Amelia, Caitlin, and Peter check-in on the Spring 2018 season.
Date Recorded: Sunday 20th May 2018
Hosts: Amelia, Caitlin, Peter
Anime was a Mistake
Pit of shame
0:02:02 Magical Girl Site
0:02:11 Comic Girls
0:08:27 Cutie Honey Universe
0:08:27 Devil’s Line
0:09:02 Butlers X Battlers
0:12:04 Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS
0:12:17 Dances with the Dragons
0:12:36 Fist of the Blue Sky: Regenesis
0:13:16 Lupin the III: Part 5
0:15:48 Real Girl
0:18:06 Umamusume: Pretty Derby
0:21:02 Kakuryo Bed and Breakfast
0:24:56 Magical Girl Ore
0:29:39 Tada Never Falls in Love
0:36:23 Gegege no Kitaro
0:40:13 Gundam Build Divers
0:42:03 Guranzei: Money Pitch
0:51:31 Last Period
0:54:13 Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neu These
0:55:32 Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
1:02:23 Yotsuiro Biyori
1:04:15 Major 2nd
1:09:23 PERSONA5 the Animation
1:16:40 Golden Kamuy
1:26:20 Libra of Nil Admirari
1:32:01 Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku
1:45:53 My Hero Academia
1:46:57 Food Wars! The Third Plate!
1:47:52 DARLING in the FRANXX
1:51:21 Space Battleship Tiramisu
1:51:51 Tokyo Ghoul:Re
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 Caitlin and Peter. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves…
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I am an editor and writer for Anime Feminist. And I also have my own website, I Have a Heroine Problem; “heroine” with an E. [chuckles] Always have to add that.
AMELIA: Gotta be careful.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And I am also the quote-unquote “anime expert” for The Daily Dot.
AMELIA: Ooh! That’s a new addition to the bio. Love it.
CAITLIN: Yeah! I got a lot of irons in the fire.
PETER: My name’s Peter Fobian. I’m an associate features editor for Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
AMELIA: Okay. And we’re here today to talk about the spring 2018 season. We’re about halfway through the season now. I think all anime are between episodes six and eight at the moment. So, we’re going to go through our premiere digest categories, which was put together after one episode of every series. And they were put into categories, starting with Anime Was a Mistake and going right up to Feminist Themes.
So we’ll just go through that list, talk about what we’re still watching and why, what we’ve dropped and why, what we’ve heard good things about, what we’ve heard less good things about. And hopefully you’ll be able to pick up some ideas of new anime to watch, if you’re not watching some of the things that we actually would like to recommend to you, or some things to stay away from if we cover that ground, too. And, looking at this list, I promise you we do.
So, starting off. Anime Was a Mistake. [chuckles] Is anyone watching the slave anime? No?
AMELIA: No. Okay.
PETER: It’s kinda baked in. [laughs] No escaping the bad stuff about it.
AMELIA: Yeah, this was recommended against, and I don’t think that’s changed. Pit of Shame. Magical Girl Site. Watching that?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Definitely not.
AMELIA: Yeah, and I’ve heard nothing that it’s improved. Okay, Red Flags. Here is where I have one that I have heard good things about, and that’s Comic Girls. Either of you watching any of that?
CAITLIN: No. I want to. I don’t have time… [chuckles] I have a lot of irons in the fire, so I haven’t had time to keep up with a lot of series.
AMELIA: I like how you’ve called back. That’s nice. Good continuity.
AMELIA: Yeah, this is a packed season. There is a lot to watch, and I actually hadn’t watched any until today, because I went through the list and I was just trying to plug gaps, like “What do I need to watch so that I can discuss it?”
And I’ve seen some queer women on my Twitter feed talking about Comic Girls in a positive way, and I was like, “Okay, I need to see a little bit to be able to fairly represent it,” because it’s in our Red Flags category. So, when people I trust are giving it some compliments, I need to know what’s going on.
Peter, have you seen any?
PETER: I dropped it after three episodes.
AMELIA: That’s fair. Why did you drop it?
PETER: I could tell it was a comedy series, but I couldn’t find the jokes.
PETER: It was definitely a lot of cute girls. There was some fanservicey stuff, and I didn’t really like a lot of the social dynamics, like the one girl basically being forced to draw porn and everybody refers to her as a porn artist. She doesn’t seem comfortable with that. And just a lot of uncomfortable jokes, like I think the main character wanted her teacher to step on her or something like that.
PETER: I don’t know how old she is. Either way, she looks like she’s a middle schooler or younger.
AMELIA: They all look really young, don’t they?
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s kinda par-for-the-course with this sort of series, though.
AMELIA: Well, I went to one of the friends who has been singing its praises, and I said, “Which episodes do I need to watch to be fair to it?” And she said, “There are two episodes worth watching right now: episodes four and five.” So, Peter, I’m sorry, you’ve just missed out.
PETER: [laughs] Yeah, just before it got good.
AMELIA: So, I watched episodes four and five today, and I completely get what they mean. So, episode four has the porn artist that you mentioned, and she has an—
CAITLIN: Her deal made me really uncomfortable in the first episode, too.
AMELIA: I haven’t seen the first episode, so we’re gonna have to explain things to each other a lot. [laughs]
CAITLIN: I mean, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a high school student being made to draw porn and she’s not comfortable with it. [laughs]
PETER: She tried doing other types of comics, and I think her editor said, “Wow, you’re really good at drawing women,” and basically said, “Why don’t you draw some fanservicey stuff?” And then that stuff did really well, so that’s just pigeonholed her career, and that’s how everybody identifies her, and she doesn’t like it.
AMELIA: Okay. Episode four, I think, builds on that in a really positive way. Yeah, she has an autograph signing and she’s panicking about it the entire episode, because she’s like, “I’m gonna disappoint people. They’re gonna expect somebody who’s really sexy and confident, and that’s not me! I’m just a high schooler. I have no dating experience. What am I doing?”
And over the course of the episode, she kinda manages to connect with that part of herself in a way that’s not sleazy at all. It really is just her learning that confidence is the key.
She’s really worried because her pen name is Big Boobies, I think, and she’s like, “They’re gonna see me, and I’m really flat-chested, and it’s gonna be awful. They’re gonna be so disappointed.” And then she actually goes to the signing. She gets a little makeover because ”Don your armor,” as they say in Princess Jellyfish, and it really works.
And, spoilers, as it should be evident, but I really do recommend this episode. I really enjoyed it. She shows up and she ends up talking to a lot of young female fans who are saying, “I really love your love stories. They’re really relatable. I’m having relationship difficulties. What can I do?” And she speaks to the mother of a baby, who’s saying, “Oh, me and my husband both love your work.”
And it’s really down to earth. It’s not at her expense. She’s not humiliated. She’s not embarrassed. Actually, she grows into the role, and she comes to really appreciate the fact that her drawing erotica is actually because she’s so good at love stories. That’s reiterated a few times in the episode, that it’s not about her drawing really hot sex; it’s about the fact that her love stories are really good, and the sex scenes are an expansion of that.
PETER: You mean that’s what her fans appreciate?
AMELIA: Yeah, that’s what her fans appreciate. That’s what her peers appreciate. That’s what, I think, her editor tells her. I mean, this was the first episode I’d seen, so I’m a little bit adrift here.
PETER: Oh. No, in the first episode, her editor—I think it was her editor—directly basically said, “It’s because she draws hot women.”
PETER: Yeah, that was flatly stated.
AMELIA: That’s fine. First episodes aren’t always representative of character arcs, though, and I think episode four totally takes it in a positive, healthy direction. Now, it’s definitely an ecchi comedy at times. And, all honesty, it’s not to my taste. This will be a surprise to absolutely no one who’s ever heard me review anime.
PETER: Shocking, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah, shocking, I know. It is not to my taste, but that episode I did enjoy. I did appreciate it.
And then the fifth episode… We’ve got a mention in our one-liner review about it being probably queerbaiting. Fifth episode has two girls on a date, one of them with very explicitly romantic intentions towards the other. And it’s not treated like a joke. It is taken seriously. It is treated as a potential romance by pretty much everyone except one girl in the relationship, because she’s so clueless.
PETER: [hums skeptically]
AMELIA: But it’s taken seriously. It’s treated respectfully. So, I would love to have queer listeners comment on this and say what they thought. But this is why I initially watched it, is because queer women that I knew were praising this particular aspect of it. So, I’m not saying its red flags are gone, but there’s more to it. I would probably push it up into Yellow Flags, I think, if we were putting together the list now.
PETER: Okay. Well, that’s an upward trend. That’s good.
AMELIA: Yes, exactly! It’s nice to see. Usually, the trends are very much downward on our list. Okay, the other two. Is anyone watching Cutie Honey Universe or Devil’s Line?
AMELIA: Okay, moving on. [laughs] I’ve not heard anything about either of them that would contradict our Red Flags.
PETER: Yeah, after the first two or three episodes, I had stopped hearing about them pretty much entirely, so…
AMELIA: Exactly. Exactly. And Cutie Honey, I know it has the Go Nagai connection that means that people are interested, but I’ve not seen people talking about it on a weekly basis, so I guess it’s not grabbed—
PETER: [chuckles] Yeah, it didn’t last.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s not grabbed too many people, so maybe there’s a novelty there. But again, listeners, if you disagree, please let us know. We’d love to hear that.
Okay, Yellow Flags. This is a fairly long list. Butlers Ex Battlers? Butlers Times Battlers? I never know how to say it with an X in.
PETER: [crosstalk] You never pronounce the X. That’s what Hunter x Hunter taught me.
AMELIA: Butlers X Battlers. That’s it! [laughs] Watching that?
PETER: The first episode turned me off.
PETER: Yeah. I’m current.
AMELIA: Okay. How are you feeling about it now?
PETER: Well, to address the whole… I believe our main review’s concern was that the main character was like that unappreciated super genius type.
PETER: I think the series has pretty firmly established that he’s canonically extremely obnoxious and usually wrong.
AMELIA: Great combination.
CAITLIN: It’s good to hear.
PETER: They’re in this digital world that’s trying to keep them inside, and the villains keep doing things to reinforce the brainwashing that’s happened. And I believe in one instance, he’s almost roped in because they have a guys-and-girls mixer and they specifically put in female agents, and it almost works on him because two girls are willing to listen to him go on a long spiel about psychology.
PETER: Yeah, so if he didn’t get saved, that probably would have been the end of him.
PETER: But yeah, I think it’s pretty interesting. I’m honestly enjoying it. It’s written by the guy who wrote Persona 1 and 2, and I’m honestly enjoying it more than the Persona 5 anime. I don’t know if that’s just because I know what happens in Persona 5, so there’s absolutely no sense of drama or mystery to it.
CAITLIN: Persona 5’s kind of a specific case.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] We’ll get to Persona 5.
CAITLIN: Yeah, we’ll get there.
PETER: I think they’re doing some interesting stuff. It seems like the premise in this one is that everybody is in that world because there’s some really bad psychic pain that they’re experiencing, that Mu is trying to save them from.
And in this case, I think all of them have done something pretty awful. It’s implied one girl may have driven her mother to some sort of eating disorder or potentially death. One guy killed someone, for sure. Another girl, it was kind of coded that she was abused in the relationship, but I’m starting to think that she abused her boyfriend—physically abused.
And they don’t wanna live in this world anymore, and the whole Persona-esque “getting your powers” type thing comes with them having to accept that they’ve done something really bad and deciding that they want to live their real life with those consequences rather than just enjoy this life where they’re living ignorantly. So, I think it’s got some interesting stuff it’s doing.
AMELIA: Okay. You’d recommend it?
AMELIA: Still think it belongs in Yellow Flags.
PETER: Yeah. It’s got a little bit of… It doesn’t really have fanservice per se. There’s one episode where… that whole guys-and-girls mixer thing, one of the villains is a dominatrix type. There’s some weird sexual stuff they do. I wouldn’t really call it fanservice. Just maybe not a good portrayal.
AMELIA: Okay, so, Yellow Flags intact.
PETER: Yeah, Yellow Flags works.
AMELIA: Okay. Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS!
AMELIA: No, okay. I mean, that’s part of a franchise anyway, so if you’ve seen any previous installments, probably you know what you’re in for. Dances with… Is it “the dragons” or Dances with Dragons?
PETER: It’s “the dragons.”
AMELIA: The dragons. Dances with the Dragons. Okay. Watching this, anyone?
CAITLIN: No, I haven’t seen anyone talking about it.
AMELIA: No, I watched the first couple of episodes, and I liked it well enough but then completely forgot it existed, so I think that says it all. Okay, Fist of the Blue Sky: Regenesis. I completely let this one slip even though I quite enjoyed the first episode, his meat-suit aside, but I haven’t kept up with it. Peter, are you watching this one?
PETER: Ah… no. [chuckles]
AMELIA: I’m just assuming Caitlin is a no. [laughs]
CAITLIN: No, I— [laughs]
AMELIA: Not really your preferences.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah, I love bad CG of meaty men punching each other.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s really weird. His body does look like an exoskeleton covered in a skin covering. It’s bizarre. But I enjoyed it well enough, and I would go back to it. I just completely forgot about it.
Lupin the Third: Part 5. I know this has come under fire from Vrai. Either of you watching it?
PETER: I’m a little bit behind, but I am watching it, yeah.
AMELIA: Okay. Do you think it still belongs in the Yellow Flags category?
PETER: I know there were concerns over—God, I can’t remember if it’s pronounced Ami, or is it Amy? I know she’s always correcting Lupin.
PETER: Ami? Okay.
AMELIA: Oh! I don’t know then.
PETER: Okay, okay. I think it’s Ami. The whole fanservice with her in the first episode, and then the second episode or third episode established that he was more of a father-figure to her. But then I think the episode after that, she asks him if he was interested in having sex with her. And he said no, but she basically said, “I’m not necessarily against it. I’m curious about that kind of stuff.” Which is… I don’t know. I feel like that’s kind of like trying to have your cake and eat it, too.
But subsequently, she’s out of the show. They resolved her plot. That was probably the creepiest thing that happened, and they’ve moved on to other stuff. It’s kind of weird, since my understanding is Lupin series don’t transition like that into different story arcs. Usually, they have a throughline or a thing that’s happening, at least according to my understanding.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I’m a total Lupin newbie.
PETER: But I’m enjoying it. Beyond that, it’s Lupin stuff: capers, stealing stuff, shooting people, that kind of thing.
AMELIA: We have got an article that Vrai wrote on Anime Feminist. I can’t remember the title off the top of my head, but basically Lupin is not being totally fair with its queer characterization, and I think you should read Vrai’s article. I am completely adrift here because I haven’t seen any Lupin ever and I don’t—
AMELIA: No, never. Not even Castle of Cagliostro.
CAITLIN: Well, it’s on Netflix now.
AMELIA: [laughs] Yes, apparently even Netflix UK, which I didn’t realize, because usually when I see the announcements of “This is now available on Netflix” or “This is now available on Crunchyroll,” I’m just like, “Pff! Not here it isn’t.” And usually I’m right, but not this time, so I need to actually watch it.
But yeah, we do have an article that goes into more detail on Vrai’s particular frustrations with the way that Lupin III is treating the concept of queerness. It’s not like it’s got queer characters, and that’s kind of the problem, is it’s not taking queerness seriously, and it’s in a way that Vrai says is pretty disrespectful to queer viewers and queer fans of the series. So, read that article and you’ll probably have a better idea of if this installment is for you or not.
Real Girl. Either of you watching that?
CAITLIN: No. I want to. I didn’t like the first episode, but I want to see where it goes and see what it’s going to do with it. I don’t always watch anime for enjoyment. [laughs] Yeah, the anime journalist lifestyle.
CAITLIN: But I’m curious about if it improves. No one’s talking about it, so I haven’t picked anything up from Twitter or anything.
AMELIA: Complete confession: I hadn’t even looked at the premiere digest until today because there was so much anime that I didn’t need to go looking for recommendations; my watchlist is full. And I went to the premiere digest today. I saw Real Girl, and I was like, “What is that?” I hadn’t even heard of it. So, yeah, it’s not made a very big name for itself yet.
CAITLIN: Right. Well, part of it is that it’s on HiDIVE, which—
AMELIA: Which doesn’t help, but I’ve heard of Tada Never Falls in Love, which is a HiDIVE one, right? And that, people are talking about, so it’s not a complete blocker from attention.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no. It has potential to be something that I would really enjoy, but the first episode… it didn’t seem interested in calling the main character out on his shit. It was mostly just like, “Oh, girls. Girls are mean.”
AMELIA: Great! [laughs]
CAITLIN: “Girls suck. Except this girl, who’s crude—”
AMELIA: Not like other girls.
CAITLIN: “She’s crude, but other girls hate her. But she’s nice to the main character.”
AMELIA: I can see why you would want to see more of that, though, because if they handle it right, I can see how that would be completely your thing.
CAITLIN: Right. But the first episode did not inspire faith.
AMELIA: Okay. [laughs] Well, if you get time to watch it, maybe we can pick that up in conversations at the end of the season, and then you can say if it did actually fulfill the best-case scenario or, more likely, not.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t have anything I have to watch after this weekend, so I get to spend time watching things I want to watch—or choose to watch, I should say.
AMELIA: And that gives us no segue whatsoever into talking about Uma Musume, because I’m pretty sure you’re not watching that.
CAITLIN: No. That is not on the list.
AMELIA: No. [laughs] Peter?
PETER: I’m a little bit behind on that one, too, but I have been watching it, yes.
AMELIA: Do you think that it departs at all from the assessment that we gave it in the premiere?
PETER: I think that first-episode groping thing was pretty much the only time it dipped into that territory, so I might say if you can get past one joke, maybe it’s worth bumping it up. I guess it’s one of those “Maybe try to catch people by implying there might be that kind of joke in the first episode” kind of thing, and then not doing that.
AMELIA: I hate it when they do that.
PETER: Yeah, it’s bad. But I really wish I’d caught up because I guess there’s more potential romance between the main character and Silence Suzuka, maybe in a more canonical manner.
AMELIA: The main character and who?
PETER: Special Week.
AMELIA: And who?
PETER: Silence Suzuka.
AMELIA: Is that the senpai?
AMELIA: Okay. [chuckles]
PETER: Something happened recently. Actually, this was pretty predictable if you know anything about the real-life racehorse, which I do because I edited a couple articles about that kind of stuff.
PETER: The real racehorse Silence Suzuka, its career ended very early on because of an injury. And [anime] Silence Suzuka twisted her ankle in a recent race, and Special Week’s been taking care of her and taking her out in her wheelchair buggy and stuff, getting her groceries and feeding her and that kind of stuff to make sure she gets better. And from the language that I’m seeing in regards to it, maybe they’re actually treating it as something more serious than just “Oh, she’s being a good friend.”
PETER: Yeah. Of course, I can’t say that from firsthand experience. Past that, as far as problematic content is concerned, though, after that first joke—I guess it was a two-part joke in the first episode—I didn’t really see anything else. After that, it’s just an idol series, which really isn’t my thing, so I don’t feel qualified to say whether or not it’s a good or bad idol series. But it certainly is an idol series.
AMELIA: It was such a combination of things that are not for me. [chuckles] I very reluctantly watched one episode, and it was painful and I was stopping every two minutes to take a break. I haven’t gone back to it, but I have seen people enjoying it, so if it’s your thing, then—
PETER: If you like idol anime…
AMELIA: Yeah, if you like idol anime or you like animal girl anime or cute-girl anime, you might get something out of this. And if you are enjoying it, then let us know why and let us know why you’d recommend it to other people.
Okay, next category, It’s Complicated. Oh, good! Okay, now we get to talk about some that I actually have seen and like. Kakuriyo is one of my favorites this season. Are either of you watching that?
PETER: I dropped it.
AMELIA: Yeah, I’d love to know what you think of it, because you and I both liked the first episode, right? And what did you like about the first episode?
CAITLIN: I liked that she was a grown-ass adult, for one thing.
AMELIA: [laughs] Yeah. It’s helpful, isn’t it?
CAITLIN: I liked that she’s not passive. And when he’s like, “Oh, you’re gonna have to marry me,” instead of her being like, [speaking daintily] “Oh, no!” [speaking normally] like it is—I fake-fainted or swooned or whatever—in a lot of these supernatural forced marriage anime—or, “I am destined to marry a demon”— she’s like, “No, I’m gonna find another way to deal with this, because fuck that.”
AMELIA: Right, because it’s about repaying her grandfather’s debt, and she’s like, “Well, if he’s in debt, then I’ll earn money and pay you back money. That’s an alternative that we have available to us.” And he initially treats her pretty badly for that and is basically like, “Well, if you’re not here as my fiancée, then you’re not even worthy to talk to me,” essentially, and is quite harsh to her. But you haven’t seen beyond the first episode?
AMELIA: Okay. Well, that element of her character does not change. She continues to have that agency. She continues to make strong decisions, and forcefully. And she sticks to what feels right to her. But, predictably, you can see that her feelings towards the ogre landlord… I can’t remember his name. He’s Ōdanna-sama, but I can’t remember the translation they use.
He’s the innkeeper. He’s a really respected person in the town. He’s treated like a young noble or something. And she does start to soften towards him, and he treats her better. And the stuff that I really didn’t like in the first episode, which was much more him saying, “Well, I could eat you and I’m gonna choose not to because you’re so captivating,” and it was very Twilight, it was kinda messed up, and that isn’t really a factor going forward.
CAITLIN: Oh, good.
AMELIA: And it becomes much more about: okay, she’s on his land, and she has this debt to repay, and so she’s got to start a business, and she’s gotta make it profitable. This is already completely in my wheelhouse.
And he seems comfortable with the boundaries that are there, but he does continually bring up the engagement idea, so it’s still on the table that they could still get engaged, and presumably that’s where they’re headed. But I’ve been really enjoying it, and I really love the setting.
I think Peter and I talked about it in the beginning, but it is reminiscent of scenes from The Eccentric Family series, and it is beautiful, and I love the opening credits, and I love the closing credits. Just aesthetically, I’m really enjoying it.
And I’m getting a lot out of this, and it’s my problematic fave. It is still complicated, and I don’t think that’s going anywhere, because the complicated aspects are baked into the premise.
But as far as Aoi, the main character, goes, she is great. She carries it. Her relationship with the ogre and with the other people around her, it’s developing in ways that make sense, and she’s [not] sexualized or fetishized or treated badly in any way other than she’s treated kind of shabbily when she initially rejects his engagement proposal. But other than that, it’s been moving on in ways that I really like. So, yes, please catch up on that, Caitlin, so we can talk about it.
AMELIA: Is either of you watching Magical Girl Ore?
PETER: I am.
AMELIA: Yeah? Caitlin?
AMELIA: Okay, I caught up today. Peter, what do you think?
PETER: I almost don’t feel qualified to even talk about it because—
AMELIA: I know what you mean. Like, “This is super awkward right now, but…” [laughs]
AMELIA: It is super problematic, I think it’s fair to say. It is super problematic, and either that will be a dealbreaker for you or it won’t. For me, it’s not, but I completely understand if it is for anyone. From episode one, I understand if it is. I mean, there’s a moment in episode five when they just straight-up make a rape joke. They make a joke of the idea that—
PETER: Oh, the hot springs?
AMELIA: Yeah. They make a joke of the idea that Sakuyo, who’s in love with Saki… The two idol girls, when they’re in the hot springs, Saki really worries that Sakuyo’s gonna turn into a man and rape her, and she imagines herself crying in bed next to Sakuyo, who’s just smoking and looking very content. And that’s played for laughs. That’s not nice. So, that’s problematic.
PETER: She does apologize for that later, but it’d be nice if they didn’t make the joke in the first place, yeah.
AMELIA: “The joke in the first place,” exactly. [chuckles] But at the same time, you’ve got Mohiro, who’s Saki’s crush, and he is completely into Saki when she’s presenting as a man. [laughs] So, I can’t get enough of that joke. I love that joke, and I’m completely here for that. But then it balances out with really awful jokes, and it is really mean-spirited at times, and your tolerance for that will be very personal, I think.
PETER: Yeah, it feels like it kind of knows what it’s doing and might be playing with a lot of stuff in this kind of genre. As to whether it actually ends up doing anything with that, it might be like, “Well, you’re in for a long haul to find out.” But at least at this point, it feels like it has some intention behind it, even if it is super uncomfortable at points. But I can’t guarantee there’ll be any payoff for that. I’ll report back, but, yeah, at this point it’s just a lot of that.
AMELIA: Yeah, it is undeniably problematic, and your mileage will vary. I think that’s the only thing we can say about it. Yeah, hopefully we’ll check in later. I don’t know if anyone who was watching this show that I’m aware of is still watching it, but I’ll try and canvass opinions before our final, end-of-series podcast and see if anyone who is not cisgender or who is queer is still watching it at that point and give their view that we can incorporate, because, yeah, I feel super unqualified to comment on this one.
PETER: Yeah. Love the Shirobako Godzilla episode, though.
AMELIA: I hated that!
PETER: You did? I loved it. I thought it was great.
AMELIA: I hated that! For context, it gets to the end of episode three, and at the end of episode three, I was like, “Oh, okay. I like where this is going. It’s great. It’s building up this whole thing with Mohiro and Saki and Sakuyo. Yeah, I’m up for this!” And then episode four just goes, “Yeah, we’re redoing everything. We’re just setting up a new episode that’s all about Godzilla…” or, no, what was it called?
PETER: Chizilla or Chillzilla or something like that.
AMELIA: Yeah. And it just tells a completely unrelated story—well, extremely peripherally related story—that’s based in not any reality whatsoever.
PETER: They have to defeat Godzilla by finishing an anime episode. So, it’s like Shin Godzilla with anime production.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I was so annoyed.
PETER: Yeah. [laughs] I thought it was funny.
AMELIA: I was so annoyed. I got about five minutes in. I realized it wasn’t changing. It wasn’t going back to the main story. This one-note gag was the entire episode! Right at the end, Saki and Sakuyo show up. It’s completely inconsequential.
PETER: [laughs] They just kill it! After all that buildup, they jump-kick it and it dies!
AMELIA: I’m just fast-forwarding, watching to see if something happens at all, and it’s just nothing, and then Saki and Sakuyo show up, and I’m like, “Okay, I should watch this.” I watched it. And that was the end of the episode. So, yeah, you can just skip that one, or if you think you’ll appreciate it, as Peter apparently has, then watch it, enjoy, and get back to your regularly scheduled programming, which was completely unaffected by the events of that episode. I hate it when shows do that. I hate that.
PETER: I liked that show more than Magical Girl Ore, so that’s why I liked it.
AMELIA: [deadpan] That’s a great recommendation.
AMELIA: Okay, Tada Never Falls in Love. Caitlin, you’re watching this one?
CAITLIN: Yes, I am.
AMELIA: I think you’re the only one, so how’s it doing? How’s it holding up?
CAITLIN: I mean, I am disappointed, but in a way that’s not totally the fault of the series.
AMELIA: So, is that a recommendation? I can’t quite tell. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Well, it is a soft recommendation. The thing is that it has mostly the same creative staff as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, which is probably one of the funniest anime I’ve ever watched.
CAITLIN: And I was like, “Okay, this is completely original material. The writer and the director, they’re really, really strong working on adaptive material, but I don’t know how they’re gonna be with something original, so I hope they do well. I hope their strengths will still be able to come out.” And the answer to that was “Not really.”
It’s sweet. It has nice moments. But it feels pretty aimless. It’s sort of improved. The last couple episodes have been an improvement, but the first four episodes were just very inconsequential, light fluff. And the boys are the worst! Okay, two of the boys are the worst.
AMELIA: Are these the ones who are ogling the girls’ chests and making unwelcome advances in episode two? I’m just looking at the premiere digest.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Well, there’s Pin-senpai, who’s the one who is obsessed with a gravure idol called Hina, and he spends a lot of time obsessing over boobs, and he talks about how basically softcore porn is the highest art because women’s bodies are the greatest art that exists, and blah blah blah.
AMELIA: I think I’ve spoken to this guy on Twitter.
CAITLIN: And the girl, who is actually secretly the gravure idol that he’s obsessed with, of course, is in love with him, but he’s obsessed with her image as an idol, and he doesn’t know that she is the idol. And I’m like, why does she like this guy?
CAITLIN: All he does is yell about boobs!
AMELIA: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s so nice. That’s good boyfriend material there.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and then the other guy. He’s not bad. He is the most Mamoru Miyano character to ever exist. Does that statement make sense?
AMELIA: This is so funny because… Well, maybe only to me. But I found out who Mamoru Miyano was for the first time very recently because I started playing the Uta no Prince-sama idol game on my mobile. And through that, I found out who he is. And then, we started doing the Ouran High School Host Club watchalong, which is gonna be coming out soon, and I found out that he was in that. And since then, I’ve been hearing him mentioned everywhere, and I have no idea how I was unaware of his existence until I started playing UtaPri’s game.
CAITLIN: Yeah, because he’s one of the biggest names right now.
AMELIA: Right! I had no clue.
CAITLIN: And he has a very, very good range. I don’t want this to be anything against him as an actor. He’s got a lot of range, a lot more than a lot of voice actors these days. But still, there’s this one particular kind of character that just feels aggressively… the very over-the-top… the Tamaki Suohs. [laughs]
AMELIA: [laughs] Yes.
CAITLIN: And this character is like Tamaki turned up to… not even to 11. To 12! It’s so much! But he’s not a bad guy. He’s just A Lot.
But other than that, it’s sweet. The main characters are sweet. They’re nice. They don’t have a whole lot of personality. Teresa is a very typical princess princess. And I do think Tada is going to fall in love, unfortunately.
AMELIA: Yeah, because that was the thing, wasn’t it? “Tada never falls in love.” I did see some conversation around that with the hopes that this might be some asexual, aromantic representation. And it doesn’t look like that’s what it is.
CAITLIN: [wistful] No, I think that was sort of always wishful thinking.
AMELIA: Not that—we do not begrudge wishful thinking.
CAITLIN: Not to be dismissive. Not to be dismissive. Just ‘cause that’s just how anime tends to work.
AMELIA: It disappoints, yes.
CAITLIN: [cracking up] That’s not what I mean, but okay!
AMELIA: But it’s not entirely untrue.
CAITLIN: [laughs] That’s not what I meant. But okay.
PETER: The genre of disappointment.
AMELIA: I mean, we just talked about Magical Girl Ore, so…
CAITLIN: And Darling in the Franxx did air yesterday. [laughs]
AMELIA: Exactly. I mean, we all hope for good representation, and we very much appreciate the few times we do truly get it. I think that’s fair to say. Tada Never Falls in Love. But the way I’ve heard it described, I was hoping for some kind of representation, but I like where it’s going instead. So, if you’re looking for a fluffy romance, my understanding is that Tada Never Falls in Love is looking likely to deliver that.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s sweet. It’s just very slight, and it’s not an anime that I think people are ever going to go back to or revisit.
AMELIA: [chuckles] That’s damning.
CAITLIN: Which is…
AMELIA: Because it’s kind of flimsy?
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, there’s just not a lot to it. There’s not really a lot of sense that it’s building towards something. There’s no bite to it. There’s just not a lot of momentum, I guess is the way to put it. It doesn’t do anything unexpected, except for sometimes the cat narrates the episodes, which is always a good thing.
AMELIA: Now I know why Dee likes it. Okay.
AMELIA: I mean, it sounds like all three of our anime in the It’s Complicated category firmly deserve to be there, so [laughs] that’s fine. We’re not steering you wrong, listeners. Okay, moving on. Harmless Fun. Again, this is a fairly long category, but I don’t think we’re watching all of them. So, Gegege no Kitaro. Either of you watching that?
PETER: Yeah, I’m a little behind on that one, too.
AMELIA: I actually skipped the middle few episodes in order to watch the last couple, and I was so glad I did because episode seven is one of the best standalone episodes of anime I think I’ve ever seen within a series that is an episodic and isn’t anthology based. Episode seven of Gegege no Kitarō, I would recommend that to anyone.
PETER: [crosstalk] Better than Chizilla?
PETER: Better than Chizilla?
AMELIA: Well, you know, it’s a tough contest. But I think Kitaro may just take this one. It was exceptional. It felt like Junji Ito, almost. It wasn’t quite as twisted as that. It is a little bit hard going. Content warnings for that episode: It deals quite heavily in things like suicide. I mean, the opening scene is a suicide, so just be aware of that. Go into it knowingly.
But it is a very well-handled episode, which was not what I was expecting, because until then Kitaro’s been pretty much Monster of the Week, and it’s got its colorful cast of characters, and Kitaro’s got these comedic… Not comedic, sorry, that’s just how I view it. His attacks, including his remote control geta sandal—
PETER: Oh, yeah, I can’t take him seriously. [laughs]
AMELIA: No, exactly.
PETER: I mean, they’re cool fights, but…
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It’s very cartoony. It’s fun. It’s fun. And episode seven is not like that, at all.
PETER: Oh, dang.
AMELIA: Yeah, you should watch it, Peter. I think you’d enjoy it.
PETER: Yeah, I described it, I think, as Detective Conan meets Hell Girl, and I guess that’s probably more on the Hell Girl side. So, I’m down. I like this series a lot.
AMELIA: Yeah, episode seven could have fit into the Junji Ito series quite comfortably, though, again, not quite as body horror. Not quite as body horror.
PETER: And I remember in the first episode you had some concerns about… Oh, my God, I forgot her name.
AMELIA: [sighs] Mana, yeah. That doesn’t go away. Now, I agree with the core of all the premiere reviews that go out there. I’ve never read a premiere review that I completely disagree with. That’s never happened. But there was one aspect of Dee’s premiere review where she was more favorable towards Mana than I was; and for Dee, Mana was kind of the saving grace of the episode.
Mana is this high school girl who calls Kitaro in, not really expecting him to come. And then when she realizes who he is and what he does, she wants to help, and by trying to help, she screws everything up. And her clumsiness is kind of her defining… Her clumsiness and spunk and cheerfulness and determination! And it just does not work for me as a bundle of character traits.
Mana’s fine, but I don’t consider her a positive element of the episode, but for Dee she really was, so your mileage will vary on this. For me, that hasn’t really improved. I watched episode eight to check, and, yeah, it’s no better. She needs to be saved. She actually gets saved by a few people this time. Yeah, refreshing change, but it’s not working for me. But I really—
PETER: I think that’s the formula, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah, and I really enjoy the monsters, and I really like seeing Kitaro do his work. And he’s actually such a calm presence. I thought he was gonna be much more cartoony than he actually is.
AMELIA: So, I enjoy a lot about Kitaro, the show, but Mana just isn’t working for me. I almost wish she wasn’t a main character and that they just had a different human interacting with Kitarō every week; made it completely episodic. That would be preferable for me personally.
PETER: That’d be really Hell Girl.
AMELIA: [laughs] I haven’t seen Hell Girl. Just add that to the long list of anime I haven’t seen.
PETER: Okay, well, I could describe all of Hell Girl, but we could probably just move on.
AMELIA: Instead, let’s move on to Gundam Build Divers. Is anyone watching this one?
AMELIA: Okay. Lauren is watching this one because it’s about Gunpla. For those unaware, Lauren runs a blog called Gunpla 101, which is all about building Gunpla. And she’s a huge Gundam fan, and I think she reviews Gundam series quite often for Anime News Network.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. And she does panels at conventions and…
AMELIA: Right. Exactly. That was the one panel I slept through when I visited for Otakon. Sorry, Lauren! [laughs] That was the morning I woke up late and went “Oh, dear. I cannot be ready right now.”
Yeah, I think there is a character in there—let me see if I can remember this, sorry. I think there is a character in there who is gender-nonconforming, and we got asked recently if we were gonna talk about Gundam Build Divers, because “The treatment of Magee—” Magee? Wow, what a name. “The treatment of Magee’s gender ambiguity continues to fascinate me, but I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.”
And Lauren said that she wants to see more. We haven’t even seen Magee’s Gundam yet. It’s a fascinating character, but he’s just not got any… goals? Do you know what? I should’ve prepared this, so you can just cut this out. [laughs]
AMELIA: Okay. So, Gundam Build Divers. I think Lauren is watching this. There is a character in there who’s got some gender ambiguity, but we haven’t seen yet how it’s handled, so probably best to check back at the end-of-series check-in to see if that’s handled any better. I don’t think Gundam Build Divers will have finished by then. I’m assuming it’s a long series. But we can certainly ask Lauren by then what she thinks and bring her opinion onto the show.
Okay, moving on. Gurazeni: Money Pitch. Did either of you watch any of this?
PETER: I watched the first episode.
AMELIA: Yeah, I watched half of the first episode, and it was all I could take before switching it off because it was just so pointless.
PETER: It’s kind of like, uh, Kagi [sic], except with lower stakes, where it’s a lot of gambling theory and money and it really gets into baseball and stuff, which I’m not too interested in gambling or baseball, so I wasn’t the target audience, I guess.
AMELIA: But I think it has to be somebody who’s interested in both things, right? The part that I saw was just him working out how much he was getting paid and how much other people were getting paid and how much their pay might change depending on their performance in matches. Matches? Games? I don’t know what you call baseball.
PETER: Yeah. Didn’t the numbers come out to like a couple hundred thousand a year, though, minimum? [chuckles] I was like, “Man, you sure do live a hard-knock life.”
AMELIA: I kinda got lost in all the numbers, as well, because it was discussing it in yen. I had no basis for comparison there. I was trying to work out the exchange rates in my head, but because the numbers are so high, it then gets really difficult, and it was hard to get a handle on that. And I’d be really interested to know if anyone listening to this has continued with Gurazeni and is actually enthusiastic about it.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t know anyone who’s watching it.
AMELIA: I don’t know either. And I completely understand that because it feels so niche. It feels like it’s for a really specific audience, and unless you have this particular cross-section of interests and a tolerance for lots of large numbers flying around, it’s not gonna work.
Let’s see. Hinamatsuri. That is one I know you’re watching, Peter. I’m watching it. Caitlin?
PETER: [crosstalk] Anime of the season.
AMELIA: It’s so good.
PETER: Yeah, it’s amazing.
AMELIA: I’m so enjoying it.
PETER: I don’t know, how do you even talk about it? It’s so perfect.
AMELIA: Well, you put together a really good article about how it’s three shows in one. If you can just break that down a bit, because I think that sums up its appeal really well.
PETER: Yeah. Well, I would’ve totally been down just if it was just the first show, which is Hina showing up in Nitta’s lap, and it becomes a found-family kind of drama between a psychic girl from another dimension and a yakuza guy who’s surprisingly parental.
AMELIA: I mean, it’s great, isn’t it, because even that was handled so well. The comedy timing and pacing and animation is just perfect. It’s just so beautifully put together that that would have been enough.
PETER: Yeah, the jokes are really good. But the show has since evolved with the arrival of Anzu and the introduction of Hitomi. Anzu’s portion… The whole premise for Anzu being homeless is kind of absurd because I think it was just mostly because she was just too proud to go back and say, “Oh, I actually can’t get back home because you ruined my device. But I already said we’ll never see each other again, so this would be super awkward.” And now both of them know she’s homeless.
AMELIA: I mean, #BritishProblems. I can completely relate. [chuckles]
PETER: But both of them discover it anyway, and she still has that problem. But that ended up becoming this really… There was one episode which was actually really harsh, where she finally stops being homeless and the local homeless population mentor her and she has all these misunderstandings about how money works and the amount of money that is required for a lot of things. So, she’s lifted out of these bad circumstances, but in the process loses all the important connections she made in her life.
And it’s a harsh episode, actually. But it’s kind of optimistic and heartwarming, and then the next episode is her learning how to work in the ramen shop. I love her new parents, too, because each time she has some sort of misunderstanding that’s based in, like, “Oh, you have food that costs 800 yen. I only make 600 yen per day.” [laughs] And then the mom starts crying and goes to get tissues again.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s really beautiful. I’m not sure it handles the line between humanizing homeless people and homelessness, and making it clear that this is not a warm and fuzzy environment, because it does rose-tint it a bit, and that felt quite uncomfortable watching it.
It doesn’t need to be all grief all the time or anything like that, and actually you do end up feeling really moved, but it does seem like a very safe environment for a young girl, and I’m not sure that’s exactly as well-handled as it could be. But—
PETER: True. I do appreciate that pretty much all the homeless people she runs into are real people.
PETER: And one of the reasons they mentor her is they’re actually concerned that she’s gonna [chuckles] be a danger being homeless, I think. They could’ve easily done something else with the homeless characters.
AMELIA: Exactly. If I could choose between humanizing homeless people or making clear the dangers of homelessness, I’d pick the humanization. So, they’ve come down on the side I would choose. But they come down quite far on that side, and there’s no hint that Anzu is at any point at any risk at all, so the stakes are quite low in her homelessness. But it would be tonally jarring, I think, if they went too far in the other direction.
PETER: It would. [chuckles] It definitely would. Although she does have psychic powers, so that’s a leg up.
Hitomi is the third one, and I call her the “cosmic victim” because she’s very compassionate but it’s like the entire universe is trying to make her suffer for being a nice person, which… That’s probably the area of the show I’m more touch-and-go on, because I don’t like seeing nice people get punished for being nice.
AMELIA: [laughs] It’s really hard, isn’t it?
PETER: Yeah. So, the jokes themselves are funny, and I think it sort of finds a balance because she gets some little glimmers of happiness. I hope there’s some sort of upward trajectory involved, but a lot of it’s just: “Oh, she tries to help a friend and ends up missing an entire night’s sleep and getting sick [laughs] and actually passing out on her feet.”
Or those friends who wanted to help her because they thought— That actually wasn’t that great a subplot because of all the… I don’t know, I guess they didn’t really make too many abuse jokes. They were just afraid she was being abused. And then the whole thing just turned into, “Oh, I guess Hitomi’s not in that bad a situation, so let’s dogpile her and also start making fun of her.” Yeah. But just the whole thing’s super funny.
AMELIA: Yeah, they have a track record of taking these dangerous situations and not going the cliché direction with it. So, like you talked about in one of the earliest episodes, where they all go to a cabaret club together or an underage girl goes into a bar and ends up with a drunk salaryman. And you would expect that to go into a really bad direction. And instead, it ends up with something really light and funny and not dangerous at all.
PETER: Yeah, you always think it’s gonna get into something dark, and then it pulls back and just makes a really absurdist, humorous situation instead. I think Anzu’s the only one that’s actually had some real impactful moments, but they were all kind of positive, right? So, it was still positive; it was just actually they focused on the drama rather than converting to comedy at the last second.
It’s good at making you think it’s gonna do something dark or awful or be dramatic and then just does something really stupid and funny instead, in a good way. Except Anzu. She has her moments where they do follow through on the drama and lead you through to a heartwarming scene instead.
AMELIA: Yeah, they don’t follow the comedy rule of “Always end a heartwarming scene with a joke.” They don’t do that, so sometimes Anzu is just… There’s that one episode where she’s actually crying, and they just end it on that note. And you’re just like, “Oh, no!” [laughs]
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah! [laughs] Because of Anzu, I guess, you don’t actually know what you’re going to get, which makes the comedy conversion still funny. It’s got a lot of really smart writing in it.
AMELIA: Yeah, you could never have predicted where Anzu’s arc was going based on her first appearance.
PETER: It definitely plays with a lot of problematic themes, though. But in the same way, it always steps backward, too, so you never really feel like they’re going over the line.
AMELIA: And the stories it’s telling, it is telling well, like the found family story between Hina and Nitta. That is progressing beautifully, and it’s going into a really heartwarming place, considering he kicked her out of his apartment for days.
PETER: [laughs] Yeah.
AMELIA: Just a few episodes ago. It’s still telling a proper story. It isn’t just an excuse to string gags together. It is going somewhere. There is development, and I really appreciate that about it, because it handles the gags really well, too. It feels like a four-panel manga. I don’t know if that’s what it’s based on.
PETER: It’s just a traditional manga.
AMELIA: Okay. Well, it’s got that snappy…
PETER: Setup jokes.
AMELIA: It’s full of one-liners. Yeah, exactly. It’s full of one-liners. It’s full of background jokes, if that makes sense, where the comedy is just a throwaway line or a throwaway moment. It is full of that, and it handles it so well, and I think it is the gold standard for comedy this season.
PETER: Yeah. It’s got a lot of Arrested Development running gags, too. It’s just really good comedic writing.
AMELIA: Absolutely. Okay, we should move on because I feel like we could talk about this for a really long time. [chuckles] Last Period. You’re still watching that, aren’t you?
PETER: Yeah. [chuckles] Depending upon the episode, I really like it or it’s okay.
PETER: I mean, it hasn’t really done anything bad past some of the character designs. It never really gets into that kind of stuff.
It’s so weird, because ostensibly it’s a series created to sell a gacha game. But they actually do an episode about how gacha destroys your life. The main character literally spends his life savings trying to get a single five-star roll. Everybody is like, “Hey, you should stop spending your money that way,” and he yells at all of them like, “You don’t tell me how to spend my money.” And he has a breakdown and everybody shames him. [laughs]
AMELIA: Oh, my word.
PETER: Yeah. I’m surprised they get away with that kind of stuff. They had an episode about how if the series isn’t doing well, you can just have a hot springs episode and bring in some good voice actors. I mean, they don’t really do the hot springs episode in that way, but it was just a takedown of all these really pragmatic anime practices that are used to make money.
And then it just does weird stuff. The last episode was… The main villain is the assistant to the leader of the organization they work for, so she’s leading this double life. I don’t know if she’s trying to sabotage the main leader or something. She’s very casual about it.
So, it has the episode from her perspective, where she says, “Oh, yeah. I’m the villain and I work under her, so I’m leading this double life where I’m trying to destroy the person I’m working for. As to what I’m doing, I’m not really gonna tell you, but here’s an episode about my daily life.”
And she really wanted to go to an amusement park with her friends, so she invites the main character and the gang. And they’re busy, so she invites Wiseman, the Team Rocket people, and they wanna go. So, she’s like, “Cool, I’ll go!”
But then Haru’s plans change, so she ends up having to go with both groups. And the whole episode is about her having to switch costumes over and over again to hang out with both groups, because she really wanted to go with them and she’s enjoying her time with both groups. And it defies that usual convention by: she gets really good at it, rather than it slowly coming to pieces.
PETER: And the whole thing, she’s doing this personal journal where she does crayon drawings of everything that’s happening. And it’s just so absurd. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s really funny.
AMELIA: Is it consistent, still, with the notes that were made in the premiere review?
PETER: I’d probably say there were warning signs just based on some of the early character designs, but it hasn’t even gotten into it.
AMELIA: So, it still deserves to be in Harmless Fun?
PETER: Yeah. I’d say so. It’s good.
AMELIA: Okay. Excellent. Okay, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neu These? Oh, dear.
AMELIA: Die-New-Theese! [chuckles]
PETER: That’s what I call it, yeah.
AMELIA: Sorry, German viewers. Sorry. I haven’t watched this because I’ve got the impression that it would be spoilers for the long series, which I still want to watch. So, I haven’t watched any of this. Have either of you?
PETER: No. It’s just people sitting in chairs talking.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] What was it?
AMELIA: Legend of Galactic Heroes.
CAITLIN: No. [laughs] I watched all of the original, even though I found it incredibly boring.
AMELIA: Oh, wow, okay. Controversial.
PETER: It was supposed to be a remake, right, so…
AMELIA: Yes. I would like to see the original first, I think, but we’ll see, we’ll see. There was a lot of anime to choose from, and in a less packed season I might’ve watched it regardless. But since I was being a bit choosier, I just didn’t.
CAITLIN: Honestly, I thought about watching this one because apparently it has more of Yang, who is the best thing… [laughs]
AMELIA: I understand he’s a bit of a fan favorite.
CAITLIN: The best thing about the original series. [chuckles] So, that actually does make me a little bit more interested, but it’s not super high on the list.
AMELIA: Speaking of, Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, with the really catchy hashtag #SAOAGGO. I tried to look up tweets about it earlier, and I could not for the life of me remember the name of it, so I just put all the letters in all the wrong order a few times.
AMELIA: It is not convenient. I tried to watch an episode of this earlier, and actually I found it really disturbing because it was just full of guns and it was full of bullets. And in recent weeks we’ve had Santa Fe; we’ve had Parkland. It was just too much. And, you know, I come from a country where I’m not exposed to guns at all. So, it felt just deeply uncomfortable to me, and I couldn’t make it through a full episode. How was it for both of you?
PETER: Well, I’m current. I’m American, so I’m desensitized to guns, and—
AMELIA: Exactly, exactly. White male American as well, you know. [scoffs playfully]
PETER: Yeah. Actually, I’m pretty surprised, because it’s Sigsawa writing this, with some of the stuff he’s done. There’s this group the main character fights in the Squad Jam tournament they start it off with. It ends with her facing off against an all-female team of diverse body types, who she beats, and she finds out it’s a rhythmic gymnastics team at a local high school.
AMELIA: Not so diverse.
PETER: Yeah. What’s that?
AMELIA: Not so diverse, then.
CAITLIN: The character creation…
PETER: No, their avatars have diverse body types.
AMELIA: Yes. But they, themselves, are a group of young high school girls.
CAITLIN: Isn’t there random character creation in the games? Is that what the deal is?
PETER: I don’t know, because that’s not true in the original and that was a problem the main character had, but I don’t know if that’s the case for everybody. I have no idea. Because the other characters seem to… I think one of them, specifically she says, “I have a Hollywood character” or “She looks like a Hollywood actress,” so she apologizes for putting on airs or something like that. I don’t know if everybody’s just got random character gen, if that’s something new with Sigsawa or what, because that wasn’t the case in the original SAO.
And they play Gun Gale Online, and that wasn’t the case, so I don’t know. But they seem to like playing the diverse body types. I don’t know. I mean, they are all high school girls who are on a rhythmic gymnastics team, so I guess they don’t have that, but I think it’s interesting that they seem enthusiastic about playing… One of them is a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Amazon type, and the other one’s really burly. So, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be giving it points, but I think that’s better than—
AMELIA: How is the main character handled? The little girl in pink.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] LLENN.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] LLENN.
PETER: Her whole deal is she’s six feet tall in Japan, so she feels like a freak of nature, I guess. So, she plays LLENN. And I guess the recent events have helped her get over that. And also, the new girl said she looks like a supermodel, so she doesn’t feel so awkward about her height anymore because she made friends with the Amazon.
CAITLIN: That’s good. Because I’m kind of short and I wish I was tall. But every time there’s a tall female character in anime, they want to be short, and it’s a little like, “Come on. Let girls be tall.” I don’t know. I’ve seen screenshots being posted, and it looks like it goes some bizarre places with its gun fetishism, though.
PETER: I mean, I don’t feel like it’s too different from the Gun Gale arc in Sword Art Online.
CAITLIN: I didn’t watch that. [chuckles]
PETER: Oh, okay. Well, there are guns. I mean, she does really like her—
PETER: Well, I guess her P90 becomes sentient for a little while.
CAITLIN: Yeah! That’s—
PETER: She has this freak-out moment and then her gun’s just like, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” And it grows anime eyes. I don’t know what he was doing with that.
CAITLIN: I don’t know. I just…
PETER: There is one more thing, I think, sort of relevant to the discussion, is LLENN’s best friend in-game is this kind of crazy girl named Pito, who’s kind of wild, who is 100% played by the idol who she likes listening to, Erica something.
CAITLIN: That’s how these things always go in anime.
AMELIA: Yeah! [laughs]
PETER: I mean, there was some signaling so far. But it seems like… They talk about life stress a lot and why they play this game is just to get away from the shit that’s causing them trouble in real life. So, it seems like they’re building this narrative where… I mean, Pito is kind of crazy, but it comes down to: she is an idol and has to act innocent and chaste and all that stuff that comes with being an idol in Japan, but that’s not her.
So, she plays these games and acts like this wild, gun-crazy fighter because she feels like that’s closer to her personality and that’s the way she lets off stress while having to make this public face of being what you’d expect of a Japanese idol. Which I think was another surprising turn by Sigsawa.
AMELIA: And blowing off steam is totally something that people cite as reasons for enjoying shooting games and things like that.
PETER: [crosstalk] Video games.
AMELIA: Video games in general, yeah, but combat-based games in particular.
PETER: Yeah. So, it’s that on top of “Maybe it’s hard to be an idol and put on these airs when that’s probably not a very realistic representation of most people.”
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah. I’d be interested to know how many people are watching this because I haven’t seen a whole lot of discussion about it. It is being talked about, but—
PETER: It’s popular.
AMELIA: Yeah. I don’t doubt it, but it’s just something I haven’t seen a whole lot on. I don’t know, maybe I blocked it out. It was one I wasn’t really expecting to get into, even though I really like Sword Art Online, Gun Gale Online is not my favorite part of that.
PETER: Also, there’s no Asuna, so what’s the point?
AMELIA: [sighs] There’s no Asuna, yeah. And I don’t do too well with spinoffs that have no cast in common. And, yeah, LLENN’s appearance just really put me off. I can’t stand pink, as a general rule, so that was an instant no for me.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I have made my thoughts clear on pinkwashing. [chuckles]
AMELIA: [laughs] But at the same time, it sounds like that’s not the only world, and if there’s this six-foot woman in Japan who’s not dressed in pink and rabbit ears—or is it cat ears on her hat?—then there may be more there that I would appreciate.
But there’s a lot of guns to wade through to get to that, and that is just not for me, though I completely understand it will be for some people and do not begrudge you that in the slightest.
Okay, something completely different, Yotsuiro Biyori. [laughs] I watched three episodes of this today, and I loved it. Are either of you watching it?
AMELIA: Okay. I will represent, then, as Dee requested, because Dee is thoroughly enjoying this, and I completely get it. I watched the first episode, and I was a bit concerned it was going to be this episodic, slice-of-life iyashikei.
And it is iyashikei. It’s got that healing feel to it. And it somewhat slice of life, but it is not episodic; there is a throughline. There’s a character who shows up in the first episode that you assume is going to be important and consistent and recurring, and she may be recurring, but she’s clearly not that important because she’s not in the next two episodes at all.
The core cast is the four guys who run a traditional Japanese tea shop. They create traditional sweets. They serve traditional tea, but they also serve lattes with the worst latte art in the world. And it’s sweet; it’s funny. I’m enjoying it. It’s going somewhere, which I appreciate. Love me some linear storytelling. And I just really got into it.
There’s more going on than I thought there was based on the first episode, and by the third episode, that’s really clear. So, I’m looking forward to seeing more. I meant to get caught up to episode six before talking today, but I started way too late for that. But I am looking forward to seeing more. I think I will watch it to the end. And hopefully Dee will be around next time to talk about it herself and represent, because I know she is loving it, and I completely understand that. So…
AMELIA: Next category. [laughs] Feminist Potential. Major 2nd. Are either of you watching this?
AMELIA: I forgot it existed.
PETER: Baseball’s so boring. Sorry, baseball fans.
AMELIA: [laughs] Again, Dee would have some things to say if she were here. Yeah, I’m not watching it. I do like sports shows. I do like sports shounen shows. But I forgot it existed, so I haven’t watched it, and I haven’t seen anything about it, which is why I forgot it existed, so presumably not many people are watching it.
In contrast, Megalobox. I think everyone I know is watching that, except possibly Caitlin.
PETER: Mega-Popular Box.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I am the only person, the only anime fan who’s not watching Megalobox.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] In the entire Twitter-sphere. [laughs] We found her. You can do what you will.
CAITLIN: No! Don’t do what you will!
AMELIA: Megalobox is so enjoyable to watch. I get completely immersed in it when I watch it. The art style just drags me in and will not let me go. I really like that kind of earthy look anyway.
PETER: The enforced old aspect ratio.
AMELIA: Yeah! I’ll take it. I’ll take it.
PETER: Okay. [laughs]
AMELIA: But it does feel hand-drawn, and it does feel like somebody has physically colored in it with paint or something. You can tell my lack of knowledge here.
PETER: [crosstalk] Mm-hm. Grainy.
AMELIA: But it feels very down to earth. Earth. I keep coming back to this word “earth.” Earthy. That’s exactly how it feels. It feels like when I’ve watched 1970s anime. It’s got that same kind of feeling to it, to me.
PETER: It’s a good callback.
AMELIA: [laughs] So, I’m really enjoying it aesthetically. But also, I kind of like where the series is going. I don’t know much about Ashita no Joe—Tomorrow’s Joe, sorry. And I’ve never seen any version of it, so I’m just enjoying it for what it is, but I like where it’s going. Peter, you’re probably more knowledgeable than I am about this.
PETER: I think it’s okay. [laughs]
PETER: I might surprise people. I’m not super into it like a lot of other people are. I am very interested in their aesthetic choices. I know it drives all my graphic design friends insane that they used to enforce the lower resolution to… [chuckles] I don’t even know why they did it. But I think a lot of the decisions they’ve made aesthetically, artistically, and in regards to the setting are really interesting.
I think what they’ve done with Yoko from the original Tomorrow’s Joe is cool, because they made her a more active character in the series. But watching it, I just feel like Hajime no Ippo is way better. [laughs] That’s a really bad thing to think, but when I’m watching it, I’m just like, “Man…” Because he does a counter punch and it’s supposed to be this really big moment, and I just remember every time Miyata counter-punched somebody in Hajime no Ippo, and I just feel let down. I don’t want to consider it that way. I just feel like—
AMELIA: [laughs] That’s awful!
PETER: —I’ve seen the apex of boxing, and everything else pales in comparison.
AMELIA: [laughs] Okay. Well, that’s a bit unfortunate. So, if you haven’t seen Hajime no Ippo, you’ll probably enjoy it more. And if you haven’t seen Hajime no Ippo and you’re not a graphic designer, it sounds like you’re gonna love it.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the main character’s story is definitely good. I’m in it for the entire series. I just… Everybody’s talking about how it’s this masterpiece, and I think it’s a solid anime. [chuckles]
AMELIA: That’s fair. That’s fair. I’m enjoying seeing where it’s going. I’m not sure I’ll watch it again.
PETER: Yeah, I probably won’t.
AMELIA: If that makes sense. But I’ve not seen Hajime no Ippo yet, so maybe I’ll see that and it will just leave Megalobox in the dust.
PETER: Oh, you would love Hajime no Ippo. It’s all the stuff you love.
AMELIA: Yeah, I think I will. [laughs] All the stuff I love? Excellent.
PETER: Yeah, seriously.
AMELIA: Looking forward to it. The watchalong is coming. Okay, there’s not really a lot to say about it. I think a lot of people are enjoying it. There’s not a whole lot of female characters. But this is very much a show about that kind of masculinity, which is typically pretty shounen, rival… Well, I guess this is more seinen. Those kinds of rivalry, sports kind of anime tend to be telling stories of masculinity, and there’s not necessarily gonna be a lot of women around for that.
PETER: It is notable they’ve taken Yoko and given her a more active role. I don’t know where they’re gonna go with that, but so far, she’s way more important than the original one was. So, I think that taking the one female character there was and raising her up like that is cool, although it all depends on how that plays out in the second half.
AMELIA: We’ll see how it goes and come back to it, then. Persona 5: The Animation. Caitlin, I am really sorry. I haven’t seen any of this yet.
CAITLIN: You know, it’s…
CAITLIN: Okay, all right, so I cannot—
AMELIA: You so wanted me to see this, and now I haven’t. I thought you’d be really mad at me. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: [sighs] It’s complicated.
CAITLIN: Because I cannot watch it through fresh eyes. I have played the game through twice. It’s hard for me to say whether or not it is a good experience for someone who has not played the game before.
AMELIA: Okay. How was it [as] an experience for you?
CAITLIN: For me, it is… I like it. I like it still. I look forward to watching it every week with my friend. It’s a lot of fun seeing things better animated than the anime cutscenes in the game and able to break out of that game, fixed-camera perspective and be able to play with the shots and the body language and the environments. I don’t think it’s going to fix the issues that the game had.
PETER: [crosstalk] It is the game.
CAITLIN: Peter, are you watching it?
PETER: Same story. Yeah, I’m current.
AMELIA: Oh, really?
PETER: I enjoyed the game more. Some of the aesthetic stuff they do… There’s a cutscene in the game where you go back to the Velvet Room, which is like… It’s hard to explain. But the main guy gives the character a new ability, and they do that in the anime, and I’m like, “What is the purpose of this scene in the anime? Because I don’t care if he’s got this new mechanic.” You can combine Persona together to make stronger Persona, but the first time you do it, you exchange Arsène Lupin for a goblin in a jar.
CAITLIN: [cracks up laughing]
PETER: And that’s your new Persona. That was one of the biggest letdowns in the game.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] This is making no sense to me at the moment. I am so lost!
PETER: You had this really cool Persona, and then you replace it for the world’s worst Pokemon.
PETER: In-game. And I was like, “Wow, this was a really let-down moment.” In-game, I thought that was dumb. And then they did the whole thing over again in the anime, where you didn’t even get the mechanical benefits that that goblin in a pot gave you in that specific fight. So, it was like, “Why? Why did they do this?” at that moment.
CAITLIN: [recovering from laughter] Oh, man.
AMELIA: Okay, now I actually really want to see it.
CAITLIN: When I— [laughs]
PETER: It’s super confusing. If I was watching that and I didn’t know the game, I’d be like, “What just happened? Arsène Lupin got turned into a goblin in a pot!”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Changing Personas is a central part of the conceit in the game. But when I first played Persona 4, which was the first Persona game I played. I did not want to fuse my starter Persona. [laughs]
PETER: Lupin’s so much cooler. It’s because what you start with is always so much cooler.
CAITLIN: I know!
PETER: The same thing happens to Makoto, where they replace her sentient motorcycle with a really bad mech.
CAITLIN: Oh, spoilers! The anime hasn’t gotten there yet.
PETER: I mean…
CAITLIN: [conceding] Yeah. No, it’s true. But anyway… So, yeah, a lot of the central conceits in the game aren’t really explained or make sense in the anime because the whole thing in the game is that you’re the wildcard. You can change your Persona, which is a unique quality, and it reflects how you have to respond to different people differently and recontextualize the way you’re behaving for the situation. That’s the whole thing with the game, but that doesn’t really come across in the anime.
I really love the Persona series. I mean, I love the current trilogy of 3, 4, and 5. I haven’t played 1 and 2 yet, but… Yeah, so—
PETER: Well, for that, you can just watch Caligula.
CAITLIN: There’s so much going on in the games that just can’t translate to anime, and that’s always been the issue with every game-to-anime adaptation. Unless it is like a visual novel, unless it is something that is primarily story, a lot of the stuff in the game just can’t get translated, and a lot of times, people don’t really know how to handle that because they’re still trying to stay very faithful to the game.
PETER: Yeah. I think that’s my main beef with the show and my way of summarizing it, is I am very disappointed by the creative decisions they made because they tried to keep the fidelity to the game rather than making an anime that can stand on its own merits.
CAITLIN: I agree. I agree.
PETER: So, the main character, Ren, is just this amorphous, faceless character who has responses that you can give to make the character however you want it to be, so I figured, “Oh, maybe they’ll give Ren a personality in this anime and his own character,” but they didn’t. He’s literally just still a faceless nothing, except he’s got some actual lines now.
CAITLIN: He’s very pretty, but mostly he just stands there and every so often he whispers a repeat of what something else said. From the first episode, I thought they were going to give him more personality, because they did a little bit with his body language, so maybe he would just be a quiet guy who doesn’t speak much but has his own way. And I still keep calling him Akira because that was his name in the manga.
CAITLIN: But yeah, they definitely did not take that where it could have gone. And the Persona 4 anime, for all of its flaws, its many, many flaws, at least it gave the main character personality.
AMELIA: Okay, I am going to watch some of this before we record end-of-season podcast so that I can comment on this because, as you say, you’re not sure if it actually translate for somebody who’s completely new to the franchise, and I haven’t got a clue what Persona’s about. I’ve picked up little bits from the conversation you two just had, but that’s it. So, we’ll see how it comes across.
PETER: If you’re not gonna play the game, go ahead and watch the anime.
AMELIA: I’m not gonna play the game.
PETER: Okay, you specifically, Amelia, should probably at least get to Makoto’s awakening or whatever the hell they call it when you go Persona. They don’t have a name for it. I think you will like that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Warning: there is boob nonsense. There is boob nonsense with Ann.
AMELIA: [scoffs as if disgusted]
PETER: Oh, yeah. It’s mostly just her being sexualized by pretty much every character she meets. It’s great.
AMELIA: [deadpan] Oh, no big deal. I’m totally cool with that. [laughs]
PETER: So, enjoy.
AMELIA: [chuckles] Moving on, Feminist Themes. This is our final category, and these are the shows that have some thematic content that is inherently feminist. So, regardless of how it explores it, the feminist content is there, but depends on how well they handle it.
So, starting off, Golden Kamuy. Now, this was a really hotly anticipated anime based on quite a recent manga, I think. And the feminist theme here was the handling of Ainu culture.
So, Japan as we know it is actually a very recent invention. And where Hokkaido is now, that used to be called Ezochi, and that used to be that had indigenous people who are called the Ainu. And this is all about how you have a Japanese person and an Ainu person interacting, and the Japanese guy is learning about Ainu culture.
And it’s something that you do not see explored very much at all, and the idea of ethnic minorities within what are considered Japanese… because Ainu people are considered Japanese even though there is an Ainu register.
One of my teachers at university was an Ainu expert, so I heard all about his experience with Ainu people, and it was really interesting. But that was probably the most I’ve heard about Ainu culture, despite studying Japan, despite living in Japan, despite visiting Hokkaido. The most I heard about it was in some classroom in England. So, it’s really incredible to see it in such detail here, but the actual anime itself, as an anime, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t know, what’s your experience with it? Caitlin, are you even watching it?
AMELIA: I’m not too surprised, and I don’t really blame you. But Peter, you’re definitely watching it.
PETER: Oh, yeah. I love Golden Kamuy. It’s great.
AMELIA: Great. Why do you love it?
PETER: Well, I read the manga last year. I really, really, really liked it. I think it’s got great characters. It’s got this really interesting balance of teaching you stuff, having really charming character moments, and then also being extremely violent at times. And none of those things really feel like they’re at odds.
So, a lot of it is just Asirpa actually keeping Sugimoto alive and teaching him about Ainu culture and cooking stuff and all that. She definitely doesn’t take a backseat in the story. She’s probably my favorite character.
AMELIA: She’s great. She’s so good.
PETER: You’re just very organically learning all about what Ainu eat and how they live and their beliefs and their tools and their methods of hunting and stuff like that as she’s helping Sugimoto survive out in the wilds against this really written-into-history… It was like [a] National Treasure 2—not much like a Nic Cage movie, though—hunt for gold.
And there’s all these goofs and gags they do, as well, because both of them are really quirky and Shiraishi’s really weird. But then, whenever there’s a fight, it’s just some of the most brutal stuff I’ve ever seen. And I’m down for that, too. So, I just think it’s the complete package. It’s got everything.
AMELIA: And the risk you have with a series like this is that it’s gonna go the Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai kind of direction. I mean, for the record, I love The Last Samurai because it’s kind of a problematic fave. It is hugely problematic.
And Golden Kamuy could have gone down this route, where you have Sugimoto essentially going in as an outsider and becoming better at Ainu culture than the Ainu. That was a direction that it could have gone, and he could have been beating Asirpa at her own game.
That’s not the way this works, and I think they’ve handled that so skillfully, because Asirpa has this great moment where she says, “I’m a new kind of Ainu girl.” And I think that really sums up her role in the series as a bridge between cultures.
It’s not just because she’s liaising. She is, herself, a new type of person within her culture and also within Japanese culture, and she observes some traditions but not others. She’s respectful of customs, but she doesn’t necessarily follow them, and she teaches Sugimoto about her culture, and he picks up some things from her, but at the same time, they really work as a team. She’s not teaching him so that he can do the same thing she can do. She’s teaching him so that he understands what she’s doing and why. And he picks up bits and pieces, but still she is serving a purpose; she is being useful.
And she makes that point, too. She doesn’t appreciate being viewed as dead weight. She doesn’t appreciate being treated as a child. She makes the point that she’s seen some really rough things. She has dealt with some trauma, and she is kind of half-adult, half-child.
But she’s also not treated as an adult, which I appreciate. She’s not treated as an adult. She’s not treated as a child. She’s not sexualized. She’s not infantilized. She is in this very unique position within the anime, and that’s treated very well.
I think there’s one moment where an elder in her village tries to say to Sugimoto, “Please take this girl as a wife. She’s no good at womanly arts, and therefore…” It’s cooking and stuff that she’s talking about. Not cooking, though; Asirpa can cook. But she’s talking about crafts and stuff. And she’s saying, “She’s terrible at these things, so no man will take her as a wife as she is, so can you please take her as a wife?”
And Asirpa just refuses to translate, so Sugimoto has no idea what she said. And that’s it. That’s as far as it goes.
PETER: And after that, due to some misunderstandings, Sugimoto leaves her behind because he gets cold feet about their situation and almost immediately gets killed. And she has to save him. After that, she hits [him] with a stick in the face, and she says, “We’re a team, and you’re not going to abandon me. Otherwise…” What was the threat? She basically says she’ll kill him or something like that.
AMELIA: Yeah, she made the point. She’s like, “You’re the one who walked away, and now you’re the one who’s all beat up and needed rescuing.” [laughs] She’s absolutely right.
PETER: Yeah. The one time he tries to protect her like a child or like you would a woman, he’s punished both narratively and in character for it, and she reasserts her usefulness. I thought that was a good thing it ended up doing with that.
AMELIA: I think it’s handled so well. She is the glue of the series. Sugimoto has this path that he wants to follow, and he’s facing all the obstacles, but Asirpa’s presence is what makes that enjoyable to watch. And it doesn’t feel desperately dark, even though there are some really rough moments and there are some violent moments. But Asirpa and Sugimoto together is just great.
And then when Shiraishi shows up, as well, it turns into a really interesting dynamic. So, I’m enjoying it, but I do spend half my time watching it, thinking “Maybe I should read the manga instead,” which probably isn’t the ideal response.
PETER: I think the anime has a couple shortcomings, but overall, I think it’s really good, and I think the voice acting’s really good. So, I think just getting them in another sensory mode, besides just visual and reading, is nice, so that alone I would probably be able to enjoy.
I do also wanna say I’ve been working with this series a lot, on my end. The Japanese website has a series of interviews with everyone who’s working on a show or at least prominent positions, which we’ve been translating and I’ve been putting up on the site. And the throughline that I’m getting is they’re being extremely respectful of all of the content relating to Ainu that they’re putting in.
Pretty much everything that Asirpa’s wearing, they had to go through so many… Well, they went to Hokkaido and looked at actual cultural artifacts. They went through several series of approvals. And it seems like among a lot of them, there’s this sense that what they’re doing is very culturally important, or they’re trying to be respectful of this portrayal of Ainu people.
And working around this issue, I’ve been introduced to the current Japanese politics. I think the conservative position is that the Ainu people don’t exist in Japan right now. I’d love to hear all of this from the word of an actual Ainu person, but at least on the face of it, it sounds like they’re facing cultural erasure from a large portion of the Japanese political environment and this series is definitely flying in the face of that and trying to be very respectful of their differences and portraying them in a positive light.
AMELIA: Yeah, and I think that really comes across. It doesn’t feel jarring at all. It feels really respectful. It feels really enjoyable. So, I will watch it to the end, but then I would also like to seek out the manga, I think.
PETER: Mm-hm. Definitely read the manga, too. Yeah. It doesn’t get all the great faces. That’s for sure.
AMELIA: [laughs] Libra of Nil Admirari. Either of you watching this?
PETER: I dropped it.
AMELIA: Yep. Okay. I’m glad I caught up with it, then, specifically to be able to… because I knew this was in our top three and I knew that nobody else would be watching it, basically.
I think that the review we have is pretty much representative, though I would potentially drop it down to Harmless Fun. I think the feminist themes that it has are not handled. I think they are there and they are left there, for the most part.
There are some great moments. It says it’s set in Taishō Japan, which is roughly the 1920s, I think. I can’t remember the exact time period, but it’s a pretty short period between Meiji and Shōwa. And it is distracting to me that they have set it in a real Japanese time period.
And I’m looking at the setting… Like, for example, they’ve got a shopfront that has an English word as its name. It’s called Raspberry, and it’s written as “Raspberry.” There is no katakana; there is no kanji. It is the English word “raspberry” in Roman letters. And I was just looking at that, thinking, “Is that really something that would have happened in Taishō Japan?”
And when they’re talking, they’re using katakana words like “thrilling.” They’re saying “suriringu.” And I studied a little bit of Taishō-era literature, and I remember at the time the one example that we had was… There were the kanji for the words “head” and “light,” and above it was the katakana “heddoraito” because the concept of headlights was unfamiliar at the time, so by having both the kanji and the katakana, you could convey the meaning of this unfamiliar thing.
So, katakana words were by no means as common as they are today at the very least. I mean, katakana is used for loanwords mostly, and it shows up a fair amount, and it seems like their dialogue in Japanese is treated as modern-day dialogue, as you would hear Japanese people speaking now.
CAITLIN: So, wait. About the katakana, wasn’t katakana for a long time used more like hiragana is used today?
AMELIA: Yeah. But it’s been a long evolution of language. At this point, it is used mostly for loanwords, sound effects, things like that. And in Taishō-era Japan, it was certainly used for foreign words. And it’s just jarring.
I wish that they had not specified a time period. I think they’re trying to do something similar to if you saw a steampunk series. But when you call something Victorian London, for example, that implies there is a Queen Victoria, and Taishō Japan implies there’s an Emperor Taishō—that’s not what his name was at the time. But it sets it in such a specific way that if you have that kind of background that maybe you’ll find it jarring in a way that I did.
So, that was a little bit frustrating to me, but the moments that they do lean into the fact that it is Taishō-era Japan, it’s super interesting. And they talk about women working. The main character, in the first episode, she’s set up in a marriage that she’s not got any interest in, but her father tells her she’s going to be married and it’s something to do with helping the family, and she just accepts it and she goes along with it.
And then, by the end of the episode, she’s decided to go and work at the agency that deals with cursed books. And she later on says, “Well, I really enjoy living in a communal space. I really enjoy working. I really enjoy earning money that I can spend however I like. I love this freedom.”
So, we’re getting something of an arc from her, and she talks at another point about other working women in society. She’s got a friend who’s a journalist. Her boss is a woman within the agency. And she talks about these women, and there are male characters, who… Some get it; some don’t. Some are supportive; some aren’t. And they’re coming from different levels of society, different backgrounds. There’s one character who is the child of a sex worker. That comes up.
So, it is putting these potentially feminist topics in front of you, and then it’s not necessarily doing particular feminist things with it, or it’s not necessarily doing anything with it to address these themes in a way that’s satisfying or substantial.
So, I’m not sure I’d recommend this exactly. It does feel like harmless fun. If you like the aesthetic and you enjoy that otome, visual novel-type story, then this is a perfectly serviceable example of that. I’m not put off it, but there’s not as much here as I think we had hoped when watching the first episode.
And the first episode’s not really representative of what the rest of the series is. The second episode gets much closer to that.
PETER: Oh, no.
AMELIA: Did you watch the second episode?
PETER: Yeah, I did. [chuckles]
AMELIA: Okay. No, I don’t think this is one for you, Peter, I would say.
PETER: Not my style.
AMELIA: [chuckles] Not really. And the male suitors continue to be reasonably bland, for the most part. I will probably try to carry on watching, but really, as a viewer, I probably would have dropped this already, just because I’m not hooked.
So, that leaves us with Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for an Otaku, which is a title that I hate so much.
CAITLIN: Yeah, you really just don’t like that title.
AMELIA: I hate the title because they say “Love is hard for an otaku,” and then by the end of episode one, love isn’t really hard for an otaku at all, because they found out they’re otaku and they’re perfectly happy when they’re with other otaku. So, okay. You’ve disproved your title in episode one. Good job, now what? But I am actually not hating it.
CAITLIN: Okay, I really, really like a lot about the series. There’s a couple of things I don’t like, but…
AMELIA: Okay. What do you not like?
CAITLIN: I don’t like Kabakura.
AMELIA: Oh, really?
CAITLIN: No. He’s an asshole.
AMELIA: Wow! That’s strong.
CAITLIN: Wasn’t episode four the one where he and Koyanagi have a big fight?
AMELIA: I don’t remember. Three or four?
CAITLIN: Yeah. When he and Koyanagi have a big fight, he gets really mean and he just doesn’t apologize and just… The whole thing gets waved off. And then in the New Year’s episode, he was super dismissive of her at first wanting to do something for Christmas or for New Year’s, and he’s just like, “No, we’re adults!”
And yeah, he made that reservation, but it just seems like he’s the kind of guy who is really, really mean and does something later and thinks that that makes up for it, but never really changes. But everyone else is great. I just really don’t like him.
AMELIA: No, I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. I’m enjoying him well enough, but I don’t particularly love any of them. They’re fine, I guess, and I am coming back to it every week. This is one of the few shows I’m actually watching weekly. I didn’t have to binge this.
I think my biggest problem with it is that its pacing doesn’t feel right. It feels like it’s very slow. It doesn’t feel snappy. I was expecting something closer to Hinamatsuri’s approach to comedic pacing and timing, and it feels much more sluggish than that, which feels a bit like a waste, because I think the material itself is fine.
But even that, the material itself feels very “generic otaku” a lot of the time. They each fulfill a particular kind of otaku archetype, and we don’t really get into the specifics of their characters, and they’re almost placeholders for real characters and real character dynamics and development.
So, that’s why Kabakura and KoyanagI, when they do talk about their relationship, it does seem like they’re together because they’re together and they’ve always been together, and that’s it, and they don’t question it. And yeah, there are couples like that, but that kind of dynamic does take a toll and it does need to be addressed.
And especially in the show that’s called Love Is Hard for an Otaku, you’d think when stuff is actually hard, they might lean into that and talk about it a bit. And as you said, they just sweep it under. So, I’m not finding it quite as satisfying as I would like to find a show about two sets of geeky couples who work together, which in some ways should be right up my street.
CAITLIN: I mean, I connect to it very personally. Other than Kabakura being a raging dickhead—
AMELIA: [chuckles] You’re not keen on him, huh?
CAITLIN: No! I’m not! At first, I was like, “Well, they fight a lot, but that seems to work for him,” but it’s feeling more and more one-sided. And yeah, Koyanagi can shout back, but she never really gets as mean as he does.
But anyway, I really connect to Hirotaka and Narumi. They very, very much remind me of me and my fiancée.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Sorry. Fiancée as of one week ago, so still kind of an exciting thing to say.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yay! Nice to say, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s just like, “Ooh!” But anyway—
CAITLIN: And a lot of it is the big picture stuff. He’s more into games; she’s more into anime and manga. He’s the quiet one. He’s a little bit more socially withdrawn, while she’s more outgoing and friendly. And then it’s even down to small stuff like he has the same kind of headphones!
So, I really, really connect to it. So, a lot of my joy that I derive from it isn’t necessarily from “Oh, that joke’s really funny,” so much as I really can relate to this and really enjoy seeing my own experiences in my own relationship being conveyed on screen.
AMELIA: Yeah, that makes sense, and I imagine a lot of people will find elements of it relatable. There’s certainly moments that I find completely relatable. But I’m not sure it’s completely fulfilled its promise as a show. It felt like it had more potential in the first episode than I think it’s lived up to yet.
And that may change. It may be doing a slow burn, but Narumi and Hirotaka, their relationship is not moving anywhere. They seem like friends most of the time, and that’s something I really thought that—by episode six we’re on now?—they would have done a bit more with.
And this is pretty common in Japan, that you’ll start seeing someone romantically after they confess their feelings and you agree to go out with them and just see how it goes, try dating. But they seem to be doing exactly the activities they would have been doing had they just been friends, and they don’t go far beyond that, and so it doesn’t seem that Narumi’s getting any kind of romantic feelings for Hirotaka at all, but she’s just slotted into his life, straight into a domestic, comfortable point of a relationship without going through the kind of—
CAITLIN: I wonder… They have implied at times that there might be some stuff that’s just [not] making it to the screen. Okay, so when they had that big sleepover party… [chuckles] which was silly but also kind of cute because Hirotaka was like, “I have friends now! I can have this sleepover party!”
AMELIA: [laughs] Yeah, that was pretty cute.
CAITLIN: She was worrying about the color of her underwear.
CAITLIN: And then the next day he makes a joke about her having been wearing beige underwear.
AMELIA: Doesn’t she say something to make him think that?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Does she?
AMELIA: I thought she did.
CAITLIN: I don’t know.
AMELIA: Because I was actually really pleased when she realizes that she’s going to his house for the night and she thinks, “Oh, no! I wore the wrong underwear. Is this really okay?”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Or not even, “Oh, no.” Like “Oops!” [chuckles] “Didn’t wear the cute one.”
AMELIA: Exactly. She’s really calm about it, and it’s really refreshing after you have so many anime where girls are really frantic about the thought that they might hold hands or they might hug or they might kiss.
And for Narumi to just be like, “Oh, wait, we’re probably going to have sex. Okay, let me think about the logistics,” it was actually really great. I really enjoyed that, and I hoped to see more of it, but that was episodes ago. And we’ve not really seen anything more about their romantic relationship since then, and I—
CAITLIN: I think there are moments of small connection that don’t just feel like just friends. I think he’s a little bit more emotionally vulnerable with her. Like when she asks about his pierced ears, he’s like, “I really wanted to grow up fast,” or just small things like that. But I would like to see—
AMELIA: But do you think he wouldn’t have answered that question had anyone else asked? I’m not sure that he wouldn’t there.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t know, but not necessarily people would have asked him, or the way the scene was framed seemed a little bit more vulnerable than typical.
AMELIA: Maybe, because for me the standout part of that scene was him saying to Narumi, “Me of all people, you should be open with.” And so, maybe he’s leading by example there a little bit.
CAITLIN: I feel like she does not really know how to not be guarded in a relationship because… And that’s getting into the “Love is hard” thing, actually, because she’s been burned before by being caught as an otaku in a relationship. And even though, yes, he knows that sort of stuff, your instincts tell you, “No, you can’t just open up about that.” So, that might be a little bit more of the “Love is hard for an otaku” thing.
AMELIA: Yeah, and that’s the kind of stuff I really wanted to see, because I think you can tell a story about challenges that people with kind of niche hobbies tend to face, and it is things like, “I don’t want to talk about this because I think you’re gonna laugh at me” or “I think it’s gonna take too much explanation for you to understand.” And absolutely, situations like that completely relatable. [laughs]
So, I was hoping for more of that, is the only thing. We get these little moments where you’re like, “Yes, that is what I came here for.” But it’s not consistent, and it’s not cumulative, almost. It’s more like breadcrumbs every now and again.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I understand. Like I said, the way I connect to it personally probably gives me some rose-colored glasses on it. And—
AMELIA: I’m not trying to take those off you, just to be clear. Absolutely not. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: And it’s funny because I feel like… Steve, vestenet, his episode reviews on Anime News Network, he’s very enthusiastic and he also talks a lot about parts that are relatable to him. So… [chuckles]
AMELIA: Yeah, and I think that will be the case for a number of people. And by saying I want more of it, that’s not in any way being dismissive of people who feel like what they’re doing right now is enough and is right and is giving them exactly what they came to the show for. I will expect different things from a romance than other people will. So, I think it’s totally fine.
Like I said, I’m really enjoying it in the sense that I’m watching it week to week, which I really don’t do for a lot of anime. I think there are three shows at the moment that I’m actually watching week to week. The rest I’ve binged, oh, in the last 12 hours or so. [chuckles] It’s been a very anime-full day.
So, it is actually pulling me back. I am enjoying spending time with these people. And actually, I think I like Koyanagi and Kabakura’s relationship more than you do. I don’t love Kabakura, but I also don’t dislike him.
I don’t like his crush on Narumi—or not “crush,” but clearly Narumi’s much more his type. And there was a moment when Koyanagi’s talking about how insecure that makes her feel, and that was another moment that I absolutely loved. But it was also another moment they didn’t really go into or build on. So, I’m enjoying spending time with them, and I am enjoying these moments that come up, for sure, and I hope they do more of that in the next six episodes. Six? Is it six?
CAITLIN: It’s gonna be five more episodes. It’s an 11-episode series.
AMELIA: Okay. I think that wraps up…
CAITLIN: Yeah, we’ve…
AMELIA: It’s been a really long podcast. This is gonna be a really long episode, but it’s such a full season. I think there’s a lot that we wanted to watch, whereas usually we skip over quite a few titles or we don’t have a lot to say.
CAITLIN: Well, I feel like a lot of us are watching different series. I feel like this season there’s no one show that—or I should say there’s one show that everyone’s following. That’s Megalobox. [chuckles] But I’m not.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] But you’re not. [laughs]
CAITLIN: But it’s not as consolidated as it usually is. Our watching has been more scattered across the season than it tends to be.
AMELIA: Yeah, you’re right. And there’s more, because, just briefly, as briefly as we can, to wrap this up—
PETER: [crosstalk] I was wondering if we were going to do that. [laughs]
AMELIA: I think we have to, because there are some big-ticket shows that are ongoing, that are sequels, that are short. So, just briefly, what are you watching and would you recommend it? From the list, that isn’t new anime to this season.
CAITLIN: My Hero Academia is still very strong.
AMELIA: Right, and I think we’re all watching that, so this is probably where the shows that everyone is watching are actually clustered. My Hero Academia, absolutely watching that, loving that, would… [hesitates, then mutters] would recommend with caveats, would we say? Mineta’s still in it.
AMELIA: That’s a problem.
AMELIA: [laughs] If he could not be in it, that would be better.
CAITLIN: Yeah. No.
PETER: Yeah. It’s still got its problems with female characters.
AMELIA: It’s got all the same problems it has before, but it has all the strengths that it had before.
CAITLIN: It has a canonical trans man in it. Tiger.
PETER: [crosstalk] And a trans woman.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Does it now?
CAITLIN: No, I’m pretty sure Tiger—
PETER: Tiger is a trans man; Magne is a trans woman.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Okay, yeah.
AMELIA: I did not realize that from watching it. Okay. What else are you watching, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: That’s it. [chuckles]
AMELIA: Oh, okay. Okay. Peter, your list is gonna be a bit longer. What are you watching and what would you recommend?
PETER: I’d say the only one that I really feel any need to mention is probably Food Wars. It’s still Food Wars. It’s still got all that stuff that you know that Food Wars has. So, assuming you’re okay with the fanservice aspect, I think this is the best it’s ever been, and it’s actually kind of amazing. I can’t believe what I’m watching now, week to week.
They’ve gotten into some really hairy territory in regards to childhood abuse, and they’ve got some classist themes going on now in the current conflict of the story. And they’re handling them all very well, and the writing is just spot on. So, I think it’s pretty amazing what Food Wars is doing right now. It’s just it’s still got that fanservice, though, so if that’s a dealbreaker, then the deal is broken.
AMELIA: Right. That makes sense. No more? Nothing else to talk about?
PETER: Depends on how long a conversation you wanna have.
AMELIA: Do it. Do it. Go on. Just briefly, are you watching it? Would you recommend it?
PETER: Darling in the Franxx?
PETER: I don’t think I could recommend it. I don’t know if this joke… I just made it recently. Has anybody seen Equilibrium? Ah, dang.
AMELIA: This is gonna be a very niche joke, I’m afraid. [chuckles]
PETER: Okay. Basically, it’s a really good Christian Bale movie with Sean Bean about a dystopic society where they’ve outlawed all human emotion. This joke doesn’t work.
PETER: Basically, the movie handled it better because there was actual consequences for human emotion, and he was unfamiliar with a lot of concepts in regards to art and music and all that stuff that inspires emotion because they specifically kept that stuff away from the character, because that’s good writing.
Darling in the Franxx doesn’t do that. I don’t know what it’s trying to do. Now, the whole thing is about how they’ve been prohibited from expressing any kind of gendered activity the whole time, even though the first half of the series was entirely about stereotypically gendered activity, so I have no idea where this is coming from. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s low-key insulting. I—
AMELIA: I think it’s pretty high-key insulting by this point if you’ve seen yesterday’s episode.
PETER: Yeah, I mean there’s “offensive” and then “intellectually insulting.” [laughs] And I guess it’s both.
AMELIA: And it’s doing both, I think.
CAITLIN: It’s just a mess! [chuckles]
AMELIA: It’s ticking both boxes. Are you watching it, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: No, I’m behind on it, but I have been following people’s Twitter conversations about it vicariously, and oh, boy! We should probably do a thing about it after it ends, though, seriously, though.
AMELIA: [sighs] I’m not sure I want to give it the satisfaction. So, briefly, Darling in the Franxx has taken a really bad turn, and not only has it not lived up to the possibility of subversion that we all hoped for in the first episode. Well, I say “we all.” Vrai from the beginning was like, “This is not going anywhere good,” and Vrai was completely right.
CAITLIN: [laughs] As is often the case!
AMELIA: I was more hopeful. I was more optimistic. I really hoped for some kind of subversion because it was leaning so hard into the gender norms. No. It is not subversive at all. It has taken some really unpleasant turns. It has become really deeply, aggressively right-wing, heteronormative. It is not pleasant at all.
Not only do I not recommend it; I actively recommend avoiding it if you think this is something that is likely to burn you up. It is not good. But I’m still watching it. There’s a bit of sunk cost fallacy going on here at this point.
AMELIA: Bit of Stockholm Syndrome maybe. I’m not sure if I’m still enjoying it. Yesterday’s episode was really, really bad. And I mean “bad” in the sense of “It made me feel bad.” I did not enjoy the viewing process. There were moments when I turned the volume completely down because I couldn’t bear to hear them say these words. It was just so unpleasant.
But I’m gonna continue watching it to the end. There is a lot of conversation going on around it now, and I think participating in those conversations is probably the most satisfaction I’m gonna get out of this series, and I look forward to dropping it and never coming back to it.
AMELIA: But I am actually watching stuff I enjoy. Space Battleship Tiramisu is a problematic option, but I am still finding it funny when it’s not being awful. It’s not too much of a recommendation, I’m afraid, but it’s got kind of absurd comedy, but at the same time, it’s got this gender-essentialist homophobia, et cetera. It’s also got a lot of manservice, which is really not my thing, so… Yep, if you think you’re going to enjoy the absurd comedy and can overlook everything else, then I probably would recommend that for you specifically.
But what I’m actually really enjoying is Tokyo Ghoul:re. Are either of you watching that?
CAITLIN: I think both of us—
AMELIA: I’m enjoying it—
PETER: I think it’s on Hulu? I don’t know who has it, actually.
CAITLIN: I think both of us fell out of love with the manga around the same time.
PETER: Oh, yeah, yeah.
CAITLIN: And I just really don’t feel any particular need to go back to it.
AMELIA: Is it not on Crunchyroll?
PETER: No. It’s on, I think, Funimation and Hulu, I believe. Don’t quote me on that.
AMELIA: It is on Crunchyroll here. So, I wondered why I haven’t seen so much conversation about it. I am enjoying it so much that I went back and rewatched Tokyo Ghoul from the very beginning and actually enjoyed it a lot more now that it has Tokyo Ghoul:re on the end, so it feels more like a rounded, complete series.
And I think it’s one of those adaptations where the anime really improves on the source material. I think it makes up for pacing issues in the same way as things like Attack on Titan makes up for pacing issues to an extent in parts of its series. Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it goes. So, if anyone else is, please tell me on Twitter, because I don’t have anyone to talk to about it at the moment.
PETER: [chuckles] Sorry.
AMELIA: [brightly] Very lonely fan here.
PETER: I picked up Happiness, and I started reading that. That’s my vampire manga.
AMELIA: Yeah. I’m not sure at the moment if I recommend it, but I am enjoying it way more than I thought based on how I felt about Root A, which is still my least favorite part of the whole thing. So, yeah, if you haven’t watched any Re yet because you didn’t enjoy Root A but you enjoy Tokyo Ghoul more, then maybe pick it up and see what you think. And yeah, let me know.
Okay, we are done. This has been a very long episode. [laughs] So, just to wrap up, little bit of housekeeping. If you like what we’ve been talking about, you can find more of our work on www.animefeminist.com. You can find us on Twitter @AnimeFeminist. You can find us on Facebook, facebook.com/AnimeFem. We have a Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com.
And we also have a Patreon, of course, patreon.com/animefeminist. We have now finally broken even. Hooray! And this means that we are no longer working in a deficit. We are actually making enough each month to pay all writers, contributors, editors, administrators. Everyone who contributes to the site, we are paying. It feels so good to clear those invoices. And we have a little bit of a buffer, but we have a lot of projects that we would like to work on and can’t just yet.
I think the next thing we’re going to be working on is making the site more accessible, making podcast transcripts, which is also not free. So, to help us work towards our next goals, if you can spare $1 a month, it all adds up. Or if you can spare $5 a month, that will give you access to our exclusive AniFem-only Discord server, which is like a chat room. You can go in there and talk about current anime, manga, J-pop, whatever you like, without having to worry about explaining Feminism 101 to randos on the internet, which is a real plus.
So, patreon.com/animefeminist. If you can send us any money at all per month to continue our work, we’d very much appreciate it. So, thank you so much to Caitlin and Peter for joining me today. And we look forward to seeing you for the end-of-season podcast in a few weeks.
CAITLIN: Which I will have watched more of by then.