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    I'm frustrated by the latter half of the first Super Dragon Ball Heroes mini-series for two reasons. It lacks creativity and it lacks continuity. The series is set after Dragon Ball Super but tries its hardest not to acknowledge that simple fact. I think the introduction of Jiren in “Super” was a cheap, lazy plot development, but I overlooked it because at least “Super” featured a lot of great action. Introducing Cumber as yet another Jiren proxy just compounds the compromise. “Super” already established that Goku is arguably the strongest fighter in the multi-verse. Theoretically at his peak he may actually be on par with Birus now. So suddenly introducing a new character that can defeat Blue Goku doesn't make sense and moreover just undermines the credibility of the prior anime. Goku went through this lengthy battle royale against fighters from multiple universes and emerged the strongest fighter. Then some unheard of dude just shows up out of nowhere and overpowers Goku when Goku is as strong as a god? Just repetitiously introducing more brute strength characters doesn't keep increasing tension. All it does is repeatedly suggest that Goku isn't as strong as the anime has lead us to believe he is.

    On one hand I'm pleased to see that Saintia Shou is a completely new story, so it's story development is unpredictable. But I'm disappointed to see so many details within its story development are so stupid. Watched episode 3.

    I was quite disappointed that 2017's Toji no Miko was garbage. So I'm quite surprised to see it resurrected this month with an SD “Mini Toji” series. Even the first episode of the SD series is quite a failure because it purports to be a summary of the TV series, yet it only covers the first half of the TV series. And even the first half of the original TV series is so convoluted that this three-minute summary is likely incomprehensible to new viewers that haven't watched the prior series.

    I watched the complete first Fukigen na Mononokean series. Watching the first episode of the "Continued" season reminded me that the show isn't great. It's not quite as juvenile and redundant as Muhyo to Rouji, but it's also no Natsume Yujincho. Like the first season, the first episode of second season is passable but little more.

    I'm a bit conflicted over the first episode of Ueno-san wa Bukiyou. Plenty of prior anime have revolved around high school girls and crude sex jokes. In effect, this first episode feels vaguely like a hybrid of shows such as Joshikoshi and Seitokai Yakuindomo and classroom anime including Bernard-jou Iwaku and Gakkatsu. But it's not exctly like any prior show, so despite it feeling a bit redundant, I have to also give it some credit.

    Despite the 2017 Hand Shakers anime getting pretty universally panned, it now has a sequel in W'z. The sequel seems as though it's trying to be just a bit more mature and subdued, but it only ends up being dull and stupid. Several plot points seemingly make no sense. Protagonist Yukiya tries to avoid letting his hands accidentally touch anyone, yet he lives in one of the most populated cities in the world. Seemingly for the past ten years he's never had the idea to simply wear cotton gloves. The point of entering the alternate world is to have a wish granted, yet the Pile team seems preoccupied with securing Yukiya's ability to bring materials into the alternate world. Why? There's no suggestion that bringing in outside material would help anyone achieve their ultimate goal. Seemingly Yukiya first entered the alternate world ten years prior, yet he doesn't enter that dimension regularly. However he's still seemingly an expert fighter even without any experience or practice.

    I'm really uncertain about what happened to the Ikkitousen franchise. The 2003 first anime series was a sort of TenTen knock-off (not to say that TenTen is especially good itself). But at least the first anime series included a lot of fighting. But starting with the second anime series, presumably following the development of the manga, Ikkitousen transformed from a martial arts battle royale story into a dull soap opera about a martial arts battle royale. The first episode of Western Wolves, now the sixth anime mini-series, continues to insist on being a martial arts battle anime that deliberately tries to avoid animating martial arts battles. The series' signature T&A is back in full force after even it seemed to get marginalized in the recent anime adaptations. But I don't understand what makes Ikkitousen appealing anymore because for years now the story has seemingly consisted of just the regular cast members sitting around worrying that they're not strong enough. And true to form, the first episode of Western Wolves consists of a lot of dialogue-heavy anxiety and duels that cut away as soon as the fighting begins.

    I thought that the final two episodes of Daredevil season 3 were quite good.

    Watched the Chargers beat the Ravens because the Ravens waited much too long to get serious. And watched the Eagles narrowly defeat the Bears.


      Hugtto Precure episode 46 introduces hints of some very interesting plot developments, but I'm saddened because I don't think the show is actually going to use them.

      Watched the uncut web version of the first episode of Papa Datte, Shitai. It's a yaoi incarnation of the recent line of disturbing Amai Choubatsu/Joshi Ochi/Shuudengo, Capsule Hotel de trend of broadcast porno anime that normalize and seemingly justify non-consensual sex. In this first episode, “No” appears to mean “Keep going until I stop saying no.” And the show's animation quality is sub-par.

      Slime 14 is a satisfying, fun episode.

      I really hate to be so negative and critical about an ostensibly cute new anime, but judging by its first episode Pastel Memories is literally awfully derivative. It exhibits sub-par art design & animation quality, and it's embarrassingly derivative. It's set in a manga café, so it's automatically reminiscent of Hinako Note. The café is called “Usagi Koya Honpo,” so not only is it reminiscent of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka, the Pastel Memories character Ayaka resembles a sloppily re-drawn Tsubasa Hanekawa. Furthermore, she's a fujoshi, which makes her reminiscent of Miu Amano from the café anime series Blend S. Pastel Memories character Irina has an airsoft gun fetish, just like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka's Rize. Then, the first episode's cliffhanger abruptly changes into a completely different show reminiscent of Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai crossed with Madoka Magica.

      Among the relatively few number of new 2019 anime to have premiered so far, the 2019 Dororo is easily the most competent and impressive, but its praise needs to be tempered because so much of the first episode is near identical remake of the original 1969 first episode. To its credit, Shin Ei's 2019 series is subtly very contemporary in attitude, art design, and animation quality, yet it's also remarkably faithful to the original TV series its rebooting. Dororo now looks far more gender ambiguous, but his attitude remains spot on with his original characterization. The remake depicts Hyakkimaru's circumstances a bit more realistically and with a bit more thoughtful, logical detail than the original series did since the original series had a greater concern with being easily accessible to its audience.

      Watched SAO: Alicization episode 13.

      WataTen, or Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita, is obviously the opposite personality sibling to last season's UzaMaid (Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru). More specifically, WataTen is about an introvert, instead of extrovert, young woman asexually obsessed with cooking for a younger girl and dressing the girl in home-made fashions.

      As its title implies, Ameiro Cocoa: Side G is just a gender-swapped reboot of Ameiro Cocoa.

      Watched the entire first episode of Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan, which consists of about four minutes of anime and twenty minutes of director & seiyuu interview. The anime itself is interesting because, as first episode director Akitaro Daichi pinpoints, the story doesn't fall into a clear genre category. I'm a bit disappointed, however, that the bulk of the staff interview is questions about the creatives themselves rather than questions about their impressions or interpretations of the Ekoda-chan manga & anime. And when they do speak about the title, their answers are too frequently vague and amorphous.

      I'm just as conflicted over 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 13, the first episode of season two, as I was about the first dozen episodes. The show is at its best when it's subtle, subdued, and honest. But too frequently for my taste it introduces rather cliché or obviously artificial plot turns to create drama, as the final act of this episode does. These blunt plot twists feel very soap opera-ish or comic booky. They're plot turns that just feel trite and lazy and cheapen the integrity of the story. But from a technical perspective, 3D Kanojo Real Girl never had a tremendous amount of artistic integrity to begin with. The first episode of second season is technically indistinguishable from the first season not only because it maintains its visual design but because it also maintains the first season's sub-par animation quality. On balance this show is typically just barely more enjoyable than disappointing, but on the scale of shoujo romance anime, 3D Kanojo Real Girl is a relatively weak production.

      The first two Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight BD OVAs are a bit odd because the character personalities and relationships feel unusual and a bit out of character. In fact, in both episodes the characters actually point out the unusual behavior.

      It's a very minor spoiler to mention that I initially thought that the story progression in the first episode of Kakegurui XX was too quick. And in fact it absolutely could have been teased out a bit more considering the episode includes an unnecessary flashback montage music video. But the revelation that the show is going to feature so many antagonists within, presumably, a dozen or so episodes explains why it needs to briskly dispatch each of them.

      I anticipate that comparison of Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue to Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari will be unavoidable, which is actually a bit ironic because technically “Hizaue” is probably closer in concept to shows like Kuruneko and Kuroneko Monroe and maybe closest in concept to Neko Nanka Yondemo Konai. But Poco's Udon World is much better known among American otaku than many other “living with cats” anime series. While Poco's Udon World is a calming slice of life show about the tranquility of living with a pet, Hizaue is a bit more drama oriented, unfolding as the story of a narrow-minded young man whose adoption of a stray cat leads him to an ultimate understanding that the world is a bigger, more diverse place than his simplistic generalizations belie.

      The first TV episode of Kemurikusa is good not so much because of any technical excellence but rather because it's interesting.

      Tokyo Meiji Renka isn't quite as cliché of a supernatural reverse harem anime as it could be because it's unlike Vampire Knight, Dance With Devils, Diabolik Lovers, and Phantom in the Twilight in the regard that it's not about a girl surrounded by vampires. However, it is a time-travel/misplaced girl supernatural reverse harem show in a similar vein to Kamigami no Asobi and Yume Oukoku to Nemureru 100-nin no Ouji-sama, and the girl surrounded by historical figures, in the vein of Code:Realize.

      In the sense that Circlet Princess is a bishoujo battle sport anime it's comparable to Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai and Keijo. But tactfully Circlet Princess is far less T&A focused than its predecessors. And like its predecessors, Circlet Princess surprises a bit by having more gregarious personality and immediately pleasant personalities to appreciate. In other words, the show isn't groundbreaking in the least, but it's a surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable watch.

      Ostensibly Girly Air Force is exactly what it appears to be: a hybrid of Yukikaze and Strike Witches. Except the first episode's cliffhanger revelation adds a twist (which I won't pass judgment upon yet) that's not carried over from either ancestor show.

      Choujigen Kakumei Anime Dimension High School is unusual in the regard that it's a type of anime that hasn't been done in years. Most notably, the Tensai TV-kun “virtual 3” shows Kyoryu Wakusei (1993), Gene Diver (1994), and Kyuumei Senshi Nanosaver (1997) were hybrid live-action and anime, depicting the live-action characters as anime characters. But while those shows were targeted at children, Dimension High School skews more toward adolescent and young adult viewers and idol fans. On a side note, I'm going to drop a minor spoiler. The first brain teaser is tough but logical. The second one seems unfairly obtuse because it uses entirely English language clues to reference a Japanese language puzzle.

      Continued in next post.


        Continued from prior post.

        As a work of technical animation, Studio Ponoc's “Modest Heroes” is remarkable. However, unfortunately, I don't think it's destined to ever become a beloved fan favorite because it lacks emotional weight. Especially with this presentation, Studio Ponoc seems as if it's desperately trying to splash its name into public recognition. If the words “Studio Ponoc” were any more prominent and frequent in the film, the presentation would be an advertisement instead of a movie. Hiromasa Yonebayashi's “Kanini & Kanino” is the trio's crowd pleaser and highlight. Beginning with its very opening shot, the short's visual design and animation quality are breathtaking. The short is highly reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki's Mizugumo Monmon but may actually be even marginally superior thanks to even more contemporary animation technology and a significantly larger cast that allows for a greater range of personality and emotional expression. Yoshiyuki Momose's “Samurai Egg” is a pleasant but somewhat insubstantial slice of life drama. It clearly implies a mother's loving devotion to her son and even more briefly suggests the child's brave determination to challenge life and grow stronger. But with the short covering a span of years in only fifteen minutes, it just doesn't have enough time to fully flesh out all of its character relationships and themes. In effect, the viewer rationally understands the point but doesn't emotionally feel it. Akihiko Yamashita's “Tomei,” coming in a minute shorter than the preceding two shorts, is arguably the weakest because it provides so little narrative context. I'm unsure whether the film is deliberately vague in order to thematically emphasize its titular concept of invisibility. Ostensibly the film is about a typical Japanese salaryman who is so nondescript that he literally becomes nothing. But then he discovers that even small gestures can make us feel alive and special again. The short has so little context that it's impossible to definitively say whether the short is supposed to be satire, fable, philosophy, inspiration, or fantasy. Apart from the fact that the climactic plot development seems so incredulous that it's difficult to take seriously, the short is well animated and certainly fun. But it's also a big enigma as much uncertain as entertained.

        Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable is an ugly film. The entire film has a washed-out aesthetic, as though it occurs in a world where bright colors don't exist. Moreover, in virtually every regard the film is essentially a TV movie. Its pacing feels like a TV movie. The script seems designed to keep the budget modest. And most damning, the film deliberately insists on a pan & scan perspective. From beginning to end, all of the film's relevant visual information is centered in the middle of the screen. To its dubious credit, the film actually uses the sense of cropping to manipulate the audience during the weightlifting scene. The film is inspired by comic books, and as if condescending to the childish reputation of comics, the movie consistently relies on the most obvious and superficial plot turns (except for the scene which could vilify the director himself). So the film feels overlong and extremely predictable because it always chooses the most predictable plot route. Thanks to a strong performance from Bruce Willis, particularly the film's father/son dynamic and the climax of the sub-plot are affecting. And thanks to nice acting and editing, the climactic characteristic Shyamalan twist ending, even as telegraphed as this one is, still comes across as moderately satisfying. But in my perspective the film is competent at best, and far from excellent.

        Likewise, James McAvoy's committed performance is entirely what sells Split because everything else about the film is merely competent at best. Unlike Unbreakable, at least Split does have a vivid cinematic look and atmosphere. However, from recycling the threat to shoot a relative scene from Unbreakable to giving Casey a childhood of survival training, the film still feels like it takes all of the easiest and most predictable story development turns. No events within the film's plot are ever surprising or unexpected because literally everything is bluntly set up and telegraphed long in advance.


          While small differences in details are distinct, ultimately Go-toubun no Hanayome is essentially a gender-swapped rehash of Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine.

          Just as so much contemporary anime consists of a previous title with a singular change in concept, Yakusoku no Neverland is essentially Owari no Seraph that swaps out vampires.

          Watched both episodes of the Saiki Kusuo no Psinan Kanketsu-hen special.

          I'm a bit surprised that in the current era of anime that feels as though it's all either high concept or knock off, the first episode of Date Alive III is refreshingly average. The fact that it feels so much like a stylistic leftover from a few years ago sets it apart from the tone and style of most of today's new anime. Obviously that's an observation rather than praise.

          I don't mean to be dismissive. It's just an objective fact that practically all of the boy idol group anime, including B-Project, DreFes, Idolish 7, Marginal 4, Tsukiuta, Shounen Hollywood, and Magikyun Renaissance are all interchangable. Watched the first episode of B-Project: Zecchou Emotion.

          Setting aside the gargantuan coincidence at the heart of the show's premise, Domestic na Kanojo seems like a perfectly fine teen romantic dramedy revolving around a typical hormonal high school boy. I think, however, at my age and cynicism, I just can't relate to this show and enjoy it.

          I'm rather disappointed by the first episode of Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka not because it's bad but because it's so very mediocre. In the post Madoka Magica anime industry, the concept of “Magical Spec Ops Asuka,” a former military pre-adolescent magical girl forced to come out of “retirement” during her adolescent years is actually a very predictable plot premise. It's simply one of any number of generic action films hybridized with the magical girl trope. The fault with “Asuka” is that the execution of the first episode is so bland and soulless. Despite the ironic contrast of sadistically killer mascots and the inclusion of bloody, grotesque gore, literally nothing in the first episode leaves an impact because Asuka playing basketball or drinking tea is given the same significance and tone as her cutting terrorists to ribbons. The episode has no atmosphere or sense of tone. Everything about it feels mechanical and uninspired, as though creator Makoto Fukami and animation studio Liden Films were just going through the motions, creating a product on demand rather than crafting a work of creative art that they personally cared about.

          Watched the first half of Revisions. I'm glad that it's not just a simple Drifting Classroom rehash, although it does so far feel like a combination of tropes culled from other sci-fi titles. The show's characterizations are far from all pleasant, but at least they all feel nuanced and believable. Despite not being especially original, the show is fast paced and does reveal itself to have a number of surprise plot turns and revelations.

          Stylistically Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai is obviously supposed to be a witty comedy or arguably a satire of the typical high school romance anime. I imagine that viewers who take the show on face value may appreciate its uniqueness. However, a more considered evaluation suggests that the show is sadly rather weak. The show revolves around elite high school student council president Miyuki Shirogane, his vice president Kaguya Shinomiya, and their secretary Chika Fujiwara. Shirogane & Shinomiya play at a passive-aggressive war of cynicism and intimidation to convince one to confess love to the other under the theory that whoever confesses first is weaker and irresolute. However, the concept has two flaws. The first episode, at least, provides no convincing evidence that Miyuki and Kaguya actually have heartfelt romantic interest between them. The only reason they're secretly interested in each other is because they're hormonal teenagers in exclusive proximity to each other. They're attracted to each other just because they're constantly near each other, not because they actually like each other. Moreover, they're so self-absorbed in their own power-trip fantasies that neither of them realize that the guileless and honest Chika is consistently the winner among the three of them. Miyuki & Kaguya's stuck-up, bratty attitudes actually make them less attractive to all but masochists. On a side note, I have no clue whatsoever why the anime depicts its snide, cynical fantasy asides by characterizing them with VHS tracking errors.

          Simply put, Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale appears to be a variation on Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch in which the singing mermaid girls remain in their undersea environment instead of coming to the surface world.

          Despite the Keanu Reeves' starring sci-fi film Replicas being so titled, the movie actually isn't really sci-fi and isn't really about the replicas. The film is arguably a missed opportunity because it boils down to being a film about two men who hope they can use company resources after-hours without getting caught. The cloned family doesn't appear until two-thirds of the way through the film, and they never have much impact within the film. The movie's two biggest faults are its frequent and significant logic holes and its tremendous inconsistency. Despite trying to make the process cinematically convoluted, the movie ultimately depicts the process of copying a human being's entire conscious personality as little different than transferring data on a USB thumb drive. The film suggests a massive number of gargantuan ethical and philosophical quandaries yet literally ignores all of them. As a simplistic and predictable suspense thriller, the movie is just barely competent. But the movie introduces so many big, complex moral ethical debates but uses all them strictly as background for as simplistic and straightforward of a film as possible. The movie is like putting Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and Nikola Tesla into a room together and asking them to make a ham sandwich: such wasted potential.

          Watched the Rams defeat the Cowboys.


            This season I was particularly looking forward to the Hulaing Babies anime because it looked unique among a rather bland season of new shows. After watching the first five-minute episode, I'm most struck by two reactions. The show's color scheme is so neon bright that it's literally a bit harsh on the eyes. Second, the introduction of a strange, short, blond girl in an anime about esoteric dancing is frustratingly reminiscent of Hanayamata.

            Regrettably, I have to call the first episode of Grimm's Notes absolute crap despite its decent production values. Narratively, it doesn't make a lick of sense. In this fantasy world, at birth everyone is given a book that spells out, in detail, every aspect of their existence, except some people's books are blank. If the citizens already know everything there is to know about their lives in advance, what's the purpose of living? Yet the show also demonstrates that it's possible for the stories to diverge from “fate.” If the fairy tale stories keep repeating, I don't even understand how that works. Once every generation, I suppose, everyone knows in advance that a particular grandmother is going to be killed by a wolf, and the village sends an innocent girl out to meet the wolf anyway, already knowing in advance that the grandmother will be dead by the time the girl reaches the house, and the wolf will eat the girl then be saved by a hunter? What's the point of reliving this cycle once every X number of years? The wandering heroes carry weapons but don't use them. Furthermore, since the heroes are already wandering heroes and can already use magic, why do they bother relying on transformation magic? Why don't they just get stronger on their own and fight with their own abilities? And why do they bother preserving the “proper” stories of various villages? I guess they fight to preserve the status quo not because the status quo is good but strictly because it's the way things are “supposed” to be? Literally none of the details in this plot make any sense.

            From a technical animation perspective, Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is an oddity because it's not an anime that supplements with 3D imagery but rather a 3D CG anime that randomly incorporates some traditional 2D. Since the first episode is essentially just two scenes with transitions, it's a bit difficult to really get a feel for. The opening sequence is very reminiscent of the obscure 2016 anime Hagane Orchestra. The bulk of the episode, the aerial dogfight, is reminiscent of Girls Und Panzer in the sense that its use of first person perspective shots is very effective. Of course, the similarity to Girls Und Panzer is predictable since both shows are directed by Tsutomu Mizushima.

            Watched the short Manga de Wakaru! FGO special. It's amusing, but I have a strong suspicion that F/GO devotees will get more out of it.

            Watched Ueno-san wa Bukiyou episode 2.

            Watched SAO: Alicization episode 14.

            Watched Fukigen na Mononokean S2 episode 2.

            Watched Slime episode 15.

            I'm relieved to see that Kemono Friends 2 is a sequel rather than a reboot. It's not an immediate, direct sequel because viewers don't know what became of Kaban. But every aspect of the production design of the new series suggests that it's taking the first series as a prototype and expanding and solidifying upon it. So due to my fondness for the first series, I'm glad to see that this sequel isn't ignoring the existence of the first season. Judging by just one episode I'm really uncertain whether the change in supervising creator is noticeable. Tatsuki wrote and directed the first season. The second season is written by Takuya Masumoto & directed by Ryuichi Kimura. The first episode of second season does have a faster pace and introduces more friends than the first season premiere episode. But a sequel would naturally proceed a bit more substantially than an introductory episode, so I'm uncertain whether the difference lies most in the creative staff or simply in the nature of the production.

            Watched Pastel Memories episode 2 just to get a complete sense of what the series is like. I am just a bit surprised to see the GochiUsa homage get much more overt in this episode.

            Watched Dororo episode 2.

            Watched the Patriots dominate the Chargers. Watched the Saints get a weak start but eventually overpower the Eagles.


              Watched Mob Psycho 100 II episodes 2 & 3. I'm a little bit surprised and impressed that so far this season is far less about slapstick comedy or psychic action but mostly about examining Shigeo's psychology.

              The second episode of Rinshi! Ekoda-chan feels less dynamic than the first, but the second episode is also much more insightful. Likewise, the post episode staff conversation for the second episode is much more substantial, evaluative, and interpretative than the first episode's was. Stylistically, episode 3 is the most unique episode so far thanks to a very counter-programming choice of director.

              The second episode of Shield Hero isn't terrible, but it's also not nearly as strong as it could have been. While the original novel is no masterpiece, the second episode of the anime adaptation still manages to leave out many of the small details that flesh out the story. Seemingly the anime is scripted to rush through the story at such a rapid pace that character building gets sacrificed. Raphtalia's flag gets referenced but inadequately explained. The minor plot involving the leather ball is only half told. Naofumi's ability to use tools but not weapons isn't addressed. But most importantly, depicting half of Naofumi's bonding with Raphtalia via a montage ends up robbing the episode of its emotional impact. Viewers know so little about Raphtalia and spend so little time with her that having great empathy for her is impossible within a span of only about fifteen minutes. The episode also continues to sew confusion over why Naofumi is so compelled to prepare himself to defend a world that he has no attachment to of affection for, but that's a weakness carried over from the original books.

              The second episode of Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue amuses me because I like cats but don't own any pets. However, it also frustrates me because the show is largely about watching an independent young adult learn simple life lessons that he should have learned fifteen years earlier.

              Watched Kemurikusa episode 2.

              Watched Kakegurui XX episode 2.

              Watched 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 14.

              I'm rather conflicted because Girly Air Force episode 2 was quite dull.

              Happily, SAO: Alicization episode 15 ends up fulfilling expectations.

              Unfortunately, after only two episodes I'm already becoming weary of Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai. The two protagonists are certainly devious and manipulative. But they're also both naive and seemingly rather dumb. They're so absorbed in their passive-aggressive battle that neither of them wakes up to the fact that their stalemate is pointless and may even be stunting their emotional and social development. It's like they're hurting themselves and feeling a sense of prideful victory that they're not being hurt by someone else. Yet they don't realize that there's no reason for them to get hurt at all.

              Watched the two Eromanga-sensei OVAs.

              Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 3.

              Watched Hulaing Babies episode 2.

              Watched Endro episode 2.

              Watched Slime episode 16.

              Kemono Friends 2 episode 2 confirms for me that this sequel series doesn't quite have the same charming sense of ennui that the first season did. But I'm not saying that the second season is bad.

              Dororo ('19) episode 3 is quite good. If I recall correctly, this is the first episode that diverges significantly from the original series.

              After the second episode of Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai I'm still not sure whether I like it. It's got characterization and action but so little context or setting that the show simply feels incomplete.

              Watched Ueno-san wa Bukiyou episode 3. I can't fathom why Ueno-san likes Tanaka. What does she see in him?

              It's been a long time coming, but Gideon Falls issue 10 finally feels as though the story is beginning to reach a substantial revelation. The Whispering Dark issue 3 continues to ramp up the tension & paranoia, but it still doesn't feel especially Lovecraftian. Realized that I'd skipped over Silencer issue 11, so I went back and read it. Read A Walk Through Hell issue 7. I remain highly conflicted about the series. Devon Massey's Cavewoman: It's Not Quite Malibu one-shot demonstrates further that Massey is a fine T&A artist, but he's no Budd Root. For the first time in quite a while, this one-shot returns to its roots, featuring not only the return of Lumpy but also Meriem fighting dinosaurs. But Massey's art has none of the precise and specific detail that typifies Budd Root's Cavewoman art. Budd Root draws recognizable dinosaurs while the giant lizard Massey drew in this comic more closely resembles a dragon than a dinosaur. I do still like Devon Massey's Cavewoman comics for what they are, but they're increasingly a pale shadow of Budd Root's earlier original Cavewoman work. Read the first issue of Barbarella/Dejah Thoris. I'm glad to see that once again Barbarella is characterized as a highly intelligent and capable woman.

              Despite watching all of the Black Mirror episodes, I've been somewhat disappointed with nearly every one of them because almost all of them reveal structural or logic flaws upon close examination. Similarly, I find myself largely unsatisfied with the interactive movie Bandersnatch. Unfortunately the film seems to have no point besides the novelty of its viewer interactivity. Seemingly no matter how many decisions the viewer makes nor how many endings the viewer watches, the story never culminates in any way that provides either resolution or climax. If the movie has any primary theme at all, it seems to be the principle that free will is ultimately pointless because in the end nothing matters regardless of what choices one makes. None of the film's characters evoke any empathy. I didn't care in the least about any character in the movie. Colin was the only character who's even remotely interesting, and he has the least screen-time of any major character. I literally had the most fun with the movie when the self-referential meta “Netflix” choice arrived. But at that pivot the film transforms from a drama into a satirical absurdist comedy that only proves the theme that nothing matters. I watched the film on Netflix with my friend Phil. Roughly the final hour we spent with the film was just selecting alternate options in a desperate effort to uncover some value to the time we'd invested into watching the film. Ultimately we gave up, writing off the movie as an interesting technological novelty but a weak film filled with literally unfulfilled potential.

              Really felt to me as if the officials stole the game from the Saints and handed the NFC championship to the Rams. The NFC Championship game was as exciting as any Superbowl. I'll make my prediction now. I don't think the Rams are capable of beating the Patriots.


                Watched Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita episode 3.

                Watched the first episode of last year's Hoshi no Shima no Nyanko. It's very unremarkable.

                Naofumi in the Shield Hero anime really is a terrible character because every single decision he makes is controlled by authorial intent rather than organic characterization. He has no personal initiative. Every action he performs or doesn't perform is strictly because the original author wanted the character to behave a certain way to achieve predetermined plot outcomes. As a result, the Shield Hero anime is easy to watch because it's mindless. As much as it has undercurrents and sub-plots, they're all rather obvious and simplistic because none of the series' characters are believable three-dimensional human beings. Every single character and every event in the story is merely a plot device used to rapidly propel the story from plot event to event. Episode 3 is also a disappointment because the grand world-threatening monster invasion is so poorly edited and animated that it feels miniscule and practically irrelevant. Even when the scene does finally utilize a few seconds of fluid animation quality, the shots are all cheap quick-cut close-ups.

                I'm cynically grateful to see Mikazuki finally realize that he's a selfish jerk in Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue episode 3.

                Watched Kemurikusa episode 3.

                Watched Virtual-san wa Miteiru episodes 2 & 3.

                Saintia Shou episodes 4-6 continue to feel rather weird because the story proceeds at such an absurdly brisk pace.

                Watched Kakegurui XX episode 3.

                I was very tentative about the second episode of Girly Air Force. Sadly, the third episode seems to confirm my fears. The third episode clearly has an agenda. The story has particular plot revelations that it wants to surprise viewers with, regardless of whether the surprises make logical sense. Sadly, the show is just getting dumber.

                Watched SAO: Alicization episode 16.

                Watched 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 15.

                I have a very practical mixed reaction to the first volume of cartoonist Kickliy's cowboy western comic series Perdy. The protagonist is amusing because of her total “no F's to give” attitude. Upon being released from a 15-year stint in prison she does her best to antagonize, exploit, and/or rob practically every human being she encounters. And she begins to lay the groundwork for a plan to heist a bank's gold delivery. And practically speaking, that's it. The 160 page hardcover first volume distinctly has an irreverent dusty drawl and satirical wit. But in the equivalent of about five monthly comics' worth of story virtually nothing significant happens. The dialogue is moderately amusing because it's so bluntly crudely obscene. The doodle-like graphic art certainly conveys a rough-hewn, rustic sort of foundation that's still in development. But nothing about the book seems exceptional or even worthy of archival hardcover treatment when compared to other comic book series.

                The comic book adaptation film Polar unfortunately isn't quite as spectacular as I hoped it would be. It's not as stylized, nor visually kinetic, nor as fast paced as I'd anticipated. However, it is graphic and particularly violent, at times nearly sliding into grotesque gore. And it is solidly entertaining even if not exceptional. The film's biggest flaw is its effort to include an unnecessary surprise twist ending. At least to the film's credit, the final revelation isn't totally unpredicated. But even with foreshadowing, the plot twist is still difficult to reconcile and even more superfluous. I suppose I should also mention that I'm not even attempting to question the plausibility or logic of the film. This is an unabashed B-movie, so I'm quite willing to just appreciate it as a slice of dumb, goofy ultraviolence. The “teaching” scene alone should more than clearly establish that this is not a film to be taken seriously.


                  The 16-episode Kamigami no Ki television series from 2016 surfaced fansubbed, so I watched all of it.

                  Very minor spoilers follow. Within the Pretty Cure series, for better or worse, I still consider the first two seasons the best series. Following after them I now have to place Heartcatch and Hugtto neck and neck. Heartcatch is typified by a significant layer of complex character drama. Hugtto has less of that character angst but includes a more prominent emphasis on thematic moral encouragement than any prior series. Princess Precure had some of it, but the emphasis is much more prominent in Hugtto, which explains why certain episodes of this series became highly discussed cult moments. I watched episodes 47 and 48 immediately prior to 49. I'm slightly conflicted over episode 49. The episode does contain a plausible, debatable explanation, but I'm disturbed that it even introduces the remote possibility that ordinary people can unintentionally trigger an “oshimaeda” monster summon. At the same time, for the past 15 years I've said I wanted to see a multi-generational Precure. It still hasn't happened to the extent that I'd like to see, but the second half of episode 49, in a certain sense, comes as close as we've yet seen. Huggtan's “Harry, mama wa?” and Hana's subsequent breakdown may be one of the most heartbreaking scenes in anime ever. But on the other hand I'm highly disappointed that the series never fully fleshed out George Criasus' heartbreak. Pretty Cure has at least once before done a “handoff” as a post-credits scene, as this series does, but it's neat that this series integrates an introduction of next season into the episode proper.

                  After a number of adequate but unremarkable recent Pretty Cure movies the series returns to top form with the HUGtto! Precure - Futari wa Pretty Cure All Stars Memories fifteenth anniversary movie. Particularly the film's opening sequence reminds viewers that Pretty Cure was originally a shoujo parallel to Dragon Ball. Subsequently the movie makes a few narrative and stylistic choices that deliberately diverge from the routine Pretty Cure formula, thus making this movie much more interesting and rewarding for viewers. Once again, especially for long-time Precure fans, this movie is gratifying when it gathers all of the Cures together and deliberately focuses on their distinctive, unique personalities. On one hand the effort is certainly fan service. At the same time it's a satisfying demonstration that the animation staff cares about these characters enough to ensure that each one of them is depicted faithfully and correctly. The only significant disappointment is the odd decision to literally recycle the same end credits animation footage from the previous All Stars movie.

                  Watched Hulaing Babies episode 3.

                  Watched the second episode of Manaria Friends. I can understand why the human realm might not have books or reference materials about the medical practices of the dragon race, but the show simply provides too little context to explain why Princess Anne doesn't simply ask that dragon race for advice or information when their princess appears ill. I'm also confused. This show is supposedly a spin-off of Shingeki no Bahamut. If Nina Drango is a dragonborn but doesn't exhibit any obvious dragon characteristics, why does Anne have horns, wings, and a tail?

                  I supposed part of the humor comes from the extremes that Ueno-san is too smart for her own good while Tanaka is too dumb.

                  Watched Slime episode 17.

                  Watched Kemono Friends 2 episode 3.

                  Watched Japari Park e Youkoso episodes 7-11.

                  Mob Psycho 100 II episode 4 is an interesting episode and a strong beginning to a story arc.

                  Watched Dororo (2019) episode 4.

                  Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 4.

                  The first episode of the YouTube exclusive Idolish Seven Vibrato strikes me as narratively just a bit weird because Gaku and Tenn are adamant about testing each other's dancing abilities, yet none of the three prospective idol-mates bother to verify that they can all sing.

                  Watched Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita episode 4.

                  I'm definitely now just hate watching Shield Hero because it's so amusing to criticize. Episode 4 should have been a season highlight episode filled with impactful emotional resonance. But instead it's a hollow and stupid episode because Naofumi is a terrible character and the show's pace is so brisk that it fails to develop any substance. Viewers that have only watched the anime know very little about the characters and have even less sense of empathy for them. The threat of Raphtalia being forcibly separated from Naofumi holds no meaning for viewers because she was just introduced merely two episodes ago. Viewers haven't even seen her enough to care about her yet, and the show has practically not shown a single scene of her caring for or defending him. So there's no reason for viewers to assume that there's a tremendous deep and loving bond between them. Naofumi is also just a terrible, spineless character because despite more than ample opportunity to speak his mind, the only character he rebukes is the singular one that doesn't deserve it. This scene in the original novel wasn't fantastic, but at least it had relevance. It was a significant turning point in the story and the climax of the first novel. In the anime adaptation viewers can objectively recognize the significance of the events but not feel any emotional impact whatsoever apart from a mild sarcastic amusement.

                  Kobayashi-san chi no Maidragon creator Coolkyousinnjya's manga series Mononoke Sharing creates a bit of culture shock because it's distinctly different in tone than Kobayashi-san. While Maidragon had a whimsical, charming tone punctuated by a bit of cynicism, Mononoke Sharing is much more cynicism mixed with crude sex gags. In the first two volumes of Mononoke Sharing, rather little happens, and readers only begin to comprehend the personalities of the cast members. The explanatory afterword in the first volume explains that the concept for Mononoke Sharing was partially brought to the artist, and the series begun somewhat under less than ideal conditions. Possibly as a result, the entire series feels competent but not a story that the artist is completely invested in. So it's passable but not exceptional. Likewise, the first volume of Tsuyoshi Takaki's modern day ninja vs monsters shounen manga Black Torch epitomizes shounen manga. It's entirely serviceable, but it takes no risks nor makes any appreciable effort to be unique. Thankfully, on the other hand, even at volume 14 Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba to! still made me giggle numerous times.


                    Watched Kemurikusa episode 4.

                    Watched Hizue episode 4.

                    Watched Kakegurui XX episode 4.

                    Watched Endro episodes 3 & 4.

                    Watched Girly Air Force episode 4.

                    Watched SAO: Alicization episode 17.

                    Rinshi! Ekoda-chan episode 4 deals with very interesting concepts and feels as though the episode deserves a longer length to more thoroughly explore its ideas.

                    Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai episode 3 is rather frustrating because so many small details make no sense. No one seems to ever die in this show despite the constant warfare. Especially in light of the events in this episode, the Kotobuki squad refusing to wear flight suits or parachutes seems even more obviously illogical. The town mayor may loosely be believable, but his constant changes in attitude and terribly aggravating.

                    I'm conflicted over Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 5. On one hand I respect the episode for finally tackling head on the fact that Ashiya is a weak-willed, pitiful character. This episode finally demonstrates that people who allow themselves to be stepped on get stepped on. I respect the story for naturally dealing with the logical consequence of its scenario. However, at the same time this conflict underlies the debate that has existed within the series from the outset. Itsuki has never provided a compelling reason for why he keeps Ashiya around. Ashia has never been cut out for the work he does and only succeeds occasionally largely by accident. So ultimately while this episode addresses the core uncertainty of the series, it also inherently forces viewers to wonder why the protagonist hasn't just quit long before now or why he hasn't been forced to quit long before now. He's always been in over his head, and there's no good reason for the story to continue with him as the protagonist. The most logical solution is for Ashiya to just go back to being a normal, insignificant high school boy and the series to continue on by switching to a new protagonist. But I highly doubt that the series plans to do that.

                    Uhm, 3D Kanojo Real Girl appears to have completely forgotten about its own initial plot conflict. It's making a potential break-up between Tsutsui & Iroha a big deal, except both teens knew from the outset that their relationship was only going to last for six months. There's no sense in them getting upset about breaking up when they both knew from the start that their relationship had a built-in expiration date. Moreover, as though the fact wasn't obvious enough before, all of the major characters are martyr complex introverts that ridiculously overthink and especially over-react to everything, resulting in drama that would be laughable because it's all fundamentally so silly, except all of the characters treat the dumbest situations with heartattack seriousness. In just one scene Ishino wins the episode because she actually exhibits some functional common sense.

                    The Lupin III 50th Anniversary OVA sacrifices logic for fun, but I can't complain as the result is a treat.

                    Watched Virtual-san wa Miteiru episode 4.

                    Shortly after I got home Gene called me up to ask if I was interested in seeing the historical, er, film, The Favourite. I bought a ticket and met him at the theater. Hesitantly I can just call The Favorite a historical film because I'm honestly uncertain what more specific genre category to categorize it as: drama, comedy, satire, soap opera – I'm not entirely sure. Throughout the film I kept thinking to myself, “This is a weird film” because I just couldn't place its style nor its intended demographic. In my lexicon, perhaps the best description may be to call the movie a stylistic hybrid of Kim Ki-duk and Peter Greenaway. It reminds me most of a subdued, more introspective Peter Greenaway movie. The period piece is lovely looking with gorgeous costume and set design. The film also frequently uses stylistic camera angles and music choices that border on distractingly prominent. The film is a literal slow-paced chamber piece that ultimately boils down to an escalating polite catfight that ultimately has no winners. Another prominent theme of the film is the concept of power causing corruption. I respect the movie tremendously for being intelligent and both expecting and forcing the viewer to pay attention and follow exactly what's occurring without the film bluntly (for the most part) having to rely on exposition to explain the nuances of the ongoing battle of wits. The movie is periodically quite crude but always in a satirical way, so that crass behavior isn't for shock value but rather to illustrate ironic characterization. Perhaps another apt comparison for the film would be something like a Charlotte Bronte novel composed by Kurt Vonnegut.

                    At four episodes into the second season of The Punisher I find the show, so far, a fine action drama but a rather poor adaptation of The Punisher. The Frank Castle depicted in these episodes is a principled man with a compulsive attraction to violence but not a mercenary avenger. This iteration of Frank Castle doesn't “punish” evildoers, nor does he seem to have any psychological compulsion or even desire to inflict vengeance upon the guilty at large en mass. Moreover, this season feels drastically compromised. The violence is still intact and intense, but the show feels as though it's been deliberately scripted to route accusations of glorifying violence. Jigsaw, the Punisher's traditional nemesis, is no longer an amoral Mafioso but rather a pitiful, broken creature who evokes as much pity as antipathy. The other antagonist is a devoted husband and Catholic struggling to protect his faith, albeit a presumably corrupted church establishment. Giving all of the pivotal characters complex shades of grey may make for nuanced dramatic television, but a self-conflicted Punisher whose primary antagonists aren't over-the-top psychopathic cartoon characters robs the story of all of its exploitation grindhouse visceral charm. Ambiguous moral complexity and complex relationship drama is appropriate to a hero like Daredevil. But Punisher is supposed to be a single-minded spirit of righteous indignation, a guns blazing no-questions-asked killing machine.

                    Watched the rather dull Super Bowl LIII.


                      Fortunately the first episode of Star Twinkle Pretty Cure isn't as weak as I feared it would be nor as drastic of a reaction as I feared it might be. Periodically the Precure series tends to rubber-band in the opposite direction when a new series starts, most prominently with Splash Star following Max Heart, Mahoutsukai following Princess, and to a lesser degree Hugtto following Kira Kira. Since Hugtto was the most straightforward fisticuffs oriented Precure since Max Heart, I feared that Star Twinkle would be like Splash Star and completely reject offensive pugilism. But Star Twinkle rather seems as though it's merely resetting back to the more conventional action style of series including Suite, Fresh, Smile, and Happiness Charge that featured punching & kicking but not really forceful, impactful punches or kicks. Certain prior Precure series have captivated me from the outset, including the original generation, Heartcatch, Hugtto, and Princess. Some have failed to impress me from the outset, including Splash Star, Mahoutsukai, and Happiness Charge. The first episode of Star Twinkle falls in-between, largely as seasons like Precure 5 and Suite did. So I can envision myself sticking with this season, but I'll reserve concrete judgment for another few episodes.

                      Watched Kemono Friends 2 episode 4.

                      Hulaing Babies episode 4 revolves around an amusing gag.

                      I supposed Slime episode 18 is a "calm before the storm" episode.

                      Watched Manaria Friends episode 3.

                      Watched Ueno-san wa Bukiyou episode 5.

                      Shield Hero episode 5 is again unintentionally hilarious because it's so bad. Just a few examples: Myne tries cheating again, yet the final camera shot of her efforts reveals that the entire town can see her efforts to rig the race. And in this episode not only does Naofumi's inner a*shole resurface at a moment's notice, Motoyasu's personality also changes on a dime without any predication or explanation. And once again the episode jettisons any attempt at creating a connection between viewers and a new character by condensing the character's entire introduction to a single montage.

                      Caught up a bit on reading Berserk chapters 334-353. Although these recent installments have been light on bloody violence, they're still action-packed. Moreover, I'm still impressed by the series in various respects. The series' visual scope remains breathtaking, possibly explaining why new chapters get published so sporadically. Especially in these later chapters I'm again impressed by Miura's ability to deftly integrate small and cute imagery within such an oppressively dark and morbid scenario. And I'm most surprised that these chapters suggest the possibility that the story is creeping slowly but inexorably toward a major plot turning point that's been literally years in development.

                      In effect rather than on principle, I only read one monthly DC comic: Silencer. But I read the first issue of writer Brian Michael Bendis' new series/character Naomi and found it just intriguing enough to pique my curiosity. Naomi is a high school girl in a sleepy town until one of Superman's battles briefly lands on Main Street. Naomi gets curious and learns that her town may have had a previous encounter with a super powered being despite everyone in town trying to dismiss the possibility as an urban legend. Monstress issue 19 once again demands that readers closely and consciously follow the plot from one issue to the next to avoid getting left behind. And once again issue 19 provides such ample sense of historical depth, increasingly vast story development, and highly cinematic intense & bloody action that the series remains enthrallingly satisfying. I'm highly conflicted over the first issue of the Wyrd mini-series. The first issue seems to be a self-contained adventure that introduces a protagonist and a scenario ripe for vast, ongoing development & exploration. However, the series is labeled as only a four-issue mini-series. My curiosity encourages me to commit to purchasing next month's issue to see if and how the story unfolds. But my rationality warns me that if I'm committing to two issues, I may as well just commit to all four and finish the series. But the development of the first issue doesn't inspire me to assume that this is a story that could conclude satisfactorily in merely another three issues. Nor am I fully convinced that the first issue alone was interesting enough to justify me buying three more subsequent issues. As much as I like the Cavewoman franchise, I'm still conflicted by its contemporary issues. The “A Wizard, A Sorceress and Meriem” one-shot from current series regular creator Devon Massey is filled with grindhouse-esque gratuitous barbarian nudity and gore, but the issue distinctly feels as though it should have fleshed out its story into at least two issues. I also can't help think that the “original” more thoughtful and deliberate Meriem that Budd Root wrote would only resort of berserker bloodthirsty slaughter if she had an immediate, compelling reason to do so while with Massey writing, Meriem happily switches on “Red Sonja” mode seemingly at a whim. Ultimately, I'm just starting to become a bit disappointed that Massey's Cavewoman comics remain so lowbrow. I keep buying them for their gratuitous T&A and over-the-top violence. But I wish Massey would also make some effort to inject some drama and depth of characterization into his writing the way he used to.


                        Watched Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita episodes 5 & 6. The new character introduction in episode 6 isn't tremendously creative but does add a bit of new depth to the show.

                        Watched Hizae episode 5.

                        Presuming that the Kimi no Suizou o Tabetai (“I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”) movie is a faithful structural adaptation of Yoru Sumino's light novel, the film is good but regrettably deliberately kneecapped from greatness because the author perceived himself (or herself, if such is the case) smarter than the material. The film initially presents the protagonist conceding to the whims of a dying teen girl as some sort of Herculean personal sacrifice when I think that most viewers would more likely perceive going on dates to fulfill the wishes of a cute dying girl ordinary human kindness, at the very least, and not some epic hardship. Then particularly the final third of the movie deliberately holds back revelations in order to spring them on the unsuspecting viewer at the end, presumably to jolt the viewer into recognizing the writer's brilliance. Except the multiple surprise revelations aren't nearly as smart as the story thinks they are. The film's biggest plot twist is shocking not so much because of its surprise but rather because it comes straight out of left field with no set-up for foreshadowing whatsoever. So unfortunately it feels like cheap, artificial manipulation. A second “surprise” revelation withheld until the very end comes across far more as a cute coincidence than any sort of profound philosophical statement. And arguably the biggest reveal of the film sadly would have made the film far more emotionally impactful and resonant had it occurred naturally when it should have instead of being deliberately reserved as a climactic surprise. Especially after both Fireworks & Silent Voice turning out to be not quite as impactful or moving as they probably wanted to be, I'm grateful that Kimi no Suizou o Tabetai isn't a terrible film. But much like A Silent Voice, it's still not as emotionally resonant and touching as it could have been.

                        Regrettably Girly Air Force seems to be getting worse with each passing episode. Practically none of the significant plot events in episode 5 make any logistical or logical sense.

                        Watched SAO: Alicization episode 18.

                        As Rinshi! Ekoda-chan episode 5 director Yonetani Yoshitomo admits, the animation segment of the episode is surprisingly bold. Furthermore, upon listening to the extended interview with director Yoshitomo and voice actress Shishido Rumi, especially since I just watched the brief pre-show interviews with the dub cast of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, there's such a vast difference between the amount and depth of consideration and evaluation that Japanese cast invest into anime, even a mere three-minute composition, compared to the amount of consideration that American dub casts seem to apply.

                        Watched Kemurikusa episode 5.

                        Dororo has never been a pleasant or happy story. Episode 5 feels a bit slow and transitional, but it's very well paid off by episode 6.

                        Kotobuki Hikoutai episodes 4 & 5 continue to be light on story, but at least these two episodes aren't especially dumb.

                        Honestly, Manaria Friends episode 4 isn't terribly interesting, but it is marvelously beautiful to look at.

                        Watched Kakegurui XX episode 5.

                        In terms of narrative, Mob Psycho 100 II episode 5 isn't especially complex or remarkable, but in terms of concept and execution the episode is an impressive and simply neat throwback to the sort of anime that was much more common in the 80s and early 90s.

                        Watched 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 17. At least this episode remembered the original series' concept that Iroha is supposedly moving in six months.

                        The argument can be made that Slime episode 19 wraps up its story arc with startling rapidity, but that's not to say that the episode isn't fun.

                        Kemono Friends 2 episode 5 has a really interesting cliffhanger.

                        Watched Ueno-san episode 6.

                        Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 6.

                        Continued in next post.


                          Continued from above.

                          Jiro Matsumoto's oddly apocalyptic manga Velveteen & Mandala is ambiguously insane. Specifically, the reader can't distinguish whether the protagonist, teenage girl “Velveteen,” is insane or the society she lives in is insane, or whether both have lost their sense of normalcy. Velveteen is a teenage runaway who lives in an abandoned tank at a toxic riverside in Japan's Suginami ward. She and her companion Mandala, who seems to be severely autistic and may or may not be a figment of Velveteen's imagination, earn a living by dispatching the oddly talkative zombies dumped into the riverbed like refuse. Whether Velveteen herself is truly alive, undead, or something in-between always seems to be either in debate or in flux. The manga both looks and feels like it falls somewhere between the styles of Shintaro Kago and Taiyo Matsumoto. It's as graphically explicit and adult as anything Kago has drawn, but while Shintaro Kago's manga seems deliberately intended to unsettle and horrify, Jiro Matsumoto's manga feels more whimsical, spontaneous, and abstract like Taiyo Matsumoto's work. Velveteen & Mandala feels like a grotesque satire, including graphic imagery of gang rape & bloody murder, but for the life of me I can't figure out what it's satirizing.

                          Unfortunately, seemingly Americans still can't figure out how to effectively parallel Japanese violent magical girl satires such as Madoka Magica, Mahou Shoujo Site, and Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka. Artist Mia Goodwin tried with her 2015 comic book series Tomboy and ended up with a convoluted, compromised mess. Now I've just read the first issue of cartoonist Jenn Woodall's 2013 parody Magical Beatdown, just reprinted in 2019 by Silver Sprocket Press. The first volume of her comic is sadly the most uninspired and banal parody imaginable. It's so lacking in any degree of creativity that it literally induces a facepalm. In the 32 page comic a high school girl walking home from school decides that she'll stop at an arcade along the way. A random thug is offended by the girl's whistling and stops her. The thug and his friends attempt to hassle her. The girl uses her necklace to turn into a profanity shouting sukeban who immediately slaughters the thugs with a nail bat and sword. And that's it: the entire comic. Essentially the entire project is a single three or four panel web-comic extended to thirty pages and sold for six bucks. While I appreciate Woodall's enthusiasm, this comic is something that should have appeared on a 4-Chan fan art board once before being expunged forevermore.

                          The first episode of Japanese fan-produced web series Kaiju Ward Gallas is impressively professional, albeit on the low budget end of professional. Judging by the promise of the title and first episode, the series seems less like a conventional kaiju story and more like a hybrid of the vindictive supernatural arbiter and a kaiju story. Like Warau Salesman or shades of Petshop of Horrors and XXXHolic, the story revolves around a witch who magically creates giant monsters to punish wicked people.

                          Inexplicably four writers developed director Panos Cosmatos' second feature film, Mandy, despite the film having relatively minimal dialogue and just enough plot to fit on the head of a pin. Clearly the movie is not so much an exercise in storytelling as the visualization of the concept of death metal or a violent LSD trip, depending on one's perspective or preferred analogy. Rather like an homage to Dario Argento, the entire movie is a candy colored dream that largely merges Arthurian and Lovecraftian imagery with Tolkien-esque rhetoric into a very simple and straightforward revenge quest. So the film's first third is a trippy, dazed romance that introduces the characters. The film's middle third is a grueling manifesto on torture of various physical and psychological sorts. And the film's final third is a bloody stalk & slash. The movie has so little substance that it can't even be called an example of style over substance; it's literally all style. The movie is truly love it or hate it because a receptive audience will likely find the movie wonderfully bizarre, extreme, and gratifying while a non-receptive audience likely won't even be able to sit through it.

                          Watched the fifth episode of Punisher season 2.


                            I have slightly different reactions to the Alita: Battle Angel movie as a filmgoer and as a fan of the manga. But in both cases my complaints about the film are pleasantly minor. The film is long but holds together well because its script is careful enough to routinely drop foreshadowing and plot revelations that keep the viewer engaged. Nothing comes out of left field, so nothing ever breaks the viewers' sense of immersion. Because the film always prefaces its plot developments, the film actually does feel fairly organic, like a single, logical, linear progression. I've heard the film criticized for being episodic. I didn't feel that sort of choppy pacing. However, early in the film I do think the movie very slightly hurries and condenses a bit. So rather than feeling entirely as though the film is opening up, it feels as though it's trying to artfully dispense with its exposition so it can proceed on to more interesting storytelling. The effect is pretty well disguised, and I can't fault the movie for wanting to get to the “good stuff” (although the best parts of the Gunnm story begin well after the events of this movie). In terms of film making, Hugo's change of heart feels startlingly abrupt. It's one aspect of the movie that didn't get adequate preface. The action and fight scenes aren't especially unique or creative, but they do have a very fluid movement and excellent editing that make them feel majestic and exciting. And unlike many 3D motion pictures, this is one of the few for which digital 3D does appreciably enhance the depth of field and scope of the film. Speaking as a fan of the manga I recognize that the movie story makes some alterations to both the manga & anime stories and also shifts around some of the scene continuity. I appreciate the way the script acknowledges information from much later in the manga story to flesh out the characterizations and scenario. However, the small detriment of the effort is that Alita's personality in the back half of the film feels just a little bit schizophrenic. And this is a very minor spoiler. I'm disappointed that Dr. Nova gets so reigned in. When so much else in the film is relatively faithful to the source material, I don't understand why Nova is so heavily altered from the source material.


                              Saintia Shou episode 8 continue to seem somewhere between idiotic and incoherent.

                              Watched Kemurikusa episode 6. Oddly, the episode provides some explanation yet still feels as though nothing is clear.

                              Watched Hizue episode 6.

                              The second episode of Star Twinkle Precure distinctly sets up this series as another like Mahoutsukai which introduces a new range of continuity and setting to the Precure universe (no pun intended). The imagery in episode 3 feels a bit like it's going overboard. Furthermore, episode 3 makes the series feel a bit as though it's more heavily influenced by St. Seiya than by Dragon Ball.

                              Watched 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 18.

                              Watched Kakegurui XX episode 6.

                              The first episode of XFlag's Fight League Gear Gadget Generators is slightly intriguing. Given the initial concept of girls using battle versions of household objects, the show appears to be a team version of D4 Princess. But the first episode's cliffhanger suggests that there may be more to the show than first appearances.

                              Watched Mob Psycho 100 II episode 6.

                              On first impression, the anime segment of Rinshi! Ekoda-chan episode 6 seemed vastly different in tone and style to the prior, and still very eclectic, five episodes. Upon seeing that episode 6 was directed by Ryosuke Takahashi, the style of the anime immediately felt entirely logical and obvious. It's also fascinating to hear Takahashi essentially confirm and explain why he directed the episode the way he did in the post-anime-sequence interview.

                              Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 7.

                              Endro episode 6 is an unexpectedly rich and charming episode.

                              Episode 7 is an uncharacteristically weak episode of Ueno-san because particularly the "B" story lacks adequate explanation.

                              Watched Manaria Friends episode 5.

                              As a blind buy I purchased and subsequently read the first two volumes of the Seven Seas' release of the How to Build a Dungeon: Book of the Demon King. My opinion of the series is marginally positive. I have two primary complaints about the series. The title is “How to Build a Dungeon,” and the story is ostensibly about a vengeful sorcerer building an extensive underground labyrinth and annexing an increasingly wide territory to supply his catacomb as his method of spiting humanity. Except the manga depicts almost nothing about the actual development and construction of the labyrinth. All readers get are off-handed comments like, “New monsters have moved in,” and “Take them to the fourth floor,” and “Progress is going well.” Furthermore, unlike, for example, Overlord, which gives the audience some hint of what the evil sorcerer's plans are, “How to Build a Dungeon” spends much of its time depicting its protagonist's dastardly deeds then explaining what he did and why afterward. On one hand, the storytelling technique allows readers to experience second-hand the sinister manipulations that the “heroes” suffer, but the series fails to generate any tension or suspense because readers never know what the goal is nor whether the protagonist is winning or losing until the struggle is already over. When readers don't know exactly what's going on or why, there's little reason for the reader to care. On a side note, the series contains an abundance of intense and frequently coerced softcore sex. The sex is only partly graphic because the visual art is heavily censored. But the sex scenes themselves and the frank discussion of sex are lengthy, graphic, and frequent.

                              Unlike the first volume of Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle, which is entirely flashback, the second volume picks up three years after the end of the “Last Order” series and continues the wry, complicated, and convoluted Gunnm story that fans love. It also re-introduces some characters that haven't been seen in, literally, years.

                              Read the fourth and final issue of The Whispering Dark. The comic mini-series does structurally share some similarity with Lovecraftian horror. It's a descent into madness that ends with the reveal of a monster. But in close examination I think this series' publicity as a Lovecraftian horror story is quite exaggerated. While the story structure shares some similarity with H.P.L. stories like “Mountains of Madness,” in particular, the fine details don't quite match up to the standard characteristics of Lovecraftian horror. So ultimately this four-issue series is passable but little more. It's a slow-burn that simmers instead of boils. Then its climax is both too abrupt and a bit too under-developed to be completely satisfying. Rather breezed through Gideon Falls issue 11. On one hand I can credit the plot development in this issue as logical. At the same time, the plot development just feels cheap and lazy. Had an opportunity to read an advance copy of the first issue of Assassin Nation. It's a satire in the most literal sense that the first issue feels more like an SNL comedy sketch than the beginning of an ongoing story. The first issue seems most like an opportunity for writer Kyle Starks to just toss out a handful of disposable joke characters before killing them off.

                              The first episode of Doom Patrol totally ignores its previous guest appearance in Titans season one based on the fact that Dr. Caulder was fully able-bodied in his Titans incarnation, but he's chair-bound in his Doom Patrol incarnation. So this is clearly not the same characters at a different time in their lives: this is an entirely different incarnation of the characters. Much like Titans, Doom Patrol distinctly targets an adult audience. The show also unfolds a bit like a self-consciously satirical Watchmen. Possibly with the exception of Negative Man, the characters are all rather self-absorbed jerks, but their willingness to look beyond themselves for each other, the existence of their very insular yet dignified and considerate “family” makes them still a bit empathetic. The show is quirky without being grating, and the team being such strange and unconventional “superheroes” as to make even the Guardians of the Galaxy seem normal makes the show very unpredictable and curious.

                              Once again of a Netflix production I find myself saying that the first two episodes of Umbrella Academy are not as excessively stylized nor as briskly paced as I either expected or even hoped, but that's certainly not to say that the show isn't entertaining. The cast is so wildly diverse, and the show spends so much time focused on the characters rather than the story or conflict that viewers can't help but be drawn in. The characters and their complicated relationships with each other, and each with the world around them, make the show intriguing because viewers quickly want to know what these characters will do and what will happen to them.


                                Watched Kotobuki Hikoutai episode 6.

                                Watched Slime episode 20.

                                Watched Saintia Shou episode 9.

                                Kemono Friends 2 episode 6 is fine, but I'm disappointed that it didn't do more with its set-up.

                                Watched Hulaing Babies episode 5.

                                Watched Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita episode 7.

                                Mob Psycho 100 II episode 7 is an excellent one that fulfills viewers complicated desires to see Reigen get what he deserves, both good and bad.

                                Dororo episode 7 is a bit of an antidote pill after episode 6.

                                Watched Shield Hero episode 7.

                                In Hizue episode 7 I sort of feel embarassed for Subaru Mikazuki. He's lived such a sheltered life that he doesn't even have enough common sense to be able to navigate through common interpersonal interactions. He doesn't overthink situations. Rather, he considers too many possibilities that a normal, typical person would instantly dismiss. He's literally ignorant because he has no common sense gained from life experience.

                                Watched Kemurikusa episode 7.

                                Was inspired last night to look up VNV Nation and discover that composer/vocalist Ronan Harris released a new studio album last fall. So I listened to “Noire.” I'm forced to wonder whether no one bothered to point out to Harris that if he takes intrinsically happy and fast-paced electronic dance music and plays it slow and melancholy the result is kind of drab and boring. The best VNV Nation songs are immediately catchy. Many of the best VNV Nation tunes are ones that instantly make listeners tap their toes or fingers in rhythm. Of the thirteen tracks on “Noire,” only track eleven, "Only Satellites," is even remotely happy and energetic. The surrounding songs aren't atmospheric dirges like some of Harris' best slow songs are. The songs on "Noire" simply all sound like they lack enthusiasm, as though Harris was deliberately trying to record an album of EDM elevator music.

                                I'm very conflicted by writer & illustrator Andrew Mangum's Cavewoman: Razor's Run one-shot comic. The art has the distinct visual design of 80's indie comics, heavy on blacks. It's not remotely as detailed or as sexy as earlier Cavewoman artists including Budd Root and Paul Renaud, but it's also not as absurdly exaggerated as Devon Massey's current style. So it's a decent, albeit not ideal, compromise. The story has some neat aspects. Neat and unexpected cameo appearances from Warrior Nun Areala and Shi expand the possibilities for future Cavewoman cross-overs. And the comic exists to lay the groundwork for a future more substantial crossover between Cavewoman and publisher London Night's universe of characters. But this one-shot comic literally does nothing more than lay groundwork. Nicole “Razor” Mitchell introduces herself to Meriem, explains her own back-story, then leaves. And that's the whole comic: Cavewoman literally briefly meets Razor.

                                Read the second issue of Barbarella/Dejah Thoris. There's not a lot of forward narrative progress in Monstress issue 20, but the issue depicts numerous situations that seem likely to have major far-reaching impacts.