Dee, Peter, and Vrai check-in on the Winter 2019 season!
Date Recorded: Wednesday 13th February 2019
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Peter
0:03:10 Girly Air Force
0:05:39 Meiji Tokyo Renka
0:10:19 Magical Girl Spec-ops Asuka
0:20:27 My Roommate is a Cat
0:25:08 Kaguya-sama: Love is War
0:32:53 The Promised Neverland
0:41:42 Grimm’s Notes the Animation
0:52:09 Boogiepop and Others
0:57:04 The Price of Smiles
1:05:01 The Magnificent Kotobuki
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist Podcast. I’m Dee, the Managing Editor at AniFem. You can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can also hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers Peter and Vrai!
PETER: Hi I’m Peter, I am a producer at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai, editor and contributor at Anime Feminist and also a freelancer. If you go to my Twitter @writervrai you can find all the stuff I do in my pinned tweet or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
DEE: And today we are checking in on the Winter 2019 season. We’re about at the midway point so now seemed like a good time to see how all the shows are doing.
As we’ve kind of started to do with these, we will basically be using our preview guide as our template, so we’ll be starting from the bottom of that list and working our way up. To keep these to a reasonable length, we’ll be skipping over anything—even if one person is watching—if there’s nothing really to report, we’ll just kind of jump past that and get into the shows that multiple people are watching or that, y’know, deserve a little extra love or commentary.
So with that in mind, the bottom half of the list. As per usual, Peter, you are watching all of the shows—
PETER: [crosstalk] Yep.
DEE: Is there anything in that bottom chunk, like the red flags that you wanted to mention?
PETER: Uhhh, maybe one or two things. Quick question, do either of you know if Wataten is done by the same people who did Uzamaid?
VRAI: It is.
DEE: It is.
VRAI: It’s a Doga Kobe.
PETER: ‘Cause, it is like the exact same show, actually. Same story beats; at the halfway point they introduced a stalker who goes after the main character; wants to make clothes for kids. It’s like the same show.
VRAI: It’s so comforting to know they’ve made a cozy niche for themselves in lesbian pedophile shows.
PETER: I dunno if they’re just gonna keep doing riffs on exactly the same show, but.
DEE: I hope not. Doga Kobo is a really good animation studio and I would like them to do… not garbage again. Like, I dunno, [emphatic] second season of Nozaki-kun, Doga Kobo.
PETER: That’d be nice.
VRAI: No, they’ll get the second season of Kobayashi and we’ll all suffer.
PETER: I do wanna say, like with Uzamaid, there’s a really good story buried underneath all of the bad stuff. The main girl is very, uh, I guess she’s kind of a NEET and has a lot of social anxiety. Her younger sister actually tries to help her out—like they make a board game where if you fall on a spot you have to, like, shake hands with her or say hi to her or something like that, to like help her train to socialize with people again.
Which is something great that they could’ve focused on, but they didn’t. Much like Uzamaid. So… I’m very sad that they have a really good story that they decide, like, isn’t strong enough and they need to bolster it with jokes about stalking minors, I guess.
The only other thing I can think to bring up is Girly Air Force. I remember in Vrai’s preview there was mention that it was kind of othering the Xi and possibly indicating that they were, as an allegory, the Chinese military—was that the big issues that you brought up?
VRAI: I mean, it was something that I mentioned, with no idea whether it would become a thing.
PETER: Okay. Yeah, yeah. I just kinda like, wanna go on the base concerns, and I don’t think it’s really focusing on that too much? It’s made sure to kind of—they’ve shown a couple shots of Chinese towns that had been attacked by the Xi; the main character’s sister I think—or, she’s not really his sister—is Chinese. He lived in China for several years beforehand, so I think they’re at least portraying China as a victim of Xi attacks.
Also the pilots, whatever they’re called. Daughters or Avatars… [correcting himself] Daughters are the planes, Avatars are the girls, are made of “Xi parts,” quote-unquote. And they kind of have an arc where you find out all the soldiers hate her cause she’s made of Xi parts. And the main character has trouble grappling with that because they killed his parents but he has to recognize she’s a person and she’s not—y’know, you’re not defined by the alien parts that your body is composed of. Or something like that.
DEE: [laughs] Sure.
PETER: It is not—or it’s making attempts to not be xenophobic. Where—
VRAI: Is it still a tongue bath of the JSDF?
PETER: They’ve, I think—I’m not gonna lie, a lot of it is just “hey cool, fighting in planes is really cool, and planes are cool.” But.
PETER: They have, like, his sister’s not happy about it and… the doctor who’s kind of running the program is supposed to be a sociopath? I don’t think they’re really trying to lionize him or anything like that. So, I think maybe they’re taking some cues from Gendo Ikari or something there. That’s what he’s supposed to be. So, I don’t—
DEE: [cheerfully] Sure.
VRAI: Doubt, but okay.
DEE: Yeah, it sounds—
VRAI: Fair enough.
DEE: Yeah I don’t have any burning desire to see it, but it sounds like it did not go…. it did not go down the darkest timeline. So [chuckles] good for it.
Um, so I guess that brings us to the yellow flags that some of us are watching, and I’ll start with this one which—it’s weird to see it this low on the list but it’s just because [deep breath] the guys were kinda handsy in the first episode. Meiji Tokyo Renka has turned into one of my favorite shows of the season.
It is an otome adaptation where a girl gets sent back in time, and she’s a spirit medium. And the first episode is really not very indicative of what the rest of the show is gonna be. It’s mostly a time-travel comedy? It’s very goofy in a way that I am extremely here for: with Mei trying to deal with living in Meiji-era Tokyo and meeting these real-life historical figures who are, of course, all sparkling pretty boys.
And, there’s—like, there’s a long gag about how she can’t remember how much things are so they’ll be like, “oh that’s three yen” and she’s like “that’s super cheap!” and they’re like “no that’s really expensive!” And then this one guy thinks she’s super cultured because she occasionally drops English into her speech and has heard of two Shakespeare plays. Because, y’know, obviously at the turn of the century western culture was just sort of entering Japan and so a lot of people didn’t necessarily—you didn’t casually learn about Romeo & Juliet in school like a lot of kids do nowadays. So it plays with those aspects very well.
Mei is absolutely wonderful. [amused] She’s really not here for the romance aspect; she’s mostly here to eat food and help people with their problems. And then the show tries to kind of shoehorn the romance in and it doesn’t really work, but it’s only like ten percent of the episode, so it doesn’t bother me.
It’s kind of a mess. The last few episodes featured this arc that was a bit uncomfortable at points? One of the characters is an actor and he spends part of his time crossdressing as a woman. He’s a geisha, basically. And it’s not clear if he’s researching a part or if this is just something he enjoys doing? The show is pretty chill about it but, y’know, its very existence might make some folks uncomfortable.
Mei goes to him for advice on how to be an elegant lady because she doesn’t know anything about etiquette in this time period and she feels like she’s embarrassing a guy who’s taken her in and is looking after her. And I’m not super fond of the idea of, like, “oh I need to change myself for a man!” but it’s at least framed in a way where it’s more like “I don’t know anything about this time period, and he’s been really nice to me, and I just don’t wanna, y’know, embarrass people by making all these social faux pas.” So it’s played about as well as it could be, I guess.
And again Mei is just…. she’s just so good. They go to a drinking party and these guys are trying to get handsy and Mei just pops ‘em in the face with a tray. While very politely smiling and telling them that sexual harassment is wrong. And… the guys are okay. They’re not amazing. Except [muffled] O’Hearn, because he’s just a big puppy-dog and I love him.
But yeah, I’m very much enjoying Meiji Tokyo Renka. It’s a little bit of a problematic fave but, if folks were kind of put off by the first episode, I would say give it another one because the first episode doesn’t really tell you what it’s going to be—which is a much sillier, brighter show about a girl screwing around in Meiji-era Tokyo
VRAI: We’ve had a rash of good otome protagonists if not out-and-out good otome shows lately. It’s nice.
DEE: Yeah, there’s definitely been a trend toward them being more active and having personalities instead of just being flat audience stand-ins and it’s great to see. So I hope that trend continues.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s nice.
PETER: Would you say the original placement is accurate or that it should be moved up?
DEE: Ummm… I think it’s… hmmm, I think it’s probably still a yellow flag just because of some of these on-the-edge issues where the show keeps from getting like, bad, but it’s just right there with some of the ways the guys treat her— Oh God, I forgot the part where she’s training to be a lady and she keeps getting smacked with a ruler and it’s played as comedy, and it’s not funny.
So I would keep it in yellow flags, but again I think there’s a lot to like if you can kinda… if that five to ten percent of sort of “ugh” doesn’t push you away. Yeah. So. Yeah, I’d keep it there, but again it’s—yellow flag just means it’s got some problems. It doesn’t mean it’s irredeemable or anything.
Okay, next one on the list we are all watching and I feel like we’ll have a lot to talk about.
PETER: [crosstalk; laughing] That’s so surprising to me.
VRAI: [crosstalk; sighing] When will I get to watch a garbage anime all the way through.
DEE: Somehow, somehow we’re all three watching this one: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. And we’re all caught up, right?
DEE: Okay. As of the… So we’re recording this, folks, a few days before it’s gonna go live. So by the time this episode goes up, there will be one more episode of Asuka out, but we’ve seen through five: the end of the kidnapping arc.
VRAI: It was doing so—I’m surprised. I’ve actually gotten a little heat over this, but whatever, people are protective of the genre. I think this is in some ways the best dark magical girl show we’ve had in years in that the genre’s not very… it has not, I think, found its voice yet.
We had Madoka, which kind of kicked off the current version of what you would call a “dark magical girl show” is—even if there were dark elements in magical girl shows before that—but then you had a whole bunch of Madoka copy cats and then you had like the grimdark, edgy crap like Magical Girl Site.
And I feel like it’s… As a sub-genre still trying to find its feet in a way that’s not just needlessly showy and nihilistic for shock value or an also-ran… And I think this one is closer than most in that it’s clearly about Asuka actually wanting to, y’know, embracing those positive elements of being a magical girl even if it’s hard, and saving people. And the opening and ending have these very hopeful imagery, and I like that it is genuinely sympathetic about how it treats PTSD and it uses actual recuperation and coping techniques.
PETER: The surprisingly plausible magical fix for PTSD that actually had some scientific understanding of what happens when you suffer from post-trauma stress.
VRAI: Yeah, and so I like all of that, and I think it’s kind of cute how ugly it is [laughing] ’cause it is a very ugly show.
DEE: It’s not attractive to look at… No, aesthetically.
VRAI: But then… I can brush off some of the weird jiggle physics or whatever. But the torture scene was bad, you guys.
PETER: It was bad; just bad storytelling, too. Because I was really impressed with the barbecue beforehand, ’cause I thought that was a very sinister, and kind of used the audience’s as imagination against them, so—but then they just did the torture scene anyway. I was like, “No, it would be scarier if you didn’t show what they did!”
VRAI: If they just cut from the barbecue scene straight to the arm lopping, that would have been fine. It would still be grimdark, but it wouldn’t feel so gratuitous as tying a naked girl to a block with her back arched and her, like, boobs very prominently shoved forward; and then like doing water torture on her that if you color-changed that water, it would be a hentai.
PETER: That was five minutes long, too. It was just completely unnecessary.
DEE: [crosstalk] It was so long.
PETER: You’re not learning anything.
DEE: I honestly thought it would be worse than it was. I think I was braced for it to be so much worse than it was as far as… as far as camera framing and shit goes.
PETER: Yeah, me too.
DEE: So I think I wasn’t quite as put off as you were, Vrai, but it was bad. I got through that episode and my roommate’s kind of keeping up with it, too, and I was like, “I need to see how this arc ends, but there’s a real good chance I’m gonna drop the show like a hot potato.”
And I thought they pulled it back in a way that is keeping me, somehow, still watching with the next episode, the way they wrapped up the arc. It is to me what happens when you smash like an “edgy,” quote-unquote—a thousand air quotes around the word edgy— American action flick with the dark magical girl genre. That’s the feel that I get from it is like [movie trailer voice] “a gritty war movie, but with magical girls!”
And so it has a lot of the elements of that genre in terms of reveling in shocking violence and “look how bad the bad guys are” sort of torture scenes. And it’s hot trash. Let’s all be honest here.
VRAI: [enthused] Absolutely it is!
DEE: I think we can all agree Asuka is hot trash, But it keeps from… that scene was torture porn, absolutely, it was bad. But the show as a whole keeps from being misery porn by finding ways to wheedle the story into more of this, like, “war is hell, but there are things worth fighting for,” sort of angle? It keeps finding that thread.
And so, for all the garbage fanservice and Kurumi’s poor boobs and that awful torture seen, I still keep finding myself coming back to it—and maybe I’m just really hard-up for some good trash, but this is as close as it’s been for a few seasons.
VRAI: I think I’m willing to give it another episode or two, weirdly enough. I’m completely done if it goes back into another really gratuitous torture porn scene, ’cause like…
DEE: Yeah, for sure.
VRAI: But also I’m kind of low-key annoyed about Kurumi. ‘Cause we’ve got the obviously evil lesbians on the villainous side, and I just want Kurumi to be an actually, like, some kind of acknowledgement or requitement of her feelings as opposed to yet another weird pining stalker who’s technically on the good guys’ side.
DEE: Yeah, she’s very into Asuka and she gave off a few yandere vibes for like a half second and then they kind of pulled back on that.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, I was really concerned for a moment
DEE: Yeah, me too.
PETER: I was like, “Oh no, she’s crazy.” But then they just stopped doing that.
VRAI: Yeah, they pulled back from it, which is nice.
PETER: Yeah, I probably would have dropped it if that were the case. I don’t need even the heroes to be creepers that I can’t root for anything. It kinda wants to be The Bourne Identity with magical girls, but it just ends up being like a really schlocky Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
DEE: That’s… Yeah, that is apt.
PETER: But I also feel like, since it wants to be an action movie, that means that the characters have agency, whereas in a lot of dark magical girl shit it’s like: they have powers, but the powers do not stop them from being victims who are at the of the day utterly powerless to stop what happens to them. So I feel like Asuka really floats on that, since you feel like the characters can and will do things.
VRAI: Yeah, I’d say that’s a good assessment.
DEE: Yeah, I agree with that, for sure. So I’m always like five minutes from dropping it, but I haven’t quite done it yet. But obviously from our description, I think we would… God, might possibly move it down into red flags.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It firmly belongs in red flags.
DEE: There’s a lot. There’s A Lot. We’re somehow still watching it, but.
PETER: It’s the red flag we’re all watching.
DEE: Which is a rarity, but again, I think there’s just enough there that we’re kind of intrigued by it.
Okay, next one on the list is Endro. Peter, did you wanna touch on that one at all? Anything worth mentioning? Or is it pretty much what it was at the start…?
PETER: Well, it had that one had that big event that became big on social media much like Anima Yell—are those made by the same people, too?
VRAI: Yeah, I was gonna try to watch at least that episode, ’cause Endro’s not one that I was actively… I liked it okay, it’s just that “it fell by the wayside because I’m busy” kind of thing. But I did not get to it, unfortunately.
PETER: Yeah, it’s just [a] very pastel goofy comedy show; pretty inoffensive. But yeah, it did have it… Was it the last episode? Yeah, they had a scene where, uh… I have mixed feelings about it, but I’m also maybe the last person that should be talking about this.
They had a scene which generated a bit of buzz on social media, when the Princess of the kingdom shows up and basically expresses romantic interest in the female hero character. She not-quite asked her to get married and then the girl says the “but I’m a girl” line and the Princess goes, “Oh, I’ll just change the law.”
Which was, I think a lot of people liked that it was very prominently gay and also kind of addressed the fact that it’s illegal in Japan, with these fantasy world laws… and that the law should be changed, because it’s dumb. That was good. Personally, I was kind of worried about the character, because she’s obsessed in kind of a creepy way. Not like Kurumi—
VRAI: She’s Tomoyo.
PETER: She read hero stories ever since she was a kid, super obsessed with the hero, shows up, didn’t know the hero was a girl, but says, “Oh that doesn’t matter,” ’cause she was just interested in the hero no matter what; kind of throws a Hero Fair where she slaps her face and everything. Is very obsessed with the idea of the hero.
Has been around for half an episode—I guess going to stick around, but I don’t know if they were going to a trust the romance again. So the romantic angle really came out of nowhere and I don’t know if they’re going to drop it. So I guess good moment, but I don’t really know if they have committed to anything, is what I’m trying to say.
VRAI: Yeah, I mean… not having had a chance to watch it, it does sound kind of like a fairly standard thing for cute-girl shows where you have the one character who is a really bold, forward fangirl, but it’s kind of played for laughs and even lines like “love is love, it doesn’t matter if it’s two girls!” is usually implicitly played as, “Oh this character is so ditzy, she doesn’t know about social mores, oho!”
VRAI: So I just guess it depends on if she sticks around and if they then do anything with it, or if that ever comes about again. It’s like: “It’s not 1996 anymore. We have moved on from Tomoyo.”
PETER: I guess I’ll report back later on.
DEE: That’s good, yeah. And keep us posted on it for the… That’ll be a good one to check in on at the series retrospective and see if they commit to that arc or if it falls by the wayside, ’cause that could be really nice if they do stuff with it.
Okay the next two, Domestic Girlfriend and Pastel Memories, none of us were watching; but the next one we’re all watching: it is My Roommate is a Cat. I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to get a ton of in-depth conversation out of this one, but I love it and it’s adorable.
VRAI: I call this show “Is it feelings or am I off on my meds?”
DEE: It’s feelings, Vrai. It’s okay, it’s feelings.
PETER: Yeah, that third episode… You finish that one and then you call your mom right away.
DEE: [chuckles] Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed this one. I like the balance between the human story and the cat story. I like watching the world sort of gradually expand. I think it’s really well-made as far as pacing and direction and everything goes. It’s just a really nice story about building a family, basically.
VRAI: It’s nice. I did find Subaru really intolerable in that first episode.
DEE: Yeah, I’m apparently the only person who didn’t hate Subaru from day one. I thought he was—I thought we were meant to kind of laugh at him, and I think that made it work for me. Like his tragic backstory being someone—in that first episode, being that someone spoiled book for him, and I was like, “Okay, this is funny. He’s an anti-social grump, but we’re kind of supposed to see it as like, ‘This is a little… You’re being silly.’”
Which I thought was sort of a refreshing change of pace from: “I was horribly bullied and mistreated all my life and now I don’t trust anybody.” So yeah, again, I think I’m the only person who thought Subaru was fine from day one.
VRAI: I was mostly—and they more or less dropped it by now, like halfway in—but I find the whole “genius male author who gets to treat his publishing agency like trash and not get fired” really tiring. That is just a trope that rubs me the wrong way, personally, because I know a lot of indie authors who could never get away with that shit.
DEE: Yeah, I guess… [sighs] I didn’t think he treated his… I thought Subaru was pretty clear about what relationship he wanted as far as what he wanted his editor to do, and his editor just ignored those boundaries, and I didn’t really blame him for being irritated by that. It wasn’t like he was ignoring his edits or not turning in his manuscripts on time; he just wanted their relationship to stay professional and his cinnamon roll of an editor was not having it.
So, again, I didn’t feel like he was treating his editor that badly. I thought he was just pretty blunt about what he needed or wanted out of their relationship.
VRAI: Mmm. And he’s come a long way. I feel like the show, once in a while, it tips into: “All right, this is not a thing you can solve by becoming more social. I think maybe you should look into therapy.” But for the most part, it’s very good at keeping it on the fact that he has a lot of these stunted social skills from grief and fear of reaching out to other people. And I feel like it balances that surprisingly nicely.
DEE: Yeah, it’s been sweet to watch the cat as kind of an entry point for him to connect with other people.
PETER: Surprisingly sad, too. I was not expecting this much. I don’t know if you two watched the last episode but I—-
DEE: [emotional] I diiiiid!
PETER: There’s very sad stuff in this show. I was expecting it too, but it gets real messed up.
DEE: [crosstalk] There is! I got choked up.
VRAI: I mean, this show killed a kitten in the first episode. So like, it goes hard.
DEE: Yeah, but overall, I think it’s just good. I can’t think of anything that we’d necessarily need to warn folks about. Some depictions of anxiety. I guess that’s pretty much it?
VRAI: I mean there is definitely a fear of dead and dying animals; that’s an anxiety for Haru.
DEE: Oh, sure, sure, sure, that’s fair.
VRAI: So if you’re a person who is sensitive to animal death in movies, it might stress you out.
DEE: Yeah, that’s fair. I mean it’s played, I would say, with restraint for sure.
DEE: But it’s an element of the story, ’cause Haru was a stray cat and the show doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s not easy being a stray cat.
PETER: Crows are evil though.
DEE: Crows are the worst!
PETER: I feel like it really portrays crows as like villains. I feel bad. Crows aren’t bad. That’s the problem I have with this show.
DEE: [simultaneously] Crows are the worst, Peter. Crows are the worst.
PETER: [simultaneously] No, crows are fine! Crows are cute.
VRAI: Aww, but Rei has two crows. She had uh… Gosh, Deimos and Phobos?
DEE: Yeah, the gods of the underworld, right?
VRAI: They were good crows.
PETER: Crows are really smart. They’re basically like flying cats.
DEE: [laughs] Which I guess is why they are each other’s natural enemies in the show.
PETER: My big problem with My Roommate is a Cat is that it portrays crows very negatively, and I don’t appreciate that.
DEE: Peter’s scathing critique of My Roommate is a Cat.
PETER: There you go.
DEE: All right, well, okay, let’s move on, ’cause we are about at the halfway point, I think, and there’s still quite a bit to talk about here.
Okay, none of us are watching kemurikusa. I kept meaning to go back to it and just never did. But the one above that is Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
VRAI: I cannot believe how much I like this show.
DEE: God, me too. So I watched the first episode of this sort of… I half-watched it over my roommate’s shoulder, basically, while I was doing something else, and I found it so exhausting. I was like, “I don’t have any—I’m never going back to this, I don’t even wanna watch the entire first episode on my own.”
And then Caitlin kept talking it up in our team chat, and then in the three-episode review she gave it a really good review, and I was like, “Okay, I should come back to this. It is Hatakeyama and I love him, so I need… He’s directing it, so I need to try this out.” And I caught up within a night and just—’cause I just started with episode two, and just immediately loved it.
PETER: I think it’s because the rest of the series doesn’t do what episode one did, which just made it, like, Galaxy Brain Confrontations. Because they actually mixed up the formula, ’cause there’s a… three or four different types of skits that they do which aren’t necessarily confrontational, or just kind of result in one of them coming out ahead.
I was very disinterested in the first episode, but then the other episodes had other characters playing more prominent roles, them not being pitted directly against each other, and different scenarios where they weren’t just in the room trying to outsmart one another. And I think that’s when the show became fun for me because I just wasn’t too interested in them trying to beat each other, I guess.
DEE: Well, and the more you see of them with other people, the more you realize that: one, they’re actually pretty decent kids, they’re just very stupid about this one thing; and also, they are idiots. Both of them in ways that I think is pretty clever.
I think the show is very much playing on a lot of gendered expectations about relationships and romance in ways that are pretty fun. Like when Shirogane is trying to give dating advice about this girl and he’s like, “Oh yeah, no, she’s definitely into you and is playing hard to get” and Kaguya’s on the other side of the door, like, “No, that’s not what’s going on here at all! You clearly don’t actually understand social cues.”
And then the very next sketch of the next ep, we get the bit about the fact that Kaguya has been completely sheltered and basically didn’t get sex education at all—-which is the moment I had to pause because I was laughing so hard I could not read the subtitles anymore
PETER: Yeah, that was a… that was brutal.
VRAI: and I feel like there was definitely a marked shift between the first episode and the other ones, where the skits in the first episode are mostly kind of humiliation-based, where the other ones shift more towards the person who wants to win wants to look—to show that they are good at something, or to get the other person to give them something; not to get the other person to lose, per se, even if it’s still totaled in terms of wins and losses. It ends up being about growth.
DEE: Yeah, and the show does a good job of balancing it. I feel like the two leads take turns being goofy or having a nice, admirable moment as well. So, it maintains an equality among the cast, which is nice.
And also, can we talk about how Chika is the best character of the season?
VRAI: Chika is very good.
DEE: Okay, maybe Mei is… Anyway, they’re both amazing but, yeah, Chika’s so good. In the early bit I thought she was just gonna be kinda like the ditzy sidekick character, and she has become so much more than that. She is wonderful.
PETER: Yeah, the “guess the word” game was a very good skit as well.
VRAI: I don’t know, I feel like “I raised that boy” is the line of the series. Chika transcended time and space and became a McElroy.
DEE: It’s extremely memeable.
PETER: Yep. She’s good.
DEE: Yeah, I had to cap that ’cause, yeah, she’s delightful. And the relationship between three of them is fun, so…
PETER: And we might be getting character development, too, hopefully. It seems like one of those 4-koma things which just goes on with the same formula forever, even though it fixes up and it’s actually fun. But they had that one thing with the other school where they… What was it? Kaguya defended the guy from the girl who was just yelling French at him, and then—
DEE: [crosstalk] Yes, it was really good.
PETER: —they have the moment at the end where she said she likes something about him, but she wouldn’t admit what it was, and I was like, “Oh is this character development Is the plot moving forward?” But we’ll see if that sticks.
VRAI: I mean Yamada’s First Time was based on a 4-koma, I think, and then that turned out as a really nice series with development and whatnot.
PETER: So I’m just wondering, is it gonna have a beginning, middle, and end, or is it just going to be skits and skits and skits and skits and then that was your 12 episodes; all the skits are done.
DEE: Yeah, I’ll be curious to see if it develops into more of a story format. But it’s funny, it’s—I laugh a lot, every episode, so I’m happy to see the skits at this point. I’m okay with that.
VRAI: I could do with a little less of the jokes where the joke is that Kaguya’s friends with Chika but will instantly throw her aside if it means it has something to do with her competitive nature. And I’m like, “Oh yeah, okay, this show is funny enough that I don’t hate that, but I’d be happier without it.”
DEE: Yeah, I’d like to see the two of them bond a little bit more. Like, the volleyball bit with Chika and Shirogane was so good because it was goofy but it also… kind has this nice ending of the two of them having this bonding moment, you know, where they worked together towards this common goal. So I’d like to see some more of that with Kaguya and Chika as well.
‘Cause I feel like the show is—I think this tends to happen with comedies, even ones that have sharp edges—you kind of almost have to soften over time, or otherwise it just feels mean.
DEE: And I think we’re setting that with Kaguya-sama in ways that I enjoy, so I hope that it continues to go that way while still having that social critique bite to it that I’m enjoying quite a bit.
VRAI: They’ve also gone to the well of boob jealousy more than once, and that can stop.
PETER: They have, yeah.
DEE: I binged all at once and so I think the more annoying bits of it kind of floated out of my head.
VRAI: Yeah, nitpicks aside, it is very… It’s so good-looking. Oh my God, it’s so stylish.
DEE: Yeah, Hatakeyama’s a hell of a director. It turns out he can do comedy. Turns out he can do whatever the hell he wants. I would love to see him do an original work at some point, because he adapts the hell out of stuff, so…
He, for the folks at home who are like, “Who the fuck is Hatakeyama?”—I’m sorry, I told myself I wasn’t gonna drop an F bomb in this podcast, but here we are—Hatakeyama directed Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, is probably the one folks listening to this would be most familiar with. He’s also done—he did Sankarea, which he elevated what was really not very good source material into a surprisingly good li’l anime.
PETER: Record of Grancrest War.
DEE: And he did Grancrest War which, I maintain that the direction was quite good, the story just wasn’t… That’s not his fault.
So this is a good pairing of solid material with a director who is making it very energetic and exciting to watch, and it’s… Yeah, it’s really well-done visually, ’cause I think this is a show that could be very boring, but the camera’s very active and there’s some nice little touches of surrealism, and it’s delightful.
PETER: Yeah, love the yeti.
DEE: Okay. We do need to keep going, but the next couple none of us are watching. So this is easy, Dimension High School and Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale. And that ends the Harmless Fun category and gets us up into the “It’s Complicated” category, which I’m glad we added that one.
Uh, bottom of this list: The Promised Neverland. All three of us were watching, all three of us have read the manga. So we need to be real careful not to give anything away.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s this one’s gonna be really hard to discuss, especially when you’re talking about the merits.
PETER: Can we even say anything?
VRAI: I don’t care for the doll.
PETER: Yeah, oh, that was a bad addition. I don’t like it.
DEE: I… I am so much more bothered by Sister Krone in the anime than I was in the manga and I don’t—I haven’t gone back and done like a comparison to the original panels to see if maybe it was handled better. I have some suspicions as to why that is, but I am much more uncomfortable with her portrayal in the anime.
PETER: She’s crazy in the anime. I think she’s flat-out crazy. And in the manga, she is not crazy. She’s basically the same as Mom; she’s scheming.
DEE: She’s very clever. And yeah, I think the anime… the anime did a thing—-and I appreciate the attempt—they did a thing where they wanted to drop the inner monologues, which I think works fine in print but can slow down visual media a lot. So I don’t mind them trying to shuffle everything into speech and action rather than inner monologues like it is in the manga quite a bit.
But because of that, they added a doll and then immediately got rid of it when it had served its plot purpose, which was to give Krone something to talk at.
PETER: Yeah, we had flashbacks though. I mean, there’s gonna be flashbacks; you can just use those to frame what her goal is. ‘Cause if you watch the flashbacks, you’ll know what she’s trying to do. You don’t need her to say out loud what she wants to do.
I think that’s in conflict with what they’re trying to do, where they kind of have all the—they show what the characters are thinking by what they do and by what’s happening, to try to eliminate… Yeah, as you said, all the monologues that happen inside the manga, but in this one, they’re basically giving her something to monologue at rather than having the action show what her goals are, which… I would have used flashbacks.
DEE: It was awkward and it shifted her character in a way that made the already unfortunate portrayal issues I think more so. I also think—and again I’d have to go back and look at the manga—but I know when I was reading it, I felt like Demizu’s art uses a lot of contorted faces for everybody. And in the anime I feel like they’re saving a lot of that for Krone in a way that’s… again, very, very poor decision, portrayal, that ends up just looking like they’re specifically caricaturizing the Black woman in the cast.
VRAI: Yeah, like talking about Promised Neverland, there’s a whole core level of issues of caricatured character design and certain racialized character traits that she was given. And we’ve linked Jackson P. Brown’s article before in the three0episode review, which you all should definitely read, but in addition…
DEE: [crosstalk] We’ll get it in the podcast post as well; we’ll link it again. It’s worth reading.
VRAI: But in addition to that, I feel like they have made so many bad decisions with Krone. Like, first you have the doll, which makes her look like it’s not just that she wants to be a mom. The way she treats that doll is like they’re trying hard to imply that she would specifically be a bad mom.
PETER: She abuses it.
VRAI: Which is not a present thing in the manga at all.
DEE: No, not at all.
VRAI: It’s just that she didn’t win out for the position.
PETER: So was it you who brought up the plausible good reason for having the doll?
VRAI: Yes, but we can’t talk about it. That’s heavily spoiler.
PETER: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Damn.
VRAI: And I don’t think it applies anymore with what they’ve done with it.
DEE: ‘Cause they immediately got rid of it?
PETER: Yeah, I like the way that you thought of the… What the originating idea for the doll might have been, but in execution it was just bad. Man, we’re comin’ down hard on The Promised Neverland, which we all love.
DEE: I know! And here’s the thing, we’ve been so high on the manga. I wrote an article about it.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I love the manga.
DEE: I’ve always been really up-front about the fact that sister Krone’s character design is bad and there’s a lot of issues with it.
PETER: Yeah, no escaping it.
DEE: Although it was one of those things where it was like, “If you just either had other Black women in the cast, like prominent figures”—’cause there’s a kid, but she’s barely in it.
VRAI: Yeah, Jemima does not have lines, and also her name is Jemima.
DEE: [despairing] I know, that was a bad choice guys. But if you just either had more or just not made Krone a Black woman, I think her actual character in the manga—again, and the two have deviated at this point, so I don’t feel like I’m saying spoilers right now.
I liked the character arc and I liked… And so I was kind of able to go: “Oh, this sucks. But I can kinda look past and look at the other really good stuff this series is doing.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, the conclusion of her character arc is really…
DEE: And in the anime it’s just… Just some of the changes they’ve made, then the way they’ve exaggerated other aspects that were already kind of negative in the manga. It’s a lot harder for me to focus on the other stuff right now.
PETER: In the manga you could say that the way visually she’s represented, it’s very bad, but when you come down to the way she’s characterized and her narrative arc, they’re good, right?
DEE: I think so, but it’s also not our lane, so I’m not sure we should…
VRAI: [crosstalk] Super not our lane. I will say I liked her character and I wound up having… She may be my favorite character at the end of the day, in the series.
DEE: Yeah, yeah, I don’t wanna put quality labels on it, ’cause that’s so not our place to do, but I will say I liked it. Yeah, there were definitely some things about it that made me uncomfortable, but overall I liked it. And the anime… I just dislike everything about it. It feels like the manga maybe didn’t—maybe it was unconscious bias, and the anime, it feels conscious.
PETER: That’s kind of what I was trying to get at. And I’m worried that her ending is gonna be different now because the way they’re framing her, which would—
DEE: I’m a little concerned about that, too, and that would be real bad.
VRAI: They had and they are coaching her to sound like Jun Fukuyama and I don’t know what that’s about. She sounds like Grell, like they’ve gone for unhinged so hard, and I don’t like it.
DEE: No, me neither.
PETER: So, I guess, fingers crossed? But it’s already pretty not great.
DEE: I hope they can get her character back on track, but I’m not—I don’t feel super great about that at this point.
And again, we don’t wanna go too deep into things, but I think the characterization for pretty much everybody is really, really good in the manga and I think we’re losing or having some of that shuffled around in ways that I’m not fond of in the anime.
VRAI: Yeah, I’ve noticed a lot of people who are anime-only talking about Emma in terms of like… her canniness doesn’t show up so well. I think that’s better now in the most recent episode where specifically she’s talking with Ray and clearly seeing through him, even if she’s not calling him on it. I think that’s starting to come across now, but definitely for the first three or four episodes I saw a lot of people like, “Oh, well, she’s kind of the ditzy heart of the team who’s good physically.”
And, also, we keep harping on this imagery of how she’s going to be a mom, which I feel like… it’s not that it’s not there in the manga, it’s just that there were other factors that pulled you away from it, and then they took those out for the anime.
DEE: And again, I think that is one of those places where dropping the internal monologue… I think animation-wise and a lot of the directing decisions have been effective for the show, but I think that the dropping of the internal monologue means it will take you longer to see the full picture of who Emma is, because she is a very bright, optimistic person, while also being very intuitive and clever and a fierce survivalist, and so…
Well, I think we’ll get there with Emma, I think we’ll be fine on that front. But yeah, I think it is taking a little longer for that to be clear for folks who were just watching the anime. If the anime can do right by Emma, then I think it will save itself, despite some serious problems in the early episodes.
PETER: We should say, overall I believe at least all of us really enjoy the anime and think it’s well-directed. And the story is great, we can say that?
VRAI: I mean, There are definitely times where, catching up, where I thought, “I should just go back to reading the manga.” Then there would be like one really good-looking scene and I thought… “[groan] Oh, that’s nice.” But my feelings are decided[ly]—I love the manga a lot. It’s probably the most I’ve enjoyed a Shonen JUMP manga in years, but the anime is, ehhh, it’s a mixed bag.
DEE: Yeah, that’s kind of where I am now, too, especially ’cause I just read the most recent volume, and I’m reading it like, “Fuck, this is so good,” so… Okay, we should move on.
Next on the list. I think I’m the only—no, Peter! You’re watching Grimm’s Notes the Animation. I didn’t know you were watching that one.
PETER: Hell yeah.
DEE: You’re saying “hell yeah” a lot. Do you like it?
PETER: Uhhh, actually I’m not sure I…
PETER: It’s a little blandish and formulaic. I’m just really wondering if they’re going to do anything with this really insane world they’ve set up where everybody’s fate is predetermined, whether that’s gonna get any action. ‘Cause I feel like the villain could potentially be a good guy or have very good reasons for doing what he’s doing.
DEE: Yeah, it’s such a good concept, and I feel like every… First of all, I really do like the characters. Like they’re a bit archetypal, but they’re very pleasant to spend time with.
There’s not really much in it that I feel like I need to really warn folks about? The characters all have magic powers or they can turn into other fictional characters and there’s no gender restrictions on that, which is kind of neat, so they’ll just pull out which ever character they want that day.
But yeah, it feels like almost every episode, it pushes up against this idea of being stuck in these roles and these prescribed paths suck. Every week they keep pushing up against it and then it’s like they keep pulling back at the very end. And I just, I really wanna see what they’re doing with that overall, because I feel like they’ve made the characters who fall to the Darkness—if you wanna say it like that; I think the Chaos Tellers is what they call them—I feel like they’ve made them very sympathetic.
PETER: Yeah, absolutely.
DEE: And it still doesn’t justify—they are still hurting other people and they shouldn’t be doing that, and so it is good that our team of roleless magical travelers show up and get that settled. But then they just throw everybody back in their prescribed roles and I’m like, “But”—
PETER: [crosstalk] “Hope it works out!”
DEE: —“you just showed us why this sucks?” Yeah, so I’m very, very curious to see what it’s doing with a really, really fascinating premise. But execution-wise, I think every week it’s… it’s fine, y’know? It’s fine. I’m still watching it, so.
PETER: It’s blandish, yeah. Basically I think I’m interested for the same reasons you are. It’ll be really interesting if they actually do anything with this, which some mobile ad—I mean, it’s a mobile game.
DEE: I thought it was a light novel. ‘Cause if it’s a mobile game, I wanna play it. ‘Cause honestly I’ve been watching it like, “This would make a really good like action-adventure RPG.”
PETER: [reading] An online free-to-play role-playing game by Square Enix for Android and iOS.
DEE: Ohhh, you’re right. I don’t know why I thought it had a light novel. Oh well. Clearly I was looking at the wrong show.
PETER: Oh, they’re pulling out cards and turning into storybook characters, it’s hella gacha. Even in the pirate episode they all had their beach outfits. Like, this is hella gacha.
DEE: Yeah, I mean, I totally thought it looked like—it felt like an RPG. The beach episode, by the way, was nice because it didn’t really fanservice it up. They were in swimsuits but it didn’t get creepy about it, so that was nice. They were just kind of cute swimsuits.
PETER: I liked the bow that was an inflatable dolphin with a string on it.
DEE: Yes. Yeah, the beach theme. The beach-themed weaponry was incredible. So the other, art… design-wise, I think there’s some nice touches. Some of the monster designs have been really neat, so it’s… Yeah, I think we both keep coming back to it, ’cause these central ideas are really fascinating, so I wanna see if they push up against that and commit to it.
PETER: It hasn’t really fucked up either. So, no complaints on my side, at least.
DEE: No, I don’t have any, I don’t have any major complaints, either, so… it’s fine. It’s a pleasant 22 minutes each week with some interesting background ideas to chew on that I hope they do something with. So, we’ll see.
Okay cool, I get to take a break for this next one. It’s Dororo. I got a few episodes in and… Oh, I still have it listed as a show I’ve watched, my bad, guys. No, I dropped it after four. But y’all can talk about it. Dororo, go.
PETER: I think I’m at four, so…
VRAI: Wait, you also dropped it?
PETER: No, I didn’t drop it. I plan to continue watching it. I have just not watched the latest episode, which is five.
VRAI: No, it’s up to six, my dude.
PETER: Ah shit, well I’m two episodes behind then.
VRAI: Alright, it’s me, it’s all me. I~ like this show. It’s still, it’s doing better than Banana. Fish. I’ve been talking with Lauren, who is recapping it for Anime News Network, and she went and hunted down the entire manga to read for comparison, and apparently the anime is quite far afield in certain elements, so that encourages me a lot in terms of how they plan to handle the story and update certain things that might have been problematic in the original source material.
It is kind of an inherently ableist premise, like there’s… even with re-writing, there’s no getting around the fact that this is about a swordsman character who lost his limbs and all of his senses because his father made a deal with a demon and so he is quote-unquote a “broken,” or a hollowed out husk who’s trying to become whole again by fighting these demons and getting parts of himself back.
It’s what it is. It kind of sucks in that regard, but I will say that—and I’m really looking forward to one of our contributors writing about this series. They’ve done pieces about disability and anime for us before— But aside from that, I feel like Tezuka is trying to do something with this series. It’s during the Sengoku era and there have been a lot of other characters with disabilities, predominantly missing limbs or mobility issues, besides Hyakkimaru the superpower disability guy—in terms of just living their lives, trying to go on, getting hold of prosthetics.
I feel like for the ‘60s, Tezuka really, really wanted to say something progressive about how you’re not necessarily bro—you’re not broken when these things happen and you can go on and I… as the show goes on, I kind of get the feeling that…this is Tezuka, the guy who wrote Astro Boy, which was really important as far as talking about nuclear anxiety, and post-World War II Japan… I kind of feel like this is his M*A*S*H?
In that it’s quote-unquote “about” the Sengoku era, but it’s super not actually about that. And so there’s a lot of really beautiful moments in the series where it’s just these kind of quiet moments about surviving and grief. At one point in a more recent episode, Hyakkimaru gets his hearing back and the first thing he hears is somebody weeping over their dead loved one who died as collateral damage, so that he could get this piece of himself back.
It’s full of just really beautiful small touches like that, and it’s MAPPA, so it looks really pretty and I don’t know, it’s definitely… Well, this is based on a ’60s manga, but also, it’s certainly one of the better adaptations of a classic series that I’ve seen in a while, and I’m having a good time watching it.
DEE: Yeah, I’ll be honest: The only reason I dropped it is… I’ve been stressed out a lot recently?
VRAI: It’s dark.
DEE: And the show is… it’s kind of a tough watch. And I just, as you may have noticed from the other stuff I’m watching, a lot of it’s pretty light and pleasant. I think Promised Neverland is one of the major exceptions, and a large reason I’m sticking with that is because I love the manga as much as I do.
So yeah, it wasn’t like—there wasn’t anything about it where I pointed to it and said, “I don’t like this,” I just was like, “This isn’t what I wanna be watching at this exact point in my life.” So it’s a show I could absolutely see myself going back to, especially if your future reports on it are positive.
VRAI: I will say that it’s not good with women. Basically, every woman who’s appeared on screen has died and they’ve either been like mothers and caretakers or evil monsters. Or the recent two-episode arc was an out-and-out “hooker with a heart of gold” story, although, apparently, she was still given more development that she got in the manga. So… yeah. But I like it a lot.
DEE: I really like Dororo. I will say that.
VRAI: I like him and I hope they don’t… I hope they do right by my son. They’ve passed by probably several points where they could have been shitty. So my hopes are slowly building.
VRAI: And the brotherly relationship is good.
PETER: I remember watching and just thinking it did what Megalobox really failed to do by making an interesting spin on an older story by—rather than updating the setting, it updated the story. It occurs during the same time, but I feel like all the changes that they’ve made have really made it way more interesting than if they’d been faithful to the manga, because all of the stuff I’ve heard about the manga’s really corny and bland. Maybe revolutionary for his time, but not anymore
DEE: Tezuka’s kind of a goofball. And I will say honestly the tone they’re going—I think if they had gone for a bit more of that Tezuka tone, I probably would have stuck with it, because it is—again, it’s a bit bleak. But I could also see how that could be really jarring or take away from the more serious elements of the story, as far as the Sengoku war and everything.
VRAI: Yeah, they definitely nixed a lot of fourth wall stuff. And I’ll be honest, I’m not too hot on Tezuka right now, but that’s not his fault, it’s because the last thing I read was MW, and fuck that manga.
DEE: I haven’t read it, but I’ll take your word on it.
PETER: I like it.
DEE: One to keep an eye on, for sure. I’m glad… Yeah, and again, it’s not one that… I could see myself going back to it, for sure.
VRAI: Yeah, just a… Apparently, several readers informed me that it’s going to be a two-cour, so that should make it a…
PETER: Oh shit.
DEE: Oh yeah, that’s plenty of time to… For me to decide to come back to it too, so, cool.
VRAI: So that’s nice.
DEE: Yeah, that gives them plenty of time to tell the story.
Cool, okay, all right, next one on the list—this might not take super long. Peter, you’re the only person watching Boogiepop and Others. I dropped it at three and a half episodes when I realized I just didn’t care about anything that was going on. So how are you doing with it?
PETER: Ahhhhh, so I really liked the first three episode subplot, thought it was really cool, I liked the ending, I thought it was kind of like… it was confusing, but it came together really neatly and you know how they did it out of order, and everything.
PETER: This next subplot seems to be chronologically in order, but there’s just so much shit going on. The first plot felt very contained and there were a good number of character groups, but they all felt important and relevant and the story still felt like really small. You know I’m saying?
DEE: Mm-hm, yeah. Sure.
PETER: In this new one, they’re just introducing secret organizations and weird superpowered guys running around and it just feels chaotic by comparison, even though it’s being shown in order. I don’t know what anybody wants, I don’t know why they’re doing it, I don’t know who half the characters—I know who they are, but I don’t know why they are or why they’ve been included in the story or what their role is. So I don’t know if they’re gonna be able to wrap it up in a bow again, but…
Yeah, I am not as charmed as I was by the first three-episode arc and am becoming concerned that it maybe… It’s actually kind of a very loose, crazy story. Which is kind of a pattern that’s emerging, where we’re resurrecting old light novel adaptations that first anime adaptation was done by an acclaimed director, seems to be, it keeps happening.
VRAI: [crosstalk, laughing] You can say Kino, Peter.
PETER: Yeah yeah yeah.
DEE: Yeahhhh. Oh, but wasn’t the original Boogiepop anime more like a spin-off story? It wasn’t a direct adaptation from the light novels.
PETER: Yeah, spin-off, famous director, made a very self-contained story kind of in-universe, doing their own thing, much like Kino’s Journey. I’ll say it, so…
PETER: I feel like that doesn’t really set your expectations up for the new adaptation. And both times where they’re trying to have more fidelity to the light novel, the story is just very loose and has a lot of accessories and isn’t as… good.
DEE: Yeah, and I don’t know how much they’re covering, but if they’re trying to cram like an entire novel into three episodes, that would also explain some of the… ’cause I thought the first three episodes were kind of a mess, to be honest, and I was willing to stick with it, and then I started the next one and it was different characters, and I was like, “Oh well, I just got mildly attached to these people and now they’re gone. So, I guess I’m done,” was why I sort of fell off on it. I’ve heard decent things about the light novels—about the novels… are they light novels or novels? Anyway.
PETER: I should probably get to the more relevant stuff though, which is a…
DEE: Oh yeah, sorry.
PETER: A whole lot of girls are dying in the show. It seems like women are mostly around to get killed to show you how to dark world is. That was very apparent in the first three episodes.
DEE: I noticed that in the first three, but there were enough prominent female characters that I thought, “Oh, maybe it’ll adjust that as it goes.” It sounds like it did not.
PETER: Yeah, well, there’s been less killing slightly and more like there’s weird stuff happening to them and you don’t know if the fate is really gonna be good. It’s what the new villain is: mind control stuff, which also happened—they introduced a gay character; he hasn’t been killed, but he’s kind of in a dire situation, which… fate uncertain, but could be problematic.
VRAI: Did they de-gay the gay guy, Peter.
PETER: No. Well, I mean, kind of… As an accessory to what happened to him, the guy brain-washed him took control over him and is now making him do stuff to further the evil organization’s rule. And the guy, he’s just an empty shell now, but it’s been… the possibility for him being free exists, you know, it exists. Not sure if it’s gonna happen to him, or if he’s gonna get killed or what at this point.
I don’t really think they messed with his sexuality so much as they robbed him of his agency as a human being, which has happened to like four characters this arc but via—that’s what the villain does. Yeah, they have a prominent gay character, don’t know what’s gonna happen to him yet, but he has same bad thing happen to him that just happened to a couple other characters in this arc. We’ll see if it does a bad thing.
Besides that I just have major concerns about the storytelling and stuff like that. Still watching it though. Still interested.
DEE: Yeah, another one to check up on again. It’s almost like the mid-season check-in happens half way through multiple plot lines, imagine that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] What? No.
DEE: The next one up is Price of Smiles. Vrai, Peter, you are both keeping up with this one.
VRAI: I really like this show. I don’t know why.
DEE: I was gonna say, “Someone convince me to go back to it ’cause I dropped it after four and a half episodes.”
PETER: I don’t know if I can do that for you.
DEE: I didn’t quite trust it to follow through on what I think it needs to do to be a good show. And I decided that there were other things I’d rather be watching, so I stopped, but I’m excited to hear if it ends up following through on some of those promises, ’cause if it does, I’ll go back to it.
VRAI: Yeah, I don’t… Lnow what it is, ’cause in certain ways, this is a very trope-dependent “War Bad” story with Gundams. Have you watched a Gundam? This is probably like Gundam.
PETER: [crosstalk] It wants to be Gundam, yeah.
VRAI: And like, it has nice mobile suit battles—they call them something else, but they’re mobile suits—and war is bad and people need to talk about it and there’s a focus on the civilians, but there’s something about the execution that really draws me.
I like that there’s not a lot—aside from the fact that Yuki’s outfit is really, really stupid, the other female characters are all competent and interesting and distinct from one another, and their outfits are practical, or at least practical for their jobs.
I like that while these are some fairly standard tropes, the writing handles them with relative restraint, like even when you do—there’s a terrorist bombing in episode four, the last one you watched. That’s the most out-there the series gets and I’ve seen worse and a lot of times it’s just these very quiet scenes of grief and loss and people thinking about it.
And it’s cheating a little bit, in that it sometimes feels like fanfiction? That thing that fanfiction does where everybody knows the baseline thing, so you can just kind of dial in on the character stuff you wanna explore, except it doesn’t always tell us the baseline thing. I feel like—Dee, you kept asking me while you were watching it: “What are they fighting over again?”
DEE: I was like, “Did I…? I know I watched some of the early episodes kind of tired, so maybe I just missed it.”
PETER: [sarcastic] Vrai, come on. It’s resources, weren’t you’re paying attention, is the reason.
VRAI: Yeah no, I get it, War Bad, war over resources. And I don’t know, I’m just, I’m weirdly charmed by the fact that its opening is a lie, like it—
DEE: The opening theme, yeah.
VRAI: It reverse-fridges the plucky hot-blooded male love interest in episode two, and ever since then it’s gone on to compound how incredibly inaccurate its opening theme imagery is. And I find that kind of delightful in addition with the fact that it looks pretty…And I like these characters well enough and I sort of admire the way it goes out of its way to avoid melodrama, and I feel like as dumb child protagonists go, Yuki is by far the least annoying that I’ve seen in a while.
PETER: Yeah, she’s good. Actually, I really like Yuki as well. I was really surprised that he was dead, actually, ’cause you see him still in a bed. So I’m just like, “Is this death or coma? I have no idea, I’m gonna assume it’s coma…”
VRAI: No, he is super dead, my man!
PETER: Yeah, but then she visits his grave later I’m like, “Oh…he’s totally dead, wow.”
DEE: Yeah, yeah, they fridged him fast.
No, I think the point where I finally went, “I just don’t think I can keep watching this” was the end of episode four where it was like all of the adults are very… Are terribly disappointed that the 12-year-old made a naive choice when they hadn’t even really bothered to keep her posted on what was going on in the war, and how things were going.
PETER: Thank you, Dee.
DEE: And I felt like they wanted me to be angry at Yuki with them and I was like: “No, she’s twelve. Why did you put a 12-year-old in charge and then get upset when she made decisions that a good kid—not even like a shitty kid; like she made decisions that a good kid would make because they’re not thinking two steps ahead like you need to if you’re running a country or [are] a general in a war.”
PETER: Yeah, she’s even shown to be very intelligent, but usually she’s making decisions without all the information because they never gave her any fucking information. So yeah. Vrai, what you said that kind of contextualized it for me: I just hated all the adults in her kingdom. And then you’re just like, “Oh well, they’re kind of like Zeon… Or at least how Zeon originally was before they showed the both-sides thing in Gundam Wars. Like, oh, they’re the bad guys, it’s like, yes, they are, they’re totally the bad guys.
DEE: And that’s my thing. I think if the show does that—if the show commits to “Oh no, this empire is actually hoarding resources, and they kind of suck,” and Yuki starts to realize that, I think it could be a really good show and I would absolutely come back to it. I’m not 100% sure that’s what it’s trying to do.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I suspect it—
DEE: I think they might be trying to criticize Yuki for being a naive child and I don’t think that’s cool. So…
VRAI: Yeah, I think they are going towards a good place but also there’s still… they’re not free of that burden. ‘Cause at the end of the most recent episode they sort of… She tries to give herself up to the empire, and they say, “Yeah, we’ll totally do that!” And then they shut her off on an evacuation ship to the hinterlands. So yeah, so that’s where we’re at.
PETER: That’s what I can’t stand about the series. They’re like saying you have to lead, and you can’t turn away from this. While all simultaneously denying her information and disobeying her orders whenever it’s convenient to them. So she’s not actually in charge and she doesn’t have the information to make decisions, but randomly, they let her make decisions and it turns out about 50/50 because I don’t know what their rhyme or reason for doing anything is, and I think it just sucks either way.
Like, you should have either not let her be in charge because she’s fucking twelve, or you should let her be in charge, and when she makes an important decision to actually follow it, because you’ve committed to letting this person be your leader. And that’s what I hate about the series.
VRAI: Yeah, if they are in fact moving towards “these are the antagonists,” fine, whatever. I feel like they have certainly poured a lot of time into Stella and her unit, and that stuff on the ground.
DEE: I liked the episode with them. I was ready to drop the show and then we got the episode with Stella and I was like, “Oh I like this team. Can we follow this team?” And then we immediately went back to Yuki and I… And then I started to have the issues I just mentioned
VRAI: Yeah, I do want to know with…the show definitely did an Evangelion pull with Stella and the pink-haired girl and I wanna know: is it telling me that they’re girlfriends or that they’re secretly related? It could go either way.
PETER: I don’t think they’re related. ‘Cause we already have her—know her secret relation, which probably won’t end well for anybody knowing these types of series.
Yeah, I think the promise is just more tragedy, too. So it’s hard for me to get enthusiastic about what could possibly develop from all this. I’m still watching it, but it’s done some stuff that’s really bothered me and it’s really trying to make everything so fucking sad all the time.
DEE: That was my other concern, is it was… Yeah, my other concern was it was gonna kinda spin out into tragedy porn.
VRAI: Yeah, there’s still room for it to do that.
DEE: Like very restrained tragedy porn, but I… So yeah, that’s why I sort of halfway dropped it, but I’m glad you’re both watching it because I think there’s a lot of potential here and if it fulfills that potential I will go back to it. Absolutely. So I’m curious to hear what y’all think at the end of the season.
VRAI: I think right now all of the pieces are in place; it’s just a matter of where to put them and how to tie that conclusion together well.
DEE: Okay, we’re running long somehow—I thought we were doing good—but this is the last one on our list. We will skip sequels and carry-overs for this one, but we’ll do them in the series retrospective. So the last show on the list—I mean, we could do like a lightning round if there’s something you really wanna shout about, Peter.
PETER: There is.
DEE: Okay, we’ll tag on a lightning round then. I mean, you’re the one who has to edit it. So if we go long… That’s on you.
PETER: I’ll make the sacrifice.
DEE: So the last of new shows on our list is The Magnificent Kotobuki. We were all watching this one. I didn’t know you were keeping up with this one, Peter.
PETER: I am, I’m—the stationary bicycle has given me superpowers and I’m keeping up with so many shows that I need to find new shows to watch.
DEE: Well, you’re welcome.
PETER: Thank you.
DEE: The… I enjoy the show a lot. It is a little exhausting at times, but just because it’s very rapid-fire. It almost has the feel, of like—I said this in my three-episode review too—the feel of like a manzai comedy routine in terms of being just super fast-paced as far as the dialogue back-and-forth goes. But I enjoy the characters. I think the aerial battles continue to be really technically impressive. It’s—I don’t have a ton of deep thoughts about it. I just have a good time with it every week
VRAI: I find it kind of exhausting.
DEE: Well, yeah, I did mention that.
VRAI: No, you’re right. And I feel like when it’s on, it’s really on. And then there are some episodes where I’m just like, “I’m not keyed in to what you’re doing, so it’s just a bunch of stuff happening at me really fast and I don’t…. care.”
DEE: I wish I could watch it dubbed or on maybe like half—point-five-speed—a little bit slower, so I could…
DEE: Because… Yeah, because it’s really rapid-fire.
PETER: Oh, because they talk so fast.
DEE: Yeah, yeah, the dialogue is very rapid-fire and I think the dialogue is really fun. I like Yokote’s—I like the kind of wit she brings to her scripts, but it’s hard to soak it in at times, because it is coming at you like the rat-a-tat of their guns.
VRAI: I really liked episode four.
DEE: [crosstalk] So, Vrai it sounds like you’re not into it at all.
VRAI: I think it’s fine. I really liked episode four, it kind of reminded me a Princess Principal to be honest. And then, episode five—
DEE: Which one was episode four again?
VRAI: That was the “steal the painting” one.
DEE: Yeah, yeah, that one was really good. That one took a little bit more time to breathe, I think.
VRAI: Yeah, and I think it really succeeded for it. And then all the other episodes have been like… I like elements of this, I like some of the ideas they’re going with. I really like uh… Julie is her name? The woman who’s perpetually tired.
DEE: The politician, right? Are you talking about the politician?
DEE: Yeah, she’s very annoyed. But also a boss.
VRAI: Yeah. And I don’t dislike any of the girls, it’s just that I feel like every episode the show has a thing that it wants to do, and then if you’re onboard with the premise, then that is great and you are gonna have a great time, and if it misses you or you’re not clicking with what they’re doing then it’s just…
The aerial stuff I think by necessity is a little bit less flashy as the show’s gone on because they have to conserve resources and all of that. Which is fine, but it means that I have more time to think about the writing, which I think is weaker than the visuals on this particular show. So sometimes it just seems like I’m strapped in for something that’s just okay, but I also can’t look away from it to play with my phone, so… it’s a lot of things all at once.
PETER: I might lean more toward Vrai on this one. Actually that’s a really good example, because I… The set-up to the infiltration episode, the one where it was just the guys showing up and saying, “Hey, we’ll trade the Raiden for this painting,” and then they get into this big town defense thing, I was just so bored for that entire episode.
Then the next one, they infiltrate the guy’s base and they meet the girl painter and they do some fun stuff and they show that, like, rest stop in the middle of nowhere, and that girl’s in the back of the plane and the… she does somersaults to throw around when she’s annoyed with her. I felt like all these things were funny or interesting things.
It’s just the show’s super hit or miss for me, and I don’t really know what it’s trying to be? Cause yeah, Princess Principal was the thing, or Release the Spyce. I was wondering if it was trying to be one of those types of shows. But a lot of the time, they’re just being very reactionary or listless even, and I’m not always on track for what the show’s really trying to accomplish.
Especially because with both of the other shows in that example, I think they are trying to go for this strong kind of thematic visual style. Princess Principal was trying really hard to be steampunk and it had the visual chops to pull that out; but this show, I don’t know, the character designs and the CG kind of don’t mix.
I feel like the world could look really interesting, but I don’t know if they have the resources to make it look interesting. And if you set a world up in this Ghibli-esque world of planes, Porco Rosso-type deal, I feel like you’re wanting to make it look good, but if you can’t do that, then it just feels very barren. So I feel very differently about the show depending upon what’s going on. But I think most of the time I’m just kind of okay on it.
VRAI: Yeah, there has yet to be an episode that I have disliked, there just are a couple where I got a little fidgety but I had to look at it because everything happened so fast. And sometimes there is a good joke or a really cool flying maneuver and you don’t wanna have missed that one because you looked away for a minute.
DEE: Mmm. I loved the whole thing in episode three with Elite Industries being like “We’re a corporation, we’re not pirates!” It was such a good running joke about, like there’s actually not that much of a difference between an exploitative corporation and a criminal organization. I thought it was kind of brilliant.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That was sly, I liked that.
DEE: They had a song, but… But I don’t know. Mizushima’s an interesting director and that style of rapid-fire may have also been something he wanted to do with this particular show. I don’t know, I have nothing else to add… I’m out of words.
PETER: Your mileage may vary.
VRAI: I am glad that you were at a good time with it, genuinely.
DEE: I like it. Remember Peter when you were like, Girly Air Force is all about how planes are cool. That’s how I feel about Magnificent Kotobuki.
PETER: I was thinking about Kotobuki when I was saying that, to be honest.
DEE: I’m very fond of the old-fashioned like World War One-era aerial battle type stuff. And so having an anime that is playing with that and has characters who—I wish they had more development, but I find them all fun. [exaggerated sad voice] Okay, well it’s too bad you guys aren’t liking it as much, but that’s fine.
VRAI: [laughing] I just got majorly dunked on for Price of Smiles, we’re both okay. Sorry, sequels, sequels.
DEE: That’s true, that’s true.
PETER: Spread evenly.
DEE: We’re actually more split on these than I thought we would be. Which is interesting. It makes for better podcasting, right? That’s how that works.
PETER: Hope so.
DEE: Okay, so there was something in this sequels/carry-over/shorts category that you wanted to touch on, Peter?
PETER: I just wanted to say the best rom-com of the past five years, Black Clover, is back with a new dating episode, which was very good.
DEE: [chuckles] Okay, good to know. I also think we are both on the same page that Mob Psycho 100 is very good this season.
PETER: Yeah, amazing. It’s a bit darker than I thought it would be, which I kind of missed the light-hearted-ness, but it’s doing it.
DEE: I thought the first season was kind of mean-spirited at times. So I think the second season is… I think by the second half of the first season it had settled into what it wanted to be, which was a story with a kinder undercurrent to it, and I think season two is following through on that more. But yeah, it’s definitely gone some intense places along the way and it looks beautiful, and it’s been really good.
PETER: Extremely very good.
DEE: So, only some fat jokes, in the second—I didn’t like the second episode very much. It leaned back into that kind of main-spirited tone that some of the early stuff had, I think, with sort of some fat jokes about the exorcist they met up with.
PETER: [crosstalk] The other psychic guy.
DEE: Yeah, but otherwise it’s been… the season has been excellent. I was a little bit lukewarm about season one, and I’m very up on this one.
PETER: Oh, I didn’t know that.
DEE: I did wanna call that one out as well. Okay, I think that’s it. I think we are done here.
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