Vrai, Caitlin, and Peter look back on the Summer 2018 season!
Recorded: Saturday 29th September 2018
Hosts: Caitlin, Vrai, Peter
0:01:38 How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
0:03:03 The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Eijenheir
0:05:46 Angels of Death
0:07:09 Harukana Receive
0:10:31 Chio’s School Road
0:15:13 Asobi Asobase
0:23:16 Planet With
0:35:35 Cells at Work!
0:49:06 Banana Fish
0:59:27 Phantom in the Twilight
1:05:38 Revue Starlight
1:12:39 Attack on Titan
1:15:04 Free! Dive to the Future
1:22:20 My Hero Academia
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Vrai. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai, where if you check my pinned tweet you can check all the places I freelance, or you can check out my other podcast that I cohost @trashpod. With me today are Caitlin and Peter. And we’re here to discuss the end of the summer season, take a look back, and check in on the carryovers. You guys wanna introduce yourselves?
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I am a writer and editor for the Anime Feminist podcast. I also run my own blog, Heroine Problem, and I write regularly about anime for The Daily Dot.
PETER: And I’m Peter. I’m an associate features editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Awesome. Wow, it has been a minute since I’ve been on one of these. These always end up going a little bit long, so we’re just gonna jump right into it. As always, we only talk about the shows that people on staff are watching. And then at the end of the episode, we will do carryovers. Check in the show notes; there’ll be timestamps so you can jump to a particular show if you want to. Peter, you, as always, are watching the most stuff. Let’s start at the bottom of our season premiere list and work our way up. So, How Not to Summon a Demon Lord.
VRAI: I hear there was child slavery now.
PETER: Child slavery. I guess so. They summon the demon, but the demon’s a little loli girl, of course.
CAITLIN: Of course.
PETER: I guess the ending could have had a good arc in the anime without— The two girls are enslaved to the guy by accident (ha ha), and they’ve been trying to take off the chains, but they’ve been having mixed feelings since they consider their slavery to him to be their meaningful connection to this guy that they both idolize. Which is great.
VRAI: Mm, great, cool.
PETER: But the ending, I guess… It turns out the solution was more slavery. That’s what they needed.
CAITLIN: Of course!
PETER: Yeah. So, the demon girl runs amok for a little bit, but they fix it and everybody’s concerned that she’s gonna go out of control, so they decide to also make her a slave to Diablo so that everybody can be sure she won’t freak out again. Because that makes sense. So, he ends up putting a collar on her, too, and then they live happily ever after.
VRAI: Mm, thanks, I hate it.
CAITLIN: Yeah. That’s so terrible on so many levels.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] Cool. Great.
VRAI: Don’t think we need to talk about that anymore! Let’s bury it deep and pretend it never happened.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yep. Good animation, though.
VRAI: All right. Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar or whatever the fuck the super long title is.
PETER: I don’t know if there’s anything to discuss that we really didn’t discuss in the mid-season. It’s got problems with the fact that all the girls are just a harem for the guy. I think the series’s most large problem is that it’s got pretty mediocre writing. The ending wasn’t particularly problematic, so, yeah, just the same thing as six episodes ago.
VRAI: If you liked what you heard back then, you will continue to like it; if you did not, you probably will not, yes?
PETER: Yeah. No new problems, though. So, that’s good.
VRAI: Hooray. How about Island? Was I right?
PETER: Ah… Half. So, he is her dad. [chuckles]
VRAI: Yes! I called it!
PETER: Yeah. But he doesn’t end up with her in the end. Turns out her mom also time-traveled, and that’s why she’s there. So, he discovers that her mom was the real person that he had fallen in love with and had her as a kid. Her mom was just slightly older because she’d gotten out of her time stasis chamber ten years before. So, instead of dating the girl seven years younger than him, he dates the girl 13 years older than him and gets together with the girl that he was originally with when they were… I think there’s still that age gap. She reversed the age gap on him, so… Yeah. He doesn’t have sex with his own daughter.
VRAI: Okay, but the Visual Novel Database does definitely warn for an incest relationship, so I think in the video game you can indeed bang your own daughter.
PETER: Oh, yeah. I’m sure there’s a lot of really questionable stuff you can do in the video game. But I guess it depends on who you decide to get through it with, so this might be the hard ending where you have to go through extra steps to discover that the mom is actually your original girlfriend and he gets together with her and they get married and the other girl accepts that her mom’s happy and she feels better about it or something. There’s also the implication… I actually think Island is pretty close to Devilman Crybaby in the way that its universe is structured. The whole—
CAITLIN: The only way that they’re close.
PETER: Well, the whole cyclical time and humans evolving into the exact same people over and over again. There’s always the Akira. There’s always the… oh my God, what was her name? Miya? Miyo?
PETER: Yeah, there’s always a Miko. You know how there’s always the same people every time. Island does the same thing where there’s an apocalypse, everybody dies, humans evolve, and then the exact same people come about in the exact same ways. But I guess the romantic subplot’s completed, so you don’t really need to worry about that; the fact that humanity keeps destroying itself and rebuilding.
VRAI: Angels of Death. I got bored with this one three episodes in, but you finished it, yes?
PETER: I’m like one or two episodes behind. Again, just by what I’ve seen, not too much more to discuss. I don’t think it’s really problematic. They haven’t really romanced the two characters together, besides the fact that they’re becoming important to each other. There doesn’t seem to be any romantic subplot or anything like that with age gap. I mean, everybody’s serial killers, but that’s pretty obvious from the get-go.
VRAI: Apparently, according to the big seasonal poll, they’re the most popular ship after Ash and Eiji. So that’s a thing.
PETER: Yeah. People ship things that they shouldn’t, like Ochako and Bakugo.
VRAI: [crosstalk; with a strained whisper] Yep. Yep. Yeah.
PETER: It doesn’t mean it’s realistic. It doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. But the important thing is that—unless I’m missing something major—the show has not done it.
VRAI: It’s very weird to me that people are… Good for them that people are enjoying this as a campy show, but as somebody who likes a lot of camp trash, this show was just not ridiculous enough to hit that bar for me. We get to skip a couple now— So, Angels of Death, if you were liking it, you probably still like it.
We get to skip up a couple now to— Dee isn’t here so, Peter, it’s on you to sing the praises of everybody’s problematic fave of the season, Harukana Receive.
PETER: Again, I think nothing new from the mid-season. It is definitely a fanservicey show, but when they get to the sport sequences, it’s very much on sportiness. The writing itself is pretty good. It just has… The show is narratively a good sports series. It’s just they’re all wearing bikinis, so it’s got a lot of T&A in it. And there is definitely a leery camera.
It did the thing that Gamers! did, where in the last episode there was a particularly large amount of fanservice. I don’t know if you saw my tweet with the screenshot from the last episode where it had a very suggestive screen angle where a girl was helping another girl stretch and they were both in their bikinis. Yeah. There’s fanservice, but otherwise it’s a pretty good sports series.
VRAI: Yeah. All that fanservice and their cousins. Somebody took the wrong lessons from all those Sailor Moon jokes.
CAITLIN: [hums the “womp-womp” tune]
PETER: Yeah. I think it does have a good subplot about— The thing that it ends with is: only one team from Okinawa can go to nationals, so they have to end up playing against basically the other duo in their volleyball club. One of them is essentially eliminating the other one from their chance of playing on the national level, and their fifth teammate is very concerned that that will break up the club or they won’t be able to be friends after that because it’s kind of a big deal. And I’m glad that they address that. So, I think that’s good. Little bit extra T&A in the last episode. Otherwise continues pretty predictably based on the first half.
VRAI: But still that same kind of “T&A, but fun and good at the actual sports.”
PETER: Yeah, I think it’s fun and it doesn’t ever do the thing where girls are like— I guess exactly once it does it, but not in the second half. The thing where it embarrasses girls or they suffer sexual assault in the service of jokes or T&A? It doesn’t do that. So that’s good.
PETER: Yeah. Hooray.
CAITLIN: Everyone’s having a good time.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That’s important.
CAITLIN: That’s always nice. The thing is that with fanservice, I don’t love it when it’s just random shots of titty. But it’s so much worse when it hinges on embarrassing the character or exposing them against their will.
PETER: Yeah, or outright sexual assault like in one Wit show.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Or outright sexual assault. [sighs]
PETER: Yeah, so it doesn’t do that. [chuckles] That’s good.
CAITLIN: Gratuitous titty shots are not ideal, but they’re probably one of the more harmless forms of fanservice.
PETER: True. We’ve seen it. It can get a lot worse, so it’s surface level.
VRAI: We have a scale for that. So, this show accidentally got skipped over last time, so we’ll spend just a couple more minutes giving it the full once-over. Chio’s School Road, which I was enjoying and then wound up dropping six episodes in.
PETER: So, we didn’t talk about it at all last podcast? I don’t remember. Not a bit.
CAITLIN: No, we forgot it, straight up.
PETER: All right. Well, I have not caught up on it for a long time myself. I’m like four or five episodes behind. But I guess the series’s main problem is the predatory lesbian.
VRAI: Yeah, this series bummed me the heck out. Fuck, this show was depressing, because I really enjoyed Chio and her friends. (A) They were very shippable and adorable, and (B) they were also these really amusing shitlords who had these relatable bullshit conversations on the way to work. I enjoyed the escalation into weirdness that some of the better jokes could do.
And then it just became what it is a lot of times with this kind of show, I think, the balance of “How much is it doing well and how much is funny?” versus “How much is just toxic nonsense?” And the ratio went downhill really quickly, where by episode five, it would be one good sketch and two really nasty ones. So, yeah, there’s the predatory lesbian character who is just straight-up about the worst version of that trope I have seen since the ‘90s.
It was also just generally mean. I think the last sketch I watched before I decided, “Okay, I guess I’m just done now,” is… There’s a sketch that opens with Chio being upset because she goes to a convenience store and her Western gaming magazine has been replaced with some BL magazines. And eventually the throughline of the joke is she ends up thinking that the magazine is hot and she’s embarrassed trying to figure out how to buy it. But the lines leading up to it are like “The homos have taken over!” And I’m like, “Well, this just came right after the predatory lesbian sketch. I’m not— Hm. I get what vibe you’re putting out here, show.”
And there was also this weird, uncomfortable throughline where there’s a gangster who Chio keeps crossing paths with and she for various reasons will end up helping him out for a bet or whatever and not think anything of it, but he’s slowly developing feelings for her. And it’s really creepy because he’s like a 35-year-old man.
PETER: Did it become romantic? I might be further behind than I thought.
VRAI: He definitely had a crush on her.
PETER: Oh. Yeah, that’s weird. He’s like ten years older than her.
VRAI: At least, if not 20.
PETER: Yeah, she’s like 15 and he’s at least 24, 25.
CAITLIN: This sounds like a Yakuza subplot.
VRAI: Yeah. It was a bummer because I enjoyed their weird dynamic when she was desperately sweating her way through, trying to look cool and freaking out about it and he was inexplicably impressed and they played off each other well, and then they added the “Oh, is she into me? Oh no, she’s a high school girl. Oh, I’m kind of into that.” I’m like, “I just came off of watching Hinamatsuri. Did you have to do this with it?”
The panty shots and the weird fetishy stuff… There’s a whole episode where she’s trying to figure out how to go to the bathroom and I’m like, “Mm, this is somebody’s fetish.” So, it was just a bummer. All the good, funny sketches got drowned out by the nasty vibes and the boob nonsense and the fetish stuff.
I’m so bummed out because I ended up giving it a tentatively positive review when we did the three-episode check-in and then it was like, “Oh, no.” Not even directly into the dumpster. Into the garbage juice under the dumpster.
PETER: Yeah, I think the first episode was definitely one of the better ones, and it maybe gave a false impression of the series.
VRAI: Well, episode two was really, really funny and it didn’t really have any fanservice and just a lot of good teenage girls being awful and being friends in a way that I liked. And that just couldn’t survive all the other crap. Anything else to add on that one, Peter?
PETER: You pretty much summed it up.
VRAI: All right. That means we can finally go on to a show that everyone has watched, which is Asobi Asobase, which is the shitlord girl that I should’ve backed!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yay! I get to talk!
VRAI: Yes, Caitlin, you haven’t gotten to talk, so you go first.
CAITLIN: I mean, it’s pretty much along the same lines as what we talked about in the mid-season episode. Nothing has really changed. A lot of it is just good, weird shitlord girl humor with an unfortunate sprinkling of transphobia every so often. But as you and other people have pointed out, Vrai, it’s episodic, so if you see it coming up, you can be like, “Oh, no, next sketch.” [chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah, actually, I can tell you right now, listeners: if you’re interested but you’ve been worried, you can skip the sketch “Loaded Questions” in episode five and basically all of episode ten, and you’re pretty much golden. That character does show up in episode seven, but it’s not a joke on their transness. She’s just manipulating the girls into stealing something for her, so that one’s pretty watchable.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s just very sharp sense of humor, and these girls are terrible without being… They’ve still got a weirdly endearing part to them. I’ve compared it to Always Sunny before, but they’re not as terrible, awful people as Always Sunny. They’re just really dumb.
VRAI: Oh, they’re so dumb. And it’s amazing.
CAITLIN: They’re so dumb! And in ways that are kinda gross. And I say “shitty” but not actively malicious ever except for, you know, the transphobia episodes. [grumbles]
VRAI: There is a little bit of casual homophobia running through there, but in a way that— What bums me out about the transphobia is the fact that the framing itself seems to back it up, as opposed to a lot of the jokes in this series are “These characters are idiots who don’t know anything.” And the transphobia specifically has the narrator break in and talk about Hanako’s animal instinct sensing that this trans girl is dangerous. And I’m like, “Hm, I hate that.”
But in episode 10… which, again, it’s kinda not worth watching, but there is one really good joke where—oh, God, what’s her name? The quiet girl with the glasses.
VRAI: Kasumi gets kissed by another girl and she’s freaking out, and Hanako puts her on trial until she finds out it’s another girl and she’s like, “Oh. Well, that’s not a big deal. That’s just like an extension of saying hi.” And Kasumi has this thousand-yard stare that I know very well from high school. That moment is beautiful.
PETER: I also appreciate the Spanish Inquisition joke.
CAITLIN: Actually, I was laughing about it last episode, but by the end I got a little bit tired of jokes about Olivia smelling bad.
VRAI: Yeah, they hammered that a little— One or two, it fits in with the tapestry of off-color jokes, but they hammered on that a lot towards the back half.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And the pop-up cafe, one of the drinks is called Olivia’s Spicy Pits, and it’s like, “Okay, guys. We get it. White people smell. Let’s move on, please.”
VRAI: Right. It’s definitely started tilting to the point where I’m like, “I sort of feel bad for any mixed-race kids in Japan watching this and feeling really bad about themselves now. I’m concerned.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. When I was studying abroad, it was something that my fellow students and I would joke about, like the tall white guy talking about how he couldn’t find deodorant and he felt really bad for the short guy whose face is just right in his armpit during rush hour. But eventually it feels a little bit too much at people’s expense. And there are people who have to deal with that in real life and have to deal with that stereotype.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s one of the rare jokes that ends up feeling like, well, it’s not gonna bother us over here in America, where white people are all around us. But if you’re living in Japan, I can imagine that being a little more hurtful.
CAITLIN: Right? Yeah, so that was a little shitty. But overall, Asobi Asobase made me laugh harder than 90% of comedy—comedy anything, really.
VRAI: I don’t usually laugh aloud at anime comedies, but audible laughter was had. [chuckles] It’s really funny.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] I think it’s a pretty solid recommendation other than the episodes that you listed.
VRAI: Yeah. I am excited that apparently there is going to be an OVA, which hopefully Crunchyroll will get. Fingers crossed.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Because the last episode didn’t feel like a conclusion or anything, which… It’s an episodic series. I did love—
PETER: Yeah, I was like, “Was that the last episode?” It just felt like the end of every other episode.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I did love that the ending theme had the ultimate powerful monster. [laughs]
VRAI: The horrible hell doodle. Yes!
CAITLIN: And it fit so well. It was like, “Wait, was that there this whole time and I just didn’t notice?”
VRAI: No. No, it’s there and it’s horrifying.
CAITLIN: And I love everything about it. I love the bait-and-switch opening. I love the horrible, ugly faces that the characters make. I love that Hanako is sitting there and thinking, “I want to make the other girls say ‘poo.’”
CAITLIN: Just spacing out, looking into… And that’s what she’s thinking about. Those are the kinds of thoughts that she has. I love it so much. It was a really, really fun series, and I’m gonna miss it.
VRAI: Yeah. And like you said, it’s not necessarily a sweet series, but there is a sense that these girls like each other. They have a block in their mind that when they go too far, they feel bad. Or there’s the really sweet episode with the girl from the occult club, where her friend’s in the hospital and they all agree to get together and help her do voodoo to help her friend feel better. And heartstrings were tugged. That episode was great.
All right. What about Angolmois, which you dropped?
PETER: Yeah, I think I dropped it four or five episodes ago. I can’t really think of anything bad to say about the series. It just didn’t really keep my interest, and I didn’t have any other compelling reason to watch it, so I dropped it.
VRAI: Your watchlist is definitely full.
PETER: A solid action series and no huge issues that I was really able to identify.
VRAI: All right. Do you guys just want to jump to geeking out about the dark horse of the season then?
CAITLIN: Planet With!
VRAI: Yes. I did not watch this one, even though it sounds like you all had a nice time. Go for it.
CAITLIN: You’re like the only person who didn’t watch it, and it was so good! I’ve seen a lot of people compare it to Gurren Lagann. But it is Gurren Lagann with a more, I think, ultimately compassionate outlook.
Gurren Lagann was not anti-humanist, but Planet With is just… It’s the series we need. You know what I mean? Just everything about it… The world needs some more positivity and hopefulness on that level that Planet With really brought. It made me feel better about life when I was watching it.
And just talking about the philosophy of it, but also what an incredibly brilliantly crafted show. No fat on it. Not a wasted minute. Super tightly plotted, but it didn’t feel like anything was rushed or skipped over. It’s just incredible economy of storytelling in all respects: character development, plotting, writing, worldbuilding. It all felt there, and it all felt complete in 12 episodes with this story on such a grand scale. It was really just absolutely amazing. Definitely one of the best series that I’ve ever seen.
VRAI: It seems like I always miss one really good show per season. I still haven’t gone back to Girls’ Last Tour and I need to.
CAITLIN: Oh, I need to finish that. I need to finish Yoromoi, too.
VRAI: Yes, you do!
CAITLIN: [groans in frustration]
PETER: You didn’t finish A Place Further? What the hell?
CAITLIN: Okay, I had a lot going on. I didn’t finish anything that season.
VRAI: No, no. Fair. Fair.
PETER: I think A Place Further is still competing for my number-one spot for the year. Anyway…
VRAI: But anyway, the cat robot show.
PETER: Yeah. Planet With is really good. Going off what Caitlin says, I think its central message is being able to forgive other people and fighting for those you love, but in a very focused way. That’s a very, very general theme in shounen, right? Well, not forgiveness, but fighting to protect your friends and stuff like that, and I feel like Planet With analyzes that statement and talks about what that means and why it’s important.
And the way it makes it stand out so much is it really shows the alternatives to those kinds of philosophies, and you really see in the villains, or the de facto antagonists, a lot of… It seems familiar, their kind of philosophies.
I thought that the first arc had a lot of overtones of the US trying to convince North Korea to denuclearize, except in this case, it’s all of planet Earth that they’re trying to take away their weapons. And you can see… I mean, it’s not trying to defend North Korea or anything, but this “tyranny from above” kind of idea that ostensibly comes from an idea of trying to protect a larger community. So, in the various enemies that they fight, you can see a lot of these familiar dynamics in our world and global politics and stuff like that.
And the heroes are more… I don’t want to say “pacifist,” but they’re very focused on just trying to find a good reason to fight. It really comes across in a way that it doesn’t come across in a lot of shounen, especially considering it did that in six episodes and then moved on to the second plot that lasted another six episodes. So, yeah, very impressive, as Caitlin was saying.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And there were a couple of things that really resonated with me in particular. One was the issue of offering guidance versus creating limits. You know what I mean? As someone who works with young children, you need to create boundaries, but at the same time, you want them to understand those boundaries to the greatest extent that they developmentally can.
PETER: Yeah, the Generalissimo, he’s very paternalistic in regards to humanity, while… What’s the cat’s name?
CAITLIN: I just say Sensei.
PETER: Something absurd. Yeah, that works better. …Is trying to guide and watch over humanity to make sure that they’re okay. So, you see the differences.
CAITLIN: It’s like when you have two four-year-olds who are fighting, you don’t turn around and just say, “You can’t do this.” You turn around and say, “Look at the effect that you had on this other person. Listen to what they’re saying.” And you want them to really understand why what they did was wrong.
And it’s sort of about the social-emotional growth of humanity; teaching humanity to be compassionate, to be empathetic, and not by taking away the potential for them to be violent and warlike but by saying the alternative, “Isn’t it better to be creatures of love?”
PETER: Yeah. It’s not about taking away their tools. It’s about showing them how to use them properly and trusting that they will if they’re given the right guidance.
CAITLIN: And that’s the tenet that people in early education try to follow these days: an emphasis on social-emotional education.
PETER: Yeah. One thing I really like that they did was… It seemed like the villains were almost looking for a way that they could fight humanity so that it would feel like a fight rather than what it actually was, which was just them taking away their ability to be free-thinking individuals. That came across like a villain thing. Like when… What’s the main character’s name? I forgot.
PETER: Yeah. When Souya said he didn’t want to fight, they were like, “What? Why? We need you to fight. We need to fight you because if we just do it without a fight, then what’s the point?” And you’re just like, “Wow, these people really want somebody to fight back so that they can feel like they defeated somebody rather than just came along and steamrolled an entire civilization, don’t they? That doesn’t feel good.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I really like that. And I really liked… There were a couple of other things. When Sensei and the Generalissimo were fighting and they were yelling about their different philosophies while they were fighting, Sensei doesn’t say, “You’re wrong! You’re terrible! You’re wrong about humanity!” He says, “We are very different people,” which advances the idea “These are two different outlooks. These are two different approaches and it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about what you think is best.”
And I thought that was really interesting, because you get your hot-blooded series and it’s usually about being right or wrong. Even if it humanizes the other side and you can see how they came to this conclusion, it’s always still like, “They’re wrong; this is right.” But in Planet With, I definitely know that they wanted you to come to the same conclusion as Sensei and the Pacifist Faction. It was still, “We have different perspectives on this.”
VRAI: I did definitely see at least one person compare it favorably to Undertale, a game I love very much.
PETER: I guess I could see that, in the warring philosophies kind of thing. Yep.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I could definitely see that. And also, the fact that Souya says, “I am the only one who can forgive the dragon.” Forgiveness is not something that you can just offer to anyone for anything. I can’t turn around and say, “I forgive you for being racist against Black people,” because that’s not my forgiveness to offer, right?
But as the person who is wronged, Souya is the only one who can offer forgiveness. And it is a series that is ultimately in favor of forgiveness because that’s the more peaceful option, but it still recognizes that forgiveness is a choice that only the wronged party can make.
VRAI: Now I’m curious if it at least goes through the option of— I feel like anime often fails to recognize that sometimes forgiveness puts a lot of pressure on the person who was wronged to make their persecutor feel better.
CAITLIN: Right. And I don’t think that was what was going on with Planet With. I mean, that’s partially a cultural thing. Forgiveness is very, very big, is a major component of Japanese culture. Apologies and forgiveness and all of that.
But I did not get that sense from Planet With because the dragon did not want to be forgiven. It wanted Souya to stay angry and to fight. The forgiveness was definitely Souya’s choice. No one said to Souya, “You have to forgive him.” It was entirely the choice that he made.
PETER: Yeah. I think it’s mostly from the perspective of cycles of perpetuating violence.
PETER: So, in that way, I think it was advocating for forgiveness as opposed to continuing a conflict. And I get what you’re saying. There is definitely some one-sided victim stuff in there, but it was more looking at it on a scale of war rather than individual, where somebody could have done something to you. Yeah, I get what you’re saying. It doesn’t dive that deep into personal things.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s like, forgiveness is a better option than vengeance.
PETER: Yeah. It’s not a personal wrongs level, I don’t think.
VRAI: Right, it’s a larger… I gotcha.
VRAI: It sounds like it was a good series. So, you two would both recommend it?
PETER: Definitely. Yeah. It was really good.
CAITLIN: 100%. “The universe is full of blessings.” I love that. I love that line. I don’t know. Something about it just really… It is something that could be trite, but the sincerity with which it is delivered really makes it work.
PETER: Vrai will definitely ship the judo girls, too.
VRAI: Heck, yeah!
CAITLIN: Oh, yes.
VRAI: Cool. I guess we better keep it moving along then. Cells at Work! This show is cute.
CAITLIN: It got dark in the last few episodes!
PETER: It did, yeah.
VRAI: Who is this person, and why did they lack any sense of self-preservation?
CAITLIN: They had heat stroke. They got severely bonked in the head, apparently.
VRAI: And almost died.
CAITLIN: And almost died! They’re probably gonna have some permanent brain damage. Like, what is happening here? [chuckles]
PETER: The implication was they lost over one-third of their blood through their head. So, [chuckles] that is a serious head wound.
VRAI: Is this body on the run from the mob? What is happening to this person?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] What is going on? [laughs] Oh! But I liked the show. Was the hemorrhagic shock arc anime original?
PETER: I have no idea.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I don’t know.
CAITLIN: Because I think the manga is more lighthearted, and I think the anime went, “Oh, better have something big to end it.” I don’t know. I could be wrong. I could be wrong.
PETER: I think it’s ongoing. They probably just chose that arc as the conclusion to the anime because it’s probably the most dangerous conflict at that point in the manga or something.
VRAI: I could see it going either way. I know there is Cells at Work! BLACK, which is apparently the dark and edgy version of the story.
PETER: Ah, yeah. I read that in Japan, and I hope it doesn’t get translated, to be honest. It’s pretty…
VRAI: Oh! That— Mm.
CAITLIN: I heard it gets really gross.
PETER: Yeah. It’s like… You know how red blood cells go to the liver to be cleaned, like when you drink and stuff. Basically, your liver is a host club where hot liver cells give you ATH or whatever the thing that takes the alcohol out of them and turns it into a toxin. And then the guy gets gonorrhea, which is a giant hentai tentacle monster.
VRAI: And Lady White Blood Cell. Hm.
PETER: Yeah. It rapes all the white blood cells to death. So…
CAITLIN: [deadpan] Great. Love it.
CAITLIN: [deadpan] Cool fun. Perfect.
VRAI: [deadpan] That’s fun. And the platelets are child soldiers.
PETER: No, I think that was just a young white blood cell. I don’t really remember seeing too much of the platelets in the BLACK manga.
VRAI: I feel like I heard that in passing. It might be incorrect. It is a thing I heard.
PETER: It’s pretty intense. It does kind of show you how much medication can really save our lives, but it definitely veers away from the cute territory into some pretty awful sexist ideas, I think.
VRAI: I will say the anime never really shook that whole low-key gender roles thing, but it didn’t bother me too much. It always felt like it was at least trying to balance characters of multiple genders in active and passive sorts of roles and trying to show everybody can do something.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Everyone has their role. Everyone has their function in society.
VRAI: During the last episode I was wondering, with all this stuff about how we need to work hard all the time and these cells have their entire life as their job, what happens to cells in a body dying of karoshi, which is chronic overwork?
PETER: Well, I think that’s BLACK, because that’s kind of what’s happening.
CAITLIN: Right. Karoshi comes from a variety of factors. It’s sleep deprivation, dehydration, malnutrition…
VRAI: It’s a sweet educational show. Just, in the back of my head I was like, “I wonder how this plays with Japan’s work culture and the discussions being had at the moment about that?”
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s the thing where cells-as-people doesn’t totally work because, you know…
PETER: They don’t take breaks?
CAITLIN: Your cells are constantly working because they’re cells. Cells don’t rest because if cells rest, you die.
VRAI: Right. I kind of liked the more “Oh, God, what is this person getting into?” episodes because the ones that were a little bit more laidback felt like they lost the plot of the anthropomorphization a little bit. The Killer T backstory is just “You just wanted to do the Chunin Exams in this anime, didn’t you?”
PETER: God, that episode was boring. That was my least favorite episode. They do have the one where it’s the red blood cell trying to do her job by herself and the white blood cell follows her around. Actually, no, that one ended pretty good.
CAITLIN: That one was pretty good.
PETER: That one was more instructional about how your heart works.
VRAI: [crosstalk; fondly] They’re friends and it’s beautiful, and I’m happy for them.
CAITLIN: But yeah, the Killer T backstory one… It doesn’t really make sense in context. It doesn’t really work with the analogy.
PETER: It was like, “This is how these two characters who hate each other are actually friends, but they hate each other.” You’re just like, “All right. Cool! [chuckles] All right.”
CAITLIN: [chuckles] “What does this teach me about the human body? Not a lot.”
PETER: Apparently, one of them became a major asshole, so I really don’t care anyway.
VRAI: That toxic masculinity thing.
CAITLIN: That toxic masculine cell.
PETER: I didn’t know killer T cells are where toxic masculinity comes from.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I mean that’s what the T is for, I guess!
VRAI: A lot of jokes were made in our house about AIDS because we’re terrible.
PETER: Oh, geez.
VRAI: And that kills T cells.
PETER: Well, at least Natural Killer can help you out.
VRAI: I will say I—
CAITLIN: Yeah, NK Cell is wonderful. Vrai, you weren’t on the show last time when I was yelling about NK Cell being my wife.
VRAI: She’s, mm, good wife goals. Yes. Excellent. Good. Her strong arms. Please hold me.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Wife goals or life— [laughs]
VRAI: It’s good. I will say I don’t think that the cancer episode works. I really don’t.
CAITLIN: No. I mean, it’s interesting in that it shows that your body creates cancer cells all the time but usually takes care of that. But humanizing the cancer cell didn’t really work.
VRAI: I understand how destigmatizing cancer can be helpful from a research angle, but my mom worked with cancer patients and I heard horrible stories all throughout my childhood growing up, so for me cancer is not the sad moe mutant animoo boy. It’s Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] “Don’t I have a right to live? Don’t I have a right to live?” No, no, no! No.
VRAI: [crosstalk] No, you don’t. Die!
CAITLIN: Because you’re going to do horrible things and kill everyone, ultimately. I don’t feel sorry for cancer. [chuckles]
VRAI: [chuckles] Like what the fuck?
CAITLIN: But that episode did bring us NK Cell, so…
VRAI: That’s true, and she is very good.
CAITLIN: You can’t tell, but I’m doing a weighing-hands-back-and-forth motion. [chuckles]
VRAI: Mm. Mm. Strong argument, strong argument. Ah, gosh, that finale was really good, though.
CAITLIN: It was very good.
PETER: I enjoyed that the blood transfusion was apparently from somebody from Osaka [chuckles] and all of them were speaking in the dialect. That was good.
VRAI: It kinda warms my heart a little bit to hear people going like, “I wanna take better care of myself so the anime girls who live in my blood will be happy.” Like, “All right. Whatever works for you.”
PETER: Yeah, whatever excuse you need to be reminded of it.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I need to take care of my wife, NK Cell! [chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. There’s always that low-key gender stuff. If that bothers you, it might not ever stop bothering you, but mostly it’s a really cute, chill show that was fun to watch every week.
Which brings us to our top categories, where I think we’ll probably get into it a little bit here. Peter, you are the only one still watching Hanebado! Caitlin, you dropped it.
CAITLIN: Yes. I dropped it a while back.
PETER: Man, Hanebado’s good. It’s really great. I was actually pretty prepared to drop it, I think, around the place where Caitlin dropped— Er, where did you drop it, Caitlin? Dee dropped around three, I think.
CAITLIN: No, it was like four or five.
PETER: Okay, okay. Where it just seemed like all their problems were being easily solved and stuff?
PETER: Yeah. Turns out that didn’t happen.
CAITLIN: Well, that, and it just wasn’t fun.
CAITLIN: They met the American girl.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Connie.
PETER: [crosstalk] She’s German? Austrian? Something like that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] German. I don’t know. The blonde girl. And I just wasn’t enjoying it. Sorry, don’t have time in my life to watch anime that I’m not loving, you know?
PETER: Yeah. Well, Connie’s actually one of the stranger points of the writing for me, because she really pivots to wanting Hanesaki to become her sister or something like that.
But where I feel the anime is really strongest is that it constantly had characters steamrolling what Hanesaki wanted to do. Her friend forced her to join the club, and she said she wasn’t interested, but everybody said, “You’re so good. You should play.” And it turns out that was a terrible idea; she didn’t enjoy herself, and now she’s miserable. And now she’s taking revenge against all the people who have caused her grief in the past.
So, I’m not saying what she’s doing is right, but I do definitely think that the series is trying to say, “Hey, if you force somebody to do something they don’t want to do, even if they’re good at it, it could potentially be harmful for them and that might come back to bite you in the ass, too.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] If you force someone to watch an anime they don’t want to watch… [chuckles] Even if…
VRAI: Wait, is Hanebado a two-cour?
PETER: It’s one cour. It has one episode left because it was delayed due to the earthquake in Hokkaido. So, I think the last episode will be tomorrow.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. Completely reasonable.
PETER: Yeah. So, I think the finale will be tomorrow, which would be the 30th of September.
VRAI: So, is it going for a dark ending, do you think, or is it going to try and turn this ship around at the last second?
PETER: Actually, I wrote an article about the possible ending. I think, no matter what, the ending will be good, but I feel like it has a real cool opportunity to… Basically, Nagisa is playing against Hanesaki, and the reason Nagisa’s playing is because she wants to defeat herself, because she lost to Hanesaki before and in the last moment she just gave up on the game because she hadn’t scored a point yet. It was like 41–0, and she’s just like, “I’m never gonna get a goal. I might as well stop.”
And she always regrets that, so she’s trying to play her again and overcome her previous self. And she took a round off of her, so she’s obviously doing a lot better this time. And Hanesaki wants Nagisa to lose so that Nagisa starts hating badminton as much as she does. So, obviously that’s not going to happen.
I think it’s probably going to end with Hanesaki turning things around and at least appreciating the reason other people love badminton or the fact that she’s not actually alone. I think the best ending would just be her going, “Badminton’s really just not for me, but I respect people who like it. I’m not gonna play anymore.” But it could just go with, “Oh, she magically finds a reason to enjoy the game and that’s fine,” which could be a little bit problematic since that was basically her mom’s plan in abandoning her for ten years or something, which is really fucked up.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Jesus.
PETER: Yeah. Her mom was worrying that she was playing badminton just for her, so she left so that Hanesaki could learn to play for herself or some bullshit like that.
CAITLIN: That’s terrible parenting!
VRAI: That is a Grade-A Anime Parenting move.
PETER: Yeah. She said, “I know what I’ve done is unforgivable, but I enjoy badminton so much, I want my daughter to know the same feeling,” or something like that.
CAITLIN: Jesus! That is next-level imposing your wishes on your child.
PETER: A little bit. So, yeah, if she ends up liking the sport, that could effectively justify what her mom’s done maybe a little bit, but I think it could still be a decent ending even if it goes for that. I think the best ending is Hanesaki just going, “Turns out I just liked playing a game with my mom, who I really respected back then, and not so much the game itself.” But we’ll see.
Overall, the series has some strange writing moments in it, but I really like what it’s doing, and it’s really over-the-top and great. So, I think it’s an amazing show. Possibly, it’s up there with Planet With for my favorite of the season.
VRAI: Cool. So, people may be able to check in with how it ended with you when we put out our season recs list, maybe.
PETER: Yeah. It’s definitely going on my recs list, yeah.
VRAI: Cool. All right. Caitlin, next one is Banana Fish. Do you want to go first? Because I’m going to scream.
CAITLIN: Oh, Vrai…
PETER: Is that the good kind of scream or the bad kind of scream?
CAITLIN: No, it’s not the good kind of scream.
PETER: Oh, no.
CAITLIN: Vrai has been very down on Banana Fish. It hasn’t really changed from what I said in the mid-season episode. So, I haven’t read— I have the first volume of the manga. I have more of it on order, but it’s all backordered. The show definitely feels more at ease when it is the relationship between Ash and Eiji, and I think most people will agree that that is the heart of the series and all of the gangster stuff is… not extraneous, but it is not what the series is about.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s purely mechanistic to cause angst.
CAITLIN: Which I don’t think there’s a problem, necessarily, with that. I mean, all the sexual assault and the sexual danger is not ideal; not great. But I think having that being a way of creating this conflict where this one very troubled, dangerous person develops this very intimate relationship with someone who is open and trusting that is at once redemptive and not. It’s not saving him. It’s not fixing him or even really healing him. It’s just that now he has this person who he can drop his guard a little bit more with.
And I like those kinds of stories. I like stories where the troubled bad boy is not somebody who is personally dangerous to the person who the focus relationship is with, but is still kind of a scary, dangerous person overall.
VRAI: Right. It’s like the platonic ideal of the bad boy: he’s terrible to the world, but he’s gentle to you.
CAITLIN: Right. He’s not a bad boy presenting as him being horrible or insulting to the person who they have that relationship with. It is everyone else. And the part where Eiji set up the Halloween party with all the pumpkins was really cute! So, overall, I am enjoying it. I know that you feel like it does not compare favorably to the manga in a lot of ways, though, Vrai.
VRAI: Yeah. So, I am a fan of the manga. I’d actually probably recommend the manga in the same kind of way that we ended up recommending Fushigi Yugi when we did the watchalong. It’s this—in many ways—dated, problematic work, but the parts of it that are raw and real and tender are really powerful and effective, and I like it a lot. It’s extremely readable.
The manga also has the benefit that you can speed through the nonsense crime business and get to the other parts. And also, Yoshida uses a lot of negative space. She doesn’t really do a lot of backgrounds, so the framing of the panels has this almost cinematic quality where you can imply a lot of silence and thought to sit with serious moments that the anime just doesn’t have time for.
So, stuff that is still really loaded content in the manga feels like it’s less luridly treated. Something like the very early scene where they talk about Ash’s past with being forced into child pornography that goes so quickly in the anime is technically the same number of shots in the manga, but it has this much closer focus on Ash’s face in a blank frame, so you’re drawn to sit with those panels and sit with what that means before you rush through to the next thing.
So, the anime has been so frustrating for me because I really like the manga. I feel like it’s caught in this place where it isn’t allowed to break too far from the manga. I think you guys mentioned this on the last podcast, but the producer is allegedly a really big fan and has been working to get this done for like ten years. It was their dream project. And allegedly Utsumi… I think it was Utsumi. I’ll dig up the interview where all this is talked about, and Peter, if you could link it in the show notes… But they were joking around like, “Oh, this producer would get mad at us if we even changed the order of the lines,” and I’m like, “Hm! That doesn’t bode well for adapting something that’s 30 years old.”
VRAI: And yet, at the same time, what strikes me as purely for getting people to watch it before they thought it wouldn’t sell as a period piece… That’s just my interpretation, but that’s what it screams to me. They did this kind of half-assed modern update, so it’s neither/or.
And I don’t care about exact adaptations most of the time because different mediums need to do different things, especially when a work is this old and parts of it have aged so poorly. I would love to see a radically different Banana Fish anime that changes a bunch from the manga. But because it insists on being so letter-of-the-law in some ways, it has made me more irritated about the ways that it slips up and does a half-assed job or inexplicably does some things exactly the same, slavishly, and then other things.
So, you know the big, important scene right before Ash burns up the mansion and burns Shorter’s body and all that and Eiji’s like, “I’ll always wait for you”? In the manga, the layout of that scene is: they’re getting into the getaway trucks and Ash is all kitted up to go with his Rambo guns, and Eiji leans out the window and he’s like, “I’ll always wait for you!” And it’s this big dramatic ‘80s movie moment. And then the anime changes it to “They’re standing five feet apart in a parking lot because they’re not gay.”
I would understand it if it was changed to “They’re in the same frame. They’re very close to each other.” That’s a more intimate framing. But this is just this weird halfway measure that is neither something new and interesting nor the original thing that worked. And that encapsulates so much of the anime for me.
VRAI: I did think episode 11, the one with the pumpkin, worked pretty well. It captured the soft moment. It cut well around the action scenes. Thank you, anime. We did not need that scene where Ash walks into Harlem and the members of Cain’s gang are all gathering around him and threatening to sell him into white slavery because he’s so special and pretty. Thanks. Thank you for cutting that.
I will say I am bitter because the Amazon subs have been throwing in the F-slur, seemingly just because the terrible ‘90s manga did. But, you know, the Amazon translators knew better [than] to do the other thing the terrible manga translation did, which was throw in the N word for flavor text. Just sayin’!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; deadpan] Cool.
VRAI: [strained] It was cool and great! [returns to normal voice] So, yeah, the anime is currently… I think it hit the end of volume eight at the end of episode 12, so it’s got 12 episodes left—12, maybe 14—to do ten volumes’ worth of stuff, and I don’t have a lot of faith in it improving, even if the directing seems to have been… I feel so bad for Utsumi. I think she might be in over her head, and I don’t think she’s a bad director, but… [groans with frustration]
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, we’ll talk about Utsumi a little bit more when we talk about the new season of Free!, right?
VRAI: Oh, yes, yes. Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest. I’m ride or die! I’m watching this thing till the end, but it’s killing me in my heart. And while I’m at it, Eiji’s new design is cute, but the fact that it’s so much less scrappy and frizzy than the manga designs kind of makes him a little bit more bland than his manga counterpart, and that bums me out sometimes.
CAITLIN: Aw. I think he’s cute.
VRAI: He is! He’s a cute, nice boy, but manga Eiji is sassy, and that’s there in the anime, but it’s very softened.
CAITLIN: Hm… Interesting.
VRAI: Okay. So, the last two, Caitlin, you’ve watched one and I have watched the other. Do you want to do Phantom in the Twilight first, just because I just talked everybody’s ear off?
CAITLIN: [chuckles] Sure. I love Phantom in the Twilight. It’s a really fun otome-ish series. I say “otome-ish” because it really feels like romance is secondary. All the boys, they’re attached to her, but they’re not all obsessively in love with her. It is more plot-driven than character-driven. It’s an interesting hybrid of supernatural romance, otome, and urban fantasy. I love Ton.
VRAI: [whispering] Oh!
CAITLIN: She’s so good.
VRAI: Yeah, this wasn’t an anime I consciously dropped. I actually did watch the first three episodes, and I adored Ton. She’s great. I just didn’t have time to watch the rest of it.
CAITLIN: Right. The boys don’t violate her boundaries at all, as Dee pointed out in the last one. She was talking to Luke, the werewolf boy—he was talking to her, and she’s like, “Are you flirting with me?” And he’s like, “No! It’s no fun flirting with someone who’s down. I’ll flirt with you when we’re both into it.”
VRAI: What a good boy.
CAITLIN: He’s such a good boy, and I like wolf boys, just in general. It’s a thing. I don’t know. But Ton is never sidelined or shoved out of the action. She is an active character, and even when the boys try to be like, “Step aside. This is too dangerous for you. I’ll protect you…” Vlad, the vampire, at one point says that to her. Micchy insists that his name is Brad.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Because Vlad and Brad are the same in katakana.
VRAI: Yes. I support this.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] I never thought of that. So Brad tries to be like, “Oh, you need to step aside. This is too dangerous for you.” And she looks at him and she’s like, “You know, you might be an immortal vampire, but you haven’t had human blood in a long time. So, I could probably take you.” And she just looks him dead in the eye and threatens to kick his ass if he doesn’t step aside.
CAITLIN: So it was just a very, very fun romp with a really great female character and a great cast all around. And her motivation is to protect her best friend and to save her best friend, so it’s got a very strong friendship-between-women thread going, even though Shinyao is out of the action for most of it and they’re not together, but Ton’s trying to save her friend. And I’m sure I’ll catch some heat from some people for not calling them girlfriends, but oh, well.
VRAI: Both are good. They had strong chemistry and also, they’re very good friends and it’s good.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, yeah, it’s a super-fun series that I really recommend on… There’s nothing to not recommend it. The animation isn’t great. It’s a Chinese coproduction, and those never have the best animation, except, I guess, for Last Hope, because Kawamori…
VRAI: Shinyao had a slightly more traditional getting-saved romance with an antihero character. Did that shake out okay?
CAITLIN: Chris, the other wolf boy. Yes. Kind of. He also gets sidelined. He gets knocked out, so it really is mostly about Ton and her boys trying to save her. It does have a shot where in order to save her, Vlad disappears into her crotch.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Which is kinda weird! I feel like there are some unexamined implications to that.
VRAI: All right. Bold, anime. Bold.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I mean, her lower half is clouds, but that’s definitely where her— [laughs] I’m sorry. Why am I so crude? What happened to make me like this?
VRAI: Just saying that if you really want to save the love of your life… I can’t finish that joke. It’s too filthy.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Send a vampire boyfriend into her crotch! Anyway…
VRAI: Real partners eat out.
CAITLIN: It’s a good show. [chuckles] It’s a good show.
VRAI: Good. So, if people were into the nice boys of Code: Realize but maybe wanted a slightly more active heroine, this is definitely one for them.
CAITLIN: Yes, absolutely. Because in Code: Realize, while Cardia becomes more active, she still needs to be rescued in the end. Ton does not have that issue.
VRAI: Yeah, Cardia was great. Ton is just… Sometimes, you want a protagonist who is on the front lines.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. And you can have both. There’s room for both in the world, and I’m happy both exist.
VRAI: Okay, I guess that brings us to the last new show of the season, Revue Starlight, which, Caitlin, you didn’t end up watching this one because HIDIVE is HIDIVE?
CAITLIN: Yeah, and that’s unfortunate, because there’s some other shows that I really want to watch next season that are on HIDIVE. But yeah, I am lazy and did not watch it.
VRAI: Fair enough. I loved this show. It’s definitely my pick of the season, but HIDIVE’s release of it has been really frustrating in that it’s a musical—the image songs are a really big part of the series—and it started out with… There were some issues, apparently, with the Japanese side providing scripts of the songs later than the dialogue, so it would go up—
CAITLIN: I think lyrics have their own whole licensing thing. It’s weird. It’s part of the reason why most series on Crunchyroll don’t have theme song lyrics.
VRAI: Well, when the series started out, it would be like two days later, the video would be updated and the song lyrics would be on there. Which, it’s fine. I understand that there are issues on the back end. But when I finished the show this morning on episode 12, episode 11 still did not have its music lyrics updated.
CAITLIN: [deadpan] Cool.
VRAI: Yeah. And there have been other issues. Dee did a tweet talking about how there’s one character who is the cute, adorable… She’s in love with her friend and she has an unrequited crush. And HiDIVE did this really weird translation on a line. It was “I really am in love,” and it didn’t have a subject. And the official subs translate it “I really do love it,” and she’s clearly talking about her friend Karen. And Dee had this old tweet line about how it really should be a little bit more ambiguous, like “I really am in love,” because she’s talking about her feelings for her friend. What are you doing!
CAITLIN: [sighs] And I remember the first episode had some pretty series translation issues, too.
VRAI: Yeah. And while I’m here, the end credits had evolving lyrics, but that wasn’t actually translated. They just did the normal switch back and forth between romaji and English, even when the lyrics were unique to the episode.
So, yeah, it’s been a really frustrating release, which is a shame because Revue Starlight is great. I really love it. I am kind of convinced at this point, between this and Yurikuma Arashi, which… the head director of this series worked as an episode director on that one. But I am now convinced that surreal kind of series like this need two cours to work.
And I think Revue Starlight ultimately nails it emotionally—I felt satisfied by the ending—but its metaphors are so floaty that when— A show that is like this and has two cours can spend the first dozen episodes or whatever talking about “Here’s some weird stuff,” but mostly it’s a grounded series and then it can ramp up into “All right, we’ve gone full into Metaphorville, and everything is weird and roses and crows, and it’s a lot.”
CAITLIN: Right, you gotta have the Student Council Arc before you can have the Black Rose Arc.
VRAI: Right. Whereas Revue Starlight was so crunched for time that it had to do the school idol stuff and the weird, surreal duel stuff simultaneously, so there would occasionally be this disconnect of “What is this a metaphor for? How is this…? In what order is this happening—I’m so—wait! Stop! Go! Back!” It worked, but I would have preferred if they could’ve taken a little bit of a more measured pace.
I really loved the characters. It’s visually just gorgeous. The episodes I got to see where the song lyrics were translated were not hugely plot-revelation things, but they were strong thematic elements that there maybe wasn’t time to crunch into the dialogue, so the music wove really well.
The visuals on the duels were this absolutely brilliant thing where all of the special effects were done as if they were special effects in the stage show, so a shower of sparks is actually just confetti thrown from a cannon offstage. It’s really smart and inventive. It gave me feels as somebody who has a theater degree. There’s a lot of potent emotions in here about—
CAITLIN: I should watch it on that level, too, because I talked about in my preview review…
VRAI: It’s not really a hard critique of the Takarazuka or theatre in general, but it does lean that way now and then. There’s one episode that at least tries to poke at the fact that the musumeyaku is pretty much tied to the otokoyaku role and that person is never going to get the top spot because that’s not how Takarazuka works. They are a pair, but it’s the otokoyaku who is the star, and the musumeyaku supports her. So, there’s some light commentary, and it definitely made me nostalgic for theater in the same way that watching Princess Tutu makes me miss dancing.
Also, it’s really gay. Karen and Hikari don’t kiss, but there is a lot of dialogue about how… “You are what I was seeking!” and “Throw away everything for me!” And I’m like, “Aw. Oh, they’re in love and it’s beautiful.” It’s very Utena-esque. It’s excellent and good, and it gave me feelings.
So, yeah, I definitely wholeheartedly recommend this one. I can’t really think of anything that was a drawback. This did teach me that it’s not that I hate idol shows because I hate idol shows; I just hate shows about the idol industry, because this definitely is structured like an idol show in certain ways.
PETER: Definitely marketed like one, too. If you go to Akihabara, it’s got all the same posters and advertisements that idol anime have, and I think they’re maybe even making a game. I saw something that looked like a game on a cycling video up on one of the buildings, so there might be a gacha.
VRAI: It’s slightly different in that it has a clear protagonist and then secondary, tertiary other girls rather than being a stronger ensemble, which is my experience with more traditional idol shows, but the backbone of it is there.
PETER: Definitely, yeah.
VRAI: All right, so that’s my recommendation on that one. Look forward to it on the season recs page also, which brings us to wrap-up of ongoing shows. Peter, did you want to talk about Attack on Titan?
PETER: Sure. It’s weird. I don’t have much to say about this season, despite the fact that probably more has happened in this season than anything has happened in the rest of the show, period. I guess we can go into spoilers.
Literally, the country was overthrown, but I guess the main characters essentially had nothing to do with it, so it just felt like they were running around while big things were happening around them. I guess that’s most of the show. The Scouts don’t seem very good at their jobs, to be honest.
But I guess there’s just one thing that irked me when I was watching it, that I think needs to be addressed. They have this whole thing about how they replaced the king with this stooge who’s just a puppet king, and they’re talking about how they need to overthrow it and restore it with the real royal family—the real royal bloodline—which of course is Historia… I can’t remember what her fake name is anymore because they just started calling her Historia all the time.
PETER: Christa, yeah. And that’s cool. I mean, it was pretty obvious they were corrupt. In the first three episodes, you learn that they sent half the population just as fodder to die to the Titans so that they wouldn’t run out of food earlier on.
So, obviously the people running the country weren’t that great, but the way they frame it is like “The guy doesn’t have royal blood, so he shouldn’t be king,” not “He’s a bad guy” or “They’re corrupt.” So, Christa should be the leader because she has the right blood in her, and they really don’t address the fact that she’s more compassionate or anything like that. It all just comes down to blood, I guess, which seems really shitty.
VRAI: I dropped this show after season two. Other people have talked about the, hmm, directions this show goes in, but I’m gonna go ahead and let that lie because I’ve stepped back from all of this.
PETER: Yeah. Oh, there’s definitely even worse stuff on the horizon. I don’t know how that’s going to be addressed in the anime, but the manga definitely seems to imply some things [chuckles] that could be super problematic later on. Guess we’ll tackle that one when it arrives, though.
VRAI: Have fun with that. On what I’m sure is to be a much cheerier note, Free! How’s Free been without Utsumi?
CAITLIN: I miss Utsumi Free. It’s a different show, one that I don’t enjoy very much. I watched the whole thing for some reason. No, because I love those boys and I wanted to see what happened, but the thing is that High Speed, the prequel movie, never came out in America. Literally, it was impossible to see legally until this summer [when] a couple of conventions played it. For three years, no one bothered to release it. And familiarity with the characters sorta hinges on… Free! Dive to the Future, which I like to abbreviate as DTF—
VRAI: Despite the total lack of thirst in this season, as I understand.
CAITLIN: Yeah! Free was my happy place. It sounds like a silly thing to say, but watching the first two seasons of Free, it made me feel happy. It was my iyashikei anime. It was this perfect mix of comedy and light character drama and sincerity and muscles.
VRAI: [chuckles] Muscles.
CAITLIN: It struck this very perfect balance. And Utsumi, she is a very talented director in a lot of ways, and her genuine love for the material really shone through very strongly, and it was simplified but in a way that made it feel almost more solid. You know what I mean? Does that make sense? Am I making sense? I don’t know.
VRAI: Yeah, yeah.
CAITLIN: But Free! DTF, it’s very uninterested in that. It has very little comedy. It has very little fanservice. It’s all just character melodrama and none of their motivations really make sense. Why are all these 18-, 19-year-old boys obsessed with The Little Mermaid? Why do they want to be the Little Mermaid? What is going on? This doesn’t make sense. I’m confused and scared and upset, and why are they all wearing clothes!
VRAI: They’re in college now! Now for those of us who were a little weirded out, now is the time!
CAITLIN: And the characters don’t feel like the characters that I fell in love with. And it’s also not a very well-crafted series. It’s spread way too thin, and I feel like 90% of the script is characters talking about what other characters are doing instead of doing things themselves. Nagisa and Rei back in Iwatobi had 30 collective minutes of screen time leading up to the penultimate episode, where they were going to nationals.
And I wanted to be excited for them. I wanted to share in the triumph that these characters had, and they were standing there and they were talking about how they worked so hard and learned so much over the last year. And it’s like, “When? We only saw you standing around talking about Haru and Ikuya. What is going on?”
Or Makoto having a genuine crisis. He doesn’t want to swim anymore. He’s still feeling adrift while he’s watching Haru’s swimming evolve, and we get one episode devoted to that. This is not the character-driven drama. Ikuya’s issues were resolved so quickly because he swam against Haru, and all of a sudden he was fine again.
Or Sosuke has this whole talk about his shoulder recovering when this one guy, Natsuya… They have this whole conversation. Natsuya’s like, “Well, if you get the surgery, it’s really risky and you might never be able to swim again. Or you could do the recovery the long way, which will take a while, but…” And we don’t see him weighing the decision. We don’t see him deciding to get the surgery. We don’t see him recovering from the surgery. Just one day, he sits down with Rin because Rin is back in Japan. He’s like, “Oh, it’s a success.”
There’s no showing; it’s all telling. And it’s just not the show I fell in love with. I’m sorry, I’m actually getting genuinely emotional about how disappointed I felt by it. The characters that I felt like I knew weren’t there.
In the first two seasons of Free, I very strongly headcanoned Haru as autistic for various reasons. His body language, his single-minded interest, his relationships with the people around reminded me of my friendships with autistic people. It’s not just a “Oh, he’s obsessed with water. He must be autistic.” It is drawn on his whole deal as a person.
And I didn’t get that same vibe in this season. He didn’t feel like Haru. All of a sudden, he’s smiling at everyone. And where is that reticent, unexpressive, but ultimately good boy that I loved in the first season? And god dammit! Why is Makoto wearing clothes all the time?
It’s not there, and it feels like the new director—Kiwanami, I think his name is—had a very different idea for what he wanted to do with Free, which I guess is fair. But it was not what I loved about Free.
VRAI: It’s a bummer and there’s more coming in 2020.
CAITLIN: No… Stop! Stop! It’s already dead!
VRAI: [chuckles] I’m sorry. I can’t stop laughing at the fact that that promo image looks like the promo image from Sweet Pool, the Cronenberg meat-baby game. I’m sorry. I know that’s genuinely painful.
CAITLIN: I know it’s supposed to be pretty sunset colors, but it looks like they’re swimming in piss!
VRAI: [laughs] I think that’s the best point where we could move to the wrap-up with My Hero Academia.
VRAI: [through laughter] How are the superkids doing?
PETER: Ah… Pretty good.
VRAI: That’s it. That’s all we have to say about that.
PETER: Yeah. Still pretty good. I think it’s in an action lull right now.
CAITLIN: I, um…
PETER: Go for it.
CAITLIN: Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I have some slightly stronger opinions about My Hero Academia, also.
PETER: [crosstalk] Cool.
CAITLIN: Listen, I love My Hero Academia. I watch it every week with my fiancé. It is a lot of fun. I genuinely, genuinely, really enjoy every week. But it has moved more into a standard sort of shounen pacing, which—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, no.
CAITLIN: Which… Listen, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I don’t love it. I don’t love shounen. I kinda crave more of that “Kids being superpowered kids” that we had in the first season.
And also, as it has gotten more towards— Several people wrote whole articles in season two about how the show treats its female characters better than most shounen. And that has completely disappeared. The girls are routinely sidelined now that it has moved more into the standard shounen arc structure, and the focus has gone towards Todoroki, Bakugo, and Midoriya.
Which is really disappointing, because they’re good girls! I love Tsuyu and everyone loves Tsuyu, so why don’t we get more Tsuyu?
PETER: Well, we got one episode for her and it was really boring.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it was not a good episode. I still really, really like the series. But the stuff that made it really, really special has sort of evaporated.
PETER: Yeah. I’m still in it, but I do feel like it’s giving the girls less time. And from my awareness of things that happen in the future, I don’t really know if the girls end up keeping up with the boys in any kind of appreciable way—in that area where it was very exceptional. I don’t know if it’s really gonna keep that up, which is a little disappointing.
CAITLIN: It’s a lot disappointing.
VRAI: Still in it for the long haul?
PETER: I mean, it’s still a quality shounen and it does a lot of things that other shounen do, better. It’s probably in the top three running in Shonen JUMP right now. Is that true? Maybe. Top five, for sure. Yeah, I’ll say top five.
CAITLIN: I mean, it’s a huge hit in the US, too.
PETER: Yeah. Its movie is doing really well right now. I’m actually gonna see it later today. It hit 2 million in test screenings or something like that, so now it’s gonna get a larger release, which might mean very good things for future theatrical releases for anime movies, which could be good for us all. So, it could definitely contribute to anime in that way.
VRAI: Cool. All right, well, this has gone mega-long because the season wrap-ups always do.
PETER: ‘Cause that’s what happens.
VRAI: [sighs] Yeah. Well, thank you so much, both of you, for being here today, and thanks to all of you out there for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, you can find more of us at SoundCloud by searching for Anime Feminist. I believe we’re also on Apple Podcasts and all those other services.
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Thank you so much, and oh my God, we are about to turn around and tomorrow start on the fall premieres.
CAITLIN: [wearily] Ha ha, ha ha.
VRAI: [sighs] So, look forward to that, listeners.
PETER: Good luck.
VRAI: See you next time.
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