Vrai, Dee, and Peter look back on the Fall 2017 season. With thoughtful blobs, lovable rocks, and flaming murder-sheep, it’s fun for the whole family!
Date Recorded: Thursday 28th December 2017
Hosts: Peter, Dee, Vrai
0:02:05 Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
0:04:59 Mr Osomatsu
0:05:41 Hozuki’s Coolheadedness
0:08:32 Food Wars! The Third Plate
0:11:44 Konohana Kitan
0:11:52 GARO -VANISHING LINE-
0:13:42 Juni Taisen: Zodiac War
0:30:27 Just Because!
0:35:27 Black Clover
0:40:35 Kino’s Journey ~The Beautiful World~ The Animation
0:45:21 Girl’s Last Tour
0:50:08 Recovery of an MMO Junkie
0:58:05 Code: Realize
1:03:38 The Ancient Magus’ Bride
1:18:56 Land of the Lustrous
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
VRAI: Hello, listeners, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai or on the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate features editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: And we are here to do the Fall 2017 wrap-up podcast. Everything is just about finished up for this season, except for a couple of titles that are carrying into continuing episodes, so it’s time to check back in and see what we thought about the things that we were following. We’ve got Dee joining us instead of Caitlin this time, so should be a chance for some fun new discussions.
VRAI: You watched so many things. I am in awe.
DEE: I watched a lot of things. I even dropped a few things and then picked up another thing, and there are so many things, yeah.
VRAI: There’s so many things!
DEE: There were a lot of sequels that I was committed to, and then we had a really strong season in terms of a lot of shows I wanted to see where they went, so I just kept watching.
PETER: I’m surprised you even remembered Hozuki’s Coolheadedness existed.
DEE: I have a subscription to HIDIVE, and I get literally two shows off of it, so of course I remembered Hozuki.
VRAI: Previously, we saved our sequel series till the end, but this time we decided to start off with that since most of these, Dee, you are the only one watching, or Peter, you are the only one watching. So, we’re just going to go up the list.
Listeners, if you’re playing along at home, our premiere rankings, our Fall 2017 premiere rankings, we go from the bottom up on that list, hitting on everything people on the podcast are watching. Let’s just start with Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, which both of you two are watching. How is it?
PETER: It’s really good. Surprisingly good, actually, since they switched out the director from Rie Matsumoto. So, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the new director, whose name escapes me—I really should remember that—has managed to keep up the same kind of energetic directing style. Personally, I enjoyed this season more than the last one, actually. I think this is partially just because of the parts of the manga that they were adapting, but they did a lot of the more-character focused chapters. So, K.K. and… oh, what’s the werewolf’s name?
DEE: The director, by the way, is Takayanagi Shigehito.
PETER: Ah, yes. Chain. It’s Chain.
DEE: [crosstalk] Chain, yeah. I knew it started with a C, and I was just blanking on it.
PETER: So, they each get focus episodes. I also thought that the conclusion hit the same emotional note at the very end between Klaus and Leonardo, but it also included Michella, who has, to this point, never appeared in the series before, only in flashbacks, and I felt like the writing was a bit tighter. I don’t know if this was actually anime-original like the season one ending was, but I enjoyed it a bit more.
DEE: I think I preferred season one in all its messy ambition. I thought it had more of the mystery elements, and the thematic throughline and character throughline with Black and White held the season together for me, even though the ending was big and messy. This season, especially in the early going, it felt like there was no focus, like I was watching a Lovecraftian slice-of-life, and it took me a while to get into that rhythm after the first season did have that kind of throughline. I enjoyed the second half a lot more. The episode about Bratatat Mom was so good.
PETER: Oh, yeah.
DEE: It’s basically an entire episode about a working mom, and it was great. So, yeah, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the second season. I wasn’t as high on it as I was on season one, but I would still recommend it to people. I think it’s a good show. It’s a good, fun, weird action series with a lot of style and a great soundtrack.
PETER: Yeah, they definitely invested, I think, more time in the finale of the first season—although I guess we could just debate about the entire writing of that, which would probably not really be the focus that we want to get into—but I definitely understand what you’re saying. I think we basically agree it was a really solid second season. It had a lot of cool stuff.
DEE: Yeah. I would be happy to watch more if Bones ever wanted to make more. Good, fun show.
PETER: [crosstalk] Really good Yutaka Nakamura action animation cuts, too.
VRAI: So, the next three are all you, Dee.
PETER: Have fun.
VRAI: No, it’s good, it’s good! Somebody has to be on the front lines of sequels. I just missed years of anime, so I’m behind on everything.
DEE: So, yeah, I watched a bunch of different shows this season. I watched the second season of Mr. Osomatsu, which is kind of like Looney Tunes meets It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s a weird, zany show that is frequently not very tasteful, but I kind of appreciate it for being willing to go whole hog into bizarre shenanigans and take them to their most ridiculous conclusions.
Season two has been kind of meh. There was a really good bit where one of the characters decided he wanted to become a dolphin. That was incredible. It ended in a musical number and was so good. But overall, it’s been pretty lackluster. It’s going to continue into winter, and I’m not even 100% sure I’m going to keep up with it.
Hozuki’s Coolheadedness, which I and—I think—12 other people are watching, is a very good, clever little comedy about a demonic bureaucrat in Japanese Hell, and it’s just about his interactions with the other demons who run Hell and then a few people from heaven who come to visit and stuff like that. It actually blends a lot of obscure Japanese mythology and pop culture, so it hits a lot of high and low notes, and sometimes you’re just completely lost as an American viewer, even with a bit of a background in Japanese history.
But it’s very clever and fun. There’s nothing in it that I think would frighten viewers off that we’d need to warn people about. I mean, sometimes the humor can be kind of dark because it’s about Hell, but overall, it’s very fun and clever, and I like it. Just an episodic little comedy. It’s one of those shows I don’t really miss when it’s gone, but it’s fun to have it back.
PETER: Did you notice a big shift? Because it switched from Studio Wit to Studio Deen between seasons, and new directors. So, that’s pretty dramatic.
DEE: Honestly, not really. Keep in mind that I watched season one when it came out in 2014, and I have not rewatched it since.
DEE: So, I think season one probably had a few more stylistic flourishes animation-wise, but I don’t feel like the quality’s been bad. I feel like the animations’ art style is pretty similar. So, yeah, I haven’t noticed a difference.
VRAI: Switching directors is really a theme this season, eh?
DEE: Yeah, it kind of is. I don’t feel like it really skipped a bit, so good on them.
And speaking of switching directors, ClassicaLoid season two has a different director as well, which at first was a… I could kind of tell: the first half of the season wasn’t quite as fun as the first season was. But it’s really hit its rhythm over the last five, six episodes, and it’s a blast, and I love it. ClassicaLoid is still great, to everyone who will listen and once again to the 12 people watching it with me. We’re having a real good time.
VRAI: It looks very good and fun, and I’m sad my watchlist is so long.
DEE: It is. It is a delightful comedy that, again, just does a lot of things I really like in terms of the way it plays with the characters, the way it balances these really ridiculous scenarios with these really nice, sincere emotional beats, and how it explores creativity and what it means to be an artist. And it’s also really funny and silly, and I like it. So, yeah, ClassicaLoid season two is great. I’m happy that it will continue into winter, so I can keep hanging out with my musical dorks.
VRAI: Okay, and to wrap up sequels, Peter, you are still watching Food Wars.
PETER: Yeah, watched the whole thing. I was actually really enjoying the first half of the season, since there was almost no fanservice in the beginning. It was almost entirely about food, which is pretty crazy for Food Wars. Then they introduced this new villain, Azami, who… his evil plan is actually pretty close to home, since he’s basically trying to instate No Child Left Behind into their culinary academy, which—
DEE: [amused] Okay.
PETER: Yeah, it’s one of those things where you think about it and the more you think, it’s this horrific curriculum he’s put together where everybody has to cook exactly the same thing, and if you want to cook it in a different style or cook different forms of cuisine or you’re in some sort of obscure cuisine research club, he’s basically shutting you down and expelling you. So, he’s basically constraining creativity in the student body, which I actually think is a really good villain for that series.
DEE: Yeah. I like that.
PETER: It gets into this weird plan where he wants to shut down all restaurants that aren’t gourmet in Japan, and I kind of wish they’d just stuck with “He’s a really shitty teacher.” Also, near the end, they started to lean a bit more on the fanservice.
But they also had another subplot where Azami, you find out, is Erina’s—I can’t remember if it’s her father or stepfather—when Alice, her sister moved to Scandinavia to study molecular gastronomy, he basically abused her as a kid. He made her taste food, and if it wasn’t up to standard, she had to throw it away, and implied that if she wasn’t willing to do that, then she was also garbage. And her sister was writing her letters and he would tear them up and not let her read them or anything like that, so she’s actually really traumatized when he reappears.
And it looks like they’re going to go with this throughline that Soma has to beat him to save Erina from her trapped room up in his evil tower or something like that, but then her sister actually just shows up and goes, “No, I wasn’t aware of it when we were kids, but he was totally abusing you, and I’m going to take you out right now, and then we’ll beat him later. But the most important thing is to get you away from your abuser.” Which was really surprising to me, as well. So, I actually think—
DEE: Yeah! That was good!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Nice start.
PETER: Yeah. They’re handling that really well. They’re breaking school rules specifically to keep her away from him because he’s just an awful person and should probably be in jail. But first and foremost, they’re just screening her away from him entirely so they don’t have to interact. Which doesn’t work all the time, but they’re actually taking the actions that they should, past going to the police, although I don’t know how successful that would be. But basically, yeah.
Some of the writing is really fantastic. They’ve been leaning a little bit back on the fanservice, but there’s actually been some really surprising plots in there that I’ve really been enjoying, especially the No Child Left Behind thing. You just kind of encounter that, and I was wowed by that. So, I think there’s a lot of merit to this third season, actually. And of course, it’s continuing into next season.
DEE: Yeah, that sounds really interesting. Cool.
VRAI: Yeah. All right, that brings us into this season’s stuff. We can run quickly through the early stuff, I think. Konohana Kitan, I keep looking at and thinking, “I wouldn’t mind watching more of that, and then I don’t.” Peter, are you still watching Garo?
PETER: Yeah. I think it’s a lot better now, actually. They’ve cut out a lot of Sword’s stupid shit with praying to women’s chests. They’ve given Gina and Luke a bigger part in the series, and you find out… I think Luke is half-Native American because they introduce his mom at some point, and when she hunts demons, she puts on Indian war paint. And the interactions between Gina and Sophie are more prominent now.
They’re doing this weird road trip to find El Dorado, and it’s like they’re camping out or staying in motels, and they’re introducing more horror elements, like they kind of end up in the Bates Motel in the last episode. So, I feel like the writing is more good stuff and less bad stuff, headed into the middle of the story.
DEE: How does it handle the Native American elements, because that’s…
VRAI: [crosstalk] Because anime.
DEE: I mean, I don’t know if I’ve ever really seen that in anime other than occasional stereotypes, so I’m curious.
PETER: They don’t really lean on the cultural aspect too much. I don’t know if they’re going to get into that, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re opening up this subplot. Luke’s mom is killed by his father, who seems to be the main villain right now. Also, they introduced a main villain, which really helped out the writing in the story, now that they’ve got a focus, somebody they want to fight.
So, Luke’s trying to kill his dad, who killed his mom. They’re obviously going to get more into Luke, but I don’t know how much of his ethnicity is going to really play a part in that, if at all, and if they’ll handle it respectfully, so it’s just an interesting element that I don’t know if they’re going to play with yet.
VRAI: It is anime, but I hope it’s good.
DEE: We’ll keep an eye on it.
PETER: The fights have been really good, and there have been less obtrusively bad stuff. So, I was enjoying it at the beginning, and now I am enjoying it a lot.
VRAI: Well, to get into the reverse of that, Juuni Taisen.
VRAI: I dropped it.
DEE: Me too. I very rarely drop shows two episodes from the end, but I just couldn’t get myself through another episode. So, yeah, I dropped it at nine or ten. Peter, you finished it, though.
PETER: I did, yes. Was that in the middle of Tiger’s subplot?
DEE: Yeah, I got partway through Tiger’s backstory, and I realized that I was 95% sure I knew how the story was going to end, so there was no tension, and it was like, “What’s even the point of me getting attached to this character?” And so, I just stopped. I gave up because I couldn’t give any damns anymore. [laughs] Basically.
VRAI: It is definitely a series where I started watching it because it was fun and trash, and it was good at being trash. And then it got predictable, which is the anathema of dumb, fun shows like this. It killed off most of its sympathetic characters. The character who I pinpointed at the beginning as going to win did, in fact, win, and I hate that character so much and the philosophy he espouses.
PETER: Okay. Well, I actually think—
DEE: Well, that answers my question, which was going to be, “Was the ending surprising?”
PETER: Slightly. The last episode was pretty interesting, I think. I think I had the same sort of reticence about Tiger as you did, where they were setting her up as a more sympathetic character that was very unexpected—I mean you expected her to just immediately die afterward. But then, I think she probably had the most meaningful death out of all the characters in the series, because the next episode introduced her interactions with Ox and she dies intentionally, which is something that has not happened yet, I don’t think.
And then after that, it ends and you learn more about Rat, and then I think the opinion that he had was a split between him sort of being a shitty teenager but also the nature of his power, which by its very nature gave him this extremely pessimistic worldview for some pretty good reasons.
Then, the last episode ends up being an exploration of what Rat does after the fact, because he’s got that wish to make, and he has to decide what to do and wonders whether he should just bring everybody back. And then, there’s all these flashbacks to… His power is essentially that he can create 100 different paths of probability and then select the one after living them all out. So out of 100 paths, the one that played out was the only one in which he actually survived. He got killed in the other 99.
So, after winning, he’s looking back, and in different paths he had ended up teaming with everybody in at least one path and asking them what their wish would be. So, it goes back and you get to learn what everybody was wishing for during the Juuni Taisen or what they would have wished for if they’d won, and then how it played out from his perspective and then this pressure that he has to make this potentially life- or world-changing wish and what he wants to do with that. And because of his power, he goes through 100 different wishes and finally decides upon one.
VRAI: There came a point where the series stopped being fun and dumb and thought it was saying a thing, and once it stopped being fun… When it was still good, dumb fun, I could think, “Oh, it’s cute. It thinks it’s people.” But then, it stopped being fun, and all there was left was its very Hashtag Deep musings on war, which were poorly written and thought out, and kind of repugnant when asked to be taken seriously.
PETER: Honestly, when you left, too, I think that was the low point in the series, because it spends two episodes on those twins, who I don’t think really anybody cared about at all. One of them was already dead; the other one was exactly the same—that is to say, equally not interesting. But I don’t really know if the war stuff was really too important at the end of the day.
I think the only real solid worldview you got at the end was Ox’s, which played a big part into Tiger’s own perception, and I feel like that was the philosophical core of the middle of the series before getting into Rat’s thing at the end. But before that, yeah, it just seemed like a big mess. I understand why you’d drop it during the Snake episodes. I didn’t really even know what I was supposed to be invested in during those two episodes.
VRAI: It was definitely the point where the series’s structure worked against it.
PETER: Yeah, for sure. So, I don’t know where he was going with all that perception of human conflict, war kind of stuff. I don’t think it mattered too much in the end of the day. I think it was leading into Rat’s final episode—which, actually I don’t know if that was anime-original, so that might not have even been Nisio Isin at the end of the day. But I think the high point of the series was probably the episode right after you quit, Dee, with Tiger and Ox. So, there were some good parts. I enjoyed it. I’m glad I got through the Snake episodes.
DEE: You don’t regret finishing it, so…
PETER: I do not. I think if you can suffer through the Snake episodes—and I guess I’ll use the word “suffer”—then I think you are actually rewarded for completing Tiger’s subplot. Then, the wrap-up is pretty interesting, and Rat’s episode is more maybe what you’d expect, getting into a Nisio Isin series in the first place.
VRAI: All right, so that brings us up to Blend-S, which… Peter, did you drop it or not get into it, or…?
PETER: I’ve kind of been half-watching it, because I am cutting clips for work, but I’m not watching entire episodes, so I’ve got a very scattershot view of the entire season, essentially.
VRAI: Okay, cool. Well, we kind of talked around this one on the midseason because I didn’t want to get into it with none of us knowing much about it, so it’s great that you are here to give the scoop, Dee.
DEE: I am, but I don’t wanna talk about it.
PETER: Ooh, shit!
DEE: Let’s talk about another show. Let’s not talk about Blend-S.
PETER: The bad thing happens at the end, doesn’t it?
DEE: No, I… I mean… I finished it. I enjoyed it. It’s got a cute, frequently funny candy coating over a big ball of problematic elements! So, I cannot in good faith recommend it to our listeners, which is kind of why I’m like, “Do I even have to talk about it?”
Yeah, there’s a romantic subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere, because it’s a goofy comedy, between Maika and Dino that would… Honestly, the way it plays out in the story itself, if you ignore the actual context, is kind of cute. If they were a couple years apart and they were coworkers, their relationship would be really fun to watch. However, she’s 16 and he’s her 26-year-old manager, and so the only way I can get through any of that is just to go, “I’m just not gonna think about it.” [laughs]
VRAI: I’ve been there. I’ve been there.
PETER: You’re saying, “If the two of them were Kaho and Akizuki, then it would be cute,” because that was cute.
DEE: I think Kaho and Akizuki are like 16 and 20, so no.
PETER: Really? I thought they were around… It said they were both in high school when they started the job, right? Maybe I got the ages wrong. I feel like they’re closer.
DEE: Well, I know Akizuki can drink beer, so he’s got to be 20, because he’s drinking beer; unless he’s drinking underage, which I’m not even sure they’re allowed to show in anime. And Kaho is… Kaho’s 17. So…
PETER: Not as bad?
DEE: Eh, your mileage may vary on that one. It’s still a little bit in the side-eye range, but they’re coworkers at least, so they’re at least at the same basic level of power within that, and I think they’re both students, so, again, you could argue that one, I think. But Maika and Dino is creepy. It’s not played creepy, but it’s creepy. [laughs]
PETER: I mean, it even is played creepy sometimes, isn’t it? Don’t they literally have scenes where he’s being a perv about her and then he actually gets arrested?
DEE: No, the police officer thinks he’s perving out and arrests him. But she’s concerned about something, so he puts his hands on her shoulders to console her, and really isn’t… He gets nosebleeds when he gets excited, but it’s not really tied to sex stuff, to sexual fetishes, necessarily. And he’s one of those characters who’s like, “Oh, my God, I’m holding hands with somebody,” has no experience with relationships and is really clumsy. And she’s super naive and oblivious.
And so, again, if there was a two-year gap and they were coworkers, whatever, the way it’s played would be like, there’d be a few moments where I’d be like “it’s a little skeevy, but overall it would be kind of cute because they’re both bumbling their way into this semi-crush.” But that’s not the case, so I can’t handwave that one away. It’s not good.
PETER: He’s like an American or an Italian Japanophile, right?
DEE: He is an Italian who is a Japanophile, and she… Again, this to me is a really kind of fun and interesting dynamic. He’s a Japanophile, but she fetishizes foreigners—like, she’s really into his blond hair and his foreign language and all his strange customs. So, that back-and-forth, again, is interesting, that idea of “When your fetishes clash with reality, with actual human people, how does that look? How does that play out?”
And at points, it does sort of challenge these ideas, like “Well, no, that’s just a stereotype. Actual people don’t necessarily follow all those assumptions.” And it does that with a lot of different things, which is why the show is interesting to me, and there’s a lot of nerdy jokes that are pretty good, but then there’s a lot of problematic shit, too.
VRAI: And you know what they say. Comedy is the genre that ages the fastest, is the most subjective, and by its nature pushes taboos, which sometimes means that you wind up with a pile of something that’s sometimes really clever and sometimes “Oh, God. Why did you do that?”
DEE: Yeah, and truthfully, the way the story is written… And I haven’t read the original—I believe it’s a manga—so I can’t verify that this is true with the manga itself. You get the sense that there’s nothing malicious; it’s just that the writer didn’t think anything of it. Does that make sense? Which, I think, is why I was able to push through the fact that even though it was full of all these problems, it’s just this sense of obliviousness, of like “Oh, well, no, it’s just a goofy story. Don’t worry about it.”
There’s an otokonoko character—which, for folks at home, doesn’t translate well, but I guess “femboy” would be close. It’s boy characters who look and frequently present female, but they’re not necessarily trans, and I don’t want to describe this character one way or the other because I know there are some trans writers who have identified with the character, and I don’t want to take that away. I think it might be being a little generous to the writer to think that they thought that deeply about it.
Again, it doesn’t strike me as malicious, but it is insensitively handled within the story itself. There’s a very cringeworthy quote-unquote “joke” about bathrooms in one episode that, especially given the current climate here in the US, was very, very difficult to get through. So, yeah. Again, I cannot in good—why are we still talking about it? I didn’t want to talk about it.
VRAI: Sorry, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot! I think it’s interesting when shows hit high-highs and low-lows at the same time, and Blend-S seems like one of those shows.
If it makes you feel better, now we can talk about Anime-Gataris, which is also a big messy ball of something that I kinda liked, which you dropped halfway through, yes?
DEE: Yeah, I got halfway through, and then there wasn’t really any plot or character development to speak of, and I just had a lot of other shows on my watchlist, as has been noted. So, it just fell by the wayside. I heard it went fucking wild in its second half.
VRAI: It went some places! I think it was Micchy described it as a shitpost in anime form, and that strikes me as accurate. [laughs]
DEE: [laughs] That kind of makes me want to go back to it.
VRAI: It’s a frustrating show to me because it clearly wants to be a slow-burn that ramps up into being fucking weird and gonzo and off the wall, but it’s too slow. It just stalls out in the middle there, where it’s doing a couple interesting things per episode but not really anything to write home about in a big, meaningful way when your watchlist is six years long.
But then, at the end, yeah, it goes some fucking places with metatext and the fourth wall and relationships between readers and authors in texts, all the dimensions of that. And one of the things that I really ended up liking about it is that it’s one of the few anime about anime that—and this is such a small thing, but I never see it—that acknowledges that sometimes anime is shit and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad fan who’s bad at appreciating anime if sometimes you think shows are shit—
DEE: [hesitantly] That’s good.
VRAI: —whilst, clearly, there are still other things that you loved and are important to you. The series starts with Minoa and that series she can’t remember, so she’s finally able to meet up with the director of that show that was so important to her, and he starts talking about the anime that they made—you know, for the school festival—and talking about all the things that were wrong with it. She’s like, “Wow, this is so great! I’m really going to use this to fuel the next project I work on!” and I’m like, “Oh, I like that. This is good. I like this.”
But at the same time, the dark side of it being the living embodiment of a shitpost is sometimes it does things for a joke that just weren’t worth it. Like… The only way this joke works is if it’s a Jun Fukuyama playing the teacher, where it basically is just having him play Grell again, so that he can eventually, ten episodes in, call another character Sebasu-chan.
DEE: Oh, God.
VRAI: Which is a long fucking way to go for that joke, and it’s not worth it when you have written a teacher who is begging to be sexually assaulted by his students because he’s an okama stereotype, and I hate it. Thanks, Anime-Gataris.
VRAI: [groans] And you know all the weird fetishy stuff with Minoa’s friend? It does lead up to kind of a good joke, but not good enough that I didn’t retroactively not get creeped out by all of the camera gaze on this teenage girl.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, I noticed that a few episodes in, and then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t stop noticing it. I was like, “Oh, God. Every episode starts with this. This is creepy.”
VRAI: Mm-hm. It is! It’s still creepy. They’re doing something with it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not creepy.
VRAI: It’s a big old mess of ideas that I find really interesting and ambitious and neat, and some weird fetish shit and some jokes that don’t land, and… I don’t know. It’s just kind of a mess that I admire, but also, I’m not sure I would ever recommend it to somebody, because it takes so long to get going and there’s so much anime and eh…
DEE: But you finished it.
VRAI: [chuckles weakly] Yeah. I did. I finished it and I’m glad I finished it.
So, Just Because. I am the only one on Earth watching this anime.
DEE: No, you’re not. I have several Twitter people I follow who tweet about it, so…
PETER: A lot of people I… actually are watching Just Because, as well.
PETER: It’s been a pretty popular rom-com, from what I understand.
VRAI: Wow. I’m legitimately surprised. I should also mention that at time of recording I wasn’t able to watch the last episode because it technically aired on Wednesday, but Amazon hadn’t bothered to put it up, so I have only seen 11 of 12 episodes, which is kind of a problem with this kind of show.
DEE: [wryly] Amazon is so good at their job.
DEE: So good at it!
VRAI: So great.
DEE: They do anime so well. Sorry, we probably shouldn’t be doing that on the podcast.
VRAI: No, they deserve it, but—
DEE: But anyway…
VRAI: Anyway. Just Because is a show I feel really, really bad for. I think they covered it on Sakuga [Blog], that it has had a heinously troubled production—like above and beyond what studios normally have; above and beyond Ballroom levels—where some of the creative team involved is actively complaining about it out in the open. That level of bad. Which really shows because it’s a show that’s really good at small moments of verisimilitude, and then there are other shots where the animation just looks melty and bad and minimally detailed and really janky, and it is just a nightmare to look at it.
And as far as the plot, as it went into the late game, it got really into the romantic contrivances that I was afraid it would do, and all of the other slice-of-life, end-of-high-school stuff really got shoved into the background in a way that was really disappointing.
And at the same time, when it hits its mark—because this is clearly an anime that wants to reflect life above-and-beyond a lot of other shows and just have small moments of that verisimilitude—and when it hits those, it is really fantastic. But those moments become fewer and fewer far between the rom-com junk and the troubled animation, to the point where I just can’t—I’ve enjoyed parts of it a lot and respected parts of it a lot—and I just can’t recommend it at the end of the day, which kinda makes me sad.
PETER: Got Gamers’d.
DEE: Yeah, that’s too bad.
DEE: [crosstalk; amused] It got Gamers’d.
VRAI: Yeah, it really is. Yeah, a little bit. It’s never really gross, but I think I said when we started out that I hate rom-coms in general because you have to have the third-act misunderstanding. That’s just how the genre works, and this show avoided that in the first half by being about, yeah, teenage romance, but also a bunch of other things. And then you get to like episode 10, and two characters are applying for the other one’s university that they think they’re going to, and they’re spending all this money, and I’m quietly dying of an anxiety attack secondhand.
DEE: [laughs] Please just talk to each other! Please! Please just talk to each other.
VRAI: Please just have one conversation! You’re wasting hundreds of dollars! Please stop.
So, yeah, it’s not that there haven’t been really nice parts of it, but at the end of the day, the things that drag it down outshine the parts of it that are special.
DEE: Yeah, and it sounds like if that’s a genre that you like or you don’t necessarily mind some of those miscommunication issues in rom-com-style series, it sounds like it might be something that listeners would enjoy. But if you don’t like it, then it’s going to frustrate you.
VRAI: That’s true. If you are into rom-coms and also don’t mind a little bit more of a melancholy edge, then yeah, I think this might be something you would enjoy—and also if you don’t mind, oh my God, some bad animation!
PETER: The fans of Just Because that I listen to are definitely… they are the type who would enjoy those contrivances, and they’re hella on-board with the series. The people who are watching it are super enthusiastic about it. I have trouble with those, too, where it’s just like if they had a single conversation, then all their problems would be solved and they could live happily ever after, but they don’t for three episodes, and you’re, like, ripping your fingernails out.
VRAI: Well, it’s definitely the kind of show where those things stand out because, at the same time these two characters haven’t talked to each other, there’s another couple where it’s like, “Oh, I like you and you like me, but I’m going to move in three months, and you’re going to start working at a factory here, and it’s $300 for a roundtrip train ride, and this just isn’t going to work, and I’m sad about that.” So, the balance of those things makes the rom-com contrivances just stick out like a sore thumb.
PETER: That sucks.
DEE: Yeah, that’s too bad.
VRAI: Mm-hm. But that’s all I have to say about that. Peter, you’re watching Black Clover.
PETER: Yeah. I don’t really know if I can expand too much on what I said last time. I think I actually said more than I needed to last time. I am enjoying it more than I did the manga. I think they add a bunch of little extra scenes—I think, some extra fights, too—to flesh things out, and… I wouldn’t say that the manga has much downtime, but to maybe balance the character focus a bit more.
They’ve had some really standout animation during some of the fights. Even some of the side characters get some really cool Imaishi-style animation, some cool impact frames and stuff. One guy gets one while throwing a fireball like a baseball, which is really cool, and he gets the sunglasses flare. So, if you’re down for the shounen stuff, it’s hella shounen.
It has the same kind of faults where it ignores its female cast a lot or they get allocated to healing, which are not great, although it doesn’t do too much fanservice, especially by comparison to some other shows. So, I’d say if you enjoyed maybe the first six episodes, you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the series, and surprisingly, it’s better than I thought it would be. So, yeah.
VRAI: It’s a shounen; I assume it’s going to continue on into the winter.
PETER: Yeah. It’s continuing into winter season. I don’t know after that.
VRAI: You’re gonna keep up with it?
DEE: There’s a lot of carryovers this season, too, it sounds like.
PETER: Yes, there is, and yes, I am.
VRAI: Sounds like a good one for the shounen set. Cool. Well, you get to keep talking because you are also the only one who had time to watch Urahara. I keep hearing more and more interesting things about it, and I just have not had time.
DEE: Yeah, Caitlin couldn’t join us, dear listeners, but she has been watching Urahara as well and was talking it up in our group chat the other day, so… What did you think, Peter?
PETER: Yeah, I feel like Caitlin probably has more to say about it than I do, since she was getting into the themes of commodification of Harajuku culture, which, in retrospect, I think I can definitely see that based on the things she was saying.
For me… I mean, Urahara’s basically a show where you love or hate its aesthetic, and that might just cause you to drop the show right from the get-go. I really liked just watching it to see what they were doing visually and stylistically. They did some really interesting things with the show, and [it was] a very new group making it, so I just want to probably follow whatever they do after this, as well.
For the show itself, it got into the nature of creativity and—they basically said it from the beginning—the friendship between the Park girls. And they kind of got into some really heavy themes of self-doubt and following trends: if that means you’re just copying other people and not coming up with anything on your own. I think the scoopers, in addition to being the whole commodification thing, are also kind of an allegory for concerns whether you’re actually creative or not, or if you’re just copying other people and selling something as your own, which was cool.
I think, unfortunately, the scenes that I enjoyed most were the flashback scenes before the scoopers arrived—which they did pretty frequently to reinforce the friendship between the girls—because it always had something going on, and they were just sweet scenes, and they always had new, interesting clothing designs that the show didn’t really have time to get into later on. So, stylistically they were pretty cool. But it had a pretty cool throughline and a hilarious final fight. So, I think it was pretty solid. I know a lot of people dropped it because of the visuals, but I thought it was really interesting.
DEE: Did it continue to be pretty family-friendly?’ ‘Cause I know Vrai and I were both saying we thought it felt like it was more geared towards a younger audience, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I just meant, is this something that we could recommend to listeners who maybe have younger kids that they want to show an anime to?
PETER: Yeah, I’d say it was very PG, actually. They get into some emotionally mature scenes, but I don’t think anything that you’d keep away from your kids or anything. So yeah, I’d say it was a very child-friendly show in that regard.
DEE: Good! I like keeping an eye out for stuff like that, because I know we do have some parents who follow us who talk about “Oh, can I show my kids this?” and it’s like, “Well, most of the time, the answer is no.”
DEE: So, it’s nice when we have one where it’s like, “No caveats. You could show this to a kid, and it wouldn’t be a problem.”
PETER: I think kids would be much more attracted to wild visual spectacle like that, too, since they have less preconceptions regarding that kind of stuff, too. So I think that makes sense that it would be a very good show to show to your kids.
VRAI: Cool. I continue to be glad it exists, and hopefully I’ll have time to get back to it.
Dee, you and I both dropped Kino like a hot rock.
DEE: Well, we dropped it, and then I came back to the final episode because I saw GIFs. Glorious, glorious GIFs.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, my God. Oh, my God. [laughs]
DEE: And the final episode was… I honestly kind of wished that the new Kino had just leaned into being terrible—like hilari-bad—from day one, because I think it could’ve been really fun based on that final episode. I didn’t watch anything in the middle.
PETER: [crosstalk] I was just like, “Did Sigsawa write this? Did Sigsawa just have a novel where Kino fights a herd of evil sheep?”
DEE: God, and the animation of the sheep are… Really, it’s the production that brings those scenes all together. Because the sheep are CG, and they’re bouncing off a CG truck like objects bounced off of things in old N-64 games, so not very realistically, just bouncing and scattering like marbles.
PETER: [crosstalk] That episode was insane.
DEE: And then… God, again, I didn’t watch the entire thing, but I watched the important thing.
DEE: And then, also, every time Kino shoots a sheep, some voice actor in a studio goes [imitating a sheep] “Maaa.”
DEE: Every time! So it’s just… Bang! “Maaaa.” Bang! “Maaaa.” [inaudible due to laughter and crosstalk] I was crying!
PETER: [crosstalk] Literally, Kino shoots a sheep in midair, and its corpse flips past Kino and into a wall of fire. [laughs]
VRAI: [laughs] Done!
DEE: Oh, I made a video. I made a video of that.
VRAI: [through laughter] It’s the best!
DEE: Go find my Twitter and look for “Dear Kino.” You’ll have a good time.
VRAI: It’s so good!
DEE: But that’s been the extent of my experiences with New Kino. [laughs]
VRAI: You know, in the original Kino, there is Kino’s backstory episode, and then there is the series finale, which is a callback to that, and it’s really fucking good and all that jazz? Yeah, they switched the order of those episodes, which is a great idea that was an excellent thing that they should’ve done, for sure. [groans]
PETER: Yeah, I—
DEE: This adaptation seems like it was poorly thought-out. But what did you think, Peter? You actually got through the whole thing, so…
PETER: Mm… It’s kind of unfortunate. I wasn’t too interested in the episodes that weren’t remakes, and the ones that were, I felt, were not handled as well as the original.
PETER: The highlight of the show for me was the episode about Photo, who is entirely unrelated to Kino; entirely side character who got a single story—I’m pretty sure it was just, got their own novel and that was it—because I felt like that had some original Kino feel to it. Although the ending was wrapped up into a neat package, so you still didn’t get that open-ended philosophical quandary at the end either.
VRAI: So, the most interesting part of New Kino had nothing to do with Kino at all?
PETER: Perhaps. That was, at least, my favorite episode.
PETER: Yeah. It sucks because you can’t help but compare it to old Kino, so I don’t think that it ever stood a chance, just based on who directed the original Kino. I feel like that’s all you can say. No matter how good it was, could it have possibly been that good? And I don’t think that the answer is yes.
VRAI: And I don’t feel bad comparing it because it chose to remake some of the most famous episodes from the original, so you done brought this on yourself, folks.
PETER: I think they actually put it up to a fan vote.
VRAI: Which is even worse.
PETER: Yeah, I would not have done that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That’s not how you make a story.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, that suggests a lack of creative vision that is concerning.
PETER: Yeah, that gives you less narrative control, if you want to create a throughline for the series or anything, too, so I don’t know. There were moments that I liked. I don’t think I regret watching it, although I really wished I’d watched this Kino and then the old Kino. In that order, I feel like I would’ve been able to be more generous with it or at least less affected by my previous experience. In that case, I feel like it might have been a pretty decent show, if it didn’t have this legacy to live up to.
DEE: That may be true. The good news, listeners, is old Kino, 2003 Kino, is, at least in the US—it might be available internationally, I’m not sure; you have to check—is currently streaming on HiDIVE, right, Vrai?
VRAI: It is, and you do not need a HiDIVE membership to watch it. I checked.
DEE: [crosstalk] Hey, hey. So, go check out old Kino.
VRAI: Yes. Do this thing.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s really good.
VRAI: And speaking of the thing that was actually the successor to Kino this season, as nearly as I can tell, Dee, you caught up on Girls’ Last Tour.
DEE: I binged it in like a day because when Caitlin said she wasn’t going to be able to make the podcast, I was like: “Welp, somebody has to be able to talk about this show.” I started it, worried it was going to be a slog, and it ended up being one of, if not my favorite show of the season. It’s really, really good. Girls’ Last Tour is legitimately excellent.
It follows these two girls, Yuuri and Chito, as they travel through this mostly abandoned wasteland of a city after a war. There’s a lot of an element of them piecing together what happened beforehand, so you get little tidbits and hints about what the world was like before this war basically destroyed the planet.
It does a really good job of balancing these heartbreaking, hopeless moments with these other moments of finding these bright lights in the darkness and everyone trying to figure out what makes their lives meaningful in this moment where it really does look like it’s the end, like these are probably the last people left on Earth, and when they’re done, they’re done. So, following these two girls who have a really good relationship.
Vrai, it leans a little bit into yuri.
DEE: So, you might appreciate that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I mean, I was already interested, but pander to me! Pander to me!
PETER: Aren’t they sisters?
DEE: No, I don’t think so.
DEE: If they are sisters, they don’t refer to each other as sisters, ever.
DEE: Which is odd in a Japanese context, that one of them wouldn’t call the other Nee-san if they were sisters. I’m pretty sure—
PETER: [crosstalk] At the very least, they were raised together, correct?
DEE: They were raised together, yeah. They’re really good friends, for sure, and there’s a few little moments towards the end that you can—I don’t think anyone in this world has a sex drive, which I’m fine with, so there’s some moments towards the end that you could read as, like, quasi-romantic. But either way, they have a really good relationship.
Chito’s more of a cautious thinker who collects books and wants to learn more about history, and then Yuuri’s more impulsive, but also courageous. And so they balance each other well, and they piss each other off, and they get into stupid little fights, and it’s kind of nice to see that interaction of “Well, we’re together all the time, and we’re going to get on each other’s nerves.” But at the end of the day they do still really care about each other. The individual stories are up and down, but the really good ones are just these exquisite little tales about what makes a human, human; what makes life matter.
It’s really good. I’m still coming down because I finished it this morning. I’m still coming down off the glow of this show that wasn’t even really on my radar swooping in out of nowhere and making a case for being Top Ten material of the year. So, it was really good, and I heartily recommend it.
About the only semi-problematic thing, I guess, is there’s three different scenes where the girls take baths, and I thought the camera framing was fine. I didn’t find it sexualized—I mean, there’s some nudity, but I didn’t find it objectifying the characters. Different people have different feelings about that, so maybe it will bother you, but it didn’t bother me. So, overall, I thought it was really, really good.
VRAI: Maybe I’ll try and find some time to check that out this weekend. I am glad to hear that it—because when I watched the premiere, it had some glimmers of potential, but I wasn’t sure it was going to capitalize on, and it sounds like it got really good.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s kind of where I was, too. It did. It really hits it stride. It builds on itself very well. I think it just gets better every episode, just about. Yeah, it’s really excellent.
VRAI: And I feel like this one flew under a lot of people’s radars, partly because it’s on Strike and also, it doesn’t appear flashy at the outset, so hopefully people will check it out.
DEE: I hope so. It was stunningly good. I was very impressed.
VRAI: All right, with that, let’s move into our top four. Just a reminder, these aren’t ranked in terms of—we tried to deliberately move away from “We ranked them on value, because they’re Hashtag Feminism.” These are the ones that we thought had the most potential, and here they are in alphabetical order. So, let’s start with MMO Junkie, which you guys were both really big fans of.
PETER: I thought it was pretty good. I know there were some elements that you were concerned or just outright objecting to, Vrai.
VRAI: It is a genre that I hate, but I can acknowledge that it told a good story on top of a genre that I hate, which is that whole shallow gender-play thing.
PETER: Mm-hm. I feel like it avoided being too obnoxious with most of those typical rom-com elements where it’s like “Will they? Won’t they?” kind of things and breaches of communication. I don’t really feel like they ever hung you out to dry for three or four episodes waiting for the simplest thing to happen so that the plot can move forward, which is something that typically turns me off to comedies. They added new elements, which cause their romance to develop.
I think the well, for me, was kind of poisoned a little bit that Koiwai was the main instigator of their relationship after he basically made the worst impression possible on me by making a rape joke—by taking a picture of Moriko while she was unconscious—which made me super uncomfortable. But I guess he’s supposed to actually be a good guy, which I don’t believe and I can’t believe.
DEE: The sense I get from Koiwai—and I think somebody else in the group chat was talking about this, too—he strikes me as one of those guys who feels like you can joke about anything and it’s fine, and no one’s ever told him, “No, that’s not cool. You need to stop.”
Because push comes to shove, most of his actual interactions with people, he doesn’t come across as a bad guy, I guess. He just comes across as somebody whose default mode is goofing around and doesn’t realize that there are lines, which I think would be okay if the other characters had called him out on it and he had improved.
The fact that he didn’t—yeah, Koiwai left a sour taste in my mouth, too, because even if you do want to set him up as a guy who’s actually pretty decent, somebody needs to tell him that his behavior was unacceptable.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, ultimately, I felt like it was a good story. I liked the structure they did around MMOs. I was left feeling slightly incomplete, and I guess this is where they decided to end it and there’s more to the online manga, although I don’t know if Micchy gave me a very optimistic view of the next component of the story.
I feel like they just dropped the fact Moriko’s still a NEET. I mean that’s kind of cool, but she has a limited amount of money, so I have concerns about whether… Playing video games, fine. Keep doing it. Whatever. But if she doesn’t have any sort of income and she’s like… I don’t feel like her lifestyle is sustainable. And I think the “Recovery” was part of the English translation which wasn’t in the original title, but I would like them to have added some sort of component.
I guess at the end she says, “I want to improve, so that I can feel worthy of dating Sakurai,” which was okay because I feel like he had similar sentiments. Yeah, I guess there’s just that nagging plot thread regarding her uncertainty in the future.
DEE: [crosstalk] How do you pay the bills? [laughs]
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, I hear that. I feel a little bit bad because I think Amelia and Caitlin were a lot higher on this show than we were, and so it’s a shame they can’t be on this podcast. Because I liked it, but, kind of like you, to me it was one of those shows where if you would just change a few little things, it would’ve basically been perfect and I would’ve loved it.
DEE: And because it was so close to being something I would’ve just adored, I think I notice the flaws more than I do in other shows where I didn’t expect it to be a show that would make my all-time favorites list. Does that make sense? And that’s probably unfair to MMO Junkie.
And I don’t want to understate the fact that it’s a good, very cute, sweet rom-com. It features a 30-year-old woman nerd as the main character, and she’s very sympathetically portrayed and is a complex character dealing with social anxiety, and that’s really good and important to see. And the way it handles online communities as a valid support network and a healthy part of your life is really nice.
And the fact that the show didn’t try to push—it wasn’t a show about Moriko finding a man and quitting being a nerd, which I think was a concern in the early going. It wasn’t that at all. The online community was the recovery; was her finding happiness after the soul-sucking day job. And these are all very good things. So, lest our critiques turn listeners away, I do want to point out that it does a lot of really good stuff, too.
PETER: Yeah. I mean, definitely good show. I think one of the most compelling parts of the series for me was when she had that nightmare about her corporate life, and just the way the series begins with her leaving and you don’t know whether she quit or whether she was fired or what the circumstances were. And it kept feeding you little hints, and then that never went anywhere.
I really would’ve liked to get more into Moriko’s past, and then I guess that would’ve eventually led to how she could have resolved her issue. There’s just a lot of mystery about how she ended up a NEET, and they don’t bother to get into it.
DEE: [crosstalk] I thought it was pretty clear that she quit.
PETER: Yeah, you definitely get the feeling she quit. And they talk a bit about—
DEE: [crosstalk] I thought she quit because she gets home with flowers, which feels like a parting gift, not a “get out of here” thing.
DEE: And then she talks about how she’s an elite NEET because she chose this life for herself.
PETER: Yep. But still, we know that her work lifestyle was basically killing her. But I don’t know, that raises more concerns regarding the future. I don’t know, I wished they’d taken more time with that and maybe gotten into the specifics or how she could possibly turn it around. Something like that, basically what I said before.
DEE: Yeah. It’s very much a show that’s more focused on the emotional journey than the practical aspects of said journey. So, yeah, I see how that could bug you.
VRAI: Did either of you watch the OVA?
DEE: Oh, yeah. It was pretty cute.
VRAI: Yeah, I was interested to hear your thoughts because I know—what I was able to glean off Twitter—some people were disappointed because they really enjoyed the sweet, sort of G-rated element of the series and then were a little disappointed with the direction the OVA took, I guess.
PETER: I was ready to be really upset, because Koiwai was the bad guy in that one, and then I guess his plan was to get Moriko to wear a bikini. And I don’t know if it was for his own satisfaction or for Sakurai’s benefit, or for both or something. But then Sakurai ended up putting it on instead. I kind of felt like that landed probably as well as it could’ve.
DEE: Eh, I don’t know. I think I watched the OVA in kind of a sleepy haze, so I don’t remember it all that well. There were some good MMO jokes, and I giggled at those, and that’s the extent of my memory of the MMO Junkie OVA.
I do remember the bikini thing being kind of eyeroll-worthy, but I thought they resolved it fairly well, because Moriko didn’t have to wear it and Sakurai took that blow for her, and I thought that was kind of cute. [laughs]
PETER: Yeah. I tensed up twice. First, when they showed it, I’m like, “Oh, she has to wear that,” but then she just went, “No, I’ll just wear this practical armor instead.” And then it came back up, and I tensed back up again, but then Sakurai took the bullet, and I thought that was a clever way to resolve it, actually.
VRAI: Nice. So, I know I said we were going in reverse-alphabetical order, but I want to save the two shows that we all three watched for last. So Dee, do you want to talk about Code: Realize for a minute, a good show that came right the fuck out of nowhere?
DEE: Code: Realize was nice. It was, as I continue to describe it, The Unicorn: it was a good otome visual novel adaptation. It had good boys, and the main character had an actual arc where she developed agency and grew as a person and came to accept herself and the fact that she was allowed to have happiness, and it was nice. I have some quibbles about the ending, but overall, I enjoyed it a lot. What about you?
VRAI: Yeah, the ending was very, “Who cares? Feelings!” But to me, that’s not too out-of-line with what the show as a whole was, which was always kind of silly and ridiculous. But yeah, I liked the show. I thought they were all good kids.
A lot of times with these sort of self-insert fantasies that are intended for a straight female audience, you tend to see other women get demonized a lot, so I was really pleased to see this show—there aren’t a lot of other women in it, but they are positively portrayed and as well-rounded as their screentime allows, which was kind of a pleasant surprise.
DEE: And they’re leading all the good-guy organizations. So, that was cool.
VRAI: Yeah, which is cool. I mean, Victoria did still do a vampire genocide, but… [laughs]
DEE: Well, I mean, she’s still the Queen of England, so…
VRAI: Yeah, but that was a nice turn that I didn’t expect. And as it turns out, you can buy the visual novel in English. It’s on the Vita, if you’re one of the two people who has that.
DEE: Yeah, I was excited to play the game, and then I was like, “Never mind. Not excited enough to buy a Vita, just for one game.”
VRAI: Never mind, there’s no PC port. Aw. Which is a shame.
DEE: My quibbles about the ending weren’t so much that it got ridiculous, because it was Code: Realize. I mean there were gears sticking out of buildings for no damn reason. I was not expecting it to be a show that wasn’t ridiculous.
No, I felt like they set Cardia up to exercise more active agency as the story progressed, and I felt like she—again, I think that she still had a pretty good emotional arc, but I wanted her to have more of an active role in the finale, in terms of—
VRAI: She is a little MacGuffin-y at that last minute there.
DEE: She’s MacGuffin-y, and she doesn’t really get a chance to save anybody else. She stands up for herself, which is very good, and she tries to save somebody, but it doesn’t work out. I felt like, up to that point, the series had done a really good job of balancing this sense of “Having a community is important, and having people who support you and who can look after you is important,” but was balancing that really well with Cardia also being able to look after herself and help other people.
And I felt like it didn’t hit those notes as well in the finale. It fell back on the “I love you and I’ll protect you” trope of a lot of romance series. Again, part of it, I think, was just the series had set me up to expect a lot more from it at that point. So I was a little disappointed because I didn’t get it.
VRAI: Right. I don’t know. I think that’s fair because a lot of the series is Lupin and Cardin protecting each other in demonstrable ways, and then in the finale, they exchange that sentiment, but it’s kind of lip service at that point, because Lupin’s the one who does all of the actual heroics, as far as doing stuff, which is kind of disappointing after everything leading up to it. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah. That having been said, it was a really cute, nice series. I expected nothing from it, and I got a really fun experience. I looked forward to every episode. So I would still tell other people that, especially if you enjoy ridiculous shoujo fantasies with good main characters and good boys, you’ll have a good time with Code: Realize.
VRAI: I’d say even though the ending is not what the potential of the series offered, it’s still mostly an emotionally satisfying ending. The ending was nice; I aww’d, and of course I have a heart of stone.
DEE: [laughs] I have a squishy heart, and I definitely aww’d.
VRAI: [laughs] If you are looking for an otome genre show, this is probably one of the best ones you’re going to find, even if it has some stumbles at the end, is where I would land on that, I guess, because I also expected absolutely nothing from it.
DEE: Yeah, it was a very pleasant surprise. So, yeah, I liked it.
VRAI: Yeah. Part of me still wonders if I should be side-eye at the fact that the only brown-skinned character is the chaotic neutral asshole, but I can’t even get too mad at it. Nemo was fun.
DEE: Yeah, Nemo was fun. And then they show up to crash his blimp, and he’s like, “My best friend’s here!” and they’re like, “Oh! That was not what we expected. I didn’t know you liked us.”
VRAI: I would like 12 episodes of their friendship road trip, please.
DEE: [laughs] That would be fun. I would watch that show.
VRAI: Okay. Ancient Magus’ Bride?
VRAI: Okay, you two are both big fans of the manga, so go for it.
PETER: I don’t know. I feel like I’m pretty curious about what you thought, because during our last cast, we were talking about the future, where you had a lot of problems with how they set up Chise and Elias, and I think I talked a little bit about future scenes where Chise got time away from Elias to interact with other characters and think about their relationship dynamic, which some of those scenes have played out now. So, I was wondering if that changed your opinion at all of the series.
VRAI: Yeah, I can go first. I will do my podcast job as the little rain cloud on shows that people like.
PETER: All right.
DEE: It’s okay. I rained on MMO Junkie and Code: Realize, which I liked. So, very good company.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Well, that’s the thing, is I do like Magus’ Bride. I think it is to me as MMO Junkie is to you, in that I can see why people love this show so much. All these characters are really good and well-written. There is some absolutely beautiful animation and visual design. We don’t get fantasies like this too often, especially shoujo ones, especially with leads as well-written as Chise.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s technically a shounen.
VRAI: Oh, yeah, right, right. I always forget because…
PETER: Because it’s in a magazine that’s shounen.
DEE: Yeah, that’s why it’s technically a shounen.
VRAI: Yeah. Right. But with young female leads like this who are not sexualized, like Chise. But at the same time, something about it keeps holding me back a little bit. I think this series to me suffers from Ah! My Goddess Syndrome, as I like to call it, which is basically the mangaka started off with a premise, realized after a few volumes that they actually wanted to do—where the mangaka figured out what they actually wanted to do with the premise. And so the early stuff is kind of rough, and then the stuff afterwards doesn’t so much resolve the early stuff as it goes off in a different direction, a much better direction, but you’re still left with this early, kind of lumpy stuff.
Because once Ruth is introduced and the series starts being heavily about family dynamics and that kind of thing and gives Chise some time alone to get some context on what her life is becoming, I think it does markedly improve, and I really enjoyed those episodes a lot. And that moment where she was hanging out with Angelica was the first time—and she has kind of a panic attack—was the first time that she read as relatable to me as a depressed, anxious person with abandonment issues.
I feel like that early six episodes or so, the first two volumes of the manga, I think, they are… I think Yamazaki had an idea and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it yet. Because catatonia is a thing that happens to people, but Chise’s catatonia doesn’t sync up with the way she displays trauma later, and it’s very narratively convenient that she just goes with the flow and is super passive, and the earliest flashes of her backstory are very Anime in a way that feels not like it’s less revealing than the stuff where she opens up later, so much as it’s just “You didn’t know how to write this yet. Okay. Okay.” And then, later, Yamazaki clearly has a much better grasp on what she needs to do with that character and how to flesh it out in a nuanced way.
And also, these early episodes really lean strong on: “Oh, could they be a couple. Maybe? Maybe?” And putting it in the mouths not just of people who don’t understand the relationship, but of the queen of the fairies who everybody is in awe of and knows things. And then they veer sharply away from that, which I’m in favor of, but it just feels like this disjunction of “Here is the early awkward episodes of this show, and here is where the show really starts to find its voice and become something where I understand why people are so passionate about it.”
It’s not to say that there is nothing at all good in those early episodes. I don’t think that’s fair, but I think that if people were uncomfortable, as I was, with Elias and Chise’s relationship and the heavy emphasis on the romance and the bride element, you could honestly skip to episode seven, I think it is, that Ruth is introduced and do okay, and you would probably enjoy the series much more.
I still think that OVA is gorgeous. And I’m still not sure whether I’ll continue watching the series once its carryover in next season starts, depending… It is something I’m enjoying but also the first thing I’d drop if my watchlist were to get hectic next season.
And the last thing is something that is not the series’s fault at all, but it makes me super uncomfortable that the few brushes I have had with the fandom at-large are super into Elias and Chise as a romantic couple, which skeeves me out a lot. I know the series has tried to put a lot of emphasis on “Elias is also a child; there’s a lot of things he doesn’t know.” But at the same time, he has this power dynamic over their relationship, and also, she is a child herself in a very different sort of way, not in a metaphorical kind of way, and I just can’t with that. I really love the family relationship stuff between them, and I hope the series sticks with that.
PETER: I will say the anime leans heavily into the ship.
VRAI: Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable.
PETER: Yeah, the manga does not—I’ve looked back at some of the manga. I think that was something maybe Wit decided to focus on or maybe emphasize a bit more. It was a creative decision, I think.
VRAI: Well, I did check the… because I had the first couple volumes of the manga for reference. The Titania scene is pretty much beat-for-beat the same.
PETER: Oh, the children thing? That’s a weird scene. I don’t know if… I mean, you can’t help how it comes out, no matter what, but I remember reading it at the time and thinking that they were being messed with. But maybe that was just my perception.
VRAI: The fact that she says it after Chise and Elias are gone feels very like “Oh, they’re going to end up together. They just don’t know it yet.” And then my skeleton left my body.
PETER: I think I read it, and I’m like, “What do you know? You’re a fae.” [laughs] “You literally don’t even understand human beings.”
I think I really appreciated the turn that it took where Chise did spend some time away, and of course I was more invested from the get-go.
VRAI: Yeah. Oh, one more thing before you guys just love on this series—and it deserves to be loved on, also. Naming your villain Cartaphilus is fucked up.
PETER: Yeah. I knew about the reference or the lore that’s being summoned up there.
VRAI: Well, the series gets a lot of due praise for doing a lot of research into pagan lore and fae stuff, but naming your villain after the Wandering Jew, a very antisemitic story used prominently by the Nazis but still antisemitic all the way back to its original usage in the Bible—
DEE: I don’t think it’s antisemitic in the Bible, specifically. The story is that there were two people who were crucified with Jesus. One of them asked for… One of them taunted Jesus—oh, no. No, he wasn’t the guy on the cross. Sorry.
VRAI: No, he was the guy who was heckling at the crucifixion and was—
DEE: He heckled him, yeah.
VRAI: Yeah, and was sentenced to walk the earth forever. The antisemitism, as far as my reading goes, is because he’s not the Wandering Some Asshole; he’s emblematic of the Jewish people being cast out of eternity because of their sin of implicitly being responsible for the death of Jesus, and that’s how it’s been used to justify the persecution of the Jewish people for a long-ass time.
[Inhales] Yeah. I genuinely think Yamazaki didn’t mean anything by it, but I think when you set a story in such a prominently Western setting and have clearly done so much research into Western lore, it’s cool in this instance to say: “Yo, that’s fucked up. Maybe you shouldn’t have done that.”
DEE: Yeah, that’s fair. I don’t actually know enough about that lore. I don’t know if it was initially just part of the story, because in the Bible, basically everyone is Jewish, so one of the Jewish people taunting Jesus to me doesn’t strike me as inherently antisemitic right off the bat. I can absolutely see how it could end up becoming a story that gets used in that way. So, I will trust your research on that. I don’t know enough about it to know how much Yamazaki necessarily would have known or not have known and how that would play into it.
Yeah, it’s not a good idea. He’s an interesting character, for what it’s worth. They’ve started developing him in the later volumes, and he’s very interesting. I think they’re going to play him sympathetically in the long game, but we’ll see how it goes.
PETER: Yeah. Which I’m kind of thankful for, because I did not like that character’s inclusion in the manga at all in the beginning, because I just felt like it was mostly about Chise’s development and then they threw in this random villain, which the story didn’t need. But it looks like Yamazaki has some interesting plans for Cartaphilus, too, and Chise’s connection with the character.
I definitely see, yeah, it could be more sympathetic, based on some of the more recent events, like in the last volume. But yeah, definitely. I flagged that as possible problematic, I think, when I first saw it, but I don’t have any sort of perspective where I could really make that call, so I think just shelved it when I arrived to it and kept reading.
VRAI: It is one of those things where the amount of reading I’ve done is still not—I am still a Gentile who was raised Catholic, so the research I’ve done is still not as knowledgeable as any actual Jewish viewer might know.
PETER: I can say I’ve spoke to—this is going to sound really bad, but I spoke to two Jewish friends of mine about Cartaphilus’s introduction, and both of them—just because this is their feeling, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but both of them actually thought it was kind of interesting including that character into the story more than offensive. That’s not to say that they’re some sort of final arbitration on whether or not it’s good or bad, but…
VRAI: I’m sure, as it written, it was on the level of the fucking crosses in Evangelion. It’s just because the Jewish people are way more persecuted than the Christians historically. I feel like that deserves more care before you casually throw that kind of stuff in.
PETER: It’s definitely hairy. I think we can all agree. It’s super hairy.
VRAI: Yeah, and now—
DEE: That was a mistake.
VRAI: Yeah, but by the other turn, it is kind of neat to see the amount of careful care done with the pagan and ritual stuff includes, to an impressive degree. It is not necessarily a show that I will be continuing with. The OVA is the only bit that’s really clicked me and really got in my heart, but I can see why people are big fans of it, getting into that second half of the series.
PETER: You might be more Natsume’s Book of Friends inclined.
VRAI: You would think that, but I watched one episode that apparently wasn’t even one of the saddest ones and burst into tears, so…
PETER: [laughs] Oh, yeah. You cry every episode of Natsume’s Book of Friends. That’s the point.
VRAI: I’m not sure my heart can take Natsume’s Book of Friends, is the thing.
PETER: That’s also fair.
DEE: It is an emotional show. Some of the episodes are just cute and nice, but yeah, it’s good.
PETER: But I’m not sure there’s much more to say about Ancient Magus’ Bride. I feel like in the last ‘cast I really talked about—unless, Dee, you have something you want to go off on about, something you particularly enjoy about the series. I was more interested in how Vrai’s opinion might have transformed, if at all.
DEE: Yeah, I’m actually a few episodes behind on the anime because I had to binge Girls’ Last Tour and I was trying to catch up on some other stuff before the end of the year. And since I already know how the manga goes, I don’t have to worry about spoilers.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s about halfway through Volume 4, the making of Chise’s wand.
DEE: Okay. Well, it’s been a while since I read, so I’m just going to duck out of that part of the conversation entirely, I think.
PETER: [laughs] I still very much enjoy it. I really like Chise as a character. I recognize some of its faults, especially with some of the new content. I personally still recommend it.
VRAI: It kind of reminds me of Fushigi Yugi in that it has a lot of lofty goals thematically, which means that when it hits, it’s a really special show, and when it fails, it fails big; and also people’s emotional reactions may cause them to resonate really strongly with the positive or the negative and color—
PETER: That’s a good comparison. It’s very raw.
VRAI: Yeah. I can see people both loving and hating it, basically.
DEE: Yeah. I think, to me, one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to it is, to me, it’s a series that wants—I don’t think it paints the things that are uncomfortable in it as not being uncomfortable. I think it knows those things are uncomfortable, and it is dealing with them in a way that suggests that the audience is supposed to be a little off-balance, which I think ties into the whole concept of the fae and magic being this force that you’re always a little uneasy around and is always kind of dangerous and you’re uncertain about it.
So, I think the fact that it has those troubling elements doesn’t bother me because I find it very interesting how it’s handling them. I don’t know. I should’ve just ducked out of this conversation.
VRAI: No, no, I think it is an interesting and thoughtful show. I just think, by the same token, if you’re affected by those things it’s playing with uncomfortably, I understand why it’s not something you want to engage with and may not like.
DEE: Sure, yeah. No, I think that’s totally fair.
VRAI: Mm-hm. But like I said, I can also very much see why this is a special series to a lot of people. Speaking of, I really love them rocks. Oh my God, Land of the Lustrous is my baby.
PETER: I can’t remember where we left off last time.
DEE: We can just cover the entirety of the series. This is a season retrospective. Not everybody listens to the mid-seasons, so…
PETER: Yeah. I’m actually really sad. I just got Volume 4, and Volume 4 does not catch up to the anime now, so now—
DEE: No, it does not.
PETER: Yeah. Now, I have to wait for the next volume to come out to probably get some new content, which I am sad about.
DEE: Me too. I also read it the day it came out, Peter.
DEE: [teasingly] You’re not special! [laughs]
PETER: Land of the Lustrous and Happiness are two manga where it arrives in the mail and then I immediately read it in like 15 minutes, and then I just have to accept the fact that I have to wait like another 100 days for the next volume to come out. That’s my relationship with those two works.
VRAI: The pain is real.
VRAI: The pain is real.
PETER: I mean that’s kind of like waiting 300 years for a job to do and a purpose, right?
VRAI: Ah, my baby. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a protagonist as much as Phos, because you know how it is with anime. Usually the protagonist is just the vessel to get you to the more interesting side characters.
PETER: [crosstalk] The most boring character.
VRAI: Yeah. But I love Phos. I love them.
PETER: Oh, man, the flashback where you see young Phos, pre-300 years of ennui [laughs] was pretty heartbreaking.
VRAI: Yeah, the finale is really something as far as being a—it’s not necessarily a satisfying anime. I would be really mad if we didn’t get a second season. I am prepared to evangelize this series until we get a second season. But at the same—
DEE: At least we have manga.
VRAI: [sighing] Yeah.
DEE: At least we know there’s more.
VRAI: Yeah. But at the same time, looking at this as if it were all there is, it does tell a nice contained story that mirrors itself at either end about Cinnabar and Phos’s relationship, which is nice. It leaves all these other major questions unanswered, but it does at least tell—it’s kind of like Princess Principal. It resolves one emotional arc while leaving these giant fucking plot holes.
PETER: Yeah. I—
DEE: The difference is we have no idea if we’re going to get more Princess Principal, and we do at least know there’s Lustrous manga.
VRAI: That’s true. That’s true.
PETER: Yeah. And there’s definitely a very devoted fanbase, so I think that speaks well to its chances, at least in Japan. This series was critically acclaimed, if for nothing else, the awesome direction by Studio Orange.
VRAI: God, it’s really gorgeous.
PETER: It created some waves, especially among CG fans.
DEE: Oh, yeah, sure.
PETER: I think it just won first prize in CG World’s—they have this award thing. Land of the Lustrous won, I think, Best Technical CG Production.
DEE: As it should. It’s excellent.
VRAI: There are points where it reached this stage of “Oh, I always wondered what it would be like to have a Team Ico anime, and now we know.”
PETER: Ha-ha. I don’t want to start drawing parallels there. [laughs]
VRAI: They both hurt me, in my heart place.
PETER: Oh, for sure. It’s really good. Through some of my stuff, seeing artbooks and fanart and accidental exposure, I know that things get pretty wild in the near future, and some of the stuff I’m actually genuinely worried about might drive me away from it, just because it—I don’t know. There’s a certain level of intensity where I almost become afraid of continuing to read, but I have just had such an overwhelmingly positive experience of every aspect of the work so far that I find it hard to feel reticent about continuing, even with reservations, if that makes sense.
VRAI: Yeah, I’ve been calling Ichikawa a horror writer recently, and I stand by that. She is very stressful to read sometimes, in a way that I find very well technically crafted and excellent, but stressful.
PETER: And it’s obvious some crazy shit’s about to happen, just based on where the story hangs with the conclusion.
VRAI: And they managed to sneak in Romi Park there at the end. I was wondering when it was going to happen.
PETER: Was that Obsidian?
VRAI: No, she played Padparadscha.
DEE: [crosstalk] Padparadscha, is that how you say it?
PETER: Oh. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Padparadscha or whatever. The body horror character. Or—what’s that called? The fear of many tiny holes. Tryno—
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep.
VRAI: Rutile’s sad date friend.
PETER: Ah, yeah. The tragic—I always wondered. All the fanart always had those two together, and now I know why.
VRAI: My heart.
PETER: Yep. [crosstalk] The tragic romance.
VRAI: [crosstalk] This is a series that I have more feelings than critical faculties about, not because there’s not a lot of good critical discourse you can have on the technical and narrative merits of this show, but just because I have a lot of feelings about my rock children. [groans softly]
PETER: I don’t know if I talked about this the first time around, but I just keep getting amazed by the smaller and smaller ways that Ichikawa keeps introducing this—she’s kind of peeling away all the layers of humanity to try to reach the core of this onion of sadness. That’s why you’re crying, I guess.
DEE: [through laughter] That was really good.
DEE: Sorry. Well done.
PETER: Yeah. She’s just getting rid of all the things that we identify as things that makes us human, I guess. Gets rid of gender; gets rid of—I mean they don’t even reproduce; they produce. So, there’s no sexual drive. They can’t physically touch each other. They can’t cry. And you can still get this really strong feeling.
You know what they’re feeling, but all the ways in which they could normally express those feelings—hell, they don’t even have words for a lot of the things they’re feeling. Literally, Dia is feeling this nameless sorrow, and they have no idea what it’s called. They have no name for it. They ask Phos to come up with a name for what they’re experiencing. So, it’s very ambitious, I think, and I don’t know where Ichikawa’s really going to end or if she has an ending in mind, like “Maybe if I just keep doing this, I’ll eventually hit the endpoint, what’s makes a human, human.”
Because in all the ways that we’re familiar with seeing emotion and seeing it expressed and interacting with people in emotional ways, like reaching out to somebody else, touching somebody else, being concerned for somebody else, sexually desiring somebody else, a lot of that is just unavailable to these characters, but they’re so empathetic, and they’re still obviously human.
VRAI: [crosstalk] And they do care about one another.
PETER: Yes, absolutely. And they feel this strong sense of community and wanting to be useful and helpful to others despite not having any of these normal evolutionary features that would drive someone to have this sort of communal or tribal—all our evolutionary psychology’s explanations for why humans are altruistic, none of that exists, but they’re absolutely believable in these motivations.
VRAI: I do hope that the manga avoids going in the direction of “Particularly, the lack of gender makes them lesser,” because I feel like it’s been very good at avoiding that and not making that a component of what makes them less-than-human, which is part of the…
PETER: I don’t—in fact, it almost feels like she’s setting up for the Lunarians to be the most pitiful of all of them, driven by these base, human urges that I think are supposed to be like the soul of humanity. At least, that’s been my perception so far. I feel like both the sea people and the Lustrous don’t have a lot of the baggage that humans do, like their greed, which is the defining feature of the Lunarians. So, at least, I haven’t gotten any inklings of that, although if you’ve seen anything like that, I’m curious.
VRAI: I haven’t. I’ve had people yell at me on Twitter. I’m very, very tired.
VRAI: I’m very, very tired about people being stupid about this show, Peter.
PETER: Yeah, understandable. Especially, yeah, very recently.
VRAI: The content itself, though… I’m always on guard about that kind of thing, but Ichikawa has given me no reason to strongly suspect that it’s going to go in a gross direction.
PETER: Yeah, and I think all the available evidence indicates that she’s being very thoughtful, based on your own research. You talked to the translators at Kodansha, who said that she had very specific ways in regards to language usage for the Lustrous, correct?
VRAI: Mm-hm, yeah.
PETER: So, I feel like she’s being very thoughtful about this. I’ve mentioned some similarities between her short story works—at least visually—and Land of the Lustrous. I feel like this has been something that has been coalescing for a while for her, so it’s probably something she’s very invested in.
VRAI: Yeah, a lot of her short-form work seems to deal with also body horror, but autonomy and sense of self and those kind of issues, and dependence on others. I am very interested in her work in the future.
PETER: Same. It’s been a remarkably positive experience. I’m blown away by this person that I just discovered six months ago, basically.
VRAI: Right. Dee, did you have anything you wanted to talk about?
PETER: [laughing] Any opinions, Dee?
DEE: No, that was a good conversation, and I enjoyed listening to it. It’s hard for me to talk about Lustrous because I feel like right now we have a lot of buildup, but we haven’t reached the point where we turn that corner into where the buildup is going. So I can see a lot of pieces, but they haven’t come together to form a puzzle yet, so it’s kind of hard for me to talk about it, since I don’t 100% know where it’s going with all of its ideas.
But the characters are very—as you guys have talked about—very sympathetic. They’re people—they’re rocks?—they’re people you can root for. And the pieces are definitely there, some of the ideas you were talking about in terms of agency and purpose and change, both good and bad change. And there’s these really interesting Buddhist undertones that I hope aren’t just window-dressing and get explored more within the story proper.
But I’m kind of waiting for more story before I can really dig into what I think the series is doing, but I’m very interested in whatever it is that it’s doing.
VRAI: I will say I think a lot of people fret about the fact that Sensei is this masculine-coded individual lording all over these feminine-coded individuals, and I just need to take them gently by the shoulders and tell them that the entire point of the series is about seeding doubt in this patriarchal, no-question-asking power structure, and it’s going to be okay, children.
PETER: Yeah. That was my reaction to concerns regarding grooming. Literally the last plot segment that we got was “Is this person who has basically taught us everything about the world actually trustworthy?” That’s the current plot right now, and it feels like we’re in front of this huge precipice in regards to where the story will go next, like some bottom’s going to drop out soon, and that is currently the focus.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, it kind of feels that way.
VRAI: More rocks, please. More rock manga soon, Kodansha.
PETER: Gimme those pretty gems. [laughs]
DEE: [crosstalk] Please, more rocks.
VRAI: Hey, buy the manga from Kodansha so they can keep printing the manga, so I can buy it and have rocks.
PETER: And translate the short story collections, as well, please.
DEE: I would happily read more Ichikawa. You know what? Let’s just rename the website: Buy Land of the Lustrous.
DEE: Or Watch Land of the Lustrous. I think I have control over that. I’ll just nip over and take care of that in a minute. Amelia won’t mind. [crosstalk] I’m sure I’m Amelia won’t mind.
PETER: [crosstalk] The Lustrous Fan Blog with Feminism.
DEE: Church of the Lustrous, where we spread the good word.
VRAI: The rocks are good, actually.
DEE: Hey, on the plus side, Patreon donations would be tax-deductible, so…
VRAI: Ah. Nice, good, yes.
VRAI: All right. Well, listeners, we’ve gone a little long. Thanks for sticking with us and thank you as always for joining us on the Anime Feminist podcast.
If you like what you heard, why not go and visit us on Patreon at patreon.com/animefeminist. It’s how we pay the bills and how we pay our contributors and editors and keep the site running. Even a dollar a month really helps and makes a difference.
And until next time, thanks so much for listening. Bye!
DEE: Okay, I guess we’re done.
DEE: See you later, AniFam! [imitates the Vaudeville Seven-Note Fanfare]
VRAI: [chiming in on the last note] Bawp.
DEE: [laughs] Okay, I’m gonna press stop.
PETER: All right.