thin slicing the new season, fall 2020 edition

9,000 words, 26 anime, and omfg 2020 is almost finally over.

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 FOURTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the fourteenth anniversary of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome.

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!” or “This show has a great ending!” 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.

Quick recap from last season: Too real is this feeling of make-believe / Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal


#MR. IRRELEVANT.Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle: Rhyme Anima
A-1 Pictures

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“I’m a gangster / You’re a scrawny hamster”

Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle: Rhyme Anima proves once again that the more an anime spends on advertising on Anime News Network’s home page, the worse it is bound to be. It is also a mobage. I’ll just toss it to the Fashion Czar for this one. Here are her thoughts:

  • “Why are they rapping over heavy metal in the opening?”
  • “Why are there two zippers on his hoodie? Why does it go just a third up and down and can’t go through the middle?”
  • “The rapping is really bad. They are barely rapping and not really going along with the music. It’s like the people making the music read a Wikipedia article on rap music and never listened to actual rap music.”
  • “Everything is so ugly. Please fire whomever did the color direction for this show. Oh my gosh, my eyes. This hurts to look at.”
  • “The shouta’s voice is just irritating. I don’t want to hear him sing. Who would give him money for that?”
  • “Why do they all rap in groups of three?”

(blog好き: Heterochromia: “We can’t think of anything else for their character design. We’re bankrupt of ideas!”)

(Instead of watching this anime, I suggest playing a round of Mad Verse City.)


#25. Rail Romanesque
Saetta

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“The purpose of this meeting is to come up with ideas that will revolutionize the industry! We are producing merch.”

Rail Romanesque is if a cute girls being cute show collided with Sakura Quest on a railroad track but had a twelve year old as the head writer. Two things of note about this show: One, it still doesn’t have a Wikipedia page as I’m writing this in mid-October late-November. Two, it’s also one of the lowest rated shows (hovering around a magnificent 4.5) on MAL for the season. At first, I thought this show was based on a mobage because of how fast the Railords (“Railords”? More like Railolils) are rolled at us. Besides a vast cast of forgettable and poorly designed Railolis, this show does not have much else going for it. The animation quality is lackluster. The story about promoting tourism on trains is surface level fluff. The character designs and dialogue should both be sent to the shadow realm. The OP/ED are also low budget, boring affairs with music that doesn’t fit but lines the pocket of the production committee.

(Fashion Czar: “I’m just going to sleep.”)

(If I went back in time and told people in 1990 that Mariah Carey’s music would be more culturally relevant than Madonna’s in 2020, no one would believe me. Always Be My Baby and All I Want for Christmas Is You have aged nicely the past three decades and still get featured in pop culture. Mariah has nothing to do with the Railolis, but I just heard All I Want for Christmas Is You on Spotify as I was writing about Rail Romanesque.)


#24. Ikebukuro West Gate Park
Doga Kobo

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“Drugs (read: marijunana) are the enemy of G-Boys.”

Is Ikebukuro West Gate Park going to be a homeless man’s Durarara? Are they like, “The guy who writes Durarara has switched over to writing Fate so let’s step in and fill the Ikebukuro void.” Why is it always Ikebukuro? Why isn’t there an anime about the gangs of Setagaya or Minato? To make the comparison to Durarara more striking, the gangs in IWGP are also color-coded both in clothing and in names. But they kind of overdue it, so some characters look more like Power Rangers than they do gang members. Then, well, the early plot revolves around both fruit ramen topped with whipped cream and how marijunana is the bane of society. I’m like, “Wow, this feels dated” so I hopped over to Wikipedia… and… well… IWGP predates Durarara by almost two decades. This source material is ancient and feels as dated as Yahoo! in 2020. Though it does have a funny scene of a hacker stationed at a family restaurant hacking into a mainframe using three laptops while at this fine established with an all-you-can-drink bar. You know what family restaurants are known for? Their reliable and fast wifi connections.

The plot to the first episode is resolved by the main character bringing an underaged kid into a drug den (marijunana smoke shop) and planting drugs in the store. Here’s a back of the BD cover quote for Funimation, “If you believe marijunana is to blame for the decline of society, and you believe that planting evidence is perfectly okay for police officers to do, then this show will tick your boxes.”


#23. Dropout Idol Fruit Tart
Feel

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“Anyway, there are too many child actors these days.”

Dropout Idol Fruit Tart is a show about failed idols becoming idols again because there are men horny and desperate enough to fill any and all segmented niche fetish. Have there been idol groups based on girls who like gunpla? Or girls who play Among Us? Or girls who work at cat cafes? Or girls who are part of a Great British Bake-Off fan club? This show is devoid of any attempt at storytelling. I’m glad we are told in a 2 minute rapid-fire segment what is wrong with all the girls (complete with infographics) instead of actually developing stories for them. We also really needed to know that the short girl really hates being short multiple times in the first five minutes of this show. Once it was clear that no failed idol on this show enjoys Fate, Among Us, or crepe cakes, I knew Dropout Idol Fruit Tart wasn’t the show for me. (But, obviously, since this show is made, it is for someone. Maybe that lucky person who buys this BD box set and 50 can pins of the short idol can be you.)

Production budget is just about what you would expect from a failed idol production. At one point, the girls were going to sing a song, and they just skipped right past it. We didn’t even get a CG performance. Why am I still watching this show? Why does anyone watch this show? I also like how there’s a 1996-era camcorder in this show. Do people under 15 actually recognize those anymore? Like, “Dude, why don’t you use a mirrorless camera or your damn phone to take a video?” The character design of the purple-haired girl also bothers me… it’s not great aesthetically but every time I see her huge, round dango hair, I keep thinking, “Why hasn’t Disney sued them for infringement yet?”

(Fashion Czar: “The fifth idol looks like an early pass at the main character… she is very clearly the fifth member.”)


#22. Iwa-Kakeru! Climbing Girls
Production IG

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“I would have ended up as a person who couldn’t do anything but game.”

I’m so confused about Iwa-Kakeru! Climbing Girls. I thought it would be some sort of fanservice sports anime a la Keijo!!!!!!!! (with all 8 exclamation marks), but weirdly the girls uniform changes halfway through the first episode. Suddenly, even though the girls were outside on the climbing wall this entire time, their midriffs went from uncovered to covered with some bad rush art. Why would anyone do this? For just half an episode? And then not modify the ED where the girls are showing off their bellies? Who had a problem with this? Did some executive watch this and go, “It’s too sexy. Cover up those bodies.” “But we’re airing in 2 days!” “Okay, just cover them up for a seven minute period.” The show has some booty and boob shots, but it seems like it is ashamed of it. It’s a fanservice anime that half-asses fanservice while it should be whole assing it. Andobytheway, the animation is poor as well. A lot of climbing action is obscured by still shots of zoom-in of faces.

Also, the show presents climbing as some sort of puzzle game. The main girl loves some knock-off version of Candy Crush Saga, has a hair pin shaped like a puzzle piece, and originally wants to join a puzzle club. Sure, there are some mental aspects to climbing, but it is definitely also dependent on having gargantuan upper body strength. Look, we have all seen American Gladiators. No one on that show is going to end up in positive money territory if they were on Jeopardy. One of the highlight events on American Gladiators is The Where where the contestant has to race up a climbing wall while a gladiator chases them down. There’s no puzzle other than “What steroid cocktail is Malibu using now?” Climbing as a puzzle game cheapens both climbing and puzzle games and makes it seem like the mangaka has never gone climbing before.

(I think having an American Gladiator-styled competition would have made this show a lot better.)

(Fashion Czar: She left the living room before the episode was even half over.)


#21. King’s Raid
OLM

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“Come on Kasel, you have to be able to protect my lunch.”

King’s Raid is a boring anime based off of a mobage. Everything about this show is bland– the setting, the animation, the music, the training montage (seriously, how can one make a dull training montage?), the characters, and the dialogue. The main character’s personality is “I want to protect others (but I’m not sure if I’m strong enough yet)!” Surely that’s an original character angle that’s never been done before. I guess the part of this show that troubled me is that at one point, a dark-skinned elf enters the town, and the townspeoples’ immediate reaction is to run to the blonde police officer and ask him to arrest the elf for being suspicious despite the fact the elf just literally entered town. That’s a bit too much for me to deal with in 2020.

The animation quality for King’s Raid surely doesn’t scream “This is a successful and popular money-making mobage.” It screams instead, “We probably shouldn’t have commissioned an anime with our dwindling player base continuing to flee to Genshin Impact.” The ED is the same image overlaid on top of itself over and over again while a sad song by KOTOKO plays on.

(fripSide continues trying to recapture the magic of Only My Railgun the same way Greg Daniels keeps trying to recapture the magic of The Office. Just not going to happen. Only My Railgun is a perfect song that should be in every rhythm game and also kick off the Tokyo Olympics if they ever happen.)


#20. Maesetsu! Opening Act
Studio Gokumi

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“I wanna be behind the mic making everyone laugh.”

The eyes of the characters in Maesetsu! Opening Act look so big and lifeless. They look like the slimes from By the Grace of the Gods. Eyes need to be slightly smaller and have pupils. That’s probably the most notable thing for this show. The premise is that a bunch of girls (doing the cute girls doing cute girls genre) are trying to do standup comedy. That’s the punchline. You know how Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu started with a strong opening rakugo act and kept delighting us with great rakugo performances to become one of MAL’s highest rated shows of 2016? Well, Maesetsu! Opening Act is the exact opposite. Twelve minutes in, we still haven’t seen a comedy routine. The show interestingly decides to show a full air band routine and cut away at the start of a comedy routine after one joke.

The comedy in this anime about standup are bad and non-joyous. The pacing is slow, and the direction is strange with one segment where the characters describe a comedy act that they just did. Why not just show the damn comedy act? I guess that’s the mood of this show: Me waving my fist at my 13” Sony Trinitron TV going, “Give me some comedy!” Funimation, you are welcome to put that quote on the back of the BD for this show.

(Fashion Czar: “Who brings a toddler to a late night standup act?”)

(Besides the obvious reasons why you don’t bring a toddler to a late night comedy act is “Muffin.” Whenever a toddler is overtired but can’t sleep, they go into a state best described as part hallengenic trip, part wavy used car dealership air thingie, and part nii-paa~, and we call it “Muffin” after the Bluey episode of the same name. Yesterday night our toddler went into Muffin mode, jumped into our Christmas tree, and tried to hang doggie poop bags as ornaments.)


#19. Magatsu Wahrheit: Zuerst
Yokohama Animation Laboratory

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“There may be hostilities. Bring some weapons.”

Whenever I watch a new anime, I ask, “Is this based off of a mobage?” because, well, it’s 2020 and everything is based off of a mobage. Yep. Magatsu Wahrheit: Zuerst is based off of a gatchapon mobile game. Global release happens soon. The graphics look like a PS2-era JRPG and somehow looks like an older version of Valkyria Chronicles… the first one not four. Anyway, the anime looks slightly better than the mobage, and it is about how humanity has divided itself into a two class system with the rich living in walled cities while the poor live in shantytowns as dystopic human extinction looms on the horizon. So, basically, 2020. The setting resembles the southwest states, and, somehow, much like Gibrante from last season, militaries with guns and missiles crumble before these mutants adversaries, but a bunch of randos with swords can easily defeat them. These randos can block bullets with katanas even. Overall, it’s an uninspired setting and plot filled with bland, boring characters. The cast is fairly large (since, well, it’s a mobage), but none of them stand out to the point that I couldn’t even identify which one of them would be the icon girl.

(Fashion Czar: “Who do you even play as in this game?”)


#18. Taisou Zamurai
MAPPA

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“Those movements are even better than Keanu’s!”

For a show named Taisou Zamurai (The Gymnastics Samurai), there really isn’t a lot of gymnastics going on. The CG gymnast looks really out of place. Backgrounds look like they were drawn in an afternoon. Everything about this show screams, “Limited production budget,” which is odd since this show is by MAPPA and as a “prestige” time slot in NUMAnimation. This show probably has some of the worst production quality to come out of MAPPA. Is their whole staff on Attack on Titan at this point?

The actual story is uninteresting. How many professional male gymnasts in their mid-thirties are there in the whole world? Four? The main character has almost zero personality, and we are supposed to feel sad for him. He might as well be isekai’ed and reborn as a book or something. Taisou Zamurai is supposed to take place in the early 00s, and the only way it really references that is that this show is loaded with references to The Matrix. The ED also has an inexplicable reference to a Blind Melon song from the 90s… who is going to get that obscure reference besides people who watched a lot of MTV in the 90s and married an anime blogger who keeps writing about anime even though blogging has been killed by Facebook? What is the audience for this show? Did they watch The Great Pretender and think, “Wow, ripping off old music videos is a great idea” but fail to secure the rights to the actual song?

(Of course to emphasize that the child’s mom passed away, there is a cut away shot of a framed picture of mom to hammer home the point that the mom was isekai’ed to a world resembling a VRMMORPG where she now pilots WWII-era airplanes against giant monsters.)

(Fashion Czar: “That is one trendy grandma.”)


#17. Assault Lily
Shaft

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“I’m going to be a Lily and fight the Huge.”

Assault Lily is such a bad show, even my notes are disjointed for it.

  • Ctrl-V and… Heterochromia: “We can’t think of anything else for their character design. We’re bankrupt of ideas!”
  • Weapons are called “Charms,” girls are called, “Lily,” and the monsters are, “Huge.” Did they just open an English dictionary and pick the first nouns that they see to name all the shit?
  • Never a good sign when a character introduces herself by telling the audience how to write her name. “Call me Ishmael. Loop back from the L to finish the I in cursive.”
  • I’m glad that in this dystopic, monster-ridden world, we can still train girls to fight for our survival in a posh high school surrounded by greenery and tea parties and zero teachers in sight.
  • Ten minutes in, nothing has happened except we got the cursory Azur Lane “We got over 12 characters to introduce in 5 minutes!” introduction sequence.
  • A group of girls, err Lily-tachi, decide to go monster hunting before the opening ceremony? Without any training? Or consulting their teachers? Or have their weapons out? What could possibly go wrong? What could possibly go wrong with Dwight Howard in a strip club and no condoms?
  • The monsters are so tough, no one can defeat them except high school girls. Except during this whole episode about a new Lily joining the school, we see zero people who aren’t students. There aren’t any staff or teachers or other personnel. We don’t even get the sexy 30 year old teacher who bemoans that she’s too old to get married.
  • Animation is good enough to make me think that there will be a gatcha game for this franchise. Shaft could use this money.
  • How desperate is Shaft for money at this point?

(Fashion Czar: “That’s a tiny waist to hip ratio. I feel like something is off with the proportions like the ankles are too thin for how thick they make the thighs. If the thighs are that plump, they should be closer together. They shouldn’t have a thigh gap when they are that plump. Also, the folds in the boob area of their shirts confuse me.”)


#16. Senyoku no Sigdrifa
A-1 Pictures

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“You are reassigned to Japan. Best of luck.”

Senyoku no Sigdrifa is best described as “Let’s make an Azur Lane-like, except with WW2-era airplanes. If this anime takes off, we can start developing a mobage.” The opening scene features magic dragons destroying about $20 billion worth of B2 Spirit bombers and F-35 Lightning IIs so we all know what is coming next: Anime girls are going to save the day! The basic premise– that’s ripe for being turned into a mobage in the near future– is that mysterious monsters called “The Named” are threatening the world, and Odin bestows his Valkyries to us mere mortals to help defeat them. Oh, the Valkyries pilot old timey airplanes with old timey weapons imbued with magic. There is a lot to process.

One, the true religion for this world isn’t Oharuhi-sama but instead Odin, who can change himself from being a grumpy old man with an eyepatch to a shouta in a boy band with an eyepatch in the blink of the eye. Odin is popular this season. Two, why is the German girl flying a British WWI plane, and the Japanese girl is flying a German WWII plane? Would it have been weird if she flew a Hellcat or Corsair instead? Why is there no central command directing things? Where are the AWACS support? Three, if the girls are integrated into the military, how come none of them wear military uniforms? And only one of them gets to wear pants? Four, “The Named”? This show backs my theory that Japanese writers just open a dictionary and settle on the first noun that they find. Five, I’m glad to see that newspapers are still doing well in this dystopic future world. Yet why is the German newspaper all written in English?

(Fashion Czar: “First impressions are really important. Don’t let them judge you… I say that as a girl wearing a tiny top hat and a bare midriff as a military uniform.”)

(I can’t believe this show isn’t already a mobage with Claudia as the heroine on the icon and also the starter rare i.e. the Mash or the Amiya. Miko, who looks like a Miko, sure looks like a potential three star. Sonoka is definitely the low rarity one who you’ll roll hundreds of in the free gatcha.)


#15. Moriarty the Patriot
Production IG

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“I just don’t find detectives to my liking.”

Fashion Czar has pointed out to me that I do like watching mystery anime, and that I would even watch mediocre to bad mystery anime where I wouldn’t watch mediocre magic battle high school. After all, I did watch all of Haruchika, and I loved that coin wall. Moriarty the Patriot is not even in the same league as Holmes of Kyoto and Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation. There are clues and logical deduction and just enough suspense, and the twist is simply that he uses crime to punish crime. Sometimes, I feel like the crime to punish crime is a bit of a stretch, and none of it is terribly interesting outside of masturbatory justice. I imagine a little Blacklist and a little Hannibal going in, but it feels more like a bad morality anime. I also can’t get over that there are not one but three Moriartys. They could all form a boy band. One of the three Moriarty looks like Dracula, the music is asstastic budget boy band music, and the animation is one of the worst of the season.

(Fashion Czar: “I can tell this ain’t Japan because he’s wearing shoes in bed.”


#14. 100 man no Inochi
Maho Film

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“This feels more and more like a game.”

Oh good, just want the world needs– more isekai. I’m Standing on a Million Lives is yet another comedic attempt at isekai. It has harem elements! It has game mechanics! It has a creepy CG character who can best be described as “the outcome if you described over a poor audio quality Zoom call what Dr. Manhattan looks like to a 3D artist from Vietnam who doesn’t understand any English or read any comic books.” The prokai is typical prokai fare: Very boring, has short dark hair, and has the personality of a shampoo bottle. Though if the twist is that he’s an evil person who will win using questionable means… I mean… aren’t there already a ton of demon lord isekai and fantasy light novel franchises already? The animation is also quite rough with many budget cuts, lots of speed lines, and awful monster designs. Overall, I’m Standing on a Million Lives is a low tier isekai with forgettable animation without interesting characters or hooks to make it stand out in the dirac sea of isekai.

(FZ: “This lacks taste. Oh gosh.”)


#13. Adachi and Shimamura
Tezuka Productions

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“The rain’s not your fault.”

How do you know she didn’t cause the rain? I’ve seen a movie about that recently. Overall, I enjoyed Weathering With You, but that last act felt it dragged on a bit too long. The ending also didn’t feel like it fit and feels more like the prequel to Evangelion than the ending to Weathering With You. Anyway, I can only imagine a production meeting for Adachi to Shinamura: “We need to make it clear in the first two minutes that this will be a blossoming lesbian love anime. If it isn’t clear by the second minute, we’ll just bludgeon our audience with an OP that makes it crystal clear. And lilies– lilies everywhere!” This show is a very boring yuri anime that tries to be tender and stylish yet only manages to make me drowsy. It feels like it is assembled from a mish-mash of stuff that the creative team thought needs to be in a yuri anime. Spinning umbrellas? Check. Forlorn shots of a sad girl in the rain? Check. Needlessly long recounting of how the two girls met? Check. Artsy shots of a book? Check. Absolutely zero realistic small talk between high school girls? Check. Lilies? Check. Double check. Triple check.

The dialogue is very stiff, and the characters have as much personality as corn bread. The girls also do not behave like high school girls; they behave like what 40 year old men who never had kids think what high school girls behave like. What girl in 2020 would want to buy a textbook on how to get better at ping pong over asking on social media or watching YouTube/TikTok? Who would draw a map on a piece of paper to use as directions to a friend’s house? (This point is even more puzzling because the girls were using their phones a few scenes prior. There are more to app phones than just playing mobages, Japan.) How often do high school girls grab each others’ boobs in the middle of a bookstore? Would a high school girl nonchalantly sit down on a wet bike seat while wearing a mini-skirt? None of the actions of the characters feel like actual high school girls. Adachi to Shimamura puts a bit too emphasis on being sullen and moody and forgets about making its characters likeable and relatable.

(The original light novel author for this series is Hitoma Iruma, a man in his mid-thirties who also wrote Denpa Onna. Also, for a millennial, he seems very out-of-touch with everything. I half-expected one of the girls to send a fax at some point.)


#12. Hanyou no Yashahime
Sunrise

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“Tokyo? Well? Princess?”

Nanyou no Yashahime’s first episode feels like a filler episode of Inuyasha. The whole framing device of using Towa to tell a random ass story about Kagome and Inuyasha feels half-assed and does more to kindle nostalgia than advance the story. The whole show is geared to kids who probably do not know or care about Inuyasha (the show has character title cards cut-in for Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru as if this were a bad mobage turned anime), so why bother with a random filler story lifted out of Mob Psycho 100? Everything that bothered me about Inuyasha still bothers me now: He still doesn’t wear shoes, and he doesn’t give the tsundere shtick a rest. Even Chitoge Kirisaki says give it a rest. The animation is passable (strangely the ladies all looked aged up while the men all look the same… and good thing Sango was wearing her bodysuit under her mom kimono), and I’m sure the show will have its fans, but who thought that Goku would be dethroned as anime’s most negligent dad? Goku!

From Moroha’s wiki entry: “Moroha is the only daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome Higurashi… Moroha knows very little of her parents as she has lived alone. Inuyasha and Kagome apparently never told anyone about Moroha.” Is Moroha literally Emperor Palatine’s granddaughter? At least Gendo Ikari found a caretaker for Shinji. What happened? I do not want to watch the show to find out. And Towa is one of two daughters of Sesshoumaru, yet we don’t know the mom. And, yes, much like Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru has completely abandoned her daughter. Somewhere Naruto is claiming his prize for Best Shounen Anime Title Character Dad. Naruto!

Also, the character designs look like they are from 1990. Towa looks like the bastard child of Colonel Sanders and Sesshoumaru, and Moroha is just like, “Well, I dunno. She looks like her mom but doesn’t ever, ever wear shoes like Inuyasha. Also, let’s give her a bow and a sword because mom and dad certainly weren’t around to teach her how to use those.”

(Fashion Czar: “Can someone get Inuyasha some shoes?”)

(The OP, NEW ERA, to this show is awful. It sounds like what five high school boys would consider edgy music, and their uncle owned the music studio so no one told them how bad it was. It would be exactly what Inuyasha listens to, but no audience should be subjected to it.)


#11. By the Grace of the Gods
Maho Film

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I have a lot of questions for yet another isekai, By the Grace of the Gods (Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko):

  • This light novel series is written by someone named “Roy.” If “Roy” is the best pseudonym that this author can come up with, how much imagination is this person going to have exactly?
  • The main prokai isn’t afraid that the slimes will experiment or mutate and develop a taste for human flesh? How does the dirt slime know to eat the dirt and not the dishes? How does the slime tell the difference between a human bone and a chicken bone?
  • How does a random soldier know if something’s medicine or not by smelling it?
  • Another soldier carries around a crystal ball that can tell if someone is a criminal? And it tells you their name and age? How does the crystal know the laws of the nation? How does it know the level of his household skills? Everything about these soldiers just seem so convenient.
  • “I knew my current job will kill me eventually anyway.” One, why does he look like a bodybuilder if he is working overtime all the time? Is he pumping iron with fax machines during meetings? Two, how is it okay that his boss hits him with a beer bottles? Even for Japan, this seems like an audacious level of abuse. Three, how many people die in Japan because of overwork? Four, can isekai light novels think of a way to kill off their protagonists other than traffic accidents or overwork?
  • Their world is running out of magic, but earth has plenty, so they want to harvest magic from earth and send it over. This setup is unnecessarily complicated, and I’m not sure if Roy is aware of all the colonialism implications of this scheme. The prokai has to sign a contact and be reborn as an eight year old. Why does a deity who can cross worlds need a terms of service agreement? Who are you going to complain to? Maya Rudolph? Also, he has stats like an online game– he said so himself– and just like low tier isekai, this strange fantasy world is not developed at all and RPG shortcuts are used in place of proper world building. The only thing we are missing is HP numbers popping up whenever something gets hit.
  • No one else thinks it’s sketchy that ultimately this show is about a 39 year old man dying, retaining all his memories, and then falling in love with an 11 year old girl? I mean, so what if he has the body of a young boy? Why is he attracted to a loli and not someone of age?

(Fashion Czar: “What is the demographic for this show?” Me: “39 year old lolicons.”)


#10. Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World
Silver Link

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“You’re an anti-war berserker.”

Is Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World (Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Arui wa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen) a witch anime? Or is it a late, pale imitator of Sword Art Online? Or both? The opening narration sequence that crams the history of the world– witches oppressed people, and Spartacus rose up against the oppressors and lead people to freedom thus leading to the current state of witches vs. technology– into a tidy two minute segment. Can you imagine if the first scene in Game of Thrones was, “Jon Snow is Rhaegar Targaryen’s and Lyanna Stark’s love child.” We can’t have world-building because we have to skip to the cool bishounen using swords and the witches showing off cleavage. After this serious narration of war and death, we are treated to a dark prison escape scene. Then a huge tonal shift occurs, and we are staring at an ass shot of a waitress in a family restaurant. And guess what? The waitress has to work as a waitress while being a soldier because reasons.

Then we get a scene of the technologist soldiers deploying to fight witches. They are supposedly veterans of many campaigns, but they felt the need to explain to each other what are witches and how does magic work. It’s almost like the author decided that instead of naturally revealing the nature of the world, it is just easier to have an awkward conversation that dumps all the data. The male lead has Kirito’s haircut, color scheme, and coat, and he also dual wields swords when no other sword user around him duel wields. The female lead is named Alice and has Asuna’s color scheme and uses magic… but has an inflated bosom and doesn’t feel the need to wear a bra as she flies around. This show might be the Torque to Sword Art Online‘s Fast and Furious.

(Why is everyone surprised that the male lead can slice through stuff with a sword? If they are impressed by this guy, they would be blown away by Goemon Ishikawa XIII.)

(Fashion Czar: “Alice’s outfit looks so uncomfortable and ill-fitting.”)


#9. Talentless Nana
Bridge

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“You all have question marks on your faces, so let’s just get it out of the way.”

I have plenty of questions about Talentless Nana (Munou no Nana). Why would an elite academy for superpowered teens look and act exactly like a Japanese high school built pre-WWII? Why aren’t they trained and guided in a more X-Men-ish environment? And where is the discipline needed to guide them to be saviors of mankind? Why does the island resemble a rural Japanese village? Why is there an empty restaurant– not even staffed– exist on this island? Why not have the school, dorms, and facilities all grouped together? Why does the anime oscillate between looking like a low budget after school club show and a low budget horror anime? Why do so many shots rely on hair obscuring the eyes of various characters? Has the power to neutralize other power been done before?

Even the Fashion Czar had questions: “Are they not actually fighting enemies but eventually each other? And this turns into a battle royale? Is that what is actually happening? And that’s why no adult seems to care what is going on?”

Well, turns out there’s a good answer at least for that question. I think the twist would have been more effective if after the Heihachi-ing occurred, and we cut to the OP or ED. We didn’t need exposition from the character explaining the twist to us. Have some faith in your audience.

(Right now, one of my daughter’s favorite games is that she puts her stuffed animals on a bed or a chair, and then she tosses them all off one by one just like Heihachi and Kazuya.)


#8. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear
EMT Squared

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“WORLD FANTASY ONLINE THE FIRST VRMMORPG”

I didn’t expect an anime called “Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear” to start with a half-dead, passed-out horse in front of a fantasy town. Yep. It’s yet another “Hey, let’s use RPG cliches instead of actual world-building to build this fantasy world.” Also, because Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear said so, this fact has to be true: World Fantasy Online is anime’s first VRMMORPG. And it totally checks out. No other VRMMORPG has been even mentioned in an anime before. This franchise has 16 light novels published in the past 5 years, and we all know 5 years ago was when book publishing was invented by Jeff Bezos. And definitely no other VRMMORPG is played by slipping on VR goggles and then go to sleep on a bed. There’s no explanation why the main character doesn’t need to use a controller. Zip. Zilch. Nada. So maybe the VR gear has a way to directly tap into the player’s nerves… some sort of Nerve Gear…

And, you guessed it, the main heroine is an overpowered character in this VRMMORPG by playing unconventionally. By unconventionally I mean she raises her defense stats to max is a bear tamer and uses an assortment of bear-related spells, weapons, armor, and attacks and dresses as a bear. She has bear guns. I thought they were just guns that looks like bears… well… they are guns that look like bears that shoot fire bears. I mean, that’s kinda cool. Too bad everything else about this VRMMORPG has the personality of mashed potatoes. This show needs more fire bear bullets and less RPG cliches.

(The main character is a wealthy day trader who gets pudding and omurice delivered to her daily. I mean, isn’t that the real life equivalent of being overpowered in an VRMMORPG?)


#7. Maou-jou de Oyasumi
Doga Kobo

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“Quest: Hairband. But there’s no point if it’s not cute.”

Maou-jou de Oyasumi (Good Night at the Demon Castle) is witty, clever, and funny, but it feels like a Saturday Night Live Skit that works fine as an eight minute sketch three times a season not as a full blown twelve episode series. The premise is simple enough: A princess gets abducted by a demon king, and a hero has to save them. The twist is the princess loves to get her beauty rest, and she becomes homicidal in order to achieve it. Not a little homicidal… very homicidal. Higurashi homicidal. She manages to do some major damage to the demon king’s army and his wardrobe as she tries to find her perfect sleeping arrangement. She also has some great conversations with herself and has a tremendous inner voice which eggs her to commit more murders so she can sleep better. The problem is that I don’t know how this premise fills a whole season. She already managed to complete most of her quests by the end of the first episode, and the gags, while great, have already started to recycle themselves. The only thing she hasn’t done yet is murder someone for their Apple Watch so she can track her sleep cycles (probably saving this plot for the season finale). Somehow this princess of Goodreste has already appeared in 14 volumes of manga so maybe Japan is just thirsty for sleeping princesses.

Animation is decent, and there is a cute monster aesthetic. I like the bears with bat wings who the princess eventually bribes with hair brushing. The character design can be described as “Dragon Quest-inspired cast except for the princess who looks like she could be the icon girl for a mobage.” This Goodreste franchise could still be a mobage one day– “I rolled an SSR ultra rare deluxe phoenix down pillow!”

(Fashion Czar: “Is that a combo of Johnny Depp’s two roles of Edward Scissorhands and The Matter Hatter”?)


#6. Tonikawa Kawaii
Seven Arcs

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“Seriously this girl is seriously cute.”

From one of our greatest philosophers of the twenty-first century: If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it. Tonikawa Kawaii is all about putting a ring on it, even before asking for a first name or a last name. The premise is as if Ah! Megami-sama was retold in 2018 but without goddesses and devils (and without the mangaka getting into sex scandals). The male and female lead gets thrust together without really knowing each other, and they develop a relationship as the male lead fends off new haremettes that pop out of the nowhere. This manga is also Kenjiro Hata’s newest work after spending over 13 years on Hayate the Combat Butler. The male lead, Nasa-kun, is basically the final version of Hayate that has finally noticed girls. The female lead, Tsukasa, is a mash up of Nagi and Hinagiku.

Animation is rough, and the dub step music is worse than the boy band music in Moriarty the Patriot. Tonikawa Kawaii feels like a budget anime that is just relying on its manga’s popularity. And, really, if you managed to get through all 15,532 volumes of Combat Butler and still want more, then this show delivers. If you want a low calorie shounen romance with slapstick comedy? It delivers enough to tide you over until Miku’s and Futaro’s wedding next season.

(Who names their kid “Nasa”? Give you kid a fighting chance and name them something sensible like “Wolverine” Or “Alexis Alexander”.)

(Speaking of bad names… how does “Tonikawa Kawaii” which is literally “Always Cute” turn into “Fly Me to the Moon” as it’s original official English name turn into “TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You” as its new English name? I have memories of Shadow Warrior Chronicles… *shudders*)

(Fashion Czar: “Nasa’s teenage hormones are going wild.”)


#5. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni
Passione

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“Guess the game is back on today.”

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni 2020 is as necessary as that slice of pizza that I just ate after eating five other slices of pizza, half an order of buffalo wings, a few jalapeno poppers, and a bunch of garlic knots. I honestly would rather get another season of Umineko than a sightly more polished retelling of Higurashi. The best and worst things about this show:

  • “NI PAA!,” killer lolis, Mr. Delicious, and the KFC knockoff were early (bad) anime memes before we called them memes. Nice to see them return, kinda like watching Mike Bibby play on a Big3 team.
  • Nonsensical plot that never makes sense. The storytelling loopholes, macguffins, character lapses, and casual use of supernatural powers to forward the plot makes Rise of Skywalker seem like Charles Fucking Dickens.
  • Does it mean it wasn’t fun? Of course Higurashi was a fun and memeable show, but time looping tragedies aren’t uncommon in anime… especially in the late 00s. It was up against Haruhi… not to mention a murderer’s row of Steins;Gate, Madoka, Erased, Re:Zero, Tatami Galaxy, Charlotte, and Fate/Stay Night that all tell great time looping stories. (Except Fate. Because being lancer is suffering over and over and over again.)
  • Every five minutes, I hear the Fashion Czar ask, “Why is this back?”
  • If you complained to me that I didn’t play the game thus didn’t understand Higurashi yet are now complaining that you don’t understand Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia because you don’t play FGO… HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Really though the decision to show Babylonia before Camelot is a K1 Maebara kind of decision. Gudako meets First Hassan in Camelot, and First Hassan tells him that he is reluctant to interfere because he is the Grand Assassin (he does anyway), but it puts Gudako’s quest on First Hassan’s radar, which sets up the events in Babylonia.
  • One of my favorite tidbits that have surfaced in the past fourteen years is that Ryukishi07, the writer of both Higurashi and Umineko, watched the first season and requested that they animate an original story, Yakusamashi-hen, because he felt the first season lacked major plot details.
  • The music. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni the theme song is still good in 2020. I do miss all the doujinshi-level soundtracks for visual novels turned anime.
  • A fingernail scene that was only surpassed a decade later by Kakegurui.
  • Of course the studio marketed this show as a “remake” but then went NI PAA! and shyly imply it’s not a remake but yet another whatever. In this version, K1 grabs Mion’s right boob as he trips and falls rather than the left one. But the only way to truly understand the implications of this subtle yet profound difference is to play the Synder cut of the original game and then the JJ Abrams remake of the DS game followed by rolling for Boba Tea Rena in the mobage.

(Fashion Czar: “You can tell it is the 80s based on all the vests the characters wear.”)

(I was reading a review for The Mandalorian where the writer complained about how Mando-kun isn’t properly portrayed as a father because we don’t see him changing diapers. That’s exactly what someone who doesn’t have a kid would write. There’s a lot more to being a dad than changing diapers or dealing with throw ups. There’s the whole mechanical aspect: Changing diapers, burping, putting to sleep, feeding, endless amounts of laundry, etc. That’s just chores. What’s not easy is just being there for your child and engaging with their emotional needs. It sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s when you are dead tired and just wanted to sit and rest but your daughter wants a piggy back ride. Or you just got from work, and your son just wants to play Hot Wheels. Or when your daughter wants you to read to her Biscuit Finds a Friend for the 15,532nd time. “Being there for your child” is hard and draining. I know many dads who do not do this who either escape into their work or just sit their child in front of the TV. Mando-kun is present for Gro– Baby Yoda. So what if he doesn’t change diapers or don’t properly screen his babysitters? He’s there for the little one. If Baby Yoda gets somes sort of life-threatening disease, Mando-kun’s going to blow up half the galaxy to save him.)

(And, yeah, the reason thin slicing is happening on week nine is because if I had to decide to use the last of my energy to give my daugther a piggyback ride or write about Higurashi, I’m going to give that piggyback ride.)


#4. Jujutsu Kaisen
MAPPA

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“I still don’t get this stuff about curses.”

The first thing that popped into my head as I watched the beginning of Jujutsu Kaisen was “Wow, that’s some detailed background art of a nurse’s room. We saw it for a whole five seconds and will probably never see it again. How long did it take someone to draw it?” This show is a fairly standard and modern shounen action show with a bunch of plucky young teens, curses, monsters, and eyeballs growing where eyeballs shouldn’t grow. I do like this show because it actually feels like a written show than a Powerpoint slide (see: Azur Lane) that is just trying to hit bullet points. There are small scenes that I appreciate, like when the baby is trying to grab the main character’s flowers. You know what show did these small scenes the best? Yuru Camp. None of them are important to the story, but they do show the characters’ personalities without a narrator telling us or having awkward info dump dialogue segments.

Animation is great, and the action sequences feel like they have some heft to them. It’s a fun show with characters who feel like characters rather than walking tropes. Is it going to be Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba? Hahahaha no.


#3. Akudama Drive
Pierrot

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“I’m not on the Akudama list because I cheated it.”

I enjoy watching Akudama Drive— it seems like it is a better Suicide Squad than Suicide Squad. The show drips in style, is patently ridiculous (and revels in it), and never lets the foot off the pedal. It is part Blade Runner, part Running Man, part Suicide Squad, and part No More Heroes… with a mousy self-insert girl as the lead character. The setting of a cyberpunking Osaka draped in purple glow is interesting; almost all cyberpunk or futuristic dystopic settings in Japan are based around Tokyo, but this show celebrates Osaka and its takoyaki to its fullest. The main protagonist’s character design is interesting without being too over-the-top… and she looks downright normal compared to the rest of the gang. But probably the most interesting character is the bike, which kind of reminds me of the Batmobile from Arkham Knights with the grappling hook (I’m glad Vin and the fam got my memo on using more grappling hooks), but it also has a railgun.

At first, with the high production values (moving reflections in glasses are even animated), the way the characters do cut-ins, and how tier lists and S-ranks are discussed in the show, I thought Akudama Drive was based on a mobage. Nope. It’s an original work that might be a mobage someday. Even if the show just prioritizes style and action over substance, it is still an interesting watch full of action set pieces. Though if it can cobble together a solid story and continue to be as crazy as the last few episodes of Gurren Lagann, this will be a fun ride.

(Fashion Czar: “I would describe this show as ‘bombastic.’ It’s the opposite of the previous show that I watched.” Editor’s note: The previous show was Adachi to Shimamura.)

(My favorite part was the reveal of who the actual mastermind is. If you watched The Great Pretender, and you should, all I can say is oooh yes I’m the great pretender.)


#2. Maho no Tabitabi
C2C

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“I just wanted you… to notice me.”

The Misfit of Demon King Academy last season was such an anomaly because it features a great pair of parents for our main character. Even though they only raised the once and future demon king for a month, he loved his parents, and his parents loved him. (The best part of the show was when his mom thought she was going to be a grandmother to 10,000 babies.) Anyway, Maho no Tabitabi brings us back to reality with awful anime parents. The show is about a girl who wants to grow up and become a witch who travels around the world (is it just me or are there a lot of witches this season?), and she becomes one despite her parents.

(I guess the best way I can describe her parents is that they are Johnny and Moira Rose from season 2 of Schitt’s Creek if the dad here were Moira and the mom Johnny. Every shot the dad was in, he was inexplicably eating some sort of strawberry cake much like how Moira was always futzing with a wig. There are time skips, and he’s still chomping on strawberry cakes whenever he’s on screen.)

I do enjoy Maho no Tabitabi. It’s a good slice-of-life, coming-of-age story that is kinda like Flying Witch with some Kino but takes place in a fantasy world (that thankfully so far does not have any MMORPG UI elements). The main character is charming, there’s a good training montage, the magic usage can be cute at times (like when a house gets literally packed up), and there is a surprising amount of action. This world is also cheerful and stable enough that being a witch is a valid career path for a young girl. I know I brought up Frieren at the Funeral last thin slicing, and this show has a mood opposite of the more grim nature of Frieren.

(14 light novels in 4 years. Jougi Shiraishi is prolific as a novelist but par for the course for a Japanese light novel author.)

(Maho no Tabitabi is the show where the author said, “No panty shots!” so every scene that would have been a panty shot is now a dark abyss instead of, you know, composing the scenes better so the camera wouldn’t be pointing directly up skirts. It’s not like there are iconic upskirt scenes from the manga to reproduce here since Maho no Tabitabi was originally a light novel.)


#1. The Day I Became a God
PA Works

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“There is no point to you studying. The world ends in thirty days.”

My first note for The Day I Became a God (by Haruhi Suzumiya) was “Is this going to be Ah! Megami-sama or To Aru or Kannagi? Is this going to end with bitter fanboys burning manga and pillow cases in a bonfire?” Thankfully it seems like something different. My second note was, “Oh good we finally have a loli genderswapped Odin in anime. It’s about time.” My third note was, “Does this show have an actual writer instead of a mobage turned anime ‘writer’? Odin’s dialogue is really sharp, and lines like ‘What a convenient time for a convenience store’ captures her personality well too.” My fourth note was, “Wait… Key Ramen… wait… can it be… oh goodness… that’s… that’s Jun Maeda’s music! He’s entering this 2020 isekai/mobage anime battle royale with an actual original story!”

And, of course, if it’s a Jun Maeda story, there will be an obligatory baseball scene. The Day I Became a God is well-paced and well-animated with fun dialogue: “We don’t live in a manga timeline. My parents don’t know who you are and won’t let you stay with us.” That’s a very normal response to “Hey, we just found this loli on the of the street. Can we keep her?” Odin and Narukami have a great rapport similar to Ayu and Yuichi, and there are a lot of classic Jun Maeda comedic moments. Thankfully, as hype and boisterous as Odin gets, she’s not on the same level as Fuuko-chan. The supernatural twist for this series is that the world is going to end in thirty days, which is a constant threat in 2020.

This show is Maeda’s third production with PA Works following Angel Beats (2010) and Charlotte (2015). The director, Yoshiyuki Asai, has exactly 2 prior shows that he has directed: Charlotte and Fate/Apocrypha. Just based on those two staff alone, this show could either be great and memorable or fun and memorable. In any case, it will be memorable. I was watching Netflix’s Last Christmas (starring Henry Golding) when I was thinking, “Huh, this bad movie totally ripped off of Angel Beats.” Siegfriend vs. Karna is still a masterpiece and is Apocrypha’s second lasting legacy (behind how Sieg and Jeanne just want to bone, which is still joked about in Fate/Grand Order to this day). As a warning, post-Clannad, a lot of Maedea’s works experience a tonal shift and go heavy into government conspiracies. He would have liked Spartacus.

(Running list of my anime recommendations for 2020, in no particular order, and excluding fall: Wave, Listen to Me, Kakushigoto, Eizouken, In/Spectre, Misfit of Demon King Academy, Deca-Dence, and Great Pretender.)

One Response to “thin slicing the new season, fall 2020 edition”

  1. I ducked out of anime this season because nothing seemed worth my time, but I’ll take another look at Akudama Drive and The Day I Became a God.

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