thin slicing the new season, spring 2018 edition

13,000 words, 29 anime, 2 copies of Monster Hunter, and 1 dragon that transforms into an F-15.

The granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!

Thin slicing is based off of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, a book about– OH FUCK IT. YOU’VE READ THIS SAME BOILERPLATE FOR THIRTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the twelfth anniversary of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome. There’s been enough thin slicings for two zodiac wars, multiple Holy Grail Wars, Strike Freedom to give way to 00 to give way to Barbatos, and roughly 15,532 light novels written by Nisio Isin.

Updates on thin slicing are always on my Twitter account.

For people who want to know how this ranking is done, I suggest reading the archived explanation. If you’re like, “This show is ranked too high!” or “Too low!” then, well, you don’t know how this works. For every show high, there has to be a low. You don’t need me to validate your taste in anime. And, again, for the sake of time, I don’t rank sequels if I never finished watching the original or if there’s nothing interesting about the sequel. It’s a sequel! If you watched the first season, you should know if you should watch the second as well. You don’t need me to validate your choice of anime in High School DxD Hero, Amanchu, Beatless (how the heck did this train wreck get more episodes?), Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS, or Steins;Gate (I need to go back and watch 23b). I also might not rank all shows from Chinese studios or shows that are mostly in CG or Flash like Aggketsuko. Just no more Hand Shakers, please.

A twist for this season: Sorry for the late and slightly abridged thin slicing this season. I am currently remodeling the house, so there’s been some significant disruption. I don’t know what to do for summer and fall seasons yet as the remodel will drag on until later this year.

Quick recap from last season: Winter 2018 was a fantastic season with four strong Best of 2018 candidates. Do I want 52 episodes of Violet Evergarden? Mmm, maybe not. Do I want 52 episodes of Today’s Menu at the Emiya Household? Yes, fucking yes. Just hook that IV up to my vein. I am hoping that we get “Today’s Menu at Tomorrow’s Chaldea” as a spin-off of Today’s Menu at the Emiya Household so we can finally see Nero and Liz bake a cake.


#MR IRRELEVANT. Gurazeni
Studio Deen

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“I need to earn more, or I won’t have enough money in my life.”

Gurazeni bills itself as a sports anime, but I disagree. I strongly disagree. While there is baseball-like substance in this show, the main character spends almost all his time obsessing over money. He cannot stop talking about contracts, about how other players get paid, how his performance can make him more money, how he plans to support himself after his career, and how taxes are too high. What am I watching? How is Gurazeni supposed to be a sports anime? Sure, he plays a sport, but the show doesn’t have any of the loveable underdog nature of typical sports anime. A 26 year old lefty middle relief pitcher who constantly worries about money is not inspiring. And he doesn’t talk about anything else. He doesn’t care about women. He doesn’t care about his teammates. He doesn’t seem to care about actual baseball. All he talks and thinks about is money. He memorizes contracts of opposing hitters. He tries to calculate his retirement fund. He thinks each strikeout gives him more money for his next contract. How does any of this money grubbing make this show a sports anime? It’s like he is a day trader stuck in a baseball player.

There is also a fundamental logical fallacy that better players make more money. Uh, no. For example in MLB, there are very good players on cheap contracts, usually younger players under club control or foreign players who have their salary and bonuses restricted by rules. Shohei Ohtani is probably worth a solid $100 million or so more than what he is currently getting paid. On the other side of the spectrum, there are very bad players on expensive contracts, usually aging stars with good to great agents. Ohtani’s teammate, Albert Pujols, still has four years and $114 million left on his contact. If it is strictly about ability, Ohtani and Pujols would swap contracts.

The animation is budget, and all the baseball scenes are CG. Studio Deen couldn’t be bothered to draw someone batting. The character designs are lackluster, with the announcer looking like an anime lecher from 1992. The main character’s agent looks like a space pimp from Space Dandy. The main character himself is so boring, he doesn’t even qualify to be the dad of a harem protagonist. He looks like the dad of a harem protagonist’s loser, pervy friend.

(Fashion Czar: “He’s the salary man of baseball. I feel like I’m watching an Excel spreadsheet.”)


#28. Uma Musume Pretty Derby
PA Works

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“What does it mean to be the best horse-girl in Japan?”

There’s many, many troubling aspects of Uma Musume – Pretty Derby. Anime has always been fascinated with turning things that aren’t high school girls into high school girls. Animals? Food? Tanks? World World II battleships? Mythological creatures? King Arthur? Guns? Centaurs? The Japanese language is full of words for random, trivial things. Is there a word to describe the high school girlification of non-high school girl objects? Japan’s continual jouseification has led us to an anime about race horses except the race horses are high school girls. The first troubling aspect is that the girls are treated as livestock. It is seemingly normal for them to get their calves felt up. I think the worst depiction of this livestockiness is that the girls, even though they are racing in footraces, don’t start off racing on racing blocks. Nope. That would make too much sense. They are instead herded into tiny horse stables and are forced to start racing from their tiny horse prisons. I mean, that would make sense if they were centaurs, but they are just normal high school girls with tails. At least give them the dignity to race off starting blocks like a track sprinter. Maybe they have to race from starting gates because if they didn’t do that, there’s no point in having them as horse girls. It might as well be a normal track club anime with high school girls with tails. The only other possible reason for forcing the poor girls to start racing from the starting stables is that the author has a fetish for this sort of thing.

The second troubling aspect is that they girls are all named like horses. What is weirder is that it is described that the girls became horse girls because spirts of racing horses visited the wombs of pregnant moms and possessed the fetuses. Okay, that is troubling too, but somehow the baby pops out of the mom, and the first thing that the mom thinks of is that the newborn baby must have a horse name like “Special Week.” It’s not even “Special Week Tanaka.” It’s just “Special Week” as if the mom is resigned to her horse baby’s fate and doesn’t want to further disgrace her family by attaching the family name to the horse baby.

The next troubling aspect is that while “Special Week” is born as a special horse baby, she had zero instruction on how to be one and is summarily tossed into Tokyo. Was this all to satisfy the neophyte trope? And to satisfy the transfer student trope? If she were born with a clear tail and ears of a horse girl plus named “Special Week,” why isn’t she instructed immediately on how to race? And the high school they go to just teaches them about racing? Why even have a high school?

The last troubling aspect that I want to bring up is that all the characters have horse ears, but it is not clear what happens to where the ears would have been on their heads. I guess the writer/author/mangaka didn’t want to bother with that aspect of physiology when he/she was too busy fantasizing about high school girls in tiny horse stables since all the horse girls have long hair that covers up their ears. The girls who do not have long hear perpetually wear earmuffs and/or headphones over where their human ears would be. It also shows the laziness of the creator that they use functional ear equipment to cover up where ears should be but not up the functional ear equipment where the horse ears actually are. My brain hurts just thinking about the ear paradox and also thinking about how much money this show will make.

(There’s also the horse girls’ shoes. They were shoes that look like hooves. Do they have human feet? Do they have horse feet? Is the only way we’ll find out is with a sexy multi-page Megami magazine spread? If they have human feet, why not race in sneakers? Why do they need shoes that look like hooves?)

Ok, ok, pull my horseshoe. One more bonus troubling aspect: the girls are also idols. Their racing status determines where they rank in their idol group. Even the Wake Up Girls are dumbfounded right now. It’s like the show didn’t have a premise that was creatively bankrupt enough– let’s toss in a bonus idol element! What were the other rejected ideas? The girls are also meido? The girls are time-looping? The girls are also Keijo players? The girls are also Parasites and the winner doesn’t have to co-pilot with Zero Two?

(Fashion Czar: “It’s an anime about horse racing. And the horses are high school girls. Where is her giant French braid? And oversied horse T-shirt?” Editor’s Note: Fashion Czar might be confusing horse girls, as in girls who love horses, with horse girls, as in girls who are centaurs, with horse girls, as in race horses who are jouseificated into high school girls.)

(The American horse girl’s accent– my gosh has the creator never heard actual English before?)


#27. Devils’ Line
Platinum Vision

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“Hey, cut her some slack, Tsukasa is ‘pure’.”

Devils’ Line is a vampire anime about pretty boys and a standard self-insertion female lead. It’s as very nondescript and boring show. Some shows, even if they are bad, there’s plenty to write about. Other shows, there are so bad and bland such that there’s not much more to add except my realization that I wasted twenty minutes of life watching it. Devils’ Line is squarely in that bland pile. One, the direction of this anime is poor. There are a lot of shots of just the heads, and the camera always seems to be doing its best to obscure and cover up movement. That might be okay if the show didn’t have action scenes that required some animatifon. None of the action sequences end up more exciting than a jog through the park. The character movements also feel a bit unnatural. Despite the show taking place in Tokyo, it feels sterile and empty and reminds me more of the city in Juuni Taisen. The character design is poor. I get that they are vampires, but do they have to look like meth addicts too?

The plot is typical vampire nonsense. The show spends a good amount of time explaining how vampires get high much like drug addicts on blood, about how vampires try to mask their vampireness, how vampires get sexual gratification from human blood, and how they are so similar to humans still that it’s impossible to tell them apart. Except… the vampires have giant fangs, blade arms, and the ability to jump really far. How does drinking blood explain blade arms? The story and world doesn’t feel self-consistent.

(There’s one scene where a vampire gets surrounded by riot police. The riot police do nothing. Instead, a lady in jeans show up and battles the vampire while the riot police watch as if they were background fodder in Dynasty Warriors. I can only imagine the director going, “We don’t have the budget to animate a huge police vs. vampire brawl… why not just draw a single sexy lady instead? And then let’s make sure the camera only shows their legs so we can save even more of the budget.”)

(I believe one of Platinum Vision’s recent shows was Servamp, which is yet another vampire manharem anime.)


#26. Butlers Chitose Momotose Monogatari
Silver Link

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“You and I are Butlers! That birthmark is proof! I’ll make you remember!”

Butlers Chitose Monotose Monogatari (Butlers Millenium Century Story) hits pretty much every trope for a manharem anime. Starts with blatant manservice? Check. Has a seriously 90s Japanese ass rock song for the OP? Check. Main characters are so powerful in their school hierarchy that they don’t need to conform to dress code? Check. Random shouta manharemette because why the hell not? Check. Such a boring main character that his distinguishing trait is that he’s tall? Check. All the husbandos are introduced in the first episode and get token screentime because Oharuhi-sama forbid we leave a husbando to episode two? Check. The classic “He’s smart, hot, and perfect” description for the student council president? Check. Where does the line between anime and a TV tropes wiki entry exist? On which side of that line is Butlers?

There’s a whole nonsensical time/world travelling gimmick that I won’t get into. But if you want some pretense of exposition for your manservice, it exists, just in tiny quantities. One thing that bothers me about this show is that the characters are trying to create a Facebook-like privacy-eroding database of all the students and encase the school in a net of facial recognition. The characters don’t even question it or point out any possible concerns with their plan. They go hard on making their school into a surveillance state because that’s what they deemed is good for the school. Thanks 2018. Andohbytheway, why do they have racks and racks of servers inside their typical European styled-mansion? You know what’s hot? High school boys who erode my privacy using the latest Dell rackmounts inside a Victorian-era mansion.

(For tech-savvy pretty boys, you’d think they would be wearing better headphones than some Beats knockoff… or at least walk around in AirPods. What will be the first anime that depicts Apple AirPods? Will this happen before or after the first anime to feature Tinder?)

(Dracula? Sherlock? Watson? Mash? Wait, these are actual character names? When do Merlin and Zhuge Liang show up?)

(Fashion Czar: “The pink guy has bandages wrapped around his arm. He goes to an elite school, but he can’t get proper medical care.”)


#25. Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan
Zero-G

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“I secured the Japanese-style book.”

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan set a record this season with the Fashion Czar exclaiming, “I don’t have high hopes for this” less than sixty seconds into the first episode. Let’s see… we get a quick sequence of events where a boy chokes himself, a guy with two colored eyes (a sure sign of the character designer just giving up), a guy burning in fire, and yet another guy exclaiming that he has secured the Japanese-style book before tossing it to the OP. Despite the serious and dour tone of the intro, the OP is a cheery, musical mess. The two feel like they came from two different shows.

The story is classic PS Vita otome game turned anime fare. There’s a non-threatening mousy girl with supernatural powers, and all the boys want her. The twist here is that Japanese-style books can possess curses that harm humans, and the protagonist lady is the only one who can see these books. The show even points out that Western-style books are immune to these curses. She then goes on to live with all the hot boys at the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau in an European-styled housing complex. I have a lot of questions. One, what fundamentally is different enough about a Japanese-style book and a Western-style book that prevents the curses? Is it the paper used? Is it the bindings used? Is it the content of the book? Why even bother making this distinction? Two, what Japanese government organization houses their employees in an European-styled oasis of a housing complex? Three, why do they all have to live together? The office does not seem that far from her house. With such a lackluster plot, only lackluster animation can accompany it.

There are also a few other logical disconnects with the show. The main character’s backstory is that her family is in decline, hence why her dad sold her off to be married into another family. Yet, despite her family’s financial situation, they have one butler, two meido, and a driver on staff. Doesn’t that seem excessive to take care of two people? Also, at one point, one of the members of the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau tells the main character to keep the fact that the prime minister’s son tried to commit suicide. Why did he even need to tell her? And why not at least a signed non-disclosure agreement before telling her? These are some terrible bureaucrats.

As for the manservice, well, do you like man cleavage? Well, most of the man candy sport some man cleavage. They are also supposed to be a crack team of Japanese-style book hunters, yet they all wear slightly different variations of the same uniform. I get it that it is an otome game, but what is wrong with them wearing proper uniforms? Why do they each need their own bedazzlements as well as be in different states of undress? There is also an obligatory shota character who for whatever reason is just shown longingly staring at a birdhouse in the first episode.


#24. Cutie Honey Universe
Production Reed

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“Behold, Honey, the moon shines on this eve.”

Cutie Honey Universe is a revival that really didn’t need to happen. Sometimes, revivals can update anime and give them modern sensibilities, like Tomoyo using drones in Clear Card or Lupin stealing the blockchain, but Cutie Honey Universe feels like it is stuck in the 1970s still. It may work better for some premises, like maybe involving yokai ghostbusting, but the basic premise of Honey being a TnA magical girl fighting against a quasi evil force with religious overtones hasn’t changed. But while the sexuality and lewdness may have been interesting in 1970, it feels out of place in a world with plenty of lewdness. The start of the show is just naked girls rotating as if they were rotisseries chicken being cooked at Costco. That is followed by a pool scene of just girls in bikinis making out. Then we segue into two teachers going hot and heavy in the middle of the day in the middle of a school park. We chase that scene with a teacher whipping a student and threatening S&M on her. My gosh. That’s a lot for just seven minutes of anime. The lewdness isn’t even in the context of plot or character development. It’s just there. The scenes feel like explosions in a Michael Bay movie. Okay, sure, it looks nice, but…

The production values are also just bad. Action sequences aren’t well-animated, backgrounds are really basic, and camera angles are chosen to focus on ass shots instead of showing the action. The transformation sequence is also bad. For a studio making a magical girl-adjacent show, the number one job is to make sure that the transformation sequence is well done. Also, interestingly enough, Cutie Honey’s seiyuu has changed again, from Horie Yui to Maaya Sakamoto. Horie Yui has been moved to the best friend character instead. Isn’t it a bit weird to move her from the main role and into a supporting role? I can’t think of this happening too often in anime. Andohbytheway, this lead me to scan Horie Yui’s filmography, and I think she is the highest profile seiyuu who does not voice a Fate character.

(Fashion Czar: “Cutie Honey deserves better than this.”)

(How does Production Reed even stay in business? They must do a lot of subcontracting. Their last anime was In Another World with My Smartphone. Just six anime before that was their production of Azumanga Daioh…in 2002. That’s seven total productions in sixteen years.)


#23. Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru
Seven Arcs Pictures

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“It is an over 800– no– 900 class! An alter!”

Where is Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh? Who is Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh? Why is Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh? In any case, Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh is the best anime name since Banana Links. Unfortunately, that is the only good thing about Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru (Dances with the Dragons), a show that can be best described as a chuunibyo’s wet dream. Okay, there are two guys– one of them is Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh, who is like a sexy vampire who likes to show off his twelve pack abs, and the second of them, Gayus Levina Sorel, looks like a tall, male version of Kobayashi from Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon. He is always wearing a shirt and trench coat combo that looks like they are from 1992. Unfortunately, the show takes place in the future, and, after a solid three minute long explanation with words like “Event Induction Computer” and Planck’s constant tossed around, the setting boils down to “humanity is besieged by magical dragons and only the select few who can wield gun swords can protect us from them.”

The two main characters, of course, are masters at defeating the dragons (which are somehow created via too much science), but in typical chuunibyo flavoring, they get no respect. They get shit on by their good-for-nothing leaders, and they live in relative poverty despite the fact that they are the only ones capable of preventing the extinction of mankind. It’s like a “they don’t understand what we secretly do for them” fantasy. Also, Gayus has a girlfriend, whom he is kind of a dick to, yet she can’t keep her hands off of his 1992 era trench coat. They also participate in some of the least romantic scenes of this season. Watching the relief pitcher think about post-baseball career choices felt more romantic than watching these two suck face.

Future earth also seems both familiar and totally distant from our concept of earth. The abandoned city ruins don’t look too much different than the urban areas of Gun Gale Online or any other video game-ish setting. The shops and architecture sure look like earth. They even have a futuristic-looking television. But… why is the shopkeeper using an abacus? Why is the photographer using an olden days film camera? Why doesn’t anyone have a Ranka Lee imitation slug cell phone? The setting is just really weird. None of the political factions or geographic zones even try to translate to earth concepts. They might as well just done an isekai show and made this another world. Even dismissing the magical dragons born from using too much science and gun swords, the world seems incongruous and very poorly thought out.

(This show also starts very similarly to Sword Art Online Alternate Gun Gale Online where we have a squad of two providing us with a tutorial while battling a superior foe.)

(Fashion Czar: “That is a very complicated way to describe science-magic. Science-magic created dragons.” Editor’s Note: “So it’s like, if suddenly in the middle of a conversation, wyverns appeared.”)


#22. Caligula
Satelite

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“When did I first notice this inconsistency?”

The writer of Caligula has taken about the same amount of college-level psychology classes as the average anime blogger. There is a lot of superficial analysis of human psychology, and words like “Johari Window” are tossed around to impress rather than explain or even relate to the plot. This anime is based on The Caligula Effect PS Vita game, which is currently sitting at 58/100 on Metacritic. That’s not exactly encouraging. Both the game and this anime seem like they want to be Persona clones, and they do not come close to pulling it off. Persona has a style in addition to interesting characters. There is no style in Caligula. Everything looks drab and similar to other low budget anime. There is liberal usage of bad camera angles. There is a scene where people are walking, but it doesn’t feel like they are moving. The main character’s room consists of just a plain desk and bed– no decorations, no decor. It’s like he just sits in a dark room all day and listen to his iPod, and his personality is about as interesting as that. The characters might as well be extras for Nero to slice through in Fate/Last Encore. You are quickly introduced to brief vignettes of each one, but you are not given a reason to care about any of them.

Caligula also continues the tradition of anime not being able to draw someone fat without having them eating all the time. The fat guy here is seen eating burgers all the time, with one scene where he’s dual-wielding hamburgers. Come on anime. We get it that a character is fat. We don’t need to show the character constantly eating food as well much like in Mayioga: The Lost Village and also in Darling in the FranXX.

(Do people really care about new music releases in 2018? I can’t imagine a class of high school students rushing to download the new Kendrick Lamar album. Maybe if it were a new Fortnite skin…)

(Hanami: Some sakura.)


#21. Dorieku the Animation
Satelite

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“Don’t rock the boat, you moron! We’ll sink!”

Dorieku the Animation starts the best possible way any anime can start: a random scene about nothing followed by a minute long exposition dump done with voice overs and bad Line screenshots. Be still my beating heart. This anime tries to be a weird marriage of Kakegurui‘s twisted gambling and Hell Girl‘s revenge-focused morality play. I think with generally how badly anime lately has handled morality plays, this one is not going to be much better. The setup is that there’s a new “SCM” device that can turn someone into a slave. The plot device requires two people to put on the devices, and they both have to agree to play a game. The loser than turns into the master’s slave. It os as convoluted as you think it is. The SCM devices also look like torture braces, and they come in S&M packaging complete with a tiny lock.

The main protagonist is a twenty-something lady whose special ability is that she’s good at thin slicing. Yep, we finally have a character whose special ability is to quickly ascertain her surroundings. I wonder what she would thin slice her own anime? Anyway, they introduce her in the most roundabout way of having her as a side story in the first episode. If she is the main character, make us care about her a bit more. She basically eats a hamburger, has a long twenty second lesbian kiss, and then inspects a SCM device. Relena Peacecraft did more in the first episode of Gundam Wing.

The plot device is just too convoluted to make me care about it, and the characters all seem either really boring or really horrible that it makes me also not care about them. Loss in some lackluster animation with some strange character proportioning, it doesn’t take a thin slicing savant to know this show won’t make the top ten.

(Puppy Watch: One pupper in the opening.)


#20. Last Period
EGG FIRM

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“The pretty girl doesn’t actually work there! All of your co-workers will be ugly men!”

Nothing says f2p mobile game turned anime than a quick, boring explanation of the world followed by a lackluster battle sequence to start the show off with. Last Period is based on a gatcha mobile game, and it does not let you forget about it with constant references to rolling for new heroes. There is also a three minute long tutorial on how money can be used to buy luna stones which then can summon new heroes ranging from 1 star rarity to 5 star rarity. Also, if you find a boss or monster that you cannot beat, why not try to summon someone who can? Not even Monster Strike or Granblue Fantasy so blatantly incorporated gatcha mechanics in their anime’s storytelling. If this aspect were the only issue with this show, then maybe I can overlook it, but, sadly, it is probably one of the lesser issues with the show.

A major issue? The characters. My gosh. If there is ever an example on how not to design characters, it is Last Period. The characters all suffer from the typical “we have too many ideas so instead of editing them, we just combined them all together.” It’s like if I wanted to make pasta, I can probably make something pretty tasty with just pasta, tomatoes, Italian sausage, garlic, and cheese. Instead of stopping there, I continue to add more stuff into the pasta like salmon, brown rice, maple syrup, watermelon, and Snicker’s bars. That’s what the character design for this show feels like.

(Fashion Czar: “No woman wants men in giant pants. I guess the goat guy is a bit manservicy? And the one guy has a midriff? I would trade the midriff for a pair of nice pants any day. He doesn’t even have a six-pack. There’s a lot going on with all of their looks. I’m having a hard time looking at them. The two girls have overly complex hair pieces.”)

The second major issue is that whatever teeny tiny plot points that the show has, it rips off from better anime. Oh look, there’s a running joke where a character refers to the pet as the emergency food supply. Excel Saga did it better. Oh look, the group takes any job that comes their way, no matter how badly it pays. Noragami did it better. Oh look, they fight spirals. Anti-spirals did it better, even if they did lose. Oh look, the Wisemen have an elaborate intro. Both the Ginyu Force and Team Rocket did it better. Last Period feels like the plot is no different than the costume design: they toss a bunch of random ideas at a wall and, well, nothing sticks because it has all congealed into a giant, unappealing ball.

If anything, the poor character designs, flimsy plot, and overload of tropes doesn’t exactly make Last Period an advertisement for there mothership mobile phone game. In fact, seeing how uninspired and drab the anime is, it has the opposite effect of making me less and less interested in the game.


#19. Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi
Gonzo

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“He promised me that he’d offer his granddaughter as my bride.”

Finally. Much like Dota 2 adopting a battle royale mode, our two favorite genres of otome vampire anime and isekai restaurants have combined in Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi. This show is also part yokai anime too, as the main character, your typical mousy shoujo lead, gets spirited away to the yokai world where she finds out that she is to marry the asshole vampire because of a debt her grandfather made, who just so happens to be older than her grandfather. She resists his advances, which consist of him telling her about how much he wants to eat her and drink her blood but he cannot eat her since he wants to marry her which only makes him want to eat her more. That’s some circular logic. Meanwhile, the girl, who has a traumatic backstory before her mom almost let her starve to death, decides to pay off her grandfather’s debt by starting up a traditional Japanese restaurant in this yokai world. Like most otome anime, it feels more creepy than interesting or endearing. There’s a better way to do romantic vampire relationships… maybe.

No aspect of this anime stands out as interesting or noteworthy, and the general misogyny of the yokai world doesn’t seem that much different from the misogyny in Aggretsuko. I would expect a more interesting story created by pairing an otome vampire anime with isekai restaurant anime. It is almost as if those genres are oil and water and mixing them doesn’t produce a homogeneous compound. It feels like, “Hey, we’re in otome vampire mode! Okay, now we’re switching to isekai restaurant mode!”

(Fashion Czar: “There’s a ton of shoujo shows where the girl is in love with fox man.”)


#18. Magical Girl Ore
Pierrot+

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“No surprise pregnancies.”

Can we get a comedic magical girl show that doesn’t involve genderbending or crossdressing? Mahou Shoujo Ore is a, sigh, slapstick magical girl show centered around genderbending and crossdressing. I guess the best way to describe the show is that it wants to be part Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, part Is This a Zombie, part The Ancient Magnus’ Bride, part Excel Saga, and part Deadpool. There’s a good amount of fourth wall breaking, a few scenes of Pop Team Epic-styled long faces, plenty of dubstep, and a very, very thirsty little magical girl who transforms into Roman Reigns. Comedy (mostly in the form of embarrassment for the poor girl) ensues as she tries to save her beloved from cute Pokemon-esque creatures.

As for the gags, they are hit or miss. The running with toast trope was replaced with a running with a pile of pancakes topped with cream and fruit gag. The typical magical girl familiar is replaced with a Yakuza member. There’s even a “Will you sign this contract?” scene. There’s also a “This genre was once popular on television” remake. I feel like Magical Girl Ore tries a bit too hard with the comedy, and it may go well with the younger millennial crowd.

(The ED is a live action music video. I wonder why more cheaply produced anime don’t do this? It saves on production costs even more if you don’t have to concept an ED or draw bad backgrounds for it.)

(Of course, in the fantasy dream world, the girl lives in Copenhagen. No Japanese girl ever dreams about living in Atlanta or Sioux City.)


#17. Magical Girl Site
production doA

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“I realized something. My misfortune isn’t for others to decide.”

Mahou Shoujo Site is suffering porn. Do you like seeing a little girl tortured and abused? Then this show is for you. The show piles horrible and terrible things on little girls. Let’s see… the main character falls down in the middle of the street. Instead of helping her, all the gawking bystanders say mean things about her. Who does this in Japan? At worst people may just continue walking, but I cannot imagine scores of Japanese people stopping and taunting a poor girl who fell down. The girl then goes to school, where she is constantly bullied without any relief. The bully goes past anything in Koe no Katachi or even Great Teacher Onizuka. There is some serious messed up shit. The bullies find out that the girl has been taking care of a stray cat, so they decide to kill the cat by tying it to train tracks. They arrange for a guy to try and rape her. After enduring all that at school, the girl goes home where her brother physically abuses her with a whip.

We must have seen at least a dozen felonies committed onto this poor girl in the first fifteen minutes. All of these atrocities lead the girl to want to kill herself, but, first, she decides to log into a suspicious website– Facebo– err– Magical Girl Site. Wow. What creative name. Then a Junji Ito cardboard cut out asks if she wants to be a magical girl. She just cannot catch a break as the websites 404s before she can get any answers to what anything means. What happens next feels like it wants the morality play of Hell Girl, the style of Persona, and the horror of Junji Ito… except it fails on all three parts. Instead we get a poorly animated story about suffering and bodily mutilation. Can we get a magical girl show that isn’t either super grimdark or isn’t a genderbending slapstick comedy?

(Anyone who gets an emo facial distortion while spreading Nutella sloppily on toast cannot be good. That’s like what evil masterminds do.)

(Fashion Czar: “This [show] is trying so hard to be edgelord. They are basically trying to recreate a Threadless T-shirt from the 2000s with that shot of her shooting herself into a heart.”)

(The first ED for Magical Girl Site is just shots of sperm floating towards an egg. Okay, sure, why not? The second ED for this show is a live action performance of an underaged-looking idol dancing around in a cat outfit and wearing a collar/leash. Oh anime.)

(Puppy Watch: One pupper frozen in the time in the first montage.)


#16. Piano no Mori
Fukushima Gainax

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“Hey, Chopin, I finally made it all the way here.”

Piano no Mori (Forest of the Piano) highlights how badly CG can mix with more traditional animation. This show triumphantly announces its budget with a bad CG shot of an auditorium as its first scene. Even JC Staff’s semi-shoddy piano playing in Nodame is better than Fukushima Gainax’s poor CG piano playing for this show. I think the main issue with CG is that it is too fluid and does not feel labored. I wonder if CG could be improved if it used variable and degraded frame rates. There is something just that does not mesh when you see a head moving at two frames per second and suddenly cut to a zoomed out shot that shows the whole body playing a piano at 60fps.

The story of Piano no Mori is fairly straightforward. It’s a music anime about friendship between two boys who have very different backgrounds. The anime contrasts the two boys immediately. One lives in an European-styled mansion and has a famous pianist for a dad. The other lives below the train tracks in the bad part of town, and the story hints that his mom is a prostitute or hostess or both. As the third major character, there’s the piano teacher, who, in the tradition of other music anime (Nodame, Hibike Euphonium, and Coin Wall anime– err– HaruChika), is a famous pianist who mysterious quit and decided to be a school music teacher.

The only “twist” is that there’s a forest next to the train station (because land in Japanese cities is nice and plentiful). Inside that forest is a piano that has somehow managed to stay in operational shape despite being left out in the wild for years if not decades. I’m not a piano maker, but wouldn’t all the moisture and temperature changes damage the wood? And completely decimate the strings? And this magical piano connects the stories of the three main characters.

I think if the animation were a bit better (even if they have to use low rent traditional animation for the piano playing) and the pacing a bit faster, the show would be more enjoyable. The manga does span over twenty volumes, and there was already an anime movie made from it back in 2007.

(FZ: “I could not read the manga. The art was so bad.”)


#15. GeGeGe no Kitaro
Toei Animation

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“It’s best to ask these things on the internet.”

The first scene of GeGeGe no Kitaro is a scene involving an asshole YouTuber in Shibuya. Is this a commentary on all the recent asshole foreign YouTubers running around in Japan? I hope so. Having a YouTube channel doesn’t give you special privilege to be a prick– that’s what Twitch channels are for. I guess at this point, you know if you’re in on Kitaro or not. Dude’s been in numerous other anime series and even has his own dagashi, and it hasn’t substantially changed over the years. It’s not like Kitaro suddenly discovered the blockchain or anything. Nonetheless, this show is yet another youkai anime. It has all the unwritten rules of similar shows like how normal people can’t see youkai but the special few true believers can. All the spirits are also manifestations of bad things humans do to each other. And, of course, our plucky protagonist teams up with a youkai to take down other youkai and save humanity. The unwritten rules feel really similar to any American sitcom from the 90s. There’s the hardworking dad. There’s the pervy grandparent. There’s the weirdo from next door. There’s the daughter that has to wear baggy sweaters because she’s growing breasts, but this is a family TV show doggoneit. There’s the surprise baby or sexy Hispanic exchange student or both in season six when ratings start to fall.

I think that’s why I like Terrace House. It subverts all the expected notions from both Japanese and American reality TV shows. The new season, Opening New Doors, has made one terrible choice: it got rid of the iconic “Slow Down” opening song. It is a bigger downgrade than going from In and Out to Jack in the Box. This season has also made one fantastic choice in casting Yuudai. He’s been fantastic since the reveal that he sleeps with (and kisses) two stuffed animals but only named one of them. He is a walking anime character. He also wants to be a chef, yet the only cooking he has done in eight episodes is that he smelled an onion and made bad soup. I can picture him hawking a host bar outside Shinjuku in five years. If anything, between Yuudai and B&GITC’s Hayato, never ever let your daughter date an aspiring chef. Just bad news all around.

(Fashion Czar: “She doesn’t hit the child. She hits his idiot brother and then uses him as a table. I like her. She is also less scared than all you boys.”)


#14. Isekai Izakaya – Koto Aitheria no Izakaya Nobu
Sunrise

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“I would’ve spent the rest of my life eating beans.”

Didn’t I just see the superior version of Isekai Izakaya “Nobu” a few seasons ago? Both Isekai Izakaya and Isekai Shopudou (Restaurant to Another World) have the similar premise that a Japanese restaurant links our world and a typical fantasy isekai world. What ensues is that every isekai patron who visits the restaurant is immediately blown away by both the plenty and the deliciousness of Japanese food. Unfortunately, if Restaurant to Another World is Transformers, this show is more like a Hong Kong knockoff of Gobots. The main charm of Restaurant to Another World is the world building. There are unique characters with fleshed out and diverse backstories that showcase the fantasy world and does a better job than some full time isekai anime. Here, for this show, the fantasy world characters just seem like country bumpkins all the time. It’s like anime Beverly Hillbillies. The restaurant in this show doesn’t move around, so I’m confused as to why it seems mostly empty. If the food is so good and unique, why isn’t it packed full? Why isn’t the feudal lord demanding that they pay tribute and taxes and be his personal chefs?

The more serious issue with Isekai Izakaya “Nobu” is that it does what I never wanted an anime to do: follow a Japanese talk variety show format. The Japanese variety show format is only second in awfulness to the Taiwanese variety show format. The show is full of typical variety show text graphics and sound effects. I’m surprised there isn’t a panel discussion in front of some cheesy print outs. While I normally like cooking shows, I had to knock this one down a few spots solely because of the variety show trappings. (That’s one thing that I do appreciate about Terrace House: it doesn’t have any of the trappings of Japanese variety shows.) At the end of each episode, there’s a live action cooking segment that goes by too fast to understand the recipe. There is a narrator that just goes “Hai!” and grunts all the time which adds to the unnecessary distractions that go on while they are trying to teach us the recipe.

Production value is not great, and the food porn aspect is seriously lacking. Any good isekai food anime will at least feature good and enticing food porn shots. Character designs are plain and boring, and somehow the live action chef has better wardrobe than any of the anime characters.

(If you think about it, this type of show is basically showing off the superiority of our modern food system to a civilization where famine happen regularly. Isn’t it kind of mean? Instead of showing them advanced planting techniques or how to build better irrigation systems or introduce them to antibiotics, we’re just giving them a discount on omu rice. It’s like a twisted sort of culinary colonialism.)


#13. Persona 5
Cloverworks

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“How is it even possible to steal a person’s heart?”

I don’t have a lot to say about Persona 5, except you probably know by now if you’re in or you’re out on Persona 5 by now. The adaptation for the show is as expected as it mostly goes through all the motions from the game, except the animation doesn’t seem as sharp as the Persona 4 adaptation. Cloverworks is a branch of A-1, the parent studio who did the previous Persona anime, but the Cloverworks team interestingly enough did not work on the past Persona anime projects. Instead, Cloverwork’s most famous (or infamous?) project is that they are responsible for A-1’s side of Darling in the FranXX. The staff is almost all brand new with no major holdovers from Persona 4, which is a shame since I enjoyed that quite a bit. I wonder if that is why the animation seems different now. Also, there were a large gap between when I played Persona 4 and when I watched it, and that makes a difference.

One thing that Persona continues to reinforce is that I’m still really confused by Japan. Let’s say that a kid committed a crime. They way that they deal with him is to exile him to another part of the city, away from his family? Doesn’t that seem very counter-productive? And their way of rehabilitation is just to constantly remind him of how low his place is society is? Japan has very progressive cheese tarts and Kit Kats, but they are still very behind on criminal justice.

(I find it interesting that in the same season who have Persona 5, an anime that is from a Persona rip-off game, and an anime featuring the anime world’s actual greatest thief. I feel like we’re just missing The Daughter of Twenty Faces.)

(Hanami: Sakura!)


#12. Golden Kamuy
Geno Studio

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“That tall tale is starting to seem a little more credible.”

Did I need to see a bear kill a baby bear? Did I need to see a poorly done CG bear fight a poorly done CG wolf? Did I need to see a human get skinned? No, no, and no. Yet, somehow, Golden Kamuy thinks differently. I can’t get over the CG bear. It’s startling to see an obvious, poorly done CG bear in an otherwise standardly drawn anime. While Golden Kamuy’s animation isn’t great to begin with, somehow the CG bear brings it down another notch or two. Couldn’t Geno Studio just draw a bad bear like in Kamen no Maid Guy? Why insert an obviously bad CG element that has a different style than the rest of the show? It’s like if the bear were originally designed for a cheap CG Netlifx series.

As for the story for Golden Kamuy, it seems like a mess as well. There’s three solid minutes of rambling from a drunk old man that passes for story exposition. Is there a better way to provide backstory and context than just having an old drunk dude ramble on? Can you imagine if Star Trek The Next Generation started with Captain Picard explaining how the Federation was formed and what the current political climate is with Romulus and Kronos? It’s a very convoluted backstory about body tattoos and hidden gold, but it sets up for Sugimoto to kill a bunch more people. His motivation for killing and finding the treasure is that he wants the money so he can bring his dead friend’s wife to America so she can get eye surgery. Somehow, this justifies all the extra murdering he has to do. Also, she is going to wait quite a while for him to come through with this money. How is she living during this time without a caretaker? The way the backstory and the motivation is presented seems rushed and flimsy.

With how fast Sugimoto skinned the person, it invalidates the “We can’t skin him! We don’t have time! We have to fight the bear!” premise of the first episode. It certainly did not take the better part of a day to skin the human.

(Fashion Czar: “BEAR HATES FIRE!”)


#11. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online
3Hz

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“P-please let me not run into any enemies.

If you are expecting to continue Kirito’s and Asuna’s journey, um, Sword Art Online Alternate “Gun Gale Online” doesn’t seem to be it. It feels like it is the Metal Gear Survive to Metal Gear Solid V or the Angel Links to Outlaw Star or the Little Sheep Hot Pot to KFC. This anime starts off pretty horribly. After a quick thirty second refresher on Gun Gale Online, we are tossed into a “squad jam,” which is their fancy version of a PUBG squad match. Confusingly, they can have six people to a squad, yet the main characters are a two man team. The main character, LLENN, is a pink puff SMG-wielding warrior lady. The other character, who is a generic buff manly man commando character, doesn’t get immediately identified. The next fifteen minutes– yes, fifteen fucking minutes– is the commando guy explaining to the pink girl what squad jam is and how to strategically play GGO. In a world where PUBG and Fortnite are bigger than Hootie and the Blowfish and Hansen were in 1996, we do not need an explanation of battle royale rules. Surely, the pink girl who somehow has custom cosmetics, custom skills, and custom guns wouldn’t need this overly long tutorial as well. Also, if the squad jam requires the player to be a skilled player to enter, why is the commando guy explaining to the pink girl as if she never played the game before? Worse yet, she is acting as if it is the first time she is playing the game. Yet there are little kids following her stream as if she were an established star. I get that the show wanted to re-introduce GGO, but does it have to dumb down a character to do it? Is there a more enticing way to keep my interest than having the commando guy identify bullet sounds?

My second issue with this show is that the characters are all really bland. Outside of pink girl and the hot girl, everyone else feel like disposible background characters. The background avatars of GGO are all Rambo-wannabes or military otaku. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. Of course, there are no women in any of the background squads. The elite squad of soldiers using GGO as target practice? All men. The brosquad who just fire machine guns into the air? All men. The idiot squad that decide to gather around a dead body? All men. Needless to say, this first episode is not passing the Bechdel test.

While GGO bears the Sword Art Online franchise tag, it doesn’t have any characters we like it in. With a spin-off like A Certain Scientific Railgun, arguably the two best Index characters were taken from that show and given space to bloom. For GGO, I care neither about the pink girl nor the commando guy. I think if the show started by focusing on why we should care about the new characters in relation to the old series stars, maybe it would be a better kick off. I am also confused as the target audience? The insatiable fans of SAO? People who want a cutesy military battle royale anime? Shoujo fans? Harem fans? I don’t know. It is almost like the show doesn’t know who its target audience is.

(Everytime the Fashion Czar and I see a Pop’n Music machine, we end up playing flipside’s “Only My Railgun” on it. It is a good song. I could also go for another season of Railgun if “Only My Railgun” returns as the OP.)

One thing that I do like is that this show feels timey with the ascent of PUBG and Fortnite. LLENN and her partner somehow made top eight by hiding and not firing a shot, which is how I tried to play my first dozen or so PUBG matches. The show highlights very well why having a circle to close in the players is a much better idea than having their positions broadcast every so often. The abandoned residential district also feels very PUBG-ish, and I was hoping LLENN would just hold up in a bathroom with a shotgun pointed at the door. I just hope that the finale is a giant Auto Royale chase sequence.

(Fashion Czar: “Squad.”)


#10. 3D Kanojo Real Girl
Hoods Entertainment

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“Do your best to maintain your virginity, wizard.”

One of my favorite lines from Infinity War is “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the Wizard. Stand down.” That has nothing to do with 3D Kanojo Real Girl, a fairly middle-of-the-road harem comedy involving a typical loser male protagonist, Hikaru, who just happens to be an otaku. The lead female haremette, Iroha, is a pretty, strong, but misunderstood round peg going to a square school. Yep, it’s another comedy trying to capitalize on the comedic differences between normies and otaku. Haha, she calls him a “wizard” because he’s an otaku with plastic figurines. Haha, he has no idea how to deal with her touching him. Sigh. If only someone– maybe a large studio like A-1– would make a romantic show about two otaku being in love. For some reason, the dynamic between Hikaru and Iroha reminds me of Darling in the FranXX’s Hiro and Zero Two. Iroha has probably a bit more common sense, and Hikaru has even more self-loathing.

Again, Real Girl seems like a standard romantic comedy, except there’s kissing (two kisses in one episode what the FranXX?), and there’s a quick coupling. Anime seems to form couples either in episode one or episode twelve or in Nisekoi’s case episode 15,532. Even though it is originally from a shoujo magazine, it feels like it can appeal to both genders. There’s even an overarching plot bomb for the fated couple, much like the key from Nisekoi or Keitaro’s “memory” from Love Hina or the truck from Fuuka. While in recent times, there seems to be a dearth of traditional romantic comedies, this season seems to have a few strong ones, which is unfortunately for Real Girl. It is destined for the bargain bin next to Re:Life and Amagami SS+.

(Fashion Czar: “Oh they really changed the character designs. I didn’t recognize it. I read the manga. The art is really bad. It’s a really mediocre manga– I dunno how it got an anime.”)

(Another one of my favorite lines from Infinity War is when Eitri informs Thor, “You understand boy, you are taking on a star? It will kill you.” Thor then replied with, “Only if I die.” Emiya nods in agreement with, “People die when they are killed.” Rin then adds, “The archer class really is full of archers.”)


#9. Comic Girls
Nexus

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“But I want to draw hot bodies!”

Comic Girls is basically Hidamari Sketch where instead of focusing on art in general, the four girls are focused on manga. Why this show is called “Comic Girls” and not “Manga Girls” is beyond me. Much like Shaft’s crowning achievement of Hidamari Sketch, there are four girls, divided into two junior girls and two senior girls. Each girl has her own strength and weakness as if they are manga-drawing adventurers on a D&D campaign. They live in an apartment complex with a landlady who looks like if Belldandy and Naru Narusegawa had a baby, and have low calorie fun. There’s even an obligatory bath tub scene. Though there’s a weirdly a window that sees into the bathroom from the kitchen. One thing that I don’t understand is that the apartment complex is gigantic and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else there, so why do they have to share rooms?

If you’re looking for cute girls doing cute things, this show is one of the stronger entries this season in that genre. Animation is decent (especially considering this is Nexus’ third animation production), and the backgrounds are nicely done. The comedy is low calorie slice-of-life fluff with jokes about the manga industry– so par for the course for this type of show. There’s even a “lewd, big boob magazine hidden under the bed joke” that made me sigh. If you want more art humor, I would check out This Art Club Has a Problem! If you want a show that has more cute girls doing cute things, that’s Hidamari Sketch.

(At one point, one of the girls tries to fix a mistake in a manga panel, and she ends up making it worse and worse. She exclaims, “The more I try to fix it, the worse it gets.” Reminds me of the fresco Jesus to me.)


#8. Megalo Box
TMS

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“No one wants a boxer who makes odds one-sided.”

Megalo Box is a retelling of Ashita no Joe (Champion Joe) that takes place in a dystopic future where class dynamics are as about as subtle as in Snowpiercer and somehow boxing with robotic arms has become the dominant sport, surpassing MMA, Real Steel, Quidditch, football, soccer, Overwatch, and Holy Grail Wars. The story beats of Megalo Box are almost the same as Ashita no Joe, and I’m just not sure how well it fits with the setting. I just can’t find it believable that boxing with robotic arms would make boxing popular– I feel like it sucks the soul out of the competition instead. I think if the show did a Real Steel-like robot mind-meld boxing, it would make a bit more sense, but this is basically just Mortal Kombat’s Jax.

I also have a few other minor quibbles about the plot as well. It’s hard to get behind the main character when he is fixing matches. We’re supposed to do a 180 and back him, but I just can’t spinzaku that fast. I need a little bit more empathy built for him other than (a) he fixes fights and (b) he likes to ride his bike onto unauthorized roads. That leads the biggest what are the fucking odds moment when the main character stumbles across the lady who runs the largest boxing tournament and has a chance encounter that can change his life. Why is this super rich lady standing in the middle of nowhere in the rain? What are the fucking odds?

On the bright side, this show most anime does not have: style. There is a blurry, old school filter, and there’s plenty of light trails that evokes some old Akira. There is an actual cinematic look to the show, and the music perfectly complements the scene. I think this show has not just the best soundtrack this season but best usage of sound since maybe Violet Evergarden last season. Direction, animation, and music just comes together in a really satisfying package. Backgrounds are also nicely done with some really grungy and fitting locales.


#7. Hisone and Masotan
Bones

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“Why must we live in such a cruel world? Let me indulge myself in your warm, accepting belly!”

I thought Hisone and Masotan would be just a standard moe military show. Instead, it’s one of the more different anime that I’ve seen. One, the main character, Hisone, is an adult woman. That’s not exactly common in anime, with only a handful of recent shows featuring an adult woman as the lead character. Two, she actually calls her dad for advice and support. I can’t remember the last time I saw that happen in anime. Three, there’s a Yakult lady who takes a role similar to a prophet or chorus in Greek literature. When was the last time we saw a Yakult lady get a role in an anime? The World God Only Knows? Four, the JSDF explains top secret info using print outs that resemble a children’s book. Five, there’s a dragon. Yep. A dragon. Oh, one can pilot the dragon… but riding inside its stomach. Andohbytheway, the dragon is a motherfucking Transformer. It transformed into an F-15. It also feeds on cell phones, preferably flip phones. That’s just a lot to process. It’s like a modern day, very Japanese, very anime version of Temeraire.

(The dragon gets armor attached to him a la the Iron Man suit in Iron Man 2 and ends up looking like a dragon wearing bad Halo cosplay. But once they hit a button on the pilot’s helmet, the dragon actually transforms into an F-15. What will anime come up with next?)

Also, I got excited because I thought one character was vaping, which would make this anime the first anime that I know of to feature vaping. Unfortunately, upon further review and deliberation with the Fashion Czar, he seemed to be smoking a fancy cigarette. It’s 2018. You’d think we have vaping and lewd internet video sites show up in anime by now.

I enjoyed Hisone and Masotan. There’s a really good sense of humor with the show, and even the title names reflect that (THIS IS INSANE!). The main character isn’t just a typical military office lady. She actually speaks her mind when pushed, and it is pretty fun when she does. The scenes where the dragon swallows and then vomits her are also always good. I liked the “Emergencies may require you to take the lower route” warning given. There are just a lot of cute character moments… and then I realized Mari “The Butcher” Okada is the script writer. The odds that the dragon will get hit by a Phoenix air-to-air missile has been taken off of the books in Vegas.

Animation style is a bit cutesy and childish but oddly meshes well with the CG military machinery. The dragon looks like a derpy Pokemon, but he fits in with the rest of the show. The style shouldn’t work, but it does. Dragons shouldn’t transform into F-15 fighter planes, but they do. Bones just seems like they adapt well to the project that they are given.

(At the command center of this JSDF air force base, all the male officers use Windows laptops. The ranking female officer uses a Mac.)

(FZ: “Finally a military anime where the women are allowed to wear pants.”)


#6. Hinamatsuri
Feel

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“Vases do not go in combustible garbage!”

Hinamatsuri is a slapstick comedy anime about the pairing of a weird supernatural young girl with the power set of Legion and an older semi-high ranking yakuza officer who is also a porcelain vase otaku. I can’t think of more expensive and boring collection than old porcelain vases. I also can’t think of a better pairing than a girl who doesn’t give a fuck about anything because she’s the most powerful being on the planet pairing up with a guy who used to not give a fuck about anything because he was a top yakuza officer. The two then have a weird father/daughter dynamic as they get used to being around each other.

I liked the comedy in this show. I like how the girl begs to go to school, and, once she is there, all she does is sleep through class the entire time. I like how the yakuza officer’s plan to exploit the girl involves construction. I like how the girl demands ikura as payment for her help. I like how the yakuza officer never learns that bringing expensive, delicate vases around the girl is a bad idea. I like how there’s scenes where the yakuza officer is nice to the girl, but she does not repay his kindness at all. Hinamatsuri has a nice assortment of slapstick comedy, character humor, and surreal absurdities.

(Fashion Czar: “This show has been amazing since scene one.”)


#5. Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory
XEBEC

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“Both Gauron and Gates played around too much. I won’t.”

Directly continuation after a thirteen year hiatus is a bold choice, Cotton. Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory does not waste any time jumping back into the lives of Chidori and Sagara. There’s no opening. There’s no OVA reminder/recap episode a la Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card. There’s no exposition dump by a drunk old man or anyone going, “He’s the student body president, he’s smart, kind, popular, hot, and good at sports.” There’s not even a title crawl. It’s just– BAM!– here’s some terrorists talking about things that happened thirteen and sixteen years ago. I am a fairly big Full Metal Panic fan, and I can barely remember what happened in The Second Raid. Uh, Tess eats some borscht? Lesbian twins enjoy fun shower time? Sagara hires a Chidori lookalike hooker? Gates masturbates to some cat videos? Come to think of it, my gosh, for a thirteen year old anime, TSR was ahead of its time. I did wish that IV took some time to breath and re-introduce some characters. I also wish that the first episode was a bit more light-hearted and comedic as that’s usually a good way to get our FMP legs back. Random, semi-mysterious dialogue between terrorists along with a way too long segment between Sagara and the student council president does not make for a riveting introduction episode. At the very least if we’re getting significant student council time, we should get some vice-president Ren as well.

The hiatus also painfully reminds us that while it has been 16 years since we first met Chidori and Sousuke, only nine months have passed in story time. It has gone that slowly. I still remember looking forward to watching Full Metal Panic back in 2001, waking up one September morning seeing the World Trade Center in flames, and then learning that FMP would be delayed to 2002 since the first episode was about terrorists hijacking airplanes. Man. It’s 2018 already. I feel super duper old.

Besides the hiatus, the other notable aspect of this show is that production has gone from Kyoto “We’re Too Good For Fanservice Now” Animation to XEBEC. And it shows. While the character designs very much resemble the original art, the backgrounds and details are nowhere as nice. Animation isn’t even as smooth as in Fumoffu. The mechs are all glaringly CG and look a bit out of place. There are also some weird directing decisions, like why go from a shot of CG ocean waves and suddenly switch to drawn ocean waves in the next shot? Overall, I feel like Invisible Victory is a slight downgrade to both Fumoffu and TSR… and those are thirteen year old anime.

Another thing that is jarring to me is that Sousuke and Chidori hold hands. Wait, what? Did I forget something from TSR? I also don’t remember Leonard’s coat having the same powers as Spawn’s armor or Dr. Strange’s cape. Maybe I should start reading the light novels again… oh… wait… no one is publishing them in English anymore. They are still trapped in the archives of TokyoPop (another thing from long ago).


#4. Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori
ZEXCS

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“This dashi is so good. I didn’t know rice could taste so good.”

My notes for Rokuhoudo Yotsuiro Biyori start with “apron boyz.” It is not often that we get a slice-of-life reverse harem cafe show. The fundamental concept is simple: there’s an idyllic coffee shop in the middle of I presume Tokyo run by tall, hot, and kind men who are also excellent cooks and baristas. It is quite a wholesome show. I don’t know why, but the wholesomeness and earnestness of the show drew me in. Despite the fact that the cast is basically otome game fodder, the show isn’t really about them. It is oddly more about the cafe, and the show has a similar vibe to the enjoyable Restaurant to Another World from a few seasons ago where a customer finds salvation through the food/drinks served.

What do I like? The guys all wear the same uniform. There’s no unnecessary bedazzlement. There’s no guy walking around with this top three buttons constantly unbuttoned. There’s no guy with two different colored eyes. There’s no guy with a gradient hair color. They feel look like an actual restaurant staff. Furthermore, the guys are all nice guys. None of them are trying to sexually assault a heroine. They all seem to do the small things to make their customers and neighbors happy. They are all of drinking age, and none of them fall into the shota bin. The cast feels like a breath of fresh air, much like when harem anime finally decided that hey they don’t always need a man-hating haremette who begrudgingly falls in love with the loser male protagonist because he’s seen her naked too many times at the hot springs.

And despite the very otome-ish setup, the show feels more like a simple slice-of-life. There’s random montages of the cafe just being a cafe. There’s a fat cat that just sits around being fat. The ED is a simple jazzy instrumental piece. The food porn aspect is good but not Emiya-san Chi excellent. Just a really relaxing show that is good for decompressing after a long day.

Fashion Czar: “It looks like his ears are pierced, but he’s not wearing earrings at work. I don’t think it is based on an otome game since they are underdesigned plus they haven’t done a short intro for each character.”

(One of the characters, Gure, reminds me of Nozaki-kun from Monthly Shoujo Nozaki-kun.)

(One thing that I did not like about this show is has the unrealistic urban paradise trope. Where in Tokyo will you find a giant plot of land for a cafe? Land so big that you have to walk through a bamboo forest to get to the cafe? Also, what twenty-something office lady in Japan wouldn’t at least check out Yelp, Instagram, or Tabelog before going into an unfamiliar new restaurant?)


#3. Lupin III Part V
TMS

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“I’m an old hand at stealing melancholy young girls.”

I had to rub my eyes. Lupin III Part V doesn’t start with a sexy montage, doesn’t start with a daring heist, and doesn’t start a shot of sweeping European vistas. Nope. It starts with a Wikipedia page. Yep, Wikifuckingpedia. And it eventually leads to Lupin buying crystal meth on the dark web while exclaiming, “Guns, women, cash… you can get anything on the internet now.” What. The. Barbatos. We even get a shot of Jigen buried under CDs and operating a laptop that doesn’t have a physical disc drive (can you even buy a laptop with one of these anymore?). This opening leads the Fashion Czar to wonder, “Is this season going to involve bitcoins?” and right after she says that, Lupin announces, “We’re heading to the cloud data center!”

2018 is the year of the blockchain. What follows is more Gatchaman Crowds, dogecoin, and Initial D than Lupin. The whole base premise of how technology can foil the world’s greatest thief is interesting, and I just did not expect that as a central focus especially how traditional Part IV felt. There’s even a genius hacker who happens to be a disheveled young lady who wants Lupin to steal her because sure why not. Is episode eleven going to be about how Lupin has to steal Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet during a Fortnite game?

Some nice moments include Jigen using a six-shooter against riot police armed with automatic rifles, Lupin explaining how “gas-powered cars are more manly,” (I guess he doesn’t a pre-order for a Tesla Model 3 in), and, of course, Lupin revealing that he has Inaho’s God Eye from Aldnoah.Zero season two. I’m not kidding. Lupin gets a God Eye. God Eye. Blockchain. Wikipedia. Dark web. Cloud data center. Lupin the THIIIIIIIIIIRD.

(Technically, despite called “Part V,” this is the sixth Lupin series. A Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the fourth series and is really responsible for kicking off this modern Lupin revivial.)

(Fashion Czar: “How many Fiats do you think Lupin goes through every year?”)


#2. Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii
A-1 Pictures

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“I don’t want to date other otaku!”

“Listen to yourself. You’re the kind of the yaoi fangirl who ignores her own faults.”

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii (Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku) is probably the most relatable anime that I have ever seen. I have never seen a male protagonist so much in line with my life. Of course, I’m referring to how Hirotaka, much like myself, is a bow main in Monster Hunter. Right now, I could be hunting Kulve Taroth in Monster Hunter World rather than writing this post. I still need that rank 8 thunder bow. Andohbytheway, the monster Hirotaka’s fighting in the first episode seems to be some variant of Rathalos.

Fundamentally, Wotakoi is yet another romance story involving otaku, except where in the past these stories generally involved otaku dating non-otaku (Densha Otoko, OreImo, I Don’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, and this season’s 3D Kanojo Real Girl with Genshiken to a lesser degree), the romance for this show is between two mismatched hardcore otaku. One really likes yaoi and has an anime blog; one really likes Monster Hunter and has a few spare wyvern gems. Diary of an MMO Addict would be two matched hardcore gaming otaku. I’m in favor of more romance stories that aren’t just about awkward and sad teens.

I do enjoy Wotakoi quite a bit. The characters seem like real people, and the jokes are funny enough like when Narumi gets jealous and turns around all of Hiro’s anime figures. The dialogue is sharp, and I like the intra-otaku putdowns like “You’re slow at typing. Are you sure you’re an otaku?” I also do like that the characters eventually start to realize that they are happiest when they are themselves. They are also grown adults. I do like that anime has been growing up and presenting more adult relationships than in the past, and I do like how stories have focused more about being a couple than becoming a couple. It’s weird seeing more grown up approaches to relationships where the characters talk out their issues and don’t just mope around for three episodes accomplishing nothing. If this show had some sex and ecchi like REC, I wouldn’t mind.

(Monster Hunter for the Nintendo switch gets a shout out in the credits. Is this the first anime that features a Switch? And why would he want to play Mario Kart on the Wii when he has a Switch? Just get MK8 for it.)

(Some of the art gets a bit derpy. The backgrounds and objects could use a bit more detail. And Hirotaka smokes way too much. Is there a scene where he isn’t either playing a Switch or smoking?)

(Four episodes later… sigh. If there were to be a show about how the female lead finds a lewd history page on the male lead’s phone or computer, it should have been this one. Nope. The male lead, who buys magazines and manga digitally, somehow still has physical lewd magazines hidden around. I’m baffled. It’ll be 2024, and I’ll still be waiting for the lewd magazine under the bed gag to be replaced with the lewd bookmark in Firefox.)


#1. Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai
Doga Kobo

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“State one color of the rainbow!”

“Blue?”

“Wrong! The color of the rainbow is rainbow! Make your heart rainbow!”

It is rare to see a straightforward romantic comedy as an original anime; they are generally based on manga or light novels or visual novels. Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai (Tada-kun Never Falls in Love) an original work from the animation team that produced Monthly Shoujo Nozaki-kun… and it kind of shows. Okay, it really shows. Are you ready for awkward, one-sided romance with wacky, zany side characters? Are you ready for a really tall male lead (who shares a seiyuu with Nozaki)? Are you ready for low key romance with slapstick humor? You know what? I am. I am a fan of Monthly Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and Tada-kun fells similar enough, except we might get actual romance instead of just Chiyo bashing her head at why senpai doesn’t notice her.

I did not know much about this show going in, and I was hooked pretty early. I like good low calorie slice-of-life romantic comedies, and this show seems to fit the bill. I do like how the male lead gets annoyed that a cute girl is blocking his view of sakura. I do like the parody of Roman Holiday in the OP. I do like how the fat cat, Nyako BIG, has his balls drawn. I do like how the heroine looks like Saber Lily. I do like the scenary setting shots of Tokyo. I do like how most of the plot can be solved if people just looked at their damn iPhones. I do like how only the most perceptive characters understand what is going on with HINA. What I really like though is the Rainbow Samurai. He’s the best. I’m already searching to see if I can find a Rainbow Samurai poster to decorate my office. There is just something satisfying and natural about the characters, even though the situation behind some of them is anything but natural.

What could be improved? I think it is a bit unrealistic that someone could be so helpless and unprepared for Tokyo. How can someone who learned Japanese by being a samurai otaku not know how confusing Tokyo is? She was not prepared. I could also use a little bit more romance in this show and definitely less focus on the pretty boy narcissist friend. There are also some very predictable moments in the show like, “Mmm, I wonder if she is a crown princess or anything like that” and “Mmm, I wonder if she is the new transfer student.” Basically, I feel like I have seen all that anime has to offer. The only thing that can surprise me now is if we get an anime about Homer Simpson’s potato chip crisis in space… oh… damn. Nevermind.

(Hanami? MAKE YOUR HEART SAKURA!)

2 Responses to “thin slicing the new season, spring 2018 edition”

  1. Would’ve expected Steins;Gate 0 to be here somehwere, to be honest

  2. Three Love Hina references? Feeling nostalgic now.

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