Amelia, Dee, and Peter check in on the Winter 2018 season.
Date Recorded: Sunday 18th February 2018
Hosts: Amelia, Dee, Peter
Anime was a Mistake
0:01:19 The Ryou’s Work is Never Done
Pit of Shame
0:01:36 Killing Bites
0:01:47 Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody
0:03:07 After the Rain
0:10:04 Maerchen Maedchen
0:10:24 Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles
0:11:28 Slow Start
0:11:35 Katana Maidens ~Toji no Miko
0:13:04 Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens
0:16:52 DARLING in the FRANXX
0:20:17 Hakumei and Mikochi
0:21:18 How to Keep a Mummy
0:22:24 IDOLiSH 7
0:23:55 Junji Ito Collection
0:26:43 Karaki Jozu no Takagi-san
0:27:13 Mitsuboshi Colors
0:27:38 Pop Team Epic
0:28:10 School Babysitters
0:35:03 Devilman Crybaby
0:35:19 Laid-Back Camp
0:40:12 Violet Evergarden
0:49:52 Record of Grancrest War
0:59:36 Sanrio Boys
1:08:36 DamePri Anime Caravan
1:12:10 A Place Further Than the Universe
1:21:01 Final Notes
AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m the editor-in-chief of Anime Feminist, and I’m joined today by Dee Hogan and Peter Fobian. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves…
DEE: Hi, yeah, I’m Dee. I’m the managing editor over at Anime Feminist. I also run the anime blog The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate features editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
AMELIA: Today, we’re looking at the mid-season check-in for the winter 2018 season. At the beginning of the season, we review every premiere that’s eligible. We have a premiere digest, which we’ll link to in the show notes for this, and we categorize them depending on how feminist-relevant or feminist-friendly these shows are. So, we’re going to go through those categories today and just see which ones we’re keeping up with, what our opinions of them are at the moment, and what our recommendations are to watch or to avoid like the plague.
Speaking of which, let’s get stuck in at the deep end. We have the lowest categories on the list, the least likely to be recommended, Anime Was a Mistake. The Ryou’s Work Is Never Done. Either of you watching that?
DEE: Oh, no.
DEE: I couldn’t even get through the first episode, so nah!
AMELIA: I actually made it through the first episode, but I wasn’t super tempted to continue, so I’m quite happy not prioritizing that one. Pit of Shame category. Killing Bites. Watching that?
AMELIA: Anyone? Peter?
PETER: Didn’t capture my interest.
AMELIA: [laughs] That’s very diplomatic. Okay, Red Flags category. Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, which I understand is doing very well.
DEE: Of course it is. It’s an isekai light novel series.
PETER: Yep. Fantasy video game isekai. I actually watched everything that’s available yesterday.
AMELIA: And anything our listeners should know about?
PETER: Lots of slavery apologia. The guy kind of has this—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Okay, we can stop there. That’s…
PETER: —internal monologue. It’s like, “Well, so long as they’re happy, then is slavery wrong?” That kind of thing.
AMELIA: Ooh! So, not even just Red Flags anymore. That could probably be relegated down into Pit of Shame or possibly Anime Was a Mistake. We’ll come back to that.
DEE: Yeah, we had heard that was going to happen, and when we were ranking them, we thought about putting Death March in the Pit of Shame, but we were like, “Okay, just based on the first episode, we will just put it under Red Flags.” But yeah, we had heard that was coming.
AMELIA: That happens a lot with our categories, that we do hear of what’s to come, especially stuff that’s based on a manga or that’s based on a light novel, but we absolutely can’t judge on anything but the first episode or whatever’s been aired at that time.
DEE: Well, partly because you don’t know what the anime’s going to do.
AMELIA: Exactly, yeah.
DEE: They may decide to make some changes. Sounds like they did not here, so…
PETER: More bad things.
DEE: Into the pit. Into the pit, Death March goes.
AMELIA: And the final Red Flags series is one we do have to talk about, which is After the Rain.
DEE: [deflated] Yeah. I guess we do have to talk about it, don’t we?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Dee, are you watching this? I know Peter’s not.
DEE: I am one episode behind, but yeah, I have been following it, not so much out of personal enjoyment but more intellectual curiosity, I guess.
AMELIA: It’s very popular in the kinds of circles we’re in, the anime critic discussion circles. It’s got a lot of discussion about it.
[A few beats of silence]
DEE: Yes, it does! Sorry.
AMELIA: How are you finding it? Because the big red flag of that is this high school girl is in love with her middle-aged manager. And from our perspective, she’s not the viewpoint character, so the show does actually try to put you into the manager’s head, Mr. Kondo.
And the girl, Akira, we watch her a lot. We look at her; we see her; we don’t get inside her head; we don’t hear her thoughts. We see through her eyes sometimes, and she has a tendency to rose-tint her boss and his life, which is sweet and to be expected, but she herself is presented as this almost ethereal figure, and that has felt a bit uncomfortable to us. I know we’ve talked internally. How do you feel about that at this point in the series? I know you said you were one episode behind.
DEE: No, that’s still about where I am. I’m getting to the point where my distaste for what the show is doing with the way it presents and frames Akira and Kondo is overriding that curiosity-interest I had in it. The more I see the puppet strings, the less enjoyment I can get out of it. I’m working on a piece on it, which will probably get published in the next few weeks. I could talk about it a lot, but I don’t want to take up too much time on a Red Flags show.
AMELIA: I feel kind of the same way, except I’ve had the opposite trajectory to you. The more I watch, the more I do actually get into it and enjoy it. The way I see it is that it started off being presented as Akira’s story. It’s a story about a young girl, and so it felt jarring to be put in Kondo’s mindset so much.
But actually, six weeks in, it feels much more like his show, and Akira’s kind of a separate character we look at. And if I look at it from that perspective, I like it a lot more, and it feels like they’ve set it up as looking like it’s her story in order to not be a Woody Allen show, effectively.
PETER: Doesn’t that just make it a Manic Pixie Dream Girl show, though?
AMELIA: I’m not sure I’d call her a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I don’t think she’s quirky enough for that. I think she is a relatable character in some ways. The way she goes about her crush, she’s more determined than I think I was at that age—she’s really clear with him, and she expresses her feelings, and she makes sure that he understands—but she doesn’t do anything that’s super quirky or any of those hallmarks of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Just plain dream girl, though, because this beautiful high schooler is so into him and she’s so expressive about her affection. And in one very uncomfortable moment, it turns out she’s really motherly and she’s a good cook, and she goes to his home, and she cooks for his son, and it’s… [inhales] That felt kind of uncomfortable.
But on the other hand, the episode Dee hasn’t seen yet has some interactions between them that are much more down-to-earth, and they take that romantic element out entirely from his side at least.
And in many ways, he doesn’t do anything that I get frustrated with. He does sometimes, but for the most part, he’s just been pulled into her fantasy, and he doesn’t really want to be there. He’s enjoying the way it makes him feel, but he’s also conscious that there’s no good way for it to end. So, I think there’s stuff to like, but I think it belongs in the Red Flag category.
PETER: I do have one question, while we’re on it. I’ve seen two screenshots. One, it was a short clip that looked like she was hiding in his closet or something, and then another one that looked like it was his office through a keyhole. Does she stalk him or something?
AMELIA: She goes to his house. Basically, she takes his son home, she goes to his house, and he says, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Wouldn’t it be funny if you hid in the closet when Daddy comes home?” And she hides. And then the little boy forgets to call her out, so she just ends up sitting there and looking through the keyhole into his office, which is…
Yeah, it’s not creepy, but it crossed a line for me. It felt a little bit implausible, and this was after the whole “She cooks his son a meal” thing, and it all just felt a bit uncomfortable. It felt really cringeworthy for me when she goes to his house and he’s left his socks on the floor and stuff, and I felt really bad for him. So, again, if I can accept it as a Kondo viewpoint show, I’m quite okay with it in many ways, but—
DEE: That makes it so much worse to me.
DEE: Because if it’s a Kondo viewpoint show and it’s about a high school girl who’s throwing herself at him, it reads like a predator’s fantasy. And the more it shifts in that direction, the creepier and grosser it gets for me.
AMELIA: And I can’t really argue with that. I’m personally enjoying it more and getting more out of it once I’ve reframed it that way; but yeah, it is uncomfortable, and your mileage is going to vary on this one, I think it’s important for people to know. But it is absolutely beautiful. There is likable stuff about it. If you think you can stomach what Dee’s mentioned, then by all means, give it a go. But this isn’t going to be making any of our feminist recommendation lists, I think, at any point.
Okay, we should move on to the next category, Yellow Flags. So, Dee, what was your criteria for this category?
DEE: Hm. It’s a gut feeling! No, Yellow Flags are shows where there are definitely some elements that we think are feminist-relevant warning signs that could put people off, that could very quickly fall down a bad hole, depending on how they play them, but they were either minor enough or exercised with enough restraint that they didn’t feel like large, blaring warning signs to us. It was more like, if fanservice is a complete thing that you don’t want in any of your shows, then that might be in the Yellow Flag, even if the fanservice is fairly minor. Does that make sense?
AMELIA: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, I’m gonna go through the ones I don’t think people have seen. So, have you seen Beatless?
DEE: I mean, I’ve seen the first episode of everything on this list, but nothing past that.
AMELIA: Okay. Let’s say, up to where we are in this season.
AMELIA: No? Kokkoku?
DEE: I got through three episodes. I talked about it somewhat angrily in our three-episode check-in, so I’ll direct people to that. I’m not watching it anymore.
AMELIA: Okay. I don’t know how this is pronounced. The Märchen Mädchen? I’m sorry, guys. Butchered pronunciation. When it’s a Japanese title I can do it, but this is not—
PETER: Marchen Madchen?
AMELIA: Thank you! [laughs] Anyone watching that?
DEE: No. Vrai is, but I know Vrai couldn’t make the call. But they are keeping up with it, so…
AMELIA: Okay. Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles?
PETER: I am.
AMELIA: Is it any better?
AMELIA: [laughs] Would you move it from the Yellow Flag to another category?
PETER: Probably not. The show basically seems to be about that short-haired girl stalking Koizumi as she eats ramen. And they do a lot of: whenever they’re eating ramen, they get a blush on their face and make a lot of appreciative—
AMELIA: Food Wars!–style.
PETER: Yeah, noise. It’s hasn’t really gotten more awful, like it hasn’t done changing scenes or bathing scenes, yet, to add fanservice over what was—like, if you watch episode one, it’s maintained exactly that quality. I think that’s very representative of the rest of the series. It’s gonna be this hopeless girl stalking Koizumi and a lot of really uncomfortable eating scenes.
AMELIA: Nice. Exactly what I want from an anime. I’m not watching it. Slow Start?
AMELIA: Anyone? Nope? Okay. Katana Maidens. I think, Peter, you said you have watched this.
PETER: I watched the first three episodes.
AMELIA: Oh, okay. You talked about it in the three-episode check-in?
PETER: I don’t think we covered that one, since I was the only one.
AMELIA: Okay. [laughs] Right.
PETER: No fanservice really comes to mind that I can think of.
AMELIA: That’s interesting, because our episode one summary line is “Battle maiden series that goes through the fanservicey motions with far less bite and discomfort than usual.” So, do you mean it’s not reading as you would expect fanservice to, or there’s—?
PETER: I don’t recall any—I mean, it seems like one of those shows that would probably do that, but—I remember there were a couple scenes where they were trying to disguise themselves, so they changed clothes, and it just cut away during that.
PETER: Yeah. So, I was actually somewhat surprised with the first episode. I thought it was pretty good. Yeah, I can’t really think of anything super bad to say about it.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It belongs in Yellow Flag?
PETER: If you liked the first episode, then you’ll also like the rest of it, probably, I think. The way it frames them is maybe a little like “Hey, aren’t these girls cute?” But the same thing with Koizumi: it hasn’t done, like, the changing scenes where the camera’s in all the wrong places or a bathing scene with the same situation.
AMELIA: Okay. So, if battle maiden series are your thing, then maybe check it out, see if it’s at your tolerance level.
AMELIA: Okay. Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. Dee, are you watching this?
DEE: I was. I finished episode four, which was basically the end of the first light novel, so it wraps up that first story arc. I started episode five and realized, “No, I’m happy with the way that first arc ended,” and I didn’t really have any burning desire to keep hanging out with these characters. I’ve heard some pretty good things about the light novels in terms of explicit queer representation, which is cool, so I might go back to it just to keep an eye on that, but I fell behind and I’m not fully caught up right now.
AMELIA: Okay. Peter, are you watching that one?
PETER: Yeah. I’m one episode behind right now, so I guess that means I have watched five but not six. I think it definitely—well, I guess they technically didn’t kill that woman, but the one female hitwoman in the show definitely did get taken out of the equation very early on, so I think the only actual female character on the cast is an eight-year-old girl who works with the professional torture guy.
PETER: She, like, made his website and everything, and—
DEE: [crosstalk] She did! That part was fun. He wanted to advertise, so she made a website for him.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] That’s sweet.
PETER: Yeah. They’re professional revenge-getters, so if somebody does something to you, then do exactly that thing to them. And it’s this really big bald guy—
DEE: Martinez. He’s a Latinx immigrant, I guess.
PETER: Oh. He is?
DEE: Martinez. Yeah. His name is…
PETER: That’s cool. Then the bar owner is definitely gay-coded. Actually, when I read a character description, it said that he was gay. And then, I guess they both take care of this girl together, who… She’s pretty young. And in that same scene, he’s talking about how he has to make a princess costume for her for a play that she’s gonna be in at school, while she’s at this laptop writing up the description for their various torturing services.
AMELIA: [chuckles] Oh, my goodness.
PETER: [chuckles] It’s kind of funny in that regard. I’m—
AMELIA: But she is the only female character left.
PETER: Yes. And the show is definitely… I think the last episode made it pretty clear that it’s shipping Lin and Banba, the main detective guy and—
AMELIA: Who are they?
PETER: Lin is a Chinese assassin who cross-dresses as female, and Banba is a professional investigator/hitman. So, yeah, it definitely puts them in situations which are supposed to be quirky and romantic.
PETER: So, yeah, I can’t say it’s been treating women too well. I think it’s murdered like six or seven of them at this point to show the world’s bad.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, great! [laughs]
DEE: It definitely does that. It definitely does that. The killer in the first arc was a psychopath who was buying women and then murdering them. That was his thing.
AMELIA: Oh! Wow!
PETER: He was the mayor’s son or something.
AMELIA: Talk about burying the lede! How did that not come up within the first thing that you both said about it?
DEE: [crosstalk] We talked about it in the three-episode—
PETER: [crosstalk] I think we talked about that during the three-episode.
DEE: Yeah. It was in the three-episode check-in a lot, so we didn’t feel like we necessarily needed to go straight into it here.
AMELIA: Fair enough.
DEE: The thing about it, which we mentioned in the three-episode, too, is… It sucks, obviously. It’s kind of an old trope. But the show is very focused on tracking down the killer and finding him and bringing him to justice. It’s not a bunch of torture porn or murder porn. You don’t see the women suffering; you just know they’re dying.
DEE: So, again, it’s a Yellow Flag, but it’s handled with enough restraint that, unless that’s just a straight-up dealbreaker for you, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue.
AMELIA: Okay. Now speaking of restraint, let me segue to a show that has precisely none of it, Darling in the Franxx.
PETER: [chuckles dryly]
AMELIA: [chuckles] Now this has been perhaps the most talked-about show of the season, I think, again, in our little circle of the internet. A lot of people like it. A lot of people talk positively about it, and it has also had its fair share of criticism.
And I have continued to be kind of disappointed. I had a moment in episode four, I think it was. Yeah, it was episode four where it lost me. I lost any faith that it would subvert these very heteronormative gender roles that it had put up. And so, I’ve been watching it since, because there are still things I enjoy. I think Zero Two is an amazing character, but there’s a moment in episode four where it just completely removes her… Well, it removes her, actually, from the picture, and we’re completely focused on Bland Protagonist Hero.
So, yeah, I’m continuing to watch it. I enjoyed episode five a great deal. I haven’t seen six yet, but Peter, you have and you said it improves it slightly?
PETER: Yeah. I think the thing you disliked in four, the way it framed her as being an object by which he could get his wings or whatever, it basically said that was—
AMELIA: Which is something he actually says. Yeah.
PETER: Yes. It basically showed you that that is exactly the thing that he should not have been thinking the entire time.
AMELIA: Ah, okay. So, we’ll keep it vague, but if you get to episode four and you lost faith that it was gonna do anything subversive, that’s probably still true. I don’t know if we’ve seen any evidence yet that it’s going to subvert the gender roles.
PETER: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s being super creative or anything, but I do think it’s definitely established that Zero Two is also a character, not an object, and him thinking about her as an object was a mistake.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] And Zero Two is a really great character. Zero Two is probably the best thing about this show, I think; and it is a beautiful show. So, I’m continuing to watch it, but that was really upsetting for me. Not upsetting. That makes it sound very dramatic. But I thought… Because it is so on the nose, every time, it is so on the nose with this whole “Piloting is sex, and these teenagers are actually talking about sex,” and then it doesn’t do anything with that. So, it just seems like titillation for no purpose.
I mean, it’s apparently a 24-episode series, so we may get some subversion at some point, but if they wanted to do anything with it, if they wanted to really weave it in thematically, they’ve missed their chance to do that, basically. So from now on, it’s gonna feel like a twist or some kind of cheap device, rather than something that’s actually narratively interesting. So, if you are watching that one, I get it; I’m watching it too. Don’t expect too much of it, I think, would be my advice.
AMELIA: [laughs] Nothing to add to that. All right, let’s move on to the next category, Harmless Fun, which I think is self-explanatory. I am watching a couple of these. Dee, this is a category I know you’ve seen a few of.
DEE: Yeah. So, just talking about the ones that I’ve seen that I don’t think anybody else on the team is watching: Hakumei and Mikochi is very nice. I’m a couple episodes behind, but I haven’t officially dropped it. I just haven’t gotten back to it.
Pretty much everything I said in the three-episode check-in still holds, so I would say, go read that little blurb. I would have no qualms about recommending it to other people. I think if you have kids, it might be a nice one to watch with them, because it’s very much got a storybook feel to it.
Tons of female characters with lots of different kinds of jobs and interests. There’s a scientist and a café owner and some singers, and one of the main characters is a mechanic. So, it’s nice. It’s a very nice little family-friendly fairy tale-type show.
AMELIA: I really like it when we can recommend stuff that people can watch with their kids, because that is an email that we get every now and again from somebody saying, “Thank you for your reviews. They actually make it possible for me to share this thing I love with my daughter.” And so, I always think that’s really nice when we can do that. So we’ll have to highlight that in the end-of-season discussions, as well.
DEE: Yeah, for sure. And then—
AMELIA: You’re also watching—yeah.
DEE: Yeah, I’m also watching How to Keep a Mummy. Peter, you keeping up with that one too, or no?
PETER: I haven’t even watched the first episode.
DEE: [sighs] Okay, so here’s the thing about How to Keep a Mummy. I have almost nothing to say about it, but it’s super cute and nice, and it makes me happy every week, and that’s pretty much where it is. There’s a lot of adorable animals being adorable.
AMELIA: And it’s kind of like pets, right?
DEE: Yeah. It’s kind of like pets, but then in the most recent episode, they’ve been learning how to write, and they’re writing little simplistic messages to their owners, so now they’re kind of like kids. They’re monsters, so it’s in that middle ground between having a young child and having a pet. It’s very cute. It’s adorable. There’s one weird thing where the aunt, who’s looking after the main boy, apparently when she puts on glasses, she becomes kind of like a dominatrix type.
AMELIA: Oh! That totally happens. As a glasses-wearer, I can confirm.
DEE: Oh, yeah, no, totally. It happens exactly once. It’s like two minutes of one episode, but it’s super uncomfortable. Otherwise, the show has been really nice and sweet, and, again, have at it.
AMELIA: Okay. Are you watching Idolish7?
DEE: No, I’m not.
AMELIA: Peter, you watching that one?
AMELIA: Nope? Me neither. Hm, maybe I should watch a few more of these. I always skip idol shows starring male characters or female characters. So, recently I’ve been rethinking this.
PETER: [crosstalk] So, idol shows?
AMELIA: Idol shows in general.
AMELIA: Regardless, it never leaves me wanting to watch them; but actually, a huge amount of people do watch them and love them, so I’ve started reflecting on this a little, and I think maybe I need to watch a few more and try and understand that a bit better.
DEE: It’s not a genre I’m able to get into. I can do music shows sometimes, like I enjoyed Show by Rock!!
AMELIA: [crosstalk] ClassicaLoid?
DEE: Well, ClassicaLoid’s a little different. ClassicaLoid’s like, I don’t know, a magical girl music show.
AMELIA: “ClassicaLoid’s a little different” is an understatement.
DEE: Yeah. No, I’m thinking more about stuff like Show by Rock, which is about these bands and then they fight and stuff. And I got into that one; but for the most part, I have a hard time with straight, realistic music shows or idol shows. So, yeah, I’m not watching that one. Which, again, not to say there’s anything wrong with the genre. Just, it’s not something I’ve ever been able to get into.
AMELIA: I know that this is something one of my friends is watching and really loves and highly recommends it, so I might dive back into that one and see if I can have something to say about it by the end of the season.. Because, again, there’s so many people who love these shows, and I never watch them and I’m starting to question why that’s been a gap in my own viewing education.
From that to something completely different: Junji Ito. Any of you watching that?
AMELIA: Peter, how’s it progressed?
PETER: I mean, I think we have a basic disagreement in our level of enjoyment of the series to begin with.
PETER: I’ve liked pretty much the whole thing.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah. I struggled.
PETER: I think that every episode—um, I don’t know if I want to say that anymore. But I think every episode has built on the last one, like they’re becoming more comfortable doing horror stories, because I think around three or four, it started getting actually really good. Also, it’s adapted some of my favorite stories, so I’m happy with that.
It is doing that weird thing where it leaves off some of the stories in different places than the manga, maybe to encourage you to go find the short story collections or something, which I’m not sure how I feel about that. But I think generally they find a mysterious point to leave things off on that leaves you curious about where the story goes. Yeah, so I like it. There’s been a little bit of sakuga recently, like creepy fingers.
AMELIA: Yeah, I saw the GIF of that. It looked great.
PETER: Yeah. But—
AMELIA: And I think that’s the kind of thing I really wanted out of this show, is those kinds of visuals. And the first episode’s Doll Funeral or whatever it was called, that was great, but it was mostly a still image.
PETER: Yeah. Well, Ito’s known for the big panel reveal of the horrific thing, so I think that that’s what they’re trying to do. But yeah, making it static, as well, depending… I think a lot of the shots are somewhat static, but they could be doing more.
AMELIA: Have they done a Tomie episode?
PETER: No. They went back to Souichi, though, for some reason. [laughs]
AMELIA: For those unfamiliar with Tomie, she’s a schoolgirl who seduces people and they die. So, that is something we’ll probably want to talk about when it happens, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for that and I haven’t seen any GIFs or anything. I’ll come back to that. I mean, I’m not great at keeping up with these kind of episodic shows that don’t rely on a cumulative story anyway. But through no fault of its own, I think.
PETER: And as part of the style, there are a lot of women who get killed or victimized, but—
AMELIA: Yeah. Right, Vrai was talking about this, about [how] Ito in general is not super feminist-friendly, but not outright misogynist, though maybe that’s a conversation we need to have. Maybe that’s a separate podcast entirely, because I know Ito’s body of work is actually huge.
PETER: Yeah. Again I say, some of the stories have female main characters; some of them don’t. I think, generally you do see more weird stuff happen to girls, because he loves the contrast between beauty and horror, so you’ll definitely see a lot of that if you watch the show, which is probably my one warning about it.
AMELIA: Okay. Good to know. Moving on, Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san.
DEE: No, I haven’t seen—
AMELIA: I don’t know why this title wasn’t romanized—sorry, anglicized.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah. I thought that was an odd choice, too.
AMELIA: “Takagi-san is good at teasing,” I think, is the translation there. I tried to watch the first episode and couldn’t really get into it. It felt like a lot of vignettes, which isn’t really a style that works for me. Neither of you is watching it. Let’s move on.
DEE: [crosstalk] I watched the premiere. That was it, so…
AMELIA: That’s it, yeah. Mitsuboshi Colors?
DEE: Again, I watched the premiere. I kinda thought about coming back to it, but it was another one that very much felt like it was geared for a younger audience in kind of a saucy way. The kids are kind of bratty, sort of enjoyably so, but it’s very much about three eight-year-olds screwing around together, so wasn’t quite enough for me to come back to it.
AMELIA: That’s fair. Peter, you’re not watching that one?
AMELIA: Okay. Pop Team Epic.
AMELIA: Am I the only one—[laughs] Am I the only one watching this?
PETER: I think so.
DEE: Yeah, I’m not keeping up with it.
AMELIA: That’s fine. Nothing to add. [laughs]
PETER: [laughs] No comment.
AMELIA: One season, no comment.
DEE: It continues to be Pop Team Epic, I would assume.
AMELIA: It continues to be Pop Team Epic. And it’s interesting, but it’s not any more interesting than it was one episode in or three episodes in. It is exactly what it tells you it is, and if you liked it, then continue watching it. If you didn’t like it, it’s not gonna get any better for you.
Okay, School Babysitters. This is one that we do have to talk about, but I don’t know if either of you is watching that one.
DEE: I watched the first two episodes, and then I dropped it. And I’ve heard enough about other things that happen in it that have made me have no desire to go back to it, so…
AMELIA: Let’s talk about that character, who is an actual pedophile. That’s the worst part of this show. And it’s such a tonally inappropriate and inconsistent thing. Every other element of this show is really sweet. The main character is actually recovering from grief and learning how to balance being the guardian for his younger brother with, at the same time, being a teenager in a new school.
And it’s a good story, and he’s a good character, and actually when they do look at his grief… He lost his parents quite recently, and he tries to be upbeat about it and not dwell on it, but he does dwell on it, because he’s still a child and he’s still at school. And when they go into that, it is always really affecting. It’s really well handled. I like that they’ve not dropped it. Very often, parents being killed before the first episode is a device just to get them out of the way so you can put this kid into a weird situation. But they make it clear that he’s really missing his family; he’s really feeling the weight of responsibility on him.
And the children, they’re cute. Caitlin’s talked about how accurate they are in her experience as a preschool teacher, and I would concur. I have much younger brothers and sisters, and it feels completely resonant with my experience there.
But then you have this one character who is an actual pedophile and who is treated well by everyone except Inomata, who’s the student council president, and she calls him out on it, and she’s the only one, and that’s very awkward. So, yeah, I think it’s one of those things like, if it’s an absolute dealbreaker for you, then do not watch it, because it doesn’t shy away from it, and it does treat it as comedy that he gets a nosebleed when he sees these kids. But if you can stomach it—
AMELIA: —in the small doses that it exists in. Yeah, no, and I completely get that. He’s shown up in two episodes so far, which is two episodes too many, but he’s not an every-episode recurring character, so it is possible to hold your nose for that.
He’s kind of my equivalent of Mineta in My Hero Academia. It’s like if he’s in small enough pockets, I can deal with it. When he starts becoming a bit more of a major character, I don’t enjoy the show anymore. So, this pedophile character has not yet crossed that line for me personally, and I have to emphasize your mileage on this one will vary, and for a lot of people it will be an instant dealbreaker, and I get that. And it’s a real shame, because the rest of this show has a lot going for it.
So, we should probably move on… It’s a shame because School Babysitters probably is now in the “It’s Complicated” category. There are no yellow flags in this one; there are red flags, but there are also green flags. Speaking of which, citrus?
AMELIA: Either of you watching that?
DEE: No. I tend to prefer my romances fluffy anyway, so citrus was going to be a tough sell right off the bat, because it’s more in that melodramatic category.
DEE: And then, it was so heavily on assault. That’s one of my biggest dealbreakers, is lack of consent. So, I was pretty done with citrus after the first episode.
AMELIA: Yep. Yeah, it is not a show for you. And it’s not a show for a lot of people, actually, I think it’s fair to say. But I feel about it the way I feel about School Babysitters, is that there are some things that are so off, and the use of nonconsensual contact as a cheap plot device to generate conflict between them or generate emotional response… Yeah, it’s not fun and it doesn’t add to the story, but they do it every episode like clockwork, and it’s a problem.
But in the most recent episode, they actually have Yuzu, the main character, who is an excellent character… She’s so good; she’s a really interesting and defiant, unconventional young woman, and she is just really opinionated and independent, and I really like her.
DEE: Yeah, I liked Yuzu, too, in that first episode.
AMELIA: Yeah, she’s so great. And she actually calls out Mei on some of her more manipulative aspects of the way that she uses her sexuality, and it’s finally… I don’t mind at all you showing teenagers having problematic attitudes or approaches to sex. Scum’s Wish was full of it, and I loved Scum’s Wish.
AMELIA: But the show doesn’t address it, and in episode six, it finally starts to address it. So, it’s too early to say whether it’s turned a corner or whether it’s just temporarily thrown us a bone, but it’s slightly promising. And there are some people out there praising citrus based on the manga, so maybe it’s starting to go in more of that direction. I don’t know, but I think it’s worth checking in at the end of the season and seeing if we have anything to add about that, because it is not the same show in episode six as it was in episode one or two.
DEE: Mm-hm. That’s good.
PETER: I know you were talking about how, if you took out the sexual assault, it was actually kind of an interesting slow-burn romance.
PETER: Like if there wasn’t any of that going on, it would’ve been her suddenly having a stepsister and not knowing how to handle the relationship, trying to be supportive. And then, I think in episode six was also when they had the first consensual kiss in the entire series.
PETER: So, that could’ve just come out of nowhere.
AMELIA: There’s this whole moment where they’re like, “Wait, this kiss is different from all the others. What could it possibly be?”
PETER: “It’s because both of us actually wanted to kiss. That’s weird.”
DEE: Imagine that.
AMELIA: Yeah, it was ridiculous. But that could, hopefully, be a turning point where this turns into a real relationship between equals.
AMELIA: I know, I know. [laughs] There’s some talk out there about… some people object to the show because they don’t like the fact that they’re related, but that doesn’t bother me personally because they aren’t—it’s not just that they’re not blood related; they only met days before their first kiss or something like that.
AMELIA: So, it’s very much like two strangers come together and it turns sexual. The fact that they’re related by marriage at that point… It’s not a big problem for me. I can see how it would be for some people, but for me personally it’s not a big deal. It’s the nonconsensual contact that’s the big dealbreaker and will absolutely put plenty of people off, I’m sure.
DEE: Yeah, that sounds about right. [chuckles]
AMELIA: [laughs] The other one in this category is Devilman Crybaby. We’ve done a whole podcast on that, so go check out that podcast episode on it.
Moving into the next category then, Feminist Potential. Let’s look at, first of all, Laid-Back Camp.
DEE: Oh, we’re gonna start from the top?
AMELIA: Let’s go to the ones… because Laid-Back Camp, I think you’re the only one watching it, and Violet Evergarden, I’m the only one watching it. Record of Grancrest War, I think we’re all watching, so…
DEE: Oh, Peter is also watching Laid-Back Camp. I know, because his tweets get lots of shares.
PETER: Yeah. [laughs]
AMELIA: That’s true! I shared a tweet of yours last week.
PETER: Secret Society Blanket, man.
DEE: Secret Society Blanket. Laid-Back Camp is wonderful. I love it. It’s not my very favorite show of the season, nor is it the show that I would say is the best show of the season, but it might be the one I look forward to the most each week.
AMELIA: Oh, really?
DEE: Yeah. It is a weekly dose of just relaxing, fun… It’s a cute girl show. I’m putting “cute girl” in quotes, because it’s basically the perfect cute girl show. It’s these four or five girls having fun, goofing around together, going on camping trips, and they’re not fetishized or infantilized. They’re just cute high schoolers having fun, and it’s really, really enjoyable.
AMELIA: See, that was what put me off, was that it came across like “Cute girls do cute things,” and I got the impression that they would be infantilized. But that’s really reassuring, and I know you guys have been into it; but you know I don’t always like the same things as everyone else in AniFem, so I wasn’t quite sure. But actually, if six episodes in you’re singing its praises that highly, I should probably check it out.
DEE: I love it. Their interactions remind me… I mean, obviously it’s a comedy, so it’s not like—we’ll talk about this later—A Place Further Than the Universe, to me, is very realistic high school girls. Laid-Back Camp is comedy high school girls.
So it’s not a perfect experience of high school or anything like that, but the way they goof around together very much reminds me of my friends and I wasting time and hanging out, and somehow somebody got wrapped in a box and now we’re gonna put stamps on it and pretend we’re gonna mail ‘em. Just goofy stuff like that, you know. They—
AMELIA: That might be a step too far for me. I don’t know, but it sounds cute.
DEE: They rib each other. Oh, this is something I hadn’t really noticed in anime until suddenly I didn’t notice it in Laid-Back Camp, is a lot of the time, when you have characters giving each other crap, it’s usually one person getting picked on by the others, and that’s the relationship. And in Laid-Back Camp, the characters, there’s a really good back-and-forth, like everyone’s in on the joke, and it very much has that feel of friends teasing each other, but everybody knows that they’re just goofing around. It’s really nice. I like it a lot.
PETER: Also, you can’t really insult Nadeshiko because she just rolls with it.
DEE: [crosstalk] That is also true.
PETER: Like when she’s talking about Mount Fuji too much, Chiaki says, “I’m just gonna call you Fujiko,” and she goes, “Dang, okay.” [chuckles]
DEE: She’s like, “That sounds great.”
PETER: Yeah, yeah, that sounds nice. I mean, if you go with Fujiko, that’s a pretty good name if you’re an anime fan, I think.
PETER: I think it actually did the opposite, from the infantilization aspect, because it almost immediately portrayed Rin—I think it is—as a very self-sufficient individual. And that’s commented on a lot, because she’s always going camping by herself in the middle of nowhere.
She gets her driver’s license super early, so she can get on a Vespa and go even further out in the middle of nowhere and continue camping by herself. She makes plans, itinerary. She keeps buying her own camping equipment. So, you learn a lot about camping and can actually see her being this kinda weird person, but also, she doesn’t rely on anybody else, and she seems to enjoy camping on her own.
DEE: Yeah, Alex wrote a really nice article about that on her blog, The Afictionado, which we’re gonna share in the links post this week probably.
PETER: I think they’ve introduced a lot of good side characters now, too, like Smooth Grandpa and—
PETER: I don’t know if that drunk lady is gonna become their teacher.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Smooth Grandpa.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. Basically, his thing is he looks like he’s in a coffee commercial, and he’s cooking this huge steak on a cast-iron pan next to his motorcycle and his tent, and Chiaki comes across him, and he offers them to her. [laughs] And that was the entire scene.
DEE: Yeah, and she’s like, “What a smooth grandpa!” And turns out he’s a recurring character. And then, yeah, they met a couple of campers this past week, which was a brother and sister, and the sister just goes out and gets trashed, and that’s how she camps. And I was like, “I can get behind that.”
AMELIA: Oh, yes, I saw the screenshots with her, I think.
DEE: Yeah. [laughs]
AMELIA: [laughs] I felt a connection.
PETER: [laughs] So, I think that the show has also prevented itself from being formulaic as well, not falling back on usual anime bad stuff. So, I think it’s really great.
AMELIA: Okay, recommendation accepted. I’ll have to check this one out. I think I’m the only one watching Violet Evergarden, because I’m the only one who has access to it.
PETER: Ah, this is an unusual feeling for me.
AMELIA: [laughs] Sorry, Americans! Enjoy it while it lasts?
PETER: We’re in the anime backwater here in the USA.
AMELIA: Yes, exactly! Yeah, I can’t feel too bad about this. Violet Evergarden, I am watching. I haven’t quite caught up, but I need to talk, I think, about how it’s changed. So, it has shifted now, so it’s not solely Violet’s story.
Her job now is to write letters expressing the feelings of others, and it gives her a way to connect with other people, and we can tell their stories through her work. And episode five had something that I think I need to talk about at some point in a bit more detail, but basically, she writes the love letters between a 14-year-old girl and her 24-year-old betrothed.
PETER: [dryly] Neat.
AMELIA: Yeah. So, that’s a bit uncomfortable, because it is a love story, and it’s told as a love story.
DEE: [crosstalk] Is it? Ugh.
AMELIA: So, it begins being shown as a political situation, and the 14-year-old is deeply unhappy about it, which I thought, “Yep, fair enough.” If 14-year-old girls did get married off for political reasons, this is probably how they’d react. But—spoiler alert—guys, it turns out that she was in love with him the whole time and he is willing to return those feelings, and it is framed very much as a romantic story.
PETER: Triumph of love.
AMELIA: [sighs] Yeah, and Violet supports this in a way that’s totally appropriate. And had it been between characters with a different dynamic, it would’ve been fine, but they also don’t know each other at all. It’s all a bit uncomfortable.
And essentially, one of the questions that the little girl asks—the “little” girl; she’s 14!—that she asks Violet early on is “What do you think about relationships with an age gap? How much do you think is too much of a gap? Do you think ten years is too much?” And, I don’t know, partly because of the conversations we’ve been having in fandom about After the Rain, it felt quite—not on the nose, exactly, because there’s no way they could have known about that or incorporated it into their anime in that way—but it felt like justification, which doesn’t sit well with me really. So, just be aware that that’s there.
Other than that, it’s been fine, so I think it’s their attempt to tell a story of unconventional love, because that’s the whole point of Violet’s journey, is she’s trying to understand love. Oh, and we learn in this episode that she’s around 14 as well, which changes things a little bit.
AMELIA: Yeah, I hadn’t really expected that. She’s asked, “How old are you?” and she says, “I’m an orphan, so I didn’t have a birthday, but I’m told that I’m around 14,” which changes things considerably.
AMELIA: I think we’d been working on the basis that she was around 19.
AMELIA: Yeah, no. So, her quest to learn about love, I think they’re gonna be exploring in different ways and different types of love, and this was, I think, their attempt to do a story of fairly unconventional love. And it’s between royalty, so it’s already a bit different, but yeah, it’s a bit of a warning sign.
I don’t think it’s gonna go down that road again, but just that one episode alone… You could probably skip it and be fine quite honestly, if you think you’ll be uncomfortable with that. You could probably just skip episode five, because it is vignettes now. There’s an interaction that happens at the very end of the episode between Violet and somebody else that’s quite important, but other than that, probably not that necessary. Watch the first two minutes; watch the last two minutes; just skip it in the middle.
PETER: I do have one question about that, because I watched the first episode’s screening at Expo, and the premise—or at least the way that the men were treating Violet—seemed super paternalistic, which was one of my super big concerns for the series.
There were a couple uncomfortable scenes where she’s begging them to tell her if her commander’s still alive, and they just won’t do it. And it’s obvious he’s not, but they want to save her feelings. And they’re talking about how they’re gonna arrange her life so she can learn how to become a human being, and to myself, I was thinking, “I wish they would just walk it back and let this happen on its own or see if they could support her.” So, I wasn’t sure what sort of trajectory this series would take from that kind of potentially problematic launching point.
AMELIA: Yeah. Again, I’m not completely caught up, so this may be contradicted by the most recent episode, but my understanding is that the element of not giving her all the information she needs to function as an adult and to own her feelings and grieve accordingly, they haven’t done that yet, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to.
At this point, I imagine they’re saving it for an end-of-season emotional climax, which feels… [sighs] I don’t like it. I would rather she spent the series grieving and learning how to grieve, rather than learning what love is.
PETER: Yeah, so there’s two outcomes when you put it that way. It’s either she goes through all this trouble learning what love is, just to learn that that guy died before episode one started, or he miraculously survives, which will feel a little like an anticlimax, I think. Yeah, that’s not great. [laughs]
AMELIA: I mean, they still could, but they’ve implied heavily that he’s dead.
PETER: Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: They’ve implied heavily.
PETER: I wasn’t like 100% sure. If he’s not, it’s bad, based on the first episode alone.
AMELIA: If he’s not, it’s baiting the audience, which I don’t believe in. If you want it to be ambiguous, there are ways they can make it ambiguous for us as well as for Violet, and they’ve not done that. They’ve really heavily laid the grounding for “He is dead, and Violet just doesn’t know yet.” And she doesn’t know, and she asks with great distress quite often, and that’s hard.
PETER: Oh, more? After episode one?
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah, she asks repeatedly. She brings him up a lot.
PETER: [crosstalk] God!
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh my God.
AMELIA: She’s upset. But her response is the reasonable one?
PETER: That’s like the only time you see her get emotional, is when she’s basically pleading with him to tell her where her leader is. Ah, I don’t like that!
AMELIA: She continues to bring him up. When she takes the Doll class—that’s the name of her job title, Doll—when she takes a class for that and they say, “You have to write letters to somebody,” they try to encourage her to write a letter to the guy that she’s… I think that’s right? You know what, I’m fudging details in my memory at the moment, but basically, she continues to think about him. She continues to want to contact him. She continues to ask about him. She continues to speak as if he’s alive, and she doesn’t get contradicted.
PETER: Is she still sending reports back?
AMELIA: I don’t think so, because she’s with—
PETER: [crosstalk] Her new commander?
AMELIA: —another military guy or ex-military guy. Yeah, her new boss.
AMELIA: But I will say, that is the extent of the paternalism for the large part. So, that first episode is really unfortunate in that sense, because they do have to get her from hospital and alone and isolated into an independent situation, relatively speaking. They try to put [her] in her commanding officer family’s home, and that doesn’t work. She resists. She wants to be active and useful. And then, she ends up going with the other military guy to his business.
And so, she works there; she lives there. She asks for the job that she has. Writing letters is actually a job that she asks for, and that happens at the end of the first episode, and so that is a real step in the right direction and learning… Her letters, to begin with, are very much reports, and she has to take on other people’s guidance and input to learn how to inject emotion into her letters and that kind of thing.
So, over time she is becoming a more fleshed out person with more agency. But that—yeah. It strikes me every time that she brings him up and they don’t say anything to her, and it feels uncomfortable.
PETER: Yeah. I forgot she was staying at his family’s house, too. [laughs]
AMELIA: Well, they tried to get her to stay there. They tried to, and she refused.
PETER: She leaves? Okay, good.
AMELIA: She leaves because the implication is that she wouldn’t work, and she said, “No, I want to work,” basically.
AMELIA: It’s a reasonable thing. She’s trying to adjust from child soldier, essentially, to civilian life, and she feels like she can’t do that without a job, and she wants to stay connected to her commanding officer in some way, and she doesn’t feel like she can do that in his family’s home.
This is a really beautiful show, I have to say. This is a really beautiful show. I do really enjoy watching it. That is the one thing that is really uncomfortable, that she is so distressed by her commanding officer’s absence, and she has clearly been responsible for some dark things as a child soldier, and they haven’t really gone into that yet. But she’s got some trauma, and they’re not really addressing it, and they’re not really enabling her to address it as a character.
So, I’m sure they get to it. They’ve laid enough groundwork that they have to, I think, but they haven’t so far, really. Though maybe episode six picks it up. I’m not sure.
AMELIA: We should move on to Record of Grancrest War, which I think all of us are watching?
AMELIA: Excellent. You tell me what you think.
DEE: I’m a little disappointed in it. I think that the extremely cool female characters have been overshadowed more and more by the less cool— I mean, Theo’s fine, I guess. He’s just not very interesting.
DEE: Everyone is more interesting than Theo, basically.
AMELIA: That’s true. But Siluca and Theo, that’s a dynamic I have a lot of time for.
DEE: I would like it better if I felt like Siluca was still getting to do—we know that she’s kind of the mastermind. The episodes usually start with her being like, “Hey, Theo, go do this thing,” and he’s like, “Okay.”
DEE: But because the narrative spends way more time on Theo doing the thing than on Siluca coming up with the plan, it ends up feeling unbalanced within the narrative itself in the more recent episodes, I’ve felt. So, less Siluca on screen is a mistake, I think.
AMELIA: [laughingly] Theo is a mistake.
DEE: Theo’s fine. He’s just…
PETER: [crosstalk] Well, also, they are also working for that guy now. He’s calling all the shots now, so Siluca’s just following orders.
DEE: She’s following orders, but she’s coming up with—he’s like, “Hey, go take this castle town,” and she’s like, “Okay, well, let’s come up with a plan to take the castle town.” And so, again, she’ll come up with a plan at the beginning of the episode, then Theo executes the plan. So, I know from a big perspective level that Siluca has a very active role to play in the story, but we just don’t see very much of it, and that has bummed me out a little bit the past few episodes.
AMELIA: That’s understandable. I feel like she’s now in a kind of educational environment. She’s learning.
DEE: [crosstalk] I do like that.
AMELIA: And I thought it was interesting, actually, that they specifically mentioned her reputation, didn’t they? She’d learned a number of things, but never to the level of specialty, so she has a range of shallow skills and information—
AMELIA: Yeah, but she hasn’t got a single thing that she excels at, so she’s learning from these other women, and I thought that was quite a nice dynamic. I enjoyed that.
DEE: [crosstalk] I liked that scene. I would’ve liked more of that. Again, it was like three minutes, and I was like, “I want more time with these characters and Siluca hanging out with them.”
AMELIA: What do you think of the guy himself, Villar the Lustful Earl? That’s his nickname, isn’t it? And he’s the reason that she has her uniform, which she’s apparently got used to now, because that was always gonna happen. And he has this 25-year-old who’s really into him, and he won’t marry her because she’s a priestess or something. And it’s…
Yeah, I completely get what you’re saying, Dee, because it does feel like it’s shifting to a story of men, whereas it started out feeling much more balanced, and it’s starting to feel like it’s going to be Villar and Lassic and Theo leading the charge in whatever kind of story sense they have.
PETER: I don’t feel like he’s a good guy, though, so at some point, they have to break out from under his thumb. So, I’m hoping that that… I don’t know. He was super creepy in the beginning, as the Hashtag Woman Respecter, so…
DEE: I really wanted them to do something with that, but then they ended up just giving him sort of a sympathetic backstory. Which is fine, but maybe also address the fact that he forces people to leave his service at age 25 because they need to get married and have children, even if they wanna stay and work for him.
AMELIA: And she specifically wants to stay and marry him, and he’s like, “No, I can’t give you preferential treatment. Also, I hated women and my mother for a while.” Which is—
PETER: Yeah, “by the way…” [laughs]
AMELIA: “By the way.” Yeah, that whole scene was a really kind of uncomfortable revelation.
DEE: I feel like they threw a lot on us in that scene, and then didn’t really give us any time to explore that or digest it at all. And maybe they’ll come back to it.
PETER: It’s still moving very fast, the series. I feel like it’s slowed down, but I still feel like it’s going at a pretty fast beat, and I’m wondering where it’s trying to reach so quickly, because I think at this point it’s gonna get two seasons. So, it definitely has time.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I think it’s due for it.
AMELIA: I’m still enjoying the female characters that we do get. That’s one thing I do appreciate, is there are new female characters regularly, and we have had a range of them. There’s that episode where you walk in and it’s like the vampire king and the werewolf queen or something.
PETER: Oh, my God, Castlevania episode?
AMELIA: It was so weird! It felt really bizarre. But again, in that episode, you’ve then got two more women who are dueling each other, and that kind of thing happens quite a lot within this series, and I appreciate that. But yeah, it does have its concerns, I think.
PETER: It’s so hard to tell where the series is going, still, I think is the big issue. You’re like, “What is the series about yet?”
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly. And in a way, it feels like very short arcs. So, you have an arc that lasts an episode or two episodes, and then it moves on to something else. It’s an odd way to stitch a story together, and it does feel stitched together at times.
DEE: And a lot of the time that’ll happen with light novel adaptations, just because the way a light novel is written is every light novel is supposed to be its own standalone-type story, which are then strung together in this broader arc format. And I think that sometimes that lends itself to a pretty organic single narrative and sometimes not as much, and I get the sense that the way this one was written was probably like, “And now here’s this pitched battle. And now here’s this conquest.” And so, trying to pull those all together into one story is probably a bit of a challenge.
AMELIA: That makes sense.
PETER: Well, it’s hard not to think that it’s got some sort of objective with the director of the series, so…
AMELIA: Refresh my memory?
PETER: It’s Mamoru… I hope I pronounce this correctly—Hakeyameya?
DEE: [crosstalk] Hatakeyama.
DEE: [crosstalk] Hatakeyama.
PETER: The director of Rakugo.
DEE: Yeah, he did Rakugo. He’s very good. If nothing else, this show has proven to me that we should definitely give him action series, because the action sequences are excellent. I mean, they’re well animated and that’s not him, necessarily, but they’re very well directed.
This isn’t feminist-relevant, so we might want to cut this out of the actual podcast, but there’s very much a focus on the claustrophobic, chaotic aspect of fights. There’s an actual sense of weight to the battles, and I really appreciate that.
AMELIA: I found the one where Milza goes in and just kills everybody except that one guy, and he’s… It felt dangerous and it felt creepy and it felt intimidating, and I thought that was nicely done, for sure. But then there was that really awkward dance between Villar and Margret—
PETER: Oh, my God!
AMELIA: —where it was supposed to be really sexy, and it was supposed to come across as kind of a metaphor for them having sex—not a metaphor, quite, but you know what I mean. It was supposed to come across like “This is the equivalent. They’re really into each other.” And it was slightly awkward and cringey.
PETER: It was.
AMELIA: So… [laughs]
PETER: Her spinning in that circle around him just was weird. [laughs]
AMELIA: There’s one minute where she’s breathing really deeply for no apparent reason while he’s totally fine.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah, that was a weird scene.
AMELIA: It was a little bit cringey, so maybe when there’s fighting involved, he’s a bit more solid.
DEE: Yeah. I find everything with Villar very strange because, again, they set him up in the first couple episodes to seem really menacing, and now it feels like they’re trying to do an about-face and make you sympathize with him. But I super don’t, because he’s still doing that, what was that, “Hashtag Woman Respecter,” Peter?
PETER: Yeah. “No one respects women more than I do!”
DEE: That “put them on a pedestal” thing. And, again, if it’s something that they’re gonna keep coming back to and maybe addressing and challenging, then, okay, yeah, give him a sympathetic backstory and then force him to deal with those prejudices and realize that they’re shitty. And I just don’t know if it’s gonna do that or not. That episode was very baffling to me. I didn’t really expect him to turn into a character we’re supposed to sympathize with, I think.
AMELIA: It did feel like an infodump to evoke sympathy rather than building the groundwork for a character development [unintelligible due to crosstalk].
PETER: [crosstalk] Exactly.
AMELIA: I didn’t get a lot out of it except “Oh, you have issues with women. Okay.” That was my big takeaway from the scene. He says he doesn’t. How convincing is that, do we think?
DEE: Yeah, he super does, though. His actions speak louder than his words.
AMELIA: Exactly. But I am enjoying it overall. I get a lot out of each episode. I’m into the show, but I don’t know how feminist a recommendation I would give it, I guess.
DEE: Yeah, I don’t feel like it’s a yellow flag, necessarily.
AMELIA: But it still feels like it has potential that it’s not exploring.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that.
AMELIA: And six episodes in, I’d kind of hoped it would build on the promise that we saw in episode one.
DEE: Yeah, me too.
AMELIA: Okay, speaking of which, we should move on to Feminist Themes.
AMELIA: We’ve got three shows in this category. Let’s start with Sanrio Boys, which I love. [laughs] I caught up with it yesterday.
DEE: I like it. I keep thinking, “Oh, I think I’ll stop watching,” but then it pulls me in again. It’s a very good toy commercial.
AMELIA: Peter, are you watching this one?
PETER: I am not.
AMELIA: You should.
PETER: Yeah, it’s one of the ones I’m actually interested in checking out. It’s just I think I’m up to 20 series that I’m following concurrently, and…
AMELIA: I don’t need to hear your excuses, Peter.
AMELIA: Just watch the show.
DEE: Just watch Sanrio Boys.
PETER: I’m doing my best.
AMELIA: Just watch Sanrio Boys, come on. We talked, in the premiere review and the three-episode check-in, about how it’s really trying to dismantle some toxic masculinity elements. And I think it’s doing a good job of that, and it’s exploring from different angles the problems that people have in general with the idea of men liking typically feminine things.
After the first arc with the main character—well, he’s not really a main character anymore; he’s one of an ensemble now—but the first arc with Kouta, who’s our every-boy character, I really didn’t know where they were gonna go with this. And now, six episodes in, I really like where they’re going with it, which is they are approaching it from different angles, through different viewpoints, having people be faced with their prejudices and try to come to terms with it. The last two episodes were very BL. Like, it was a romance story between…
DEE: Yeah, I’m not great at picking up on subtext in most media—
AMELIA: [laughs] You didn’t need to be.
DEE: —but, boy howdy, the subtext between Ryo and the president Seiichirou was not subtle.
AMELIA: No, not at all, and in a really nice way, actually, because it felt like they weren’t trying to hide it. So, in this episode, the idea of liking Sanrio… basically, they’re talking about liking boys. That is absolutely the story they’re telling here. And I’m sure there are other readings of it, but it felt like this is what they were trying to say. It is framed like a romance. It is framed like BL, specifically. The character types you’ve got in here are character types who show up in relationships in BL a lot.
DEE: You’re talking specifically about the last two episodes?
AMELIA: The last two episodes. The ones before that, I think you can read it that way, and it seems like there are moments when they set it up to tease you a bit, but it doesn’t feel like that’s the story they’re telling. Ehereas the last two episodes, it absolutely felt like that was the story they were telling.
DEE: Yeah, I would agree with that.
AMELIA: And it’s a good story. It’s a kid who is clearly closeted and has internalized homophobia, and he really struggles with his own feelings about being perceived as feminine; being perceived as cute. He hates it, he rejects it, he wants to be more manly, and he is resentful and lashes out against those who seem more comfortable with their identities.
However, Vrai raised a really good point in our group chat that I think we should talk about, which is that this is a trope, and actually, it’s not yet balanced out in any way. So, we have the character, Yuu. His sister, as far as we know, she’s a cis, straight woman, and she really resents her brother’s interest in Sanrio. She really hates that he likes cute things; she finds it really embarrassing. And so, she’s cruel to him as a result.
And they resolve their differences and reestablish their affection for each other, but she’s still struggling with it. And that’s a perfectly decent story to tell, and it’s a perfectly valid viewpoint to show, but we don’t have the equivalent of that in a male character yet. So everyone who seems to hate Sanrio actually secretly loves it and just is coming to terms with that. So, they need to—
DEE: Yeah, or like Kouta’s two friends who don’t really get it, but they’re fine. They’re pretty accepting about the fact that he’s into it.
AMELIA: Yes. So, we haven’t yet had anyone who objects to it, because so many people in society do, and they haven’t really shown that representation yet of somebody who doesn’t like it and has to deal with the fact that that is just a prejudice and it’s not right.
DEE: I mean, now that I’m thinking about it, in the first episode, the whole reason Kouta rejects his pupper, Pompompurin, is because of those boys who are giving him shit. So, we’ve seen it, but we haven’t seen it in the current day. And I think that was a good call in the first episode to make it be the boys teasing him, because I think that it points out that a lot of those pressures are placed on boys by other boys. You know what I mean?
AMELIA: Yeah. And at a very young age, as well.
DEE: Yeah, and at a very young age. And so, yeah, I think that if they’re able to bring that back over the course of the second half of the series—it seems like these guys are probably going to do something for the school festival that will very much make their love of Sanrio loud and clear.
AMELIA: Really public, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. And so, I’m hoping that over the course of that arc, we’ll have situations where they meet maybe some asshole boys their own age who they have to deal with, because, like Vrai was saying in our private talk, that would help balance that out a lot, too, I think.
AMELIA: Absolutely, and it’s really important, too. I didn’t really think about it until they pointed it out, and then once they explained what they meant, I completely agree. I’m 100% on board.
I think that it is important to tell the story of the young closeted boy. This is aimed at a fairly young target audience, and I do think that there will be queer kids watching this who see themselves and their responses in that and who can gain something positive from it, and I think that’s a really important message to send.
But I also think these first six episodes has been building up their network. They need each other for support, and we’re finally at a point when actually the whole team is assembled, so that didn’t happen until this most recent episode. So, from here, is the time when you’d expect them to be challenged as a group—as well as individually, I’m sure. Now is really a good time for that kind of challenge, because it won’t be able to hurt them as much.
And this is, at the end of the day, a toy commercial for younger people, so we don’t want to see them experiencing trauma, but we do want to see them having their tastes questioned and then them challenging that and hopefully getting to a new normal where everybody’s on board with it, which—I think, as you said as well—is what we’re getting with the school festival. Which, by the way, was the opening scene and really confused me when I first watched it.
DEE: The flash-forward? Yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah! Yeah, it really threw me, and I was like, “This is not what I was expecting from this show.” But I really enjoy watching it as well, it’s important to say. We’re talking a lot about how meaningful it is, but I actually enjoy watching it. It’s fun.
DEE: Yeah, it is. It’s fun. It’s got a pretty good sense of humor. It’s well-written. It has various different narrative arcs that it puts you through, and you get to feel for the characters, and I think they all have their good points and their flaws. So, I’m enjoying it.
AMELIA: And the characters are written really consistently as well. It’s not like as soon as they can acknowledge they like Sanrio, whoever they were before is completely dropped. Like Kouta, for example, they go back to him having his love of Sanrio questioned, and the first thing he does is withdraw into himself exactly as he did before. And he has to learn to be more comfortable with it. They don’t just drop things. And Yuu has these anger issues, almost. He lashes out a bit.
DEE: [crosstalk] He has a temper, yeah.
AMELIA: He has a temper, and they don’t sugarcoat that too much.
DEE: It’s very much he doesn’t particularly care if people talk crap about him, but if they start talking crap about his friends, then he goes off. That was what got him off with his sister and then with Ryo as well.
AMELIA: Exactly. And that is consistent.
DEE: Continued to happen, and he’s continuing to try to work through it. And yeah, I think it does a good job of that, so it’s not like everyone’s problems are magically solved by finding—
AMELIA: Loving Sanrio.
DEE: Yeah, by loving Sanrio and admitting that you love Sanrio.
AMELIA: Because, actually, that’s a story they could’ve told, and they’re choosing not to, which I do appreciate. The story is cumulative, and it is going somewhere, and the more it goes on and the more they build up their own support network as young men with unconventional tastes that are challenging these societal norms, it feels really satisfying to watch them grow in their strength of will and comfort with their own preferences. It’s a nice story to see.
DEE: It is. I like it a lot.
AMELIA: And it was completely unnecessary for this toy advert. [chuckles]
Okay, next one, DamePri Anime Caravan. Dee, you’re watching this. Tell me a little bit about this. [laughs]
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, of course I’m watching DamePri. Yeah, DamePri probably is my favorite show of the season, just because it was made for me.
AMELIA: Yes, it was.
DEE: I guess my one mild disappointment going forward—it’s pretty much the same show it was in the first three episodes, so if you liked it early on, you’ll continue to have fun with it. My only mild disappointment is I thought they were going to maybe delve a little more seriously into the boys and their arcs and their characters development, and they’ve continued to be pretty much just goofballs.
But that having been said, they’re very entertaining goofballs. The series has done a good job of finding different dynamics, so, like, they’ll smash two different characters together for an episode and see what they’re like when they interact with each other, and that gives you different aspects of their personalities. The most recent one paired Narek and Mare together, which was the odd couple romance I never knew I wanted until I saw it.
AMELIA: [laughs] I need to see this.
DEE: Ani’s still fantastic. She’s a great character. There’s an episode—I don’t think you’ve seen this one yet, Amelia—I think it was episode four. All the princes and their vassals come visit her country, and they’re very hard to deal with, and Narek keeps talking crap about what a backwater country it is, and Ani, she’s still very polite and diplomatic, but she does not put up with it, and I really appreciate that about her.
There’s one part where they’re causing a scene. They’re about to have an international incident at the marketplace, and she gets between them and tells them to knock it off, and Narek yells, “You can’t tell me what to do!” and she’s like, “Yes, I can! You’re in my country!” And I was like, “Yes! Thank you, Ani.” So, she’s very good. And she gets to be goofy, too. She’s not just the perpetual straight man.
AMELIA: Ah, that’s good.
DEE: In the most recent episode, she got stuck in a room with just Chrom, who is very…
DEE: He’s very unhappy at that point in the story, for lots of different reasons. But the tension in the room is insane and she’s trying to figure out how to defuse it, and she looks over and her little animal companion, Gurimaru, has just decided to pretend to be asleep. And she’s like, “I’ll do that, too!” So, she just pretends to be asleep in the middle of their conversation, and it’s very goofy.
DEE: Yeah. So, it’s very much playing in that Ouran High mode of taking the otome VN genre and then very lovingly poking fun at it, and I’m having a really good time with it.
As far as feminist themes… I mean, we put it in Feminist Themes because we did have a main female character in a position of authority, and I think it’s done a pretty good job of making sure that Ani has things to do and never gets completely run roughshod over by these idiots that she has to deal with.
DEE: I don’t think I would call it actively feminist, but it’s very feminist-friendly, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.
AMELIA: That’s a good enough recommendation, and I saw the first three episodes, and I loved it. It was hilarious, so I’m looking forward to watching more of it.
We have one more show in our list, and I think this is the big AniFem recommendation of the moment, I think it’s fair to say.
AMELIA: That’s A Place Further Than the Universe. We’re all watching this, right?
AMELIA: All caught up?
DEE: I think almost the entire staff is watching A Place Further Than the Universe.
AMELIA: [chuckles] It’s so good. It’s so good. Peter, you’re watching that one as well, right?
AMELIA: Are you totally caught up?
PETER: I am completely caught up, yes. I watch it the day it comes out, every day.
AMELIA: [laughs] Really?
PETER: Yeah. Well, it’s in the middle of the week, so it makes it easier, but it’s also just really good and I want to see what happens next. So, it’s a really good show. Not even quite sure what to say about it.
AMELIA: [laughs] It’s just that good!
DEE: Everything about it is good, yeah. [chuckles]
PETER: There’s pretty much been no problematic elements. I really like all the character writing. You get a very distinct sense that they actually haven’t even determined the differences with the characters in regards to how they act, because characters always… There’s archetypes, right, behavioral archetypes you can use to write characters, but they’ve gone a level deeper than that to determine how each of them resolves conflict in different ways, in both funny ways and in dramatic ways.
They have Shirase’s… how she’s awkward unless she feels like someone’s judging her, in which case she goes into combat mode and that doesn’t happen anymore, which the other characters have used against her at certain points to get her to be proactive.
PETER: And then, of course, her big argument with… oh, I forgot her name.
AMELIA: Hinata. Hinata.
PETER: Hinata? Yeah, yeah. In the airport. So, I just think that all the characters seem really real. It’s had some excellent moments. One of my favorite moments, I think, was episode three, where they bring on Shiraishi. I think one of the most dramatic moments in the entire series so far was when she got that text notifications that the other two people had left the group, which I thought was some super elegant writing and managed to make something mundane extremely impactful. So, the writing is really excellent.
God, they haven’t even started going to Antarctica yet. I think they’re probably gonna get on the boat the next episode. So, it did a lot of building up and there’s a lot of historical context with Shirase’s mother, and I’m glad they’re visiting the last people who went, too, to build some context. I have no idea where they’re going with it yet, because, I mean, I doubt she’s going to find her mom alive and well in Antarctica or something like that.
AMELIA: [inhales sharply] Yeah…
PETER: But whatever sort of connection to her mother she’s chasing, I’m really curious as to where they plan to end up with that event, because I feel that’s gonna be super important for the story.
AMELIA: It’s gonna be devastating, as well, isn’t it?
PETER: Yeah, it is. [laughs]
AMELIA: And I’m just prepared to… I cry at most of these episodes, I think, in some way. The writing, I would say, it’s the best writing of the season. I think it’s the only one that I would describe as a pure character drama. I think that they could tell a story with these writers and these characters without going to Antarctica, and it would still be absolutely fascinating. So, maybe I’m overstating it, but I think that it’s truly accomplished work.
And we see a lot of praise in anime fandom for the animation side of things a lot. It’s a pretty series, but the real draw for me is the fact that everything is so grounded in character. It’s so driven by character. Everything makes sense. Nobody does things unmotivated, and it takes the opportunity to explore these characters individually and in their pair dynamics and in their dynamic as a group of four and interacting with the adults, and it just explores it from every angle, and it’s so satisfying to watch.
It is devastating in small doses. There are moments that are absolutely heartbreaking, and Shirase coming to terms with whatever has happened to her mother and, like you say, this connection that she’s chasing, once she reaches that point, it is going to really hurt, but it’s gonna be so well written and it’s going to be absolutely grounded in who she is and the journey she’s gone through. It’s not going to be a cheap ploy to make you cry. So, I have full confidence in how they’re going to handle what is going to be an upsetting story.
DEE: Well, I think it will be upsetting, but I have a feeling it will ultimately be inspiring and upbeat. Because, I mean, we’re talking about how every episode there’s a moment that brings tears to our eyes, and that’s definitely been the case for me, but there’s also been at least one moment every episode where I’ve laughed out loud.
AMELIA: Ah! Yeah, that’s important to note.
DEE: The humor, the optimism, the sense of fun in the story is also… It’s doing everything really well, and it’s balancing those emotional beats with those moments of teenagers being goofy in a really wonderful way that I think makes—I tend to get a little bit exhausted sometimes with stories that are pure drama. I think those light moments help those more serious beats land, and I think that the way A Place Further shifts between the two modes is very artful and brilliant. And credit the writing, but a lot of the story is told through the visuals and the character animation. It’s a complete production.
AMELIA: Yeah, that’s true, and I don’t want to undersell the elements you’re talking about. When I say drama, I do mean exactly what I said, is that they could tell this story with these characters without any big circumstances around them, and I think it would still be an amazing show, because I think that’s where everything’s rooted, in the fact that they’ve got these very complete humans that they’re telling stories about.
So, that’s what I mean by that. I don’t mean drama necessarily in terms of seriousness. Even the kind of comedic moments that they have is purely out of the fact that they’ve written such fully fleshed out characters, if that makes sense.
DEE: Oh, absolutely.
AMELIA: And I think you’re absolutely right. I don’t want to underplay either the part that the visuals are playing in it. It contributes both to the funny moments and also to the underlying sadness of some moments, and the balance that it achieves is amazing. Almost all of the episode is entertaining and light and fun, and then it just hits you with something that does bring tears to your eyes, but it’s been so worked up to.
DEE: It earns its moments. Absolutely.
AMELIA: It earns those moments completely, and I just enjoy every episode. Oh, and I just want to give a shout-out to the fact that we see so many professional women in active roles as explorers and scientists. That’s really gratifying and something we don’t see a whole lot. They work with men, so it’s not just an all-female world or anything. We’re in this situation now where they’re just surrounded by accomplished professional women that they can look up to and work with, and that’s so great to see.
PETER: Yeah, it’s kinda surprising they’re walking in, basically, the footsteps of the previous expedition with Shirase’s mother, which I didn’t really expect early on. It seemed like what Shirase had actually wanted to do was very unusual, but then you learn that her mom also did it basically right out of high school with a bunch of friends who… some of them, I think, met later one through academic research teams and stuff like that, but the journey is very similar. I think it’s interesting that they’re the second ones to be doing this, almost.
AMELIA: And its representation of teenage girls, I think, is second to none. It’s the only one I’ve seen for a while where I see these teenagers interacting and it resonates, and it feels like, “Yep, this could easily have been me and my friends at various points.” So that’s something I hugely appreciate. It doesn’t happen too often in anime, so when it does, I want to make the most of it, and I think I’m gonna be watching every episode as soon as I can.
PETER: Also a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to eat durian.
AMELIA: Is that so? I’ve avoided it.
PETER: It’s like gasoline with sugar in it, is what it tastes like.
DEE: [crosstalk] Ugh.
AMELIA: Ooh. That’s delightful.
PETER: Yeah, when she brought up the durian ice cream, I went, “Oh, no.” [laughs]
AMELIA: Okay, final notes. Is there anything else that either of you is watching that you would recommend that isn’t on our premiere digest list? Anything you just want to give a shout-out to?
DEE: ClassicaLoid! Always.
AMELIA: Go on, Dee.
DEE: When am I not giving a shoutout to ClassicaLoid? I won’t get into sequels and carryovers too much with this one, because we usually do that with our end-of-season anyway. ClassicaLoid’s still great. This season has more of a storyline, and it keeps popping back to it. All the characters are wonderful. It’s a delight, and I am still so, so happy it exists.
Also, there’s a three-minute short called Mitchiri Neko that I would highly recommend our listeners check out. It is about just squishy cats being cute for three minutes every week, and it’s really very fun and clever.
AMELIA: Sounds good. Peter, anything you wanna shout out?
PETER: Always March comes in like a lion, because it’s one of the best anime of probably the past ten years. It’s amazing. They concluded this super devastating plot in the second season. I was wondering how they could top that, but they’re doing some interesting things now. Of course, because of the Olympics, I think they’re taking a month break.
DEE: Oh, wow.
PETER: Yeah, so I don’t know. Yeah, they’re coming back in March, funnily enough.
DEE: [laughs] Like a lion.
PETER: I don’t know if they’re just gonna finish out the season, then, with however many more episodes, like two at that point, I guess. But maybe they’ll at least be super high production. I’m not sure. It’s really good, though. Everybody should watch it. It’s an amazing story. Chica Umino is a genius.
AMELIA: Great. I’m not watching anything, so I have nothing to add to that. Just thought I’d throw that grenade at both of you. Nothing that’s recent, nothing that’s currently airing. I find it hard enough to keep up with the things that we have on the list. But honestly, this season, it feels like there’s a lot of choice. There’s a lot of stuff I’m enjoying. There’s a lot of stuff I’m getting a lot out of. I enjoy analyzing anime, and there’s plenty of food for that in this season’s selection. I think it’s a strong season.
DEE: Surprisingly so.
AMELIA: And I’m very happy with—[amused] “Surprisingly so”!
DEE: I really wasn’t expecting much out of this season. I don’t think there were a lot of hyped shows necessarily that I was excited for, and then as we started watching it, it was like, “This is pleasant. Oh, this is pleasant, too. Hey, I like this one as well.” So, that’s been great.
PETER: It’s a good aperitif to the shounen apocalypse that’s happening next season, as well.
AMELIA: Yes. Yeah. More on that in three months.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s a good season. I think we’re gonna come back to it in our end-of-season recommendations. That’s our next touchpoint, I think. So, yeah, if you are watching anything on this list and have opinions about it that agree with us or disagree with us—we’re quite happy to accept criticism on this—then do get in touch.
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Thank you very much to Dee and Peter for joining me today. And we will see you in another six weeks, I think, for our end-of-season wrap-up.