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    The animation quality of Amanchu Advance episode 3 is a bit below average, but the show is so sedate that it can get away with the occasional dip in production values.

    Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 16.

    The editing in Megalo Box episode 3 is distinctly odd. Roughly through the first two thirds of the episode scenes feel as though they're cut short and character motivations are left vaguely implied because nothing feels fully explored. Even the episode's climactic fight is nice looking but doesn't entirely seem to literally make sense.

    Uma Musume episode 5 is once again surprisingly solid.

    I watched the Ghibli Fest 2018 screening of The Cat Returns, marking possibly only the second time I've seen the picture since its 2002 release. My critique of it hasn't changed. The film remains one of Ghibli's weakest efforts for two primary reasons. Hiroyuki Morita's directing is largely functional rather than inspired. The movie extensively uses conventional camera shots. And the second problem, which may partially be within Morita's purview, is the film's length. At only 85 minutes, the film doesn't have enough time to really breath and luxuriate. Compounding the workmanlike directing, scenes are edited strictly for functionality. Many of the movie's scene would be tremendously more effective if they were just a few seconds longer to allow for more character reaction, more facial expression, more body language. Unlike the charmingly relaxed Whisper of the Heart, Cat Returns feels almost as if it's in a hurry to reach its conclusion. The film is highly comparable to the earlier cat kingdom film Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt, yet that film, despite having a comparable running time, feels so much more expressive and emotional because it emphasizes character emotions and expressions. I don't know whether Morita simply intended The Cat Returns to have the tone and pace that it does or whether Ghibli under-funded the production thereby forcing its brevity. But in either case the film just lacks a sense of wonder and magic largely because the characters never have a chance to fully express themselves before the camera cuts to its next shot.

    On balance Batman Ninja is good despite some prominent weaknesses. Throughout much of the film Batman is rather frustratingly ineffectual. The screenplay surrounding Batman has plenty of interesting ideas, but as if screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima was overwhelmed like a child in a giant new sandbox, the film is more concerned with throwing stuff up on screen than ensuring that all of its ideas congeal and contribute. The movie can be credited for not wasting any time before unleashing grand spectacle, but leaping into such grand guignol spectacle so quickly makes the visuals seem ordinary instead of spectacular. Nothing seems fantastic when the fantastic is treated as though it's ordinary. Moreover, the screenplay briefly introduces a plot twist mid-way through the film which ultimately has no significance to the plot whatsoever. Likewise, the inter-species reinforcements that arrive during the film's third act are visually dynamic, but narratively they're treated as practically disposable, as if screenwriter Nakashima was more concerned with seeing his idea on screen than concerned with how it would affect the narrative context of the movie and the psychology of the characters. Also, seemingly just to show off, the film incorporates a variety of different aesthetic designs. But at least they're all attractive and not too terribly distracting. The movie is visually dynamic. It's action packed, and it's certainly aesthetically creative. But like the stoic Batman himself, the film lacks a lot of emotion.

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      Watched Lupin III Part V episodes 4 & 5.

      Watched Wakaokami wa Shougakusei episode 3.

      Watched 3D Real Kanojo episodes 4 & 5.

      Watched Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii episodes 2 & 3.

      Watched FMP! Invisible Victory episodes 3 & 4.

      Watched Cutie Honey Universe episode 3.

      Watched Hisone to Masotan episode 3.

      Watched SAO Alternative episode 4.

      Watchted Hugtto Precure episodes 12 & 13, the later of which seems as though it's leaning toward confirming a suspicion that I've had from the beginning of the series.

      Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 17.

      Hinamatsuri episode 4 is another great episode.

      Watched Isekai Izakaya episodes 3 & 4.

      I'm used to time travel stories that don't entirely make sense, but I expect such stories to at least make some effort at plausibility. So I'm disappointed that not only is the second UQ Holder OAD a disposable story, it doesn't even attempt to make its time-stop story make any sense.

      Amanchu Advance episode 4 is a bit out of character. In fact, the episode reminded more of Natsuiro Kiseki than Amanchu, but it's a very pleasant and enjoyable episode, regardless.

      Golden Kamuy episode 3 is again a fascinating combination of historical culture and grotesque violence. Episode 4 slows the pace just a little bit.

      Watched Uma Musume episode 6.

      Now that Darling in the FranXX is getting so heavy, I find that I have to be in the proper mood to watch it. So I got around to watching episode 15 at bit later than usual.

      Read the third and final volume of artist Lars Martinson's manga Tonoharu. Like a traditional Japanese gekiga manga, it's very stark, and it does a commendable job of evoking the sense of polite alienation and mistrust that foreigners in rural Japan must feel. On one hand this volume feels as if it somewhat pays off the prior two becasue some plot threads get tied up, and this book feels as though it provides a bit of purpose for the prior two volumes. On the other hand, this volume neither concentrates strictly on the village of Tonoharu nor on the story's ostensible protagonist, making this volume somewhat feel partially unnecessary and artificial, as if it's trying to justify what has come before, saying, "Look! It's not just me!"

      Read the first issue of The Dead Hand. It had a moderately intriguing final page cliffhanger, but I'm very undecided on it because otherwise it doesn't seem remarkable. Likewise, Gideon Falls seems to be rapidly picking up interest, but the series' second issue is nearly as slow-burn as the first issue and really creates more of a sense of ambiguous, almost paranoic dread rather than genuine fearful horror.

      Comment


        Hinamatsuri episode 5 is the first episode of the series that seems merely average rather than exceptional. Episode 6, however, is amazing. Its first half story doesn't seem obviously substantial, but it gains a lot of relevance in relation to the B-part story. The entire episode is about family. In the A-part a family of convenience becomes a true, official family. In the B-part one family breaks apart to begin another, but Anzu learns that family is more than just proximity. The episode is remarkable in a number of ways. This is the first anime I can think of that seriously and respectfully deals with the issue of homelessness in Tokyo. While Tokyo Godfathers starred homeless people, the film wasn't about their daily lives and their conflict with the structures of society. The episode considerately humanized Yassan, Shige-san, and the other homeless men. And the two episode half-stories fantastically illustrate the way Hina seems completely unconscious of her situation while Anzu deeply and emotionally understands the weight of her experiences and interpersonal connections.

        Megalo Box episodes 4 & 5 seem to do as much wrong as right. Episode 4 does eventually get around to explaining itself, but it seems to first almost deliberately suggest that Joe has been drugged or that he's suffering from some sort of concussion. By the time it explains what's going on, the explanation ties into the following episode's problem with consistency. The show wants viewers to belive that Joe is tough. But he goes down like glass after any hit. Joe is supposed to be a veteran fighter with plenty of experience in the ring, yet in episodes 4 & 5 he acts like a complete newbie. Episode 6 seems to confirm that the weakness lies in the direction. The show relies too much on telling rather than showing.

        The first half of Otaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii episode 4 is a bit weak because it relies too heavily on suggestion and the assumption that viewers will figure out what's going on via context. Also watched episode 5.

        SAO Alternative episode 4 is an exciting, action-packed episode that also introduces what may be the larger story conflict.

        As of episode 5 Hisone to Masotan continues to get more interesting as it's certainly not a cutsey moe anime nor is entirely a shock-oriented grimdark show. It's a complex yet offbeat drama about odd personalities trying to work together in a challenging work environment.

        Watched Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan episode 5.

        Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 18.

        Watched Amanchu Advance episode 5. Episode 6 is a cute one, but I'm disappointed to find that it doesn't play out the seeming ambiguity of Kokoro's gender. In her two prior appearances, the show deliberately dressed Kokoro in neutral clothing and gave her a tomboy personality. So I anticipated that at some point the main characters would be surprised to discover that she's actually a young girl rather than a young boy. But in her third appearance, she's obviously female, and Pikkari treats her as if there was never any doubt. So either I misread the prior two episode appearances or show show simply decided to abandon that plot thread.

        Golden Kamuy episode 5 is exciting and also interesting in the regard that it introduces a nemesis for Asripa.

        Umamusume episode 7 partially feels as though its skipping around in continuity. More importantly, it introduces a plot development that viewers used to this sort of sport/adventure anime all know is eventually coming. Also watched episode 8.

        Narratively 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 6 is fine, but the animation design and frame rates are terrible.

        Watched Hugtto Precure episodes 14 and the particularly fun 15.

        Watched Gurazeni episodes 4-6.

        I'm getting increasingly frustrated with Toji no Miko episodes 16 & especially 17. Now that Origami Yukari has been purged, I don't understand why the Ayanokouji school is still assisting Tagitsu-hime. Moreover, if the Toji organization is affiliated with the national defense agency and suspects that one of its sub-division schools is going rogue, why hasn't the organization just directly confronted the Ayanokouji school? These seem to be gigantic plot holes that the story is ignoring just to enable its story progression. Also watched episode 18.

        Watched Fumikiri Jikan episodes 3-5.

        Watched Wakaokami wa Shougakusei episode 4.

        Watched Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episodes 14-16.

        Watched Isekai Izakaya episodes 5 & 6.

        Watched Darling in the Franxx episode 16.

        Comment


          Watched Nanatsu no Taizai: Fukkatsu episodes 17.

          Watched 3D Real Kanojo episode 7. What exactly is "tomato cream"? Is it frozen ketchup? Is it tomato pudding? Is it tomato ice cream?

          Watched Hisone to Masotan episode 6.

          FMP: Invisible Victory episode 5 is again a bit aggravating but in a different way. Since the episode provides no time context for reference, the viewer is left wondering why Sousuke is off on his own when his organization is in such desperate circumstances.

          SAO Alternative episode 6 feels very much like padding for time.

          On one hand the first Girls und Panzer das Finale short film is constructed very similarly to the franchise's earlier OVAs. On the other hand, it's a frustrating tease because it provides a lengthy introduction to a battle then only depicts the first skirmish of the battle, ending abruptly and leaving viewers feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

          Watched Umamusume episode 9.

          Watched Hinamatsuri episode 7.

          Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episodes 19 & 20.

          Watched Amanchu Advance episode 7.

          You Were Never Really Here is absolutely not a film for everyone; however, it offers a lot of symbolism and subtext and tremendous room for interpretation for receptive viewers. I found it fascinating and enjoyable. I don't think that film franchises like John Wick, Taken, and The Equalizer need an “antidote,” but if one existed, it would be You Were Never Really Here. My initial reaction to the film is that the movie depicts the alienation, desperation, and most of all uncertainty of existence as a mid-level employee in a large organization, whether a criminal mafia or a political organization. Protagonist Joe is adrift in life, barely tethered to existence by blood – both kinship and professional. He doesn't fully understand his purpose in life, nor why he continues living, and when his latest job goes sideways, he's merely a piece within a larger puzzle, able to see around himself but not the larger picture. The film pointedly emphasizes Joe's alienation. Even the brutality he exerts is, to him, perfunctory, mundane, dispassionate, neither something to revel in or regret: merely another function of living like walking, breathing, or eating. Yet in the deepest depth of despair, both figuratively and literally, Joe finds a soul-mate, another person as broken and aimless as he is, and in that compatriot, he realizes that hope doesn't need to be epic or dramatic; it only needs to be enough reason to get through the day. Narratively the film could absolutely have been a conventional, sensationalistic, explosive action/thriller. But the movie deliberately sidelines the action to instead focus on character study. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is totally immersive. Joe doesn't feel at all like a fictional creation. The film's editing is stylish but understated, evoking 70's films like Taxi Driver through sound, color, and long, deliberate shots rather than quick cuts or attention-grabbing camera angles and filters. Johnny Greenwood's soundtrack is a likewise subtle but tremendous contributor to the film's atmosphere and feel. Comparison to Taxi Driver is both apt and unavoidable. While Scorsese's film was a meditation on mental health and urban alienation, You Were Never Really Here has a different focus. It's a meditation on the cyclical permeation of violence in all of its forms: physical, mental, sexual, militaristic, self-serving, self-inflicted.

          I'll avoid discussing Deadpool 2 in detail because despite being a much lighter film, it contains at least as many plot spoilers as Avengers: Infinity War. The first Deadpool movie introduced non-comic book readers to both Deadpool the character and the franchise's unique meta-textual perspective. The second movie escalates the meta-referential quality to the point of turning the film into an extended social meme, both tapping into the audience's awareness and expectations, and bringing the audience in on the joke. Objectively speaking, Deadpool 2 is tonally a bit uneven. Its pacing is also just a bit uneven. Certain scenes distinctly feel overlong, but the film never strays long from feeling fun and funny. Largely because the sequel largely dispenses with all of the mundane necessities of introducing characters and backgrounds, it's a bit sloppier, but it also feels like it has more breathing room. So directly comparing the two pictures and calling one superior is difficult because subtly but significantly they're very different in tone and aim. The first film may be marginally more cohesive, but largely the sequel feels even more carefree and giddy than the first. On a side note, this film may have the ironically non-ironic best soundtrack since Heavy Metal (1981).

          Finished off Agents of Shield season 5 episodes 17-22. I'll credit the show for at least avoiding predictability. It throws in plenty of plot twists. But it also throws in an off-handed and ultimately aggravatingly ham-fisted narrative connection to the Avengers: Infinity War movie. The Marvel TV universe is clearly the b@stard step-child of the MCU, so it's just so much pandering when the show drops unfulfilled hints about being coalescent with the MCU. Two seasons ago the events of “Civil War” actually changed the entire foundation of the Shield TV series, so I was willing to accept the tenuous connection. But now the suggestion that Shield fifth season is actually occurring simultaneously with the events of Infinity War just seems like a desperate and opportunistic effort at product placement rather than an effort to actually enhance the contextual resonance of the TV series. In other words, if the Shield TV series wants to cash in on the theatrical MCU, then wholeheartedly do it. Give viewers something substantial and satisfying. Passing references just make the TV series feel even more cheap and isolated, like the show is desperately trying to convince viewers that it's cool by association with the MCU.

          Also finished off the final episode of the Constantine TV series.

          Comment


            Watched Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii episode 6.

            Watched Hinamatsuri episodes 8-10, the later of which was especially good.

            I actually saw invisible Victory episodes 6 & 7 broadcast while in Tokyo, but I watched them again translated. Episode 8 is a good one in the regard that it's nearly non-stop action and it contains some unexpected plot twists.

            Watched Isekai Izakaya episodes 7-10.

            Watched Hisone to Masotan episodes 7 & 8. I caught glimpses of episode 8 when it aired in Tokyo, but I deliberately didn't watch it in the hotel room.

            Caught up on Golden Kamuy episodes 6-9.

            Watched Uma Musume episodes 10-12.

            In terms of technical perspective, the first episode of To Be Heroine is very interesting. The Haloliners production appears to be entirely Chinese produced, so I won't call it “anime.” But it does have a prominent anime inspiration and influence, seemingly drawing particularly from both Kill la Kill and Katekyo Hitman Reborn. The character design is weak. Background design is only marginally better. To its credit, the show knows which scenes to sink its animation quality into. The use of Chinese & Japanese languages to distinguish the “real” and “fantasy” world could be an insightful and satirical approach if it was used as any sort of commentary. Likewise, the origin and quality of clothing could be an interesting commentary on commercial culture or wealth inequality. But in both cases the potential appears to be squandered because the contrast in dialogue languages appears to be only used to make the obvious even more obvious. And the origin of clothing appears to be dismissed as a simple one-off gag rather than a substantial underlying theme. In a smaller pool of Chinese animation, To Be Heroine might stand out. But within the much larger scope of Japanese animation, the first episode underperforms and offers little substantial characterization or compelling conflict to convince viewers to continue watching.

            In one sense, Cardfight Vanguard (2018) may be a first for card battle anime. The sub-genre has had reboots and changes in continuity before, but the 2018 Cardfight Vanguard is, I think, the first ever remake. The series first episode is actually such a close recreation of the 2011 series first episode – with very minor changes – that I wonder why Japanese TV networks and studio OLM didn't just rebroadcast the original 2011 series instead of re-animating it to look exactly the same. The episode is so similar to the original version that it still has its troubling moral conflict. The episode is so adamant about setting up its card battle aesthetic that it completely glosses over its underlying and arguably far more relevant and important moral implicity. Aichi has a card stolen from him by force. Yet even when Kai knows that the card is stolen, he still refuses to respect common sense morality and just return the stolen property. The show completely glosses over this gross immorality with the irresponsible perspective that all's well that ends well.

            SNS Police is the most unusual anime series Ive encountered in quite a while. From an animation perspective, the show is odd because its full 3D CG designed to look like Flash animation. So I don't know why animator Senpuukyaku Hoshiko didn't just render the show in Flash. Moreover, the show is an educational anime for adults designed to illustrate and explain to adults the proper etiquette for communication and behavior on online social media networks.

            Watched the first episode of Gan Gan Ganko-chan second series.

            Watched Fumikiri Jikan episodes 6-9.

            Unfortunately, the 2017 Haikara-san ga Toru movie is less an adaptation of Waki Yamato's manga and far more of a synopsis. The movie spans a number of years and many significant plot developments, yet the film's pacing is adamantly so hurried that no character or plot development gets enough time or attention to make an impact. Likewise, the film covers an abundance of rich themes including tradition versus progressive modernity, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, gender identity, corruption within the military, and loyalty between friends, but no themes actually get substantial exploration. Moreover, for a theatrical film, the movie has the production quality of a mediocre TV series. The movie seems good for little more than introducing viewers to the framework of the manga story and identifying the story's various characters.

            Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu season 2 episodes 21-23.

            Made the debatable mistake of watching Jackie Chan's latest sci-fi/action film Bleeding Steel. The movie is abominable primarily because it's a sci-fi movie written by screenwriters who don't seem to have ever watched a sci-fi film before. The dialogue is ridiculously expository when it's recapping or explaining exactly what viewers have already seen happen on screen. But the dialogue is terribly lapse about explaining anything that isn't obvious. So the movie is abundantly filled with head-scratching plot holes, and viewers literally never know what the villain's goal or motivation was. The only explanation the film ever gives is the heroes speculation of one possible motive the villain may have. But that speculation isn't actually borne out by the villain's actions. Specifically, Chan & his partner say, “If Andre gets the formula for creating super soldiers, he can create his own army.” But never once in the entire movie does Andre suggest that he has any interest in creating an army of super soldiers. The only motivation he ever explicates is a desire for revenge against Chan's character, but Andre was already engaged in his scheme – whatever is was – before Chan's character got involved. So at best revenge against Chan's character is only a later supplemental goal. The film's action knows what Jackie Chan fans expect to see and tries its best to provide. But Chan is well past his prime and simply isn't capable of the sort of action he performed in the 70s and 80s. Most notably, Chan's action is schizophrenic. For the first three quarters of the film he strictly fights defensively. He doesn't punch and kick to knock out his opponents. He kicks and punches only to put distance between them and himself. And through the first three-quarters of the film the movie suggests that the black-clad stormtroopers are robots. But in the final act the movie abruptly reveals that the stormtroopers are human soldiers wearing armor. So suddenly just in the final act Jackie Chan's character breaks the necks of at least two antagonists – one of whom wasn't even attacking him. And on a side note, Bleeding Steel may have the greatest number of producers, executive producers, and assistant producers I've ever seen credited on a single motion picture. There are probably twice as many producers on the film as characters in the film.

            Watched Archer season 9 episodes 3-7.

            As expected, Solo is an entirely unnecessary picture. It's passable but little more because it delivers relatively little and is crippled by numerous minor but nagging flaws. I can envision how this film's Han Solo eventually matures and evolves into the Han that viewers are introduced to in ANH. But in this film most of the charm, swagger, and jaded pessimism that make Han Solo such a compelling character are not yet in place. The film's young Han Solo has a lot of bravado but hasn't yet experienced enough disappointment and frustration to turn him into the self-serving scoundrel he is in the original trilogy. So in this origin film Han is largely a bumbler and braggart, someone fascinating to watch because viewers wait to see him fail instead of wait to see him succeed. He's a punchline, the end of a joke rather than the beginning of an adventure. This young Han Solo is not someone that viewers respect and aspire to be like. And that problem extends to the entire picture. Solo is the first Star Wars film that didn't make me want to become part of its universe. It's the first Star Wars film that felt so mundane, so low-stakes, so uninteresting that I wasn't enthralled with the universe and the ideas within it. The film also has a number of other flaws. The editing up until the launch of the assault on the train feels choppy to the extent of feeling like a disjointed sequence of highlights rather than a coherent, cohesive linear story. The music throughout the film is weak and uninvolving, only halfheartedly rising to the occasion when evoking John Williams' original themes. The action is grandiose but regrettably uninvolving. Resultant of the picture's effort to give its characters swagger, the action scenes never evoke a sense of threat or danger. Not only do viewers know that the main characters are guaranteed to survive, they never even feel as though they're in any real danger. Another frustrating aspect of the action is the fact that Enfys Nest wholeheartedly attacks Beckett's team during their first encounter, even killing one member of Beckett's team, yet the “marauders” express a completely different attitude upon their second encounter with no explanation for the change in attitude.

            Writer/director Leigh Whannell's sci-fi/action/thriller film Upgrade comfortably keeps company with gritty post-grindhouse sci-fi B-movies such as Scanners, Escape from New York, Nemesis, Split Second, and Runaway. It's speculative, but the sci-fi ideas take a backseat to the thrills and explosive, gratuitous gore and violence.

            Comment


              Watched SAO Alternative episodes 6-10. Particularly the first three-quarters of episode 10 is exciting. But then the final quarter turns very aggravating because internal rules and logic stop applying. Are buildings "immortal objects" or aren't they? If they allow pass-through damage, then there's no reason to enter a house to hunt down hiding players. Just demolish the entire house on top of the players. And how is a sword in the left eye instant death when a high caliber sniper round in the left eye isn't?

              Watched Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii episodes 7-10.

              Darling in the FranXX episodes 17-20 contain some impactful and some major plot developments and plot twists. Episode 21 is a remarkable episode filled with action, sacrifice, and emotion.

              I started watching 3D Kanojo Real Girl because it felt honest. However, as the show has progressed it's gotten weaker. The art design and animation quality were never the show's strengths. But particularly by episodes 10 & 11 the art design is regressing into even sub-professional quality. Moreover, the writing is getting worse. Particularly Tsutsui & Igarashi keep having the same romantic problems over and over because they don't learn from experience. They don't change or update their behaviors. And the plot twist introduction of the new character in episode 11 doesn't feel “real” or believable at all. It feels exactly like a forced, artificial plot twist just to inject conflict and soap opera drama into the story. Watched episodes 8-11.

              I thought that Amanchu Advance episodes 8-9 stretched credibility just a bit even for fantasy, and the episodes felt just a bit amorphous. But the climax of episode 9 wraps up everything very well and pays off all of the seemingly random foreshadowing that has preceded. Also watched episode 10.

              After watching Clear Card Hen episodes 18-22 I'm a bit frustrated because I can't help feeling as though I wasted a lot of time. The original series had a slow pace, but at least it had a developing story. Clear Card Hen is 22 episodes of very vague set-up. Even after 22 episodes viewers still don't know such simple details as whether the antagonist is actually a villain or threat to Sakura or specifically what the antagonist's goal is. There's literally so little story development in these 22 episodes that the actual amount of story progression would easily fit within only two or three episodes. I'm also particularly annoyed that the final few episodes repeatedly emphasize the claim that Sakura's magic is growing tremendously. But in several episodes she's been unable to defeat clear cards on her own. If she's so powerful but still can't defeat certain cards that Li does defeat, then Li must be even stronger than she is. But the show doesn't make that assertion. Perhaps the strength in Sakura's magic is not in offensive use. But the show also hasn't demonstrated that possibility. So the contrast just seem unexplained and half-baked.

              Hinamatsuri episode 11 isn't one of the series' best episodes, but the next to last punchline in the A-part and the final line in the B-part are among the best gags the series has delivered.

              Watched Toji no Miko episodes 19-23.

              Even though the story in Hugtto Precure episode 16 isn't tremendously pivotal, the episode contains one of the best fight sequences in the 15-year history of the franchise. Continued watching up to episode 20. I'm grateful that episode 20 throws in a callback to the original two generations of Pretty Cure, but I have to wonder if an additional preheart was actually necessary.

              Hisone's freakout in HisoMaso episode 9 was very amusing. Also watched episode 10.

              Have to admit that Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan episode 6 feels especially unnecessary.

              Watched Wakaokami wa Shougakusei episodes 5-8.

              Went to the 2018 Ghiblifest screening of Pom Poko. When the film began playing dubbed, I was the third of three patrons that walked out of the auditorium to complain. The theater management immediately re-started the film in is advertised subtitled version. The movie is every bit as good as I remember it being. But it feels considerably longer than I remember it being.

              Monstress issues 16 & 17 considerably slow the pace in order to concentrate on depicting particular pivotal moments in great detail. The story had been building up to a battle, and episode 17 delivered with epic aplomb, featuring ample bloody carnage and a foreboding sense of apocalypse. Maestros issue 6 continues to take the story in unexpected as well as crassly shocking plot turns. However, I'm a bit frustrated that the series appears to be signaling an impending conclusion despite the obvious sense that it's just beginning. I'm not especially familiar with the Marvel character Domino, so I'm uncertain how much, if any, the first issue of Gail Simone's new Domino comic series redefines the character. I can say that I'm not along for the ride. Perhaps or probably at the behest of Marvel executives, the comic seems to attempt to turn a hardboiled mercenary character into a puppy-loving, faithful to her quirky friends, juvenile fiction heroine. The Domino of this first issue seems entirely removed from the grim, violent company of Deadpool and Cable and more like the fourth member of Charlie's Angels. Writer Brian K. Vaughan's five-issue mini-series Barrier is ultimately a bit of a disappointment because it introduces so many relevant and resonant themes including the universality of empathy and compassion, survivor's guilt, and instinctive antagonism toward the alien, but the story ultimately concludes with a simple “gotcha” Twilight Zone twist rather than really provoke thoughtful consideration. Writer Brian Wood has stated that Sword Daughter was inspired by Kozure Okami, but little of the inspiration beyond the most loose scenario actually comes through in the comic series' first issue. Unfortunately, the first issue lacks emotional depth and fails to create any empathy for its characters. It feels quite rote and hollow. The first two issues of Death or Glory set up a fast-paced and very cinematic thriller, but multiple aspects of the story feel artificially gratuitous, and ultimately the story acknowledges and more importantly demands that viewers set aside a fundamental hypocrisy. The story revolves around characters who have consciously chosen to live off the grid and reject participation in the social status quo. But then when they desperately need assistance, they resent and try to take advantage of the very social safety net that they claimed they didn't need. The second issue of The Dead Hand is structurally and tonally very similar to the first. It relies heavily upon surprise plot twists, and it's rather pretentious because it tries to convince readers that it's more sophisticated than it is. After two issues, I deliberately decided not to purchase the third issue. The first issue of Stellar looks and reads like a less interesting sibling to Barbarella. The first issue of writer Garth Ennis' A Walk Though Hell is the biggest tease I've read in a long time. Conceptually it does the same thing the first issue of Gideon Falls does but more successfully. The second issue only partially delivers on the promises of the first issue. The first issues of DC's Immortal Men and New Challengers both feel like very conventional mainstream hero team introduction stories. Also read Isola issue 2 & Mage III issue 9.

              Continued in next post.

              Comment


                Continued from above.

                On the urging of my friend Phil, we watched 1993's Fear of a Black Hat. I remember the burgeoning of the early 90's gangster rap scene, but I was never a follower, so I appreciate the satire, but it may not be as meaningful or resonant for me as for other viewers that have a more personal interest or connection to the era. I do recognize the film as both funny and satirical; however, I also couldn't help notice that the film describes itself as an observation of NWH's political activism, yet the movie devotes precious little attention to the trio's political statements and no analysis at all on the legitimacy and origin of those political views.

                Ultimately a few prominent flaws compromise the DTV action film Darc. The film's biggest weakness is regrettably the first two-thirds of the picture. Up until near the end of the film, the movie simply lacks a sense of urgency or suspense. In one of several cases, the script even seems to recognize the flaw, as half-way through the film Armand Assante's character chides the protagonist over not being sufficiently proactive. Another case in which the film points out its own weakness comes during the climax when the movie literally points out that the story has proposed two parallel motivations for the protagonist, yet the protagonist doesn't seem to have committed to either. In fact, the beginning of the film also suggests that the hero's vigilantism is motivated by a sense of comic book inspired justice. But that characterization angle gets dropped early in the film and never resurrected. The movie does contain a requisite number of periodic action scenes, but particularly in the first half of the picture the action is edited nearly exclusively with close-up rapid cuts that convey a sense of chaos but not a satisfying impression of the action. Which is regrettable because the film's action is unusually brutal, graphic, and well choreographed. But viewers don't get to fully appreciate the fight choreography and intensity because of the choppy editing. As though the director and editor realized their error, the second half of the film settles the camera somewhat, but still not sufficiently to really push the film into impressive territory.

                Comment


                  Watched Lupin part 5 episodes 7-12.

                  Watched the rather uneventful final 12th episode of 3D Kanojo Real Girl.

                  Amanchu Advance episode 11 contains two surprising plot twists, but saying anything more lightly treads into spoilers. Also watched episode 12.

                  Finished off Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii episode 11.

                  Golden Kamuy has always evidenced some degree of strange, cynical keystone cops slapstick. That running-in-circles goofy humor with a morbid streak is more prominent in episode 11 than any prior episode. Watched episodes 10 & 11.

                  Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 24.

                  The 24th and final episode of Toji no Miko is an epilogue that feels about twice as long as it needs to be.

                  Assuming that Isekai Izakaya episode 12 is the final one, episode 11 is fine, and 12 is a nice wrap-up.

                  The "B" part of Hinamatsuri episode 12, in conjunction with the middle of the series context, are alone sufficient to make this one of the most enjoyable shows of the year.

                  Watched FMP: Invisible Victory episode 9.

                  Watched HisoMaso episode 11.

                  Watched the short Utawarerumono: Tusukuru-koujo no Karei Naru Hibi OVA. It's a bit cute but particularly disposable.

                  Nanatsu no Taizai: Ten Commandments episodes 18 & 19 are a pleasant surprise because they're the sort of epic scale superhuman battle anime that fans adore shounen anime for. Moreover, the presence of grotesquely graphic violence in these episodes is practically shocking because it's so intense even compared to the surprisingly gruesome final third of the first series. The clear and gratuitous gore in these episodes surpasses even an infamous broadcast anime like Elfen Lied. I suppose this show gets away with its content because of its highly stylized “cartoonish” look while violence of this degree in a more solemn tone and a more “realistic” art design would absolutely be heavily censored for broadcast. Respect continues to develop in episodes 20-23 as the show introduces a number of tremendous plot revelations that actually feel mostly plausible and organic. Some of the major plot surprises definitely seem planned, as foreshadowing and context justify them. Some of the plot developments may be arbitrary, but at least they feel logical.

                  SAO Alternative episode 11 is frustrating because despite Llenn struggling to come up with a strategy, she fails to take advantage of so many opportunitites.

                  Read last month's first issue of writer Steve Niles' space horror comic Delta 13 and thought that it felt extremely reminiscent of the unfinished 2015 space horror comic series The Disciples. Then I realized that The Disciples was also written by Niles. His space horror writing takes a lot of inspiration from Dan O'Bannon Alien screenplay. It does a fine job of quickly establishing characterization and a tone of dread, but after the debacle of The Disciples, I'm not completely confident that Delta 13 will last until its conclusion.

                  Co-writer & director Ryuhei Kitamura's suspense/horror film Downrange is an ironically dated film despite being only a year old. It's a movie about and for contemporary American society. The film pits an monstrous indiscriminate sniper against a cadre of millennials who can't change a car tire much less cope with a dangerous, stressful situation. The additional characters who briefly enter the picture are largely foolhardily overconfident, so obsessed with fulfilling their own desires and agendas that they lose sight of simple common sense. The film virtually begs to be interpreted as a grim social satire because otherwise the movie is populated with characters so stupid that they make even typical horror film characters reasonable by comparison. Just as the film's characters reflect modern American stereotypes, the film is heavily skewed toward the tastes of contemporary viewers. The movie unfolds much like a sadistic reality TV program in which the audience spends a great deal of time watching the cast do nothing more than navel-gaze. Thankfully Kitamura still infuses the film with his signature sense of satirical style. The film's first act drowns the audience in dramatic suspense. Unlike the characters, we know what's coming; we just don't know exactly when or precisely how, so the wait is near unbearable. The film also indulges in graphic gore that's uncharacteristic for the contemporary era. But apart from one very obvious and distractingly memorable camera shot, Kitamura largely eschews his typical framing and cinematography tricks to instead allow the potboiler to simmer on its own. Downrange is ultimately a very complex movie. It's simple and on surface level dumb. It's cynical, sadistic, and unabashedly grotesque. And from a technical perspective it's laudably satirical and very capably directed and edited.

                  Ironically writer/director Hiroshi Katagiri's Kickstarter-funded horror film Gehenna: Where Death Lives isn't an especially good film, but I can't reasonably fault it because it is exactly what it's supposed to be. Obviously, once he got enough funding through Kickstarter to support his film, Katagiri didn't set out to create a passion project. He created a professional demo reel. Gehenna is an original horror picture, but rather obviously the director's emphasis was not on creating atmosphere or terror but rather on demonstrating his professional film making consciousness. The small, low budget film emphasizes production value nearly to the point of distraction. The opening of the film is jam packed with wide angle scenery shots to demonstrate use of “on-location” locale. The film is bookended with cameo appearances by Lance Henrickson to demonstrate the inclusion of a marquee value actor name. The beginning of the film injects oddly distracting verbal and visual humor just to demonstrate that the director can handle comedy. The bulk of the movie is lit and shot to deliberately focus attention on the practical sets, props, and make-up effects. The film is ostensibly a horror, but in effect it's far more a bloody, occasionally gory Twilight Zone-seque fantasy. Ultimately, the story does come together and make sense, but the film's only true scares are a handful of disposable jump-shocks. Despite the grimness of the story, the characters never feel convincingly threatened even when they're literally attacked or in the process of dying. Regrettably, the film is only half-successful because it's not dismally bad, but it's not very satisfying for viewers. While the film does demonstrate Katagiri's consciousness of budget and production management, it doen't actually convince anyone that Katagiri is capable of helming an involving, enjoyable movie that viewers want to watch. I was one of the Kickstarter backers of the film. My name's in the “special thanks” credits.

                  Comment


                    Darling in the FranXX episode 22 continues to take the show in unexpected directions. Episode 23 is quite good.

                    After marathoning Cutie Honey Universe episodes 4-12 I can say that I respect the series' narrative goal, but the execution is quite compromised. The series' early episodes hint at a subversive, darker underlying theme but largely evoke the goofy, comic attitude of the 1994 OVA series. Episode 6 is clearly supposed to turn a page, as the series' story abruptly turns grimly apocalyptic. Yet the second half of the show can't decide the extent to which it's willing to commit to its more intense, vicious tone. If the series had pit the theme of Cutie Honey representing love struggling against her own thirst for vengeance, it could have been a powerful character study. But the show never quite does that. It does depict Honey's inner conflict over her bloodthirst, but the show never commits to examining the reason for Honey's emotional conflict. Likewise, she remains trusting against the advice of others. But since the show never explains her rationale, she comes across as ignorant and foolish instead of innocently trusting. The series' climax is simply a mess because the climax has little contextual basis within the story development, and much of it feels arbitrary – made up spontaneously just because the climax needs to unfold in a particular way.

                    Watched the short Yurucamp "Hora Camp" omake OVA.

                    Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 25 & 26. The final episode is a particularly good one. The "A" part finally rewards viewers with another zashiki warashi-focused story, and the "B" part packs in cameos from virtually all of the characters and gives viewers a final look at Hozuki in action.

                    Watched Fumikiri Jikan episode 12.

                    Finished off Golden Kamuy episode 12.

                    Occasionally new card battle anime challenge tradition and develop unconventionally. The first episode of Future Card Shin Buddyfight is not such a show. With one minor exception, the first episode of Shin Buddyfight is a typical card battle anime first episode. How it's slightly different is in the regard that protagonist Yuga is able to use his father's ultimate series climaxing technique in his very first card battle. So if the new protagonist is a prodigy master level player from the very outset, the scale of this sequel series can only get bigger.

                    The first episode of Oshiri Tantei develops largely as expected. It's a silly concept largely played straight, an introductory Sherlock Holmes parody for young children with a role-model protagonist who's both novel in a juvenile way but also intelligent and politely well-spoken. The one element of the show that bothered me is that many of the small mysteries it expects children to decipher seem to have completely random solutions.

                    Hakumei to Mikochi episode 13 is highly amusing.

                    The cliffhanger plot twist in Megalobox episode 7 is aggravating because it doesn't make any sense.
                    Finished off the series.

                    Madhouse's Kimi no Koe o Todoketai movie is pleasant and innocuous. It's a fine distraction, but nothing about it is especially remarkable. The climax does seem to occur a bit abruptly, but I can understand why the pacing and editing is constructed the way it is throughout the entire film. The film is edited to prioritize dramatic impact over realism.

                    Regrettably, FMP: Invisible Victory episode 10 is a pretty lousy episode thanks to poor pacing and even worse art design and animation quality.

                    Finished off Archer season 9.

                    Watched the first four episodes of Luke Cage season 2.

                    Comment


                      Nanatu no Taizai: Ten Commandments episode 24 adequately wraps up the season, just barely. In fact, with only half of the story arc finished, ending the season where the last episode does feels very arbitrary and frustrating.

                      The 12th and final episode of Sword Art Online Alternative conclusively positions the series as a disposable footnote to the main storyline. “Gun Gale Online” contains some moderately creative action scenes, but its action scenes are also heavily manipulated to fulfill particular goals. Likewise and more aggravating, its characterizations are only barely substantial enough to propel the plot. Virtually everything about the characters is exposition rather than characterization. Viewers know why characters behave the way they do but rarely feel any sense of conviction or motivation behind the explanations.

                      Watched the cute yet very disposable first Akuma no Memumemu-chan ONA.

                      Whether or not Hisone to Masotan breaks into my rankings of best series of the year will depend on what the forthcoming year brings. While the show does have a distinct story arc and sense of purpose, its distinctive characters and tone make the show feel more episodic and disjointed than it actually is. The show has a very tight and cohesive narrative, yet its leisurely tone makes it feel like a story highlighted by occasional exceptional and memorable moments and scenes. "“Quirky"” is potentially the most appropriate adjective to describe this oddly unique show about a collection of probably autistic characters who unconsciously complement each other and allow their collective strengths to unite to achieve a common goal, in the process strengthening each of them as individuals.

                      Hugtto Precure episode 22 probably isn't going to become one of the franchise's respected classic episodes, but it deserves credit for effort. It's an excellent episode for a number of reasons. The Cure Black/White cameo is handled very well. Honoka & Nagisa's personalities are spot on, and the pair get their momentary spotlight to demonstrate that they're stronger and more experienced than any other Precure team. I also appreciate the brief acknowledgment of the now legendary Precure episode 8. The episode can be called a bit heavy handed with the moral lessons, but considering that it's a children's show it comes across as believable, and it gets extra points for subtly affirming the idea that peaceful solutions can be more effective than violence.

                      Watched the first Super Dragon Ball Heroes promotional short.

                      Because it was short and I was moderately curious about it, I watched the 1983 OVA Shounen to Sakura. It’'s one of the many educational/inspirational OVAs written by Ikeda Daisaku. This particular one is rather innocuous. It’'s foremost a simple fable that encourages young Japanese boys to be considerate and respectful of both nature and the people around them. It falters somewhat because since it’'s set during the aftermath of WWII, it takes advantage of the setting and shoehorns in an obligatory anti-war message that’'s a bit out of step with the thematic focus of the surrounding story. The OVA does exhibit some better than expected animation quality, for its time.

                      I'm relieved to see that the animation quality of the first episode of Baki is better than the terrible, stilted CG animation that makes up the show's opening animation sequence. The first episode seems very faithful to the manga and was a bit unexpectedly gruesome.

                      The first episode of Hanebad! surprised me in two regards. Unlike all of the female sport anime of recent years, Hanebad has an entirely serious, dramatic tone. Moreover, the character design, color design, and animation quality are all above average. The first episode’s only disappointment was the amount of recycled footage within the opening animation sequence. I can'’t help recognize, however, that the primary personal conflict within the first episode could be very easily addressed if any character simply asked the basic question, "“Do you play sports to be the best, or do you play sports to be the best you can be?”"

                      I'm honestly conflicted over favoring the first or second Sicario movie. Both films are tense, gritty, violent morality dramas about the complexity of the American war on drugs. The first film focused its moral ambiguity at an individual human level. The sequel largely centers its moral quandary at an organizational and national level. The first film was very much a character study of moral utilitarianism, which partially made it very ambiguous and abstract. For better or worse, the sequel, Day of the Soldado, has a slightly more conventional “Hollywood” narrative and a clear observational criticism on political gamesmanship. On a philosophical and academic level, the first film is more provocative than the second. But the second film is simply easier to parse while still being equally intelligent and cynical.

                      Comment


                        The first episode of Island is evidently the latest production in the sub-genre of mystery shows like Zaregoto, Mayoiga, Chaos;Head, and Caligula that begin by introducing a cast of characters that viewers have no reason to care about along with a vague promise that maybe the story will get more interesting in subsequent episodes. Certainly these sorts of shows do find their loyal viewers, but I'm not one of them. I need more meat from the outset than just a pretentious tone and a vague hope that maybe sticking with the show long enough will prove rewarding.

                        The uncut web version of the first episode of Joshi Ochi!!: 2-kai kara Ero Musume ga Futte kite, Ore no Areni!? is ostensibly porno, but everything from the scenario to the music are so absurdly satirical that the show seems foremost like a comedy.

                        Read some comics. Finished off Imaginary Fiends issues 4-6. The series ends as it began: interesting concept weakened by mediocre execution. Also finished off Motherlands issues 4-6. The series is certainly fun, but it would probably have been a bit more concrete and empathetic if it had been more straightforward. The characters themselves may be liars and backstabbers, but keeping the reader out of the loop prevents the reader from ever really feeling sympathy for any of the characters. Read the entertaining Death Bed issues 3-5. Gideon Falls issues 3 & 4 just barely start to create a sense that something of momentum may be beginning. Really, if this series developed any slower, it'd be Kirkman's Outcast, which is about as slow-paced as a horror story can be. Black Hammer universe mini-series Doctor Star issues 2-4 are heartbreaking. Primary Black Hammer universe story issues "Age of Doom" 1-3 feel as if Black Hammer is getting even better.

                        Comment


                          Watched Crayon Shin-chan movie 17 again. I didn't actually intend to. I didn't recognize that I'd seen the film before until about three-quarters of the way through it. Watched movie 24 also. Movie 24 is slightly different from typical Shin-chan movies because it doesn't have a drastic tonal or stylistic shift three-quarters of the way through the way most of the movies do.

                          Watched the first episode of Yama no Susume season 3.

                          I want to like the Aru Zombie Shoujo no Sainan short movie more than I actually do like it. I appreciate the ONA's tribute to late 80's/early 90's exploitation anime, specifically its unabashed gratuitous nudity and gore. However, at times the characters behave exceptionally stupidly even by horror movie standards. I'm willing to overlook the wildly conflicting aspects of Euphrosyne's personality because she herself states that perhaps she's lost her mind. Somehow she's simultaneously superhumanly smart and also unbelievably dumb. More difficult to forgive is the scripting's blunt and unnatural exposition. There's no logic behind the two zombie girls telling each other their shared history. The ending shift in tone is abrupt but at least remotely logical. The virtual deus ex machina climax, however, stretches credibility virtually past suspension of disbelief.

                          The Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san OAD is, at best, disposable fluff. It's strictly contemporary style T&A sitcom with production values just barely better than amateur quality. The narrative concept isn't strictly parallel to anything else, but it feels highly reminiscent of titles including Hanasaku Iroha and Tsukumogami Kashimasu. More specifically, it feels as though it draws inspiration from virtually every harem comedy since Ai Yori Aoshi and Geobreeders.

                          My first reaction to Chuukan Kanriroku Tonegawa was to wonder who the audience for the show is. As an Akagi spin-off, I can understand why Akagi fans might be interested in it. But I didn't like Akagi because it wasn't a show like Kaiji about a brilliant, manipulative gambler. Akagi was a story about a loser who arbitrarily kept getting lucky strictly because he's the story's protagonist. The first episode of Middle Manager Tonegawa unfolds as a rather stupid satire of salaryman culture. Shows such as Salaryman Kintaro, Koume-chan Ga Iku, and Aggressive Retsuko have been quite fun satires of corporate life, but an entire episode in which the pivotal gag is the protagonist's inability to memorize names because the names are easily confused with each other seems more like parody than satire. But the show doesn't have any tone of parody whatsoever. I can't find anything in this first episode to latch onto, but I have to remember that the similarly annoying Kariage-kun television series proved quite popular. So seemingly there are Japanese viewers that can empathize with and enjoy this sort of seemingly stupid situational humor.

                          Watched the first episode of iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Gekijou season 3.

                          Since Upotte and Touken Ranbu exist, the eventual production of Senjushi was inevitable. Since the show's concept is fundamentally absurd, I won't even bother identifying or critiquing the first episode's numerous plot holes & flaws in common sense. I will say that the production values are disappointing meager, especially on the heels of the surprisingly impressive Touken Ranbu Hanamaru. I understand that the musketeers' secret base is supposed to reflect their antique nature, but the décor of the building makes no sense considering the setting of the show. A post apocalyptic setting may damage buildings, but it doesn't magically turn modern buildings into 18th century structures. Moreover, the show's animation quality is a bit sub-par.

                          Watched Baki episode 2.

                          Watched the first episode of Yakiniku-ten Sengoku. It's definitely no Working. Nor is it as eclectic as Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou. But I suppose it's not bad.

                          Comment


                            Crayon shin-chan movie 23 largely adheres to formula as it does introduce a turn in genre during its final act. However, noticeably despite good efforts from the sheriff's shooting scene and the slide down the water pipe scene, this film lacks the elaborate action scenes that typify many of the earlier films.

                            The nicely animated and very amusing seventh episode of Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan makes up for the dull prior episode.

                            I'm not sure what's behind off-kilter music group anime, but both the 2008 Detroit Metal City anime from 4C and this year's Netflix Back Street Girls from JC Staff have very limited animation. “Gokudolls” (I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't get the “gokudo” pun until I watched the show) is mildly amusing. It parodies both yakuza and idol genres, but the jokes touch upon little that hasn't been addressed before in other shows.

                            Despite some modern concessions – most notably cell phones – the anime adaptation of mid-80's manga Banana Fish looks and feels like a late 80s anime. It's distinctly reminiscent of OVAs including Megazone 23 Part 2, Heavy, and Kentoushi. The first episode isn't especially exciting, and it does rather little to establish any empathetic characters. The episode does provide some insight into the life of protagonist Ash Lynx, but the episode doesn't give viewers much reason to care about him. But simply because the tone and style of this show is a bit unusual compared to typical contemporary productions, I may give its second episode a shot to convince me.

                            Upon watching the first episode of Yume Oukoku to Nemureru 100-nin no Oujisama, on one hand I'm bemused that conceptually the show is virtually identical to Sengoku Night Blood. A bit laughably the show's concept seems to be exaggerating the Japanese children's concept of “make 100 friends” into “make a harem of 100 handsome princes.” On the other hand I'm aggravated because I'm so confused by the show's vague scenario. What exactly does it mean to have citizens of the dream world have their dreams eaten? Dreams in Dream World can't the same as they are in the “real” world or they'd be no point in calling it “Dream world.” Citizens who have their dreams eaten fall into perpetual sleep. So do they not dream while they're asleep? The princes are supposedly protected from the dream eaters, yet the dream eaters sealed away all of the princes. So I guess the princes weren't protected after all because they did all get placed in eternal sleep just like everybody else? In short, the show is crap. It has no creative vision nor any uniqueness. It's merely a carbon-copy template designed to create transitory 2D bishounen idols.

                            Evidently author Yukiya Murasaki read some of Kugane Maruyama's Overlord novels and decided, “Not enough boobs,” leading to the creation of Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu. Slave Girls' Summoned Demon Lord feels very reminiscent of Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku, Last Period, and DanMachi. Whether or not it'll be a fun amusement like KonoSuba or a consistent disappointment like Death March will depend on its execution and development in future episodes. The AT-X broadcast appears to be a few seconds longer than the terrestrial broadcast. Although the AT-X version is still rather tame, the terrestrial broadcast appears to censor just a bit on the conservative safe side.

                            Shichisei no Subaru loosely plays out like a hybrid of, believe it or not, Sword Art Online or Log Horizon and AnoHana. The first episode is a rather large question mark because it only introduces the characters. The first episode doesn't reveal enough of the scenario for viewers to get a functional sense of what the story wishes to do.

                            Watched Isekai Izakaya Nobu episodes 13 & 14.

                            Lupin Part V episode 13 is a very fun and exciting beginning of a new story arc.

                            It's absolutely not uncommon for sedate domestic romantic comedies like Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, and Hatsukoi Monster to include boob jokes. The first episode of Sunohara-sou no Kanrinin-san is a bit unusual in the regard that it's a sedate, dramatic domestic rom-com that's all boob jokes. On one hand, the art design and amiable characterizations are obliging and easygoing. On the other hand, the first episode already feels like a shallow one-trick-pony. The show is ostensibly a harem comedy but, in execution, it feels more like a chaste straight shota comedy. The busty older landlady constantly makes implied and overt sexual advances toward the protagonist adolescent boy. The boy struggles to maintain his chaste dignity. This is not a show that invites or supports logical criticism. One of the show's primary conceits is that its male protagonist often gets mistaken for being a girl. Despite his appearance giving him a years-long complex that motivated him to move to a new city, seemingly Aki never considered simply getting a haircut and wearing clothes that would more clearly identify him as male.

                            The first episode of Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro looks and feels practically exactly like a hybrid of Ippatsu Kiki Musume and Nichijou.

                            I'm conflicted over comparing Ant-Man to Ant-Man and the Wasp. Academically I recognize that the first film had slightly more weight and gravity, and certainly a bit more relevance to the larger MCU than its sequel does. Furthermore, the first film develops with a traditional narrative arc while the sequel, for better or worse, unfolds with the roller-coaster-like pacing of a sequence of scenes strung together with a linear narrative thread. The sequel may have less emotional weight in total, but the distinctive pacing of the sequel eliminates the pacing dead space present in the first film. Scott Lang was a more nuanced character in the first film. In the second film he's largely reduced to a plot device used to propel the plot. But in that regard, the second film literally delivers more Ant-Man and Wasp as faceless costumed action heroes performing superhuman action. In fact, the second film reduces the heroes to roles to the extent that a pivotal plot point in the film literally depicts Ant-Man as a distraction rather than as a person. Technically the sequel is a lesser film, but it delivers more of the brainless popcorn spectacle expected of a summer tentpole superhero film than the first movie did. It's particularly telling that despite this film revolving around multiple family relationship stories that each should be highly affecting, the film's most resonant and impactful scene is actually a virtual afterthought reference to the far stronger and impactful Infinity War movie.

                            Comment


                              By episode 24 I'm skeptically inclined to say that Darling in the FranXX borrows a bit too heavily from Evangelion, Gunbuster, and Gurren Lagann, in roughly that order of percentage, to completely stand on its own as an authentically original and unique story. But it takes the best from its inspirations and wraps up with a highly affecting and very satisfying conclusion.

                              The first episode of Yami Shibai season 6 isn't the weakest episode of the series, but it still leaves a bit too much to the imagination. Ambiguity is an advantage to horror, but too little explanation creates more confusion and frustration than shock and horror.

                              The first episode of Harukana Receive is a bit of a question mark. Anime has produced a number of volleyball anime, but this is the first beach volleyball anime. The animation quality in the opening minutes is a bit weak, and during action scenes the show deliberately uses lot of abstract close-up shots to avoid needing to animate a lot of motion. However, the Okinawan setting combined with attractive character designs gives the show some visual novelty. And a good spectrum of characterizations that leave a lot of room for back story and development open the door for future potential.

                              Watched Hataraku Oniisan No. 2 episode 1

                              Ongaku Shoujo seems to rest in an odd niche because it seems as though it wants to be a satire of idol anime, but it's unwilling to fully commit. So, in effect, the show comes across a bit like a lower-budget cousin to Action Heroine Cheer Fruits. Typical idol anime including Idolmaster, Wake Up Girls, and Love Live are primarily drama with a bit of comedy. Ongaku Shoujo appears to reverse the formula by emphasizing the sitcom. Some aspects of the show come across as sub-par, however. Uori argues against Hanako's recruitment by saying that Ongaku Shoujo isn't looking for new members. But Uori makes that statement while backstage at a new idol audition contest. I'm disappointed that the show does so little to emphasize or clarify the fact that Hanako confuses prefectural mascots with idol singers. And the final reveal is rather telegraphed.

                              Regarding Satsuriku no Tenshi, it's not really a spoiler to reveal that protagonist Rachel teams up with killer Zack because that pairing is the core narrative concept of the story. The first episode of the anime is a rather severe disappointment because it's tremendously boring and pointless. Clearly it's supposed to be a terrifying horror story, but the two killers introduced are comical parodies, more pitiful than threatening. And protagonist Rachel is a cipher. She has no personality at all, so there's no reason for viewers to care whether she lives or dies if she herself doesn't care. The narrative is also highly artificial. Zack leaves his assigned territory for no other reason than because the script needs him to do so to set up his collaboration with Rachel. This first episode isn't so much a story as a barely fleshed out concept.

                              Comment


                                Particularly since Ketsuekigata-kun exists, I can't call Hataraku Saibou entirely original or unique, but it is novel. The primary characters, an anthropomorphized red blood cell and white blood cell, don't have a lot of character aside from their basic personality. The red cell is cheerful and diligent while the white cell is focused and responsible. So whether or not the show stays amusing will depend highly on the creativity of its scenarios or its continual introduction of new characters. The repetition of the white blood cells repelling virus attacks will get redundant fairly quickly.

                                Good Lord, Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria is a variation on Isekai Smartphone that's just as terrible but in a different way. This show is interminably stupid. Yuto, the main character, is stuck in a sword & sorcery fantasy world, yet due to a magic mirror that works as a sort of wi-fi hotspot, he can still use his cell phone. Except, for bizarre reason, he's exceptionally selective in his use of his phone. He states that he believes he's stuck on ancient Earth, yet after two years he hasn't ever bothered to attempt to GPS his location or research his country's culture. Furthermore, he ought to be able to immediately tell that he's not on Earth because magic exists in this world he's stuck in. Evidently he's used his cell phone data to research bronze age battle strategies and technology, yet for inexplicable reason he hasn't bothered to research how to create steel or gunpowder or how to harness electricity. Much of the show's drama is based around the country's established ruling cabinet perceiving the ruler Yuto as an outsider upstart. The problem with the conflict is that the show provides zero basis for the conflict. By seemingly all account Yuto's rule has been nothing but beneficial to the country, so the rulers who have benefited from his leadership should have no reason to oppose him.

                                The first episode of Planet With feels vaguely similar to Gadguard, Gakuen Senki Muryo, and Sacred Seven, but it's distinctly its own animal (no pun intended). The series' first episode isn't the most exciting or compelling premiere I've ever watched, but it does introduce enough intriguing uncertainty to make me curious to learn more about the story and characters.

                                School comedies revolving around three girls aren't unusual. See Yuyushiki and Sansha Sanyo as examples. However, despite being a school comedy revolving around three girls, the first episode of Asobi Asobase feels more comparable to Nichijou than anything else. The art design is totally different, but the emphasis on bizarre and occasionally slightly creepy gags feels reminiscent of Nichijou.

                                Watched the first short episode of the Chinese "anime" Yin Yang Shi: Ping An Wu Yu, known in Japanese as "Onmyouji: Heian Monogatari."

                                The first season of Fairilu was titled “Rilu Rilu Fairilu ~Yousei no Door~.” The second season was titled “Rilu Rilu Fairilu: Mahou no Kagami.” The new third season, Oshiete Mahou no Pendulum: Rilu Rilu Fairilu, subtly shifts the position of the franchise title to the end, representative of the shift in focus within the third season. The second season seemed to be already trending in this direction. The third season seemingly shifts the protagonist focus away from the fairilus onto human character Alice. Now the fairies seem to be supporting characters rather than the primary characters. Furthermore, supplementing the new change in emphasis, the gateway between Big Humalu (the human world) and Little Fairilu is no longer fairilu doors created by the fairies but now a magical book in the human world. And the third season has introduced a sort of experience cards that Alice collects, possibly to replace the bijous that the fairies collected in the prior seasons.

                                With two minor caveats, the first episode of Zoids Wild is fine, typical shounen action. The show's naming sense makes even Dragonball's character names seem creative. Character names including “Bacon,” “Avacado,” “Garlic,” “Candy,” and “Nose” aren't especially creative. And the zoids seem oddly to have very little offensive power or capability. Have they always been like that, and I just haven't watched enough Zoids anime to realize?

                                The Gintama anime has always promoted itself as a comical action/adventure series although it's largely always emphasized its satirical parody characteristics. The first episode of what may at last be the final season actually is the shounen sci-fi action/adventure series with comical overtones that's always been lying under the surface.

                                The second episode of Hanebad is interesting from a technical perspective because it seems to work through its weaknesses on screen. What co-protagonist Aragaki needs most isn't more practice or stronger training partners but actually a counselor. She gets that emotional support in the second episode. The show also seems to realize that it's tone is consistently too heavy and dramatic for its subject matter, so the final moments of the episode distinctly introduce a new, more upbeat attitude.

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