptation of Blade of the Immortal.

VRAI: Mm-hm. Does it mow down every woman who appears?

PETER: I don’t… I don’t think there’s too many women who die. There’s definitely problematic aspects, like that main character that… I kind of can’t remember her name. The main character girl. Wow. She’s wanting revenge against the villains for killing her father, and they raped her mother and took her away, and the very first villain they kill had sewn her mother’s head onto his shoulder.


PETER: ‘Cause he’s a crazy Buddhist monk. So, yeah. It definitely has problematic stuff like that. But I do feel like it does have some interesting character stuff for the female characters, especially… God, I’m blanking on the [unintelligible] character’s name. But I think the strongest fighter in the series is a woman who uses that three-section double-ended spear thing. I dunno what you call that weapon. Who kind of has this tragic romance with the main villain. 

Yeah, all the guy’s series have really problematic stuff in them, but I think he also usually has a lot of prominent female characters who he makes a really strong attempt to write out and stuff. Definitely some trigger warnings though, yeah.

VRAI: Yeah, though I actually had meant to catch up on this, ’cause it’s beautiful and I can see why it got popular in the extremely gory edgelord ‘90s, but it definitely has a little bit of the stink of a dude writer who thinks that the best way to write a strong female character is to heap a bunch of suffering on them and then that will make them strong. And it starts to feel a little fetish-y. 

PETER: I think… I don’t know if the main girl… I wouldn’t say she suffers too much. She does have this weird older brother thing going on with the main guy. I don’t know why I can’t remember a single character’s name. I’ve read this manga like three times. I’m just blanking on everything today.

DEE: We’re just all so tired today. It’s fine.

PETER: Yeah. Death Stranding came out. I haven’t gotten any sleep since. 

DEE: Yeah. Pokemon, right? [Chuckles]

PETER: Oh, yeah, yeah. That, too. 

VRAI: Bird doggo.

PETER: Yeah, but there’s always… He’s a guro artist, which I feel really gets into his works as well. Die Wergelder, especially. And I can’t say I’m a fan of his new series that’s getting an adaptation. Noise, or… Is that what it’s called? Sound? Listen to Me? Something like that.

DEE: [Laughs]

PETER: It’s about a woman who runs a radio station, and weird shit happens to her, and it’s very… It really focuses on her embarrassment, which I don’t like. 

VRAI: I was gonna make a Night Vale joke, but now I just feel icky.

PETER: Yeah, yeah. Her personal shit keeps making it onto the airways. Anyway, that’s another thing entirely.

DEE: I was gonna say, we’re getting a little off-track. And we are already at the halfway point.

PETER: I’d say most of his prominent women in the series get a lot of playtime and usually have their own goals. I wouldn’t say too many of them… I mean, there’s definitely ones that are suffering, but there’s a lot of characters who undergo a lot of suffering in that series. And usually women suffering is very… what do you call it? Appropriate for the time. 

The strongest fighter, her mother was a prostitute and she’s got a lot of stuff kind of mixed up with that, and whether she should become a prostitute instead of a fighter, because she doesn’t like hurting people. And those were kind of her two options. It was hard to escape prostitution back then—

DEE: [crosstalk] Yes, it was.

PETER: —but that was her only out. Her only out was becoming a professional killer, and she seems to have regretted her decision. If you get bothered by stuff like that, the series probably isn’t for you, but I do think that Samura tried to write real characters who are undergoing actual trials and tribulations of those time periods. Of course, with supernatural fighting. Yeah.

DEE: Yeah, that’s totally fair. It was one I thought I was gonna go back to, and I’m just not sure I have the emotional energy for something that is relentlessly grim, at the moment. And it definitely felt that way. 

But it looks like they’re doing a good job, so if you liked the original manga, it sounds like checking out this anime would be a great plan. 

Speaking of Grown-Up Anime for Grown-Up People, I am watching Babylon, and I honestly don’t think we have time for me to go into it in any great detail. I have no idea what it’s doing. It’s pretty wild. It’s bringing up a lot of arguments that are sort of thematically interesting, but I’m not sure how well it’s conveying them. 

It did… One thing I will point out, just going off of our three-episode check-in, was there was worry that… Basically every female character we met up to that point, it was revealed, was the same person.

PETER: Alright.

DEE: And she was super evil and was the one who was convincing a bunch of people to kill themselves. The central concept behind Babylon is basically this debate about whether or not people should be allowed to commit suicide. Which is an extremely hot-button topic right off the bat. 

And I think, intellectually speaking, the series is kind of interesting, the way it’s having this conversation, it can get bogged down in just lengthy “characters talking at each other.” But the direction has been pretty good, so it’s kept it from getting kind of stale. But the character who we kept seeing convincing people to off themselves was this evil lady, and she was the only [female] character, and so it was a big point of concern. 

They have, since then, brought in another female character, who appears to not be the same lady. So… And she is very professional, working with the police officers who are trying to track down the people who are trying to make these—push these suicides through and stuff. And I like her. She doesn’t have a ton of personality, because she’s very “I’m a distant professional who’s here to do my job,” kind of thing. But she’s had some pretty good scenes with the main guy. And, I mean, the whole cast is pretty cold, as far as being held at arm’s length. 

I have no idea where it’s going to go. I don’t know if I’m going to recommend it. It may completely collapse in the second half, but I am kinda fascinated by it, so I’m gonna keep watching it. And I’ll keep you guys posted.

VRAI: I’m real excited to catch up on that one. It certainly sounds like it’s going down the same path as Kado, but I’m so here for it. 

DEE: It’s a lot. It’s a lot to take in, so I am, again, kind of curious to see where it ends up going with this central conversation it’s having. 

PETER: Did it start late or something? I hadn’t even heard of this anime when you were first talking about it.

DEE: It’s on Anime Strike. They dropped the first three episodes all at once, and then for two weeks, we didn’t have any new episodes, so I think it kind of got lost in the stream, I guess.

PETER: Oh, like Vinland Saga

DEE: Yeah, and it’s running on—right, Strike doesn’t exist anymore. It’s running on Amazon Prime. 

PETER: Oh, okay.

DEE: But, yeah. I would say if what I just described to you sounds interesting at all, give it a try with the full understanding that I have no idea where it’s going to go, so proceed at your own risk, I guess. And definitely content warnings for the suicide discussion and depictions. It’s not… It’s restrained. It’s not like it’s showing bloodbaths, but it does depict them, so just be aware of that.

VRAI: Yeah, there is definitely a full-on shot of somebody hanging from a noose at the end of the first episode. So, yeah.

DEE: Yeah. So, yeah. Be aware of that. Okay, that’s enough of a show that I have no idea where it’s going, so let’s move on to something else. 

Real quick, Vrai… Well, Peter, you’re watching this one, too. You were pretty high on Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, but it looks like you maybe dropped it? So I’m kinda curious to see what happened there.

VRAI: There’s literally nothing wrong with it. I’m actually a little behind. I watched through episode five, and I think there’s up to seven now. It’s still perfectly calm and soothing and kind of sweet. It’s a show for kids. It runs on NHK. What happened, basically, is I fell behind on everything, and as I was starting to catch up Adventure Zone: Graduation came out, and is kind of scratching the same itch that Iruma-kun was.

DEE: [Laughs]

VRAI: Except with actual representation. And so that niche kinda got filled, and I kinda got less excited about catching up with Iruma-kun. That’s literally the whole story there. If folks are enjoying it, it continues to be the same thing that it was at the three-episode [mark].

DEE: Hilariously, I haven’t gotten into the new season of My Hero Academia for exactly this same reason: The Adventure Zone: Graduation. We’re plugging a podcast that has nothing to do with anime on this episode.

VRAI: [Laughs]

DEE: But, yeah. It started, and I was like, “Oh, this is like My Hero Academia, but without the bullshit. I’m in.”

VRAI: Yeah, basically. 

DEE: Yep. So, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Peter, are you enjoying Iruma-kun?

PETER: Yeah, I think it’s actually well-timed, because there aren’t many shows that are doing the kind of wacky, SOL stuff that Iruma-kun is doing right now. I don’t know if I have too much to say about it. It’s just fun. 

DEE: It’s nice. Yeah.

PETER: Yeah. Surprisingly popular. I didn’t think it would pop off this hard, but a lot of people are watching it.

VRAI: It’s nice. It’s family-friendly. It’s got a very cute aesthetic. It treats its female characters pretty well, although the one who is clearly meant to be the stand-in character for a younger audience, Clara, she’s a little much sometimes. But just in the fact that she’s the bruiser, exuberant character.

PETER: Mm-hm.

DEE: Well, that’s nice. Okay. Alright, folks. Check out Iruma-kun if you want a light, supernatural school show. And family-friendly. That’s always nice, ’cause I know we have folks who ask a lot about that too. 

Okay, real quick: Special 7. I got through episode six so I could give a midseason report. I dropped it. It didn’t do anything wrong. It just didn’t really do anything right. It was kind of… I just got bored. I was not latched on to the characters at all, and there’s other things I could be watching, backlog shows I could be catching up on, so I just went ahead and gave it the boot. 

So nothing I need to warn folks about. If you enjoy supernatural crime shows, you might like it more than I did. That’s all. The end.

Moving on to one that Vrai and I are both pretty high on, but I’m curious to see what you have to say here: Outburst Dreamer Boys

VRAI: It’s so delightful.

DEE: Isn’t it, though? Sleeper hit of the season.

VRAI: It’s very good. Yeah, for sure. It’s so… It’s very silly, and I’m fully expecting a Samurai Flamenco at some point. I’m gearing up for it. But I feel like it’s really good at both being very sweet to these characters, and also capturing the really loser-y parts of being a high-school nerd. It’s just nice.

DEE: Yeah, I think it does a really nice job of balancing the humor of these goofball kids who are overexaggerating everything, but without making them one-note mockeries. There’s some humanity and sweetness in all of their stories. 

The kid who loves the idols… I cannot believe I’m blanking on his name, but he’s really into an idol game, Sora-chan, and the episode where he goes to… they go to an amusement park, and he meets someone who is wearing a full-body kigurumi-style costume of the idol, and it ends up being this buff dude. 

And I was so worried the show was gonna go someplace gross with it, but then he’s just completely amazed at how well he knows Sora-chan’s moves, and is like, “You’re my mentor now. I want to grow up to be just like you.” And I was like, “This is so sweet.” 

VRAI: And so wholesome. Also, I’m fully onboard with the headcanon that that kid’s gonna transition after high school. That kid is really into the idol.

DEE: Oh yeah. Yeah, I mentioned that after the episode. I was like, “I’m not 100% sure he just likes Sora. I think he kinda wants to be Sora.”

VRAI: Like, as somebody who fully had that mood with Ken from Digimon as a child, oh, honey. Honey. Yeah. [Laughs]

DEE: I’m glad you see it, too. ‘Cause I saw that, and I was like, “I’m not sure if this is my lane, but that was a read I got on him.” Which I thought was sort of sweet. So… 

VRAI: Uh-huh. Yeah. Full-on.

DEE: Anyway, that’s 100% headcanon, folks at home.

VRAI: Oh, 100%. The show is doing nothing with that.

DEE: No. Other than just being sweet about these boys who really like this idol and know all her dance moves and stuff. Which is good in and of itself. Again, I think it does some nice things in terms of challenging traditional masculinity and things like that, which is nice. 

And, yeah, they’re just nice boys, and it’s fun to watch Mizuki kind of warm up to them and realize that she’s having a nice time in this club. It has Ouran High vibes, in a lot of ways, where it’s like this girl kind of gets dragged in, and at first, she’s really reluctant, but then she starts to realize that she genuinely enjoys spending time with these guys, and yeah. It’s just nice.

VRAI: Yeah, and there’s… It’s mostly a nice friendship series. There’s a little bit of shippy vibes with the genki boy—the sentai nerd—and Mizuki. But mostly it’s just nice friendship stories. And it’s really good at mixing up its cast and balancing those in different ways. So, not all of the characters are on all the adventures. 

DEE: Yeah, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on all of them, ’cause we’ve had a little bit of time to spend with each of them. So, I’m curious to see how the second half goes. 

They sort of… They introduced… ‘Cause obviously the StuCo are the villains. The StuCo are always the villains. They’ve introduced some villains that are sort of threatening the club. And there have been a few hints that there might, maybe, actually be something supernatural going on. 

I’m curious to see if they do anything with that, and how the second half of the series builds on the friendships and relationships that formed in the first half. So, it’s been delightful, and I wholeheartedly endorse it at this point.

VRAI: Definitely. 

DEE: Okay, none of us are watching After School Dice Club, although we do have folks in the AniFem Discord who say it is the very nice week-to-week show, and I know some people were hoping we would talk about it in the mid-season, but, sorry, none of us are watching it. But, yeah. I’ve heard pretty nice things about it, so might be one to check out if you are into soothing, cute-girl-type shows. 

Okay, I guess the next one… Peter, you’re up to speed on ASSASSINS PRIDE, which we had in our “It’s Complicated” category? 

PETER: [Slowly] Yeah.

DEE: How’s it going? You and Chiaki were pretty excited about this one three, four episodes in. But your voice now makes me concerned.

PETER: I dunno about “excited.” It’s a very weird show. It hasn’t… It’s got this weird relationship between the protagonist and her vampire butler/trainer thing.

DEE: [Laughs]

PETER: It’s obvious that she has a crush on him, but… And he’s very dedicated to her, but very… in an appropriate way. 

DEE: In an appropriate way, you said?

PETER: In an appropriate way. He has not done anything creepy so far, yet. But the way that the anime frames it is not always fantastic. I was going to say the show had been 100% clean, except, in episode six, they had this weird thing where the girls were all at an after-school party, and they get attacked by a witch or something, and try to escape to the sewer, where all of them get all this pink goo all over them.

VRAI: Of course.

DEE: I assume it is framed very… lasciviously, I guess is the word?

PETER: Yeah. It’s a weird scene, ’cause they’re all afraid that this witch is gonna kill them or something, but then one of them gets the goo in her cleavage, and everybody starts making jokes about digging it out for her. 

And then it turns out that it was… God, what was his name? Kula? It was Kufa and Rosetti, their teachers, who I guess didn’t like that the girls were having a nice, after-school celebration, because technically, it was breaking school rules, so they took advantage of this one… I don’t know, superstition, about a witch to scare them all. 

I don’t know. It was kind of like the girls were afraid, but also, they were doing a lot of very cheesecake-y comedy stuff at the same time. Wasn’t sure what it was going for. Seemed pretty mean-spirited from the teachers, and for some reason, the anime decided to use that opportunity to also sexualize the four girls who are 12 years old.

DEE: Oh, God. I didn’t know they were that young.

PETER: Oh they’re super young. 

DEE: Oof. Oof. Okay. Yeah, that’s real bad.

PETER: Yeah. So, Kufa still isn’t creepy, but that was kind of a dick move. It seems like the anime’s trying to avoid them doing any sort of romantic stuff, but… 

DEE: But then if the camera’s leering at the characters that hard, it… 

PETER: It’s one of the episodes where you’re like, “It’s trying to have its cake and eat it too.” Right? Yeah.

DEE: Yeah, yeah. “Well, they’re not actually doing anything, but we definitely want to frame this character in such a way that the audience wants to do something.”

PETER: Yeah. Also I know that Chiaki was really big on the nonverbal character, who used… She would burn pieces of paper and then writing would appear in the air. Turns out she could talk the whole time and she was just doing that for fun, or something. So, that wasn’t really… She wasn’t mute or anything, actually, it was just a thing she was doing for literally no reason whatsoever, ’cause she didn’t have enough time to do that and just said, “Oh, fuck it.”

DEE: Yeah, sure.

PETER: Yeah. So, yeah. 

DEE: So, Assassins Pride is a bit of a mess. Are you having fun with it? Is it an entertaining mess, or… ?

PETER: Yeah, I’m definitely curious about where it’s going, because it seems like there’s this greater thing about this apocalypse surrounding their city. It’s like eternal twilight and stuff, and these girls are being trained up as warriors to fight… something? 

And there’s all these… Technically, she should be assassinated, because she’s not the legitimate child of the guy whose daughter she is. So there’s a bunch of politics stuff going on right now, but it’s really just focusing on the girls at school at the moment. So I’m wondering if things are gonna blow open and get apeshit in the second half, or what’s gonna happen. So, lots to… There’s a lot there.

DEE: Well, keep us posted. You had me at “vampire butler,” and you lost me at “creepy pink goo.” So… 

PETER: Yeah, that was weird.

DEE: I guess keep us posted on how this one turns out, and if the pros outweigh the cons there. 

Okay, top two. I know Vrai… Peter, I’m surprised you’re not watching this one. You probably should. Stars Align is the next one. Vrai and I are both up to speed on this one.

VRAI: Did you mean the show of the season?

DEE: I mean… Outburst Dreamer Boys is probably still my pick, but I understand where you’re coming from. Would you like to talk about it?

VRAI: I love it so much. No, it’s a really beautiful little slice-of-life show that I think isn’t going to hit everybody. It’s not… It’s one of those shows that you have to sort of be in the mindset for what you’re looking for. 

I think I would compare it to something like A Place Further than the Universe or Bloom Into You, where it’s got that really quiet sort of writing that really just nails the little bits of awkwardness and the struggles of the age group they’re writing—in this case, middle-school boys, for the most part. 

It has a really good eye for detail. I love the pastel colors. 

I do not care about sports or sports anime at all, but it has a real skill for using its sports premise as a character-building exercise. It gets into a lot of issues about family dynamics and familial abuse, parental abuse, in ways that feel not sugar-coated or afraid of their own subject matter, but also don’t feel exploitative. I feel like it’s been really restrained, although, obviously, huge content warnings if you’re gonna go into this, because it can get real raw.

It’s been very sweet to the team’s manager, who is queer, and has a crush on one of the protagonists. That hasn’t really gone anywhere, but I don’t really need it to. It’s sweet how all the other characters have kind of embraced him as part of the team and look out for him from bullies, and that makes me feel warm and happy inside. 

And it’s just… I dunno. It’s really, really good. If I had any knocks against it, it’s that it has… Well, first of all, there was the controversy where they stole an idol’s dance and put it in their ending theme. That’s not a great thing that they did.

DEE: Yeah, they stole a few dances. Didn’t even contact people to tell them this was happening. 

VRAI: Yeah.

DEE: So that was a bad thing they did. Yeah. Which sucks, ’cause that ending theme was really cool. The different… The way they animated everybody dancing tells you a lot about their characters. It’s very dynamic. And then it turns out they stole it from a bunch of semi-pro or amateur dancers and idols who had posted these videos online.

PETER: Prior creators, yeah. 

DEE: So, that sucks.

PETER: There was quite the narrative with that ending, yeah. 

DEE: Yeah.

VRAI: Yeah, it sucks, ’cause I love that ending, and it was such a good little character snapshot. 

I was really pleased with the most recent episode, that they finally have done something—in a sports anime where you have one fat character, it’s such a danger to make them either the butt of a joke, or, in this case, she was kind of a flat villain, but they finally started to go into her character, and she’s got a great, cute design, and I really wanna know more about her. 

So, it’s just a show that feels special. It’s one of those that I feel like we’ve gotten a handful of. Really special-feeling shows this year.

DEE: Yeah. I agree with all of that.  My one thing with it, which… There’s really just been one episode—and it was a couple back, at this point, which, by the time this airs, we’ll be like three back—it was the one before the scrimmage, where I started to get the feeling that, a little bit like Sarazanmai, it had maybe bitten off more than it could chew in its 12-episode run, where it started to throw in some additional backstory information for some of the side characters in a way that was sort of disjointed. The scenes didn’t flow very smoothly from one to the next. 

Like you said, Vrai, I really liked the scene with the StuCo prez. I thought that was good to get that, but it got dropped in between two scenes about the tennis club, and there was no real transition there, so it was a bit jarring. 

And then the co-captain of the tennis team… I have a terrible time remembering anybody’s name from Stars Align. The co-captain all of a sudden starts monologuing about his backstory with his parents and finding out he was adopted, and it did not have the naturalistic quality that the show had had up to that point, where I thought all the conversations were really well-done. 

So, I think it’s a little… It’s very ambitious in ways that are usually very good, but I think it… I think there are times where it has, maybe, a few-too-many… It wants to… Every character in the show is a real person, and it wants to give you lots of that background information, and I think that the way it does that sometimes is a bit clumsy. 

That having been said, it has also made me tear up a few times, and when it hits its mainline story beats, it hits them incredibly well. The scene where the two protags stand up against the one kid’s abusive father was so good and tense and just a very nice emotional moment for those kids.

VRAI: [Emotionally] They’re friends! They love each other!

DEE: Oh, I know! 

So, it’s very, very good. That episode was the first time when I went, “Uh-oh, you maybe are trying to do a little too much.” And so that is my biggest concern in the second half of the show, is if they’ve either set up too many points that they’re not gonna be able to touch on, or if they’re gonna keep trying to expand this supporting cast in a way that draws away from the central story, which is very, very good and strong on its own. 

So I’m a little concerned with how it’s gonna bring everything together at the end, but… ‘Cause to my knowledge, it’s only one cour. But it’s obviously a series with a lot of thought and care put into it, and overall, I think it’s executing itself exceedingly well. 

VRAI: Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems the show has is with transitions—and I was thinking of it visually, in that sometimes scenes will just fade to black and that will be the end, because they ran out of things to say with that scene. But I think you’re also right in that it applies to stitching certain good ideas together in a way that flows. 

‘Cause it so clearly wants to normalize non-normative family units, and that’s why it keeps bringing those things up, and I think that’s admirable, but you’re right. It totally gets clunky in certain places. And I made a joke on Twitter that I can’t wait for them to all have the exciting team bonding exercise of hiding a body.

DEE: [Laughs]

VRAI: And I was joking, but I do wonder if it’ll be like O Maidens and sort of reach a point where it’s like, “Ah, shit we have all this really complex emotional trauma, and that’s the kind of stuff that just takes years to work out. We’re just gonna contrive a big event, so that the show can end.” And then if they kill Maki’s dad, I’m okay with that.

DEE: [Laughs] That would be a hell of a conclusion. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past Akane to do that, but, I mean, we’ll see where it goes. So, yeah. It’s overall really, really good. I have a few concerns going into the second half, but at this point, I would… It’s another one I would recommend with, again, like you said, some definite content warnings for abuse, because while it’s not sensationalized, it is not… It is shown. They also show it. So, yeah. Be aware of that going in, for sure.

VRAI: Physical and emotional abuse, too, because… Not Maki. Glasses kid. I remembered one name, and that’s all I’ve got. His mother is definitely emotionally abusive, and that can be… Those scenes are rough, too, in a different way.

DEE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s also very true. 

So, okay. That brings us to the top of our list. And I… Gosh, is this the only show all three of us are watching? This is a weird season. Ascendance of the Bookworm. I talked about this in the premiere review. I’ve read the first three light novels. I don’t wanna… I’m worried about… My context is different, so I’m a little hesitant to talk about it. So, y’all. Go. How you likin’ this one?

VRAI: It gives me… It reminds me that isekai can be good sometimes. 

DEE: Mm-hm.

VRAI: So, that… I’ve been… Yeah, I did the three-ep writeup for this, and my feelings are still basically the same. I really like that this is an isekai that remembers that a lot of what makes the genre interesting is the ways in which the protagonist has to struggle to adjust to this new world and doesn’t have everything handed to them. 

I like that it places such detail and, you know, importance on feminine-coded work and products and what a mover and shaker of the world those things can be when, so often, these kind of fantasy isekai are focused on masculine-coded stuff like crop labor or fighting or travel, like Lutz wants to do here. So, it’s a really nice change of pace on that front. 

And I like that… I think it can still be a little bit… I think it can still slip into some gender norms in places, but I feel like it’s really trying in how it wants to support Main and what she wants to do and give a sense of freedom of what she wants to do, and there are options even if these certain trends seem to happen. 

I still feel a little bit weird about what this show wants to… Main’s emotional maturity still feels flexible in a way that frustrates me sometimes. I think that she and Lutz are very cute. I like that they support each other. I like that the scenes they have together, Main feels very much like just a really smart kid who’s got a kid’s emotional maturity. And they have a great dynamic that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. 

And then she’ll have a scene with Otto or his brother-in-law and all of a sudden have… the writing will need her maturity to work in a different way, and it will, all of a sudden, leap-shot over to what it kind of needs to do for that scene. And sometimes that will frustrate me, not necessarily because I want it to be realistic, but because it makes it hard to put together an emotional arc of how her character is working and how she’s adjusting in that way. But that’s really kind of a nitpick-y thing. I don’t think it overly affects making things too easy for her for the plot. 

The show has had a really strong narrative throughline of what it wants to do with her goals, and she’s progressing through them in a sensible way that she has to fight for. And the visuals… It’s not a really extravagant show, but I think it looks really nice, and it knows how to use color in an appealing way. .And her internal monologue is really cute. So, yeah. I’m enjoying this a lot.

DEE: I’m glad to hear that. How about you, Peter? 

PETER: I’m really enjoying it. I like how it kind of is if Dr. Stone meets Spice and Wolf, where it’s really into these renaissance-era creations, but also the economics behind them as well, rather than just the technology itself, and at a more realistic pace rather than Dr. Stone inventing a radio in like half a year, or something, from caveman technology. 

I like Main a lot. Pretty much what Vrai said in regards to her relationship with Lutz. I think it’s really good. I like how all the characters, especially, seem to… A big thing with isekai is that the main character almost always is solving all the problems almost effortlessly, and Main gets one pulled over on her a lot. 

Not sure how I feel about this whole magic thing, or even the existence of magic in this story. I feel like it’s going to serve some sort of narrative purpose later on, with this whole memory-reading thing they established at the beginning of the story, but I’m just not quite sure where they’re trying to go with that. Outside of that, the show’s been pretty much the one I look forward to most every week, so… 

DEE: I’m so glad to hear that. I… Yeah, so I talked about this in my premiere review as well. The Ascendance of a Bookworm light novels are some of the very few light novels I not only read and enjoy, but feel like I could actually recommend to people with very, very few caveats. So I was hoping the adaptation would do a good job of conveying those charms to folks, and I think so far it has done a nice job. 

Obviously, you get more of Main’s internal monologue in the light novels, which is really nice, but I think they’ve… Based on what you guys have said too, especially, I think they’ve done a really nice job of building up everybody’s characters, and showing the importance of the relationships between each other. 

And Main and Lutz are so freaking’ cute together. The anime has done… There’s been some nice little visual touches, like… I mentioned this on Twitter the other day: that scene when they meet Benno, the merchant, for the first time, and Lutz is clearly very nervous, and every time he gets nervous and kind of struggles to answer, Main just quietly reaches out and gives his hand a little squeeze.

PETER: Yeah, that was cute. 

DEE: And I don’t remember that being something that is mentioned in the novels themselves, so I think that was an anime-original little moment. I could be wrong there. I may have just not caught it. 

But I think they’re doing some really nice things with the visuals to convey the character relationships really well, and the way they both support each other and want to help each other with their separate dreams and then kind of converge together… I think it’s really well-done, the way… Really, all the character relationships, I think, are really sweet. 

I like the one scene we get… with Otto and his wife is so great. 

PETER: I was gonna mention that. When she gets her hair shampooed?

DEE: Yeah, she comes out with her hair shampooed and is like, “How do I look, honey?” And he’s like, “Main, you need to leave right now.”

PETER: “About time you went home, I think, Main. I got some stuff to do.” [Laughs]

DEE: “The grown-ups need to have some grown-up time, because my wife is so hot.”

PETER: That was great. I laughed out loud when that happened.

DEE: Yeah. And I think you run into this with a lot of… I mean, we’ve talked about this at length in other reviews and conversations about shounen and shoujo and stories across the demographic lines, about how sometimes character relationships can be written kind of lopsided, or kind of skeevy, and I really like the way Bookworm… 

Both the friendships and the romances—’cause Lutz clearly kind of has a crush on Main, but also, they’re six. And I don’t think the show is playing it as a romance right now. It’s just this really, very sweet, supportive friendship. But then you also have these married couples, like Main’s parents, or Otto and his wife, who’s name I’m blanking on right now, who also have these really nice, supportive relationships where they both clearly care a lot about each other, and both have their own things. They both have their own jobs they do to help support the family. 

And I agree with you, Vrai, there’s definitely some bits of gender essentialism in it, but I think a lot of that is honestly just internalized, subconscious-type stuff from the writer. But I think there’s a conscious effort to show an equality between the different pairs of the relationships onscreen, which I really appreciate.

VRAI: Yeah. And I was surprised how much I miss Tuuli already. I miss her. I want her to come back.

DEE: Mm-hm. Tuuli is sweet. There’s more characters coming. They’re all very nice. I mentioned this in one of the other group chats, I think. One thing I’m noticing this time through… I’m paying a little bit closer attention to the way the series is dealing with the capitalist hellscape that they live in. 

And I do sort of like… ‘Cause some folks were talking in the AniFem Discord about how Benno and Otto and everybody are really concerned about Main’s health and everyone keeps reminding her to take care of herself, but at the same time, they’re making these complicated business contract with six-to-seven-year-olds, and there’s this sense of them kind of exploiting… “Are they exploiting these kids? What is the situation here?” 

And it kind of made me realize how the series, whether intentionally or no, does a pretty interesting job of mining a lot of conflict from… Pretty much every character is basically a nice, sweet person who has just been fundamentally corrupted by this aristocratic, money-makes-the-world-go-around, very stratified society that they live in. And I think looking at that as the series progresses will be kind of an interesting element for me. And might spur an article at one point. Who knows? 

VRAI: Yeah, there’s definitely something interesting going on with the fact that Benno is like, “Oh, yeah sometimes poor people get mana and it just kills them, and we know about that. That’s just… What are you gonna do? Help them with it?”

DEE: Yeah, I don’t wanna get too deep into the magic stuff, ’cause, Peter, I know you mentioned it as a point—you weren’t super certain about where they’re going with it, and truthfully, three volumes into the light novels, I’m not 100% sure either. 

But I will say I do think it feeds into this ongoing social conflict that we see woven into the series where, like Main says, not only did the nobles get all the books, the nobles get all the magic. And if you have magic, but you don’t have the money to find the proper outlets for it functionally, you just overheat and die. 

So, I think that this world has been built in a fairly intelligent way in terms of showing how deeply hierarchical this society is. And I desperately hope that the series does something substantial with that as it goes forward, ’cause I think that’s a pretty fascinating element of the story, in addition to just being a cute, fun story about a girl who wants to make books.

VRAI: Is it just one cour? I’m gonna be sad. 

DEE: I would guess it’s just one cour, but I honestly don’t know. I’m real curious to see where they end it, ’cause I had an idea of where I thought they would end it, but the pace that they’re going at right now, I’m not sure they’re gonna get there. So, yeah. I’ll be curious to see where they wrap it up. And hopefully it does well, and maybe we get some more later down the line.

PETER: Yeah, nothing’s been announced that I’m aware of. 

DEE: Okay.

VRAI: Yeah, and, again, when the rest of the isekai landscape right now is, at best, like the later episodes of Average, where it’s fine and very pop-culture-heavy, and the worst is Cautious Hero, where it’s kinda shitty and very pop-culture-heavy, boy, Bookworm is so nice and creative and actually invested in making its world feel lived-in and real.

DEE: It’s an extremely sincere story. I feel like the author put a lot of passion into it. The descriptions in the book—the author spends a lot of time in the book lovingly describing basketweaving or crocheting or the different methods that Main uses to make paper, and you can just tell the author is passionate about these different craft projects, and wanted to bring that into the writing as well as the character arcs and the relationships, which are also very well-written. So, it’s nice.

PETER: Yeah. It really reminds you of how good shoujo isekai used to be, when it still existed.

DEE: Yeah. It doesn’t have the same adventure vibe as the ‘90s shoujo isekai do, but it does kind of take you back to that sense of… Like you said, Vrai, that sense of, “You’re thrown into a brand-new culture and you have to spend some time struggling to figure out your place in this world and what you’re gonna do.” 

And I do like that Main is immediately an active protagonist, because that was one of the flaws of some of the shoujo isekai, is they spent most of the series being reactive before they finally—and, again, that’s part of the arc, is they develop their own agency and start to take charge—but it’s nice that Main gets into this world, and pretty much immediately goes, “They don’t have what I need. I guess I’m gonna have to make it myself.”

PETER: “I will shape the world in my image.” 

DEE: [Laughs] She just wants to read books, you guys. Okay?

VRAI: I support her. I support her.

PETER: It’s a humble image. Yeah.

DEE: I support her too.

Okay, so we are at the top of the hour. We’re technically a little over, but I’m sure by the time we trim some stuff down, we’ll be fine. Okay, so, we’re at the top of the hour, so we really don’t have time to go into sequels. All I will say is Chihayafuru is very good and Radiant is also very good. Anything you want to throw out there, Peter? Vrai, I don’t think you’re watching any sequels at the moment.

VRAI: I’m so behind on Dr. Stone.

PETER: Yeah. No, it’s good though. Dr. Stone just finished my favorite arc of the whole story, but the stuff afterwards is good, too, so you should keep watching that too. And Black Clover is in the midst of my favorite arc. It feels like early Grandline One Piece. Yeah, it’s very good. Noelle had her big moment, her magical girl transformation. 

DEE: Excellent.

PETER: Yeah. She kicked some ass. Told off her abusive family. Very good. 

DEE: Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Cool. Yeah, that was one I tried to get back into and couldn’t quite manage, but I’m glad you’re enjoying it and I hope that other folks are as well. 

I think that’s gonna do it for us, unless there’s anything else you guys wanted to shout about before we finished up here.

VRAI: I really like Pokemon Sword.

DEE: [Laughs] Not… Oh, that’s the other sequel I should have talked about. [Talking faster] So, I’m watching Pokemon Sun and Moon, and I’m all caught up on the English release, and… No, I’m just kidding.

VRAI: [Laughs]

DEE: It’s good. Sun and Moon is good. That’s all.

PETER: Death Stranding Parade: The Anime

DEE: I’ve heard some things, but maybe that’s a podcast.

PETER: Oh, yeah. Me too. I’m not reading any of that accessory material and I don’t plan to now. 

DEE: So that makes it okay. Anyway, this is neither here nor there.

Okay, I guess if that’s it, then we will go into our outro segment.

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