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    Continued from above.

    Stylistically and tonally Thor: Ragnarok most closely resembles Guardians of the Galaxy. Like the first Guardians movie, Ragnarok feels like it occurs in many locations. It also includes a Star Wars/Guardians style space-ship dogfight. And, like the first Guardians movie, Ragnarok is a serious story told with very lighthearted charm. In the same way particularly the first Guardians movie is subtly but tremendously important to the larger MCU, Ragnarok likewise feels like it will have significant reverberations throughout the MCU continuity. Also like the first Guardians, Ragnarok feels exactly like the result of a uniquely visionary, creative, and capable director left to his own devices. In fact, while the direction is excellent, director Taika Waititi nearly steals the film as the actor behind supporting character Korg. The movie is unexpectedly tremendously violent, but the hyperbolic tone and the brisk pacing prevent lingering on the violence, making it all seem like a children's cartoon. The pacing remains quick, even when the movie spends a large chunk of its time on the planat Sakaar. After two serviceable but unremarkable Thor movies, Ragnarok vies for the crown of the MCU movies. I'm not certain that it's the verb best MCU film, but it's definitely in the running.

    Despite Justice League being the DCU’s first biggest superhero epic so far, it distinctly doesn’t feel especially epic. The threat to the world actually never reaches beyond the borders of a nearly abandoned Russian village. In fact, the heroes cause more damage to the “world” than the villain does in the picture. When a DCU film finally feels like it could actually justify a longer running time, this one arbitrarily gets limited to exactly two hours by studio mandate. The result is an odd, uneven pace that unfolds in stops and starts, never developing a sense of momentum. Focus is also a bit of a problem. The movie revolves around Batman, but the theme of the film seems to try to subtly emphasize that Batman is the weakest, most expendable member of the league. He’s been active the longest and seems to have trouble keeping up with the younger and/or more powerful team members. And to a large extent his primary contribution to the team is supplying financial backing rather than tactics, experience, intelligence, or brawn. The surrounding league fares a bit better personality-wise. Aquaman’s west coast surfer personality doesn’t make any sense narratively, but it lends a welcome breezy tone to offset Bruce Wayne’s dourness in the few scenes Aquaman is prominent in. The Flash and Cyborg both get prominent characterization by necessity since they’re new additions to the cinematic universe. Flash comes across well because he gets the most vivid personality, and he gets to rescue people. Cyborg is relegated to even more of a back-up support role, so despite effort to personify him, he still comes across as a minor supporting character. Wonder Woman continues her characterization from her previous appearances, but she also feels deliberately marginalized. The film’s story is minimal and superficial because the villain, Steppenwolf, is the shallowest villain of the modern comic book movie era. His entire plot and entire motivation is simply “because he’s evil.” Moreover, he’s entirely CG despite being completely humanoid. While there’s seemingly no reason why he couldn’t have been portrayed by an actor, he’s instead portrayed by CG that’s not highly convincing, further limiting his impact. Further bothersome, early in the film the transition from the obviously fully CG rendered Gotham City to the real world setting of Europe is a jarring transition that highlights the film’s artificiality for viewers. During the opening credits the movie is also especially heavy handed in its depiction of a “hopeless” post-Superman world. But on the positive side brief glimpses of intelligence occasionally peek through, and thankfully the film’s color palate isn’t solely composed of black and orange. Occasionally the action gets a bit typically Snyder incoherent, but thankfully most of it is competently shot and edited to be comprehensible and entertaining. And the movie contains two or three prominent cameo Easter eggs for comic book fans, one of which appears in the film’s second of two post-credits sequences. Justice League doesn’t feel as substantial or satisfying as the concurrently released Thor: Ragnarok nor does it quite rival the Avengers movies. But thankfully it’s an appreciable improvement over the very heavily flawed BvS and Suicide Squad films.

    I've never complained about the conclusion of the first season of Stranger Things although I do recognize that the ending is a bit ambiguous. But the final five episodes of season 2 do wrap up in a more complete and conclusive way. The season isn't flawless. Billy & Max's background story is initially teased to be far more significant than it actually is. Kali feels a bit forcefully shoehorned into the show just to give Elle a nudge in the right direction. Likewise, Murray Bauman is briefly introduced in the first episode before entirely vanishing for half of the season.

    The Gifted episodes 1-3 don't feel as cheap and artificial as Inhumans, but the writing still feels uneven, frequently seeming rather juvenile and simplistic. Furthermore, the show feels as though it alternately wants to concentrate on its characterizations or its story development and, as a result, does a poor job of developing both. The show may avoid being terrible, but it's not especially engrossing either.

    Watched the first four episodes of the Netflix Punisher TV series. Even more than prior Netflix Marvel series, this one feels the weight of its prescribed 13 episodes because the pacing is exceedingly slow for no other reason than the need to stretch the story to fill the episode count. Moreover, the story also feels a bit like a chore because the show depicts Frank Castle still investigating the murder of his family even though his own show is set a year after his storyline in Daredevil season 2, in which he seemingly wrapped up the murder of his family. On the positive side, despite action scenes being few and far between, they’re intense and satisfying when they do occur, and possibly thanks to Frank’s cautious paranoia, the characterizations and story development don’t feel nearly as arbitrary and dumb as the previous two Netflix Marvel series did.

    Caught the last quarter of the Bucs loss to the Saints. Watched the Raiders beat the Dolphins. Watched the Lions defeat the Packers. Watched the Seahawks beat the Cardinals. Watched the Bucs win an ugly game against the Jets. Watched the Falcons tee-off on the Cowboys, and the Patriots beat the Broncos. Watched the Panthers school the Dolphins. Watched the Steelers beat the Titans. Watched the Bucs beat the Dolphins, the Patriots defeat the Raiders, and the Seahawks crush the Cowboys. The Falcons' narrow victory over the Seahawks was an exciting game.

    Comment


      Watched Blend S episodes 6 & 8 (since I previously watched episode 7 out of order).

      I understand that an undercurrent of darkness and melancholy runs through Mahoutsukai no Yome, but I distinctly prefer the brighter, more hopeful and whimsical episodes like the later half of episode 6, or episode 3, compared to the darker, less inspiring episode 7, or episodes 4 & 5.

      Watched Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou episode 7.

      Watched Net-juu no Susume episode 8.

      Rather loosely speaking, I think that typical high school romance shoujo anime gravitate toward one of two polar tones. There are shows like Kimi ni Todoke, Ao Haru Ride, Tsuki ga Kirei, and Suki-tte Ii na yo that have a subdued and richly dramatic tone that focuses on realism and subtlety. And there are shows like Skip Beat, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Itazura na Kiss, and Koi to Uso that have a slightly more artificial and heavy-handed tone and feel a bit more comedy-oriented than drama-oriented. I typically tend to appreciate the former category more often than the latter category. The first episode of Itsu Datte Bokura no Koi 10 Centi Datta distinctly feels akin to the latter category. The characterizations feel a bit forced, and the rapid plot development that blurs through the characters developing feelings for each other via a montage scene suggests that the story is more concerned with depicting certain pre-planned plot points than simply focusing on the means rather than the ends. This show simply feels a bit contrived to the extent that the male protagonist's older brother is a teacher at his school who offers lollipops. I can't recollect which other similar show featured exactly the same scenario, but it was a show from within the past year or so.

      Just half-way through the first episode of the Idolish Seven TV series, I could already easily tell that the show was written for dramatic effect without any care for realism. Nagi appears to be at least half-French, so the show uses his foreignness to excuse his obvious sexual harassment. Iori's reaction to Tsumugi's announcement is supposed to seem adult and rational, but he's actually petulant and completely wrong. He presumes that the new manager has been employed to support his career advancement when, in fact, he's not yet even a professional idol. So until he proves himself qualified, his management company owes him nothing. And then Tsumugi completely ignores her boss' direct commands on the first day of work simply for her personal gratification, because she doesn't want to be ruthlessly professional. By the second episode more plot problems become obvious. The management company seems concerned with making its idol group a hit, but no one appears to bother supervising or coordinating the boys' stage costumes. Tsumugi's father plays a weird role of being her father and allowing her to learn from her mistakes while also being her boss and expecting her to succeed despite not giving her any guidance.

      Watched Dragon Ball Super episodes 116 & 117.

      Houseki no Kuni episode 8 continues to affirm that this show is an under the radar masterpiece. It's completely unpredictable, and every episode is filled with wondrous, magical hope and gripping sadness.

      Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 8.

      Watched Animegataris episodes 7-8.

      Watched Himouto Umaru-chan R episodes 7 & 8.

      Watched Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara episodes 5-9.

      Watched Konohana Kitan episode 9.

      Attended the subtitled Ghibli-fest theatrical screening of Howl's Moving Castle.

      Satoko Kiyuduki's Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro volume 6 is definitely the best installment of the manga series since at least the third or fourth book. The series' primary story development has always been slow and intermittent because the story is far more about tone and characterization than story development. But volume 6 reveals some significant revelatory details and pushes the narrative distinctly toward an ending. Kuro has spent the prior five volumes slowly dying. In this volume, the corruption that afflicts her takes its greatest toll yet, but then an unexpected plot twist occurs that ‘s actually just as terrifying as it is hopeful. Once again, this volume excels at depicting a charming grim tragedy about two traveling companions walking toward their deaths while accompanying and parenting a pair of utterly adorable and innocent cat girl sisters who aren't aware that they're angelic monsters.

      After reading the first four double-length issues of the Image comic series Sacred Creatures, I'm still conflicted over it. Its narrative jumps through time, suspense, very cinematic action, and its heavy dose of supernaturalism make it feel like a contemporary thriller novel. The story almost feels like Dan Brown writing a supernatural thriller. But the major problem with the story is that it has no likeable characters. Every human being in the story is either a self-centered jerk, a prominent character with no unique, individual personality who exists in the story only to make plot developments occur, or a random insignificant background character that just populates the scene.

      The cynical reader can argue that the second issue of Sherlock Frankenstein is too bluntly emotionally manipulative. On the other hand, credit ought to be given for any typical American superhero comic book that deliberately tries to be emotionally evocative. I'm sadly disappointed that after the first two issues of John Layman & Sam Keith's Eleanor & the Egret felt very slow to develop, the third issue finally hit its stride, then the fourth issue feel rushed, the fifth and series' concluding issue likewise feels abrupt and condensed. It does manage to cover all of the narrative points that it needs to, but it does so with such brevity that it feels artificial and premature, as though the creators suddenly decided that they didn't want to work on the series anymore so hastily composed a quick ending that would just adequately wrap up the story. The first issue of Imaginary Fiends develops strictly by the numbers, but cliché is cliché because it works. The issue isn't groundbreaking or surprising, but it's competent enough to sustain my interest and curiosity. On the other hand, I was disappointed and off-put by the uneven pacing of the first issue of Infernoct. The second issue has similar problems. The second issue picks up shortly after the first but leaves the reader wondering if there was some storytelling left out or skipped over. The second issue creates the feeling that the series' creators have a strong sense of the story that's not being adequately conveyed to readers. Particularly in this issue, the protagonist and her boyfriend visit an abandoned building which they claim they were told to go to, except the telling didn't occur in the first issue. On the way they're randomly kidnapped, which seems like a bizarre and difficult to believe plot development. Then when the kidnapping turns out to be a matter of confusion, the couple volunteers to assist their former kidnappers instead of getting the hell away from them, which again feels very unnatural. I was hoping for something unique and intriguing from the first issue of Long Lost. Unfortunately it's not especially either. The first issue develops like an indie comic with a supernatural undertone. The protagonist is a young adult woman suffering from existential ennui. She goes about her daily life dissatisfied that life is so mundane and meaningless. Meanwhile a sinister ghost stalks her, which may be a figurative representation of her psychology but is likely supposed to be a literal monster in her shadow. The issue certainly suggests a possibility that its story will develop, but taken in isolation the first issue isn't especially interesting. The second issue of Malefic starts to feel a bit redundant in the sense that it's emphasizing a strengthening repetition of its story development, but the tone is still creepy, and the repetition of the story hasn't completely worn out its welcome yet.

      I'm seemingly one of the few ardent fans of the Punisher: War Zone movie. Jon Bernthal plays a more intense, brooding version of the dramatization that Thomas Jane introduced. Both depictions work, but they're far more cinematic than comic book-oriented. Director Lexi Alexander & star Ray Stevenson literally brought to life Garth Ennis's Punisher Max comic books. Particularly Bernthal's characterization is an almost schizophrenic contrast of a stone-cold loner who desperately clings to both his warm memories and his few personal relationships. Ray Stevenson's characterization was simply a relentless punisher, a fighter and tactician whose only concern was fulfilling his self-prescribed mission. So after watching Netflix Punisher episodes 5-10 I continue to respect the series' reasonably intelligent drama and tension (especially in comparison to the mostly laughable Iron Fist and the only somewhat improved Defenders). The action is intense, but the Netflix show still doesn't reach the deliriously satisfying comic book excess of “War Zone.”

      Watched the Vikings beat the Lions. Watched the bad Redskins beat the even worse Giants. Watched the Falcons outpower and out-skill the Buccaneers. Watched the Rams beat the Saints, and the Steelers beat the Packers. Watched the Ravens beat the Texans. Watched the Cowboys easily beat the Redskins.
      Last edited by John; December 1st, 2017, 11:15 AM.

      Comment


        Watched Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou episodes 8-10.

        The first half of Houseki no Kuni 9 is very affecting. Viewers see Phos emotionally tortured by guilt and the understanding that finally achieving what she dreamed of wasn't remotely worth the cost she's had to pay for it. The episode's second half is more lighthearted but also introduces the natural possibility of a psychological element that previous hasn't existed among the crystal girls.

        Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episodes 9 & 10.

        Watched Dragon Ball Super episodes 118 & 119.

        I like Net-juu no Susume, and episode 9 is fine. But episode 10 emphasizes the weakness that I dislike about the show. Episode 10 feels as if it's deliberately trying to hinder the story development and keep the pace slow. The protagonists are all adults who have no reason to be ashamed about their interactions or relationships. Yet they're so self-conscious that the story borders on feeling unrealistic. I'm stunned and even a bit disappointed that Sword Art Online, a series revolving around younger characters and seemingly intended for a younger audience that Net-juu no Susume still treats the relationship between its two PC game playing protagonists with more maturity than this show does.

        Watched Blend S episode 9.

        Watched Precure A la Mode episodes 38-41. I'm relieved that the sweets castle outfits don't appear often because they're silly looking.

        Watched Umaru-chan R episode 9.

        Watched Animegataris episode 9.

        Konohana Kitan episode 10 is a very pleasant one.

        I found a copy of the 1995 Elementals: Ghost of a Chance one-shot comic and bought it because it was written by Elementals creator Bill Willingham. I read it, but I don't get it. Chronologically it's set later in Elementals volume 2 after the events of the Oblivion War, which I never bothered to read. So I don't know who many of the characters are. Moreover, nothing seems to occur within this comic that justifies its existence as a special one-shot. Moreover, nothing about the writing exhibits the unique voice that typically makes Bill Willingham's scripting interesting. I can see why this is a disposable, forgotten comic.

        I bought, then read, the first three issues of Wonder Woman/Conan because I found them on sale. I suppose I wouldn't call the first half of the series “bad,” but it's neither inspired nor very interesting. Regrettably, a rather large portion of the story is devoted to essentially rehashing the same flashback over and over again, and also a dull montage scene demonstrating time passing. Wonder Woman has amnesia, so she's a high-strung combination of mopey and prideful. For some unfathomable reason, Conan comes across as almost reasonable. He's called “Conan the Barbarian,” yet very little about his characterization seems barbaric. So rather than a contrast of personalities action-fest, the first half of the mini-series is a rather dull road trip in which Conan tries to be a gentleman in order to get along with temperamental Wonder Woman. And, for some unexplained so far reason, Wonder Woman is just a normal human woman with no superhuman strength or abilities.

        The first issue of Dynamite's John Wick prequel comic is the first “movie” comic I've read since Highlander: American Dream. At least unlike Highlander, artist Giovanni Valletta draws a passably recognizable rendition of Keanu Reeves. Unfortunately, certain other parts of both the art and the writing seem to take significant shortcuts. For example, Wick interrupts a private hold-up, but it's only after the fighting and shooting is over that the story reveals the fact that another bystander was in the room who wasn't depicted before or during the unfolding scene. And in a series of panels a gunman points his weapon at Wick but is suddenly unarmed and being shot by Wick. Presumably John took the man's gun and turned it against its former owner. But still comic book panels create the appearance that the assailant's gun vanished, and Wick somehow materialized a weapon out of thin air.

        Black Magick remains commendable because it's so realistic and hard boiled. But the downside of being realistic is that issue 9, like prior issues, seems to develop at a snail's pace.

        Read the five-issue Shirtless Bear Fighter mini-series. It's an obvious parody of vintage “G-Man” secret agent action thrillers mixed with a sort of South Park style juvenile humor. It's amusing and occasionally just a bit more inspired and creative than expected. My biggest gripe with it is the protagonist's lack of arsenal. He almost exclusively relies on his “bear punch.” I would have liked to see a bit more range of offense, for example, “Bear uppercut,” or “bear haymaker,” “bear right hook,” or “bear cross-counter.”

        Curiosity motivated me to read the first issue of DC Comics' Mystik U, a story in which Zatana gets zapped back in time to relive her high school days. Despite the first issue being an extra long issue, the comic ironically feels like it rushes to go nowhere. Seemingly nothing of importance occurs, yet the storytelling is very jumpy, as if it's over eager to get to whatever scene is upcoming. The issue feels a bit like a poorly edited episode of Scooby Doo from which a few seconds of footage has been removed out of each minute of running time. The story development just feels slightly disjointed.

        Paper Girls issue 18 is fast paced and action-oriented.

        Read Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County: Brand Spanking New Day, the second print collection of Breathed's revived Bloom County comic strips. The creator hasn't lost any of his wit because this year old strips are every bit as creative, funny, and satirical as the classic 80's strips.

        Listened to U2's new Songs of Experience album. Seemingly the previous record, Songs of Innocence, took a lot of criticism for lacking individuality and feeling like redundant contemporary rock. Given that I'm not an audiophile, the skillfully produced and very confident accessible musicianship on “Songs of Innocence” are exactly what made that album appeal to me. The current Songs of Experience is getting better critical reviews calling the music more distinctively U2's signature sound. Perhaps specifically for that reason I find the songs on the new album less catchy and appealing. They're definitely more personal and a bit more experimental. But in my ears those exact characteristics are what make the songs more difficult for me to relate to. In fact, one of the songs on the new album I appreciate most is the final track “13 (There is a Light),” which is, in fact, just a remix of “Song for Someone” from the Songs of Innocence album.

        The Bucs outplayed the Packers, but just a handful of mistakes gave the Packers the win. Watched the Saints beat the Panthers, and the Seahawks beat the Eagles. Watched the Steelers win that game that the Bengals should have won. Watched the Falcons win a narrow victory over the Saints. Watched the ugly Bucs loss to the Lions, the Eagles beat the Rams, and the Steelers narrowly beat the Ravens.

        Comment


          Watched Ballroom e Youkoso episodes 13-15.

          Hirune-hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari is very nicely animated, and its animation expresses a lot of personality. Unfortunately, I want to like it more than I entirely do for two reasons. At two hours, the film is a bit over-long. The film does need time to develop its scenario because the story reveals itself slowly. And although no singular scenes feel excessive, the total impact feels as though the movie slightly outstays its welcome. A bigger problem is that the movie doesn't adhere to its own logic. The movie unfolds in protagonist Kokone's dreams and waking life. As the two settings begin to blend into each other, the film takes care to explain how. For example, magic in the dream world is the equivalent of X or Y in the real world. And the colossus in the dream world represents the looming 2020 Tokyo Olympic games' opening ceremony in the real world. But most of the film's climax is depicted in the dream world without clear parallels to the real world. So viewers are left confused and wondering what's actually occurring simultaneously in reality outside of Kokone's fantasy. Abruptly, during the climax, much of what occurs seems to not have direct figurative equivalency to the real world.

          Although I watched all of it, I didn't like 2010's Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei. I thought it was redundant, pretentious, and a bit annoying. Its 2017 sister story feature film Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome, on the other hand, is brilliant. The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl revels in visual artistic exaggerated flourish. Moreover, it avoids all of the weaknesses that hindered Tatami Galaxy. The movie has a brisk pace. And unlike its predecessor, “Walk On Girl” doesn't wallow in self-pity. The protagonist of Tatami Galaxy spent his time complaining the life wasn't fair to him. The characters of “Walk On Girl” are optimistic. They actively struggle to make connections and achievements and help themselves. In fact, the theme of the movie seems to be that youth is making interpersonal connections, so as long as people stay friendly and sociable, they remain vital, energetic, and youthful.

          Watched Himouto Umaru-chan R episode 10.

          Houseki no Kuni episode 10 is a really beautifully directed episode. The pacing, atmosphere, camera shots and editing in this episode are all exceptional.

          I really want to like Mahoutsukai no Yome more than I do. I like the show's atmosphere, and the TV specials and earliest episodes of the TV series were very affecting. But the show is so wrapped up in flashbacks that it lacks impact. There's no tension or suspsense in seeing what's already happened, and we've gotten so little time spent with the characters in present time that we haven't developed sufficient empathy for them or curiosity about their backgrounds. So the constant flashbacks seem more like distractions than advancement of the story. The series is best when Chise encounters other supernatural beings and creatures, but she only gets to do so in brief moments in between the show's constant flashbacks.

          Watched Kekkai Sensen & Beyond episodes 4-10. Unexpected, I think this second season that doesn't have an underlying continuing story is actually stronger than the first season. The episodic focus actually works better for this particular series considering its tone.

          Konohana Kitan episode 11 is the best the series has been in a little while.

          Animegataris episode 10 introduces as many new questions as it answers.

          I first watched Last Jedi in 3D IMAX on Friday morning, then again in standard projection on Saturday at 11. To stay spoiler-free, I'’ll say that I was very pleased and satisfied with the film. My personal two biggest nitpicks with the film are not the primary one that most critics initially address, so in that respect my complaints about the movie are very minor. Upon first viewing I was very pleased to perceive the film as primarily Luke Skywalker’'s story, particularly focusing on him learning his final lesson to complete his Jedi training. On second viewing I paid more attention to Poe Dameron'’s character arc and appreciated the nuance within it. I respect the film'’s balance of serious tone with humorous moments. I'’m grateful for the film’s respectful treatment of the legacy characters. And I think this film does a wonderful job of immersing viewers into the “Star Wars” universe and atmosphere.

          Watched the Dolphins outplay the Patriots and the Broncos beat the Colts. Watched the Chiefs beat the Chargers.

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            The trailers for Toei's original anime film Pop in Q suggested that the movie was targeted at typical adolescent otaku, largely because the trailers deliberately cull footage only from the very beginning of the film. In actuality the movie is a cute children's film targeted at the same pre-adolescent shoujo demographic that watches Pretty Cure and Aikatsu. The movie looks and feels like a simplified, less intense cousin to the 2000 Strange Dawn television anime. The story development in Pop in Q is, by anime standards, very straightforward and quite simplistic. It's a colorful and pleasant movie that's not particularly challenging and communicates a blunt moral message.

            Houseki no Kuni episode 11 is hauntingly and ethereally beautiful.

            Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 120.

            Watched Net-juu no Susume episode 11.

            Animegataris episode 11 may feature one of the biggest, most bizarre plot twists in the history of anime, but I'm not certain that I can really give it credit because I can't tell at all whether the entire series was deliberately planned around this tremendous revelation or whether this development, like most of the series has seemed to be, is actually just a last-minute spontaneous development.

            Watched Umaru-chan R episode 11.

            The "Shiro" B-part story in Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 11 was particularly hilarious.

            I'm a bit disappointed in and angry with the ending of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryoko episode 11 because the episode deliberately manipulates the viewers' knowledge. Even if XXXXX may be entirely harmless in the narrative context it's depicted in, the viewers' natural assumptions and mental associations create a sense of anxiety and tension.

            UQ Holder episodes 4-12 abandon the natural pacing of the series' first three episodes and turn into a sort of condensed summary prologue. With the exception of episode 9, the series' episodes dash at such a brisk pace that the story loses impact and the series feels more like a highlights reel of cataclysmic boss battles. The series has practically no natural progression. Protagonist Touta's strength simply leaps from ordinary to strong to invincibly god-like within a span of three episode, and from episode five onward the series is simply a sequence of high stakes, massive battles that sadly feel as if they mean nothing because the show hasn't taken any time to develop suspense, tension or significance. Furthermore, since the series tries to prolong its mystery for as long as possible, viewers don't know what's at stake in the battles, so the fights seem flashy but insignificant.

            Watched Aggressive Retsuko 73-87.

            Watched Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara episodes 10-12.

            As part of my effort to sample all of the year's anime, I finally watched the first episode of Shadow of Laffandor, a show from last season that I'd deliberately shelved. The show is a bit unique in the respect that it's not a digital manga nor a picture drama. It's actually a traditional visual novel game broadcast as a television series. The visual art is so dark that at times distinguishing exactly what's on screen is challenging. The voice acting is also just a bit odd because the protagonist's mother has the voice of a hundred-year-old grandmother but the visual design of a woman no older than 30. At least I did find that the initial ending theme song is quite nice.

            XFlag's very loosely connected Monster Strike side-story ONA Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi is enjoyable so long as one doesn't think about it too much. The Christmas special is set in a moderately realistic New York City, which makes it a bit unique and interesting. Furthermore, energetic editing and nice, plentiful action choreography keep the special entertaining. I'm completely uncertain whether the introductory depiction of black female NYPD officer Emma is racist or just satirical. The special clearly intends that viewers overlook a police officer's abject abuse of authority. Furthermore, the end of the special expects viewers to embrace a happy ending by forgetting about the fact that the flashback scene ends shortly before its featured character is tragically killed on Christmas day. Furthermore, viewers are expected to not wonder why a Tokyo police officer is sent to NYC for an exchange program then assigned such a routine task as directing traffic.

            Watched the first episode of Production I.G's cell phone anime series Mentori.

            Watched Precure A la Mode episode 42.

            Setting aside the question of time paradox, Konoha Kitan episode 12 is a sweet & tender episode.

            In preparation to see The Disaster Artist, I watched Tommy Wiseau's The Room. I did laugh out loud several times, signifying that the film is a legitimate “so bad it's good” movie.

            Watched the Panthers defeat the Packers, the Patriots win a game against the Steelers that they should have lost, and the Cowboys beat the Raiders. Watched the Bucs lose to the Falcons.

            Comment


              Watched Urahara episodes 3-12. I'm honestly saddened that the series is a failure because it's regrettably heavily flawed at a fundamental level. The show has a unique, creative look, and some of the limitations in its animation stylistically enhance the show's grassroots charm. But the first of the show's core weakness is that it doesn't know what it wants to be or do. Tonally the first few episodes feel reminiscent of both Marshmallow Tsushin, a children's anime, and Sweet Valerian, a satirical anime for adults. Roughly half-way through the show takes a Madoka Magica twist, suggesting that it's aiming for the traditional otaku demographic. When the show doesn't know what tone it wants to have or who it's trying to speak to, it ends up feeling underdeveloped and unfocused. Moreover, the show demonstrates an awareness of anime tropes but doesn't seem to fully understand how they work. The show is ostensibly a magical girl anime complete with weekly battle action scenes. But the show doesn't prioritize its magical girl theme, so the transformations and battle scenes feel irrelevant and tacked on to a slice of life show. Moreover, the vital necessity of magical girl anime is that the girls fight to defend something. Magical girls protect something because their strength and perseverance comes from love and desire to help and defend others. However, the three protagonists of Urahara are supremely superficial. They only care about themselves. They measure their own self worth by how other people perceive them. So they're not praiseworthy, ethical characters who become more caring and self-sacrificing. These are not traditional anime characters who value hard work, devotion, friendship. These characters are only friends and only act in order to achieve self-gratification. They're literally shallow, selfish, superficial characters. Even when the obligatory conflict between them occurs, it's not love or understanding that snaps them out of their spell; it's literally seeing how physically ugly they've become that shocks them back to reason, reinforcing the sad fact that the girls only care about superficial appearances. The show wants viewers to adore the girls, but the characters don't actually have redeeming, respectable personalities. They only care about themselves, and they only stay with each other and help each other in order to satisfy their personal desires. The girls just use each other as a mutual admiration society.

              Watched Kekkai Sensen & Beyond episode 11.

              Caught up with Precure A la Mode episodes 43 & 44.

              Apart from the expected twists and turns within the film's plot, the One Piece: Film Gold movie doesn't surprise or vary from formula. But it doesn't need to because the formula is strong. Particularly the first third of the movie is especially interesting because its deliberate use of sweeping camera pans and extensive use of medium and long vista shots effectively visually expresses the flashy, glitzy setting and theme of the movie. Technically the movie may have some weaknesses. The most elaborate action is reserved for the beginning and end of the film. Sanji and especially Zorro, who are typically a bit more prominent, get largely sidelined, and the film includes a few cameos that feel more like blunt fan service than organic and necessary cogs in the film's machinations. But the film's pace and sheer energy are energetic enough to distract from the small flaws.

              KyoAni's short film Baja no Studio (pronounced “Bajya no Studio” rather than “Baha no Studio”) is a cute, simple children's film about a hamster that lives as the pet in an anime production studio and just wants to become friends with the rubber duck in the pool in the studio's courtyard.

              Watched the first episode of Sylvanian Families Mini Story.

              I'm increasingly finding reason to believe that Justin Jordan is a competent comic book writer with his heart in a commendable place who managed one exceptional story with his “Luther Strange” trilogy. At least the first third of Spread was good. But considering that it's an acknowledged Lone Wolf & Cub homage, it feels like it has a long way to go to live up to its inspiration. Savage Things was competent but little more. The first issues of Strayer, Family Trade, and now Death of Love have felt functional but uninspired. The first issue of Death of Love suggests that it wants to be an over-the-top absurdist parody in the vein of Shirtless Bear Fighter or at least satirical comedies like Family Guy and American Dad. But the first issue feels choppy and far too grounded. If feels like Kevin Smith domestic comedy rather than Bruce Campbell b-movie comedy. And I don't know what “negging” means. Judging by context, it's some form of trying to pick up women. And the issue's cliffhanger twist doesn't appear to make sense. If the protagonist can suddenly see cupids, how do the cupids instantaneously know that he can see them?

              I also read a second preview comic book, the first issue of Ivan Brandon & Esad Ribic's VS. The art design has an aesthetic that evokes classic Bernie Wrightson & Richard Corben. The concept of corporate sponsored war as a broadcast spectator sport isn't as innovative or creative as the comic itself seems to think it is. The book is a little bit difficult to follow because the relatively limited color scheme and design of the warfare scenes somewhat makes distinguishing the members of the opposing teams apart a bit difficult. Furthermore, following the action is challenging because the dialogue refers to strategic commands like “flank around” and “get behind them,” but panel layout doesn't assist readers in figuring out where characters are located in relation to each other or exactly what's happening. Furthermore, numerous characters get eliminated in long shots or seemingly out of view, which again makes following who is fighting who difficult to keep track of.

              Although James Franco's film The Disaster Artist could be approached as a fictional drama, anyone who's watched The Room will likely have trouble perceiving the film as anything but a dramatization of actual history, specifically the genesis of Tommy Wiseau's cult hit film. The Disaster Artist is a brilliant send-up and ironic homage for a few reasons. It's rather fast-paced, so it doesn't bog down too much. It seems to confirm and validate everything that outsiders suspected about the origins of The Room, primarily that the film's creation was a lunatic fit of miraculous functioning insanity and impossibility. And most of all, the film respectfully and seemingly honestly portrays Tommy Wiseau alternately as a sympathetic underdog and a spiteful, jealous brat, all while confirming that Wiseau is ultimately just a step out of touch with the human race. The film's convincing depiction of unbelievable reality simultaneously pokes fun at how crazy Wiseau was while ungrudgingly respecting the fact that his sheer determination (and mysteriously unlimited resources) bucked the odds and actually managed to successfully create something out of nothing.

              Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water is exactly what one would expect. It's a suspenseful and bitingly satirical romantic monster movie. The film has all of the intelligence one would expect from a Del Toro film, as well as moments that seem unexpectedly adult and graphic in this adult fairy tale that still feels very childlike. My singular complaint with the movie is that right around half-way through the film's pacing drastically slows abruptly enough to give viewers figurative whiplash.

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                Simply put, Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta is Masaaki Yuasa's reimagining of Hayao Miyazaki's Gake no Ue no Ponyo. In other words, “Lu Over the Wall” is Masaaki Yuasa's version of Miyazaki's “Ponyo on the Cliff.” The primary cast of Lu no Uta is just a few years older than Sousuke in Ponyo, but both films seem to target the same viewer demographic. While Ponyo concentrated heavily on Sousuke and Ponyo, Lu no Uta widens its perspective to give equal screentime to the seaside village and its residents. Regarding technical merit, I'm conflicted about Lu no Uta. The animation throughout exhibits the rubbery, exaggerated animation that Yuasa is known for. Viewers that prefer realism won't like it, but viewers that appreciate animation expressly exploiting its abilities will appreciate the work. However, especially early in the film many scenes don't feel composited well. The foreground and backgrounds don't mesh well, resulting in a visual design that looks like cheap, amateurish Flash animation. The story development is also just a bit on the weak side. Several characters in the film dislike or fear mermaids. But all of the characters' antipathy gets individually explained except for the one whose hatred is most pivotal to the film's plot. Furthermore, the film goes out of its way to illustrate Yuho's grandfather asserting dominance. Yuho's father abruptly stepping up does make a great literary parallel to Lu's father, but in terms of the plot development also feels like a strange, contrived plot twist. Seemingly without any reason or predication, all of the company employees abruptly turn their loyalty from one boss to another. Viewers that want Masaaki Yuasa's typical esoterica may be disappointed that Lu no Uta is such a simple and straightforward family film, but viewers that can appreciate and enjoy Lu no Uta for what it is will likely find it quite fun.

                After so many years and so many films, I have trouble distinctly remembering all of the Detective Conan movies. Film 21, Crimson Love Letter, feels about par for the theatrical franchise. The weaker films don't have a clear mystery or conflict from the outset like films 8 (Magician of the Silver Sky) & 12 (Full Score of Fear), or like, 14 (Lost Ship in the Sky) and 19 (Sunflowers of Inferno) include prominent illogical or stupid plot twists. The strongest films have a sense of tension throughout and hinge on suspense, like films 13 (Raven Chaser) & 18 (Dimensional Sniper). Crimson Love Letter is neither particularly weak nor strong. It includes only two setpiece action sequences at the beginning and ending of the film. Both scenes have exceptional editing and strong animation. But the two scenes alone don't buoy the entire film. Much of the film's mid-section feels a bit soap-operish. In one climactic plot revelation the romantic drama pays off nicely. In another parallel plot revelation, the payoff is a disappointing disposable joke.

                Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou episode 12 really illustrates the point that many of the show's settings and plot developments don't make any sense when examined critically. This episode revolves around the girls' camera, but the device, which has been just a camera for half of the series, in this episode suddenly turns into a comprehensive digital Wikipedia just because the plot needs it to happen. Another illogical plot development is the fact that the submarine's command room was playing videos with audio, yet in the very next scene the same room suddenly doesn't have the ability to project sound because the plot needs the circumstances to be that way. How on earth can a command room full of computers not have a single speaker, amplifier, or radio? As a slice of life iyashikei show, Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou has a slightly slower pace and a slightly different atmosphere than most. But as a lightly humorous calming show, series including Non Non Biyori, A-Channel, Acchi Kocchi, Nichijou, Minami-ke, Usagi Drop, Flying Witch, and Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari are better.

                Kekkai Sensen & Beyond episode 12 is bloody, violent, and an entirely satisfying series' finale.

                Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 121.

                Blend S episode 12 is a fine series ending so long as the viewer can set aside the potential deviance of an adult trying to start a romantic relationship with a high school age girl.

                Following Houseki no Kuni episode 12, I'm tempted to nominate the series as the best anime TV show of the year, except it has one glaring flaw. While the show's pacing was perfect, there's simply too much story to tell within the show's allotted dozen episodes, so the second half of episode 12 simply gives up hope of tying up all of the loose ends and instead just concentrates on creating an endcap for the series. This is a show that desperately needs a second season to address the prominent and profound character relationship and philosophical questions the show introduced.

                The A part story in Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 12 was especially hilarious.

                Doing a bit more catching up with 2017, I watched the first episodes of Crayon Shin-chan Gaiden season 3: Kazokuzure Ookami and season 4: Oh Oh Oh no Shinnosuke. Season 3 is another samurai parody comparable to movies 3 & 10. Season 4 is a Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro parody.

                Watched the Yama no Susume: Omoide Present OVA.

                Watched Umaru-chan R episode 12.

                The final episode of Animegataris is amusing particularly because it's nearly a ridiculous train wreck, and the episode itself actually acknowledges its status multiple times throughout the episode. To its credit, the episode carries through one of the most extended anime in-jokes I've seen since Seitokai no Ichizon, and this gag tops even those earlier ones because rather than just being a homage, the extended gag in Animegataris episode 12 is a subtle meta-anime reference. The entire episode feels exactly like a loose scenario concept written by a gang of deeply devoted anime otaku. So the episode is filled with references and referential concepts but doesn't really have a coherent plot.

                In Mahoutsukai no Yome episode 11 I have to wonder what type of stone Chise's giant necklace pendant is made out of since it seemingly floats in water. Also watched episode 12.

                After watching the 13th and final episode of Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara, I clearly understand that protagonist Chisato enjoys consuming the alcoholic mixed drinks her husband makes for her, but I still don't have any clue why she's so obsessed with maintaining the false public image that she doesn't drink alcohol.

                I took another shot at Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau by watching the series' second episode. Superficially the show is similar to Suisei no Gargantia and Overman King Gainer but skews a bit closer in tone to the later than the former. Gargantia was immediately compelling, interesting, and empathetic. King Gainer took the opposite route by being deliberately opaque and a bit silly. Children of the Whales unfortunately falls somewhere in-between. It feels distant and resigned. Nothing about the first two episodes draws in my interest as a viewer. Moreover, the episodes hint at massive, global secrets thereby both making the scenario feel a bit implausible and further making the show even more alienating for viewers.

                Watched the short Yankee-kun na Yamada-kun to Megane-chan to Majo OVA. I enjoyed watching the Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo anime, but the Yamajo characters really only have a cameo appearance in this short cross-over.

                I'm conflicted by the eleventh & final collected volume of New Lone Wolf & Cub. The book maintains the dramatic pacing that typifies the series, but it feels as if it also simplifies and excludes a number of smaller events and circumstances to allow the book to wrap up multiple story threads within one book. On one hand, if a reader chooses to perceive the volume's storytelling as especially realistic, then possibly all of the book's events do make sense. At the same time, “realism” seems like a convenient shortcut to avoid having to embellish with gratifying and exciting story development. After spending ten volumes setting up intense, dramatic conflicts and convoluted struggles, everything gets wrapped up in the eleventh volume so perfunctorily that the book feels tremendously underwhelming.

                The Packers just looked uninspired and uninvolved in their loss to the Vikings. Watched the Bucs commit a penalty that gave away a game to the Panthers, and the Seahawks beat the Cowboys. Watched the Steelers easily beat the Texans, and the Eagles beat the Raiders.

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                  Watched the first episode of Inagawa Junji no Sugo꞉ Ku Kowai Hanashi.

                  I'm a bit relieved that Precure A la Mode episode 45 is the final episode in the current cycle of Elisio attacking each of the girls individually. But I really don't mind at all that episode 45 is a Yukari-centric episode because Yukari is one of the most unique and interesting characters in the Precure canon. Her personality is much more unusual and unconventional compared to standard magical girls. I rank her up with Yuri and also Itsuki in Heartcatch and possibly Hikari in Max Heart as Pretty Cure protagonists with much more unusual and unconventional back-stories and personalities.

                  Having now watched it, I'd highly recommend that potential viewers approach Production I.G's short film Mitsuami no Kamisama with as little foreknowledge as possible. Similar to another 2011 Tohoku Tsunami response anime, Blossom, Mitsuami no Kamisama has a simplified art design resembling watercolor painting in motion. The picture is initially charming and humorous, but it reveals a more profound moral ambiguity that dramatically provokes viewers to consider their own perspective.

                  When I finally got around to watching the Mayoeru Otoko no Ko OVA, I discovered that it's merely an avant segment followed by an opening animation. So it's more accurately just an extended trailer than an actual complete anime.

                  Watched the second Queen's Blade Grimoire OVA & Vanquished Queens OADs 3 & 4.

                  The first episode of the LayereD Stories Zero promotional web anime feels exactly like a hybrid of the Black Mirror episode "Nosedive" about maintaining social media ranking and the Persona 5 Daybreakers OVA.

                  Read a sample preview of the first issue of writer Ales Kot's upcoming comic book mini-series Days of Hate. Characteristic of Kot's writing, the script loosely makes sense, but there are too many gaps to make a fully comprehensible story. I'm unclear about whether the partner protagonists are police, private detectives, vigilantes, terrorists, literal social justice warriors, or some combination thereof. I also read a preview copy of the first issue of Ice Cream Man. The issues' particular variety of intertwined black comic horror is highly reminiscent of the 2007 movie Trick 'r Treat. The tenth and final issue of Motor Girl feels brief but is also packs a highly emotional punch to the gut. Head Lopper issue 8 wraps up the second storyline which is enjoyable but feels a little bit weaker than the first story arc. The second story feels as if it would have benefitted from one more issue to spread out the narrative and allow for a bit more development. Read Redlands issue 5. The first two issues of Ninja-K are a new story arc continuing the previous volume, so I'm not entirely sure why Valiant decided to turn this into a new series rather than just continue the prior series' numbering. New series' writer Christos Gage's prose is comparable to prior series' Matt Kindt's but is just marginally less introspective. After reading the third issue of Infernoct, I still don't have a clear, complete understanding of exactly what's going on. The literal plot developments, I comprehend, but I don't understand motivations or reasons beneath anything. I would drop the series, but apparently the first story arc only has one more issue anyway, so I'll hold out for that long. The third issue of Sherlock Frankenstein is supposed to be the mini-series' major narrative turning point, but the plot twist has been obvious to the readers since before this miniseries side-story even began. The appeal is in the telling rather than the story, and the telling continues to be charming. The first issue of The Consultant presented itself as a hybrid of The Boys comic series and the Ray Donovan television series. That's exactly what it is.

                  I can say with honesty that the Netflix original film Bright isn't wholly terrible. But I can't give it very much praise. Roughly the first quarter of the film is tough to sit through. The film paints its setting like an artist with a sledgehammer, and much of the setting makes little sense. Protagonist Daryl Ward has a wife and daughter for no other reason than to give the film a plot point to exploit, which it does very poorly. The film makes repeated references to “the public” wanting to respect diversity on the police force, yet seemingly every single intelligent being that exists on this alternate earth is racist, so I don't know who this “public” that the film refers to is. Literally, one would assume that at least one rational person in this world isn't a racist, but seemingly every single rational adult in the entire film is racist. The film provides no back story, so there's no way to tell exactly where the non-human races came from nor how long they've shared the human world, so it's very odd that the setting is filled with alternate races yet shows no obvious signs of the influence of any race beside humans. There are no orc or elf or fairy or centaur buildings or cars or television programs or restaurants. The film drops a line about no one wanting to partner with Ward. The line has no explanation and is never referred to again. Another sub-plot about Ward potentially betraying his partner never goes anywhere. The film introduces an entirely irrelevant “shaman” of some sort who seems able to recognize and prophesize the significance of the two main characters, even though he's never met them before, and his own explanation suggests that there was no way for him to know the information he seemingly knew. The film's big contextual revelation scene explains that three magic wands are necessary, but following that scene, the movie never again references wands two or three. The scene also states that evil elf Leilah is hunting Tikka, but the entire movie never explains why. At least after the 30 minute mark the movie turns into a fast-paced chase film with only two scenes that abruptly kill the momentum. Another blunt exposition scene in a bathroom occurs in which the two main characters explain their characterizations to the audience for the benefit of viewers not bright (pun intended) enough to see the obvious for themselves. Then during the film's denouement the debriefing scene simply doesn't know when to end. At least once the action finally kicks in, it's intense, violent, and moderately stylish, adequately distracting attention from the vacuous plot.

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                    If I'm getting this correct, Tenchi Muyo OVA series 4 is about Tenchi Masaki's father getting re-married and fathering a child who is destined to be sent as a savior warrior to the Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari world. The first three episodes set up the scenario and the wedding. The fourth episode depicts Kenshi's birth and childhood. The primary problem with this fourth series is that it's phenomenally boring. Since the characters have lived together for so long, and now the Masaki village is practically just one extended interstellar family, there's no sitcom slapstick left. And since the story is in an era of peace, there's no action, either. The entire series is just two hours of characters sitting around discussing family politics.

                    The 1992 Houkago no Tinkerbell OVA is a fine piece of disposable anime transitioning from the golden age into the modern age. The pre-opening motorcycle sequence is vintage 80's style anime, yet the body of the OVA has the tone and art design of early 90's productions. The two characters are pleasant, helping to offset the fact that the mystery story is one of the variety of weak mysteries that's impossible for the viewer to solve because the story withholds multiple vital clues.

                    Watched the Tsuki ga Kirei BD omake, which is a collection of additional episode omake comedy shorts.

                    Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 13.

                    Watched the two Escha Chron OVAs. They're nice looking, and Chron's perpetually cheerful disposition and novel fascination with just about everything is infectious and invigorating.

                    Watched the cute second and third episodes of the Komachi to Dangoro promotional anime.

                    Several years ago I watched the first dozen episodes of studio Trigger's brilliantly awful comedy series Inferno Cop, but I put off the final episode because it was a bit longer than the typical four-minute long episodes. Now I feel silly because I finally remembered that I hadn't watched episode 13, and I discovered that it's actually a four-minute final episode plus a ridiculous eight minutes of ending credits.

                    Continuing to tie up loose ends, I finally committed to watching Mahou Shoujo Taisen episodes 15-26. The weakness of the show is that it's exactly what it was intended to be. It's a showcase for regional Japanese magical girls, so the series has no larger narrative and barely any sort of character development.

                    Watched the first ten episodes of Yamato 2202. The first 8 episodes largely maintain the quality of their predecessor series and would have appeared on my “best of 2017” list had the series been a broadcast anime rather than an OVA series. However, episode 9 just goes to hell. Episode 9 has more plot holes than the previous 8 episodes combined. There's no explanation at all for how Zodar can psychically transfer his consciousness across the galaxy. There's no explanation for how he was able to modify and resurrect corpses from a battle that occurred only hours previously. His monologue harps on his perception and value of love, yet he also claims that emotions are worthless. He also complains that Kodai didn't save people that could have been saved, except Zodar rules the Gatlantis empire that doesn't take prisoners or care about saving anyone, so his sentiment is directly contrary to his principles. Meanwhile Susumu Kodai is suddenly way out of his league in this episode. He literally turns into a slack-jawed sobbing idiot who doesn't even attempt to rescue hostages. Then the episode's resolution conflates mass with alternate dimensions, which makes zero sense. Clearly, this episode wants to be morally provocative and highly affecting, but it sacrifices logic and established characterization to do so. Episode ten partially gets back on track but still contains at least two small plot developments that have no explanation.

                    Watched the Fate/stay night: Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan short that aired as part of the Fate Project Oomisoka TV Special.

                    Read the Dark Horse Comics' translation of Tony Takezaki's full-color Space Pinchy manga. The manga consists of 20 couple-page stories that don't so much have an ongoing story as have a unifying theme and some recurring characters. The most prominent two impressions the manga conveys are first that the comic is far more risqué than I expected. The comic is a parody of ‘50's era space opera complete with boxy robots and ray guns. While nudity is reserved for the final chapter, virtually every chapter is highly suggestive and includes plenty of graphic sexual dialogue. It's fun and not pornographic but definitely not for children. The manga could be best described as Space Dandy as envisioned by Heavy Metal magazine. The second major impression is precisely that the manga is far more provocative cheesecake-in-the-extreme satirical fun than the morose and grotesquely violent manga that Takezaki is better known for.

                    Since writer John Dahl was at one of my local comic shops, I purchased from him and read the first five issues of his comic series "Rapid City: Below Zero." The story is apparently at least the second “Rapid City” story arc. It's a rather slow-burn noirish drama that depicts a lot of the female protagonist wallowing in her morbidity and periodically contacting former associates that she thinks may assist her quest for revenge against the thug who killed her boyfriend and thought he killed her as well. The writing is straightforward and serviceable although evidently published without the supervision of an editor. Illustrator Shawn Langley's color cover illustrations are significantly more detailed and expressive than his monochrome interiors that virtually look like they're drawn by a completely different artist.

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                      The first episode of Overlord II feels a bit odd because it's supposed to pick up where the first season concluded, and some of it does. But the episode also introduces story elements referencing previous events that didn't occur in the first TV series, suggesting that the series' second season is referencing past events that occurred in the novels but not in the anime adaptations.

                      The Tantei Opera Milky Holmes: Arsene Karei Naru Yokubou special is the typical slapstick absurdity that viewers expect from later Milky Holmes anime.

                      Finally got around to finishing off Milky Holmes TD episodes 8-12. Episode 10 deserves special credit for managing to reference Anne of Green Gables, Yu-Gi-Oh, Macross, and Girls Und Panzer all within a Laputa parody.

                      The first episode of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho is comparable in theme and tone to Yama no Susume to the extent that even the two show's title logos are similar. Yorimoi is adequately pleasant, so whether I stick with it will largely depend on how much competition arises for my attention from other new shows this season.

                      I was in the mood for some stylish action, so I made the mistake of turning to Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito episode 3. The hour-long film contains only one action scene, albeit a fairly good one. The remainder of the episode is a wealth of ridiculous excess. The entire episode is absurdly convoluted and absurdly hyperbolic. Everything including the situations, characterizations, plot twists, drama and tragedy is amped up to eleven (pun intended). So the episode just feels like a ridiculous parody of itself. Even though there's only two episodes left in this mini-series, this episode in particular discourages me from wasting my time on the remaining two episodes.

                      I found a new all-time favorite anime. The Shin Kabuki-cho Story - Hana no Asuka-gumi! OVA from 1987 is every ounce the sort of anime that my friends and I loved back in the golden age. The OVA is a glorious serving of 80's J-pop, motorcycle punks, fist fights, swaggering attitude, and stylish machismo. Asuka Kuraku is an all-time badass anime girl who does not hesitate to cut a b*tch! The OVA is basically a more serious high school girl version of Otoko Katayama-gumi. A girl gang that seems to border on being an evil secret society decides to antagonize Asuka's troupe of juvenile delinquent high school girls, not realizing how capable Asuka is of fighting back and far she's willing to commit to violence to rescue her sisters-in-arms. I honestly loved every minute of this 48 minute OVA.

                      Regrettably, I can clearly see why the 2012 film Niijiro Hotaru has been forgotten. It means well; it's just not very good. Throughout the entire film I could never get used to the contrast between the style of the character design and the background art. The film's background art is vivid and detailed. The character art is extremely simplified, evoking the image of cel art that has degraded and lost detail over time. I can say that the character design is notable because it looks like a technical predecessor of the style Isao Takahata used in his 2016 movie Kaguya-hime Monogatari. At least in that film Takahata was wise enough to also make the backgrounds match the foregrounds. Furthermore, extensive animation is typically a good thing in anime. Extra animation demonstrates extra effort. But in Niijiro Hotaru it's frequently character faces that animate excessively, literally the outlines of character faces, not facial expressions. The intention is to illustrate attitudes like discomfort, anger, and restlessness. But typical anime communicates those feelings by moving the body. When character heads move constantly in Niijiro Hotaru, the characters look more like jellyfish than human beings, and the effect is distracting rather than subtly demonstrative. There's also a brief scene towards the end of the film, when Yuuta is running up the path with Sae in tow, during which the art design changes to a still expressionistic but more realistic style. During that scene Sae stops looking like a cute little girl and turns absolutely horrifying, like a terrifying Noh obaba mask. Another major weakness is the disconcerting conflict between the grandmother's claim that Sae was an only child and the rest of the film's evidence that she once had an older brother. The conflict sticks out like a sore thumb because it doesn't make any sense. If the film provided any explanation at all for why the grandmother said what she did, then the plot point would be fine. But lacking any explanation whatsoever, it's just a massive nagging plot hole. Still bigger problems affect the film, however. The movie can't decide whether it wants to have a moral message. The middle of the film reveals a number of dramatic revelations, suggesting that the characters will confront these emotional burdens and overcome them. Except the protagonist wasn't a bad kid to begin with, and he ends his summer vacation adventure as the same person he was beforehand. So the revelation of the tragedies just feels like pointless filler. Seemingly, as if the film itself realized its lack of focus, the movie ends with the bland summation that children continue living regardless of what they encounter. And another major flaw with the movie is the fact that literally in its final 15 minutes the movie abruptly decides that it wants to be a love story. Then the film's lengthy epilogue scene jumps the shark by dispensing with subtle, whimsical magic and virtually re-writing itself into a completely different movie with entirely new supporting cast. In effect, Niijiro Hotaru feels like there's a good film buried within it somewhere. Moreover, I have the feeling that the potential of this movie actually did come to fruition in a different form years later as Makoto Shinkai's movie Kimi no Na wa.

                      Because I'd never watched any of it before, I watched the first episode of the original 1993 Sanchome no Tama: Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka? series. I expected it to be comparable to something like Hamutaro, as the later Tama & Friends anime is. But in the original series the cats & dogs don't speak. The story is a bit fictionalized, but much of it is just depiction of kittens and puppies acting like kittens and puppies.

                      The first episode of Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san is fine. Perhaps because it's Japanese it doesn't seem to feel the need to emphasize the fact that it's distinctly a Japanese female perspective that eating alone in a ramen restaurant is intimidating. The show also doesn't draw attention to the unusual fact that Koizumi eats her ramen like a man rather than with more typical feminine technique.

                      Speaking as an Eagle Scout, I appreciate the accuracy depicted in the camping scenes of the first episode of Yuru Camp. However, if you're heating marshmallows over a campfire to make smores, toasting the marshmallow until gooey is appropriate. But to eat the marshmallow alone it should be allowed to catch fire for several seconds to char the exterior to a crunchy black shell.

                      Read Tagro's Panty & Stocking manga. It's crude and amusing, but I'm a little disappointed that the demon sisters only get a minor cameo appearance.

                      Read a sample copy of Vita Ayala & Emily Pearson's new post-apocalyptic suspense/survival thriller comic series The Wilds. It's a cousin to The Walking Dead in the sense that it's post-zombie apocalypse soap opera. I also read a preview copy of Batman issue 38. The issue is getting a lot of buzz because it introduces a new villain. "Master Bruce" is supposed to be an evil boy genius, an "anti Bruce Wayne." The issue does introduce the kid as such, but the kid is no match for the experience and intellect of Batman and ultimately feels far more like a throwaway character than the launch of a new arch nemesis. Read the second issue of Imaginary Fiends. It's serviceable. But I have the feeling that this series ought to be better than merely passable. I'm only observing, not criticizing, when I call the second issue of Long Lost very amateurish. The graphic art is functional but nothing more. The writing feels like it's so focused on trying to evoke a sense of mundane, grounded reality that it largely forgets that this is supposed to be a horror comic.

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                        Watched the first Okama Hakusho OVA from 1991. It's a bit of an unusual affair because it makes an okama the protagonist, rather than a supporting character, a number of years before doing so became more commonplace in anime production. Furthermore, the series seems to be so relatively low-budget that it uses live-action video footage for transitional establishing shots. The story is a slightly risqué and mildly amusing tale of a college boy who begins cross-dressing, becomes girlfriends with the girl of his dreams then manages to later become boyfriend to the same girl without her realizing that her best friend and her boyfriend are the same person.

                        Watched an episode of the 1989 Kariage-kun television series, specifically episode 16, since I had it available. Kariage-kun is widely beloved as a comedy or social satire about a Japanese man who goes against the grain. My perception is a bit different. Kariage-kun has the appearance and demeanor of a non-descript salaryman, but he's not independent-minded; he's just an a*shole. Watching his antics may be amusing for viewers that remain detached observers, but I can't imagine that anyone who actually associated with Kariage-kun would want to be anywhere near him. He constantly and casually pranks, antagonizes, lies to, and abuses everyone he comes in contact with, even abusing animals he encounters. While he looks like a simple and lowly guy, he behaves like a malicious and spiteful jerk who causes trouble for other people as much as he can just because he can.

                        In 2015 I watched the first half of Gakkou Gurashi before I decided I couldn't bear any more of its terrible writing. But I committed myself to eventually finishing the series, so I came back and struggled through episodes 8-12. I thought that the post-apocalyptic slice of life show Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko had flaws in its writing, but it's genius compared to everything that's wrong with Gakkou Gurashi because the later show's second half is a train wreck. Writer Norimitsu Kaiho clearly wants to stimulate specific reactions within viewers, so the screenplay ignores consistency, logic, common sense, and even practical reality in order to artificially make plot points happen. The final episode is supposed to be emotional, but it includes a plot event so patently ridiculous that I literally laughed out loud at it because it's so stupid. Characters have initial personalities, and they don't change at all until the script calls for them to abruptly reverse 180-degrees. Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase, "willing suspension of disbelief" in 1817. Since then the concept has been the necessary standard for written fiction. Gakkou Gurashi commits the cardinal sin of not only breaking suspension of disbelief but kicking sand in its face and stealing its girlfriend. As a result, the show isn't even remotely believable, and I spent five episodes wishing that the entire cast would die quickly so the show would end sooner because nothing makes sense and nothing matters because the show is going to do whatever the writer says will happen, regardless of all other concerns.

                        It took me a little while to realize exactly what the Fate/grand order: Moonlight/Lostroom TV special was. It's a recap of the entire Fate/Grand Order story, except since the story was never fully animated, the special doesn't have stock footage to edit together. So to reduce production costs, most of the episode consists of talking heads that monologue the entire story concept in intricate, excruciatingly boring detail. If I wanted a Wikipedia summary of Fate/Grand Order, I'd save time by just reading the Wikipedia summary rather than knowingly watching a 32 minute animated synopsis.

                        My first and foremost impression of Toji no Miko is that I'm fascinated that the girls carry their swords with a rig virtually identical to what I invented for the protagonist of my novel. These girls' rig is a bit more mechanically advanced than what my character uses, but the principle is identical. My second major impression of this show is that it's a show created as a commercial product. Not only does it have a clear lineage from predecessor shows including Vividread Operation, Asagiri no Miko, and Yuki Yuna, it simply doesn't feel like a show written by a writer who had a compelling story to tell. Absolutely nothing about this first episode feels personal. Albeit technically accomplished, it's superficial and soulless, although thankfully not quite to the extent of its slight ancestor series Battle Girl High School. I sat through last year's Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism because I enjoy seeing intricately animated scenes of girls using swords, so I may likewise commit to this show. But despite how weak Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism was, it still had a spark of creative personality that's lacking in Toji no Miko.

                        The first episode of Hataraku Onii-san feels like a loose remake of Zenryoku Usagi that swaps rabbits for cats.

                        The first episode of Ito Junji Collection doesn't seem like an especially strong episode, but it's still better than many other recent horror anime including Yamishibai, Sekai no Yami Zukan, and Kagewani.

                        The first episode of Grancrest Senki unfolds at such mach speed that nothing seems to make sense or get any explanation. Why did the demon lord emerge at a royal wedding then disappear just as abruptly after seemingly doing nothing but defending itself? The prince and princess who were to be wed appeared enamored with each other, yet the wedding breaks up immediately due to something that's neither of their faults. There's no explanation for why the Alliance and Federation are at war, and after a peace was established, there's no explanation for why hostilities would abruptly renew. Siluca presents herself as being immensely powerful, but viewers never get any clue whether she's over self-confident or whether she's strong for her age and rank or whether she's a genuine prodigy. Why did Lord Mesto try to stop Siluca from traveling? Just to be a jerk? I have no idea what his motivation was. Why was he so certain that three people couldn't usurp his castle when his entire staff appears to consist of one soldier and one advisor? If Theo was surprised that he could level up by fighting monsters, I don't know how he thought he was going to level up. Theo is so milquetoast that he's almost a non-factor. Siluca is clearly supposed to be the focus of the episode, but she seems so under-developed and so capricious that investing any interest in her feels difficult, which leaves this show with no anchor to secure viewer interest.

                        Did a rare thing and marathoned all ten episodes of Devilman Crybaby. The show may as well be the ultimate Devilman anime because it's a complete summation of pieces of the story presented by the 1987 OVA series, 2000 Amon Devilman OVA, and 2004 live-action film. Director Masaaki Yuasa does a fine job of (very) graphically expressing the story's characterizations and themes in service of the show, without going as wildly, excessively overboard as he could have, judging by his past works. Screenwriter Ichiro Okouchi does an excellent job of encapsulating the entire story into a very structured ten episodes that steadily escalate the tension and the stakes without excess fat or filler. While the story development does imply that the themes and narrative direction of Go Nagai's original manga evolved as it developed, the “Crybaby” anime knows exactly what it intends to do from the very beginning. If a weakness can be cited, one may be that adding one more episode to the length would have allowed more time to concentrate on and develop the supporting characters including the rapping teens and Miki's parents. One can criticize the show's gratuitous excess, but such complaints lie largely with a distaste for the original 1972 source manga. The “Crybaby” anime adaptation may be virtually the best possible adaptation of the manga.

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                          Pop Team Epic was one of the season's show I was most curious about. The first episode is hilarious. It's absurd and abstract, like an even weirder sibling to Wooser no Sono Higurashi.

                          Sanrio Danchi is just about exactly what one would expect. It's a bishounen slice-of-life drama featuring prominent Sanrio mascot product placement. Since the Sanrio mascot characters themselves aren't actually in the show, just Sanrio merchandise, the series' only demographic is die-hard bishounen fans because the story is quite dull. The unexpected aspect of the show is its rather poor digital compositing that makes the animation look like high quality Flash animation. It's a disappointing step backward from the animation quality of Sanrio's prior anime series Show By Rock.

                          In the contemporary era a lot of new anime is remixed or recycled older anime. Actually, the trend has always been present within anime, but it just seems unusually prominent in the past ten or fifteen years. So it's unsurprising that the first episode of Citrus feels like it possibly tries to shoehorn in a few too many tropes. Otherwise, the first episode isn't bad. It suggests some promise but isn't immediately captivating because it deliberately keeps some of its cards hidden. I'll likely give the show another episode or two to see whether I become more invested in it.

                          The first episode of Slow Start comfortably settles into the family of cute schoolgirls being cute shows that include A-Channel, Pan de Peace, Aiura, and Stella no Mahou. If anything, I wonder if this show is slightly too heavily emphasizing protagonist Hana's shyness and anxiety. At least Shinobu was particularly ditzy early in Kiniro Mosaic, and she matured a bit, so perhaps the protagonist of this comparable show will do the same thing.

                          Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 122.

                          The 2017 Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion is basically a version of 1997's Cho Tokkyu Hikarian for a slightly older audience. If Hikarian was aimed at 5-8 year-olds, Shinkalion feels like it's targeted at 9-12 year-olds. The first episode is also unusual because it takes the old-school narrative route of ending on a cliffhanger immediately before the first mecha battle.

                          I have to wonder if manga-ka Barasui and Katsuwo are actually the same person because Katsuwo's Mitsuboshi Colors anime looks and feels exactly like a spiritual sibling to Ichigo Marshmallow.

                          Although it's not an especially prominent plot thread, I do appreciate the way the recent episodes of Precure A la Mode have been emphasizing the girls realizing and adapting to the fact that they can't stay children forever and that they'll inevitably have to face changes and separations in their lives. Watched episode 46.

                          Since it's been over ten years since Aishiteruze Baby, and I'm consciously excluding Yochien Hanamaru and Usagi Drop because they're not quite the same concept, I suppose a show like Gakuen Babysitters was overdue. During the past decade we've seen a number of shows about young kids taking care of non-human babies, shows including Beelzebub, Chibi Devi, and Puri Puri Chii-chan, but it's been a while since the last show in the style of Aishiteruze Baby and Mama wa Shogaku 4 Nensei. The show's first episode is predictable but pleasant.

                          Kokkoku is high concept and pretty interesting. It also benefits from another gorgeous looking Yasuomi Umetsu ending credits sequence.

                          Befitting its pedigree, the first episode of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Hen has very nice production values. The opening credits animation is gorgeous, and the end credits sequence exhibits above average animation quality. The episode pacing feels just a bit slower than typical for contemporary anime, but in a certain sense, CCS isn't really an entirely contemporary series.

                          The first Japanese dubbed broadcast episode of Jian Wangchao ~ Sword Dynasty appears to be two combined episodes of the prior Chinese web broadcast. In its favor, I can say that I have seen worse anime. But distinctly this isn't good. The characterizations are all stock archetypes. The animation wants to emphasize the action scenes, but the budget does the action no favors. Furthermore, small details weaken the action, such as a half-dozen opponents all leaping to attack a character's head while none of them target his exposed and defenseless body, and somehow a gang of shambling zombies sneaks up on a group of elite fighters. Then the zombified elite fighters retain their ninja-like skills, except when they don't.

                          I started watching the Falcons win over the Rams in the second quarter. Watched the Jaguars defeat the Bills, and the Saints beat the Panthers.

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                            The noteworthy highlight of Touken Ranbu Hanamaru was its emphasis on realistic swordplay. Although the "Zoku" series is titled "Continued," the first episode doesn't seem at all to have the same focus as its preceding series. Much more like typical bishounen samurai anime, the first episode of Zoku Touken Ranbu Hanamaru consists of its massive cast of pretty boys being handsome, with a pittance of action thrown in as a token to prevent the episode from becoming entirely languid.

                            I’'m rather conflicted over the first episode of Ryuuo no Oshigoto because I adore supporting character Mai-chan. Not only is she cute and smart, she'’s also unflinching about stating and defending her principles. The surrounding show, however, is far more conventional. Tonally the show feels like a hybrid of teen hobby competition comedies like Bamboo Blade and Bento, and adolescent supervising children hobby anime including Ro-Kyu-bu and Tenshi no 3P. My personal dilemma is that I haven'’t enjoyed any of the stylistic predecessors of this show.

                            Watched the first episodes of Mitchiri Neko and Mame Neko. The later feels almost exactly like Kuruneko, but I'm guessing that it'll focus more on its larger human family to set itself apart from Kuruneko.

                            Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is a role-reversal romantic comedy about an insightful junior-high age schoolgirl who teases the boy she likes. It feels like a cousin to Tonari no Seki-kun; however, with full-length episodes I imagine that this show will have to evolve pretty quickly to avoid becoming rapidly redundant and stale.

                            Perhaps just a signature of the Basilisk series, the story is so singularly tense, serious, and violent that it ends up feeling one-dimensional. The weakness I felt in the 2005 anime is still present in the new 2018 “Ouka Ninpuchou” sequel. Practically the only thing viewers get to know about the characters is their skill sets, so it’s particularly difficult to care about their conflicts and their lives. The Iga and Kouga ninja hate each other. The rivalry is so simplistic indoctrinated that it has no meaning or significance to viewers. As viewers, we don'’t particularly side with one clan or the other or even care more about one clan than the other, so characters’ lives have little meaning and their deaths little impact. The show'’s production values are pretty good, although the first episode of Ouka Ninpuchou prominently employs some distracting freeze frames, and the action is frequent. But viewer investment in the story is very minimal.

                            Watched the first episode of Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line.

                            Watched Mahoutsukai no Yome episode 13.

                            Read Paper Girls issue 19.

                            Recently there’s been quite some significant, and probably artificially inflated, buzz about writer Richard Rivera’'s indie comic series Stabbity Bunny because Scout Comics is releasing a mainstream reprinting of the first issue this week. I bought the self-published first three issues from Rivera in May 2016, so I finally sat and read them. The book ostensibly seems like a cousin to Juan Navarro'’s killer rabbit comic series Tommy. But it’'s not. Stabbity Bunny actually reads like a hybrid of Greg Rucka’'s Black Magick and Robert Kirkman'’s Outcast. I have to emphasize the adverb "“like"” because whether deliberate or unconscious, the writing in Stabbity Bunny feels somewhat incoherent. Conversations between characters jump from one subject to another apropos of nothing. The comic occasionally makes references to prior events as though facts or circumstances about the events were known facts when they’'re not. The comic also tries to generate mystery by keeping certain events or scenes obscured or out of view. But for the reader these situations aren'’t mysterious; they'’re downright confusing. A well-written comic like Paper Girls is opaque and mysterious. Stabbity Bunny simply feels under explained, as though Rivera knew exactly what was going on but forgot that the reader doesn'’t have the same degree of insider knowledge.

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                              The second episode of YoriMoi introduces a prominent degree of silliness that wasn't nearly as obvious in the first episode, but the second episode is also lively and enjoyable.

                              Watched the first episode of the second season of Kaiju Musume.

                              To put it simply, the first episode of Pochitto Hatsumei: Pikachin-Kit feels like Doraemon for hipsters.

                              The Fate Grand Order x Himuro no Tenchi 7-nin no Saikyou Ijin Hen TV special is a collection of comedy skits. Since I'm not deeply steeped in the Fate/Grand Order mythos, I didn't understand everything, but the gags and the animation quality in certain sketches are still accessible enough to be enjoyable and impressive.

                              Dame × Prince Anime Caravan is unfortunately rather terrible virtually in spite of itself. Even the series' title alone forewarns that the story is going to be a comedy, but the problem with the anime is that it's ironically too stupid and not stupid enough. The scenario and characters are tremendously dumb. None of the characters behave remotely believably. Characters that are supposed to be royalty and political representatives behave with no sense of dignity or decorum. The most sensible character in the show is the protagonist Ani. She's her country's political representative yet has zero political acumen. At least she does realize her failure when she figures out that she had just one job and couldn't even do that properly. More evidence of the story stupidity lies in circumstances like the militant aggressor country's representatives feeling relieved that they were able to salvage a peace agreement. What? That makes no sense. If they're happy that they were able to sign a peace treaty, they wouldn't be an aggressive militaristic country in the first place! The show's bigger problem, however, is that the dumb characters would fit perfectly if the surrounding show was likewise exaggerated and silly. But there's no slapstick or sense of humor in the setting and tone of the show. The show has the look of a romantic fantasy, and it's directed as though it was a reverse-harem anime. So it's a comedy that doesn't look or feel like a comedy. One could call it satire, but it doesn't appear to know what it's satirizing because the show doesn't appear to have an underlying point to make. Like laughter at a funeral, this show just feels unbalanced and awkward instead of funny. It's impossible to take seriously as a dramatic fantasy because it's too dumb. It's clearly supposed to be a comedy, but it's directed with far too little sense of humor. Watching this show feels like listening to an emotionless robot telling jokes. It's supposed to be funny, but it just doesn't come across with a sense of joie de vivre. Or it's like a boke without a tsukkomi.

                              Watched Mitchiri Neko episode 2.

                              Koi wa Ameagari no You ni is a strange and unexpected treat. Although its source manga is relatively recent, the show has a strange visual hybrid of contemporary photo-realistic background art and character design that looks appropriate to an early 90's dramedy like Yawara or Patlabor. The show also has a distinctly understated tone that feels far more reminiscent of early 90s dramatic anime than contemporary romantic comedies. The show is also distinctly visually unusual because of its deliberate refusal to employ close-up shots any time more than one character is in frame. The first episode almost exclusively uses medium and long shots, particularly from high and low angles, to emphasize the emotional distance of the characters from each other and the degrees of difference in status between them. The show also features a beautiful (relatively) new single from vocalist Aimer. I can't help thinking that this show is a mature older sibling to Blend S.

                              Violet Evergarden is arguably the season's most anticipated premiere because it's steadily received exceptional promotional videos for the past year. Unfortunately, the series' first episode isn't quite as exceptional as anticipated. The art design is of very good OVA quality, and nothing about the episode sticks out as especially weak. But at the same time nothing about the episode's narrative development feels either unique & creative or particularly affecting. The show is visually reminiscent of prior anime including Tegami Bachi, Orguss 02, and Sora no Woto. The story development feels like a variation on Mahoromatic. The story development also has a singular distracting weakness. If the nation's government can only raise and support one super soldier, putting that super soldier on the front lines like any other infantryman is a tremendous waste of resources. American superhero films with a similar concept, Captain America: The First Avenger and Wonder Woman, have deftly illustrated that using a single super soldier as a covert and special operations spearhead is far more effective and logical. The first episode of Violet Evergarden is above average visually but regrettably average in every other respect. Its first episode promises a good season but not necessarily an exceptional one.

                              For minimally better or debatably worse, Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku appears to be a remake of Isekai Smartphone without the smartphone. The first episode's singular witticism is the deliberate dismissal of the cellphone prop. Otherwise, the show's entire concept hinges upon a series of completely arbitrary & unexplained events that occur strictly because the author needed them to occur to get the story rolling. At the very least “Death March” doesn't seem to be quite as smarmy and juvenile as “Isekai Smartphone” was.

                              Although hoping for the best, I went into Marchen Madchen thinking that it was a sub-plot from Smile Precure adapted into an entire series of its own. Seemingly it's exactly that and less. Little occurs in the first episode beside a lot of pointless slapstick. And the characters have as much personality as wet cardboard. Although the production values are passable, there's simply nothing memorable, captivating, or even barely interesting about this first episode.

                              Back in 2004 the Kappa no Kaikata anime was a perfectly serviceable series of four-minute episodes. This season's Miira no Kaikata changes focus from being an instructional anime to a sitcom. I'm still not convinced that the change in focus justifies a quadruple length because the first episode of Miira no Kaikata consisted mostly of repetitions of the same jokes over and over again.

                              Yuru Camp episode 2 is a pleasant and enjoyable episode.

                              Read the 25-cent first issue of Dejah Thoris volume 2. As much as the comic wants to present Dejah Thoris as an admirable and noble princess of a Martian kingdom, the issue comes across feeling small, narrow-minded, petty, and anything but noble and epic. It's not terrible; it's just very conventional and very bland. On the other hand, the second issue of Barbarella continues to have a very evocative and considered sci-fi scope. Its characterizations are strong, and it feels both exciting and thoughtful. Perhaps predictably the first issue of the Ninjak vs Valiant Universe mini-series feels a bit simplified and streamlined for mainstream consumption. Since it's a companion to the upcoming YouTube series, it's intended for readers who aren't familiar with the Valiant universe characters. So the characterizations in this mainstream-oriented comic lack the nuance and refinement of the established and ongoing regular series characters. The deep back-story between Ninjak and Roku not only isn't mentioned, it isn't even implied. Roku comes across as a simplistic evil villainess while Colin King just feels cocky rather than world-weary. In effect, the comic feels more like a mainstream DC or Marvel superhero comic than a typical Valiant comic.

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                                The first episode of Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san is necessary to introduce the characters and set up the scenario, but the second episode is considerably more amusing than the first.

                                Watched the extended web broadcast version of the first episode of 25-sai no Jyoshikousei. It looks a little bit cheap, and predictably it has just enough narrative to sustain its softcore porno ambitions. I'm amused in a horrified way that what the show calls "teasing" would be called rape by American standards.

                                Until she was identified, I didn't realized that Hakumei in the first episode of Hakumei to Mikochi was female. Judging by appearances, the show could be compared to Tongari Boushi no Memole, but a more accurate comparison is Binchoutan. Hakumei to Mikochi has a slightly faster pace than Binchoutan and is a bit more accessible because it's a bit less steeped in reference to Japanese culture & tradition than Binchoutan is.

                                Takunomi appears to be a variation on Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte kara. The episodes are a bit longer but also have more story variety.

                                I'm a bit disappointed that the episodes of Dagashi Kashi 2 are half-length. Seemingly unless the show divides its focus, the shorter 12-minute length doesn't allow for the show to both focus on traditional candies and also fit in much developing characterization and character relationship building. I'm further surprised a bit by the first episode because it appears to expand the definition of “dagashi” from conventional candy to any and all processed, packaged convenience snack foods.

                                I don't think the first episode of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is great, but I give it credit for its ambition and its effort to be different. The episode feels a bit like a hybrid of Hamatora with Strange Plus. It wants to be something like Durarara or Baccano but it's too restrained or just not imaginative enough. A scenario as outlandish as this, that 3 out of every 100 people in Hakata is a professional killer, and seeming most of the citizens who aren't killers are somehow linked to killers, needs to be exaggerated and crazy in order to feel believable. If it's too realistic, it feels ridiculous. If everything is hyperbolic, the idea that everybody's a killer fits right in. This first episode introduces a massive cast, but none of the characters make a big impression, and the setting feels mundane instead of dangerous and unpredictable. I may give the show another episode to see if it improves, just because it is trying to be something different from the conventional romcom “feel good” show or wish fulfillment fantasy. It just doesn't pull off its execution very well in its first episode.

                                I was frustrated by the Senkaiden Houshin Engi anime series back in 1999. I have similar problems with the current Hyakka Houshin Engi. Taikobo begins the story quite dumb. If, like in One Piece, he had set off on his own and learned from experience facing stronger opponents, the story would make sense. But instead he first encounters the very strongest boss of all and loses. So he doesn't learn anything from that experience and immediately tries to attack the next strongest boss. However, in this story wise elder masters have sent him on his task, The Sennin masters want him to accomplish a specific goal, but they've given him zero training or preparation to do so. The wise sennin can't be that wise if they send a helpless baby to fight a ruthless monster. Furthermore, the editing in the show's first episode makes the story feel like a highlight reel of itself. It's less a developing story than a sequence of sequential events with minimal or no explanation of the connecting story in between the events. I understand that the story might get better eventually, but a promising future is no excuse for a slipshod beginning.

                                Superficially the most obvious and immediate parallel to Killing Bites would be Terraformars. But since Killing Bites isn't as dumb as Terraformars, a more apt stylistic and tonal comparison is to say that Killing Bites harkens back to the style of graphic early 90s horror anime including Maryu Senki, Ninja Ryukenden, Yoju Toshi, and Biohunter. I'm not fully convinced that the entirety of the first episode makes sense. For example, I'm unclear about why companies and owners would invest so much into creating “were-beings” then allow them seeming complete self-recognizance. I'm also unclear on the advantages of splicing animals that are known to be relatively weaker or less formidable. But at least the first episode contains a nicely animated lengthy action scene and appears to make some attempt to explain its plot developments.

                                Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 123.

                                Darling in the FranXX is the latest mecha anime in the stylistic vein of Evangelion, Eureka Seven, Fafner, Star Driver, and Kuromukuro. Perhaps more accurately, it's Trigger creating an original show inspired by Gothicmade. I usually don't follow mecha anime, but this one seems to strike a good, tolerable balance between enigmatic and comprehensible without being too terribly pretentious.

                                Marathoned the first half-dozen episodes of SHIELD season 5. It's not particularly “super heroic,” but it is suspenseful and interesting. It also includes the MCU's first reference to the “Multiverse.” Particularly in episode 6 Jemma Simmons' moment of revenge was unexpectedly bold & gratifying. However, other aspects of the storytelling are a bit frustrating. Notably, Mac insists that SHIELD agents are paragons of morality who won't kill. But his actions and the story development clearly reveal that what he actually means is that SHIELD agents won't directly kill human beings although they have no compunction over indirectly killing humans. And aliens are fair game, as is anyone whom SHIELD agents deem villainous. So Mac's morality isn't remotely as noble as he claims it is.

                                Watched the Eagles beat the Falcons and the Patriots dominate the Titans. Watched the Vikings pull a miraculous final second victory over the Saints.

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