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    Watched Mitsuboshi Colors episode 9. Oyaji is a really nice guy.

    Watched Rilu Rilu Fairilu episods 37-40.

    Watched Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san episodes 9 & 10.

    Death March episode 9 recovers from the state of its prior episode and returns to being merely bad.

    Yurucamp episode 10 is pleasant.

    Hakumei to Mikochi episode 9 is a pleasant episode that changes the pace and focus just enough to be interesting.

    The production values on the first two episodes of AICO Incarnation are good, and the story is moderately unique. However, it's not especially compelling. Several of the characters do have emotional motivations, but the motivations don't seem to be largely or directly connected to the primary conflict. So the story feels like it's trying to salvage a dry story by populating it with interesting characters. The effort is admirable, but I just don't find this particular story very engrossing.

    Watched Koi wa Ameagari no You ni episode 9.

    Watched Dagashi Kashi 2 episode 9.

    Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens episode 9 is another terrible episode because it redundatly retreads back story that's already been told only to ret-con a ridiculous and pointless new plot twist.

    Violet Evergarden is a story about a soulless mercenary learning to be human. The entire series is supposed to depict her experiences and encounters which inspire and blossom emotions and morality within her. However, when she's finally confronted with the reality that she's no longer a tool, that she's now an independent citizen responsible for herself and her own psychology, Violet literally rushes through the entire cycle of regret, guilt, and absolution within the span of just episode 9 alone. Episode 9 is clearly supposed to be very emotionally impactful, but it just doesn't work at all because every moment of the episode feels deliberate and structured rather than natural and organic. Rain symbolism? Check. Symbolism representing the cyclical nature of change? Check. Self-recrimination and feelings of self-loathing guilt appear prominently in the episode without any predication. Violet feels guilt strictly because the writer knows that these types of stories are supposed to include self-recrimination. Violet literally overcomes her existential identity crisis overnight because the screenplay is more concerned with ensure that it covers all of the obligatory plot points that this sort of story is supposed to have than it's concerned with having a natural, believable rhythm and telling its story in a respectful and responsible way. This episode should be very moving. But instead it feels as though it proceeds through a list of obligatory scenes, checking them off the list as it covers each cliché. Violet works as an "auto memoir doll." This episode feels as though it was written by an automated doll.

    Going from Violet Evergarden episode 9 to Mahoutsukai no Yome episode 22 is a bit of a shock because the later does correctly everything that the former does wrong. Mahoutsukai no Yome episode 22 isn't an exceptional episode, but it does devote a portion of its length to an emotional flashback. Yet the flashback in this episode actually does provide new revelation and perspective, and the way Chise reacts to it feels natural and relevant, making it opposite of what Violet Evergarden episode 9 did.

    None of the Toji no Miko episodes have been great, but episode 10 is even weaker than average. The art design and animation quality are sub-par, and some of the writing is particularly weak. Friedman says that his organization is in a stalemate with the enemy. Then in his very next sentence he says he’s got no options left. Uhm, that’s not a stalemate: that’s a checkmate. The public explanation that Akane gives makes no sense unless the listener knows all of the secret context that the public doesn't know.

    Watched Darling in the FranXX episode 9.

    watched Pop Team Epic 10.

    Watched Ito Junji Collection episode 10.

    In manga, read the "Sake Jock" underground manga anthology comic. Read the domestic GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class books 5 & 6. And read Dance in the Vampire Bund II volumes 1-4. Regrettably, the series does end rather abruptly. The ending would be acceptable if it was the end of a story arc, but for the end of the lengthy series, the story seems to be moving along just fine. Then it suddenly wraps up in just two or three pages.

    In domestic comics, read Sex Criminals issue 22, Barbarella 3, Motherlands 2, The Silencer 2. The first issue of DC's The Terrifics just establishes context and introduces characters, but it's also heavily tied in to the ongoing "Dark Nights Metal" storyline. So it's not incomprehensible at all, but it does feel like an offshoot side story.

    Watched SHIELD episode 11. I don't understand the physics behind what happened to YoYo. Considering the speed at which she moves compared to the speed of the chakra rings, seemingly she could only have injured herself if she intended to.

    Watched Constantine episodes 4 & 5. I was particularly surprised to see episode 5 include a kuchisake-onna in New Orleans, of all places.

    Comment


      Ryuou no Oshigoto episode 10 only seems to confirm the trepidations inherent in the series' story. Although the protagonists seem responsible, they're still children. And when they're faced with emotional obstacles and challenges, they crumble and look inward even as they think they're being responsible and doing the right thing. This episode actually undercuts the foundation of the series because it seems to prove that children simply aren't emotionally equipped for professional careers.

      Watched Clear Card Hen episode 10.

      Watched Kokkoku episode 10.

      I miss the days when Precure had to fight monsters enough to weaken them so that magic attacks would finish them off. In recent generations, the cures only need to fight long enough to create an opportunity to use their magic attacks to finish battles. Watched Hugtto Precure episode 6, which made me wonder why Papple uses an 80's style brick portable phone instead of a modern smartphone.

      Watched Overlord 2 episode 10.

      Watched Kaiju Girls 2 episode 10.

      Watched Mitsuboshi Colors episode 10.

      The year is still early. We're still in the first cour of the 2018 anime year. Yet already I wonder if Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho might quietly creep into the company of the year's best anime series. Nothing about the show is particularly flashy or arrestingly impressive, but consistently week after week the show's animation quality, direction, editing, characterization, story development, and attention to detail are excellent. Episode 11 continues to advance the characterizations by revealing further background details that feel entirely natural and believable because the groundwork for them was established many episodes ago.

      Not sure why I never before realized the fundamental oddity within Violet Evergarden that supposedly most of the society can't write but seemingly can read. I'm unsure why people who are able to decipher the written word appear to be unable to memorize and write that alphabet themselves. I had that thought while watching Violet Evergarden episode 10. The first three-quarters of the episode are rather deliberate emotional manipulation because the situation depicted could have been handled differently. The mother presumably could have procured a nanny to look after her daughter rather than just leave the girl to her own devices. Furthermore, the entire setting scenario is odd that the country appears to be an early industrial era, yet there's no evidence of a public education system. So how do citizens become intelligent enough to functionally operate a relatively advanced urban society?

      Watched Death March episode 10.

      The first issue of writer Jeff Lemire's Gideon Falls is a slow burn with a tone reminiscent of Robert Kirkman's Outcast. The first issue of Lemire's Black Hammer spin-off Doctor Star & the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is interesting in the respect that it continues to flesh out the Black Hammer universe. But the issue does little more than begin to introduce its protagonist.

      Tomisaburo Wakayama's film debut, 1955's Chutaro of Banba, is a bit of a strange film. It's best described as a wandering swordsman tragedy because the protagonist, Chutaro, is a self-described yakuza. He's not a samurai. But he's also an unusual yakuza because he doesn't appear to gamble either. He's just a wandering swordsman who seemingly occasionally fights for justice and seems to have enough money to get by although he doesn't appear to have any means of earning income. Like typical chambara movies, this film contains several sword fights, but the only one of them that's depicted fully, from beginning to end, is a bloodless scene in which Chutaro holds off a gang of assailants with merely a bath ladle. Even twenty years younger than his iconic appearance as Itto Ogami, Wakayama is still immediately recognizable, and both his stoicism and his deft swordsmanship are evident. But the film creates the impression that director Nobuo Nakagawa wanted to film a drama and only included segments of action scenes out of obligation to the genre. However, even the film's tragedy is self-imposed, not in the Greek sense of the protagonist unknowingly bringing tragedy upon himself but in a more literal sense of the protagonist consciously choosing to cut off all ties and remain a wanderer even when multiple opportunities to change his lifestyle present themselves before him. The irony is that while Chutaro decides to remain isolated, his personality and decisions throughout the film suggest that his true desire is entirely the opposite. So the tragic ending feels forced, again, as though the director was determined to craft a tragedy even if the script wasn't originally one. On a side note, the film's IMDB plot summary is entirely wrong.

      Comment


        Yurucamp episode 11 is a particularly amusing and enjoyable one.

        Watched Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san episode 11.

        Watched Koi wa Ameagari no You ni episode 10.

        Hakumei to Mikochi episode 10 is quite nice.

        Toji no Miko episode 11 demonstrates its weak writing once again with two major flaws. The episode gives Yume a flashback origin to explain her personality and motivations and make her sympathetic. However, this flashback should have occurred several episodes ago before viewers had already solidified an opinion of her as nothing more than a superficial, egomaniacal sadist. Knowing about her background before she went on her multi-episode rampage would have added depth and context to her actions, making her a complex character. But long after she's been firmly established as a cruel bully, trying to backpedal and soften her image doesn't work. Furthermore, the climax of Kanami & Hiyori's duels, especially Kanami's, is just sloppy and careless. It's the worst kind of lazy deus ex machina plot contrivance.

        Watched Killing Bites episode 10.

        I can't say anything specific about Dragon Ball Super episode 130 without introducing spoilers.

        Watched Pop Team Epic 11.

        Watched Ito Junji Collection episode 11.

        Watched Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episode 9.

        Watched Dagashi Kashi 2 episode 10.

        Hugtto Precure episode 7 is the first episode of the new series that's left me a bit disappointed. On one hand, seeing a new antagonist in action is neat. But among the numerous ways the episode's fight scene could have ended, the episode chose the absolute most conventional and predictable route.

        Despite the fact that Overlord II episode 11 is virtually non-stop gratuitous action, it still feels a bit disappointing because the episode distinctly feels as though it's finally trying to squeeze in half a season's worth of action into a final two or possibly three episodes.

        Watched Kaiji Girls 2 episode 11.

        Like the whole series, the climax of YoriMoi episode 12 is much more nuanced than it initially appears. On first impression, it's a heartwarming conclusion. But unpon further consideration one may realize that it's actually much more bittersweet and perhaps even outright tragedy.

        Watched Kokkoku episode 11.

        I tuned in to the first episode of Christiane Amanpour's Sex & Love Around the World strictly because the first episode was centered in Tokyo. While the episode didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, I was surprised by how bold and graphic the episode was. Also watched the Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown episode that followed because it was devoted to sushi chef Masa Takayama.

        Since I had access to a BD copy of Last Jedi, I watched the film with the director commentary. Thankfully the audio track is fairly enjoyable and informative, keeping out of deep immersion in technical minutia and revealing some interesting trivia. The audio track confirms the degree of attention and consideration that Johnson put into developing the film. The commentary also surprisingly reveals seemingly how little Force Awakens screenwriters Kasdan & Abrams laid out a path for the subsequent films. At the same time the audio track is just a bit disappointing because Johnson states that the recording was captured prior to the film's release. So the director doesn't consciously respond to the numerous criticisms the film received upon release.

        Comment


          Watched Darling in the FranXX episodes 10 & 11.

          Watched Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episodes 10 & 11.

          I'll concede that people's attitudes and demeanours can change abruptly when under pressure, but in Ryuou no Oshigoto episode 11 Yaichi snaps drastically with warning at all. Then, if the sudden swerve into emotional angst wasn't severe and distracting enough, the episode then turns the abrupt shift into the butt of a joke, thereby emphasizing the sense that nothing in this story is pre-planned and nothing has any substantial meaning. Episode 12 unfortunately ended the series with a rather ridiculous plot development that's so implausible that it seems to border on fantasy.

          Unfortunately Death March episode 11 reveals that not only is the show a bit dumb, the protagonist is likewise a bit slow on the uptake.

          Yurucamp isn't a show that's likely to be remembered by many or for very long, but it's a pleasant show, and I'm a bit sorry to see it end so soon on episode 12.

          Finished off Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san episode 12. I'll admit that the episode's introduction of the Masami Takahashi designed "Sugakiya" ramen fork was neat enough that I immediately went online and purchased one for myself.

          Killing Bites episode 11 introduced several unexpected plot twists.

          Watched Hakumei to Mikochi episode 11.

          Tonkatsu Hakata Ramens episodes 10-11.

          Dragon Ball Super episode 131 creates a nice conclusion.

          Mahoutsukai no Yome ends just fine on episode 24, although the silliness is that the series constantly emphasizes how fragile Chise is, yet she repeatedly survives situations and massive physical harm that would easily kill any other creature.

          Watched Junji Ito Collection episode 12.

          Mitsuboshi Colors episode 11 was particularly amusing. Also finished off episode 12.

          Good God, Toji no Miko has visual production values that belie its wretched quality. The show started weakly and despite my hopes for its recovery has only gotten worse. Episode 12 is a nearly non-stop action episode, which should be satisfying. But similar to the way the prior episode relied on illogical shortcuts in the screenplay, episode 12 likewise again introduces a different variety of deus ex machina that makes no sense and undermines the purpose of the entire show thus far. Then the episode concludes with an announcement that it will broadcast a re-cap episode next week in place of its concluding 13th episode.

          Watched Koi wa Ameagari no You ni episode 11.

          I'm a bit surprised and also pleased to see that Kokkoku ends quite well in episode 12.

          Pop Team Epic 12 introduced a number of major changes in its rebroadcast mirror.

          Watched Clear Card Hen episodes 11 & 12.

          Since Ains actually participates in half of Overlord II episode 12, it's the most fun episode of the second season, arguably.

          Simply because I had access to them, I read Thanos issue 17 and Doctor Strange: Damnation issue 3. Malefic issues 4 & 5 are making the story even darker and more malicious. Ninjak vs the Valian Universe issues 2 & 3 increasingly convince me that this isn't a supplement to the forthcoming YouTube video series but actually a direct adaptation of the YouTube video series. Death Bed issue 2 isn't entirely as much pure, rolicking fun as the first issue only because it begins to add a bit of psychological depth and substance to the story. I'm slightly disappointed by The Consultant issue 3 & 4 because the second half of the mini-series feels as though it rushes the pace a bit in order to conclude in four issues rather than perhaps five. Monstress issue 15 only advances the story by a tiny bit, yet the issue contains major revelations, continues to deepen characterizations and relationships, and reads like a near perfect fantasy comic. Pumpkinhead issue 2 is still predictable but feels a bit more interesting than the first issue because it begins to develop a more interesting twist to the story. Now that Mage III is presumably half-finished, issue 7, at last, begins to feel as though something significant in the plot development is beginning.

          Watched Shield episodes 12 & 13 along with Constantine episodes 6 & 7.

          Director Joe Lynch's Mayhem is obviously a pet passion project composed cheaply and primarily for fun. The movie doesn't take itself very seriously, and while it paints in broad strokes it does manage to avoid feeling particularly dumb or condescending. Despite being a goofy send-up, it does at least establish a functional minimal foundation of characterization, scenario, and standards that make the film feel a bit more intelligent than average DTV trash. Although gratuitously bloody and quite graphically violent, the film is not actually gory. Arguably it also doesn't get as outrageous and unhinged as it could and even should have. It's a fun movie, basically a horrorshow version of Office Space. It's definitely a good party film and crowd-pleasing midnight movie, but it never quite reaches the delirious absurdity of, for example, Peter Jackson's early horror satires.

          Comment


            YoriMoi episode 13 concluded the series as well as the show started.

            Watched Kaiju Girls 2 episode 12.

            Violet Evergarden episode 11 is a heavy-handed, manipulative tearjerker. The plot points that set up its scenario are plausible, but each of them stretches credibility just a bit in order to forcibly get the story to the place it wants to be. So the episode is impactful, but the emotion doesn't feel legitimate or earned because the story construction is so mechanical and artificial. Episode 12 really wants to be heartwrenching drama, but it simply doesn't work because it's all so idiotically staged and artificial. Not of the episode's plot developments feel natural or believable because everything is scripted to fulfill an agenda instead of tell a natural and believable story.
            I will concede that the bird to airplane transition edit was very nice.

            Watched Hugtto Precure episode 8.

            Tried watching the first two episodes of Sword Gai, but whether overly ambitious or just messy, the story focus is so heavily centered on its scenario rather than on specific characters that it feels more like a broad synopsis than a focused story. Because the storytelling leaps from character to character and situation to situation so often the story has no anchor for viewers to connect to. The show feels as much like a sequence of loosely connected scenes as a linear story. So I have trouble maintaining interest in it because as soon as one narrative thread begins to settle in, the episode shifts to some other story.

            Sadly, as I mostly expected, the twelfth and final episode of Death March is as much crap as the preceding episodes.

            I'm rather conflicted over the final episode of Koi wa Ameagari no You ni. The show was excellent from beginning to end, and relatively early on the show clarified that it was shifting from romance to drama. So I can't complain about how it developed or what it offered to viewers. But on the other hand the show's strongest episodes are the ones that deepened the relationship between Tachibana and Kondo, so seeing the second half of the show depict the two characters on parallel paths to overcome their personal obstacles was a fine story, but I can't help wishing that the story development would have concentrated more on the two together rather than separately. For example, Kondo's brief fantasy in episode 12 is visually beautiful, but it lacks emotional power because it doesn't have sufficient narrative support from the prior couple of episodes.

            After watching the preview broadcast of the first episode of Mahou Shoujo Ore I just wasn't interested sufficiently in the show to watch the second episode. The series is distinctly in the vein of magical girl gender-swap comedies including Kamen no Maid Guy and Kore wa Zombie Desu ka, but I wasn't especially interested in either of those prior series either. The biggest weakness of the first episode of Mahou Shoujo Ore is the fact that it feels competent but uninspired. The production values are adequate, and it has plenty of satirical jokes. But everything falls flat because the show has such a lifeless and mundane energy. It feels like a comedy assembled according to a recipe by a disinterested cook rather than a creative explosion of individual artistic expression.

            I'm slightly relieved that at least I can say the final episode of Hakata Tonkatsu Ramens isn't the worst episode of the series.

            Hakumei to Mikochi episode 12 is a nice episode that serves just fine as a series conclusion.

            As of episode 12 I can't call Killing Bites particularly "good," but it was a consistently entertaining show.

            Finished off Dagashi Kashi 2 episodes 11 & 12.

            I'm conflicted over the first episode of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro sixth series. The show's tone and design is pretty similar to the prior 2007 series. I actually like Kitaro's more sullen, distant demeanor compared to the more childlike and excitable personality he's had in some series. But while I'm grateful that virtually all of the supporting youkai characters are very faithfully designed, I don't like Kitaro's new bubble-headed character design, and I'm not certain that I'm fond of the new Nekomusume design either. The slim and tall Kitaro design with a bulbous head makes him look dim-witted. Nekomusume only appears partially in the first episode, but if she is revealed to have an adolescent design, then her new character design flies in the face of all previous characterizations, clashes with every other youkai character in the series, and screams of blatant marketing exploitation.

            Especially during recent years, studio P.A. Works has proven reliable for producing very character-personality driven, dramatic anime stories that feel more personal and empathetic than typical shows primarily designed to encourage merchandise sales. Despite the inherently silly premise of Uma Musume, the show sticks to form by emphasizing character relationships and personalities over the minutiae or the sensationalism of the scenario or the sport, as T&A shows like Keijo and Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai did. I watched the first two episodes and enjoyed them without ever feeling like the show was condescending to its characters or viewers, which is the approach that makes the show so unusual.

            The first episode of Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi reveals itself to be a hybrid of Kamisama Hajimemashita & Fukigen na Mononokean that incorporates ideas similar to other titles including Youkai Apart no Yuuga na Nichijou, Inu x Boku SS, and Isekai Shokudou. Nothing about the first episode is particularly bad, yet nothing about the episode is apparently unique or exceptional, either. I'm sure that the story will get better as its characters reveal more of themselves, but I doubt that I'll personally continue watching this series long enough to find out.

            Since I missed Pacific Rim Uprising during its first week of theatrical release, I caught it at the beginning of its second week. Throughout the entire film, at times more prominently than at others, I constantly thought to myself, “This movie is literally a live-action Saturday morning cartoon.” Every aspect of the film, from its narrative to its characters to its action feels designed to appeal strictly to eight-year-old boys. Camera shots are frequently at knee height looking up to create a sense of awesome scale. Female supporting character Amara spends much of the film in wide-eyed astonishment. Everything about the film is so tremendously and terribly superficial that no personal antipathy lasts longer than two scenes. The middle of the film hinges upon two major plot developments, neither of which have any explanation. An enemy jaeger appears practically from nowhere for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Its appearance leads the heroes to an abandoned military instillation in Siberia. Exactly why Mako Mori directs the characters to the location, and what they're supposed to uncover there never gets explained. It's a major plot development, but it's treated as though it's entirely irrelevant. It is a small relief that roughly half way through the film, when the nature of the conflict reveals itself and the film gains a tone of urgency it also develops a stronger sense of purpose and focus. But by that point in the film the benefit is small and arguably too little too late. In terms of giant robots smashing things, “Uprising” isn't as incoherent and stultifyingly dumb as the Bayformers movies, but it's leagues weaker than the original Pacific Rim even considering the original's flaws. On a side note, “Uprising” also includes a gratuitous cameo that is pretty cool in and of itself, but considered in context, makes little sense.

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              Particularly for mecha fans and giggly fans that enjoy subversive humor that's not actually very satirical or subversive, I can imagine Uchuu Senkan Tiramisu being quite satisfying and amusing. I think the show has the right intentions, but it's just not deadpan or absurd enough to rival the best parody shows of this style like Cromartie High School.

              As one could expect from a Polygon Pictures production, Souten no Ken: Re-Genesis isn't gorgeous looking, but unexpectedly it is much more serious and dramatic in tone than the goofy and somewhat absurdist original manga.

              Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episode 12 is unexpectedly good because it reveals a lot and sets up a lot of natural yet varying plot threads for the future.

              Watched Hugtto Precure episode 9. The episode introduced a new character that could continue to be interesting if she remains active in the show.

              Watched the first episode of Beyblade Burst Chouzetsu.

              Watched YuruCamp episode 0.

              The twelfth episode of Overlord II leaves the entire series serving as a transitional, developing story with no real climax or payoff.

              I'm hoping that Darling in the FranXX episode 12 is a turning point. The show distinctly wants viewers to sympathize with 002, but since the show is revealing so little about her background and motivations there's no way for viewers to empathize with her because we don't know what we're rooting for. But episode 12 hints that it's going to begin providing some answers.

              The first episode of LOGH: New Thesis is just a little bit light on characterization because it concentrates on so few characters, but it's a rewarding slice of intelligent, tactical, speculative storytelling.

              I'm conflicted over the first episode of 3D Kanojo Real Girl because the story is moderately interesting, but apart from the animation's color design, everything about the animation is slightly sub-par. The high school romance angle isn't unique, but the way this show is willing to depict the reality that everyone can be deceived by appearances, including even those who believe they know better, is a bit of a refreshing degree of honesty.

              The first episode of 2018 Captain Tsubasa does feel slightly faster paced and slightly more interesting than the first episode of the original 1983 series, but it still looks and feels like a strictly conventional soccer anime.

              Tokyo Ghoul: re appears to be pretty steeped in the series' terminology and scenario, so it's not especially accessible to new viewers and also, as a result, not tremendously exciting despite including plenty of action.

              Critiquing its production values, the first episode of Tachibanakan To Lie Angle seems more like a web anime than a TV broadcast show.

              Watched Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan episode 4.

              Comment


                Liden Films has previously produced some good anime, including Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo, Aiura, and Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari, and some lesser but still respectable shows including Terraformars and Killing Bites. But the studio's latest production for Netflix, Lost Song, feels exactly like everything fans would fear from a Netflix production. The show is a children's fantasy that takes a narrative page straight from earlier works such as Laputa and Violinst of Hameln. However, typically Japanese produced children's fantasy adventure anime like Mary to Majo no Hana, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, Kemono no Souja Erin, Pikaia, and Tanken Drilland still feel a bit believable, organic, and credible. In contrast, every respect the first episode of Lost Song seems like an American production trying to emulate Japanese animation even though Lost Song is actually an original Japanese production. The character design looks exaggeratedly simplified, like a parody of anime style art. The characterizations are strictly one-note and the story development so lacking in nuance and depth that it feels like a parody of itself. The animation quality is also sub-par, seeming, especially during the singing scenes, to prioritize synching lip-flap over fluid animation quality in order to satisfy Western viewer expectations. Everything about this series' first episode feels like a Japanese studio struggling to compromise to stereotypical mainstream American viewer demands. The result is an anime that only barely looks and feels like anime.

                Duel Masters! picks up where last year's Duel Masters left off. Unlike typical card battle anime that are either serious or semi-serious, Duel Masters takes the opposite route of being as silly as can be, which makes it rather fun and amusing for receptive viewers.

                Watched Lupin III Part 5 episode 1.

                I was honestly surprised a bit by the first episode of Alice or Alice because the short show looks and feels like a leftover from 2008.

                Perhaps only my perspective is skewed, but I have the impression that Gundam Build Divers is slightly unlike prior Gunpla anime in the regard that this new show is less of a Gundam marketing spin-off and more of a hobby anime with a Gundam theme. Prior Gunpla anime series at least seemed to acknowledge that they were based on the Gundam anime franchise. Build Divers, however, creates the impression that Gundam plastic models are an entirely original medium that exist only as a component of the Gunpla Battle VR game. Watched episode 0 & 1.

                Evidently Comic Girls is a variation of Hidamari Sketch that places more emphasis on moé than on domestic slice-of-life. Comic Girls looks like a definitive Manga Time Kirara title. Its bigger weakness is its near total lack of distinguishing personality. The show feels remarkably similar to other bishoujo anime including Stella no Mahou, Hinako Note, and Slow Start. But nothing about this first episode felt memorable. In fact, the episode feels as if it deliberately tries not to be too flashy. The show could have easily played up Ruki's lewd fantasies, but it doesn't. Likewise, Tsubasa briefly cosplays, but even that concept gets dismissed quickly. The show is about creating manga, but the episode goes no further into detail than shows like Dagashi Kashi 2, which aren't centrally focused on making manga.

                Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai looks and feels like a very typical romantic comedy drama, but it's saved from complete anonynimity by strong characterizations.

                The first episode of Akkun to Kanojo clearly sets up the series as a romantic sitcom between a tsundere boy and a damekko girl. Even within a three-minute episode, the simple gag starts to wear a bit thin.

                Watched the five mini-episode Constantine: City of Demons animated mini-series. It's unexpectedly and surprisingly gory. It's also very low-budget animation, and even more confusing yet, it's not even a complete story.

                Caught up on SHIELD episodes 14 & 15.

                My first impression upon watching Yuji Shimomura & Tak Sakaguchi's 2016 action film Re:Born is, "What happened to Tak?" He looks more like the late Satoshi Kon than the star of Versus & Battlefield Baseball. He's virtually unrecognizable in most of the film compared to his early 2000's appearance. Setting aside the initial shock, I suspect that reaction to the film may vary depending upon whether the viewer perceives the film foremost as a martial arts film or an action film. The fighting isn't always especially clear, and despite Sakaguchi clearly having some training, he's not a championship martial artist. However, if the film is just taken as a fictional action movie, it's intense, brutal, and at least somewhat unlike any other action film. Released five months after the Mo Brother's Iko Uwais film Headshot, Re:Born is the movie Headshot aspired to be. Re:Born begins a bit slowly, and especially through its first half it's shot and edited more like a suspense/horror film than an action movie. Reminiscent of Versus, the film's second half is simply an extended single action scene split into segments. The film's promotional line was "zero range combat." The movie takes great effort to deliver on that promise, largely eschewing gunplay for vicious knife fighting. The frequent fight sequences consist of rapid snake-like strikes that are so highly precise & fluidly choreographed that they look and feel somewhat unbelievable just because they're so unlike what viewers are used to seeing on screen. Likewise, the fights are startlingly realistic in the sense that punches and kicks inflict severe and even mortal damage. This movie isn't a typical Hollywood or Chinese kung-fu film in which human punching bags can absorb multiple hits and continue fighting. The movie has a low-budget look but amply compensates with stylish directing and cinematography and an abundance of intense, wantonly violent close-quarters fighting. The film's greatest weakness is its largely patchwork narrative that consists mostly of hints and suggestions that viewers are left to piece together as best they can. But anyone watching this film primarily with an expectation of rich storytelling selected the wrong film to watch.

                Although Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs are both stop-motion animated films from director Wes Anderson, comparing the two movies is difficult because their difference in approach is so significant. While Mr. Fox prioritized characterization, Isle of Dogs places a bit more emphasis on scenario and story. As a result, Isle of Dogs takes some time initially to put its pieces into place. The movie is fascinating from a technical perspective through roughly its first quarter, but it's only well into the film that the movie really begins to gel and start to pay off its many set-ups. Yet the film's scenario is so expansive that a number of elements of the plot still get shortchanged, under developed, or under explained. Ultimately what the film does deliver is stylistically and cinematically gratifying. It's complex, witty, satirical, and very fun. But at the same time the film just doesn't quite feel as complete nor as intimate as many of Anderson's prior movies.

                Comment


                  It's tempting to call Gurazeni the anime sibling to Moneyball, but while the American live-action film was about management, Gurazeni focuses on the players. Everyone knows that professional ball players are employees like any other workers. They're as concerned with their paychecks as anyone else. So I'm not certain whether an entire anime series based on that singular concept will get more or less interesting. More than "good," I'm simply call the first episode "refreshing" because it's unlike anything else. Its nearest comparison is One Outs, but Gurazeni isn't really like One Outs at all. Gurazeni isn't an obvious gender-swap or minor variation of some other existing anime. So for that originality it earns some praise.

                  Honestly, the new Wixross and Mahou Shoujo Site were two of the new season shows that I was somewhat reluctant to watch. Now that the later is out of the way, I'm glad that I can check it off my list because it was exactly what I expected it to be. In the post Madoka Magica world, Mahou Shoujo Site is a blunt and artless slice of manipulative emotional torture porn. It has no sociological message. It's pure wallowing in misery only for the sake of being "dark" and "grim." It's also psychologically simplistic because Aya never once tries to think of alternatives or escapes. She's bullied and has valid reason to feel sorry for herself, but if she's genuinely at the end of her rope, then she's got nothing to lose by fighting back or lashing out, even if unreasonably. I'm very well aware that not every person is outgoing and courageous, but I have little sympathy for someone who won't make any effort whatsoever, even a minor or temporary effort, to help herself.

                  I've never been very enthused by the Wixoss franchise. The first episode of Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS relies entirely on viewers already being familiar with the characters in order to generate tension.

                  From its premiere Toji no Miko was not a strong series. And it arguably got worse instead of better. I diligently watched it because I expected it to end in 12 or 13 episodes, but episode 13 clearly signals a transition into the second half of the series rather than a conclusion. I'm very tempted to use this transition as an opportunity to quit watching the show, but I'm also conflicted because the series does have interesting characterizations despite its poor narrative development.

                  Megalo Box is the latest example of an anime that demands viewing because seeing it first-hand creates an entirely different perspective than just seeing trailers or still images. The show has a visual design somewhere in between Sayo Yamamoto's Michiko to Hatchin and Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna with the tone and directorial style of Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Despite being related to Tetsuya Chiba's Ashita no Joe, this new series looks and feels more comparable to Kawajiri's Highlander anime movie than any Ashita no Joe anime or other retro boxing anime including the 2003 Futari no Joe OVA series or Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero.

                  This season's new PazuDora anime is an entirely separate show than PazuDora X. While Puzzle & Dragon Cross was set on a fantasy world and was a Pokemon-style monster battle anime, Puzzle & Dragon is set in Japan and is a cell-phone puzzle game battle anime that conceptually takes inspiration from shows like Pro Golfer Saru and Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou in which the protagonist transfers his skill in one practice to an entirely different field. The show is also oddly notable for using a Jpop version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" as its ending theme song.

                  Actually watching the first episode of Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru proved enlightening because the show reveals itself to be an unexpected type of show. It's ostensibly a typical dark shounen fantasy action series stylistically comparable to Jikan no Shihaisha, Gangsta, Vassalord, and in a loose sense Vatican Kiseki Chousakan. (I refer to the show as "dark" in the literal sense that much of the episode occurs at night, making detail difficult to distinguish.) But the show is also dense with terminology and conspiracy that I haven't seen since Code Geass. So I have to give the series some credit for its effort at thoughtful world building. Moreover, the subtle co-dependent relationship of the lead characters is seemingly thoughtfully created. Gigina is the powerhouse who appears to brook the weaker Gaius as merely a diversion & support tool, but it's Gaius who manages the partnership and serves as the pair's tactician. However, the show gives viewers no reason to care about either character. In fact, reminiscent of Gangsta, the show almost goes out of its way to make Gaius & Gigina unlikeable. The effort may be to try to sharpen the show's sense of being edgy and serious, but in effect it just discourages me from empathizing with the characters and wanting to continue to watch their adventures.

                  Watched Nobunaga no Shinobi episode 53, which is the first episode of season 3.

                  Judging by its first episode, Omae wa Mada Gunma wo Shiranai doesn't seem as interesting as the similar regional curiosity anime series Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan. Furthermore, "Gunma" distinctly feels like it relies on viewers already having some knowledge of Japanese stereotypes of the region.

                  The first episode of Devils Line is a strange monster. The character design is passable at best. Much of the background art and the color design are quite nice. The digital compositing is occasionally very bad. The animation quality is typically sub-par, but movement on action shots is so fluid that it seems rotoscoped; it just sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the limited frame rate of the surrounding scenes. In certain shots the character design and animation quality are so limited and stiff that the show looks more like a no-budget amateur fan creation rather than a professionally produced commercial work. On the whole, the show distinctly feels like a low-rent homage to Tokyo Ghoul. The anime production seems like it had admirable intentions but simply didn't have the budget or resources necessary to succeed.

                  I think it's a credit to the production that from the very outset of Amanchu Advance, even before the opening credits sequence, the lead character girls both look and express themselves in ways that feel as if a year has passed since the events of the first season. I also love the fact that later in the episode Teko understands what Pikari's abstract "porori" means.

                  For as long as I can remember I've been a fan of tactical gunplay, so I enjoyed the first episode of Sword Art Online Alternative even though it's a bit heavier on the tactics than the gunplay.

                  Watched the uncut web version of the first episode of Amai Choubatsu: Watashi wa Kanshu Senyou Pet. Its production values are disappointingly low.

                  Watched Major 2nd episode 1. It's a pretty typical sports anime.

                  Comment


                    The first episode of Hinamatsuri is a quirky and strange cousin to Level E and Alice to Zouroku. The non-sequitur pre-credits sequence is impressively animated martial arts. The body of the episode is a charming if strange odd-couple comedy.

                    Watched the first episode of the second half of Hozuki no Reitetsu 2.

                    Even more than normal for Persona anime, the first episode of Persona 5 is especially dreamlike, meaning that it deliberately makes no sense. It's nice looking and deliberately stylish, but it provides little for the viewer to latch onto beyond a sense of mystery and style.

                    To its credit, Nil Admirari no Tenbin doesn't quite seem similar to anything else. Despite it being about a team of military librarians with two female members, it's not similar to Toshokan Sensou at all. At best, very loosely, it's vaguely comparable to Arcana Famiglia, but that comparison is very superficial. However, the first episode of the show is also rather boring narratively & visually. The storytelling is uninspired and redundant. None of the characters are interesting. And the show has a bland sepia color scheme and dull, functional art design.

                    The first double-length episode of Inazuma Eleven: Ares no Tenbin is ridiculous in a different way than typical for the franchise. In this premiere episode, the storytelling is so childishly oversimplified that it would be a joke if it wasn't presented so seriously. The narrative is so polarized that it doesn't even make sense. The kids don't have an official sponsor, so they can't play soccer anymore. Because, for unexplained reasons, they can't just play for recreational fun on their own time. And the show seriously advances the broken logic that in order to "save" the Inakuni Island team, the team members have to transfer to a different school and adopt a new team name. Becoming an entirely new team in a new location isn't "saving" the old team.

                    In a new season of anime seemingly abundant with odd shows, Cutie Honey Universe is another oddity, although I'm pleased with some of what it's doing. Despite the fact that there hasn't been a Cutie Honey TV series in 19 years and even the most recent OVA series was released 14 years ago, “Universe” opens with the assumption that viewers are already familiar with the scenario and characters, so a conventional origin or introduction is unnecessary. However, unlike later St. Seiya or Lupin III anime, for example, which drop viewers into the action without retelling origin stories, Cutie Honey Universe launches with major plot shake-ups that put even familiar viewers onto unsteady footing. Furthermore, the tone of the show is bizarrely uneven. This distinctly isn't a shoujo anime like Cutey Honey Flash, but it can't seem to decide whether it wants to be playfully suggestive or lewdly explicit. I do like the visual suggestion that as Cutie Honey weakens her transformation begins to revert back into Kisaragi Honey.

                    The first episode of Caligula looks, well, it looks almost exactly like a Persona anime. The series seems to be high concept, but I'm unconvinced that the initial set-up works. The first episode concentrates on protagonist Shikishima, but unlike a very confessional and revealing character such as Aku no Hana's Kasuga, Shikishima only expresses his perspective through his psychoanalytical analysis of the world. He's a bit bookish but otherwise seemingly entirely normal. So the episode ambiguously suggests that Shikishima's hamartia is his faith in theory and rationality. Since he's so confident that he understands the principles of human psychology, he'll be cosmically punished by having his world turned inside out. Except the episode then doesn't fulfill that implied promise at all. The climax of the first episode reveals that the protagonist actually isn't anyone unique or special at all. Moreover, the revelation that he's just one of numerous victims means that the time the episode spent trying to establish his personality was largely just a pure waste of viewers' time. Essentially, the episode spends twenty minutes setting up a scenario of intellectual elitism and academic myopia leading to oversights and tragedy only to then discard all of that set-up and just say, “Oh, none of that's relevant. This is actually just a simple variation on High School of the Dead.”

                    Watched the first episode of Koneko no Chii Ponpora Dairyokou.

                    Clear Card Hen episode 13 is even slower paced than normal, but the absence of a battle of the week is a nice change of pace. This episode also includes the first of what I anticipate will be several major revelations in the episodes to come.

                    Comment


                      Darling in the Franxx episode 13 is a powerful, emotionally wrenching episode that uses flashback effectively to add further depth and resonance to the characters and their relationships and substantially elevate the narrative.

                      It's with some relief that I can say Violet Evergarden episode 13 manages to convey some emotional resonance. If it didn't, the show would be an embarrassing failure. But the series still doesn't excel because its concluding episode only manages to evoke genuine feeling from the most obvious and simple of sources, with the remainder coming from syrupy sap. So the episode merely fulfills rather than exceeds expectations. The later part of the episode tries to add depth to the characterizations of the supporting cast, but since the supporting characters have been mere props throughout the entire show, trying to make viewers care more about them during the final minutes of the final episode is too little effort to late. Despite the entire show being among the nicest looking anime ever crafted, regrettably its characterizations and story development don't reach the same heights. The show's biggest weakness is the ill definition of its core conceit. The show is about Violet trying to understand the concept of love. But the show itself never effectively clarifies what type of love existed between Violet and Major Gilbert. By the end of the series viewers can assume that Gilbert only felt a parental love for Violet despite the fact that there wasn't a drastic difference in their ages. However, Violet's love for Gilbert is far less clear. There's no clarity about whether she felt romantic attraction toward him. She seems to feel a paternal love for her Major that transcends into a heartfelt gratitude. She sees Major Gilbert as her savior, but the show never once clarifies or depicts what he saved her from. Violet sees Gilbert as a compassionate benefactor, but viewers can't empathize with her perception because the only perspective we're ever given in the series is that he was her commanding officer yet he treated her like a human soldier rather than like a robotic machine. That minimal degree of compassion doesn't evoke within viewers nearly the same sense of adoration, respect, and gratitude that it does within Violet. Moreover, viewers simply can't comprehend or understand the motivation for or depth of Violet's attachment to Gilbert. We're constantly told that it exists via dialogue, and we see it in Violet's behavior, but as viewers we never feel or understand it ourselves because the show never gives viewers adequate insight and understanding of violet's past. Exemplary of the entire show, the entire story is underwritten and relies too heavily on clichés and standardized tropes rather than trying to be a genuinely heartfelt, honest, and insightful personal story.

                      The first episode of Aikatsu Friends amply demonstrates why the Aikatsu franchise is so successful. The characters are friendly, cheerful, and outgoing. The art design is colorful and breezy. And the show appeals both to pre-adolescent girls who adore its emphasis on fashion and imagine it as wish fulfillment fantasy, and mature male and female J-pop idol fans.

                      I wonder if Shouji Kawamori is evolving into another Yoshiyuki Tomino in the regard that increasingly Kawamori, like Tomino, seems to create the anime that satisfies his own personal aesthetics rather than anime that's ideal for viewers. The first episode of Jushinki Pandora exhibits several distinctive Kawamori traits including a distinctly Aquarion-looking robot, intricate mechanical design, overlapping worlds or dimensions, and a concentration on science conflicting with nature. However, despite some very nicely rendered CG elements, the 2D art periodically looks rushed and off model. Characterizations are weak to the point of being nearly superfluous. Every character seems to have only one emotion. And most damning, the entire episode feels as though it exists just to provide a context for certain scenes and ideas to occur. I've seen greater train-wreck mecha anime before, including Giniro no Olynsis and Satelight's own earlier series Engage Planet Kissdum, but this feels like a flawed, off-kilter debut that will either inexplicably catch on with cult viewers, like King Gainer and Aquarion did, or a show that will quickly disappear into obscurity.

                      The Professor Layton franchise has always had a nice visual aesthetic, but unlike arguably more interesting detective mystery shows such a Detective Conan, Layton is especially “safe.” The mysteries don't involve danger or threat, and they typically don't have any suspense. The Layton Mystery Tanteisha TV series at least does rectify one arguable weakness of the original franchise. The adult male Professor Layton has very little personality. Transitioning the lead role of the TV series to his daughter allows for a more energetic and vibrant protagonist.

                      Gainax Fukushima's adaptation of Piano no Mori doesn't seem especially bad, but I'm still disappointed by the first episode because it seems significantly inferior in both tone and visual beauty compared to the 2007 Madhouse movie.

                      Hugtto Precure episode 10 surprised me with a very unexpected plot twist.

                      The production values on the first episode of Golden Kamuy aren't exceptional, but the show still excels by being a rather unique story told with unflinching grotesque boldness. The story clearly isn't afraid of bloodshed, but it depicts its brutality in the context of war and frontiersmanship for the sake of realism rather than gratuitous exploitation, so the show comes across something like an anime in the vein of director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's 2015 movie The Revenant. The confidence of the storytelling and the relative uniqueness of the setting and scenario make the debut episode quite compelling & interesting. On a side note, I'm surprised that this episode is the first anime I've ever seen that depicts a higonokami although logically they ought to be much more common in anime than they are.

                      Comment


                        Fumikiri Jikan comes across like a yuri satire, but the first episode is a bit too short to really establish much of an impression.

                        Lupin Part 5 episode 2 is quite fun.

                        So we have naked men kissing another man, and a man giving another man a happy ending. But it's not gay. It's also not good satire or even very funny comedy. Yet the “Binan Koukou” franchise does somehow seem to remain popular. Watched the first episode of Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Happy Kiss!

                        Although the first episode of Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori is superficially comparable to Ristorante Paradiso, it's a different type of show. Actually, it may be more alike to Antique Bakery without the yaoi undertones. To be honest, my first gut impression was that Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori wants to be a hybrid iyashikei and bishounen show, but its characterizations seem just a bit energetic and outgoing to be iyashikei style. However, if the show is perceived more as a drama along the lines of Antique Bakery or Ristorante Paradiso, it's different in tone than either of those shows but it is arguably within the same style.

                        Wrote a short article about the first episode of Jikken-hin Kazoku.

                        I'm not sure what to make of the first episode of Last Period. Its tone places it in the company of satirical children's fantasy anime including Senyuu, Snack World, and Dia Horizon. In fact, it's not even as serious as shows like Tanken Drilland. However, it doesn't have the obvious simplified or childlike art design associated with kids' fantasy anime. The visual design is far closer to adolescent and young adult-oriented sword & sorcery anime like DanMachi & KonoSuba. Comical anime typical hinge on stupidity, but the characters in Last Period are so simple minded, and the first episode's plot development so filled with staggeringly stupid turns that I have to wonder if there's actually some deeper genius at work. Particularly the show's fourth wall breaking asides in its dialogue reveal that the show is clearly aware of its own stupidity, so I wonder whether the show will use its knowledge to its advantage. I find myself wondering whether this is going to be a rather wickedly unexpected satirical comedy along the lines of Sekai Seifuku or whether it will actually just be content to wring superficial comedy from the embarrassing stupidity of simple and obvious dumb character decisions and plot turns.

                        TadaKoi episode 2 is unfortunately a lot less interesting than the first episode despite being much more energetic. When Teresa gets relegated to the background, the show loses much of its uniqueness.

                        Honestly, the first episode of Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii is only moderately interesting, but supporting character Hana-chan is appealing, and I respect the way the climax of the first episode takes a very reasonably straightforward and adult approach to romance compared to the typical adolescent fumbling.

                        Inexplicably, despite being titled “Steins;Gate Zero,” the “Zero” series is actually a direct sequel. I'm not a fan of the Steins;Gate franchise because none of its characters are interesting. The first episode of the “Zero” series seemingly reconfirms that impression when Daru is still lazy and self-interested; Mayuri is still an untethered airhead, and Okabe now is a defeatist wallowing in self-pity. He's supposed to be a scientist and intellectual, yet he claims that changing the future results in tragedy. When he already knows that the future will be the worst possible outcome, it doesn't take a scientist to realize that changing the future can't make it any worse, so there's no reason not to try. But seemingly Okabe can't even fathom that simple fact.

                        Megalo Box episode 2 does a nice, satisfying job of fulfilling the expectations created by episode 1.

                        Were it not so unfortunate, I'd think it funny that the first episode of Butlers tacks on its raison d'etre as a post-ending credits tease, as though the episode literally forgot to have a point until someone finally noticed the flaw, and the pivotal moment of the narrative got patched onto the end as a footnote. The body of the episode comes across as a dull bishounen school drama that occasionally borrows ideas from other shows but doesn't know what to do with them. The result is a terribly boring and largely pointless drama that's supposed to make characters care about the protagonist's quest, except the body of the episode fails to adequately explain the protagonist's motivations and fails to make him sympathetic enough for viewers to empathize with his goal.

                        As expected, Isekai Izakaya feels very redundant coming closely on the heels of Isekai Shokudou. Moreover, although the tone is slightly different, Isekai Izakaya also feels like a weak sauce imitation of the earlier anime. Isekai Shokudou had a wonderful sense of tone and really emphasized its otherworldly contrast. Isekai Izakaya is less iyashikei style, drawing more inspiration from shows including Mr. Ajikko and Wakakozake. But the show doesn't seem to quite understand how the Mr. Ajikko-style imagination sequences ought to work, and the “izakaya” tone comes across more redundant and even petty than relaxing and charming. The show may not be terrible, but it's definitely not the finest example of its ilk. Watched the first two episodes.

                        Doreiku feels a bit like a tonal follow-up to last season's Kokkoku although in terms of narrative and content it's a bit closer to shows like Akagi & Kaiji. The show can be legitimately be accused of being gratuitous and a bit grotesque, but it's also legitimately affective. Plenty of shows have dealt with the suspense and thrill of tempting mortal danger. This show simply trades mortal injury for mortal humiliation. The no-holds-barred "Osama Game" with a light sci-fi twist is uncomfortable and provocative, but viewers are also able to realize that the only participants are either those who join the game with foolish impetuousness or those who fully understand its risks and still willingly participate.

                        Comment


                          Perhaps unsurprisingly, in nearly every respect Kiratto Pri-Chan is another Aikatsu season under a different title. Kiratto Pri-Chan appears to have very marginally less emphasis on fashion compared to Aikatsu, and while Aikatsu revolves around live performance, Kiratto Pri-Chan's gimmick is live streaming performance.

                          Wakaokami wa Shougakusei turned out to be a major surprise. I expected an otaku-oriented rehash of Ooya wa Shishunki or, considering the show is a DLE production, a low-budget dialogue-heavy satire. In fact, the show is a very retro family oriented light drama. The visual design looks slightly inspired by Doraemon. The soft and warm color design is obviously CG yet looks nothing like any other contemporary anime. The show's tone makes it seem like a throwback to the 80s or possibly early 1990s anime like Dororonpa. Strictly speaking, the show isn't “Ghibli-esque” in any significant respect, but it does feel like a story told with a family-oriented tone that Ghibli (or Studio Ponoc) could easily make.

                          On one hand I have high praise for Uma Musume episode 3 because its animation does a fantastic job of creating an impression of speed and momentum. On the other hand, dealing with Spe-chan's weight problem may have actually been treated too subtly.

                          The first episode of Future Card Buddyfight Batsu: All-Star Fight is entirely set-up. Unexpectedly, the episode doesn't even include a card battle.

                          Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory episode 1 is slow but also suspenseful. It does a nice job of handling characterization and sets up the scenario very effectively.

                          To its credit, the first episode of Hisone to Masotan feels rather unique and original. It also feels like a retro 90s or early 2000s production because its story seems rather out of step with the types of narratives most common in contemporary anime. Rather than the first episode being brilliant, however, the episode deserves more credit for introducing all of the components necessary for the show to quickly evolve into a uniquely compelling and interesting story.

                          The first episode of Ladyspo functions as another example of the value of watching anime first-hand. I expected a modern take on Daiundokai Battle Athletes. What I got instead was an “illustrated animation movie” of crass toilet jokes. The show's tone feels reminiscent of Yamamoto Yohko, but it seems content to take the low road in both humor and production values, coming across like a barely animated kamishibai. In fact, even recent low-budget kamishibai anime like Yamishibai and Sekai no Yami Zukan have more animation than this show does.

                          The first Youkai Watch: Shadow Side one-hour special premiere is more serious and much less slapstick than the original series, but I hesitate to call it "darker." Now that the sequel series revolves around a trio or quadruple characters it feels far more like the earlier Jigokudou Reikai Tsuushin children's horror series.

                          The first five mini chapters of Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl fantasy comic series Isola didn't completely enthrall me. I recognize the effort and talent in the work, but the structure and pacing of the mini chapters felt forced and incomplete. The first complete comic issue still didn't convert me to an immediate proponent as, for example, first issue of Liu & Takeda's Monstress did, But the first full issue does have a better pace and development. It has a lovely aesthetic and especially strong color design, and the graphic layout is especially cinematic. However, protagonist Rook isn't just inexperienced, she also lacks a bit of discipline and fortitude, making her a realistic character but also one who's rather difficult to fully like. While the first comic issue effectively stands alone, the earlier mini prologues do substantially provide context to the first issue's story.

                          Artist Zach Bassett's short graphic novel Yurushi is juvenile. I mean that in an objective rather than pejorative sense. Bassett himself asserts in the book's introduction that the comic was created as a high school art project. Admirably, Bassett had modest aspirations for the comic because the work is respectable in the regard that it exists but amateurish in critical observation. The art design fluctuates frequently. Character designs are so uneven that characters are sometimes barely recognizable from page to page. The story demonstrates a knowledge and respect for samurai movies and lore but strictly adheres to a sappy, melodramatic, and highly cliché narrative development.

                          Read GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class manga volume 7 to finish off the series.

                          Watched SHIELD episode 16.

                          Constantine episodes 8 & 9 are quite interesting as the show's first two-part story. Episode 10 is also quite fun. Episode 11 is very interesting because it reminded me of Constantine vs Ted Cruz and also turned Richie into a useful, interesting addition to the cast.

                          Comment


                            Since I happened to be awake at 3am on Saturday night I watched the live stream of X Japan's hour-long performance at Coachella. As always, X Japan delivers 110% at every live show. These are the quick notes I made to myself while watching the performance.

                            Jade
                            Rusty Nail
                            Kiss the Sky (new song? This is at least a year old now.)
                            I.V. (with Limp Bizkit guitarist.) - Really lively performance. Toshi seems energized by having a guest player on stage with them.
                            Kurenai (deliberately off-key? Yoshiki's drums seemed a bit laggy. Toshi still energetic.)
                            Yoshiki thanks the crowd & dedicates "Endless Rain" to Hide & Taiji
                            Endless Rain (Toshi's vocals especially emotional. An exceptionally good, heartfelt performance. Audience does carry the song for some time.)
                            Yoshiki plays "Hero" intro on piano
                            Born 2 Be Free (with GnR's Richard Fortus as guest guitarist & an acoustic Yoshiki on piano with Toshi vocals segment)
                            X (Toshi's vocals are unusually good. He's really enunciating. During the denoument Yoshiki goes into the front-row audience crowd. Holograms at the very end of the song.)

                            Comment


                              I've decided that I dislike the titke "3D Kanojo Real Girl" because it suggests a very flippant, satirical romantic comedy while the show is actually much more nuanced and subtle. Perhaps I'm being unconsciously sexist, but Iroha seems to me like a very sweet, considerate girl. Episode 2 is quite nice. Episode 3 introduces a nice new character to the cast.

                              Watched SAO Alternative episodes 2 & 3. I'm a bit disappointed that episode 3 in particular felt so redundant and unnecessary.

                              Watched Amanchu Advance episode 2.

                              Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 15 was the best episode of the show in a little while.

                              Watched Clear Card Hen episode 14.

                              Hinamatsuri episode 2 is the most hilarious thing I've seen in a while. Episode 3 is fantastic.

                              Even though the franchise has changed significantly over the years, I still cling to the perception of the Pretty Cure franchise as a bishoujo cousin to Dragon Ball Z. So I'm endless fascinated by comparing the strengths of the various Cures. As of Hugtto Precure episode 11 Cure Yell's power levels fluctuate a lot, but if this episode can be taken literally, she may actually be the strongest of all the Precures, surpassing even Cure Black. I'm impressed by episode 11 because it contained a lengthy battle scene that featured the sort of collateral damage that typically only appears in season climax episodes. This episode also includes another major interesting plot development because it suggests the possibility of more warrior-like Cures.

                              Watched Cutie Honey Universe episode 2.

                              Souten no Ken Regenesis episode 2 does introduce a few moments of the goofiness I expect from the series, but I'm glad that it largely remains serious. Episode 3 finally delivers the first serious Kasumi Kenshiro fight, and despite being lengthy, it's not especially exciting.

                              Watched Uma Musume episode 4.

                              Watched Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episode 13.

                              Watched Golden Kamuy episode 2.

                              The second episode of Fumikiri Jikan suggests to me that the show is actually more of an adolescent hormonal comedy. But the second episode is also a one-trick pony five-second joke repeated over and over again for three minutes.

                              I'm pleasantly frustrated by the Precure A la Mode movie because the film suggests what the TV series could have been. After a rather long span of weak or mediocre Pretty Cure movies, the “A la Mode” movie is surprisingly good because it revels in a sly absurdist humor. Unfortunately, two-fisted action was never the “A la Mode” series' strength. At least the movie compensates with one very elaborately choreographed and filmed action scene mid-way through the film. But the movie makes up for its weak action with plenty of amusing visual gag humor of a variety that never appeared in the 49-episode TV series. The movie is also unusual because it's the only Pretty Cure movie that distinctly occurs in continuity within the TV series storyline. If I'm not mistaken, the movie occurs in-between TV episodes 37 & 38.

                              Lupin Part V episode 3 was again very fun.

                              Darling in the Franxx began impressively but felt very derivative. By episode 14 it's well enough established its characters and relationships that it's a superb affecting and complex character drama that doesn't take sides and forces viewers to evaluate very difficult questions of loyalty and sympathy. The characters have divided into factions with no clear or simply defined right and wrong. Their loyalties are all based on their own unique experiences, histories, and perspectives, so the conflicts feel highly believable and also highly affecting and complicated. On a side note, I watched the episode before hearing of the global outrage and reaction it caused. I was surprised by the backlash because I thought the episode rested on very firm, logical foundation based upon the characterizations that had been developed all along.

                              Watched Wakaokami wa Shougakusei episode 2.

                              Watched the first episode of High School DxD Hero. Despite the abundant T&A, the story, characterizations, and character relationships are not especially accessible or compelling to new viewers.

                              I'm still uncertain whether I actually like Gurazeni, but I did watch episodes 2 & 3.

                              Unfortunately, the second episode of Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory is a significant disappointment despite featuring a lot of action. A principle component of the action is a car chase sequence, but it may be the worst anime car chase I've seen since the Armitage III: Polymatrix movie. The entire scene is CG rendered, so the backgrounds look artificial and unfinished. They're also entirely abandoned except when a shot calls for another car to impede the action. Moreover, the action scene is largely shot from distant and even bird's eye view camera angles that drain all sense of immediacy and tension from the scene. Then the way both Sousuke and Chidori escape from a severe car wreck with no injury whatsoever recalls the unbelievable impossibility of Die Hard 5. But the poorly conceived and executed car chase sequence is not the episode's only flaw. I have to give some credit to the script for consciously increasing the pressure, but the series' first two episodes depict the heroes as so totally overwhelmed & outmatched that they just feel incompetent and overconfident. Rather than seeming like underdogs, they seem like they were woefully unprepared and are now deservedly paying the penalty for their lack of foresight. So it's hard to root for heroes who only seem like they're getting exactly what they deserved.

                              Toji no Miko episodes 14 & 15 almost make me regret deciding to continue watching the show. The amount of narrative progress in the two episodes could definitely be condensed into one episode, and by this point in the series there's no need to develop tone or atmosphere any longer. The episodes just feel as though they're padded for time. Moreover, the production quality in 14 is a bit sub-par, and the art design and animation quality are even worse in episode 15.

                              Finished off Aggressive Retsuko web episodes 88-100 and all ten TV episodes. The TV series is a bit different from the earlier web series. Most notably the TV series cast is smaller, and Retsuko's supervisor is now Ton-bucho rather than Yagyu-kacho. Moreover, Ton comes across far more mean-spirited and misogynistic in the TV series than he seemed in the web series. However, possibly as a result of learning from the experience of making the web series, the TV series is excellent. Despite the show's cute mascot look, it's not a children's anime because its characters are all adults dealing with adult relationship and daily responsibility problems. Furthermore, the show completely avoids the typical tropes and plot devices of standard otaku anime. The TV series seems especially well planned out because it develops a singular strong narrative arc with Retsuko becoming friends with Washimi and Gori exactly half-way through the series, and Retsuko settling relationship problems in her professional and private life just before the end of the series. It's a unique show that's charming, amusing, and very relatable.

                              The second episode of Hisone to Masotan is fairly interesting and amusing, and it has a neat ending credits sequence.

                              Continued in next post.

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                                Continued from previous post.

                                In domestic comics, read Cavewoman: Quiver, Face Off, and Battle Against Ankha's Brood 1. Ninja-K issue 5 is a strong conclusion to the first story arc. Motherlands issue 3 continues to be surprisingly, boldly adult-oriented and also quite fun. The first issue of DC's Curse of Brimstone is a bit wordy but isn't bad. Thankfully it doesn't come across as a blunt and direct rip-off of Ghost Rider. The third issue of The Silencer is fun non-stop violent action. Mage III issue 8 finally feels like the sequel I expect it to be.

                                Regrettably the weakness in the first two episodes of the Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe web series overcrow the episodes' commendable aspects. Particularly the original Ninjak, Unity, XO Manowar, Bloodshot, and Eternal Warrior comic series are all quite serious and quite intelligent. However, since the web series is intended for mainstream viewers who aren't familiar with the original comics, the Ninjak Vs series has a degree of campiness that's not present in the original source comics. More importantly, the web series in part looks and feels like a capably written but very poorly directed fan film rather than a production directly supervised by the franchise creators. Ninjak is a hybrid of Bruce Wayne and James Bond. He had a harsh youth with his parents killed. But rather than become a vigilante, he underwent extensive physical, mental, and spiritual training before becoming a government operative. However, the first impression he makes in the web series is as an oafish nincompoop. Unfortunately Chantelle Barry's performance as Roku is abysmal. The comic book character is a barely contained cauldron of seething, homicidal rage whose priority is kill first, ask question later. Barry turns a frightening, intimidating killing machine into a 1960's Catwoman clone, portraying her as a campy, femme fatale vamp that robs the character of all credibility. Even Craig Young's performance of Neville Alcott turns the obsessively devoted and secretive MI6 handler into a funny Martin Freeman copycat, so the character is more difficult to take seriously and now feels more like a deliberate effort to copy the MCU than accurately depict the Valiant comics universe. Apart from its obvious low budget, the remainder of the first episode acquits itself quite well, with the brief shot of Aric in the XO armor looking especially good. But while the nature of the Valiant universe is gritty and grounded, akin to the Netflix version of the Marvel universe, these webisodes miss the mark on faithfully recreating the tone of the original comics despite their illustrated opening credits animation getting everything right.

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