Dee, Vrai, and Peter look back on the fall 2019 season!
Date Recorded: Wednesday 1st January 2020
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Peter
0:02:04 ORESUKI Are you the only one who loves me?
0:03:55 Kemono Michi: Rise Up!
0:05:13 High School Prodigies Have it Easy Even in Another World
0:06:12 Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life
0:06:31 No Guns Life
0:08:39 Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia
0:10:45 Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
0:12:15 Blade of the Immortal
0:23:52 Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun
0:24:21 Outburst Dreamer Boys
0:31:42 ASSASSINS PRIDE
0:34:20 Stars Align
0:46:11 Ascendance of a Bookworm
0:59:46 Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld
1:02:42 Dr. STONE
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, the managing editor at AniFem, and you can find all my writings on my blog The Josei Next Door and hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers Vrai and Peter.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. I’m also a freelancer. You can find me and the stuff I do on Twitter @WriterVrai, or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a producer at Crunchyroll and I guess mostly just an editor now at Anime Feminist.
DEE: And a podcast editor. And if you ever get the bug to write for us again, you know you’re welcome to do so.
PETER: I keep saying I’m gonna, but…
DEE: Yeah, I get it. We’re all busy. It happens.
PETER: [crosstalk] Then I don’t do that.
DEE: We’re all busy. It happens.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Really busy.
DEE: Yeah. But today, folks, we’re not talking about editing. We are talking about the Fall 2019 season retrospective. For those who have never heard one of our season retrospectives or our check-in before, we are going to be going through the shows that aired this season, focusing, obviously, on the ones we actually watched to completion.
We will be using our premiere review digest list as our organizational model, so we’ll start from the bottom of that and work our way up. You’re welcome to track that down on our site if you want to follow along that way.
So, the bottom of the list are shows that had some red flags, some more serious concerns for your feminist-minded audience. And I can say I’m not watching any of them. But Peter, I know you’re keeping up with a few. Was there anything in that bottom batch that you wanted to talk about that maybe has done something exciting, surprising since the midseason check-in? Or has it all kind of stayed the course?
PETER: I’ve been looking at Oresuki trying to remember if I talked about the midpoint plot event between the main character and Pansy. I’m not sure if I mentioned that.
DEE: It doesn’t sound familiar, but that was like eight years ago, so I don’t know. [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, a little bit. I’ve been hearing some talk about character development or something, but it seems like that plot point revolves around… she tells him to read a book, and he intends to read the book, because maybe he’s actually a nice guy; book gets ruined; he feels bad, and then he tells her he’s going to work a part-time job to buy her a new book. Apparently, it’s an expensive book.
And she says, “I don’t want that. I’d rather just spend time with you, instead of you going to this part-time job. I don’t really care about the book.” And he basically says, “No, this is the best way to make it up to you.” And she says, “I don’t want that”—very specifically says, “I don’t want that.” And he goes, “Well, this is the best thing I could do for you,” which I thought was like the worst thing he could do.
It was kind of framed incorrectly, so I thought it might handle the plot point well, but it turned out the lesson he needed to learn was that he was wanting to buy her a new book to save his pride, not because he wanted to really get her a new book. So, in the end, he actually did truly want to get her a new book and made it up to her in the way that she didn’t want him to by doing this thing.
DEE: In the way she expressly said she didn’t want him to.
PETER: Yeah. And that was his character development, continuing to do the thing that she asked him not to, but for the right reasons.
DEE: [deadpan] Great job, Oresuki.
PETER: Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve been hearing good things about the show, but I have just not been seeing them, so it’s been very confusing for me.
PETER: I guess some people interpret this as character development. I don’t.
Kemono Michi pretty much stayed the course. We talked about how the vampiress has got a huge problem, right? I don’t know if it was introduced right away, but she is very attracted to the little girl that she works for.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh boy.
PETER: Yeah, so I figure that should probably be mentioned.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Goddammit, another goddamn lesbian pedophile!
PETER: Yep. Yep. Always offering to help her change clothes and stuff. It’s very bad.
DEE: Ugh, wow.
PETER: They kind of slow-burn that one in, so I wasn’t sure if that made it to the midseason.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That was not. That was not. And that sucks because she was also a really great strong muscle lady. Oh, I hate it.
PETER: Yeah. Also, they do a bunch of character development toward her finally getting a rematch against the other vampire, and it’s a letdown in the end. So, that didn’t end well. Just nothing good comes of that character, it turns out.
Oh, also, the princess who he did the suplex to in the beginning of the show keeps bugging him, and every time it ends up with her getting suplexed. And then they ask her to do a wrestling match in their big exhibition match to close out the series. And she gets an exhibitionist fetish over the course of the match, and that’s her character arc.
VRAI: [Sighs] You know what? Actually, this does sound like the kind of thing that Vince McMahon would write. So, fucking… You know.
PETER: [Chuckles] “Mayonnaise”: They invent nuclear weapons and use them in the fantasy world, and that’s the end of the series. It’s a very hopeful note.
DEE: [crosstalk] Wow. “Mayonnaise” is such a train wreck. Yeah, folks at home, that’s what we’ve been calling High School Prodigies Have It Easy in Another World. I think I got the title right there. I don’t know. They’re long. Yeah, we’ve been calling it “Mayonnaise,” which sounds like it was not a bad description for it all the way through.
Yeah, I heard that one was a pretty epic train wreck, and not even necessarily in a fun way, with some pretty significant content warnings, too, yeah?
PETER: Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. I think that one got worse over the course of the season, too. Lots of scenes of them in baths or getting massages in very specific parts of their body, lovingly animated each time.
DEE: [crosstalk] Of course.
PETER: Lots of attention to details and stuff. They always bring across the little magician boy, too, to all the girl events. He doesn’t seem like he wants to do it, but they drag him along anyway, which is also uncomfortable. So, yeah.
DEE: Not good.
PETER: Average Abilities stayed the course. It had those problems in the first three episodes, but after that, it’s just kind of a tongue-in-cheek comedy. They keep going into grim areas but then kind of making jokes about it in a way that I didn’t find… It was weird, but not offensive.
DEE: Okay. [Chuckles]
PETER: No Guns Life… Eh. No Guns Life got more and more boring as the show went on until…
DEE: Yes. I can actually talk about this one a little bit. Did you finish the cour or…?
PETER: I have watched everything but the last episode, which I’m sure is like a non-fight between him and the other gun-head kid.
DEE: Yeah, I think this one’s carrying over into the winter season or it’s split cour or something.
PETER: [crosstalk] Ugh!
DEE: I think it’s a larger one as well. Oh, you… That was such a happy noise you made!
Yeah, so I checked in in the midseason and said I’d really liked the first arc, basically, and then I really wasn’t digging what it did after that. And then it soured me because of its very stereotypically nasty portrayal of the trans landlady.
PETER: Oh, yeah, that was awful.
DEE: Yeah. It was like five minutes, which was the one reason I was able to kind of push through it, but it wasn’t good.
PETER: Oh, it keeps coming back.
DEE: Oh, hooray. I was worried about that, yeah. And then I went on vacation, and I got behind on things, and I tried to get back into No Guns Life, and I got like one episode in and went “I am just completely bored.”
So, the fact that you said it continues to just not be interesting is a bummer because I genuinely enjoyed that first arc. It was campy and pulpy, but also kind of sincere in ways that I thought were really worthwhile and fun. So, it sucks that it lost track of that as it continued.
VRAI: Dee, may I suggest the recently remastered Gunsmith Cats OVA? It’s all those things and more.
DEE: Well, there you go. Watch that instead, I guess.
PETER: [crosstalk] It’s very good. Yeah. Also, they introduce that very strong woman Commissioner of Police, whose plan basically just becomes “I hope Gun-Head Man saves me.”
PETER: That’s her plan. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah, I wasn’t planning on coming back, and you are not selling me on it, so…
PETER: Yeah. I’m also not sure if she’s dead.
DEE: [Chuckles nervously]
PETER: It’s very weird. They have a scene where she’s in a car that explodes, and I don’t think they ever cover whether or not she survived.
DEE: Oh, if they didn’t show a body, she’s alive.
PETER: Yeah, they didn’t show a body, so I was assuming she would show up in a hospital bed later or something, but it [was] just like they just forgot she existed instead. Maybe in the last episode, she came back.
DEE: They’ll touch back on it or something, yeah.
PETER: Yeah, and we’ll all care.
PETER: Fate. I don’t know what I could really say about Fate. It’s just the same…
DEE: … kind of thing that you touched on at the midseason?
PETER: Yes, skimpy outfits, slow battles without consequences or meaning. It’s Fate.
DEE: Yeah, that’s a bummer. I was hoping it would be a Gilgamesh-heavy type—and, oh, what’s his buddy’s name? From the legend?
PETER: [crosstalk] Enkidu.
DEE: Enkidu, yeah. I was hoping it would really focus on the two of them and be a really clever and interesting portrayal of the Gilgamesh character, who is a magnificent bastard in the other Fate series and I enjoy him quite a lot. But I guess it doesn’t sound like it necessarily focuses on them as much as I was hoping it would.
PETER: Gilgamesh in this one… it’s like he’s the same character, but they’re doing the thing they’re doing in Oresuki where they insist that he’s actually a good person. Yeah, despite the fact that he is obviously an asshole. I mean, he’s just an asshole, though, I guess, rather than like sacrificing his own people, at least [at] the point I’m in.
And the whole Enkidu thing is… I don’t know. Where I am, because there’s a difference in the episode count depending on what service you’re using…
DEE: Oh, weird, okay.
PETER: It had a short fight where… The whole drama with Enkidu is just kind of lost in Fate shenanigans. To describe what’s going on with Enkidu takes so long that all the drama and character feeling just bleeds right out of the subplot because you have to go through so many details.
DEE: Your eyes just glaze over. Yeah, that’s what happened in the back half of Fate/stay night for me. Unlimited Blade Works, I mean.
PETER: Oh yeah, with the whole “Yeah, there might be some drama with him fighting his future self, but it takes so long to explain how that happened that you’re just like ‘Oh, I don’t care anymore.’”
DEE: [through laughter] That was a hell of a spoiler you just casually dropped in the middle of this podcast, Peter!
PETER: Nothing makes sense or lasts in Fate, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
DEE: That’s also probably true. It probably got retconned at some point.
PETER: Yeah, and also it happens to every character as well, apparently. Any character that’s a fan-favorite becomes a Servant at some point so they can keep using their character design.
DEE: Excellent. So good.
Hey, how about Cautious Hero? Did it start being funny again? Or nah?
PETER: It had a very disappointing ending, too, for me personally.
PETER: You know how there’s those two kids that follow them around, and the girl can cast fast and slow spells and the guy can turn into a dragon?
DEE: I didn’t quite get that far, but sure. That seems cool.
PETER: They spend the whole anime developing these abilities, but he continues to refer to them as basically his caddies who carry around his stuff, and they never get to do anything the whole time. And then in the last fight, he’s in an area where if he dies, he… You know the whole thing where if he dies, he just goes back to his normal world?
PETER: Okay, that will not happen. He’ll die forever. And there’s something that’s killing him faster than the healing lady can heal him. So, in my head, I was thinking, this is the moment… They’ve been built up as only having like one ability each: all she does is she needs to cast Slow on him so he dies slower, Fast on the girl so she heals faster, the guy turns into a dragon, and carries them all out of the room so he can reincarnate.
Instead, they just watched and did nothing.
VRAI: Womp womp.
PETER: So, they have no character arc. They continue to just be characters that do absolutely nothing.
DEE: Ugh. Why… Ugh.
PETER: The ending had kind of a weird-ass twist, but it was… Yeah, I don’t know what to say. It stayed the course.
DEE: That’s a bummer. We talked about that at midseason, too. I loved those first couple episodes, and it just very quickly got old, which is too bad.
Is Blade of the Immortal still good? I know the last time you said it’s kind of content-warning-heavy as far as violence and stuff, but that it was a really good adaptation of the material.
PETER: Uh… Did I say “really good”? [Chuckles]
DEE: You said it was a good adaptation of the material.
PETER: It’s good. Yeah, it’s good. I don’t know about “really good.” With those types of shows like that and Berserk, I would say it deserves the quality that Made in Abyss got, something like that. So, if it’s not that, I always feel like they could have done a better job, especially with these really cinematic fight-heavy series.
But I think it’s definitely much better than the Bee Train one, and it’s pretty good. It’s better than… Actually, I’m not going to qualify it next to any other anime. It’s good. That would take too long.
PETER: But yeah, I don’t know. I find it really hard to talk about Blade of the Immortal because it is extremely… Yeah, lots of content warnings.
VRAI: [crosstalk] ‘90s grimdark?
PETER: It’s got lots of gore and stuff. I don’t really know how to talk about the series. It’s just one that I really personally love. I’d really be interested to hear some other takes on it, actually. But I can say, as far as adaptations go, the quality has been consistent. It’s got a really good soundtrack. Visuals… I mean, there’s always more opportunity they could have taken with fights and certain animations, but I feel like they’ve done a really good job.
DEE: That’s good. So, especially if you like the source material, check this one out. And that’s one that I watched the first episode and went, “This seems like quality, but I do not have the energy for a grimdark action series at this exact moment in my life.” So, that might be one I eventually check out when I’m in a place where I’m not just actively seeking out feel-good, fun stuff, because it seems like it could be kind of a tough watch along the way.
PETER: I don’t know about that. It’s surprisingly tongue-in-cheek considering the content in the show. The two main characters, Manji and… oh, I don’t remember her name… they kind of give each other shit constantly in a very sibling-like kind of way.
A lot of characters act very strangely, and it’s usually pointed out that they’re weirdos. I mean, there is a lot of violence and really heavy feelings, but I do feel like you’d be surprised how funny it is.
DEE: It finds ways to balance that with some levity. That’s huge for shows like that.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, definitely.
DEE: So, okay, that makes me more likely to give it a try. We’ll see how the winter season goes and if I have time to get to that one.
PETER: Give it a shot.
DEE: Cool. Good to know. Let’s see. Oh, next!
DEE: Next is mine. Dear God, what do I even say about this? Okay, so the next one is Babylon. It’s on Amazon Strike, so like nobody’s watching it, so I guess I don’t really have to go into great detail about it. —Not Strike. Strike doesn’t exist anymore. It’s just on Amazon Prime.
PETER: Prime Video, yeah.
DEE: Yeah, with Blade of the Immortal.
VRAI: [crosstalk] In the links a couple weeks back, we included the article that Micchy and, I think, Nick did about the first eight episodes that is pretty choice in laying out all the fuckery.
DEE: Yeah, they covered the first seven. They covered what had happened before they went on their month-long break.
PETER: “This Week in Anime.”
DEE: Yeah, it was a magnificent This Week in Anime about what a train wreck of a show this is. So, Babylon is… Hm. How do I… I don’t want to spend too much time on this.
So, for folks at home, it hasn’t finished yet. The release schedule for this one was really weird. I think episode 9 dropped today, but it wasn’t available yesterday when I was catching up on stuff, so I haven’t watched it yet. And we’re recording this on New Year’s Day for folks at home. So, by the time this gets out, there probably will be another episode of a few of these.
I had kind of stopped because the release schedule was so weird. And then I went ahead and went back to it, somewhat for this podcast and somewhat because I was sort of morbidly fascinated based on that This Week in Anime post about the shit that went down in episode 7. And, holy cow, the shit that went down in episode 7!
First of all, major content warnings for some pretty brutal—not graphically shown, but enough—violence against women, one woman in particular, by another woman. I don’t think that necessarily makes it better. [Chuckles] Mostly for—
VRAI: [crosstalk] The literal Whore of Babylon, Dee!
DEE: Yeah. And solely for the sake of man-pain. There’s like two prominent female characters, and the evil one brutally murders the other one via livestream to make a point about how she wants the main detective, Seizaki, to really think about what it means to be evil and what her reasonings are for being evil, because that’s her whole thing, is like: “Understand the difference between good and evil. You’ve never been confronted with evil before, so I’m going to force you to be confronted with it.”
PETER: [deadpan] I love Psycho-Pass.
DEE: Yeah, it’s great.
DEE: It wouldn’t bother me as much if there were more female characters and if she hadn’t brutally murdered the only other female character for man-pain. And it’s a really— Again, they don’t show it, but they show the buildup to it and her walking around with this axe.
And, okay, there’s some hilarious splice cuts between her basically carving up this person and Seizaki’s wife and kid, who are sort of like the naïve, protected, never-had-to-face-evil sort of thing. So, there’s this smash cut between the two of them, but they’re making lunch. So, they’re chopping up sausages and squirting ketchup onto omelets. And it’s not subtle and kind of silly.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Do you see?!
DEE: And the thing is, that scene is gut-wrenchingly tense until they start doing those cuts, and then it’s kind of silly. [Chuckles]
So, I don’t know what this show is. There’s a crazy evil woman, and then there is this other political drama aspect to the story about this politician who wants to legalize and destigmatize suicide. And the conversation they’re trying to have is one about the right to choose things like euthanasia or if you want to be an organ donor to somebody and willingly sacrificing yourself for somebody else.
And they’re trying to have those kinds of conversations, which is… I think that’s an actual philosophical discussion you could have in an anime. But because it’s smashed up against… First of all, their arguments are kind of silly; the way they try to present some of the reasoning behind it. And then because it’s smashed up against this woman who is whispering in people’s ears and making them murder themselves, I don’t know what they’re doing.
I have no idea what this show is, but I can’t look away. So, I can’t recommend it unless you’re really into train wrecks. It is a pretty high-quality train wreck. But again, with lots of content warnings for violence and a lot of suicide, shown on screen. So, yeah, be careful with this one, folks at home.
PETER: I meant to catch up on this one just because I think having an anime about legalizing euthanasia and that kind of thing… That’s an interesting topic and probably one we should be looking at more, but it seems like it was just a tool that the villain uses to murder people and is therefore probably the worst thing they could have done with that as a subject.
VRAI: It seems to be the writer’s thing to have the “Really makes you think, don’t it?” where he’s interested in genuinely interesting issues and not necessarily good at executing on them.
DEE: Yeah, this was the writer who did Kado, so that tracks.
PETER: Oh. [Chuckles] There’s our lane—
DEE: You remember Kado, Peter. [Chuckles]
PETER: I do. I got the boxset. It was good up until magical girls.
DEE: I still lowkey really like Kado.
VRAI: Oh, hard same!
DEE: I do not lowkey really like Babylon. There’s way too much weird shit.
Oh, and now the U.S. government is involved, and we just met the President. Oh, also, this show has like a misogynist streak a mile— It’s misogynistic, and then sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned sexism.
We meet the American president, who is this big… He was sickly growing up and he got really into MMOs.
PETER: [crosstalk] What?
DEE: And then, through the power of positive thinking— Oh, yeah! No, they just drop this made-up president’s backstory on us in the most baffling five-minute segment about his life.
PETER: [Chuckles] Just an aside.
DEE: He was sickly growing up—
PETER: He’s the gamer president from Twitter.
DEE: Yeah. He was sickly growing up, and then through the power of positive thinking and alternative medicine, he fixed himself, I guess.
PETER: Oh my God!
DEE: And he’s a Deep Thinker. He just thinks there’s always gonna be an answer to a problem. He just has to think hard enough about it.
But the whole thing with him getting into the MMO was, in college, he got super into this MMO, became one of the best players, and then he met this other player who asked him for help. And it turned out she was a woman who lived near him. Young woman. They were about the same age.
And she’s this jaw-droppingly gorgeous model! And he can’t believe she’d ever want to see him again because he’s just this weak little nerd boy. And she pulls him to the side and is like, “You don’t understand how wonderful you are. You’re so cool in this game, and you’re such a great guy, and I’m going to spend my life showing you how great you are.”
And I’m like, “Wow! You could have maybe done something okay with this about self-confidence and self-worth.” But it was like, “We just threw in this other female character to dedicate her life to helping this nerd boy feel good about himself,” basically.
PETER: Is this Sword Art Online? Is he Kirito? What’s his name? Kazuma?
PETER: Does he dual-wield?
DEE: I believe his name is Alex, so…
PETER: Alex? Shit. Okay.
DEE: He might dual-wield in the MMO. He, I believe, still plays.
But anyway, yeah, so, the U.S. government gets involved. And there’s some really subtle imagery about how knowledge and death go hand-in-hand with a big old bowl of apples on screen. Thank you for that, Babylon.
DEE: I’ve talked way too much about this show. I feel like I’m selling it to people. [Chuckles] And I don’t know if that’s what I want to be doing. But it’s a trip, and if you can stomach the kind of graphic violence that intersperses it, it is in its own weird way maybe worth your time if you’re looking for just the wildest thing I’ve seen this season, I think.
VRAI: I feel like we’ll have to come back to Babylon the next midseason, because who knows when it’s gonna be over.
DEE: Yeah, because I am genuinely… I have no idea what it’s trying to say. I do not know what its thesis statement is right now because, again, it’s pairing this actual philosophical conversation up against this pulpy serial killer plotline. And I don’t get how the two are supposed to converge at this point.
PETER: Actually, this is hella Kado. [Chuckles] Lots of questions in the beginning, and then the end is shenanigans.
VRAI: Yeah, except Kado didn’t hate its female characters so much as it was profoundly uninterested in them. It’s a step up in that regard. And it had gay aliens, Peter. It was gay alien Hannibal!
DEE: [Chuckles] It did have gay aliens. So far, no gay aliens in this one, but there’s still four episodes left, and we did randomly introduce the President of the United States as a major character.
VRAI: That’s true!
DEE: So, who knows? Anyway, yeah, I spent way too much time on Babylon. But that’s fine. I had kind of fun talking about it.
What’s next? Is Iruma-kun still nice, Peter?
PETER: Yeah, still nice. Apparently, it’s two cours at least. I was worried for a bit that it was headed into a battle manga direction with them playing… There’s this dodgeball arc, and now he wants to become a top student where you have to win stuff, but I think he’s just gonna kinda fail upward like he’s been doing. So, still fun, yeah.
DEE: That’s good. I’m glad that Iruma-kun is still enjoyable. Okay, next on the list… Vrai, you can finally talk about a show!
DEE: Outburst Dreamer Boys, which was… As of the day of recording this, we just dropped our recommendations post for the season, and this was a surprise favorite for you, me, and Caitlin. I’ve been talking for a bit. Would you like to talk about the dreamer boys?
VRAI: It’s a good and nice show. It makes me feel warm inside. I feel like it’s so rare to see shows that are both kind of poking fun at being a cringy teenager, but without feeling mean-spirited or like a cringe comedy, but also not tipping the other direction and feeling like it’s constantly brimming with inside jokes that are (A) going to age really quickly and (B) going to alienate an audience who is an otaku who are really into currently airing stuff.
It feels accessible, but also, it understands the general impulse of what it means to be just nerdily obsessed with something. My wife called it “What if Haruhi Suzumiya, but not aggressively shitty?” And I can’t stop thinking about that. So, it seems accurate to me.
DEE: Do you want to go into more detail with that?
VRAI: Yeah, sorry. Because it’s about this club of weirdos, and there’s this nebulously kind of winking reality-warping element to it with the main heroine. But also, these characters are, I feel like, a lot nicer in their ribbing of each other.
The show is really good at balancing character dynamics, but there’s not this sense that they’re all raging jerkwads who are picking on each other throughout the runtime. And also, like I said, there’s a lot of this element of “Here’s nerdy stuff” about being an otaku without it feeling like it is pandering to an otaku audience.
DEE: Yeah, that’s a good point. Instead of going like hyper-specific real-world references… So, it’s not like the kid who’s really into sentai is into a real sentai show and they’re constantly dropping nods to a real show that, if you haven’t watched it, you’re not gonna understand it at all.
But it’s still at the same time, I think, specific enough that it feels genuine. Does that make sense? Like, it’s not like Big Bang Theory nerds, where everybody likes the same things and it feels like somebody’s vague approximation of what it means to be geeky. Like, the kid who’s really into idols—he’s not into a real idol, but he’s into an idol who… we get a feel for what this character is in the world that we’re watching.
So, it kind of grounds itself in that while also being kind of silly and poking fun at the kids in very good-natured ways, I think.
VRAI: It’s got such a good eye for what good, long-lasting parody does, which is capturing the feel of a moment without dating itself. And I feel like that’s a little bit lost of an art. Like the constant despair over bad gacha rolls. It’s very funny to me!
DEE: Yeah, and I’m hesitant to even call it a parody. It’s definitely a comedy series. But I don’t feel like it’s necessarily making fun of—I think it’s a love letter that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is exuberant and it is encouraging these kids—and, by extension, the audience—to be open about the things you’re passionate about and not feel like you have to hide those things or be ashamed of them.
But at the same time, it’s not smug. It’s not snubbing its nose at “the normies” who don’t get it. You start to meet other kids at the school, who it turns out that they really like the Hero Club because they’re just nice kids who will help them out. You start to meet some of the other kids at the school who aren’t big geeks, but they’re also, again, good kids. The Drama Club I love so much.
VRAI: They’re so great.
DEE: There’s a whole arc with them, and their president is wonderful.
I think you described it in one of our group chats as a really good example of positive masculinity, and I think that’s a good way of wording it, because it’s also a series about wanting to help people and use your power to support and assist others and to be confident in the things you love, but not to use that to lord it over other people or be controlling.
And also, because we haven’t talked about the female main character, Mizuki has a really nice arc, too,
VRAI: She does.
DEE: I said at the midseason I was a little bit worried that she was going to be stuck in a passive, reactionary role for the whole story, but it really is about her coming to this new school and getting roped into this club that she’s not so sure about.
But then over the course of the run, she gets to know the kids and the other kids at the school, too—not just the clubmates—and really starts to take pride in what the Hero Club does and become genuinely invested in these kids. And it’s just a really nice little friendship story that builds to her having a really nice, heroic, active moment at the end to help save the day.
VRAI: And I love that it’s about doing tangible good in their community. As much as they love all these fictional things, they’re out there helping and connecting with actual people. It’s just nice.
DEE: Yeah, and in really mundane, simple ways. You just appreciate what they’re doing for them.
VRAI: Yeah. And also, it’s so rare to see an 11-episode anime that actually feels like it’s comfortably 11 episodes, not like it was cut to that length.
DEE: Yeah, it is 11 episodes, and it absolutely fits in that 11. Because we were getting towards the end of episode 11, [and] I was like, “Is there gonna be another one just as a wrap-up conclusion episode? Because at this point, I feel like we’ve done everything.”
But yeah, it’s really well paced. I think it’s based on a one-shot manga. And I would imagine they added some extra details for the character arcs. But yeah, I feel like they hit the beats really well. Everyone has these nice little character arcs, and the school as a whole has its own arc.
And it’s a good show. It’s well put together, it’s nice all the way through, it has some good valuable things to say, and it’s just very enjoyable to watch. So, yeah, big surprise.
VRAI: [crosstalk] This is good, good stuff. Feel like a lot of people slept on this one just because it looks like it fits into a sort of genre of show that is “okay but nothing remarkable” as a season time filler. But this one really is worth actively seeking out.
DEE: Yeah, I agree. It’s also, I would say, pretty family friendly. I would have no problem showing this to a 10-year-old.
DEE: I can’t really think of anything in it that I would be hesitant about. Yeah, I would say it’s very family-friendly, which is always good to have. So, fun for all ages.
DEE: Okay, that’s probably enough of us lavishing love on Outburst Dreamer Boys, unless there was anything else you wanted to bring up.
VRAI: I don’t think so. They’re good. They’re nice kids. I like them.
DEE: Okay. Yeah, me too. Hard same.
Okay, so, Peter, you got to take a little break, and now you get to talk again.
DEE: Ass Pride! Sorry, it’s called Assassins—
DEE: That’s not its name. That’s what Chiaki called it one time in the chat. And I said, “Well, any show called Ass Pride must be good.” And she said, “Unfortunately, there aren’t that many butts in it.” So, we decided “3 out of 10: not enough vampire butts.”
But no, Peter, it’s actually called Assassins Pride. What are your thoughts on it? I know Chiaki genuinely liked this one. She was like “It’s got some problems, but I enjoyed watching it.” How did you feel about it?
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh yeah. I’d say all my concerns were realized.
DEE: Oh, dear. Yeah?
PETER: Yeah. All the… You know, you see the little girl and her butler swordmaster guy, and the kind of lowkey—what should I call it?—admiration thing, potentially tipping into romance, was straight-up romance. I really liked Kufa and Rosetti as a couple because she got a crush on him after they performed a perfect combination attack.
DEE: Oh, cool.
PETER: Which, that sounds like the greatest basis for a relationship I’ve ever heard in my life.
PETER: But it turns out, she’s his… I don’t know if it’s biological sister, but they were maybe in the same orphanage or something, kind of brother and sister as kids, and he saved her life and erased her memory. So, her loving him was probably the fact that she kind of, didn’t quite remember that he was her beloved brother or something.
DEE: Ah, I love anime.
DEE: It’s just… Okay, so…
PETER: And they’re gonna have an arc where they marry her off to some guy, and I think there’s some mind control involved, which they break by Melida going up and bragging how many times she’s kissed Kufa, and then they get in an argument over who loves him more, and that breaks the hypnosis.
DEE: Oh, I hate that!
VRAI: I don’t love that.
PETER: Yeah, it was not great.
DEE: [crosstalk] So, not one you would recommend even with caveats, it sounds like. You really didn’t care for it.
PETER: Slow fade out.
DEE: I was gonna say, is it one that’s carrying over or getting a split cour, or is it just sort of done? “Our journey continues”?
PETER: Not to my knowledge. Did they even have a “But our battle continues” ending? I’m pretty sure I watched the last episode, but it just was such a not-an-ending that it didn’t leave the impression to me that the show was over. I believe I have watched all the episodes.
DEE: That might be the most damning thing you could say about a show, is “I think I watched the episode. I don’t remember. It’s been like four days.”
DEE: That’s rough. Okay, well, fare-thee-well, Ass Pride.
PETER: Yeah, speaking of endings…
DEE: Speaking of endings, the next show on our list is Stars Align, which we’re gonna—
VRAI: [Moans sadly]
DEE: Okay. Okay, Vrai, if you need to get out a few more sad moans before we continue.
VRAI: No, carry on.
DEE: Okay, I mean, I want to give you some time to be sad. I don’t want to jump all over that.
VRAI: [sadly] No, go ahead.
PETER: [crosstalk] Go Super Saiyan?
DEE: [Chuckles] So, let’s do our very best not to spoil exactly how it ends. Suffice to say, folks, this one ends on a massive cliffhanger because of studio fuckery.
This show was initially planned to be like 24 or 26 episodes—two cours. And, I guess, really, really late in the production process, the creative team got told, “Just kidding. It’s only going to be one cour.” And they had the choice to either try to hack and slash everything down to a cour, or just put out half the show and hope it did well enough that maybe someday they’d get a season 2. And they went with option 2. So, we get literally half a series.
And I think it could have—truthfully, because the show is one… For folks, if you’ve not heard us talk about this up to this point, this is a show that is engaged… It’s about a boys’ soft tennis club, but it’s engaging as much with their home lives as it is the sport element of the story. And most of them come from very rough home lives in one way or another. It’s very interested in exploring different kinds of parental abuse, be that what you tend to see in fiction, which is your more violent abuse, or stories about helicopter parenting or just emotional distance and things like that.
And then it also has—we’ll dig more into this later as well—it also has some elements where it’s exploring some queer characters. And there’s a couple of girls who have their own little arcs, too.
Anyway, it’s doing a lot. And a lot of it is so complicated that I wasn’t really expecting the show to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy bow. But then it actively— It doesn’t just end on like, “Oh, we had a nice tennis match, and we came together as a team. And we still have these problems, but at least we have this support network with each other.” It actively ends on a cliffhanger. So—
VRAI: It’s such a “fuck-you” in a way I kind of respect!
DEE: It’s a massive fuck-you to, I guess, the studio execs who decreed this.
It’s a very good show. I think it’s still worth people’s time, with the understanding that there are some significant content warnings—not because it’s doing these things poorly, but because they exist and could be triggering for folks. But you do have to go into it aware that we may never get the second half of the story.
VRAI: Yep. Yep.
DEE: Oh, sorry. Did I monopolize all the points? I wanted to lay the scene for folks, and then I ended up talking about a lot of other stuff along the way.
VRAI: It’s so depressing, because you can’t just not tell somebody “Anyway, it’s half-finished. But you should watch it anyway!” There was recently … I mean, it’s always good to be tweeting, always— No, that’s not true.
PETER: Always Be Tweeting.
VRAI: I think the studio was running a campaign on their website and a hashtag-monitoring thing from the end of the series through the end of the year, trying to gauge interest and reactions.
And that’s over now, as we’re recording and by the time you hear this, but I think it’s still a good idea to be using the hashtags and, if you are at all interested in the show, really showing vocal support, because this is one where it’s not just that sort of nebulous sense. It’s a little bit more directly concrete. “Hey, we can have an effect on whether there’s actually any more of this.”
But I do still think… I said in my recommendation that I think this is a show that will, if we’re lucky, be really clunky a decade from now because other series will have had a chance to build on what it’s working with here, but it’s so important that it kicked open the door in a lot of ways.
DEE: Are you talking specifically about the queer representation?
VRAI: I am certainly talking about that, but also just in terms of… There are definitely more series talking about issues of mental illness and parental abuse and stuff like that, but I always respect shows that are like “Look, we’re going to talk about the thing. We have to talk about the thing, even if it’s kind of hitting you in the face with the thing very sincerely.”
But yeah, I think that’s how a lot of people heard about this show, is the fact that the team manager, Yu—they have an episode where they have to shenanigans dress up in girls’ uniforms to go spy on another team. And Yu talks to Maki, the protagonist, about how they experiment a lot with feminine presentation with their sisters, and they’ve been sort of reading up on stuff in the library and they think that maybe they’re X-gender, but they’re not really sure that they’re comfortable living full-time in feminine presentation, but they also feel like they really can’t go on living and being referred to as a boy.
And it’s this really nuanced, beautiful episode that I just haven’t seen in a lot of anime or Western media, really. And it also is a neat opportunity for Maki to talk about how one of the background characters you’ve seen from the beginning of the show, his mom’s friend, is actually a trans guy, which… You know, there’s not a lot of trans rep in anime at all, but most of what there is is transfeminine characters, so it’s just nice. It’s nice. It’s nice, and they did it good.
And also, Shou is also good, and what a good dad.
DEE: [Chuckles] Which dad?
VRAI: [Chuckles] He’s trying to be a… I mean, it sounds like Maki basically thinks of him as his dad, except that there’s baggage on that term for him.
DEE: [crosstalk] The surrogate dad. Got you. I thought you meant one of the kids’ blood relative dad, and I’m like, “I’m trying to think if there’s a good dad in this show.”
VRAI: Oh, no, there’s no good dads.
DEE: There’s a few dads who aren’t actively harmful, and that’s the best I can say for them. But yeah. Yeah, it can be kind of a rough watch, but I do think it tempers those elements with, again, the scenes of them in the club room, having fun together, doing sporting events.
It is technically a sports show, but, like I think the best sports shows do, the sports are a vehicle for character development and exploration of other ideas. I like both elements of it because I just enjoy watching sports series, as well.
Also, the animation is really well done. We haven’t talked about that, but it’s very fluid and it’s nice.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s really lovely.
DEE: Peter, did you finish this one?
PETER: I honestly wish they had spent a lot less time on sports so they could’ve done… I thought the sport parts were unbearably dull—
DEE: Oh, did you?
PETER: —and I was just waiting for the matches to finish so they could get back to the character stuff. In retrospect, it makes more sense since they were trying to wrap up the show in two episodes. But they had spent two episodes trying to research Joy. And then they beat Joy in a montage.
DEE: It was very quick, yeah.
PETER: Yeah. And then in the last episode, they reverse the situation against the twin brothers by… Nothing changes, but they win two games suddenly. And then the two brothers high-five each other and then get their momentum back and then end up defeating Maki and… God, I don’t remember what Glasses Kid’s name is.
PETER: That’s what the sports felt like to me. It’s like there wasn’t really anything in the sport that was shifting—that was causing the outcome to change, and a lot of people who had [been] built up were just kind of defeated, almost in medias res.
VRAI: Well, I don’t have anything for Joy, but at least with the twins it was more about something that I feel like would’ve been something in the second cour. Because they’d been starting to touch on Toma resenting Maki’s relationship with his brother and the growing split between these characters who were supposedly a perfect team. So, I assumed that was something they were going to come back to in the second half (that we would have if only it existed).
PETER: In the greater scheme of things, I see what’s going on, especially with the last few matches.
DEE: Yeah, the tennis matches don’t link as tightly to the character arcs as I think they could. Certainly, there’s some stuff with the way the partnerships create the closer friendships. But yeah, I see what you’re saying there.
This is one that’s kinda hard to talk about. I can talk about some of the things it did well, but it’s hard to talk about a lot of the things that maybe it could improve upon because maybe it was going to go somewhere with those. We don’t know!
PETER: Yeah. It feels like splitting hairs at this point, especially because I think my two greatest grievances were in the last two episodes where they’re like, “Oh shit, we need to finish literally everything or find a place—”
DEE: [crosstalk] “We have to have some kind of ending here.” Yeah.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
VRAI: There was a weird… I wasn’t really sure if warning for it was the right thing, but I know this is a thing I’ve seen people complain about as the standard plot: if you have a character who’s adopted, like with Rintaro, where he feels incomplete not knowing about who his birth parents are and he’s obsessed with finding out more about her. And we don’t know where that goes either! That also just stops.
DEE: And he seems to be one of the only characters that has two loving and supportive parents.
PETER: The other thing, I felt like maybe the series was too ambitious with the number of subjects it was trying to tackle, because it was like every single member of that club had some crazy shit going on in their house.
I was joking that maybe their soft tennis club was bad because it was actually just a support group, because it seemed bizarre that every single member of that club has almost the same stuff going on at home, just different in terms of severity, I guess.
VRAI: I don’t know that that’s that unrealistic, given that these are all the kids who are the burnouts or for whatever reason don’t want to engage in a more aggressively competitive thing and they’ve all kind of, without realizing it, gravitated towards each other because they don’t want that stress on their life.
They had this thing that was just a place they could go and be out of their house for a while and then became like a support group. But the fact that the unconscious reason that they did that is their home lives all kind of suck makes sense to me.
PETER: Yeah. I guess my problem is just it had too much fucking tennis in it.
PETER: [Chuckles] I remember getting to the end and going like, “Oh man, they may never finish this. How much further could they have gotten in all the subplots if they just didn’t spend so much goddamn time on soft tennis?” Good show, though.
VRAI: Anyway, keep tweeting about this show because I will die if I don’t have a season 2.
DEE: It’d be very, very good if we could see where this goes, yes. Save Vrai!
DEE: There we go. Okay. Ooh, gosh, we’re going longer than I had expected given the relatively short number of shows we’ve all been watching together.
DEE: Speaking of shows that we’ve been watching together: Ascendance of a Bookworm. Once again, I feel like I have a hard time talking about this one because I’m also reading the novels. So, I’m gonna just let the two of you go.
VRAI: Isn’t the anime caught up to the novels that are released in English now?
DEE: No, they dropped volume 4 a month or two ago, and I’ve read it, and then volume 5 drops sometime in January, so I’ll continue to be ahead, and I’m a little bit ahead right now as well.
VRAI: I like it. It’s incredible how much this show has done well-executed stuff that I thought I didn’t like. Like normally I’m very into character-driven fantasy, which this is, but it’s also very into the mechanics of how its world works. And I am just eating it up when I normally do not care about that kind of stuff. Like Maoyu? Wasn’t for me. But I really like the cast. Freida’s my favorite character now.
DEE: [Chuckles] Freida’s great.
VRAI: But I’m continually pleased when I watch it. I love all the family dynamics. I still think it, for me, has that little bit of a problem with Main feeling a little bit inconsistently written.
And maybe that’s not even… I feel like it breaks one of two ways, where either Main is consistently written as an adult and she’s just so good at hiding that from Lutz that he doesn’t notice—and then it’s weird and kind of icky for the thought of them getting together—and I don’t think that necessarily feels true to how well-written those scenes are of them just being smart kids. Or Main’s characterization kinda yo-yos all over the place, depending on who she’s talking with, which can be a little bit like “Well, all right, how much of this is true of any given scene, or is it just what the narrative needs?”
And that’s gotten much less of a concern to me, especially with Freida being introduced, because she feels on the level with Main, in terms of her relative education level and emotional maturity. But every so often it’ll crop up and I’ll be mildly annoyed.
But I think that’s really my biggest caveat with what’s otherwise just a really well-made and engagingly written isekai series that I can’t wait to watch season 2 of.
PETER: Yeah! I really like the show. I think it, more than Dr. Stone, kinda reminds me of Spice and Wolf. It’s just it doesn’t have the gross stuff that either of those shows have. So, I can kind of unabashedly recommend it. It’s weird because it’s hard to describe what happened in an episode, but it’s very engaging.
PETER: Yeah, I have a hard time describing… Yeah, and it got really real, too, in the end. I think some people have been tweeting about… it seems like a lowkey, kind of safe isekai, but then by the end you realize that, oh, no, it’s just the worst parts of capitalism all… It’s just realistically evil, I guess. Everyone’s poor, and you have to sell your soul. Otherwise, you’ll die of terrible diseases, because what else can you do?
DEE: Yeah, I think when it first started airing, after the first episode dropped, I think I told you guys it was “an iyashikei with teeth,” is how I described it. And that very much continues to hold true into part 2. As the ending suggests, Main gets involved with the church and starts to interact more with the noble community.
What’s been interesting to me watching the show—again, kinda knowing what’s happened, but then seeing the material again through the lens of the anime—is I think the anime does have kind of an iyashikei vibe to it. Sorry, folks at home, if you don’t know the term, it just means like “soothing,” “healing.” It’s like your laid-back, chillout shows. And I think that Bookworm kind of has that vibe to it, despite the fact that it exists in this capitalist aristocratic hellscape. The more you get into the story, the more you realize.
And I think it is fascinating to me the way it balances those two elements, because I think in some ways, even though it takes place in a fantasy world, it’s more realistic to what it might have actually been like to live in the Middle Ages than a lot of shows that tout themselves as being “gritty realism” of the time periods, because I think, most of time, you get used to the situation you’re in. Does that make sense? And you have the family and the friends around you who you love and you care for.
We live in a country where the health insurance system is absolute garbage. And for years, most people didn’t really engage with that. It was just like, “Yeah, that’s just how it is.” And now we finally are starting to engage with that.
And so, I think that the way Bookworm presents this world where you find out these terrible truths like, “yeah, a lot of kids just die because they don’t have the money to get the support that they need,” I think it is in some ways starkly true to life in how you do just sort of start to accept things and then make the best of what you have.
And I find that element of it sort of lowkey terrifying, but also well-written, the way it slowly unveils the constant decisions—bargains—that the people we meet in this story have to make just to stay alive.
VRAI: You mean like the nine-year-old who’s like, “Well, I need support for my chronic illness, and I would like to open a shop, so I am going to be a concubine to a rich grown-ass middle-aged man. And whatever, I’m gonna work with that.”
DEE: [crosstalk] “Once I come of age.” Yeah.
PETER: Turns out systemic oppression is scarier than goblins.
DEE: Yeah. It is. And again, it’s lowkey horrifying in a way that I think is true to life. So, the novels… one thing: you get more of Main’s internal monologue. And I won’t talk about anything that’s past the three books that have been adapted. But because you do get more of Main’s internal monologue, you get a little bit more of her reaction to some of this.
When she first finds out that Freida basically sold herself into slavery, she’s horrified. And then she starts talking to Freida, and Freida’s like, “Well, no, but I also get to survive and own a shop, and I’m gonna have some bargaining power in this, so it was actually a pretty good deal.” And Main has to take this moment to be like, “Well, I still find this horrifying, but this is the world I’m living in and I do not currently have the power to make changes to that.”
And so, the books are trying to toe this line between—when you go to another culture and go “Everybody’s so backwards, and everything they do here is terrible!” —What’s the word for that? Somebody help me. “Ethnocentrism.” It’s trying to present these characters and this world in a way that is not like “look at these barbarians!” kind of thing. And so, Main is trying to not jump to conclusions, but at the same time, the show is trying to find the line between that and “No, this is a human rights violation.” And you’ll see a little bit more of that in season 2. I can say that, I think.
Like, where is that line between “Well, this is just a different cultural practice” versus “Oh no, this is just wrong”? “There’s no getting around that. This is actively harming people, and how do we improve that situation with the limited power that the characters in the story have”?
So, I think you’ve seen some of that here, and I don’t feel like it’s too much of a… But my cur[iosity]— again, because the books are continuing and I’m halfway through an arc in the novels as well—is how the series continues to juggle that, because I think it could break bad if it’s not careful. But so far, I find that conversation really interesting in the background of, again, a nerdy girl who just wants a bookstore.
PETER: That is an interesting way of looking at it, because as a Westerner watching the show, I didn’t even think of any potential culture shock she could be experiencing. I just look at it and go like, as an American, that’s just Western history—oh, and present, as well. But I guess coming from someone who is in a country with free healthcare, it might not be like that.
DEE: Well, I think it draws some intentional parallels with the real world as well.
PETER: Yeah, she definitely makes a lot of… She’s like, “Oh, it’s just like this” from her experience.
DEE: Yeah. And again, I don’t know how much of this is intentional in the novels or if it was just that this world just happened to collide with some interesting political and social commentary along the way, but I find it very interesting. And again, I’m lowkey worried that if the books don’t handle it right, it could go unfortunate directions. But so far, I like what it’s doing and I’m kinda curious to see where it continues from here.
PETER: I’m very curious what the church is going to be like, for sure. Since we’ve already covered capitalism, now it’s time to go into organized religion.
DEE: And aristocracy. The church is baked into not just the organized religious aspect, but then you start to meet the aristocracy because their culture isn’t just tiered with capitalism. It’s also tiered with this landed noble system where it doesn’t matter how rich the merchants we met are; they’re still not nobles. So, it starts to deal with those elements as well.
DEE: It’ll be fun! Having said all of that, folks at home, if it sounds like the series is hopelessly dull and talky, it’s not. It’s filtered through the lens of these very charming and cute kids trying to make their dreams come true. So, a lot of this is background elements that gives the story some sort of depth and meat that we can talk about in the podcast itself. So, yeah, that’s Ascendance.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s a really good, charming show.
DEE: I hope it continues to be so in the second season, which’ll come out in the spring—or the split cour, I guess.
Well, I’ll, real quick, just touch on… Chihayafuru is great. This arc is really focusing on the adult characters, which is really nice to see because the main cast are high schoolers, but it runs in a josei magazine, so the audience is skewed a little bit older. And it’s doing a lot with talking about the effects of getting older in a sport that requires a lot of physical activity.
We’ve got an article in the queue that I’m very excited about. There’s a character who went on maternity leave twice and is coming back into the game and is trying to juggle nursing a child and wanting to get back into karuta, and feeling bad because she feels like she’s abandoning her children for this other thing that she wants, and how she finds a balance between these two things. It’s very well handled, and I like it a lot. So, I’ve been really pleased with what this arc has done.
And, again, this is season 3, but it’s never too late to jump in, folks at home. Chihayafuru: best lady-led sports series in recent memory.
And then the only other sequel I’m watching, which, Peter, you’re watching as well, is Radiant. And I continue to enjoy it.
PETER: [crosstalk] Hell yeah.
DEE: It does a lot of the kinda goofy plot things that… Maybe “goofy” is not the word. It’s got a lot of Shounen Escalation Syndrome to it, I think, but it cuts out a lot of the bullshit. It does a nice job of giving its female characters actual arcs and time to shine without the main male character swooping in to save them. I really like Ocoho.
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, Seth [has] done almost nothing this season, actually.
DEE: He went into a Hyperbolic Time Chamber so he could train. [Chuckles] Seth’s arc, basically.
The show definitely wants to engage with… The main characters, their curses all deal with situations where they kind of lose control of themselves or are worried that they will lose control of themselves and accidentally hurt others. And I’m not 100% sure what it’s doing with that, but I like that it’s engaging with it, and one of its main answers at this point has been “Don’t just wall yourself off because you’re afraid you might hurt somebody else. It’s important to not treat yourself like you’re cursed,” if that makes sense. And I don’t know how well that maps to anything in the real world metaphor-wise, but I like the way they’ve been handling those plot points.
There was a whole thing where the main character wanted to cut himself off from his friends to protect them from him—and you see that in a lot of shows, and I like that this one called that out like, “We didn’t ask you to do that. Why don’t you trust us to be able to stand with you?” So, I appreciate what it’s doing for the most part, barring some convenient plot devices in the last couple episodes.
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, I was very worried about Ocoho’s mutation, but they haven’t done anything bad with it yet.
DEE: No, and I like that her response to it was to confront the dude and then just immediately put him in a suplex. So, that was pretty good. Do you have anything else you want to add to that?
PETER: About anything or specifically about Radiant?
DEE: Radiant or any other sequels you’re watching.
PETER: Oh. I did feel like I should put out a warning about Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld. I think that’s the full title.
DEE: Whew, that’s a title. Okay.
PETER: So, I learned that Asuna came back, so I started watching the show finally. And remember how there was a big controversy around the first half where there was that really intense rape scene?
PETER: Okay, well, they’re back on their bullshit.
DEE: Damn it!
PETER: To establish the new villain, there, I think, are three episodes in a row, each that has a scene just like that—
PETER: —involving the new main villain. Yeah, he chokes a woman to death. It’s revealed that he killed his childhood friend to see her soul or something like that. And then he apparently, during an MMO game, also strangled Sinon, who’s another character, to death. But that was in a game where if she died she would just come back to real life. Except they really animated him licking the tears off of her cheek as he strangled her to death—
PETER: —and her kicking legs and shit like that. Yeah, yeah.
DEE: That’s exploitative as shit!
PETER: Yeah, each of those scenes is very intentionally animated and sexualized as well.
VRAI: [deadpan] Wow, they’re so edgy.
PETER: Yeah. But the real question is whether he’s the real villain of the series, because the people that are on Kirito’s side… He’s obsessed with Alice because he wants to kill-rape her.
PETER: Yeah, he wants to see her soul specifically, because he thinks it’ll be the most beautiful he’s ever seen, or something like that. But on the other hand, the people who are “the good guys,” quote-unquote, want to take her soul out of the virtual reality artifice they’ve created and use it to create Terminator robots that have artificial intelligence.
DEE: [crosstalk; laughs] Sorry.
PETER: Yeah, so they are going to endlessly replicate her personality and turn it into robot soldiers they will use to use real warfare and kill real people. So, who wants to do the worse thing to her, really? Those are the good guys. Hopefully everyone dies.
DEE: [crosstalk] None of them. Alice, I guess? Root for Alice to just get away from everybody.
PETER: Well, yeah, but she’s locked in a box, and they’re all in the real world standing around this box. So, yeah. I hope she makes it out. I hope somebody just kills everybody in that building.
VRAI: Wow, this is a really popular show, huh?
PETER: Mm-hm. Yup.
PETER: So, yeah, just anybody who maybe made it through the first half and saw that scene and was thinking, “Oh, maybe I can watch the second one,” and they made it over the hump… Nope. Par for the course.
DEE: [crosstalk] Just gets worse. Excellent.
PETER: Actually got worse, I guess.
DEE: Yeah. So good!
PETER: [crosstalk] Just felt I should put that out there.
DEE: Sure. Are there any other sequels you’re watching that you could end on a lighter note, or is that where the podcast wraps up?
VRAI: Is Dr. Stone still basically okay? Because I have to admit to myself that I dropped it. Not for any particular reason. Just, there’s too much other anime to watch a shounen long-runner for me.
PETER: It was two cours, and now season 2 was announced and they’re taking a break. I don’t know when the next season is, but it’s just before Stone Wars, I think is what the next arc is called. So, yeah, it ended pretty well. They had a really good scene where… You know the old guy who’s their craftsman?
PETER: Yeah, he sees all the kids doing high-fives whenever they discover a thing and has this reflective moment where he realizes he’s always been the weird guy off on his own creating stuff. And he said he was really envious of them because they all had crafting partners.
That whole scene was just to set up how they’re like, “Oh, no, no, you’ve always been a member of the group. Just because you’re older than us… Age is just a number. You’re definitely our crafting buddy.” And then they high-five him and stuff. It’s a very good scene.
DEE: Aw. That seems sweet.
PETER: I’ve really appreciated how they took the time to very transparently say that science is inclusive, and it doesn’t matter how old anybody is; you can still be friends and coworkers and participate in the same things—I guess in this case, by doing experiments and crafting objects, but also in friendship. I thought that was a high point for Dr. Stone. That was almost at the endpoint, too, so… That’s a high note to end it on, right?
DEE: Yeah, friendship.
PETER: [crosstalk] Did I do good? That’s a good one?
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’ll work.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yay, friends.
PETER: Whew! Saved it.
DEE: Friendship. Always a good place to end on.
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And that’s the show! Let us know what your picks for the season were in the comments, AniFam, and we will catch you next time.
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