Amelia, Dee, and Peter check in with the top 10 anime of our Spring 2017 premiere rankings. Listen to find out our biggest surprises, disappointments, and guilty pleasures of the season along with our top recommended sequels!
Date Recorded: Sunday 14th May 2017
Hosts: Amelia, Dee, Peter
01:08 #10 The Royal Tutor
05:09 #9 Tsukigakirei
14:54 #8 Alice & Zoroku
22:09 #7 KADO: The Right Answer
31:46 #6 WorldEnd
39:30 #5 Re:CREATORS
42:26 #4 Granblue Fantasy
48:30 #3 Kabikibu
50:05 #2 Sakura Quest
56:12 #1 Grimoire of Zero
1:01:08 Dee’s Sequel Recommendation: The Eccentric Family
1:06:39 Peter’s Sequel Recommendation: Berserk
1:14:16 Amelia’s Sequel Recommendation: My Hero Academia
AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name is Amelia. I’m the editor and chief of Anime Feminist and I’m joined today be Dee and Peter. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves…
DEE: Sure. Hi. I’m Dee. I’m an editor and writer for Anime Feminist, and I also run the anime blog, The Josei Next Door.
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associates Features Editor for Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor for Anime Feminist.
AMELIA: Okay. Today, we’re halfway through the spring 2017 season of anime, and we’ve all seen around five or six episodes, I think, of each of our top ten shows in the premiere ranking we put out a month ago. We will link to those in the show notes so you can follow along. And we’re just going to talk about: what are we still watching, what did we drop, why. What shows do we think could be better, what shows do we really, really want people to watch.
We’ll just go through the top ten on our list. Starting from number ten, which is in the “Harmless Fun” category: The Royal Tutor.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yay!
AMELIA: Dee, do you want to kick off that conversation? I think you’re still watching The Royal Tutor?
DEE: Oh, yeah. I’m covering it weekly for Anime Evo. I love it. It’s just delightful. And it’s been kind of a fun one for me because I really…One of the reasons I decided to cover it this season was…Well, first of all, I really enjoyed the premiere. It was cute. It’s funny. There’s nothing about it that bugs me. It doesn’t do anything that gets on my nerves, which is great.
But I also like…The past few seasons, I’ve covered really kind of in-depth, if not serious, dramatic stuff, so I thought, “Let’s just do something cute and fun this season. It’ll be great.”
But it’s been kind of fun because even though it’s definitely a light comedy first and foremost, it has a little bit more meat on it than I think I was expecting. There’s kind of a running conversation about the gap between commoners and royalty and how you can bridge that, and if there’s ways to bridge that gap, and sort of the mutual understanding that helps you reframe your understanding of people who at first seem like trash characters, and then you get to know them, and you realize there’s a lot more to them than you thought. So, that kind of “appearances versus reality” [thing] is at play in there.
And now there’s a little mystery center in my comedy cupcake, because there’s some backstory with Heine that’s pretty interesting.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] There’s a plot? There’s a plot in this fun story?
DEE: There’s an evil royal noble planning to ruin the kids’ lives or something, so it’s a lot. It started as just this episodic little…I call it “the warmhearted comedy” and there’s one every season that I won’t shut up about. And that’s what The Royal Tutor started as.
And now it’s kind of developing its own little storyline, too, and it’s been interesting. It’s been a lot of fun.
AMELIA: Yeah, this is one I haven’t actually kept up with. But not because I don’t want to. I do plan to kind of pick it up at some point and catch up with it. So, I’m really pleased that it just gets better and better. I loved the first episode. It was a lot of fun.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah. I heartily recommend it. It’s just a good 30 minutes a week. [Laughter]
AMELIA: Peter, are you watching it?
PETER: I watched two episodes and then I just kind of fell off. It wasn’t for me.
AMELIA: Fair enough.
DEE: Yeah, no. Entirely fair. I really like…It’s just really kind of cute, cartoon-y comedy and there is absolutely a place for that in my viewing schedule, I think.
AMELIA: So, looking forward to picking that one up again. Are there any issues of feminist relevance that we should be aware of in this one, Dee?
DEE: The cast is pretty much exclusively dudes, so there’s not a lot in the way of…There’s not necessarily anything in the way of women’s issues, but I like that the boys are all kind of multifaceted. They don’t really fit into these neat slots about what a man is supposed to be, and…The series is pretty clearly…It’s a shounen, but it runs in a Gangan magazine–Fantasy G, I think it’s called. And that’s kind of known for being a shounen magazine for…It’s fantasy for girls, basically. And you can definitely tell the series is targeted at kind of a straight teen girl demographic.
AMELIA: Yes. From episode one.
DEE: But it’s not…It doesn’t get creepy. It’s just “sparkly boys” sometimes. And, again, I like that they all kind of have their own issues and dealing with kind of this gap between who people expect them to be and who they actually are.
So, yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t say…It’s not the show that’s focused on feminist issues, but it’s perfectly feminist-friendly. I don’t think there’s anything in there that would drive folks away, which is one of the reasons I like it. There’s nothing about it that annoys me.
AMELIA: Yep, and those are all the credentials we need, I think.
Okay, moving into the next category, for number nine and upwards, is “Feminist Potential.” So, these are shows that we watched, and we enjoyed them. They didn’t have kind of explicitly feminist themes, but we could see that there was scope for that to develop if they took the story in a certain direction. And, at the very least, there wasn’t anything jarring enough for it to fall down into the pit of shame, which is somewhere around numbers 20 to 24 on our list.
DEE: [Laughter] Yes.
AMELIA: So, number nine is Tsuki ga Kirei, which I’m watching. Are either of you watching this?
DEE: I dropped it after episode two. I might go back to it once it finishes and if people tell me it has a good ending, but I don’t…I have a couple of minor issues with it, so I figured I’d just wait and see what folks said about it.
AMELIA: Okay. Well, let’s start with Peter. What do you…Are you completely caught up with it?
AMELIA: Okay, and what do you think so far?
PETER: I like it. I’m a bit worried about where it’s going right now. One of the things I found attractive about it was it was a romance series that wasn’t super melodramatic. Usually with that kind of stuff, it’s like…High school romance, it’s just like–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] It’s kind of the opposite, isn’t it?
PETER: Yeah. Well, just…There’s a bunch of weird obstacles and happenstance and shit like that. Stuff I can’t believe that keeps these fated lovers apart or something in Tsuki ga Kirei.
I actually…I want to write something about it soon. I think it hits mostly like the big obstacle is that they both have, it seems like, pretty severe anxiety. Social anxiety. So, the main issue is just they have trouble talking to each other in person while they very obviously like each other and like to talk via text online.
My concern with the series…I mean, I can’t really, at least from my perspective, spot out any sort of feminist issues with the show. But just narratively speaking–I think it’s Chinatsu…I don’t know what’s going on with that character. Because early on, I thought there was something going on, because she was fantasizing about cheering for Akane, and now she seems interested in Kotaro.
I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it’s her being kind of dumb and not realizing she’s becoming a major obstacle between them, which is kind of approaching that melodramatic territory, or if this is something she’s doing intentionally.
AMELIA: Okay. So, let’s talk about this because this is something that really struck me last time. So, for Tsuki ga Kirei, this has been a breakout surprise hit for me, personally. I have looked forward to it every week. I didn’t expect that. This isn’t usually my kind of story. It’s a very slice-of-life-y approach to romance. It is very middle school. It is painfully middle school at times. And it’s not one that I would’ve expected to enjoy, myself. But I kept coming back. Something about these two has really engaged me. I think the fact that they acknowledge their feelings to each other relatively early on and that leads it more down the My Love Story kind of route of storytelling rather than extending the “Will they, won’t they?” and dragging it out.
And one of the things that I really appreciated was that female friendship is kind of an important part of this story. And also male friendship. They each have their own group of supportive friends, and trying to cross those social barriers to spend time with each other when they’re so segregated in their classrooms…That’s been a real obstacle for them.
But in the most recent story development, one of the main girls–what’s her name?–Akane.
AMELIA: She has now said that she has a crush on Kotarou, despite knowing that the two of them are dating. And it was really frustrating for me because the moment before, Akane says, “I’m sorry. We’re dating. I didn’t mean to lie to you.” And she says, “It’s okay. I knew. We’re friends. That’s what’s more important.”
And they have this whole conversation about how important their friendship is to her. And then Chinatsu says, “But I still want to tell him how I feel.” And–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Yeah. She was asking…It seems like what she was asking for was that she could do it and then he’d say “no,” and that way, she could get closure.
AMELIA: That’s just…I mean–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Yeah.
AMELIA: Looking back to being a teenage girl, I think…I mean, obviously, my experience won’t speak to everyone, but I cannot imagine a situation in which I would put my friend in that position. And I found it incredibly frustrating, like I said, for it to go from, “Yes, our friendship is more important. I acknowledge your feelings and I know they won’t go anywhere and we’re both okay with that. But can I please jeopardize that? All of that for a minute, by telling him how I feel and introducing that doubt into your relationship?”
Like, that was just…
PETER: Yeah, I think that’s why I almost want to believe she’s being manipulative rather than just completely dunderheaded about it. Because it just seems targeted.
AMELIA: There’s kind of no good outcome.
PETER: There isn’t.
AMELIA: Not in feminist terms, there’s no good outcome. Either she’s completely oblivious, or she is manipulative. And we’ve seen both of those stereotypes time and time again. And I really thought they were doing something different for a minute, then they’ve kind of dropped into this rut. So, we’ll see how it develops in the next episode and onwards. I have really enjoyed the story of the two of them becoming closer together. They each have their own individual ambitions, which I really appreciate.
PETER: Yeah, and it has your kryptonite in it.
PETER: It was your kryptonite. I was actually gonna tweet the scene where they’re…They each don’t do so well, her at the running meet and him at the…talking to the publisher. And then they say, “Well, we both pinky-promised each other that we’d do better.” And then they both motivated each other to be better again.
I just thought, “Oh, that’s why she likes this show.” [Laughter]
AMELIA: That’s not my kryptonite. I love that. I love that. No, my kryptonite is probably moments where they don’t talk to each other and they don’t have an honest conversation. But, as weeks go on, those are fading. Actually, they are drawing closer together. They are building up more confidence and trust in each other.
And that is really nice to see. I just love the fact that they’re both quite different. Akane’s really athletic, and Kotarou, he wants to be a novelist, and they’ve both got they’re individual ambitions. They’ve both got their own groups of friends. They’ve got their own independent lives that they’re now trying to connect, but without really telling too many people that they’re trying to connect their lives in this way. And it’s just a really sweet story. I am enjoying it. I hope they don’t ruin it all with the best friend suddenly turning out to be manipulative or completely oblivious.
PETER: Yeah, it’d be super disappointing.
AMELIA: It really would. Dee, you said you were gonna watch it, and had some concerns. What are those?
DEE: Okay, yeah. Some of them are petty. One of them is that I found out it’s directed by Kishi Seiji, and I have kind of been burned by him a couple times in the past, with some of his shows that start out really promising and then face-plant.
So, I’m waiting to see–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk} Have you got an example? I don’t know…I don’t know anything.
DEE: I’m still mad about Yuki Yuna is a Hero. I’m not gonna get into that on this, but–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Nope. We are not.
DEE: –I’ve had some issues with that. And then, he had this one, Rampo Kitan, which was recent. And it started off as this really cool mystery premise, and he’s a very stylish director, but the story just didn’t go anywhere, and it wasn’t…
Yeah, so, anyway, I’ve had some issues with his work recently. He’s done some stuff I really like, but recently I haven’t, so, I was like: “I’ll just wait and see how it ends and see what other people say about it.”
The other two problems…One is just in terms of pacing and tone and story location, I’m not sure I’m in a place right now where I want a slow-paced middle-school romance story. Which is fine. That’s just a personal taste issue.
The main reason I dropped it after the second episode, though, was they did these little shorts after the credits, and I was warming up to the series.
AMELIA: Ah, yes.
DEE: I was warming up to it, and I was like, “Oh, yeah. Maybe I’ll stick with this. I kind of like that.” And they did this trio of little shorts afterwards, kind of pairing some of the side characters together, and one of them was this guy being really aggressive to this girl and her telling him to stop. And then it kind of spun it like: “Oh, no, she actually wanted him to keep going even though she didn’t say it.”
AMELIA: Yeah. No, you’re absolutely right.
DEE: And it just…It came out of nowhere, and it just was such a surprisingly sour note at the very end of the episode that I was like: “I’m good. I don’t need to go back to this.”
AMELIA: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And there have been other…Thinking about it, his friend–is it Roman?
PETER: Roman, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah. He has a real thing for his teacher, and he’s…That’s a line they’ve kind of gone up to a bit beyond, I think, what we might be comfortable with. They’ve used the side stories to do that more than the main story. In the main episode, they don’t seem to go there–certainly not crossing the lines–and then they save it all for these side stories which are of varying feminist friendliness.
DEE: So, just don’t watch anything past the end credits and you’ll be fine, basically.
AMELIA: Yeah, maybe, actually. Although, there is some good stuff in the end credit…Sorry, the post credit shorts as well, but…Yeah. If you want to avoid all that completely, I don’t think the main story has those elements that I can recall, Peter, do you…?
PETER: I mean, they reference the Roman-teacher thing in the sports festival episode–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Yeah, they do.
PETER: –but besides that, no. I don’t really think so.
AMELIA: But that’s him having a crush on his teacher, which, as we’ve discussed in other podcasts, in other contexts, we don’t have an issue with in principle, so…Yeah.
Okay, let’s move on. Number eight. Alice & Zoroku, which I watched one episode of. It was a double premiere. It was one of the earliest premieres, I think. And it took me a really long time to write. It was Alice in Wonderland references, it was moe character designs, it was these very kind of childish characters. It really wasn’t for me. I haven’t kept up with it. I did mean to. I might pick it up again later, but that probably depends on what you two say.
So, Dee, I think you’re somewhat watching this?
DEE: Yeah. I may have…I might be done with it now. I was kind of on the fence with it, and then it sort of…It zoomed in to kind of an action-y plot that caught my eye, and was really tense for about three episodes there. And then the end of episode five feels like the end of a series. It closes up a lot of threads and conflicts and things, and I was satisfied with that ending, so I’m not sure if I’m actually going to go back to it, ’cause I’m like, “Oh, that was fine. I’m good now. I got a conclusion.”
AMELIA: That was probably my biggest criticism in the premiere is that it felt like it shifted tones completely. So, it would have a comedy chunk, and then it would have a slice-of-life chunk, and then it would have this supernatural action chunk, and it didn’t feel like there was this consistent tone throughout.
So, that’s continued, has it? Through the…?
DEE: Yeah. It’s very much trying to blend that kind of cute girl action fantasy darker type story…And I don’t mean “dark” as like a criticism in this case–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] No, no, no.
DEE: It’s kind of trying to blend that with just cute girl slice-of-life, “found family” storytelling, and I’m kind of okay with both of those when they’re done well. I don’t know…I wasn’t particularly enchanted with the slice-of-life elements of this one. But I thought…The more supernatural elements and the action focus on some of the adult characters did definitely…caught my eye and really intrigued me for about three episodes there.
Then they wrapped that up, so, now I don’t know.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Peter, you’ve watched right up to date as well?
PETER: Yeah. The last episode was actually…They brought in all the voice actors and they were sitting on couches talking about the series, and I guess they had…
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] What?
PETER: Yeah, it was a special episode. Because they had…They basically said, “We’ve wrapped up the first arc,” and they’re moving into the second arc. So, as to what you’re saying, that makes a lot of sense. I feel like they specifically put in the special to kind of create a separation between those two episodes, ’cause they’re moving into the new part of the story with that.
I mean, I think it ended in a really good spot, so, depending upon how the next story arc goes, then maybe I’d make a decision to drop it, but I kind of have mixed feelings about it. I’ve enjoyed it so far.
Actually, I want to know what you think about…I think it was the third episode, after Sana gets captured. That whole…
DEE: Oh, yeah?
PETER: In the car, for like half an hour with the–what is it?–Minnie C.?
DEE: Minnie, yeah.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DEE: It was…I mean, it was rough, but I don’t know. To me, the show begins with a premise that is really messed up. It is these kids kind of being held and experimented on, by this government organization, and that…I’m glad they really went…They addressed that. They were like: “Yeah, no, this is really messed up. This kid is in a bad situation.”
And I didn’t feel like they…They tread that very careful line between it turning into just suffering porn and it being more just an honest…These people do not view this girl as human.
And so I didn’t think they took it too far. It was a little bit…It was surprising, definitely. But I was like…In the context of the world, I thought it made sense, and I didn’t feel like they sensationalized or fetishized it or anything like that.
PETER: There was one line that…I think this is probably my biggest problem with the scene. I saw the value in that scene, because I think…One of the big questions about the series is “What makes a human?” Is Sana human? Does your origins or how you were born dictate what you are, or is it how you act or what you do or what you want? That kind of thing.
So, showing Minnie C., a human, treating Sana so inhumanely kind of put that to the forefront. But there was one part of the scene where she was crushing her under all of her spectral hands, remember?
DEE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
PETER: And she talked about…She was sort of taunting her, and she said that they had done that to her as part of her marine training, I guess, where they have a bunch of people hold you down so you can’t move. And then said, “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”
PETER: And the way she said that, I kind of…I don’t know. That felt squicky to me. ‘Cause Sana was crying at the time. [Laughter]
AMELIA: And you guys aren’t convinced to pick up the series at this point?
DEE: I don’t know. Honestly, it’s not one that I would–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Recommend?
DEE: It’s not…There’s a very specific kind of people. That came out wrong.
AMELIA: Oh dear. [Laughter]
DEE: It’s not…That’s not what I meant. There’s a kind of show that if you enjoy that kind of show, I think you could enjoy Alice & Zoroku, but it…Because it does kind of fluctuate between the slice-of-life and the more darker action-fantasy, I think it also can put off people who enjoy both those genres but maybe not the other one. So, it’s a weird one. It’s kind of like: Just try it, and if it catches your eye, then go for it. But…
AMELIA: Do you think that the premiere is representative, then? Like, if you watch the premiere and you enjoy it, then you’re likely to enjoy the rest? If you watch it and you’re not so keen, then that’s going to stay consistent? Do you think that’s accurate?
DEE: Yeah. I…Yeah. The premiere gives you a pretty good taste of both sides of the series, I would say.
DEE: I think the first arc was more of that action-fantasy. So, if you liked that part and weren’t super into the slice-of-life stuff, then you’d probably enjoy, again, at least the first five episodes, more than the opposite, I think.
But…yeah. It’s not one that I’m like: “Oh, stay away. It was a terrible mistake to watch this.” But it’s not one that I’m really excited about, either.
AMELIA: Okay. I’m probably not going to get back on it. It doesn’t sound like it’s for me, is all.
PETER: I’m going to keep watching, so we can revisit it again.
AMELIA: Okay, let’s move on.
DEE: [Crosstalk] It had a really compelling…I like the antagonist of this first arc quite a lot in terms of her character arc, and they kind of played with the fridging trope, where the guy’s dead wife is his motivation for everything, but in this case it was the woman’s dead husband. So, I kind of liked that sort of archetype switch there. And she was definitely a threat and kind of despicable, but also sympathetic and interesting.
So, again, there were things about it I liked, but then they wrapped it all up in episode five. So, I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
AMELIA: I think I’ll just read Peter’s article on Crunchyroll about it.
DEE: Yeah, that’s a good call.
PETER: Sweet. I approve.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Okay. Number seven. KADO. This has been…From what I’ve seen, this has been quite a polarizing series. Either people say it’s the most boring thing of the season, or they’re saying, “You have to watch KADO!” Are you both watching it?
DEE: I am.
AMELIA: Yeah? And you’re enjoying watching it?
AMELIA: [Laughter] Okay.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah.
AMELIA: That’s a sound resemblance in response.
DEE: I’m gonna say yes. It’s a weird show.
AMELIA: Yes it is.
DEE: In some ways, it kind of…I mean, to say it reminds me of ACCA I think gives maybe the wrong impression about it as a series…
PETER: Yeah. [Laughter]
DEE: But, it reminds me of ACCA. It reminds me of ACCA in that it does a lot of things that you don’t necessarily see. So, it’s hard to find a decent comparison, and it kind of plays with your concept of what a narrative should be, in the same way that ACCA does, I think.
So, it can be very frustrating in the pacing, especially in the early episodes, but…It doesn’t do as good of a job developing its characters as it probably should, but the central ideas are really fascinating, and I have no idea where it’s going.
And, so, it kind of keeps hooking me just with that sense of bizarreness and sort of uniqueness to the story, I guess.
AMELIA: Is that your experience too, Peter?
PETER: Yeah. I think one thing that I was kind of disappointed by was I thought they were going to set as the lead roles Shindo and Saraka–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] And Hanamori? Or…
PETER: Saraka. She’s the–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Oh, the female negotiator.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah, yeah.
PETER: Yeah. So, they were going to be talking back and forth. But then it’s just sort of sidestepped that whole thing and now it’s like “Japan versus Planet” kind of thing.
And Saraka has not done too much except for basically object to most of the things that they’re doing.
AMELIA: Yeah. It’s really disappointing.
PETER: In a very distinct…They specifically place her in: “Your position is wrong and you need to think about this in bigger terms.”
Which, I don’t know. And she seems like a very…At least from the…I don’t know if it’s just ’cause it’s an anime opening where they have to show the female character a whole lot. I don’t know why they have that backlit thing of her floating in a fetal pose, period.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Yes! I’ve been wondering about that for weeks! What is going on?
PETER: I don’t like watching that opening just because of that. I’m like…Yeah. Why is this happening? All the rest of it is people standing around and talking and looking dramatic and shit like that, which is appropriate ’cause that’s pretty much what they’re doing, right?
AMELIA: That’s the show. [Laughter]
PETER: Yeah. But…So I’m not too…The cast development has not been tremendously great, but it is very traditional sci-fi in terms of the ideas and the scale at which it’s presenting its ideas.
The whole thing is just: Here’s infinite energy. Can humanity…Are we even prepared to accept a gift like this? Which I like a lot.
DEE: Have you seen the most recent episode?
PETER: I haven’t, no. I haven’t been able to watch it. No.
DEE: Okay. There’s a little bit of a…We’re switching it up. Something different’s happening, and they’re keeping me on my toes.
DEE: And, again, that’s part of what kind of keeps me coming back to it is that element of not necessarily knowing where the heck this is going. So, it might be one where I have to wait until the end before I can wholeheartedly recommend it to people. But I’m definitely enjoying it, even though it annoys me along the way sometimes.
PETER: Yeah. The last one I watched, they did the mix up where–Sano, is that her name? The crazy scientist?
DEE: Shinawa? The scientist lady? The girl?
PETER: [Crosstalk] Yeah, where she–
DEE: Kanata Shinawa.
PETER: She does the origami?
PETER: Yeah, yeah. That was the one…I was like: “Oh, wow. This is gonna…I thought that was a really good twist.” Even though…Conceptually, I’m just like: “That seems…We could’ve done that the whole time.”
But at the same time, though, I’m interested to see what sort of effect that will have on the entire planet, this origami that she did.
DEE: Yeah. I actually…It’s part of what I like and part of what frustrates me about this story is the narrative structure of basically every episode is: let’s spend 15 minutes talking about the ramifications of whatever happened at the tail-end of the last episode, and then BIG EXCITING CHANGEUP in the last five minutes of the next episode. Which, again, can make it kind of frustrating, but kind of addictive. Like: I can’t stop watching it. So…
PETER: And a whole lot of talking about why I’m talking to you, because it’s important that we speak, etcetera.
DEE: Yeah, I really like the kind of general themes. What humanity will do with this kind of new power source, and also the communication angle and whether or not true understanding is possible.
I mean, it’s definitely playing with some cool ideas. I don’t dislike the characters, I just don’t feel super attached to any of them, except poor Hanagami.
DEE: Hanamori. I always want to call him “Hanagami” for some reason.
AMELIA: Yeah, Hanamori. [Laughter] Okay, well, let me just step in here, because the note that I put in the premiere rankings for KADO was: “prominent professional women in the mostly-male led cast.” And that was the source of feminist potential for this show. I don’t think there’s a character I dislike more than that scientist, Shinawa.
PETER: Yeah, she’s very out of place.
AMELIA: She drives me up the wall. I can’t deal with her. She is just so childish. She is…They’ve got this kind of “kooky genius” thing going on, and it does not work for me at all. It doesn’t come across that she is someone to be respected. It comes across that she’s someone who needs a carer. And I just…I can’t stand her. I can’t stand her.
DEE: She’s very much playing into the “childish genius scientist” archetype, which is an archetype I often like, but I don’t think they’re doing it as…I don’t think they’re doing it particularly well with her.
AMELIA: Yeah. That moment where she tries to eat–
PETER: [Crosstalk] Oh, yeah. That whole scene.
AMELIA: –his disembodied arm. She just tries to eat it. And they treat it like this: “Oh, she’s thinking outside the box like a scientist.” No. That’s just ridiculous.
So, that really got to me. And the other negotiator, the fact that she is not a direct equivalent to Shindou has bothered me. So, Shindou is completely unflappable. He is so calm. He is in control of the situation.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Well…Wait until you watch the newest episode.
AMELIA: Okay, then. Well, he’s generally unflappable, then. And he’s…He’s just calm. He’s in control. And that’s as you would expect from an experienced negotiator. And when they’re talking about, well, who in the entire nation of Japan could possibly negotiate with this alien species? And they first say, “Shindou,” and they say he’s unavailable. Who else? And they say, “Well, it’s got to be her, hasn’t it?”
And then she just shows none of that whatsoever. Instead, Shindou kind of pointed out that moment where she laughed on live TV, her saying she disagrees with the progress that they’re working towards, and just getting really flustered when she’s in conversation with Shindou. And, just being on the back foot constantly.
So, I really haven’t enjoyed the developments of the female characters in this. I really like Shindou, and–is it Yaha-kui zaShunina?
DEE: I just call him zaShunina, yeah. zaShunina.
AMELIA: zaShunina. Okay. So, his relationship with Shindou and them kind of learning to navigate this brand new path of communication between cultures. That is fascinating to me. And, Hanamori, I have a lot of time for Shindou and Hanamori. I loved the prequel episode. I really enjoyed it. He’s being a bit of the butt of the joke at the moment, but that’ll change–
DEE: [Crosstalk] I’m so…I’m kind of sad he got sidelined, because I thought their dynamic—
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Me too.
DEE: Yeah, ’cause their dynamic together is kind of…If there’s heart in the show, I think it comes from Shindou and Hanamori’s dynamic together, and–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Yeah. I agree.
DEE: –so the fact that we haven’t gotten a lot of that is kind of upsetting, or disappointing, I guess. No, I totally agree with you about the women characters. I will say…It’s not really even in KADO‘s defense, but the show very much is set up like…Shindou is just so much more everything than everyone.
DEE: You know, ’cause he…He makes Hanamori look like…Hanamori’s less competent than probably–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Anyone?
DEE: –any negotiator. Yeah. He’s adorable. But it’s not specifically that the female characters are incompetent. It’s that everyone kind of looks bad compared to Shindou. Does that make sense? The male–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Sure, but–
DEE: [Crosstalk] I mean, I agree with you, but I don’t–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] I think that’s true, but if you only have two major female characters and they both completely pale next to Shindou, that’s where it becomes a question of how feminist-friendly is this, really?
DEE: Yeah. Although, give childish scientist Shinawa credit. She did figure out the spears.
AMELIA: [Sighs] Yeah. If she hadn’t, though, Shindou obviously would have. Because he’s Shindou. He’s special.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah. There’s a reason for that. There’s a–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Okay. Well–
DEE: [Crosstalk] There’s a new episode that ya’ll haven’t watched yet.
AMELIA: Okay. Let’s catch up on this and when we get to the season, we’ll definitely talk about KADO again.
PETER: Basically, I think the best way to describe it is: If you like The Day the Earth Stood Still, it’s very similar. So, if you like that kind of sci-fi.
AMELIA: Okay. I haven’t seen it.
DEE: Yeah, I’ll take your word for it.
PETER: There’s a great remake with Keanu Reeves as the main character. Watch the original. I mean, watch the original.
DEE: Okay. [Laughter]
PETER: It’s that kind of sci-fi.
AMELIA: Okay. Let’s move on to number six, I think we’re at…Yeah. Six. Yeah, okay. That’s WorldEnd. SukaSuka. Who’s watching that?
DEE: Oh, I am. I think we all are.
AMELIA: Yep. Me too. I don’t think I’ve seen the most recent episode. How are you guys finding it so far?
PETER: Hmm. Uh…
PETER: It’s very hot and cold, I think. I really like the dynamic it’s set up and a lot of the things it’s doing narratively. It’s kind of like…I’ve said this before. It’s a very familiar narrative of kind of…I’ve seen a couple movies like this, where it’s kind of like “the woman back home during a war and what she’s doing while her husband is off maybe dying somewhere in an unknown land” kind of thing. Except in this case, it’s a male lead, and he’s raising all of these human weapon girls. And in a lot of situations, they have to..Chtholly is actually supposed to be fated to die. They’re like, “You will go to battle and die on this day. And you’ll defeat the enemy and it’ll be good for humanity.” Or whatever. Or…not humanity. Very specifically, not humanity.
So, it’s…I like that aspect of it, where it’s kind of like he can try to help them develop, and improve the aspects of their lives that aren’t just fighting and dying. But at the end of the day, he’s sort of powerless when they leave. And he has to deal with the fact that he has to keep working and doing other stuff while wondering whether or not they’re alive or dead.
The problem is, it just gets…It’s kind of turning into a romance with him and…I don’t even know how old Ctholly is.
PETER: Yeah. How old is he, anyway? Do we know? Not counting–
DEE: [Crosstalk] We have no idea how old he is.
PETER: –Not counting the centuries frozen in carbonite.
AMELIA: He’s definitely older than 15, though.
DEE: Yeah, he’s…I don’t get the sense he’s old by any stretch, but he’s definitely–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] No. [Laughter] Maybe late twenties or something.
DEE: He’s probably like 20.
PETER: Well, they talk about how he’s basically over the hill almost, ’cause he’s been fighting for so long that he just can’t…His body can’t handle it anymore. I get the feeling–
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah, but I mean–
PETER: [Crosstalk] –he’s at like 30.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] He was frozen for a while, though.
DEE: But if he was fighting from the age of…If this war was going on and they were conscripting soldiers at the age of 15 like they are with Ctholly, then I could see his body being destroyed by this magic that they use to power these swords, which is apparently very hard on you.
I could see him being washed up within five to ten years. It being the kind of thing where you cannot do it for very long at all.
So, I still… I don’t…I suspect he’s still supposed to be fairly young. But he’s definitely a grownup.
AMELIA: Okay, but let’s put this in context. He is their caretaker. So, he is a position of authority in this boarding house of young girls. Ctholly seems to be the oldest, but she’s still…
DEE: She and Ithea and Ren, I think, are all supposed to be about 15. And then everyone else is a bit younger.
AMELIA: Okay. But that is still a child by any definition. Sorry, any 15-year-old listeners…15 year-old feminists out there listening to our podcast. Thank you very much. That’s wonderful. But I remember being 15. I think we all do. I certainly was not in a position to be in an equal relationship with a soldier in his twenties, I think.
DEE: I agree with that and I definitely don’t…I’m very wary of them sliding this into a romance. But one thing the most recent episode did do that I think is interesting and I’m curious to see how they move forward with the story, is…Ctholly is more…She’s pretty self-aware, and aware of others as well. And so she kind of calls Willem out on some things he does in the most recent episode. And one thing that they do kind of a nice job of with them coming back from this war and kind of showing them during the fight is pointing out that they’re 15 and they’re definitely young and they’re definitely inexperienced in certain areas. But they’re also soldiers. And they’re not…And so it’s asking…There is kind of a question here of, “At what point do you stop considering someone a child?”
Is it age, or is it the experiences and the responsibilities that are put on you? ‘Cause, I mean…I definitely was…I mean, as a 15-year-old, I would definitely consider myself a kid. But I was also not being told I was going to go fight a battle and die, either.
So, I think there’s…They’re doing something very interesting with the story, which I like. And, again, I’m wary about the romantic elements. But, they are trying to shift the power dynamics a little bit, I think. And showing that Willem is their caretaker, but they are also in a position where he can kind of learn and receive support from them. And I like that dynamic. I just…I’m just worried about how they’re gonna go forward with it.
PETER: It’s kind of like Monster Girls, actually. Where it set up an interesting dynamic that is hedging on harem or very bad romance, and it’s kind of like we’re always concerned they’re gonna fall off a cliff, I guess.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah. No, that’s exactly right, though. And with that…I think my issue with this is the same as with that, is that as long as it’s from a child’s perspective, like having a crush on an older guy: totally standard. That’s, you know, not an issue at all. As soon as he starts coming closer to that line, that’s where I start getting concerned.
So, my issue with Interviews with Monster Girls was always when the teacher, Takahashi, was the one asking questions which crossed lines. Was the one who was kind of making those steps towards his students. Whereas when they were the ones approaching him, it didn’t feel that way at all.
And it’s this situation as well. So, there’s a moment where Willem goes…He shouts, “You guys!” at the three girls when they come back from a battle, and he runs over but he just hugs Ctholly. And that…It rang alarm bells for me, and I don’t know if they’re gonna go anywhere with it. But just the fact that he didn’t hug all of them just raises question marks.
DEE: That actually didn’t bother me, and it didn’t bother me because Ctholly was the only one who was supposed to die. The others were supposed to come back. There was no real…I mean, obviously anyone can die during a battle, but there was no…None of the others were fated. There was always this sense of, “well, things go sour, Ctholly is going to kill herself to destroy this enemy.”
PETER: Kamikaze it.
DEE: Yeah. So…
AMELIA: I kind of wish they’d made that explicit, then. Because all we got was him embracing her and only her, and then her saying, “I can’t breathe. You need to get off me.” Him not doing that. And then when he did eventually–
DEE: [Crosstalk] He finally realized–
AMELIA: –when he did step away, and she slapped him–
DEE: [Crosstalk] That was dumb.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] –and looked very upset.
DEE: Yeah, I hated the slap.I was like: “Come on, show. You’re better than this.”
AMELIA: Yeah. I mean, I think you and I talked about this over Messenger. I said, She feels strongly about him anyway. Couldn’t she have just hugged him back, or at least…Couldn’t he have said something about the fact that she didn’t die to show his reason for hugging her that just would’ve made it seem a little less like he just picked her out to hug for an uncomfortable long period of time, putting her through this physical discomfort, and embarrassing her, by the looks of it.
So, I didn’t enjoy that scene at all. And that’s a shame, because I love dramatic reunions. I love stuff like that. I would have really enjoyed it had they framed it a bit differently. But, as we’ve covered, framing is perhaps not WorldEnd‘s strong suit.
DEE: At times. At times, it’s great. And then at other times, it’s just…It’s “What are you doing? Why are you trying to play on these cliches that make the story worse, not better?” So…
AMELIA: Yeah. Okay, next one in the list. Number five. Re:CREATORS. Have either of you seen this?
DEE: No. Thanks, Amazon.
AMELIA: Yes, I…Yes. I have seen it. I won’t go into too much detail. This was actually the premiere I was most excited about, and I went straight back to our group chat, and I was like, “Peter, you have to watch this! I know you can’t right now, but you have to watch it at some point!” And I probably would still stand by that. I think you would really enjoy it when you can get it through another source.
Its strength continues to be the fact that it has quite powerful female characters. A range of them. But, it’s not one of those [where] you have female characters specifically just to be a cast of women with no men in the vicinity. There are male characters, too. There’s different aesthetics. There’s different kind of strength types. There’s different temperaments. It’s a very enjoyable cast to spend time with.
The first episode is probably the tightest storytelling that it has. It has dropped into this kind of “tell don’t show” mode a lot of the time, which I think they really need to fix since they’ve got a cast of characters who are really action-focused, it would be good to see them show a bit more.
And, also, there are certain plot points from the opening episodes that are extremely intriguing and they just don’t touch them for five episodes.
Okay. Hopefully they’ll start picking those threads up and by the end we’ll have something really special—
PETER: [Crosstalk] Yeah, I’ve seen clips and I’ve heard a lot of good things, so.
AMELIA: –at the moment.
DEE: Yeah, it sounds fun. For sure.
AMELIA: It is absolutely fun, definitely. I don’t think it’s quite going to live up to my expectations for episode one, but I am enjoying it and I am intrigued to see where they go with it. I think people who will benefit from it most would probably be someone like Frog, who’s really familiar with light novel tropes, because this is all about light novel characters.
PETER: Yeah, it seems super light-novel-y.
AMELIA: Yeah, absolutely. So, if you don’t know those tropes, it’s still fun. But I think there’s a lot of easter eggs that I’m missing because I’m just not in that scene. So, I do hope that you both get a chance to watch it at some point. Especially you, Peter. I think you would really enjoy it once you get to it. But I completely understand it’s not an option right now.
PETER: When the opportunity arises.
AMELIA: When the opportunity arises, which is at some point.
And, that is the last in our category for “Feminist Potential.” As you can see, some of them have met their feminist potential better than others, but there is still half a season to go, so we’ll come back to those at the end of the season and maybe our assessments will have changed. So, now we’ll move in to the last category, which is “Feminist Themes.”
These were ones that we kind of identified…I say “we.” I think I did all of these. So, I decided they all have explicit feminist themes. Number four was Granblue Fantasy, which in the premiere has a real emphasis on agency and consent. How do you think it’s continued those themes in the rest of the series? Are you both watching it?
PETER: I’m an episode or two behind at this point.
DEE: I’m mostly caught up. Listeners, we’re recording this on a Sunday, and episode seven came out yesterday. So, I haven’t seen episode seven. But I’ve seen the first six.
AMELIA: Yeah. I’ve seen the first five, I think. So, how do we think it’s handling it so far?
DEE: I have no complaints, really.
DEE: [Laughter] Do we have anything else that we want to add to that?
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, I think that was the…You pretty much summed it up. I feel like it hasn’t done anything bad, but I also don’t think I found anything that was really interesting about the series after the first two episodes.
The whole subplot where they go to that other town and meet that guy with the airship. I guess that’s how they get the airship. I was just bored.
DEE: [Crosstalk] Rackam!
PETER: Bored to tears, to be honest.
DEE: Really? I like Rackam. I like Rackam a lot.
PETER: [Crosstalk] Well, I–
DEE: Maybe I just like his character design.
PETER: Yeah…I mean, he seemed like an okay character. It’s just nothing was really happening. They ran into the two demons a couple times who were acting very strangely. I didn’t quite get–
DEE: [Crosstalk] Drang and Sturm, I’m pretty sure, were their names.
PETER: Yeah. Yeah, and I don’t know. It meandered for a really long time, and it felt like I knew exactly what was gonna happen. They were gonna get the airship and fly off. But it was just taking so long to happen.
And I was like: “Please, just get on the airship and leave. I want this story to move.”
I guess that’s…Nothing bad happened. It’s just no events surprised me. Nothing felt particularly charming. That might be the most–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] I’m really enjoying the journey of this one. It feels to me almost like a film that’s been cut up into episodes, if that makes sense, rather than each episode having its own kind of clear arc. And it hits a lot of Laputa notes for me. And Laputa is one of my favorite all-time films, ever. So, that…The aesthetics of that alone I’m kind of stuck on.
DEE: Yeah. I’m in love with the art design and the character design.
AMELIA: Yeah, I’m really enjoying it.
DEE: It reminds me…Probably because it is. It’s a very kind of straightforward fantasy JRPG. And I like straightforward fantasy JRPGs, so I’ve been enjoying it from that perspective, too.
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. My one concern in the premiere–I think I mentioned this in the review–was that Gran takes on some of Lyria’s power, and I was like: “Okay, so is he going to become the Kirito?” basically. Is he gonna become the all-powerful guy who the powerful women end up kind of standing behind to be protected? I think they might be headed down that road based on what I saw in episode five, where–
DEE: [Crosstalk] He’s…yeah. Mm.
AMELIA: They’re facing this goddess, and Lyria’s like: “I can help I can do this.” And then they get close enough and she says, “Oh, no, actually, Gran, you need to do this. Here, let me give you some more power so you can go and do this.”
And I admire her collaborative spirit, but it just continued that concern for me. And I worry that at the very end we’re gonna get people like Catalina being completely relegated, and I’m not sure if I’m okay with that.
DEE: Yeah. What I’ll give it is…I mean, it’s a hero’s journey. And the hero in this case is a boy. So, he’s gonna be the guy who saves the day. I mean, that’s how the hero’s journey story goes regardless of the gender of the main character. And I guess in the video game you can play as either.
So, it’s kind of a bummer that they didn’t make Gran a girl, but–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Exactly. That is feedback we’ve gotten in the comments for the review for this one. People say, “Well, actually, in the game you can be a woman. And you can be going through this exact story and wouldn’t that have been something special?”
DEE: Yeah, I mean it…I don’t know how much it would’ve changed the story itself, but from a viewer’s perspective, it would have changed the way some of the character dynamics work out.
AMELIA: But we’re looking at this and we’re saying, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with it.” And that’s kind of the most positive thing that we can say about it. I’m saying I’m enjoying it, but it isn’t…It’s going up against some pretty strong fantasy shows this season. And it’s not standing out. Actually having a female protagonist would’ve really made it stand out for all the right reasons. Especially if they hadn’t changed the dynamics in any huge way. That would’ve been really incredible.
DEE: I do like that Lyria and Gran are…It’s totally collaborative. Gran doesn’t really have any power on his own, so the fact that it’s kind of a partnership between the two of them, I enjoy that.
And they haven’t…The side characters do kind of get sidelined so that Gran can be the hero, but they don’t…There’s never really been a moment where I felt like they turned Catalina into a damsel, or anything. It was kind of–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] No, absolutely not.
DEE: –depending on the situation, sometimes they needed Gran and Lyria to use their superpowers, and sometimes Catalina needed to do her thing. And I really liked the scene where she talked to them and said, “Hey, next time you’re gonna do something wild, you kind of need to tell me, because I consider myself your guardian and I want to make sure that I know what’s going on and can keep an eye on you guys.”
AMELIA: On the whole, I am really happy with the dynamics that they have. I think just the fact that was a concern in the premiere and it seems to maybe be upheld…It makes me wonder where the series is gonna land by the ending on this note.
DEE: I mean, I fully expect Gran to save the day. But as long as they don’t turn anyone else–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Sure, but is he gonna save the day…
DEE: [Crosstalk] –into useless characters…
AMELIA: Exactly. Is he gonna save the day singlehandedly, or is it gonna be this collaborative effort with just him at the front with his sword and various power? That would be a key difference that would decide whether I could recommend this to people or not, I think.
DEE: Yeah. I agree with that.
AMELIA: Okay. Number three. Kabukibu, which neither of you have seen.
AMELIA: And I’m so sad about this, because I think…I’m maybe going to overstate this, but I think might be the most feminist-relevant show of the entire season. It is…It really challenges gender norms. It really challenges the stereotypical dynamics that you would expect between male and female high school students.
For example, there is a character who comes across as potentially trans, potentially nonbinary. It really is…It’s not explicit in the terms of being named that way, but you have a character who’s saying, “I really want to appear as feminine and my body keeps changing, and I’m not happy about it.”
So, you have situations like that, where, actually, there’s a lot for a feminist view. It’s a really…really appreciated and there’s a lot of amazing discussion that could come out of it. And you and Vrai need to watch this. You really need to watch this.
So this is, again, what Re:CREATORS is for Peter. As soon as it becomes possible, as soon as it becomes an option, please watch this. It’s, I think…I think I would potentially put it at the top of the rankings at the end of this season.
Time will tell on that. And I hope one day we can talk about it in more detail than we currently can.
DEE: That sure would be nice.
AMELIA: Okay. Let’s move on quickly, then, because that is too frustrating to me. Number two. Sakura Quest. I’m not watching this because…I want to, but I actually got so behind on the entire season, and I have been catching up. And I didn’t have quite as much time yesterday to catch up as I’d hoped. So, I’m a bit behind on this one. But I expect to enjoy it. How are you guys finding it at the moment? You’re both watching it, aren’t you?
DEE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
AMELIA: Okay. Peter, how’s Sakura Quest for you?
PETER: It’s…I have mixed feelings about it. I really, really liked the ending to the first episode. Her personal revelation about how that town was actually somewhat meaningful to her. And just the way they’re sort of organizing…I like the story. I especially like the themes of…Nick Creamer wrote a really good article about how it’s kind of about late capitalism and it kind of seems like there’s no actual solution to the problem they’re trying to solve, just because that’s kind of how the direction of things are going and they’re very small people in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
The most they could do is maybe create some meaningful change for them. I don’t know. I feel like the show lacks any kind of tension, really. And I’ve heard this…Miles was kind of talking up this show because it would…I don’t know if it’s the same people who made Shirobako, but–
DEE: Same studio, but not director. I think the character designer might be the same, and maybe some of the animation folks, but in terms of director-writer, it’s different. A different duo.
PETER: Okay. Yeah, but some of the complaints I’ve heard about Shirobako were it’s lacking any sort of dramatic tension. I’m really kind of feeling in this show…It feels like there’s no consequence for failure, because success and failure ultimately are almost the same thing. I find the characters pretty good.
I mean, as far as problematic elements, I can’t really see any in sight. But I don’t really love any of the characters either. They’re kind of entertaining sometimes, but I don’t know. I guess it’s kind of the same think as Granblue for me, where nothing’s really grabbed me. I can’t identify any problems, but I’m not super in love with it either.
AMELIA: How are you finding it, Dee?
DEE: I really like it. It’s not one that I feel like…I don’t often feel like I have a lot to say about it yet, and part of that may just be because it’s going to be two cour long and they’re unwinding it and sort of introducing you to everybody.
It feels kind of like a sitcom, I think, is the structure of it, which is maybe why that sort of lack of intense stakes that Peter was talking about doesn’t really bother me. Because I think it’s more interested in the individual character journeys, and these little episodic arcs as they slowly try to rejuvinate the town via different methods that succeed and fail alternatingly.
I described it as “anime Parks and Recreation” after three episodes, and I think that still kind of holds. And I really like Parks and Rec, so–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] I like Parks and Rec.
DEE: –I’m enjoying it. Yeah.
AMELIA: That gives me hope.
DEE: That’s kind of what it reminds me of. I really like the characters. A lot of them have elements to them where they’re in their early-to-mid twenties and re-evaluating what they want to do with their lives going forward.
DEE: Yes! Exactly. So, I definitely…Sometimes, there’s moments where it’s like: “Oh, same.” And then there’s other moments where it’s like, “Oh! Too same.” [Laughter] It’s a little too close to home.
One of the characters, Sanae, is…She’s the web designer who…She lives in Tokyo for a while and then she has a career crisis where she works herself into the ground, and realizes that despite working herself into the ground, that job she was doing, anyone could have done.
So she kind of has this moment of both killing herself for her career and then also realizing that she’s not important.
AMELIA: I see what you mean by “too same.”
DEE: Yeah. It’s…But I like that about it. I like that there…It’s not just…I ended up really liking Shinobaku. My biggest complaint about the first six episodes are so was that it felt a little too fluffy from time to time. And I think it gets better about that as it goes. I like that Sakura Quest really isn’t shying away from a lot of the unglamorous and no real easy answer sort of “you just have to keep trying stuff and figuring stuff out.”
It really…The core focus is kind of on the community and the friendship that these five young women build, and I like that too. Because it kind of gives them all motivation moving forward, and is one of the main reasons Yoshino decides to stick around, is ’cause she’s like, “Well, I like working with you guys. So, if you guys will stick with me on this, I’ll fill out my yearly contract here.”
AMELIA: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. There’s not enough anime set in the workplace, I think, considering that many of us who watch anime, we spend 40+ hours a week in this situation that we just don’t see reflected in anime an awful lot. Especially kind of your everyday-office-type workplace, which a lot of us are stuck in.
So, it would be…I think it would be really nice to have a show like–what do I mean by “very nice” here?–I think I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to enjoy it. My concern…I actually started watching the second episode, and it just didn’t grab me. So, does it actually pick up momentum as it goes, or is it very…?
DEE: It’s a sitcom. It’s very: one-to-two episode arcs solving a situation or a problem or some new plan that they have going forward.
AMELIA: Okay. I can get into that. I’ll check it out, and I will join you guys in discussion for it in the end-of-season-wrap-up podcast episode. See what I think then.
Okay. Number one on the list I put as Grimoire of Zero. And, again, this is one that neither of you have seen.
AMELIA: This is gonna be a very short discussion. I’m really enjoying it. I think that it raises a lot of questions. It’s…where as Kabukibu is doing something quite feminist in that, for example, it’s got this more effeminate male-presenting character, it’s got this masculine female character, it’s got complete acceptance of living outside of gender norms, and it’s got supportive adult characters as well. So, it’s a really positive kind of feminist show, I think.
Whereas Grimoire of Zero does more in terms of raising questions. So, you’ve got this character at the center who is Beastfallen. He is human technically, but he’s in the body of an animal. I think he’s a wild cat, or something.
DEE: He looks like a tiger.
AMELIA: Yes! Okay. That’ll do.
DEE: He looks like the Frosted Flakes tiger, but gray. [Laughter]
AMELIA: Yeah. He’s white or gray. And he’s protecting this witch who looks like a quite young girl. She is an adult, though. She is a very accomplished witch, and he’s also looking after another witch. And he’s kind of their protector. And at the beginning, he hates witches, he hates magic. And he hates the way he looks. He really wants to be human. Beastfallen are discriminated against, but so are witches. But witches have this power that Beastfallen don’t. Beastfallen have this physical power, whereas the witches that we’ve seen so far, they look on the more fragile side, physically.
So, there’s…It’s a really intersectional way of looking at things, and as the season goes on, he talks more about his feelings towards other Beastfallen. He’ll talk about another Beastfallen, kind of giving them a bad name. And he talks about the effect that has, that people won’t let him stay in their hotels and things like that, because of the reputation built up by the more problematic people of his species.
So, it’s all sorts of concerns and questions and topics that have some real world analogies. I think that as a mixed-race person myself, as a person of color, I really, really identify with some of the things that he says and thinks. But I also…When I say “identify,” this is many more years ago when I was kind of going through learning about my own racial identity and learning about how comfortable I was with it, and kind of feeling that out for myself. And he’s in this position where he feels resentment towards his physical appearance, like it doesn’t reflect who he is inside, and he just wants to get rid of his fur, get rid of his animal trappings, and look like a human, the human that he feels.
And the witch who’s with him is like: “Wow, your fur’s amazing. It’s really soft and warm and comfortable. You are human. You just look slightly different.” And she’s very accepting. And he’s not as accepting as she is of the way that he looks. And I’m hoping that over time he builds up more comfort with that. So far we’ve seen him break down certain preconceptions he had held about witches. He used to say he hated witches. He used to say he hated magic. As time goes on, he’s softening he’s stances on these things.
And I’m hoping that, by the end, that will apply to his own identity as well. So, I think that there is a real story of feminist interest and feminist relevance at the center of this. And I think it would spark some really interesting discussion. It is not as Kabukibu is, kind of a feminist representation. This is somebody who’s going through a struggle with his own identity, surrounded by other marginalized people who are being discriminated against in different ways, the way that he is discriminated against. And they need to support each other in order to make it through this universe they’re in, in order to accomplish their quest.
So, I’m…Again, I hope that you guys can watch it at some point.
DEE: That sounds fascinating.
AMELIA: Anyway. Yeah. Grimoire of Zero is one I’d really like to recommend to those who are able to see it. Hopefully at some point we can all have a proper discussion about it. Okay. That’s all for our top ten rankings. In the last five minutes, I just want to look at sequels, because this has been a season of some really high-profile and very popular sequels. I think probably a lot of people are watching Attack on Titan season 2? Just as an example. I know I am. That may well be a separate podcast at some point.
DEE: That would be fun.
AMELIA: We’re all watching different sequels. Dee, what’s your recommendation in terms of the sequels that are out there right now?
DEE: The Eccentric Family. I’ll get a megaphone out to shout it from rooftops, so.
AMELIA: You’ve just sped up your talking so much.
DEE: I get excited and then I talk fast.
AMELIA: Yeah, tell me. I’ve never seen The Eccentric Family. I know nothing about it. Why should I watch it?
PETER: Oh my god. Please watch it.
DEE: Oh, no. Just watch it!
AMELIA: But I haven’t seen the first season. It’s not available to stream.
PETER: You can still watch season two. It’s not, but you can still watch season two. It works.
DEE: I…Yeah, but no. You should watch season one first. Just find a way to watch it.
AMELIA: I’m getting some mixed messages here.
DEE: It’s honestly–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Okay, Dee. Why is it good? Why is it good?
DEE: Why is it good? It’s…First of all, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the most complete works, I think, in terms of combining the writing with the art with the voice acting with the music to create this very unique, fantastical world that feels just slightly out of the corner of your eye, because it’s in Kyoto and it follows tanuki and tengu and humans and this sort of tentative peace they kind of have with each other. This back-and-forth dynamic that the three groups have.
And it is…It’s one of those series that I have a hard time talking about because I love it so much. It’s sometimes hard for me to put into words exactly what about it just enchants me as much as it does. It’s primarily a family story–and I have a fatal weakness for family stories–the first season about the tanuki family and the second season is kind of exploring…Well, continuing to follow the main tanuki family there, but then also some of the more difficult relationships between the tengu and the humans and it really kind of challenges you in some ways to see the world from a different perspective in a way that I think is very unique because…Just as an example, tanuki run the risk of getting eaten by humans. Getting thrown into a hotpot.
And, it’s…As a person reading it, there’s this kind of initial idea of, “Oh, that’s monstrous. How terrible.” But the tanukis look at it as kind of a natural part of life, like the way we look at cancer. I mean, it’s a terrible, sad thing when it happens, but it’s just part of being, I guess.
So, those elements of the story are really kind of fascinating to me. But that it draws you in with these very human relationships between the different characters. And they’re complicated. And there’s a push and pull between everybody. But the base of it is this kind of lasting familial love, which is just lovely.
And then, it does…In feminist terms, it follows a male protagonist, but there are really interesting, kind of fun female characters on the margins. Benten is fascinating, and someday I would like to write something about her, but I kind of want to wait until the series is done before I make any kind of conversations there.
PETER: Yeah, there’s a huge arc for her.
AMELIA: Okay, you can pitch it to me in six weeks, then.
DEE: She’s really…Yeah, and even then, I think it’s supposed to be a trilogy of novels. So, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant to talk about her at all until I have the full story. ‘Cause she’s just so…She’s very interesting.
But as kind of a simpler example, their mom is very much sort of the loving kind of maternal figure that you see a lot of. But, at the same time, she likes to go out to pool halls dressed up as a takarazuka-style prince and take people for their money. And when she gets mad, she just starts screaming “Go to hell!” at everybody, and just…There’s this really…All of the characters have these really nice layers and quirks and the dynamics are just…It’s so good. Now I can’t stop talking about it.
PETER: The new characters are great, too.
AMELIA: I should watch the first season first.
DEE: I love it. I think so. I think that it sets up the character dynamics and the backstory among the tanuki and their kind of at first strange relationship with some of the other characters and how that all comes together. I think it’s worth watching the first season first.
And, I will say, there is a box set on Right Stuf that is not cheap, but it’s 100% worth it. This is one of my all-time favorite shows. This is top ten, easily.
AMELIA: I…Yeah, I believe you, but…I do believe you, but let’s just…DVD purchase, not an option. It’s not available to stream. You think I should wait until it’s available to stream again? Or do you think I could actually watch the second season without having seen the first?
PETER: I feel like you could. Maybe a lot of it would not make as much sense.
DEE: I would just wait. I would find a way.
AMELIA: Okay. That’s fine. I can wait.
DEE: Find a way. I don’t know. Steal somebody else’s Blu-Ray box set. I will mail it to you so you can watch it.
AMELIA: It won’t play on my DVD player. I’m in the wrong region.
DEE: No, it’s Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray should…
PETER: A lot of stuff is region-free now.
AMELIA: [Laughter] You can tell how long it’s been since I played a DVD.
DEE: Or, when you come to visit, you’ll be here for three weeks for conventions. We will watch it then.
AMELIA: I will! Okay. Okay. I might be a little bit busy, but we’ll see what we can do. [Laughter]
Okay, Peter. What sequel would you recommend?
PETER: Well, probably Eccentric Family, but we got that covered. So, Berserk is a series that’s near and dear to me. I feel like it’s probably some of the best Western fantasy that’s ever been written.
PETER: Yeah, that’s…Yeah. That’s not an exaggeration. And I’ve read a lot of fantasy. I’ve wasted many years of my life…
AMELIA: It’s not a waste.
DEE: That’s right.
PETER: Yeah. This is…The story arc where I feel like Miura takes a turn in the narrative that he’s telling, whereas before it’s very…Guts is very revenge-focused and isolated, and it’s a very kind of small world that he exists in after the events of the Golden Age. This one kind of blows the world back up again, and introduces a ton of new characters and character dynamics. There’s still…The series is very intense and I would say also problematic. There’s several rape scenes and stuff like that. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you might not be able to watch it, but I would encourage anybody who thinks they can watch something like that to do so in this case.
This is where it introduces a lot of my…Farnese exists before, but this is where she sort of turns as well and becomes probably one of the most fascinating female characters I’ve seen in anime or manga, ’cause she is kind of…She’s this heavily religious person when she first meets Guts, and encountering him and the world he lives in kind of reveals to her how insufficient the church’s teachings have been toward her facing and understanding the world, and she’s left in a place where she can’t…She’s kind of lost, I guess.
And now she has to figure out how she can exist knowing what she knows, and seeing how inadequate the way her life [that’s] been structured for her has been, while following with all these other characters.
And, on the same note, you also get introduced with Schierke, who is this hyper-competent witch, somebody Farnese would’ve burned before. And she is absolutely probably one of the strongest characters in the series, and she…Every…Whenever she encounters situations, she knows what to do. But at the same time, if there’s some sort of failure, or capturing other people and talking to them, she’s not quite as familiar with that yet. And I feel like she gets a very interesting rapport with Guts, where they’re kind of building on each other, ’cause Guts has lived so long, he has a lot of certainty about certain aspects of the world, whereas she has a much greater understanding of the way the world is put together, but she’s not as experienced as him.
And they kind of mutually support each other that way. It’s just…All the character narratives just become really, really, really, really good and all the while, the bottom’s dropping out of this world, which…I don’t know if you guys know hard fantasy, where it’s like very realistic, and it sort of…He keeps on digging this well deeper into our understanding of how the world’s put together, and magic, and the inner Interstice, which is the way the different planes of existence encounter one another, which is in and of itself fascinating.
I don’t know if I’m selling this very well. But it’s just like the world’s exploding and it keeps razor-focus on these characters, how they’re developing, and their relationships with one another. There’s absolutely a lot of problematic shit that’s happening in the meantime, but it’s all in service of this really intensely good story.
And this is where the story really takes off for me.
AMELIA: Okay, but what do you need to have seen already to be able to pick this up?
PETER: I feel like you could probably get away with just watching the first season and then this one, if you absolutely–
AMELIA: You say the first season. You’re talking about the one that aired last year?
PETER: Yes. If you absolutely want a full understanding of what’s going on with Guts’ backstory, like why he’s so angry, you can…Probably the easiest way to do that would be the movie trilogy, which is on Blu-Ray now, and is actually pretty cheap. It’s three ninety-minute movies, which covers the Golden Age, which is the prequel arc that they launch into at the beginning of the series.
I, of course, would always recommend the manga, but the movies will do it, too. They actually did a really good job of summarizing that in a very short period. Please watch Berserk.
AMELIA: [Laughter] I really want to watch Berserk. The only Berserk I’ve seen is actually the 1997 series, which is–
PETER: [Crosstalk] That one…Did you not like it?
PETER: [Crosstalk] I thought it was pretty good.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Oh, I loved it. I loved it. But I went…I started watching it last year, and suddenly there’s this little flying character, and Guts is there and everything’s fine, and I’m like: “Wait a minute.” Where the 1997 season ended, it was not in this place. So I was a bit confused. It seemed like I needed to go back to the films to kind of get up to speed, and then I started watching one of the films, and it seemed to cover the same ground as the 1997 series, so I was a bit confused.
PETER: Yeah, they retell the Golden Age, where the 1997 series starts with him killing that snake guy. That’s actually after the end of the Golden Age. That’s where Guts becomes obsessed with revenge, and he’s finding apostles to kill, and stuff. So, then he meets Puck, who’s kind of just a comedy character, I guess.
AMELIA: Yeah, and so it just…I started watching it last year. And you have Guts, he’s there, he’s completely fine despite the end of the ’97 series being, obviously, extremely dark, and that’s where they leave you. And he’s got this flying comedy character with him, and it just…It didn’t seem to sit in the same world.
PETER: Oh, yeah. I guess the movies bridge the very end of the series to that, a little bit. So, yeah, I’d say watch the movies and you’ll kind of find out why he is where he is. I wouldn’t say he’s fine, but he’s definitely not where he is at the end of the series, yeah.
AMELIA: What about all the complaints I heard about the use of CG?
PETER: Ugh. Uh, I mean, it is better…They have improved it. I’m actually kind of disappointed, ’cause I feel like KADO‘s 3d visuals are a lot better than Berserk‘s, which really kind of pisses me off. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah, KADO‘s, actually, were pretty good, which is somewhat of a rarity.
PETER: Yeah. I feel like they’re using some new techniques that Arc System Works was actually talking about at a recent GDC. How they made all their…They had 2D sprites in their old fighting game, and they made them three dimensional. And I guess a lot of anime studios are becoming interested in these techniques, because it’s amazing, the work they did.
So, I feel like KADO may have benefited from being created later and maybe having some more associations with using these techniques, or something like that. Berserk, it’s not the best, but I feel like…I was super impressed with episode two of this season, actually, which was a backstory for Farnese. You get to kind of learn about her upbringing, and they really stuck to…They didn’t really focus on the CG aspect. They had more of the two-dimensional scenes they do sometimes, and I felt like they did it really, really super well. Which was super important, ’cause that’s very formative for the next couple seasons.
So, yeah. There’s a lot of clanging and bad CG that, I mean, you just kind of…The story’s good enough…It’s worth it. It’s worth it. Please watch Berserk.
AMELIA: Okay. I would love to watch it. I would love to watch Berserk. Maybe I just have to power through last year’s season and kind of get to the point where it feels like it does make sense again.
PETER: Whatever it takes. You know, watch the movies.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Okay, my pick for recommended sequel is perhaps the most obvious one apart from Attack on Titan, which is My Hero Academia.
AMELIA: I love this show so much. I actually–
DEE: [Crosstalk] It’s a delight.
AMELIA: It is a delight. And it is the highlight of my week, genuinely. I haven’t been amazing at keeping up with the new shows. I have kept on top of the sequels I’ve been watching, and My Hero Academia comes first every time.
It really appeals to me as a big Naruto fan, because I think it improves on what Naruto did in many ways. I think that you have a character who actually is supported. You have a character who is…You have multiple characters, actually, who are able to express their emotions in different ways. You have female characters who are able to show strength in different ways. It is a much more balanced series, I think, than Naruto. And I say this as somebody who loves Naruto, so, please, don’t get upset with me for saying that.
But, My Hero Academia has…This is clearly written by somebody who understands shounen very well, and they’ve been able to distill what really touches people about shounen. And they’ve been able to apply it to a new kind of series, and I really hope that this sets the template for the kind of Shounen Jump shows we’ll be seeing from now on.
I saw this really cute comic that kind of showed My Hero Academia as being sort of the…Do you know that picture of the ninjas in Naruto, where you’ve got Kakashi over Sasuke and Sakura and Naruto, and he’s just leaning over them as their teacher. And they had this except with Goku as Kakashi and then they had Naruto–they had Ichigo from Bleach–and they had Luffy from One Piece, and it was showing them as the three, and I was kind of saying that My Hero Academia is the next generation after Goku and after those three.
PETER: Deku is Boruto, or something. [Laughter]
AMELIA: I think we want to be a bit kinder to Deku than that. Give him more credit.
But that’s really how it feels to me: that this is the next generation of shounen. And I was not won over by the first episodes of the first season. I watched them. I wasn’t really engaged it didn’t really grab me. That’s because it was just, at that point, Deku and All Might, and Bakugo was there, but he was pure antagonist at that point. He wasn’t likable.
DEE: [Crosstalk] He still kind of is.
AMELIA: Which is fine, but–
DEE: [Crosstalk] I like that about him, actually.
AMELIA: Over the course of the–Yeah, but over the course of the series, we have kind of come to understand he’s not stupid. He’s not–How do I say this?
DEE: He’s a privileged jerk. And they explain where he’s coming from. I actually love that about Bakugo, is that he’s…He’s not the villain with the tragic backstory. “Oh, he’s a jerk because he has this.” No, it just turns out that when you’re told from a young age that you’re special, you often become an asshole.
AMELIA: That right there! That right there, I think that’s so important. He is big fish in a small pond, and he goes to UA, and suddenly he’s surrounded by much bigger fish. He’s got people like Todoroki, who becomes a rival. He’s got people around him like Deku who he completely under-rated but is now at his level.
And that’s a really relatable situation told through a story of child superheroes. And they do the same thing with All Might, where his story is essentially one of aging. You’ve got this extremely powerful man who has this real physical strength. He’s got a real drive to help people, and over time he’s becoming less and less able to do that. And it’s for the right reasons, and it’s a really natural process, and it’s…He’s passed on this power to Deku. And he understands that this is just natural. It’s positive. It’s a good thing. But at the same time, he is no longer able to fulfill the role that has been called to his life for so long.
And that, again, it’s very relatable, but it’s told through a story of superheroes. And I think that’s what My Hero Academia is doing so well is that it’s giving you these entry points through multiple characters. I think it’s such a strong ensemble cast–
DEE: [Crosstalk] Yeah. Pretty much everyone is great.
AMELIA: –you can actually find…Pretty much every character is great, and they’ll also be one or two who you can empathize with more than the others because just something about them will grab you, and it’s…
DEE: I mean, that is the worst, but.
AMELIA: [Laughter] I think it’s a really exceptional example of what shounen series can be, and I really hope that it sets the bar for the next generation to come.
DEE: I hope so, too. I really like My Hero.
AMELIA: So, yeah. Season two: highly recommended. Pretty sure season one is still streamable.
DEE: It is, yeah.
AMELIA: That’s great.
I think that’s about all we have time for today. We’ve run a bit over. Worth it. It’s such a packed season. We’re really enjoying keeping up with it. Really looking forward to checking in at the end and seeing where some of these go.
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Thank you so much to Dee and Peter for joining me today. And please let us know what you thought of the season so far in the comments.