thin slicing the new season, winter 2019 edition

9,000 words, 23 anime, 5 sisters to wed, and 1 sequel no one asked for.

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 thirteenth 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, eighteen seasons of Free!, and roughly 15,532 light novels written by Nisio Isin Kazuma Kamachi.

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. I generally will skip CG shows and Chinese shows as well. For this season, BanG Dream, Dororo, B, and Kemono Friends are among the skips.

A twist for this season: Let’s spark some joy into our lives.

Quick recap from last season: A new OLED makes pretty anime prettier and bad anime even worse. When are we getting HDR anime?


#MR. IRRELEVANT. W’z
GoHands

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“I guess I have to say this one has some good vibes and grooves to it.”

W’z is GoHands’ first work since the industry-defining Hand Shakers. Why are they still using this weird shader? Oh this show is the sequel? Hand Shakers is simultaneously both so good and so bad that they were willing to make a sequel but not mention the original season at all. W’z starts with quick scene that is a background pan to a character standing still and then a “Ten Years Later” card. Nothing happened! After that, we get a random, difficult-to-follow fight sequence between two characters who have not been introduced yet. Who thought it would be a good idea to have a poorly directed CG fight without any expositional context for it? Oh, right, the development team for K. The shader and poor CG of Hand Shakers combined with the awful action directing of K. My dreams have come true.

Then after the bad CG fight sequence, we get tossed into a montage of people (I suppose the main cast) dancing along to a DJ who has 900 views on YouTube. I am to believe that a dozen random people just so happen stumble across a dude who has just 900 views? The audio for this show is also mixed poorly with the BGM being quite high and the dialogue being quiet. I thought I had hit a weird setting on my soundbar or something. There are too many fast-moving CG objects in the background that are very distracting. Clouds do not need to move so fast. Cars do not need to speed by every second, and, if you are going to have cars speeding by every second, do not repeat cars every third car. This isn’t Cupertino where every third car is indeed a Tesla. The CG background objects contrast sharply to the facial expressions as there is almost no natural movement of the character faces. Characters move limbs and mouths, but they seem like unnatural Lego minifigs with stiff expressions. This anime is a man-made disaster that I am surprised it got greenlit. I hope this show is not indicative of where anime is heading in the future.

(Wait, you’re not covering BanG Dream! or Dororo but this show? Why? Because I had to know. I just had to know what a sequel to Hand Shakers would be like.)

(This show is one of Sentai Filmwork’s big acquisitions for the season. Of course it is.)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. The animation is actively painful to watch. Thank you GoHands for finding my threshold for janky animation, poor camera angles, and mismatched color palettes.)


#22. Bermuda Triangle – Colorful Pastrale
Seven Arcs

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“I could eat ten of these!”

Thin slicing unfiltered. Ok so Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale takes place underwater with mermaids. “Welcome to the Frye Bermuda Festival!” So Bermuda Triangle isn’t a sci-fi horror anime but a friendship slash do nothing anime except with mermaids? Sure looks like a typical anime town despite being underwater. Did the director tell the animators of this show that it takes place under the sea? How does the tea work underwater? Why is steam escaping from the tea cup? Except for the fact the characters float and have fins, hair and clothes behave exactly the same as on land. Underwater, hair and clothing would not behave like that. Have these people not seen Aquaman? I want to know when the animation team found out that the setting is underwater. Did the director spring it on them at the last moment?

The talking seal FedEx guy should be on a different show. A better show. Dear anime creators, light does not penetrate very far under water. This mermaid city would in reality be in a blanket of darkness. You can have your weird mermaid fetish fantasies, but at least get the science right. “You can’t make coral sugar from a machine. It needs the slow grind of a windmill.” Where is the wind? They are supposed to be underwater! And a windmill is a machine. It’s not like we cannot build machines that can duplicate a slow grinding speed. How did this show spend two minutes on this silly non-plot point about windmills underwater? Wouldn’t they be wavemills? My brain hurts. I know I have mentioned the underwater thing 15,532 times already, but this has become a major sticking point much like six drafts picks in the Lakers/Pelicans/Anthony Davis trade debacle. Animation and character designs are really bad. Having a new 4K OLED TV really accentuates both good animation and bad animation. The good seems better than before while the bad, well, seems a lot worse than before. This show is definitely in the bad category. Can’t be a friendship slash do nothing anime if a newbie character is plopped directly into the fray. Wow, do the animators seriously not know that this show is underwater? Am I going to see them start a fire underwater next episode? Or maybe underwater fireworks?

(Fashion Czar: “Is this a children’s show? I can’t tell if it is aimed at kids or old men. And why are mermaids wearing miniskirts?”)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. It actively takes away joy. Thank you animators for spending so many nights on this terrible anime. Thank you Sentai for supporting the anime industry by licensing this show.)


#21. Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!
Dogo Kobo

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“If I want to eat more of these, I have to keep playing along with her creepy hobbies? But if she ever gets tired of me…”

Remember that show from last season about the combat meido who has a thing for young girls? Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita! (Wataten!: An Angel Flew Down to Me) is yet another anime about an older woman who has a thing for young elementary school-aged girls. It just feels creepy, especially how she bribes a young girl with cookies and cakes to get her to change into cute outfits and take pictures of them. Imagine if the show were about a twenty-five year old man who has elementary school girls do cosplay shoots for him for candy. Besides the creepy premise, my other issue with this show is that the creepy lady makes cosplay outfits for little girls. She has a stash of them, and they aren’t just for her little sister as she has sets of them ready to go. That just makes this show a bit creepier, right? She’s a lolicon prepper. And then she goes through all this trouble to seduce the poor young girl with baked goods and makes cute outfits for her and then takes photos with her camera phone. Where is her full studio lighting setup with a prime lens and some fancy pants camera?

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you for having one of the best cooking sequences– that French toast— since Today’s Menu at the Emiya Household ended.)


#20. Meiji Tokyo Renka
TMS/V1 Studio

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“I don’t know who touched this roast beef, but now it’s touching me.”

Meiji Tokyo Renka is yet another otome isekai anime that does not feature giant mecha. What is wrong with anime? Slap a damn giant mecha into the show. The setup is always the same: There is a poor mousy girl who has a pitiful life, and, because she has that pitiful life, it is okay that she gets isekai’ed and becomes the trophy object for no less than 15,532 princes. The first five minutes are spent ostracizing the poor main character who apparently is friendless because she talked to imaginary friends when she was a kid. Who the fuck cares? She was a little kid! Why would people even remember that? And what scum of the fucking earth people would hold that over this poor girl’s head in high school? Girl, those people are not worthy to be your friends in the first place.

So this poor main character is wandering around sadly and is forced to listen to her headphones because everyone around her only talks about how she talked to imaginary friends in kindergarten. You’d think fifteen year old girls would have other shit to talk about. She meets up with a ringmaster, who has one of the more atrocious costume designs of this season (monocle, feathered hat, and face tats), and he puts her in Dark Magician’s Mystic Box. She then gets teleported to Rokumeikan and almost gets run over by a carriage.

Of course, the carriage is full of hot princes who want to help her. Instead of trying to take her home or understand where she is from, they decided to take her to a formal ball to meet more hot men. At no point during the first episode did any character development take place. All I know about the girl other than why she is ostracized is that she loves roast beef. Wonderful. We know nothing about the twelve or so hot men that get introduced except one of them hates roast beef and another is a germaphobe. The show does a poor job at presenting any reason for the viewer to care about the characters, and, combined with lackluster budget animation, Meiji Tokyo Renka is yet another bad, boring, and bland otome anime that only serves to keep alive blogsuki’s rule of thumb: Do nothing after school clubs, magic battle high schools, and isekai may come and go, but bad otome anime is forever.

(Is it creepy that the main prince guy calls our mousy lead a “Little Squirrel”? “Little Squirrel” is the best pet name that the author could come up with? Squirrels in Northern California are generally assholes who are potential bubonlic plague carriers. What were the rejected ideas? “Bottomless Hippo”? “Sugar Vermin”? “Mousy Human”?)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Before this show goes off to the abyss– because seriously who will remember this show five years from now– let us thank its animation staff who gave their best effort despite the limited resources and awful story.)


#19. Girly Air Force
Satelite

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“I want to fly.” Cue Highway to the Danger Zone.

Do I have to write something about Girly Air Force? I mean, with a name of “Girly Air Force,” one can probably guess the quality and plot lines of this show, right? Girly Air Force, besides the underbaked and pandering plot, features poor animation and some boring aerial combat. The character personalities are all very singular and none of them seem very likeable.

This fine anime starts with a scene of Chinese refugees getting massacred by an unknown military faction (my guess? aliens) named the Xi. Of course, the JSDF engages the enemy and get their asses kicked because the Xi have thrust vectoring and electronics camo on their planes. You remember that scene in The Last Jedi when the Raddus gets abandoned and the remaining resistance members scramble onto shuttles that take them down to the planet, but Kylo Ren is just delighting in blowing up the escaping shuttles? That is basically the first five minutes of this show until a random European fighter shows up and blows up the Xi. The European fighter then crashes. The main character abandons his lifeboat (which was drawn quite far from the crash site) and jumps into the water to save the fighter pilot. And what are the fucking odds that the fighter pilot is a young nubile haremette wearing clothes found in a grab bag from a lolita store? Instead of actually saving her, he just decides to kiss her because why the hell not? The rest of the episode focuses on him having a raging boner to be a pilot and deciding the best way to do this is to sneak into a JSDF air base. Remember, he is still a Chinese refugee in Japan at this point.

So I have a few questions. One, what kind of fantasy world is it that China is sending its refugees to Japan and are instantly welcomed? Two, when did anime flip from having girls wearing military garb (a la Full Metal Panic) to just wearing whatever the fuck they want? Wouldn’t wearing a Lolita outfit impair piloting a plane? Three, the show doesn’t even bother to explain why the super planes have to be piloted by young girls, or why two of the three retrofitted planes are not standard JSDF aircraft despite the head engineer being clearly Japanese? Four, why would the JSDF transport their top secret aircraft through a Japanese residential neighborhood? I do not recall any residential streets in Japan that could fit a Mirage through it.

(Fashion Czar: “Did they have to make the childhood friend such an extreme nag?”)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Maybe it can spark joy for some other people who can appreciate this very niche military fantasy harem subgenre. Thank you for making thrust vectoring a plot point.)


#18. Grimms Notes the Animation
Brain’s Base

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“Everyone, do you have your Bookmark of Guidance?”

You know what is a timely anime? A four year old mobile gatchapon game that finally got its global English release in March 2018 and then was subsequently shutdown in January 2019. Yep, Grimms Notes the Game could not even last until the Grimms Notes the Animation started airing. So even if people watching this show on Crunchyroll want to roll for their SSR Alice in Wonderland, they cannot. (Of course, our buddies at Sentai Filmworks has already licensed this show. The game was so wildly unpopular it couldn’t even last a year? Sign us up! Feel free to use that on the back of your BD release, Sentai.)

There are just too many ideas in Grimms Notes the Animation, and the ideas either do not work or are given space to breathe. It is like trying to write a 13,000 word post that ranks every show in a season. Just does not work. Okay, the Book of Fate concept is a rip-off of the plot to Sword Art Online Aliciazation. The corrupted monsters that erupts from darkness inside hearts is a rip-off of Personas. The traveling from story to story to fix them is the plot structure to Fate Grand Order. The summoning of fictional characters with a secret powerful move is basically Fate’s servants and Noble Phantasms. Even the genderswapping is something Fate is known for. On top of all those things… there are magical girls. I am surprised that a Gundam did not just burst through the walls like the Kool-Aid guy at some point.

Let me just get it over with: The plot and worldbuilding are bad. The characters are huge McNothings. The character design is atrocious. The Fashion Czar ranted about the guy’s half bowtie for a solid three minutes. The awful costumes wore her down to the point she could not even muster a complaint about the mismatched stockings on Alice. The main action sequence involved a dude running through other people and might as well come from a high school animation project.

(It’s weird for me to see Robin Hood use a Noble Phantasm and not have it called “Yew Bow.”)

(Does this anime spark joy? Hopefully it sparks more joy than the global version of the game. Thank you Sentai for continuing to populate Best Buy’s bargain bin with new anime.)


#17. Egao no Daika
Tatsunoko

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“It’s all blocky and ugly.”

Egao no Daika (The Price of Smiles) spoils it’s big reveal in its OP. At least it doesn’t run the OP right at the beginning, but, gee golly wizz, why didn’t the director choose to do the reveal and then run the OP? On the surface, this anime seems like it is about a spoiled, overmatched princess who just stamps shit using TouchID on iPads all day. In reality, Egao no Daika is a combat anime featuring giant mecha.

I do not want to spoil the big reveal, but this show is very predictable and one can probably guess the reveal fairly quickly. The princess sneaks out after working for just one morning! What could possibly go wrong? What kind of world leader can’t even make it through three hours of work? She then blows off the rest of her responsibilities— and we know she has a lot because her assistant spells it out— to go watch her childhood friend in a practice mecha combat simulation. He is playing a game of capture the flag. Obviously CTF is the best way to train new pilots. Also this anime is set on a world far in the future and on a planet far away. Yet, the mecha are training to fight in Tokyo. Why would they ever need to fight in Tokyo? We are shown this fantastic future city that looks nothing like Tokyo, but the pilots are training in virtual Tokyo?

Costume and hair design are overly complicated. I don’t know where to look, and really do you want your frontline soldiers wearing bright red? Finally, there are hover battleships. The concept of a battleship that one could sink by just puncturing its rubber amuses me for some reason.

(Does this anime spark joy? No, but thank you for naming a character “Yuni Vanquish.” Yuni Vanquish is almost as good of a name as “Allelujah Haptism” or “Chad Chadan.”)


#16. Pastel Memories
Project No. 9

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“Even popular shows can’t grab people’s attention anymore.”

I have never seen Akihabara so lifeless and empty during the day as depicted in Pastel Memories. At first, this show really confused me. I thought it was a cute girls doing cute things in a cafe anime with a very strange premise: A dystopic future where anime culture perished and Akihabara became a generic business district. This random cafe managed to survive despite not having a single customer during the first episode. In fact, at the start of the episode, there were only three workers at the cafe, and I thought that was already too many. Then like a running gag, more and more waitresses were added. By the end of the episode, there were twelve waitresses and zero customers. It was just odd. At one point, I think when the ninth waitress showed up, she even remarked, “So still no customers today?” How does this cafe stay in business? The shop is based off of a hit anime, yet anime is dead, and, if it were a hit, how come none of the characters have even heard about it. Pastel Memories has a very specific setting and premise.

Andohbytheway, the store has a treasure trove of old otaku goods and airsoft guns. Somehow the decline of the anime industry took down the airsoft industry too. Why? How? Who cares?! Here’s another close in shot of boobs. And, yes, there are a lot of melonpan. All the waitresses are either Mikuru Asahina-class or Yuki Nagato-class. There is no in-between.

Instead of tending to an empty shop, the waitresses decide to try to buy all the volumes of a long gone but used to be popular manga, so they ditch the shop and go shopping at the last anime shops left in Tokyo. Apparently neither eBay, Yahoo.jp, or Amazon exist in this world either. The girls muse that “Even popular shows can’t grab people’s attention anymore.” And then manga start literally vanishing. Wait, what? Yep, the girls have to travel from manga franchise to manga franchise as magical girls to purge the virus that is consuming manga and save manga. There is totally not another show this season with a similar premise that involves fairy tales instead of manga. Pastel Memories is yet another gatchapon mobile game! Yippee! This show is also licensed by Sentai. Yippee again!

(Fashion Czar: “Is this show written by a middle schooler?”)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Pastel Memories is the same premise as Grimms Note the Animation with manga instead of fairy tales. Thank you for the confusing premise.)


#15. The Magnificent Kotobuki
Gemba

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“You sure have an appetite for pancakes.”

The Magnificent Kotobuki (Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai) is a yet another gatchapon mobile game turned anime featuring CG characters mixed with drawn characters. Sigh. The show is even more disappointing once you realize it is the brainchild of the creative team behind Shirobako (both its director and writer). I would hope that they could come up with something better than spunky high school girls piloting WW2-era fightercraft. There are quite a few things that bug me about this show. One, the main female pilots are all CG, and they look bad compared to the hand drawn characters (basically anyone with a penis plus the bridge bunnies). I understand if a show wants to save some money by making background characters CG, but why make background characters drawn and not CG as well here? It just makes the art seem disjointed. If there were a lot of shots clearly showing the pilots in the CG planes, the decision would make more sense, but that is sadly not the case. Second, there is almost zero characterization of the six main heroine pilots. Zip. Zilch. Nada. All we know by the end of the first episode is that the main pilot likes souffle pancakes and does not like to lose a dogfight. Great. I don’t even know the names of the other five girls in the squad. Three minutes were devoted to an animation sequence of the main pilot pulling levels and rotating cranks to start up her plane. Three minutes! That scene was more gratuitous than Hideki Anno blowing a chunk of his total budget to animate Tokyo-3 transform into a bunker city. The episode concludes with a fifteen minute dogfight sequence with barely any context. Imagine if Star Wars started with the trench run with Hatsune Miku replacing Luke.

Three, why is there an emu on the zeppelin? Four, this show is yet another plane combat show where instead of wearing flight suits or military garb, the pilots just wear clothes one might find at a Harajuku clearance rack. Wouldn’t a frilly skirt get caught in a lever or something? Also, how are the girls speaking to each other across vast distances? ESP? Plot radio? Carrier pigeons?

(Drinking from tiny wooden barrels. Is this going to be the hip new thing that replaces drinking from mason jars at weddings?)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you for the drunken bird logo though. That looked alright.)


#14. Boogiepop and Others
Madhouse

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“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”

I almost fell asleep during Boogiepop and Others. The first episode was basically just two people talking with a whole bunch of nothing. There was an eight minutes sequence of the two characters speaking to each other where one would say a line and then there would be a pause that’s a bit too long to be natural before the other one would respond. It felt like the episode had about twelve minutes of content that had to be stretched out to twenty-four. The animation is fairly sparse and disappointing from Madhouse. There was not much to keep my attention especially in a sleep-deprived state.

This show is supposed to be a companion slash sequel to Boogiepop Phantom which came out in the late 90s. The basic premise… mmm… how do I explain it? In Fate terms, Boogiepop itself is a Counter Force. I wasn’t interested in the show then, and this sequel only validates my decision to watch Vandread and Jubei-chan and the Lovely Eyepatch instead. While the original novels came out in the 90s, the story has been updated to modern times with the inclusion of social media and even a reference to fake news. Actually, can we just go back to 1998?

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you Kouhei Kadono for writing in 1996 what is considered the first light novel. I can’t wait for a light novel about how a main character has to go back in time and introduce Kadano-san to Everquest in order to prevent the isekai apocalypse fo 2020.)


#13. Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka
Liden Films

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“Our new battlefield is international crime, indiscriminate terrorism, civil wars, and other conflicts. A Magical Girl’s battle never ends.”

Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Specs-Ops Asuka) starts off with a narrated timeline of events. Sigh. Talk about lazy world-building. Instead of devoting even three minutes to setting up the scenario, this show starts with an early scene of Asuka just staring out of her classroom window for three minutes. Look, for most sci-fi and fantasy worlds, world-building is the best part, except when it comes to anime. Anime writers treat world-building as “I can’t be bothered with this crap. Let’s just skip to thigh meat.” (Thigh meat here isn’t even good thigh meat either.)

The basic premise is that our world had magical girls who fought off an alien invasion and now they are adjusting to civilian life. The titular character is Asuka, but there are other, uh, imaginative names like Patricia, Claudia, and my favorite Mia Cyrus. What were the rejected names? Beatrice Knowles? Terry Swift? Anita “Six Paths Five Rings” Grande? But due to a terrorist strike orchestrated by villains from a Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw movie installment in the middle of Shibuya (seriously what are the odds this would happen like zero or zilch?), the magical girls are now killing humans. Asuka defends herself herself from AK-47s and rocket launchers. She then Shiki Ryougi’ed the head terrorist’s legs off. I get she wants to protect her friends, but at what point is she operating beyond the law? Does she think she is Batman?

Besides awful world-building and an unexciting premise, Specs-Ops Asuka features low production values, bland backgrounds, and poor animation. The character models are generic and look lifeless, and none of the action sequences are well-animated.

(Two girls have guns, one has a tiny knife, one has a crystal, one has a nunchuck, and one fights with a syringe. Well, we need a healer. How do we represent that? Let’s give her a syringe!)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you for trying to give magical girls a private military contractor spin twist. Like I have been saying for years: Not enough military-industry complex in my magical girl anime.)


#12. Ueno-san wa Bukiyou
Lesprit

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“I have _never_ heard a guy complain so much about being voluntarily invited to get up in a girl’s crotch!”

Ueno-san wa Bukiyou (How Clusmy Are You, Ueno-san?) is a half-length anime about a girl with a single fang, who talks really fast, and who is a scientist/inventor. She also has a crush on a completely clueless yet normal boy. The first episode deals with how she wants the boy to drink her “purified” urine and then goes on to conduct research on peaking up skirts. So basically the show is about unrequited love and humiliation as part of thinly-veiled science experiments. She has a lackey who ends up more often than not to be the victim of said experiments since the normal boy just escapes or evades.

Anime about super painful unrequited slash noticed love are not rare, but the sophomoric humor wears thin in this show. It is a bit too one-dimensional. Besides the initial shock factor, the gags do not have staying power. Maybe it is good that it is a half-length show but maybe an ever shorter format would suit it better. The characters lack any charm, and the inventions sometimes borders on a Doreamon-level of ludicrous mixed with monkey’s paw.

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Sentai Filmworks thank you for licensing the “girl makes other people drink her piss” anime. The joke writes itself.)


#11. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
A-1 Pictures

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“Even amongst sweethearts, there is a power relationship. Love is war! The person who falls in love loses.”

The best part of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-tachi no Ren’ai Zunousen~ / かぐや様は告らせたい ~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~) besides the ridiculously long name that got quite truncated for the English release? The Engrish. LOVE IS WAAAH! The worst part? Pretty much everything else. This anime is a thinly premised romantic comedy with all the trappings of a student council power fantasy. Do you want to watch twenty-four minutes of the president and vice-president of the student council avoid trying to make the first move on each other? Here’s your chance! Both main characters believe that whoever confesses first becomes the submissive one in the relationship, so neither want to confess yet they want to bone. After watching this show, I am beginning to understand Japan’s baby crisis a bit better.

The premise already got irritatingly repetitive in one episode, so I can only imagine how thin it will be spread across a full season. If there was a five minute short anime, I think it could work. As a full-fledged show? Not so much. Besides the two main characters, the only other major character is the secretary Chika, who is by far the best character on this show. By the ten minute mark, because the setting and premise is explained to us rather than shown to us, the narrator had more dialogue than any of the characters. Animation is passable, but there is something off about the character designs. I’m not sure if it is just the base design or how the face shape is not always consistent.

Also, to represent how calculating the two lead characters are at trying to coerce the other to confess, the show represents their computations via math equations. No one on the production team could think of a better way to visualize thinking than math equations? You know what really gets me into a romantic mood? Convolution of the frequency domain into time domain using impulse functions. Again, no wonder Japan has a baby crisis.

(What do student councils do besides stamping things? You’d think Japanese students would know how useless their actual student councils are, so why so many power fantasies of them? I feel powerless at the DMV, yet do you see me writing manga about a DMV that has to save the world be administering driving tests? Mmm…)

(Isekai DMV driving to Netflix in 2020.)

(Does this anime spark joy? No, but thank you for dancing gifs.)


#10. My Roommate Is a Cat
Zero-G

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“Don’t take the fun of imagining what happens next away from me!”

First scene of My Roommate Is a Cat (Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue): Both parents of the main character die. Being a parent in anime is the deadliest job in the world. This anime is somewhere between Barakamon with a cat instead of a little girl and Ojisan to Neko with a younger, lonely man rather than an older, lonely man. The main character is ineptly incapable of taking care of himself, and things are presumably worse after his parents pass away. He finds a kitten at his parents’ grave and decides it is a sign to adopt her. Unlike Ojisan where the old man has a heart of gold, this main character seems to have serious issues even before his parents passed away. I can picture him eventually turning into a crazy cat person.

I have a lot of questions. One, why does every bookworm in anime (Kanbaru, The Great Passage guy, the dude in Run with the Wind, and this main character) lay out their books in horizontal stacks? No one bothers to actually put the books vertically? Also have none of these people ever met either Marie Kondo or a Kindle? Two, I have never seen anyone go from being an useless hikikomori to a cat lover so fast. Three, why does he lock out the cat instead of cuddling said cat? If a cat wants to cuddle in your lap, I mean, let her. Four, why is he not typing his great isekai light novel out on a computer? He writes his novel onto paper and then scans the paper into a computer? Five, why didn’t Funimation use the literal English translation for this show: My Housemate Is on My Lap, But Sometimes on My Head? I feel like that is a cuter title than just My Roommate Is a Cat. Six, why does my dog stare like a how cat would stare?

Overall, this anime feels like a lightweight slice-of-life comedy anime featuring a boy and his cat, but has some pacing issues and a lack of heart. I want heart in my pet anime. The show sometimes transitions into a Rashomon-like narrative from the cat’s point-of-view, and I am not sure if I like it since it really slows down the pacing. I think I prefer it if the cat did not talk and think out loud. I certainly did not need to see dead kittens in this anime.

(Engrish Watch: “Fresh Insurance”)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you for introducing us briefly to Taro the Golden Retriever who lives next door.)


#9. Endro!
Studio Gokumi

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“I only want to see a world where everyone can smile!”

Endro! is yet another fantasy anime that starts with a “final” battle with a demon lord. At least this show is not an isekai. I was thinking, “Huh, this show is covering all the tropes. The Hero saying, ‘I only want a world where everyone can smile!’, everyone’s special attacks coming together to defeat the demon lord, and the demon lord having a special surprise.” Then we see “The End” card four minutes in. Wait a minute…

Was it all a dream? Is this the greatest fantasy anime ever? Is that it? Are they all going to wake up, and this show becomes a girls being cute do nothing anime? Nope. Their final attack screws up and ends up sending the demon lord back in time and somehow turned him into a loli (loli not shouta). The new and improved demon loli lord then becomes the teacher of the four heroes back when they were in school, and she is determined to fuck with their development. Unfortunately, it seems to backfire and just maybe time is a loop, and the heroes became who they are because of her involvement.

The concept is interesting, but I’m not sure about the pastely art style. Sure, it works for Ichigo Marshmallow, but it is a bit too cute for– ah who cares? It’s a fantasy anime about cute girls being cute and also getting phat loot. Maybe I am just overthinking things.

(Does this anime spark joy? As not as much that mecha cat monster that meows. Fill up Marie Townhouse’s attic with more of that shit please.)


#8. The Rising of the Shield Hero
Kinema Citrus

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“I’m a somewhat otaku-leaning second-year college student.”

I remember a time when isekai anime were all action shoujo series like Fuushigi Yuugi (on Amazon currently) and Escaflowne. And I think they are still two of the best isekai anime to date. Let’s take Escaflowne as an example. Unless you watched the Fox Kids version, it took two whole episodes before Hitomi got transported to Gaia. The story established who she is and what her fears/dreams were before she got isekai’ed. The isekai didn’t define her. In modern isekai anime like Rising of the Shield Hero (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari), that character introduction is compressed into four minutes tops. While Hitomi has relationships to people in her original world and longs for them, people spirited away in modern isekai always seem to be loners without attachment to our world. They readily accept their position and do not long for their past life. Even a short scene with the main character wondering, “I hope my parents aren’t heartbroken that I’ve disappeared” would be an improvement. That lingering connection to the original world is generally never explored for narrative depth (Overlord and Sword Art Online being exceptions).

Then we have the whole issue of RPG tropes. The world-building might as well be reading a Gamefaqs entry. Modern isekai has an allergy to world-building and tries to get it out of the way as fast as possible so more time can be devoted to whatever tropetasic plot awaits the main character. Of course, instead of proper world-building, RPG shortcuts are used to describe the world. Everyone knows what a skill tree it. It’ll save us time in explaining how he got new powers! I cringed when the UI status screens popped up randomly in this show. What the hell. Saying that there are multiple Japan with multiple versions of RPGs that this world seems to be inspired by does not solve the issue. It still uses RPG mechanics as a shortcut and as a lazy replacement for genuine world-building. Van didn’t need to kill slimes to level up to pilot Escaflowne more effectively. We are shown via plot and character development that Hitomi’s moderating influence and his humiliations at losing to Allen changes Van’s fighting style so he is less rash and mistake-prone. Van gets more patient and uses his advantages better. There is a significant difference seeing three main characters interact and change each other than seeing a dude slay slimes and feed it to his shield to see a level up text.

(Escaflowne can’t be shoujo! It has giant robots and swords and an old man with a ridiculously oversized sword! I mean, the heart of the story is the Hitomi-Van-Allen love triangle, and Hitomi’s feelings for Van ends up saving both him and Escaflowne in the end. There are flower pedals that fly out of Allen’s ass all the time. Escaflowne the Movie turns into a generic action story, but the TV series is about a lovelorn girl.)

(Fashion Czar: “I thought the shield was the card dealing thing from Yu-Gi-Oh!”)

(Does this anime spark joy? No. Thank you for letting me rant about lazy world-building in isekai anime. It’s not just about you Shield Hero. I am sure Shield Hero is a competent one of those isekais. I’ve seen too much isekai to care. I am sure if you existed in a world with fewer bad isekai anime, you would be a perfectly serviceable show. But in a world over-saturated with bad isekai anime, what exactly distinguishes you? Your skill unlock tree? Your edgy use of leveling up mechanics? Your SSR summoning animation?)


#7. Manaria Friends
CygamesPictures

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“The animals we have over there are a lot bigger than the ones here, I guess.”

Manaria Friends (Mysteria Friends) is a friendship slash yuri fanservice anime set in the Rage of Bahamut cinematic mobileverse. This series is not connected to either Genesis or Virgin Soul except it exists in the same universe (but I wouldn’t mind if Favaro showed up regardless). Yes, one of the main characters is yet another half-dragon, half-human, but she looks a lot more like a half-dragon since she has a tail. Rage of Bahamut can’t stay away from hafus anymore than Terrace House can. Manaria Friends was supposed to be released prior to Virgin Soul, but production issues caused it to be finally released now. This show is the first TV anime produced by Cygames’ in-house anime studio.

Manaria Friends is well-animated and the costume design is not typical anime fantasy train wreck, but there is no engaging hook to the show. We have a princess character who seems like any other standard princess character, and we have a hafu dragon that seems like a typical tomboy-type, which we have already done in Virgin Soul. The show takes place in a magic high school, and I’m not sure if it is leaning towards friendship, yuri, or a poor man’s Little Witch Academia as the story and pacing is painfully slow. This show feels like it is playing it too safe and feels like the anime equivalent of a hot dog in a tortilla.

(Does this anime spark joy? Maybe for some, but the slowness and low calorie nature of this show tends to make me sleepy. Thank you for providing tail fanservice on a scale not seen since Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Meido. Andohbytheway, I am looking forward to S2 of that show.)


#6. The Promised Wonderland
CloverWorks

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“I want to ride a giraffe!”

Is The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Neverland) going to be like SukiSuka, Darling in the FranXX, or Made in Abyss? Nothing good comes from an anime about an orphanage. And… guess what? It turns out that the orphanage is an organic, free-range ranch for raising humans to be eaten like livestock. Apparently smarter humans are tastier to the monsters who are buying the kids as if they are tuna set on ice packs at Tsujuki. I just shudder at what an inhumane non-organic, non-free-range child ranch would look like. There is a real sense of dread watching this show. I am not a fan of dark thrillers, but I can respect the storytelling and the suspense.

  • This house in the middle of a giant forest– how does it get supplies? Are we to believe that a single lady is capable of handling over thirty kids by herself? How much food would need to be trucked in? The kids remark that they have never seen a truck before.
  • Speaking of trucks, how do the monsters drive them without opposable thumbs?
  • Rare Shounen Jump manga series that features a female main character.
  • How many brutally murdered kids do you think we will see by the finale? And is there a true finale since the manga is still on-going?
  • There is more world-building in this show than a majority of isekai anime. I will retract this statement if Emma opens a status window and checks her ability list in episode six to discover that she teleport short distances with a twenty second cooldown timer.

(Fashion Czar: “Neck tattoos on children is not a comforting aesthetic.”)

(Does this anime spark joy? Oh no. It sparks apprehension. Do we keep things like that? Maybe in the garage next to Christmas decorations?)


#5. Domestic Kanojo
Diomedea

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“Just now… I lost my virginity.”

Those are the first words that come out of Domestic Kanojo (Domestic Girlfriend). Anime typically does not normally start off with a random hookup (I think REC was the last time that I could remember), and we all know where this scenario will lead: Harem hijinks! So what are the odds that this typical loser male gets seduced by a girl? What are the odds that the same loser male has the hots for his high school teacher? What are the odds that the loser male’s dad gets remarried and tada his new step sisters are his random hookup and hot teacher? I am surprised that there isn’t a hot stepmom who wants to sex him up as well. To be fair, he slept with the younger sister before they became step siblings so everything is fine, dandy, and kosher. And then, finally, what are the fucking odds that the dad decides to buy a large house so that the newly combined family can all live together under one horny roof?

(I am not kidding about the horniness. The first episode ends with the dad and mom retreating to their bedroom to bone right after dinner, which opens up the loser male to try to kiss his new older sister. The thirst level is not quite Scum’s Wish or Iron-Blooded Orphans, but this show is definitely not Aa! Megami-sama or Tenchi.)

I always find it weird that in anime when parents remarry, they never introduce the kids to the new parent’s family until either the day before the wedding or after the wedding. I would think that would be kind of inconsiderate to all parties involved. Also, the loser male keeps going on about how forbidden teacher/student romance is… has he not watched any anime before? Onegai Teacher? Happy Lesson? Anime knows no bounds. Usagi Drops? I think Domestic Kanojo could be a serviceable harem hijinks shows except, one, the animation is quite poor. The production is severely lackluster, and all the characters look like they are background characters from better funded anime. Two, the loser male lead wants to be a writer, so there are a lot of shots of him staring pensively at blank sheets of paper. What writer in 2019 writes using stacks and stacks of lined paper? Three, the original manga for this franchise has already topped 21 volumes in just 4 years. Do you like Nisekoi with even more one dimensional characters, more filler, and more padding? 21 volumes! This story is not going to end. Goku’s going to die and revive eight more times before this story ends, and do not expect the anime to have a real ending.

(Wait, the karaoke place has a drink buffet? Doesn’t that sap their profits? How are they going to make money if they don’t charge $3 for a can of Diet Coke?)

(Does this anime spark joy? Maybe if the main character stops being so whiny. I do enjoy a good harem anime with ridiculous premises, but the anime is a bit too lackluster, and male lead seems annoyingly bland and whiny. Thank you for the hot teacher who just decides to walk around topless in front of her new step dad and step brother.)

(Wait, how did this show make top five?)

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#4. Hi Score Girl
JC Staff

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“Truly the highest hanging fruit!”

Normally, I would skip all CG shows, but I did enjoy Netflix’s Hi Score Girl to warrant a quick (less than 500 words!) blurb about it. I do like how the show is set back in the nineties during the heydays of arcades, and I am very nostalgic about playing Street Fighter 2, The Simpsons, Area 51, the six player X-Men game, and the one good WWE game. Netflix’s Hi Score Girl captures the atmosphere of a smokey Japanese arcade complete with unapologetic amounts of gatekeeping that is only rivaled by a real 90s arcade. Yep, I can see the beginnings of Japan’s baby crisis right here.

I appreciate how the show uses real games and real metas to really nail that nostalgic vibe. The explanation of Guile’s turtling in Street Fighter 2 and the way to manipulate the score in Final Fight is a nice touch. I do think the show is wrong because Ryu can bust open Guile fairly easily as he can spam hadokens easier than Guile can spam sonic booms, so it forces Guile to initiate, which he doesn’t really want to do. But as Zangief? Good fucking luck. I also do like the copious amounts of physical violence. I did not expect so much IRL ass-whooping in an anime about videogames. Finally, I do like how the main high score girl character doesn’t talk or emote much. A lot of the story and development involve others projecting their own situations on her, much like in Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san. It is a technique that does not always work, but I am always glad to see different narrative approaches in anime.

(“This is co-op play from hell; she gets angry at trivial issues.” Sounds like my typical Dota 2 teammates. Mid or feed, boys.)

(Does this anime spark joy? Yes. Thank you Turtles in Time for eating so many of my damn quarters.)


#3. The Quintessential Quintuplets
Tezuka Productions

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“My first impression of you is that you’re a gloomy loser.”

Egads, another standard harem anime– I thought these were an endangered species. The Quintessential Quintuplets (Quintuplet Brides/Go-toubun no Hanayome) is exactly what you think it is. One guy. Five quintuplet sisters. One mysterious future bride. One super effective little sister. The Quintessential Quintuplets is an anime about a literal poor boy who gets roped into being a tutor for five hot quintuplets who just so happens to be super wealthy, super lazy, and super thirsty. The show starts in the future with the loser male lead supposedly marrying one of them and then flashing back to him starring in a sad poverty anime. He is so smug when he lifehacks the school cafeteria to get slightly cheaper rice that I thought “Hey! That’s the exact same smugness a Netflix executive would have realizing they could film a show in Slovakia for less than in LA.” Gleeful penny-pinching is never fun for the audience. The loser male lead looks a bit like Seto Kaiba crossed with Persona 4’s Yuu, so there is a visual disconnect seeing him poor. Kaiba is the Elon Musk of the anime world. How could this happen? Anyway, the male lead is actually diligent, resourceful, and determined to get what he wants a bit like Kaiba.

The five quintuplets all have typical harem tropes attached to them (oh look it’s the sporty one oh look it’s the mousy one who would have been isekai’ed if this were an otome anime), and I am going to guess he has to win them over one-by-one to get any “studying” done. By the nineteen minute mark of the first episode, he was still trying to herd the sisters to actually start studying. Then one of the sisters roofies him. Great. This show is a rare harem show where I am rooting for the male lead and generally angry at how shitty the harem is (except for Miku who is a jewel and a poetic noble land mermaid). Animation by Tezuka (the Dagashi Kashi team) is fairly good, and I am surprised that I enjoy the show. Maybe the time is ripe for traditional harem to make a comeback and be the hero to kill off the isekai nonsense.

The Quintessential Quintuplets seems like it is a perfectly serviceable harem anime. Animation is smooth, characters aren’t wonky and stay on model, and the haremettes are dressed in a way that doesn’t seem out of the realm of reasonableness (except for the main girl who has star hair pins).

(Does this anime spark joy? Yes, thank you for making me crave Matcha Soda. One thing I miss about Japan is being able to pop into a 7-11 and not get the same drink twice. There are just so many crazy and wacky flavors. What’s next? Iced churro matcha tea?)


#2. Kakegurui ××
MAPPA

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“Yumeko Jabami. Ever since she arrived, the gambling at Hyakkao Academy has become crazier.”

More emo facial distortions. More orgasmic gambling. More luscious lips. More crazy body mutilations. More student council hyper mega power fantasies. More Jabami. More Kakegurui. You know if you are in or out of this crazy gambling anime universe by now.

(I think the title is supposed to be “double cross” rather than “ex ex” or “twenty.” Still, odds of a Kakegurui XXX doujinshi at Comiket 96 has been taken off the table.)

(Both of Netflix’s shows are in the top five in contrast to Sentai who has most of the bottom of the list locked up with W’z, Bermuda Triangle, and Pastel Memories.)

(Does this anime spark joy? ANSWER.)


#1. Mob Psycho 100
Bones

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“I’ve made the decision to consider my feelings more. And to not leave behind what’s important to me.”

We’re back with another season of Mob Psycho 100, and, really, you know if you’re in or out on Mob by now. You don’t need me to tell you how awesome Mob and Reigen are or how well animated this show is. I like how people see through Mob and Reigen so easily, yet neither can see through each other. It’s a fascinating dynamic. Other than that, here are some notes I made:

  • High-Level Spirit Wriggle Wriggle is a great name. Almost as good as Banana Links and Full Frontal.
  • Umami 0% is going to be the name of my new band or my new non-alcoholic version of Four Loko.
  • There’s a hardcore training montage featuring a bear fight. I feel like you should know these things.
  • Reigen is pretty much the best adult to hang around Mob if we want Mob to grow up at a snail’s pace. I think the best possible adult to help out Mob is the King of Conquerors. He worked wonders for Waver.
  • Every season that Mob has been a part of has generally been a bad season. At least this season has Run with the Wind returning.

(Does this anime spark joy? Yes. Thank you both Mob and Reigen for being there during bad anime seasons.)

3 Responses to “thin slicing the new season, winter 2019 edition”

  1. Just my opinion, but Hi Score Girl is easily one of the best anime romances I’ve ever seen. Superficially, it’s a love letter to arcade gaming wrapped in a slapstick comedy. But its beating heart is a story about discovering your passions and pursuing them, and all of the heartbreak involved in doing so. It’s melancholy in the best way possible, and as romantic as any fiction could be.

  2. No joy until practically the end. Says it all about anime at the moment.

  3. Surpassing MJ, burying these posts, now. That deep dive callbacks to REC and Escaflowne gave me the feels. It’s too bad Boogiepop won’t. Does this blog spark joy? Yes.

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