Dee, Vrai, and Peter look back on the Winter 2019 season! The gang talks stellar sequels, flawed adaptations, messy originals, and pleasant otome surprises.
Date Recorded: Saturday 6th April 2019
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Peter
0:01:16 Bottom chunk
0:02:13 Meiji Tokyo Renka
0:05:16 Magical Girl Spec-ops Asuka
0:10:13 My Roommate is a Cat
0:14:39 Kaguya-sama: Love is War
0:22:14 The Promised Neverland
0:30:54 Grimms Notes the Animation
0:41:46 Boogiepop and Others
0:44:50 The Price of Smiles
0:50:10 The Magnificent Kotobuki
0:54:25 Black Clover
0:54:56 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
0:55:11 Sword Art Online: Alicization
0:55:31 That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime
0:56:17 Run With the Wind
1:04:59 Mob Psycho 100 II
- The Promised Neverland Episode #08 Review
- Emma’s Choice: The gender-norm nightmare at the heart of The Promised Neverland
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 Vrai and Peter.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai. If you check out my pinned thread, I freelance all over the internet. Or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an associate producer at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
DEE: So, today we are talking about the winter 2019 shows. It’s our retrospective podcast, going back over all the titles we watched and our thoughts on them. Obviously, there’s a lot to cover—there always is—so we’ll try to just jump right into it. We’ll move from the bottom of our premiere review list up, and we’ll go quickly through the bottom stuff because not as many folks on the team are watching those.
Peter, I know you keep up with basically everything. Was there anything in that bottom chunk that you’re watching that none of us are that is worth a shoutout?
PETER: I don’t know if there’s anything to see. Girly Air Force had a really weird ending. I think they watched the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Langoliers.
VRAI: Ha! [laughs heartily]
DEE: Well, Vrai got that reference. [chuckles]
PETER: Yeah. But I don’t know if that’s really worth discussing.
VRAI: [amused] That’s almost worth going to look at. Oh my God. That’s amazing.
PETER: It’s weird. Yeah. Quintuplets pretty much went as I predicted. Wataten! maintained the course. Yeah, I think pretty much everything is what we have said it was already.
DEE: That tracks. Okay, cool, then we can continue forward from there. This one is so far down the list—which is wild to me, but it was because the first episode just had so many handsy boys—and it’s Meiji Tokyo Renka. And I don’t have a ton to add after the midway point on this one.
Like I said there, it got a lot better. It became more about Mei figuring herself out and the person that she actually was when she wasn’t being socially anxious about the fact that she could see ghosts. And she finds a group of people who really appreciate and respect her. And I do not for the life of me really see what she saw in the guy she ended up with, but she was happy.
The show was very focused on what Mei wanted and what Mei needed, and that made it really nice. She was a fun character all the way through.
There’s some nice little one-off ghost stories or just episodes where the characters hang out. There’s an electricity rap that is glorious. And I don’t want to spoil the ending for folks, but I really liked what they did with it. It’s not officially an isekai because she goes back in time, not to an alternate world, but—
PETER: Well, that counts.
DEE: Eh… debatable. I don’t really want to get into a semantic argument about what an isekai is. But it’s very much chomping the flavor of the ‘90s shoujo isekai in terms of a coming-of-age story where somebody goes to another world to mature and find their confidence and their sense of agency and all that good stuff.
So, I ended up really— Again, a lot of the romantic stuff didn’t really click for me, but I liked Mei’s friendship arcs with the guys. There’s a little bit of lowkey ableism that I should warn folks about in the last half. It’s not bad; it’s just a little insensitively handled.
But overall, it was a really nice show. I liked it a lot, and I was, again, very pleasantly surprised with the direction they went for the last episode, so I was kind of applauding by the end. It was good.
VRAI: That’s nice.
PETER: She could see ghosts?
DEE: Yeah. That was the whole thing from day one. She didn’t think it was weird, and then she had some friends over and she was like, “These are my other friends, ghosts,” and they were all like, “Oh, you’re the weird kid.” And she ended up becoming a social outcast because of that. And so, the series is her working through that a little bit.
PETER: Wow. A lot more going on than I thought. Okay.
DEE: Yeah. Again, it was a surprisingly delightful show. The director had a really good sense of comedic timing. I should have looked up the name before I started this. But I hope they do some more comedy-focused stuff, because to me those were some of the best elements of the show: its goofy sense of humor.
Yeah, it was nice. I would recommend it, just with a few very, very minor caveats and would easily bump it up out of the Yellow Flags into maybe “It’s Complicated.” Somewhere like that. There’s a lot of good stuff in here.
Moving from a show that pleasantly surprised me to a show that unpleasantly disappointed me, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. I dropped it like a hot potato during the… how do I want to describe this? Psycho lesbian torture porn scene? Does that cover it, Peter? [pained laughter]
PETER: Yeah, that’s a pretty good descriptor.
DEE: Yeah, I didn’t even get through the whole thing. I got 60 seconds in, went “Oh, they’re not going to cut away,” and said “I’m done with this show. I don’t— This is— No, can’t deal.”
VRAI: Yeah, I immediately fell behind with everything after we recorded the midseason, and then I was going to go back to Asuka, and, Dee, you told me like, “Uh, so by the way, yandere still gonna yandere,” and I’m like, “Oh. I’m just gonna save myself that effort.”
DEE: Yeah, it was gross.
PETER: The last episode was probably the worst, so…
DEE: [deadpan] Oh, excellent. So, it didn’t even… That’s so nice. So, yeah, I think that one was a bummer because we all felt like even though there was definitely some bad things about it, there was also some really good stuff. It kinda had a torture fetish, and… no. I’m not gonna do that, so…
PETER: Yeah, literally take out the torture, I probably would’ve been pretty fine with the series past a few weird things with Kurumi. But then they had, what, three torture scenes?
VRAI: [crosstalk] Three really extensive…
DEE: I dropped it at number two. Yeah! Really just rolled around in that unpleasantness.
Peter, the next three… Okay, you did keep up with Endro. I know at the midseason you said there was some nice stuff about it. Where did you fall by the end of it?
PETER: Well, actually, it slipped my mind… I don’t know why it did, but there’s probably something bad I should say about it. The show is getting a lot of praise, and it’s one of those things that I notice where somebody will really talk about how good a show’s representation is but they will not add any caveats. And usually I am watching the show and I’m like, “Maybe before recommending this show, you should mention the fact that there’s a pedophile in it, because you said it’s so inclusive and has good representation of LGBT people.” There’s a lesbian pedophile in that show.
VRAI: Why is that a thing now? I know why it’s a thing now. We don’t have time for that today.
PETER: Yeah, Demon Lord is brought back as a tiny girl who becomes their teacher, which in itself is… I mean, it’s kind of weird, but there’s no problem with it, but then one of her coworkers very apparently wants to have relations with her. There’s this joke where she says the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet, and it’s really creepy, and I thought they were done with the character but then they brought her back pretty much right after the midseason podcast.
The rest of the show is pretty fluffy and inoffensive. It’s got that okay scene that it never follows up on in regards to the princess loving the hero. It never follows up on it. Sorry. That was it. I mean, she remains obsessed with the hero. The hero remains oblivious. It gets uncomfortable.
She actually almost engineers the rise of the Demon Lord so that she can have the hero rescue her, in effect giving the Demon Lord weapons and putting the world in danger just so she can watch Yusha save her. Which came across to me like she almost accidentally destroyed the world because she was so obsessed with seeing Yusha beat some people up, I guess.
DEE: Yeah, that doesn’t seem super healthy.
PETER: Yeah, not great. And then there’s the pedophile, of course.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeesh.
PETER: I think that she’s in episode two or three briefly. If that doesn’t bother you, I think there’s maybe five or six very short occurrences of her.
DEE: So, she’s not a major character. She’s just that nails-on-chalkboard…
PETER: Not a main character, no.
VRAI: [crosstalk] This is not a Dragon Maid situation?
PETER: She appears from time to time. I wouldn’t call… God, what was her name, even?
PETER: Yeah. She didn’t appear too often. I’d say that character appears less than Lucoa. But she definitely exists, so if that’s a dealbreaker, the deal is broken.
DEE: Yeah. And that’s good to let folks know about, for sure, because, like you said, sometimes that can get swept under the rug when it’s definitely important for a lot of folks. We need a shorthand for that: that one character in the comedy anime that almost ruins it. Because I’m watching Azumanga Daioh for the first time right now, and boy-howdy, that sexual predator teacher sure is nails on chalkboard every time he shows up in an otherwise very fun and silly comedy.
VRAI: Yep, Azumanga’s definitely one of my favorites, and mmm, boy.
DEE: And there’s a lot of anime comedies like that. Squid Girl had a similar problem.
VRAI: This very show, we’ll be doing it again. [chuckles]
DEE: Yeah. So, we need a shorthand for that; some term. We’ll have to come up with something clever.
But while we stew on that, I will skip Domestic Girlfriend and Pastel Memories because none of us kept up with those, and I will go to one that we all three watched: My Roommate Is a Cat.
VRAI: Anime of the season!
DEE: [laughs] I’m not sure I would award it that… Hmm. It was really good. I stopped myself.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s been a bad season. [chuckles]
DEE: Okay, I wouldn’t because of sequels, which we’ll get to eventually.
VRAI: Yeah, fair. I’m not watching any of those.
DEE: Yeah. But no, My Roommate Is a Cat was delightful all the way through. The other thing I love about it is—especially just now coming off of Endro and talking about these sweet comedies that you want to recommend to folks, but it’s like “Oh, but then there’s this thing!”—I don’t feel like there’s any caveats to this one that are like… I mean, obviously, there’s stuff like—we talked about this at the midseason—if you can’t handle animal death at all or stories about social anxiety at all, that’s understandable.
But as far as actively harmful things in a series like a pedophile character or whatever, I don’t have to worry about this. I could throw this at people who aren’t that into anime and be like, “Do you like cats? Do you like shows about cats? You will enjoy this.” It is sweet and nice, and the main character has a nice little arc. It’s about building a family, and it’s just good.
VRAI: It’s really nice. Again, I think my opinion on this season as a whole is: I finally got around to watching Laid-Back Camp and that was really good. But this was such a nice show and it warmed my heart and it just built on itself really appealingly every week. Like you said, it’s so common for comedy series to hit a dip somewhere in the middle, but this was just nice all the way through. It’s definitely my pick of the new IP that is not a carryover.
DEE: Yeah. And, again, I like that there really aren’t… there’s a couple of minor content warnings, but there’s no real caveats to it. It doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in its body. It’s a very sweet show about a social recluse and his cat and how they help each other grow.
VRAI: It’s just nice! It’s just nice.
DEE: Any thoughts to add to that, Peter?
PETER: I think you two pretty much covered it.
DEE: Yeah. It’s not a super complex show, so there’s not a ton to really dig into, but it was good. Again, it’s always a relief when I can—
PETER: [crosstalk] Cat makes boy happy.
DEE: [chuckles] And boy makes cat happy! It’s a love story. And again, it’s always such a relief to have shows like that, because there’s a lot of stuff I love and I still have to asterisk it, and this one, I’m like, “I don’t have to! That’s nice!” So, hooray!
So, next one on the list is Kemurikusa. None of us watched it. My roommate did. He really liked it, but then when I asked him, “Do you think I would like it?” he goes, “I don’t know!” So, I don’t—
PETER: Yeah, it’s weird.
DEE: Oh, did you end up keeping up with it, Peter?
PETER: I watched the first four episodes. It’s very weird. It’s got some Girls’ Last Tour vibes, but it’s in that really janky, almost… You know how Kemono Friends was—well, I don’t know if you do… The CG was so janky that it was almost charming, like the people were aware how weird the CG looked and kind of leaned into it. It’s got that feel. Kind of a post-apocalypse thing.
DEE: Well, it’s the same studio and director, so that tracks.
PETER: Oh, yeah, very similar. So, if you liked Girls’ Last Tour and don’t mind some really wonky CG, then Kemurikusa is pretty good. I, at least, didn’t see any problems with it. It was pretty funny.
DEE: I might have to go back to it, then, because I really enjoyed Girls’ Last Tour. So, maybe that’s one I’ll try. Spring is looking to be possibly busy, so maybe not. But, folks, if you did watch it and you would recommend it, let us know in the comments, for sure.
VRAI: Certainly, it wasn’t a show I wanted to keep up with, but I was sort of impressed by how endearingly weird the premiere was.
DEE: Yeah, same here. Truthfully, it’s just kind of a pain to watch anime on Amazon. [chuckles] So, that was one of the reasons I ended up falling behind on it.
VRAI: It’s on Crunchyroll.
DEE: Kemurikusa is not. It was a Prime show.
VRAI: Oh, oh, right! Right. Sorry.
PETER: Maybe you’re thinking Kotobuki?
DEE: Yeah. Anyway… So, maybe we’ll check that one out at some point. Next one on the list—I believe we all more or less watched through the end—Kaguya-sama: Love Is War.
VRAI: [breathily] Yeah.
DEE: [chuckles] That was a sigh! Did you end up finishing it, Vrai? I know you were a little bit behind.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I did. I did. I finished it.
DEE: Okay, cool.
VRAI: And I liked it. I feel like, honestly, Yamada’s First Time has set a really high bar for me as far as straight high school romcoms, because I kept thinking about it in the back of my mind as I was watching the back half of Kaguya. I really like that central relationship. I like that these are two dumb, cute kids. And Chika’s still great. She’s MVP.
DEE: Chika’s the best.
VRAI: And Shirogane’s sister is pretty good, too. But honestly, there were so many moments when it dipped into being mean that I didn’t like. I didn’t like that all the way through the end, it yo-yo’d back and forth between emphasizing the importance that Chika is Kaguya’s first friend and she really values her, but then she drops her at the drop of a hat in case anything about Shirogane comes up. I didn’t like anything about… what’s-his-fuck, Ishigami?
DEE: Ishigami, yeah.
VRAI: Oh my God. It was bad enough when I thought, “All right, this joke about him being terrified of Kaguya already feels played.” And then he became like an incel character, and I’m like, “Oh, I hate this!”
And I feel like the narration lost its grip a little bit in the back half, whereas in the first half, it’s so effectively arch that there’s a clean separation between “These are the societal things these characters buy into” and “This is the show saying that they’re being ridiculous about it.” And in the back half, I feel like the heteronormativity got stronger, and I feel like it muddied those waters a little bit, especially when it seemed to be sincerely on Shirogane’s side, at least a little bit, about “Wow, it was so noble of him to not molest her while she was sick!” [annoyed] Mmm!
DEE: Yeah. That arc was very uncomfortable. Handled a lot better than I thought it would be, to be honest, because the bar for these things is very low. But the whole way through, I was really uncomfortable with that and this idea that that’s worth applause. No, that’s basic human decency.
VRAI: Mm-hm. And I feel like it recovered from that a little bit when Shirogane has that internal monologue of “No, I wanted to be close to her. It’s not that I was cruelly forced into this. I could have gotten out of it, but I didn’t.” And that warmed me back up to it a little bit, but it was still… Yeah.
So, I kept going all the way through, and I think I’d recommend it as a problematic fave because the sketches that are on are so on, and I do think that they’re cute. It’s a cute first-love story.
But also, I was really annoyed that— I get that you can’t have it end in a love confession because of the series’ hook, but it felt like they should have had more of a breakthrough, you know? I ended up feeling unsatisfied with that last scene.
PETER: Yeah, I thought the best breakthrough was at the midway point with her dissing that French-speaking girl.
VRAI: I mean, I really liked the fireworks thing, but then it kind of trails off from that and… Meh.
PETER: I know what you mean. I think it had a lot of funny things that it went too far with. I thought a lot of the early stuff with Kaguya being very ignorant was funny, but at the end I was starting to feel like they were just infantilizing her, which was not comfortable given the premise.
VRAI: I mean, I thought that the wiener sketch was funny because it was finally what I wanted, which was her and Chika hanging out and being dumb teens.
PETER: Yeah. I think that one was one of the earliest. That one and the one where she didn’t know what sex was were funny, but then it kept that up.
PETER: We’re coming down pretty hard on Kaguya.
DEE: So, I was at a point in that back half… I could probably put a chart together that would show Ishigami’s involvement and my interest and my like of the show because, boy, he just brought the whole mood down. Like Vrai said, I found everything with him very mean-spirited. And it never felt like the show was endorsing him. He’s kind of there to be crapped on, but again, it just felt mean. Everything with him just kind of felt mean.
But then the last two episodes were so good. Kaguya figuring out how to use Twitter was so good. Chika going to the ramen shop and earning the respect of these grizzled old ramen experts was so good. The fireworks show was wonderful. It kind of won me back over again in the last two episodes, so I ended the show much happier with it than I was worried that I was going to be.
I also really like how the finale leaned more into… It’s not just that Kaguya has this boy she really likes; it’s also that she’s developed this friend group that she’s never really had before and she can go out and do things with them. And I liked that it wound up being a group event. There’s still some really cute romantic moments in it, but it’s also about “I want to watch the fireworks with everybody, not just the guy I like.”
PETER: Yeah, I liked the first sketch with Ishigami, with him being afraid of Kaguya, because the thing is both of them have dead killer eyes, I think is pretty established. But then after that, literally the next sketch is just like, “Oh, but he totally sucks, so I guess we just have to deal with him.” He’s not a good addition.
VRAI: I hope this never gets a second season because there were certain background scenes that hit me in that “I’ve watched a lot of anime” way where my blood ran cold and I was like, “Oh, if this keeps going, they’re going to try and pair off Chika and Ishigami. Please never do this. Never saddle that good girl with this horrible garbage boy.”
DEE: Yeah, I hope that doesn’t happen. The manga is ongoing, so it is totally possible that they could do a season two at some point. I don’t know how successful it was, but it seemed like most of my Twitter feed was watching, but that doesn’t mean anything. [chuckles]
PETER: It does not. [chuckles]
DEE: I’m a bubble in a bubble, so…
PETER: It did, I think, okay. Okay to good.
VRAI: About as well as everything that’s not a long-running shounen or an isekai does?
PETER: Top-ten list is pretty easy to set—just what’s in Shonen JUMP.
DEE: Yep. [chuckles] Anyway, so, we’re a little hot and cold on Kaguya-sama. Definitely one that you have to go in with, again, some of those caveats and asterisks that I was lamenting earlier, but when it’s good, it’s so good.
VRAI: Like the fact that it has one of the best openings of the season and it’s sung by a guy who’s done blackface. It’s just full of things like that.
DEE: Ugh, yeah. Yeah. Moving on to another hot and cold one, I would say: The Promised Neverland anime adaptation.
DEE: Peter, I know you and I both watched it through to the end. Folks at home, if you weren’t here for the midseason, all three of us have read the manga to some extent. I think Vrai and I are up to speed on the paperbacks, and Peter, I think you’re caught up on the Weekly Shonen JUMP digital releases, yeah?
PETER: Yeah, in the manga.
DEE: Yeah. So, we knew everything that was going to happen in this first season going in, basically. And I think we had a wide variety of reactions to the adaptation.
VRAI: I dropped it after Krone’s arc. I couldn’t. All the joy went out of my body. I feel like it’s a good enough series, and I’m really glad people are enjoying it because it’s a good series that deserves attention, and maybe it’ll lead them to the manga. [Assumes a coaxing tone] Huh? Huh? [Returns to normal voice]
But honestly, I was just so constantly deflated by all the little adaptational choices that it made that I feel like undermined what makes the manga so special to me. And I kept getting smacked with that as I was watching to a degree that I couldn’t enjoy what the adaptation was doing well anymore, which there are things it does well. But it just felt like it fell into that uncanny valley of a pretty good anime but just not a good adaptation.
DEE: What specifically did you feel like it was missing, for folks at home who maybe watched the anime and haven’t read the manga or something like that?
VRAI: Oh, ah, right. I feel like we should link Jet’s really, really good breakdown/postmortem of Krone’s arc that he did after the episode with her death, because I feel like that really hits at a lot of it, and I’m just going to be parroting some of it. But I think that the metaphor in the anime leans too hard on the “This is about animal cruelty, animal production, meat farms,” whereas the manga… and your article touched on this ages ago. It’s our featured post right now.
VRAI: Yay! The manga is this really cutting commentary on the Japanese school system, and also the fact that its female characters specifically are pushed into competition with each other when, if they could only form these bonds of community, then they could overcome this system that’s separating and oppressing them. And I feel like that gets lost.
As the show went on, I really started to hate the removal of the internal monologue more and more. I get the adaptational choice and why it feels cleaner that way, but this is a show that’s so much about people’s internal lives that I feel like it eventually became very clear that you can’t do without, at least for me.
And then, that really came to a head with all the damn doll stuff with Krone that I hated and then the cutting down of her flashback before she died, which just wrecked me in the manga. That whole sequence of her big last stand and getting screwed over again and then her final flashback is so amazing.
DEE: Yeah, there are a lot of really important key lines in the manga that get cut from the anime that… Like you said, I think my biggest criticism of the show is that I’m not sure the folks working on the anime got what the manga was doing as far as commentary and criticism. And so, Krone’s final scene was probably the lowest point for me.
I will say, I thought it got a lot better after that. I felt like the adaptation did a really good job hitting the big emotional beats in the back half of the series. And by the end of it, I was much happier with it than I was during pretty much everything with Krone.
VRAI: I mean, that’s a low point in the manga, too, in so many ways which we discussed in the midseason. [Hums hesitantly, as if restraining a thought] Yeah. But I don’t know. I’m glad it’s doing better, and I want it to because I’m sure there are a lot of people for whom the anime is just more accessible for a variety of reasons, so I want it to be accessible. But I just don’t know if I’ll go back to it.
DEE: Yeah. Well, I know the folks on staff who hadn’t read the manga and watched the anime thought it was really, really good; were very impressed. And Lauren even said, “I went out and bought the manga!” So, it definitely caught both her and Chiaki’s eyes.
VRAI: Yeah, I think Chiaki was considering picking up the manga, too, so that’s ideal.
PETER: I’ve heard so many people say they’re starting the manga now. I always advise, start from the beginning.
DEE: Oh, absolutely, especially because of some of these small but significant cuts that built on each other in the anime. Some of the things that I find so impressive about the manga got lost in the adaptation shuffle.
PETER: Yeah, I kind of feel the same. Everybody’s really praising the direction, but I feel like they made a bunch of really poor decisions in regards to the series. Also, even visually, I don’t know why the house was CG. How many times did we see the house from the same angle? Why not just draw it? Because I feel like, using color, they could have given the house a bunch of different moods. You know what I mean?
PETER: The house could have looked bright and happy in the beginning and seemed more and more imposing and like a prison later on, depending upon the way they’ve illustrated. I’ve seen this done a lot. But when it’s CG, you just can’t add that kind of emotional context to the building. It looks very flat, right? So, I don’t know… There was no reason to make it CG that I can determine. I don’t know why I’m sticking on this house, but… [chuckles]
PETER: It seemed like a really weird decision. It seemed like we saw it from three angles and they could have easily had a background artist just draw it in a variety of lightings and really done a lot with that. But they didn’t. I’m sure there was a good reason.
Also, that directing style will not work for the series going forward. And they have announced a season two, so I guess we’ll see where they go next with it or if they try to maintain the course.
DEE: Yeah, the tone of the series changes a bit after the escape.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s a much more horror-fantasy series after the escape, so that’ll be a marked change.
PETER: Yep. That’s also when Emma starts hunting animals to feed herself, so I think all the ones saying it’s advocating not eating meat are going to have an issue with [it]. That’s probably when they’ll drop off.
DEE: Yeah, I’ve never cared for that interpretation. I think it is kind of reductive and surface level and misses some of the broader connotations of the way the characters, especially the female characters, are pushed into continuing to perpetuate this system. And to me, that is so much more interesting. But again, we have articles. We’ll link them in the show notes for folks to check out. They’re now spoiler free if you’ve caught up with the anime.
VRAI: The greatest sin of the anime adaptation is that it did not include that adorable omake where Krone and Isabella just sit down and have a nice lunch.
DEE: Aw, yeah. I love that one.
VRAI: It’s the best.
PETER: Or the one where Isabella tries to cut off Emma’s antenna.
VRAI: Oh, no.
PETER: And she keeps dodging her scissors.
DEE: Yes. The omake are very cute, and coming in between all of the horror elements and tension, it’s just an interesting tonal shift. Read the manga, we continue to shout!
VRAI: Yeah. And I feel like people who were maybe a little disappointed that Emma is the main heroic female character of the first season will be pleasantly surprised, with at least as far as I’ve read in the manga, going forward. There are more good female characters.
DEE: Yeah. Okay, so yeah, there’s The Promised Neverland. I don’t think we really have much else to say there.
The next one on the list I finished, but I don’t want to talk about it. It’s Grimms Notes the Animation. It is a big ball of wasted potential that, at one point, you think maybe it knows what it’s doing… No. No, it doesn’t really have a plan. Just watch Princess Tutu, folks. They’re kind of engaging with the same general ideas, and Grimms Notes doesn’t even handle it “clumsily but well”—it just whiffs at the end. It’s a big nothing anime. That’s my thought. Peter, you finished that one, too, right?
DEE: Oh, you gave up?
PETER: It just became apparent that—yeah, same thing—it was not going to actually explore any of the ideas that it set up, and in fact, the ways it was engaging with them actually put me off. So I just got extremely bored.
DEE: Yeah, I think I gave it a little more leeway or chances than I should have, and then by the time I realized, “Oh no, I’m cheering for the bad guys!” there were only two episodes left, and I was like, “Ah, screw it. I might as well finish the damn thing.” So… [sighs]
VRAI: [chuckles] Yes, I relate to this experience.
PETER: It made me root for the villains, and not in the cute Pokemon way where I really want Team Rocket to succeed. It just did it in the Psycho Pass way where I want the whole system to be torn down.
DEE: Yeah. I think the series could have engaged with the idea of “This is a messed-up system, but there’s a better way to break it than manipulating people and hurting people.” But it didn’t even really try.
There’s one episode where it thinks it’s doing the thing, where it’s like “Don’t you think it’s terrible that these characters have to keep repeating these fates over and over again?” But then the main character goes and talks to the person in this arc—who is, by the way, Joan of Arc, who is not a fictional character, Grimms Notes! Not a fictional character, so in your fairytale story, this makes no sense!
VRAI: [crosstalk] But they did it, though.
DEE: So, that was bad. But then the protagonist goes to her, and she’s basically like, “It’s more important to me that I continue to fight this fight. Even if my ending is doomed, I still want to go through with it.” Which is fine, but there were so many stories prior to that where you saw characters who were not happy with the hands they’d been dealt and wanted to fight against them.
And so, for the series to use that one as their one being like, “Well, no, this system is fine because, look, she’s okay with this,” it was like, “Well, but not everybody you’ve shown us has been, so what are you trying to say?” Grimms Notes didn’t know what it wanted to say. I genuinely don’t even think it had a plan.
PETER: Wanted to say anything. Yeah.
DEE: No, I think it was vaguely aware that it was playing with some interesting ideas, but I don’t think it ever knew how it wanted to engage with that, so it was a big disappointment. And it kinda just made me want to watch Princess Tutu again. [chuckles] So…
VRAI: Always a good decision.
DEE: Yeah, usually. I need to buy the blu-ray that Sentai released recently so I can watch it in adorable and wonderful HD. Anyway, that’s Grimms Notes. Grumble grumble. I ended up griping about it even though I didn’t want to talk about it.
Next on the list is Dororo, which I know Vrai is watching. Peter, are you still keeping up with that one, too?
PETER: I’m very behind.
DEE: Okay. Well, Vrai, let us know about it.
VRAI: You know, honestly, it’s still my favorite of the season. And that’s saying a lot because it pissed me off! [chuckles]
VRAI: But no, I am a little bit behind. I haven’t watched episode 12 yet, but it’s a two-cour, so it’s going to keep…
DEE: Yeah, that’s fine. It’s ongoing. We can touch on it again later.
VRAI: But yeah, I really like it. I feel like the things it does well, that I talked about in the midseason, it’s still doing well. It’s really gorgeous. It has a lot of these very tenderly set-up metaphors.
It’s doing this thing that is a little adorably obvious but I kind of like where Hyakkimaru is getting quote-unquote “more human,” because it’s still got that ableist premise at heart. But also, as that is happening, he is becoming corrupt because he killed some people, so I like that disjunction. I feel like it is full of these things that are obvious but also very well painted, if that makes sense. l like the characters. I think it has made interesting adaptational choices.
[sighs] It pissed me off with Dororo, though. So, in episode nine, I think it is, we get Dororo’s backstory because he is very ill. He catches a cold, and they go to a nun to have him taken care of, and we get his whole backstory about how his parents were fighting against the samurai but they were betrayed, and so he’s all alone in the world, and Trauma, and I love my son.
VRAI: And then, at the very end of that episode, the woman who has been taking care of him turns to Hyakkimaru and gives a one-off line about “Oh, it must be so dangerous for you traveling with a young girl like this.”
And then, it follows up with, as they’re walking away and Dororo is feeling better, he gets really flustered and is like, “Oh, hey, my clothes got taken off. Hey, did she say anything to you?” And Hyakkimaru doesn’t say anything because, I think, in a really good change from the manga… in the manga, he was just always articulate and he couldn’t express it, but this is really working on [the idea that] he’s slowly gaining awareness of the world and learning these things one at a time, which I think is much better.
So, on the one hand, Sinclair August, who’s been a contributor for us, wrote this nice article about that episode, about how it’s kind of nice that it never out-and-out says anything. That question never gets answered and it hasn’t been brought up again, so it’s technically left the door open a smidge. And so, in a vacuum, I would want to say, well, this is nice because everyone continues to refer to the two of them as boys and brothers, and they never technically brought down the hammer because Hyakkimaru doesn’t say anything about it. He doesn’t seem to register any significance to those statements.
But kind of like the thing with Haruka, where everybody in a vacuum got really excited that “She has the heart of a woman and a man,” and in a vacuum I’m like, “Oh, that’s very exciting,” I’m familiar with the context these statements are coming from and they make me depressed. In Haruka’s case, it’s because there was this whole thing about “If we imply that butch lesbians are also men, it makes it heteronormative and therefore normalized,” whatever.
But in Dororo’s case, there’s this long history with AFAB characters who present masculine where people around them might not necessarily find out, but it’s tipped that the audience will be somehow privy to a private moment with that character where we learn about their genital configuration and this somehow completely changes what we know about them even if they don’t act differently and no one acts differently around them. It’s almost treated as “peeling back the curtain on a con,” which I really hate; and Lauren confirmed for me that, yeah, the Reddit’s already started referring to my son with she/her pronouns.
So, I feel like I want to give it praise for not hammering that door shut, but I feel like you can’t. We aren’t there yet in terms of trans representation in media. You need it to be handholdy. Like Wandering Son and Zombie Land Saga are super handholdy because there is so little normalized narrative shortcuts that people recognize for trans characters in the face of how many stories there have been about women in disguise, that are what people are going to assume this is.
DEE: Right, yeah. And in the manga, Dororo explicitly says, “No, I’m a boy,” at one point, right?
VRAI: Yeah, and we haven’t gotten to those bandit characters. They’re in the opening theme, so that scene could still happen, and I’d be willing to look a little more kindly on the series if it really doubles down on that in the second cour. But if it leaves it like this, I’m kind of pissed.
DEE: Yeah. No, I think that’s fair because, like you said, in the overall context of fiction and media and shorthand, it’s maybe more important to be really obvious and explicit about stuff like this than to let the audience—who probably a good chunk of would not necessarily go, “Oh, yeah, this is definitely a trans boy”—just assume, “Oh, it’s a secret girl!” Yeah, that’s unfortunate.
But I do hope that you get that moment, because it seems like they’ve been pretty good with the adaptation and the characters. And MAPPA, of all studios, if I’m going to trust somebody with a queer narrative at this point, they’ve kind of earned my trust there, so I would hope that they’ll give Dororo a moment later in the series to explicitly say, “No, I’m a boy.”
VRAI: Yeah, I feel like it says a lot about the series that I haven’t dropped it, because that’s pretty much my biggest dealbreaker. So, I don’t know, I think as much as I am enjoying it, maybe more than any other show I’ve watched this season, I’m going to hold back on recommending it until it’s done.
DEE: Yeah, I think that’s totally fair. I mean, we don’t typically do recommendations halfway through anyway. Yeah, keep watching, keep reporting. I might go back to it if I’m in the mood for something a little more grim.
Okay, so we’re entering our last stretch here before we do a little bit of sequel chatter. Peter, did you finish Boogiepop and Others?
DEE: Okay. Thoughts? Anything worth mentioning?
PETER: I’m not sure. The last arc was kind of weird. Throughout, there’s always these really good quotes that it has. The way people talk and the things they say and the way they describe things are always really interesting in Boogiepop, which is something I like, especially with… Oh, my God, is it Aoi Yuki doing Boogiepop’s voice?
DEE: I believe so, yeah.
PETER: Especially when she’s saying it. But the arcs are all pretty separate and they’re kind of a take-it-or-leave-it. I liked the first one and then… was it “Boogiepop and Others”? I think that was the actual arc. But then, the… Oh, God, I can’t remember what its name was. The arc we were at, last time we were talking—“Immortalizer” or something—and the last arc were like, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do.”
I don’t know if there’s much to say as far as things it did real good. It was a really interesting watch and very hit-or-miss in its story arcs.
DEE: Mm-hm. So, left you with some stuff to chew on, but you weren’t really sure what it was trying to say about those things? Does that summarize it?
PETER: I’m not sure if it was really trying to…
PETER: It’s got a lot of self-actualization talk in it. I guess that’s what it’s trying to say. They talk a lot about the nature of consciousness. The last arc, I think, was about coming to terms with the bad shit that’s happened to you. There was this guy that was bringing out your worst memories and trying to help people come to terms with them so that, he said, “their feelings can turn to gold” or something like that. That was his deal. But he was going about it in a really awful way. And that was why he was a bad guy, and they resolved that arc. It’s hard to describe.
DEE: Yeah, it sounds like it.
PETER: Yeah, it’s very dense course of events with a lot of explaining as to how these guys’ supernatural powers work. So, yeah, I don’t know. If you like the first arc, you’ll probably like the third arc, but I don’t know about the second and fourth. There are four arcs. I wish I had more to say.
DEE: [laughs] I was gonna say, that was glowing.
PETER: It did some cool visual stuff. Some cool visual stuff; cool dialogue.
DEE: That’s too bad. I knew there was some hype there. And it may just be one of those where the original novels were so heady that it might just not be a series that adapts very well to screen.
PETER: Yeah, very dense and dialogue-focused, so that’s a challenge for any anime.
DEE: That is often the case with some of those novel adaptations, too. Well, good to know.
Price of Smiles.
DEE: We had a fun conversation about that at the midseason, and it doesn’t sound like it went good places.
VRAI: This is my season’s Grimms Notes.
DEE: [laughs] Okay…
PETER: Did you finish, Vrai?
VRAI: [sighs] I so want to give this anime credit because I can see what it wanted to do. I can see the bones of the structure of… It wanted to have these two female characters and their different worldviews and bring them together at the very end in this common purpose, and I think that’s neat.
As somebody who has only seen Gundam 00 all the way through, a series with horrible gender politics, I kind of like that this was essentially Gundam but with much better female characters who get to do more stuff. I really liked Stella and Yuki and also Stella’s girlfriend whose name I can’t remember. They moved in together at the end.
VRAI: There were many things that I liked. I wanted these characters to be in a better show because, I think, partly because of time constraints—this is a quarter of the length of your average Gundam show—and partly because it would fall back a little too often… Immediately after the midseason, where I was praising this show for its relative restraint, it did a Two Days From Retirement plot.
DEE: [laughs] Beautiful.
PETER: Oh, with the shaved-head guy?
VRAI: Yeah. So, it’s a huge disappointment that I can’t really recommend, which makes me sad because there were things in it that I genuinely liked and thought were good and the mech battles all looked really pretty. But it’s just a mess. It’s just a mess. [sighs]
PETER: Yeah. The last-episode one had some cool camera work. I did like the two-episode thing where they set up the death of the two old guys, even though—
VRAI: It was obvious, but at least it was foreshadowed.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, well, they ended the one episode with… you were pretty sure one of them’s dead, and then the next episode is all the events from the other side leading up to that same fight. And then you see the actual consequences. Although one of those guys was the one that was constantly disobeying Yuki, usually to the world’s detriment.
VRAI: Yeah, kinda fuck that guy a little bit, honestly.
PETER: Yeah, I didn’t feel too bad about him dying. The end was just… How she recognized her daughter because they have the same mole… [laughs]
VRAI: It was real contrived.
PETER: Yeah. And then they push the big button together at the end, which stops the war. [laughs]
VRAI: I mean—
DEE: Oh my God! [laughs]
VRAI: It’s cheesy but I liked that scene! It’s cheesy as hell.
PETER: I feel like what it was trying to do was cool and way too ambitious for the resources that they had. I do respect their effort. I was laughing really hard when they were pushing the big… [chuckles] It was literally just a big button, the size of a dinner plate.
VRAI: [amused] “Click here to end war.”
PETER: Yeah. And even before that, I respected… She’s just like, “Even if all the mechs don’t work anymore and this power source that we used to power them is gone from the world, people are still going to kill each other.” And I’m glad they addressed that.
VRAI: It was trying not to be simplistic about that. It really wanted to show, “No, we’ve thought about this,” but it’s still better than having all these weapons and also this power source that is slowly destroying the planet because, God bless it, its environmental message was as subtle as a Miyazaki movie.
PETER: Yeah. Also, Yuki didn’t mention it at all. She’s just like, “I could stop the war.” I wish she’d gone, “Also, it turns out that cars are the reason that none of us can grow crops anymore.” [chuckles] I feel like that would have been a much more persuasive argument. If I were… I can’t even remember the other girl’s name…
PETER: Yeah, yeah. If I were Stella, I would be like, “Okay, well, this probably isn’t going to stop the war, and effectively it might just put things in a standstill, so I’m not sure about helping you out with this.” “Also, the pollution is making it so none of us have food to eat.” And you’re like, “Oh, well, then this just became an extremely simple decision.” But I think to maintain the drama, she couldn’t mention that because otherwise it’s just too obvious that you absolutely must press that button.
VRAI: She is 12, also, so fair enough. It’s a high-stakes moment. [chuckles]
PETER: Stella’s 12?
VRAI: No, Yuki.
PETER: Oh, Yuki’s 12. I got it. That’s why she wouldn’t think to say that. Okay. Yeah, but I don’t think it really did anything bad. It just really was reaching for the stars and couldn’t execute.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, so that’s kind of a bummer. Like I said, I think there’s a lot of neat things there, but it doesn’t tip the balance enough to be like, “There’s more good than bad here.”
DEE: Mm-hm. Well, speaking of ambitious messes…
VRAI: [chuckles] This has been such a bad season!
DEE: It’s been a little bit rough. The Magnificent Kotobuki, the final new show on our list. Did either of you watch all the way through?
VRAI: No. I didn’t actively drop it, but when I fell behind on things, I had to prioritize and it just didn’t happen.
DEE: Sure. You too, Peter? Did you fall off?
PETER: Yeah, I fell behind.
DEE: Okay, well, I’ll talk about it for a little bit here. I liked it. I would really struggle to recommend it to anybody. It has a lot of really good characters and really neat ideas and a really fun world crammed into 12 episodes when it absolutely needed at least two cours to breathe.
So, they spend the first half dropping all these little hints about these other people who brought them these airplanes and then vanished mysteriously. And then you start to gradually get to know all the main girls, and they’re all really fun and cool, and they have different backstories and reasons why they’re fighting. And then there’s this whole political confrontation simmering in the background, and everything comes together in the end in a way that’s really neat but such a mess. It happens very quickly.
There’s this sense of… you’re never quite sure exactly what the political conflict was about. There’s wonderful moments of very good dialogue because, as I’ve said before, Michiko Yokote is very good at writing dialogue. Throughout, there’s these really good airplane battles, aerial combat. And the last episode does some really fun stuff. Great cast of a bunch of different kinds of women who kick ass their jobs. It’s fun. It’s really fun. It is just such a mess.
Everything feels like it’s happening at twice the pace as it should have. And just when you are like, “Oh, this person’s neat. I want to spend more time with them,” you’re whisked away to something else. It would have really benefited from an extra cour. I’m glad the show exists and I’m glad I watched it through to the end, but like I said, I am hard pressed to recommend it because it is a big ol’ mess.
VRAI: That’s a bummer because, like you said, it’s such a joyous little series, I feel like. It’s clearly so excited to be here.
DEE: Oh, yeah, it feels very much like a passion project. I think Mizushima and Yokote were both very excited to do this project. And I just get the sense they had initially mapped it out to be longer. Again, I don’t have production notes, so take this with a grain of salt. That’s just the feeling I get from watching it, is that they thought they’d have more time to tell this story and then they were probably told at some point, “No,” and they went, “Okay, we can make that work.”
And it works, I think, because it is in the hands of two experienced people who are pretty talented at their jobs. It probably should have been completely incomprehensible, and for the most part it’s fun even though, like I said, it is a bit of a mess.
So, yeah, I liked it. That’s kinda where I’m falling with Kotobuki. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just don’t think I would be putting it on any top-ten lists or anything like that. But yeah, still worth it, I think, for me anyway.
Yeah, so that’s the end of the new stuff, which, like we said, was pretty up and down. As far as sequels and carryovers go, I got through a trio of them. Peter, you watched quite a bit more than I did. Of the ones—
PETER: All of ‘em! [chuckles]
DEE: Yeah. Of the sequels and carryovers and stuff that you watched that I did not, is there anything that you wanted to call out in particular?
PETER: Let’s see. Black Clover introduced its biggest badass yet, and it’s a woman and she hunts animals with her bare hands and she’s really cool.
PETER: Yeah. Mereoleona. She has not been revealed yet because she hates politics and, yeah, spends her whole time killing the animals with her bare hands and eating them because that’s fun to her.
DEE: [laughs] Okay!
PETER: And she also slaps Yami around, who’s been the big badass so far. It’s pretty funny. Also, Noelle got a good moment. She beat up her abusive brother in a fight.
PETER: Completely blasts him away. It was great. JoJo Part Six introduced its second gay couple ever and killed them the next episode, just like the first one.
DEE: [crosstalk] JoJo’s! Yeah.
VRAI: [groans sadly]
PETER: Well, they survived one more episode than the last gay couple, which was zero. Sword Art Online’s new villain is just a naked woman—
PETER: —who rapes Eugeo.
DEE: Oh, Lord!
DEE: It’s not funny anymore. Sorry.
VRAI: [crosstalk, pained] Ooh.
PETER: Yeah. And I guess she doesn’t feel the need to put on clothes because she’s a god or something, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the actual reason she doesn’t wear clothes.
PETER: That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime had a pretty good last episode that focused on Shizu before she met Rimuru. It’s setting up something that happens with Rimuru later, but it’s pretty good. It kind of becomes a Great Teacher Rimuru in the last arc, where he finds some kids that he has to help not get killed by the Guardian Forces inside them or something. It’s pretty cute. Probably better than the first half, at least as far as problematic content. But the series is pretty up and down. Overall charming, though. And that’s it.
DEE: Yeah, and then the other three on the list you and I have both watched, so we can talk about those a little bit. I guess we’ll start with Run with the Wind. I’m kind of surprised you finished that one, to be honest, because I know you were pretty thoroughly done with it at about the midway point.
PETER: I liked everybody but Haiji, really.
DEE: Oh, okay.
PETER: It was like, “Oh, this whole cast is cool, but I really dislike Haiji, and he’s the one making them do this, so…”
DEE: Yeah, I feel we could spend— Caitlin was sad she couldn’t join us so the two of you could holler about Haiji again. [chuckles]
PETER: I don’t want to holler about Haiji.
DEE: [laughs] I never was really in his camp, but I didn’t hate him the way you did. I think I was just kind of in the middle on him. I enjoyed the side characters. It’s one of those where I feel like we could spend a lot of time— I’m hesitant to get too deep into it because I feel like we’re either going to spend a ton of time talking about Run with the Wind or no time at all, because I feel like there’s a lot of little things we could talk about.
I love when sports anime do the big dramatic “pushing through adversity and injuries or whatever else for the team,” but then Lauren came into our team chat and was explaining how at the actual Ekiden these college kids are collapsing because this race is extremely physically taxing and actually harmful for a lot of people. And I was like, “Oh, when you add that actual element of real-life physical destruction, then it starts to feel like you’re romanticizing something that maybe shouldn’t be romanticized.”
So, I think that was always in the background of my head in the last half, even though from a purely fictional standpoint, there’s some really good emotional beats with the characters, and I teared up a few times and was cheering for them and all that good stuff.
PETER: Yeah. I was really of two minds. Who was the guy who was sick? I can’t remember his name.
PETER: Shindo. Yeah, I always wonder. It was Shindo.
DEE: Musa’s boyfriend. [chuckles]
PETER: Yeah. I really liked how it was done. I really liked that they showed his family all sitting down to watch it, and then he starts running and they can immediately tell something’s wrong, and the room goes silent. I thought that was really, really good.
DEE: It was really well staged.
PETER: Yeah, although the entire time I was just thinking, “He shouldn’t be doing this and Haiji should be calling it off.” But he ran through the whole thing. I’m pretty amazed that he was—
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, he was fine by the next day. He had an Anime Cold. He was fine.
PETER: I didn’t like that. He was passing out on his feet before he started running, and then the next day he’s like, “Oh, my fever broke.” [laughs] Okay. Cool. I guess everything’s better now. I want to say… Was it Hana, is the girl’s name?
PETER: Yeah, she didn’t get shit, so that sucked.
DEE: She was basically a sexy lamp. You could have taken her out of the story and it would have affected the story not a bit. Yeah, it was one of those shows where there would be a stretch where it’d be these really good character emotional moments and then you’d have this other stretch where it’s like, “Where the hell did that even come from?”
I think it was the episode where you get Musa running his part of the race, and his internal monologue is really good and he’s talking about coming together with this group. Overall, Musa is my favorite character probably. But then the second half of that episode, it goes to Joji or Jota. I don’t remember which one ran first.
PETER: [laughingly] There’s no difference.
DEE: And suddenly it’s like a romcom, but also, it’s trying to cram in this story about how the two of them have always been treated like the same person but they’re not really. And I’m like, “You waited a real long time to give us that arc, because I never got that sense up till that point, because you did treat them as the same character this whole time.”
PETER: Why would you tell your brother that you think the girl you both like likes you as you’re handing off the frickin’ baton to him before he has to run for ten miles. He’s not gonna be focused anymore.
PETER: That was like active sabotage. I don’t know what he was doing.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah. It was one of those… it was kind of up and down. Overall, I did really enjoy it.
PETER: [crosstalk] I stan Shindo/Musa.
DEE: I feel like it’s one that we could— You what?
PETER: I stan Shindo/Musa. That’s my last statement.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, me too. Absolutely. No, they’re in love and it’s adorable and I hope they’re very happy together. So, overall, I would say if you like sports anime, Run with the Wind is very good in that genre.
Again, I think it left a couple of mild sour tastes in my mouth. It’s very bad with its one female character. I shouldn’t say “very bad.” I’ve seen so much worse. It’s not good. She doesn’t really do anything.
PETER: She’s window dressing.
DEE: Yeah. But it has some really great characters. Overall, it handles its— I mean, obviously, this is so not my lane, but I’ve seen Black anime fans online talking about how they enjoy Musa and the way the show, overall, handles not just him but some of the other Black college kids who are exchange students. So, I thought that was really nice to see that in an anime and to have it handled… Because, again, Musa’s my favorite character. He’s a sweetheart and it’s great.
So, check it out if you like sports stuff, for sure, or boys having feelings. Either of those two and you’ll probably be good to go.
Okay. Next on the list, Radiant. I finally caught up with this right as it ended, and I keep forgetting it ended this season because it was only 21 episodes long. It is the least-subtle antifascist, antiracist thing I’ve ever seen, but I honestly love that it just went completely all in with “Look at this fucking asshole racist! Let’s beat him up.” That was pretty much the entire second cour, and, again, it is the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but we live in 2019, so maybe we need some of that in the world right now.
PETER: Yeah. The villain was very proud of his moustache, that Seth ripped off his face. It was good.
PETER: Also, the next arc looks like it’s going to have a very prominent POC character in a shounen series, which is a pretty big deal, I think. I’m a bit worried about how it’s going to represent one of the Inquisition members, the woman—not the JoJo-looking one but the… Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard some concerning things, but we’ll see.
DEE: Yeah. Overall, I think it was refreshingly void of shounen bullshit, which I appreciated. I sometimes struggle with shounen series because they sideline their female characters, they relentlessly sexualize them, or what have you. I think Radiant for the most part avoids that. I ended up really liking Melie. I think that the kind of split personality thing they do with her is not a great place to start, but overall—
PETER: It could be a lot worse. [chuckles]
DEE: [chuckles] Where’s that bar that we embedded in the ground? And they taper off on it. It almost feels like maybe the creator realized like, “Oh, this might not be a great thing I did, and I should maybe just make it more like when she gets angry, she just goes off.”
I really like her relationship with Seth. It was such a relaxed friendship. They just trust each other and want to hang out together, and I think it’s really sweet.
PETER: Yeah. The lack of sexual tension’s really nice. [chuckles]
DEE: Yeah! It’s very—
PETER: You’re just not always worried about Will They, Won’t They.
DEE: I didn’t realize how common it is in anime for—when you have a boy character and a girl character as the two leads—for there to be constantly somebody to be blushing or “Oh no, we’re touching shoulders” or “Oh no, we have to share a room together,” stuff like that. None of that in Radiant.
They are two friends. They live together for pretty much the entire season, and it’s never even commented on. They just have their own rooms and they’re roommates and they get along really well, and it’s wonderful. I wouldn’t even hate it if the show eventually wanted to slide them into a romance, because I do think they get along well, but I like that they are first and foremost friends, good friends who just get along, and their relationship is really casual and nice.
Overall, Radiant was a lot of fun. I’m glad I went back to it. It’s a good binge. It’s got a pretty good dub. So, yeah, worth checking out, I would say. And then, what I think I would call the anime of the season…
PETER: [crosstalk] Same.
DEE: …and Peter, you’ll have to let me know— Okay. You, too. Mob Psycho 100 Season Two. Holy crap, was that a good season of anime! I was kind of lukewarm on the first season of Mob. I recognized, obviously, the animation was amazing, and by the end of it, I had a better idea of what ONE—the manga creator—was trying to do with it, and I liked it a lot better by the end, but I was still… Didn’t even make my top ten that year. It was right on the edge.
This season was, almost start to finish, just incredible. I’m struggling to come up with words. I even tweeted that I have a hard time talking about how good Mob Psycho is. It’s like I just want to explode expletives, just be like, “Shit! Damn! Fuck, it’s so good!” is where I am with it.
Do you have anything that you would like to add, Peter, that is more coherent than that?
PETER: Yeah, I think that at the end of the season, it really leaned into the whole “trying to be emotionally honest not only with others but with yourself” and how important that is and how that can make more change than any amount of psychic [power], which is funny as hell. But I thought that the final message was just going to be “This last guy is just one of those people.”
I do think that there should be a caveat with that kind of message where it’s just like, “There will be some people that aren’t worth your emotional time and effort,” but I didn’t think the anime wanted to end on a dour note like that, so it ended up having a— I mean, I was okay with how it did it. It had a nice subplot at the end.
DEE: Yeah. It wasn’t a full redemption arc or anything like that, but it left the door open for the possibility of positive change.
PETER: Yeah. All the characters coming back, too, man… Sho and Scar and everybody showing up at the end…
DEE: Yeah, that was really cool.
PETER: That was so cool.
DEE: And it continues to be tremendously well-animated and -directed. The fight scenes are just so good, just jaw-droppingly good.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, this season was more impressive.
DEE: The midway climax felt like a season finale, too. There was a lot of really good stuff in here. I really like the way the show deals with the idea of responsibly wielding power, and just because you maybe have this one particular kind of privilege or power doesn’t mean that you’re inherently better than everybody.
Especially the latter half, it feels like it is directly smacking down that Super Special Nerd Boy power fantasy that we see in, especially, isekai light novel adaptations, with Mob’s speeches about “No, you’re not the only person who matters. Everybody else is the protagonist of their own story.”
And I just really like the way it deals with a lot of those kinds of capital-M Masculinity ideas and really pushes for empathy and using what power or privilege you do have responsibly and being aware of other people’s needs. God, it’s just so good! It was just so damn good! I was very, very impressed with it.
PETER: I loved the line where he told Toichiro that “Between the two of us, you’re the middle schooler.” [chuckles] He was like the representation of the male power fantasy.
DEE: Yeah, because the main antagonist was basically telling Mob, “Oh, you’re such a child to look at the world this naive way,” and Mob was like, “No, I’m pretty sure you’re the one who hasn’t gotten past middle school because you’re still this solipsistic asshole,” and I was like, “This is so, so fantastic.”
PETER: Yeah, and he ends up being defeated. It’s like his own power and his own toxic self-image is the thing that ends up destroying him. It’s like, chef’s kiss.
DEE: It’s really, really well done. I so, so badly want somebody to pitch us an article about it and write the crap out of it, because it was really great and I think we absolutely need more stories like that. So, yeah, a bit of a weak season but, holy crap, was Mob good, so I’m glad we got to end on that high note there.
VRAI: I can’t believe the one time I decided to pass over a shounen show and it was a mistake.
DEE: Well, it’s only 26 episodes long. You could always go back to it.
VRAI: Oh, it’s on the watchlist, but you know how the watchlist is.
DEE: Endless? Yeah.
DEE: I get you. I get you. Well, was there anything else folks wanted to talk about? We have, of course, gone over, but we’ve gone over a reasonable amount of minutes this time instead of a full half-hour, so that’s good. Anything else we want to add before I wrap us up?
PETER: I caught up to One Piece, so you can expect One Piece takes in the future from me.
DEE: Heck yeah!
PETER: Record that.
DEE: You can regale me because I am probably not going to watch the 800-odd episodes. Although, hell, I’m currently in the middle of watching the 1000-odd episodes of Pokemon, so who frickin’ knows. Maybe I’ll do One Piece next.
PETER: Pretty good.
DEE: It could happen. But yeah, you can keep us posted on that one, too. Okay, I’ll go ahead and close us out, then.
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