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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.

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        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.

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          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.

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