thin slicing the new season, spring 2022 edition

10,000 words, 24 anime, and one Chinese general.

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 SIXTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the sixteenth year of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome. Thin slicing is almost old enough to vote.

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. 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! Do you need me to tell you to watch Rising of the Shield Hero after you already pre-loaded their mobage? Also I don’t rank shorts, non-Japanese cartoons, or primarily CG shows.

Twist for this season: “A man blogs. The heaven decides how anime will be ranked.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Quick recap from last season:

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Sabikui Bisco ended up being a decent self-contained shounen action nonsense series. There are times you want to punch the two protagonists because they are doing shounen hero things. At some point, shounen hero’s spunky spirit and over self-sacrifice starts becoming so insane that a dude who dresses up as a bat and refuses to use guns against gun-toting bad guys seems reasonable by comparison.

The animation and action sequences are fantastic, and I really enjoyed all the mushrooms and strange mutated animals. There is a lot of imagination in this show, and I think an extra three or four episodes could have rounded it out better. The big bad also got tiresome because he kept going, “Hahaha, you killed this version of me, but what about this one?” I guess I was just hoping for a beach episode or something. Also, I did like how this show builds up a powerful bromance between Bisco and Panda, and then Panda’s sister comes in and gives Bisco a deep kisses. It’s like the director paniced, “We’ve gone too far with the bromance! Quick, have the character with the largest melonpan kiss Bisco! That will surely stop the growing mountain of Bisco x Panda doujinshi.”

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In a lot of harem romcoms, the haremettes just fall for the loser male lead for the flimsiest of reasons. What won over Naru? Keitaro just keeps accidentally fondling her in the bath, and now she’s in love. Keiichi calls the Goddess Hotline instead of Tony’s Pizzeria? This space pirate and this space princess are just bored so they want to fight over an earth boy who is secretly in love with their spaceship? Five quintuplets fall in love with the same guy because they all lack a male presence in their lives?

I think the best thing about My Dress-Up Darling is that Gojo wins everyone over in different ways. For Marin, Gojo indulges everything she wants to do and never disappoints her. They both realize they are lucky to have found each other, and Marin realizes this point when Gojo tells her that she’s beautiful before falling asleep on the train. The show put the right amount of emphasis on build up and on that moment to make it memorable.

Then the show builds on Gojo’s journey for Inui’s realization. Inui has become a big cosplay star, but she still has some reservations and tsundereness towards it. Because of that, it pushes her little sister away because she wants to cosplay with Inui. Gojo sees a bit of himself in both of them with how he deals with his own hina doll crafting and applies that experience to getting the little sister to open up a little. He is able to do it because of what he learned since meeting Marin and, more importantly, the confidence from interacting with Marin. Once the truth comes out and Inui realizes what Gojo actually did for her sister’s cosplay, she too has the realization. “You took something that’s so precious to me… and handled it with so much care and consideration. You truly are… wonderful.” Inui’s character has been built on how much she loves her little sister so it feels natural when she falls for Gojo because Gojo has been so good to her little sister. I think the last harem show that had such an approach to character development was Clannad (which had so many episodes that it could afford to waste on one baseball… Maeda!!!).


#MR. IRRELEVANT. Gunjou no Fanfare
Lay-duce

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“I want to be the kind of jockey who becomes one with his horse.”

We almost stumbled across the golden anime premise. Gunjou no Fanface (Fanfare of Adolescence) is about a high school boy who leaves his boy band, Mr. Doctor, to go to a high school jockey school to become a jockey. Unfortunately, he rides normal horses and not the girl-horses of Uma Musume. If the premise was to become a jockey to ride girl-horses, I would close up the blog because we’re done. No anime can surpass it.

There’s just a lot of suspension of disbelief that needs to be addressed with this show. One, it’s not a professional jockey school but a jockey school for high schoolers. I searched the Japan horse racing association… and… well… there’s no such thing in Japan because one does not go to high school to become a jockey. I think they just approach random lightweight people in supermarkets and go, “Psst, if you can ride a horse, you can make $200 easy tonight.” And that’s how jockeys are made. (Edit: School this show is based off of.)

Two, this school has like six students and three of them get lost on the way to school. How do all these kids not charge their phones properly before going to their first day of school? Were they up all night playing Uma Musume? Three, there are no senpai in this school. The entire school consists of just the new students. Lastly, after getting to the school, most of the teens do not know anything about horses. One guy has a dad who is a jockey, and he doesn’t know how to ride a horse? Why does the main character want to be a jockey if he is afraid of horses? Wouldn’t being able to ride a horse be a qualification of any theoretical jockey school?

The slow, prodding, and convoluted plot of the maintenance guys going to school, having to take a detour because of the press, taking six hours to change a light bulb, and then crashing their truck due to the wind such that horses can be freed from the stables is just awful. So many random and pointless things had to happen so the horse would escape. The show does feel like it was written by a committee of people who were too afraid to tell the producers how silly the show’s premise is. In fact, the writing for this show is so bad, the writer doesn’t even want to be credited. It’s just written by “Team Fanfare.”

(Sakura Watch: B-, it is integrated with the plot and was briefly animated. It’s the second best thing this show did besides introducing us to “Mr. Doctor.”)

(Fashion Czar: “I’m going to eat a hat if it turns out that this idol guy has never ridden a horse before.” Editor’s Note: I haven’t seen my Columbus Chicharrones hat in two weeks. I wonder where it went.)

(The Top Gun Maverick x Uma Musume collab is something that no one in 1986 could have predicted. Imagine Tom Cruise hearing in 1986 that “Well, in 30-some years, we’ll finally make a sequel to Top Gun and then cross-promote it with a mobage about horse girls. No, no, Tom… not girls who are into horses but girls who compete as racehorses. What’s a ‘mobage’? Well, see…”)

(“Swing wing fighter planes are the bee’s knees.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)


#23. RPG Fudousan
Felix Films

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“Wow, I’d totally die if I fell from here.”

RPG Fudousan’s (RPG Real Estate) target audience, judging from the character designs, is lolicons who also enjoy giant melonpan. They also watch a lot of House Hunters. Most of the characters fit into the lolicon style yet have transforming, variable bosoms. The MC, when viewed from the front or as part of a gratuitous bath scene, looks like Mikuru Asahina. When viewed from the side in her real estate lady outfit, she looks like Yuki Nagato. It’s like the production teams knows that their audience wants to have their cake and eat it too.

We know RPG Fudousan is a fanservice show because why would an office lady who works in a real estate office refuse to wear clothes other than her underwear and sexy garters in any scenario not involving a Pornhub watermark in the corner? Why else do they need to take a company bath break? Besides the flimsy costuming and the laser-focused character designs, there’s nothing of note for RPG Fudousan. It’s a fantasy nothing burger. The premise that a witch from the boonies is moving to the big city is the best this show can do at characterization. The MC gets a job as a real estate agent in a city that she knows nothing. She also doesn’t tell them that she’s the new rookie and makes them find her housing first. The fantasy world House Hunters concept has been tried before, and it has not worked so far. I think these shows never establish any sort of world building or give us any reason to care about the characters. The shows also do not focus enough of the houses. I don’t watch House Hunters International to see who is buying the house but rather for the weird houses that can be found across the globe.

(RPG = “Rent Plan Guide”… wonderful. Also, the first sign that shows up in this show is, “15th Anniversary” in English.)

(“Location, location, location.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “Those are the flattest big boobs I have ever seen. It’s like what a middle schooler would draw for cleavage.”)


#22. Kono Healer, Mendokusai
Jumondou

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You should really take responsibility for your own shortcomings.”

Kono Healer, Mendokusai (Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer!) is a boring show that constantly irritates me as I watch it. Maybe you might enjoy a talking rhino-bear that ends every sentence with, “kuma,” “BEAR,” or “gao.” Yes, the rhino-bear speaks exactly one English word: “BEAR.” Maybe you might enjoy a male lead who can best be described as the Walmart $5 Blu-Ray bargain bin version of Goblin Slayer. Maybe you might enjoy a female lead who says shit like, “GOMEN NASORRY!” and “VIVA GOD! VIVA CARLA!” as if she were the Walmart $5 Blu-Ray bargain bin version of Osakabehime. Maybe you might appreciate a very long-winded “He’s ugly” joke that drags on for five minutes. Maybe you like bad Japanese manzai comedy pairings. Maybe Tanigawa-san will write more Haruhi Suzumiya.

(The rhino-bear has a kibori kuma statue. That’s the nicest thing I can say about this show.)

(Fashion Czar: “They let her have pants! That’s a rarity in anime, especially fantasy anime.” Editor’s Note: She also looks like a 1970s hotel bellhop.)


#21. Skeleton Knight in Another World
Studio Kai & Hornets

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“I’ve never killed anyone before. I’m surprised at the lack of guilt.”

Skeleton Knight in Another World (Gaikotsu Kishi-sama, Tadaima Isekai e Odekake-chuu) is yet another isekai about someone dying, entering an RPG-like fantasy world, and become so ultrapowerful that they can stand around and debate if their armor is optimized enough while women are being sexually assaulted in front of him. The main problem with this show is that it wants to be Overlord‘s Momon stories (the prokai even has a cute mage assistant), but it lacks personality. The prokai has so little personality that he just falls asleep and dies. The author couldn’t even work in a truck accident or being overworked to death. He just falls asleep. The only thing we know about the prokai is that he likes overpowered armor and likes to eat. Even a random cantina band from A New Hope gets more characterization and background story. I’m confused by that part because he’s a skeleton, and he eats and drinks. Where does the food go?

(Also, I wouldn’t say that the Momon portions are the strongest parts of Overlord even. Why do these isekai that feature someone turning into a ruler like Momon or Realist Hero also have to have sidestories where they pretend to be adventurers? It’s like they’re trying to shoehorn in adventuring stories when the main plot doesn’t really need them.)

(Fashion Czar: “There were so many words in the title, I stopped reading the title except the “chuu~” part”.. If he’s not an isekai bookseller, I’m not interested.”)

(“Death by sword. Death by broken bones. Death by crushing. There’s no much difference. You die at the end.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)


#20. Yuusha Yamemasu
EMT Squared

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“Wait, seriously, aren’t wars won with logis–”

Yuusha Yamemasu (I’m Quitting Heroing) is some sort of isekai set in such a post-apocalyptic Japan that it has become fantasy. The prokai wakes up, has ultra cheat powers, and defeats the Demon Queen. The people of the world, instead of celebrating him, decide that rewarding him would be too costly so instead they create fake news about how he’s a menace to society and basically turn on him. We get all of this backstory through poorly-directed flashback sequences punctunated with the prokai talking directly into the camera.

He then travels to meet the Demon Queen, who is a cute demon and looks nothing like any of the beasts that she commands, and begs her for a job. He has a Japanese-style resume complete with a tiny headshot photograph. He summarizes the Demon Queen and her four generals with monologues about each of them. I feel like someone is reading the lore of Magic the Gathering cards to me at this point. None of the characters or setup is interesting nor is any of the story presented in an interesting way. So, basically, it’s typical cheat iskekai fare.

I get the whole power fantasy, but this show seems to be a very specific power fantasy. It’s almost like the author though he did a great job at a company, is wrongly fired from the company (from his standpoint), and then goes to work for the rival company and destroys the original company in sales. It’s like how the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and then Babe Ruth proceeded to destroy the Red Sox year after year after that trade.

(“Trading inside the same division in baseball is always a bad idea.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “These are some terrible character designs. Why did the copy Fate‘s Iskandar? They just added a few spikes and tats.”)


#19. Healer Girl
3Hz

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“Piping hot rice is scary!”

Healer Girls is written by Noboru Kimura, creator of the Princess Principal franchise as well as both seasons of Amagami SS and the masterpiece of Skate Leading Stars. Unfortunately, for me, this new show comes off as a bit sketchy. One, the show puts Western and Eastern medicines on the same level. That’s a red flag to me that a show would equate superstition with peer-reviewed research. Second, the climax of the first episode features the girls using their powers to cure an old lady who is coughing from a respiratory illness because the Western medicine ambulance wasn’t fast enough. Somehow, this girl can catch a train, wait for her friends to arrive by car, and cure the old lady before the ambulance can arrive. Three, did I mention that the show is about girls who sing to cure people of diseases? Also that the MC had a childhood trauma where she had a respiratory disease that was only cured by singing? Maybe Kimura-san isn’t anti-vax looney toons, but dropping an anime about alternate medicine succeeding in curing a mysterious respiratory disease during a COVID pandemic is a bit sus.

The show tries to portray the singing miracles are scientific as the girls have to hit certain notes to cure specific ailments. They also go to conferences and write papers. The show then explains that the frequencies have to be hit by actual live girls and not reproduced by machine for maximum effect because machiens aren’t moe enough. It just feels very convoluted. Also, for a show that tries to present its pseudo-science singing with science, the clinic/hospital where the girls work has a staircase to get into the clinic with no easy access for cars and no outdoor lights or signage. There’s even a short scene where an old lady with a cane is slowly walking up the stairs into the clinic.

If I had to pinpoint one building where having ADA accessible entrances is paramount, wouldn’t it be a medical facility? How do patients get to this clinic? How do sick and injured people climb up two flights of stairs to get inside? The show is pseudo-science when it wants to be yet has zero actual concept of practical medicine. Maybe Kimura-san really wanted to show cute girls singing to help others… why couldn’t they just get healing powers from a cuddly mascot or space dust? Why create elaborate pseudo-science and then imply it’s better than existing Western medicine? At least if Kyubey showed up and offered the girls magical healing powers, okay, I can buy that would be more powerful than modern medicine because it’s motherfucking Kyubey.

Nonetheless, the main issue is that there’s nothing interesting going on or even a thread of character development in Healing Girls. There’s a whole segment about the girls eating pickles to diet. And then another segment about how lemonade smoothies provide vitamin C. And then the girls get spooked by a pattern in a wood panel. Strip away the music, and what’s left is just a really bland slice-of-life anime with no direction.

(Fashion Czar: “They gave her watermelon hair.”)


#18. Tomodachi Game
Okuruto Noboru

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“The most important thing in the world is money.

You know what I love in anime? Characters that are introduced with a freeze frame and some text like, “He’s the student council president and smart and good at sports and definitely pleasured himself while thinking of Malenia the Blade of Miquella” except the freeze frame happens too fast so you can’t actually read the text. If you love that too, you’ll enjoy Tomodachi Game.

I guess a Dangaronpa-like anime would be convoluted games head in an enclosed space involving a group of people being forced to play a rigged game by a sinister organization. Of course, the MC’s job is to outwit the sinister organization and save everyone. This genre features flashbacks to go into the backstory of each character every week, and these flashbacks serve to disrupt the flow of the show. Thanks, Lost. The sinister organization is usually represented in the game by a mascot character while the organization’s observer/crew chief is a high school girl with an ample bosom.

For Tomodachi Game, the mascot character is a former children anime character named Manabu, but he’s animated with bad CG. Every time he appears on screen, he just looks sad and out of place. The games themselves are not self-consistent with rules constantly changing. In one example, Manabu says that even if they lose, they’ll only walk out with their debt. Then the first game has a penalty that increases the debt that they can leave with. Why would these guys trust Manabu? Why not just expose him to the authorities? Because he’s blackmailing them with roughly $36,000 of debt. Yes, that’s right, the high stakes of Tomodachi Game is centered around $36,000, which is like a year’s worth of American college debt.

(I think that for this genre to work, the rules have to be approachable enough that I don’t have to rewind because I think I missed or misunderstood something important.)

(“Help control the pet population– have your pets spayed or neutered.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)


#17. Aharen-san wa Hakarenai
Felix Films

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“I got it! Bone conduction! Let’s try that next!”

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai (Aharen-san Is Indecipherable) is an anime that is accurately named: I cannot decipher how this show’s running gag of a girl who talks in a very quiet voice can run for thirteen volumes of manga. Nichijou’s only on volume ten! Seven minutes in, the premise of her not being able to speak audibly already feels old and worn out. Following in the tradition of Ore Monogatari and My Senpai Is Annoying, we have yet another pairing of a big guy and a petite girl as the main romantic (?!) couple of this show. And, guess what? The big guy is misunderstood because he’s big and has “an expression” that makes him seem meaner than he really is.

And this particular odd couple don’t really talk to each other since she’s barely audible and not even in a cuter Komi-chan Can’t Communicate kind of way. These two idiots strive to make me smack my head. I like how a modern Japanese high school boy, when confronted by not being able to talk to his classmate, comes up with smoke signals, bone conduction, and carrier pigeons before trying texting. Even the overmatched male lead from Komi-chan realized, “Hey, why not just fucking write on the blackboard?”

The only time I laughed during the long 24 minute first episode was when, right before he goes to sleep surrounded by a dozen identical stuffed toys, his little sister asks him if she could have one. “Hey, you have a bunch, can I have one?” “No.” And he walks away.

(Anytime a show can feature a fidget spinner in 2022, it gotta do it right? I don’t care if the fidget spinner is in the manga– as Sun Tzu would say, “One does not need to translate every gag into anime form. Some are best left on paper.”)

(Fashion Czar: “This is too much. How can her voice not be picked up by a microphone?”)

(Sakura Watch: D+. Felix didn’t even bother animating the one sakura scene.)


#16. Kunoichi Tsubaki no Mune no Uchi
CloverWorks

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“Men are horrible. Things to be feared. Also their crotch is their weak spot. Frail fai!”

Once I started watching Kunoichi Tsubaki no Mune no Uchi (In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki), I knew who originally wrote it. Souichiriou Yamamoto (Teasing Master Takagi-san) must have a forehead fetish. Do all of their manga feature a female protagonist with a prominent forehead? Giant foreheads aside, this comedic series is about a tribe of female ninjas who hate male ninjas and thus never interact with them. Somehow, the female ninja village is overrun with kids yet there are very few adult female ninjas, zero pregnant ones, and no Kamino cloning pods to be seen. All of the female ninjas are a little silly and comedic in character design, and, yep, you guessed it, the male ninjas exist only in their imaginations as either giant beasts or visual kei supermodels. There’s no in-between.

Sadly, the show is very uninspired in its jokes, and the whole premise gets so dull, there’s a five minute break where the girls just discuss their diets. When one has nothing else to present as plot, just have cute girls talk about what they are eating. The only notable character is the MC whose thirst for men has to sadly carry this show. She’s not even that thirsty when compared to Ryoko and Ayeka. The premise couldn’t even carry one episode, so I don’t have high hopes that it will carry a full season.

(The animation is also super silly. The ninjas more or less fly through the forest with a velocity and glide that surpasses even the Survey Corps.)

(One of the ninja girls just screams all of her dialogue. I think at one point, she startled and woke up my dog.)


#15. Love All Play
Nippon Animation

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“Even in this windless room, there is a wind blowing inside me.”

The overly autotuned OP plus the 1990 era tokusatsu show level sound effects and the character intro title cards tells me Love All Play will be a quality anime. And that’s before we see title cards for the dad and sister. If the show cannot convey that a character is the dad without resorting to a title card that says, “Father,” what the hell are we even doing?

Badminton’s just not an exciting sport, and unless giant robots or magical girls are involved, there just aren’t a lot of conventional ways to make the sport exciting. As a sports anime, Love All Play can be redeemed with interesting characters, but the characters are bland, conflict seems forced, and the story is boring. The dad won’t let the MC go play badminton and just screams, “CAN YOU EVEN KEEP UP THAT SKILL LEVEL?!” at him. Making interesting interpersonal relationships? Nah. Let’s just have a dad that just yells, “No!” all the time. The MC appeases the dad by studying rather than playing better badminton to diffuse any semblance of conflict.

Sports anime can go part explainer, part sports drama, but they all live or die by how interesting the characters are. Maybe it’s a love triangle like in H2 or a strong drive in Haikyuu! or manservice in Free! or interesting, uh, parodies in Keijo!!!!!!!!, but they all offered something that the sports can be framed around. So far, what we get is that the MC likes to play badminton and has an asshole for a dad. That’s not enough of a hook to pull me in. Note to self: Pitch Cloverworks on an anime about teams of highschool girls from around the world engaging in global fishing competitions… while piloting giant fishing robots.

(Sakura Watch: D+… a badminton shuttlecock hits the ground and explodes into sakura pedals in the OP.)

(Love All Play sounds like a bad reality TV dating series on Netflix back when Netflix existed. In fact, there is a Love All Play kdrama on Netflix Disney+ Indonesia that genderswaps the male lead into a female lead and puts some romantic tension between the two main cast members that is airing now too.)

(Fashion Czar: “No! Not another badminton show!”)


#14. Heroine Taru Mono Kiraware Heroine to Naisho no Oshigoto
Lay-duce

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“I made a terrible ‘bleh’ face. That’s a horrible face to make.”

Heroine Taru Mono Kiraware Heroine to Naisho no Oshigoto (Heroines Run The Show) is yet another anime about a spunky girl from the countryside who moves to Tokyo and becomes an idol. How can this random fishing family living in the boonies with five kids afford to send their daughter, by herself, to a fancy school in Tokyo? Of course, they can’t, so the girl has to go find a job. Despite having zero work experience, she manages to land a cushy gig as the assistant manager of an idol firm because she’s classmates with the two lead boy idols, whose only personality traits so far have been “asshole” and “possibly Athrun/Kira or Suzaku/Lulu for each other.” Their dialogue pretty much is just sad anger: “Don’t get in my way, trash.” “This is why I hate girls. Stay away from us, cootie master.” “Don’t get in my way, potato-face girl.” I played Dota 2. These are nowhere as harsh or creative as the insults one would get while playing Dota 2.

The production values for Heroine are on the high side, and that’s probably because it is based off of a VOCALOID song/scenario/fever dream. My main concern is that the show feels too safe and boring and lacks conflict other than the boy idol insulting the MC and then running away. The music is not as good as the other idol shows this season, and I can’t get over the mismatched, patchy clothes. Why does Japan love mismatched, patchy clothes so much? They remind me of early Fresh Prince outfits. I remember a lot of them being worn by a Terrace House commentary member back when we had Terrace House.

(Sakura Watch: B+, decent job at animating sakura falling during the walk to the first day of school.)

(Fashion Czar: “I don’t know what this show is or who it is for.”)


#13. The Greatest Demon Lord Is Reborn as a Typical Nobody
Silver Link & Blade

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“I have stomach pain from anxiety?”

The Greatest Demon Lord Is Reborn as a Typical Nobody (Shijou Saikyou no Daimaou Murabito A ni Tensei Suru) follows the lead of every fantasy world reborn isekai (are these isekais?) like Shikkaku Mon no Saikyou Kenja and Misfit Hero where the prokai gets into a prestigious school and has to fight the top kid in class for whatever reason and annihilates him by snapping his fingers. Nothing like saying, “You’re just a punk kid. I’m a 15,532 year old demon lord” than that kind of scene. It’s this genre’s equivalent of a bad guy shooting his subordinate to prove of evil he in an action movie.

This show starts with the prokai telling us how powerful he is and how bored he is. Then he closes a door saying that he wants to be reborn. Next scene, he’s ten year old Ard Meteor– another instant classic anime fantasy name. Another weird quirk of this demon lord reborn into the same fantasy world genre is that they’re generally all reborn into loving families. Also, what’s the point of his cheat power guy being reborn as another cheat power guy? That he gets to live through high school again? This genre is very strange wish fulfillment.

I have a few issues with this show. One, Ard prattles on a bit too much. Too much of his inner monologue just explains what is going on or recaps what happened two minutes ago. Also, at one point, he says, “That’s the voice of a tender young girl.” Why’d he have to add “tender” to that line? It makes him very creepy. Two, the BGM and music is bad. It sounds like menu music from a cheap PS2 game. Three, the town is drawn oddly. The perspective feels off. It’s like the director told the background artist and the character artist different angles to be used for the same shot. Four, there are a lot of serious issues here including PTSD, bullying, and depression, but this show does not tackle any of them with any tact or sincerity. They all serve to justify actions rather than be treated as issues that need help. Or, worse, treated as issues that can be solved automagically.

(You know what? I’m the isekai judge. I rule that this type of show is an isekai. It starts in one world/time period, and the prokai dies and is reborn into a world dissimilar enough to his original world.)

(“I know only what I know.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “The show doesn’t have the comedic timing it wants to have.”)


#12. Ao Ashii
Production IG

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“Our new player seems like he is from a shounen manga.”

Ao Ashii is a Shogakukan General Award winner manga turned anime that sacrifices soccer realism for cheap drama. There’s a three minute long sequence during a soccer game where the MC gets bullied and negged while the game stops. I don’t follow soccer the same way that I follow the NBA, but I don’t think there are long ass timeouts like that in soccer as there are in the NBA. The MC then torpedoes his high school soccer careering by headbutting one of the players bullying him. Also it turns out he’s playing soccer with a pocket full of coins.

Turns out MC is a greedy asshole like Jamie Tartt because that’s what the show tells us. “He doesn’t give a shit about formations or plays.” But the coach from a major youth team sees him and thinks he can tame him and make him into a team player (which is Jamie’s arc from Ted Lasso season one). He tries to recruit the MC by forcing him to practice near the beach all night long without drinking, eating, or using the bathroom. I think his soccer uniform is actually a stilsuit from Dune. It’s just recycling his water and feces back into him at high efficiency.

Animation is passable, but there’s nothing special about this sports anime compared a better sports anime featuring ballet this season or something more enjoyable like Haikyuu. I’m just confused how this manga won a general prize. Maybe I’ll give a volume or two a try.

Some highlights from past Shogakukan awards:

  • 1994: Bokku wins general prize. I would consider Bokku one of the twenty best manga that I’ve ever read. It’s about Ben Wallace founding Japan.
  • 1999: Did not award general prize. Instead, Hikaru no Go wins only the shonen prize.
  • 2004: Bleach wins shonen category and Keroro Gunso wins children category. Team Medical Dragon wins general prize. This is like Shakespeare in Love winning over Truman Show in 1999. Anyone remember anything from Shakespeare in Love?
  • 2014: Blue Blazes ties Asahinagu for the general prize. If only it tied with Insufficient Direction so we can get a Hideki Anno theme going.
  • 2020: Police in a Pod wins general while Chainsaw Man wins shounen. I don’t know about this one.

(“Shounen sports protagonists are destined to fall short at the end.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “Why do all these soccer shows have such terrible color palettes? Why is the grass neon green?”)


#11. Mahou Tsukai Reimeiki
Tezuka Productions

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“I am fond of sound reasoning.”

Two things to note about Mahou Tsukai Reimeki: One, the OP marks the next generation of fripSide as all of the final original vocal members have “graduated,” and this song features all new vocalists. Also, fripSide is over twenty years old at this point. They originally formed around when Kiddy Grade was airing. Two, this series is a sequel to Grimoire of Zero, which I remember almost nothing about despite watching more than a few episodes.

The most striking aspect of Reimeki is how lifeless and dead the MC looks and acts. He vacillates between someone who lost his entire life savings on GameStop stock and someone who just stepped in a pile of dog poop. He isn’t interesting and isn’t even cardboard enough to be an audience stand-in member. His blandness might be a counterbalance to how overgarnished the costume designs are. All of the outfits are overdesigned and eye numbing. Holt’s hat looks poorly executed, and her boobs look like they are giant water balloons attached to her rather than anything natural. She also has two belts, and one is right below her boobs for whatever reason. Loux’s outfit looks like a clown fiesta. She has five weird hair braids that have a giant bow hanging from them that I would guess that the animators hate drawing. Her shoes feature giant bows because why the hell not. The MC features a casual outfit where his shoulders are exposed but doesn’t fall off without the help of boob tape.

We can tell that the bad guy is the bad guy because he only has fang teeth and does the thing where he sticks his tongue out and licks his lips as if he just finished eating a s’more. Subtlety is not the strongpoint of Reimeki.

As for the plot, there is a lot of human vs. witch conflict centered around an old and prestigious witch school that is… let me check my notes… four years old. Does the school even have a graduating class yet? Can a school barely older than my toddler be considered prestigious?

(Mitigating factor: Loux wins both the “Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia Mash Memorial Most Crotch Shots” award and the “Most Irritating Fingernails on Blackboard Voice” award. Congratulations all around.)

(Fashion Czar: “Why is she wearing a bad version of the Penguindrum outfit?”)


#10. Otomege Sekai wa Mob ni Kibishii Sekai Desu
ENGI

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“This is draining all my willpower.”

That should be the tagline for this blog: “Writing about isekais drains all my willpower.” Otomege Sekai wa Mob ni Kibishii Sekai Desu (Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games Is Tough for Mobs) is yet another isekai anime that tries to poke fun at isekai anime. As a bonus, it also tries to poke fun at otome games. How come no one ever pokes fun at isekai anime that tries to parody other isekai anime? Anyway, the prokai has to clear an otome game for a girl who is blackmailing him because the girl wants to hear the end theme. She couldn’t just find a clip of it on YouTube or Twitch? Or just have him buy her the OST on iTunes? So the prokai ends up playing the game until he dies from exhaustion from playing the otome game. Andohbytheway, this otome game features pod racing, tactical mech combat, fighting game mechanics, and naval battles (with ships that have cope cages). How many visual novel otome games feature giant space naval battles a la Sins of a Solar Empire (and not Azure Lane) and a Mech Warrior component? Also this otome game has a paid cash shop for cheat items. Do single player otome games have this?

(He also hypes the game up with Souls-level of difficulty or something yet manages to kill a difficult enemy that didn’t even try to attack him with one bullet. Also the way he defeats a giant robot is dumber how HBO’s Game of Thrones killed the Night King.)

Anyway, he dies and gets reborn into this otome world. He’s a random “mob” character and is part of the Bartfort family. Bartfort? More like Barfart, amirite? Watching isekai anime just makes me appreciate Toilken’s linguistic gifts more. Galadriel, Elessar, Isildur, Samwise, Thorin… all great names. Not a Bartfort amongst them. And we all what happens next: the prokai uses his knowledge of the game to score awesome shit and powers and use them to subvert the game. He is going to create a harem with all the female characters and leave nothing for the original himbo male harem cast.

(Is the backstory for this show just X-Men? New humans with magic powers have won over the old homo sapiens who tried to fight them with science and technology? The robot even seems a little like Nimrod.)

(I can’t wait for all the angry “That’s not a cope cage! That’s a tactical ship defensive armor!” comments.)


#9. Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story
Bandai Namco Pictures

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“I’m not a Pro.. I’m not a golfer. I just hit balls with a stick for money.”

If you told me that there’s an anime about girls playing golf, I would suspect it is either based on a slice-of-life manga or a mobage. Nope! Birdie Wing is an original anime from Bandai Namco and is written by Kuroda. Yes, the Kuroda that blessed us with original works Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Super Sonico the Animation. If it isn’t clear enough what the pedigree of this show is, a main plot point in the first episode revolves around an OG Gundam RX-78. The MC, Eve, has a Pacman ball. Can we fit more Bandai Namco properties into this show? When will Heihachi toss a golf club into a volcano? Is KOS-MOS going to do the commentary at the next tournament?

Unfortunately, even though the show is a standard length anime, it feels like an hour long. We can see every twist a par 4 away thanks to Kuroda’s typical storytelling techniques. There are also some anime plot contrivances. What is with this cabal of teenaged girls plotting golf machinisms on a private plane? What’s with the Mission Impossible-style deception that Chris Christina is actually Eve that’s revealed in the first five minutes? Even golfers have to pee in cups with people watching. How do they manage to hide her identity during the drug urine and blood testing? Why do the girls get challenged to golf at an industry park in the middle of the night by creepy men?

The animation is hit or miss. There are some nicely animated moments like when Eve hits the ball through a moving train and then bouncing off a rake and into the hole backed with 90s romcom music, but then there are also some bad CG shots of golfing that look like a PS2 game. Eve’s golfing looks inspired by Happy Gilmore, which I’m not sure if a good or bad thing. The dialogue for this show is, uh, something else. The characters seem to toss one-liners at each other rather than have actual conversations. “Destroy your opponent mentally so they won’t want to play against you. Load the barrel. And then fire the bullet.” “Get ready, ‘cuz the Rainbow Bullet is about to blow your brains out.” “You’re from Japan? You can buy all the Gunpla you want!”

(Why are all the locations in this show made up except for Tokyo? Why bother creating fake France and fake USA when there’s an actual Tokyo?)

(I would watch an anime about all the Gundam leads golfing. “Now Heero Yui is teeing off on the sixth hole… he needs a birdie to match the pace of Setsuna F. Seiei using his 00 driver.”)

(Fashion Czar: “This show has the same style and color palette of every bad sports anime.” And then she leaves the room.)


#8. Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie
Bandai Namco Pictures

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“You want your bae to think you’re cute?”

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie (Kawaii Dake ja Nai Shikimori-san) knows its audience. It opens with MILF ponytail action. And then we transition into a montage of the MC being a mess and running straight into a cute, glowing pink-ponytailed girl with Children of the Corn level of radioactively glowing blue eyes. Ah. My kind of show. The show looks great, and there is plenty of Shikimori-san ponytail action. I guess it all makes sense since the My Senpai Is Annoying director/writing team handling this show, and there were a lot of ponytail shots in that show. The basic premise of this show seems to be that for Shikimori-san, she might not be able to prevent the unlucky things that happen to the MC, but she’ll avenge them.

The hook of the show is hit or miss. The whole “She’s cool so she’s not cute but secretly cute” shtick isn’t funny, which might be okay if it tries to be a “healing” show. But the MC and Shikimori-san have almost zero chemistry together. They are worse than Lisa Turtle and Screech. They’ve been dating for four years but still haven’t kissed. Four years! After it’s revealed that the two are thinking of holding hands after four years, we get a pan shot of a book… Dating for Dummies by Keiichi Morisato. MC should have bought How To Have Sex with a Spaceship by Tenchi Muyo instead.

(Sakura Watch: E, sad background shot of some ill-defined sakura trees. Where is my shot of Shikimori-san tying her ponytail as sakura pedals fall around her? How can Ryota Itoh mess that up?)

(The bowling form in this show is better than Birdie Wing’s golf form.)

(Fashion Car: “This show isn’t silly enough, and it’s not romcom enough. It isn’t even Nozaki-kun level of hijinks.”)


#7. Love After World Domination
Project No. 9

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“Real girls don’t wield flails.”

She’s the demon lord. He’s the leader of the tokusatsu squad. It’s love made in spandex heaven. Most striking aspect of Love After World Domination (Koi wa Sekai Seifuku no Ato de) is the detail and work into animating demon lord Desumi’s garter. Unfortunately, the rest of the show’s aspects lack similar attention to detail. The gimmick of the hero and demon lord dating has been done before, and I’m not sure how well this show can pull it off. The “we’re going to hug/hold hands but someone might discover us so we gotta actually fight” shtick can’t go on for thirteen episodes… can it? Desumi wants to be a normal girl as evident by her cat diary, but she gets roped into being a demon lord. The red ranger gelato slash male lead is a gym bro who drinks creatine in whole milk while working out. The rest of the cast gets as much attention as a mid-reliever in baseball. They’re kinda just there.

The production is okay with some lazy backgrounds at times, but I feel like the show missed an (expensive) lay-up by not having My Heart Goes On playing in the background when Desumi finally agrees to start dating red gelato. Also, red stalks her on social media as “Proteinman.” I feel like these details are important to a show. I think the key is if this show can just make itself dumber. The rangers shouting stuff like “SWEET BERRY IMPACT!” and hitting a henchman with a strawberry sword is dumb, and that should be the core of the show rather than the middle school romance between a gym bro and a cat lady.

(Sakura Watch: B+, decent opening shot of sakura falling onto our two protagonists.)

(Professor Big Gelato wins the Uncle Dis Memorial Best Character Name of the Season award. Congrats, Professor Big Gelato. Also, he bakes croissants for the rangers much like how Hayao cooked noodles during The Wind Rises’ production or how Goredolf made croissants during Olympus Lostbelt. Andohbytheway, the five rangers are modeled after gelato flavors: Strawberry, soda, lemon, peach, and pistachio. What does soda taste like anymore?)

(Fashion Czar: “They’re out there saving the world. They deserve some fresh croissants. I hope they are named after gelato because of corporate sponsorships.”)


#6. Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road
JC Staff

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“Could this be that thing where you’re summoned to another world? No more jerks who look at me like trash!”

Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road becoming The Executioner Girl’s Virgin Road becoming The Executioner and Her Way of Life feels like the same energy as Utawarerumono becoming The One Who Sings becoming Shadow Warrior Chronicles becoming Utawarerumono again. I guess Virgin Road could also be considered a parody or commentary on isekai as it is an isekai that tries to lightly upend isekai tropes. The guy who is first summoned from Japan is typical prokai fare. He has a misunderstood power that seems weak but is potentially game-breaking. He has a chip on his shoulder. He bumps into a pure, strong, and just priestess who helps him while he is down. At that point, I wrote in my notes, “Is she gonna harvest his organs?” And I wasn’t far off.

I do like the twist where Japanese people have been summoned into this world for ages, and they ruined this world so badly that it’s a major taboo to summon any more Japanese people. (It is implied that these people came over a hundred years ago or so, so, yeah, a very different Japan.) I also like how the show explains why everyone in this fantasy world speaks Japanese. What I don’t like about this show is the tonal whiplash. We go from cold-blooded murder to thigh caressing to attempted genocide to motorboating boobs in rapid order. Like maybe put a scenery shot or a cut to someone drinking beer or something in between.

Three things to note about Virgin Road: One, this show is much better than any anime named “Virgin Road” should be. Just going by the title, I thought this show was going to be yet another otome game turned anime. Two, the animation by JC Staff is so much better than anything that they’ve done recently that I couldn’t believe it is JC Staff. There’s actual facial animations and backgrounds that took more than fifteen minutes to draw. This show makes Realist Hero‘s production look like the Frye Festival. Three, “etheric connect” sounds like a Hatsune Miku song.

(The animation of the isekai’ed guy unlocking his hidden power looks like a Windows 95 screensaver.)

(“Never underestimate the power of yuri.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)


#5. Kakkou no Linazuke
Shin-Ei Animation

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“This is an epic tale of love.”

Kakkou no Linazuke (A Couple of Cuckoos) is the new harem romcom from the mangaka of Yamada-san and the Seven Witches, which I really enjoyed. This newer series has a different take on Yamada’s swapping: It follows a boy and a girl swapped at birth, and they now have to get married to rectify the mistake. Yep, that somehow all makes sense in this clown world. A hospital would have screwed up so badly it didn’t even give the correctly gendered baby back to its parent. As a parent who was told that I was having a daughter, I would be very skeptical if the doctors handed me a baby with a penis. The parents would be so nonchalant about it that they don’t even bother suing the hospital or anything. Then the four parents decide that the only way to make things right is to combine both families by forcing their swapped kids to marry. Nothing like trying to cover up the serious negligence of a hospital with a forced marriage. Why can’t we just have simply contrived harems like, “Oh, I dialed a wrong number and now three goddesses live in my tiny temple” or “The only way to cure her multiple personality disorder is that I have to date all of them individually and one of the personalities is the Joker.”

The female lead looks like the male lead’s mom, and he doesn’t realize it when they meet. If you met someone who looks almost exactly like your own mom, wouldn’t that at least register something in your head? And you meet her on the way to meet the girl you were supposedly swapped with at birth? How am I supposed to believe that the male lead is some sort of brainy genius when he overlooks this glaring similarity?

Looking past the multilayered convoluted plot, the heart of the show is that it’s a romcom in 2022 that understands 2022 (though I’m still bracing for her to find his erohon under his mattress). The female lead is a social media starlet obsessed with getting more followers. She has been doxxed and has stalkers. I’m just disappointed they didn’t meet on Tinder.

(“When in doubt, swipe right.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “How can they swap a boy and a girl?” Editor’s Note: She said this like a dozen times during the episode.)


#4. Dance Dance Danseur
MAPPA

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“I got distracted by her panties and followed her here.”

The superhero origin story of Dance Dance Danseur starts with toxic masculinity preventing a young boy from being the next world famous ballet dancer and ends with him rediscovering ballet because a girl flashed her panties at him. Oh anime. The MC’s internal tug of wanting to do ballet because he enjoys it and not wanting to do ballet because it’s not manly enough seems silly for 2022 let alone 1992. Many male athletes already practice ballet as a way of honing specific muscle groups as well as improve balance. If Warren Sapp can parley his ballet training into a Dancing with the Stars gig, so can random shounen manga boy.

The funniest thing about MC’s tsundere attitude towards ballet is that he goes to his sister’s ballet recital and doesn’t pay attention to anyone there until an unkempt man with a giant lion tat and an eight pack comes out to do ballet. Then he’s in love. If the show frames his tsundereness of ballet as that he’s unsure of his sexuality and wants to be seen as masculine as possible to hide his sexual insecurity, that would feel more relevant and modern..

I thought Dance Dance Danseur would be Welcome to the Ballroom but instead it is more A Silent Voice. There is more trauma than dancing at times. (Somehow DDD manages to pump out 23 volumes since 2016 while Welcome only has 10 volumes since 2011.) The production values from MAPPA are top notch showing that they can animate ballet dancers as well as they can figure skaters, and they integrate a first person view fairly well. They don’t overuse it, and it feels like an organic part of the show rather than a gimmick.

(The female lead’s mom has a Mercedes keyfob. How does she afford that teaching elementary school students how to do ballet?)

(Fashion Czar: “That’s how the mom fell for her dad. The Don Quixote. She stayed up all night thinking about his Don Quixote.”)

(“The wounds received in battle bestow honor; they do not take it away.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)


#3. Spy x Family
Wit Studios x Cloverworks

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“Marriage? Conventional happiness? Berlint?”

Wit Studios x CloverWorks is the 2022 equivalent of Hideki Anno x Hayao Miyazaki in 1983. You know something good can happen, but, if not, at least it will look fantastic. Spy x Family’s adaptation seems to be a direct retelling of the manga (what if there were a version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith that was actually good… oh wait… that’s just True Lies, my bad). The two studios know they have solid core material in this tale of spy meets esper meets assassin family comedy, so there is less streamlining than what Jujutsu Kaisen. But I think that’s an issue for me as someone who has read this manga. I rather watch an anime that I don’t know anything about than one I do know is following a tight script including almost verbatium scenes from the manga. That’s not a bad thing for someone new to this material, but it’s not something I’ll priortize in a watch next pile, which is the basis of thin slicing.

The animation is also a little lacking compared to Great Pretender and Wonder Egg Prioity, and the movement feels a little stiff compared to a few other standout animated shows this season. Still, I think Spy x Family is a fun show to enjoy with SUPER OSHII PEANUTS that is a very nice break from all the isekais this season.

(“Shoot your own subordinate to show how badass you are.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(“Do parents of the world normally carry out such difficult missions all the time?” Yes, as I listen to my daughter sing to her Pikachu when she should be sleeping as I watch Spy x Family on low volume while also typing out this entry.)


#2. Deaimon
Encourage Films

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“This color, aroma, and mouthfeel… this perfect sweetness.”

I have a bold opinion concerning Deaimon: “Best of Chestnut Manju” is a better band name than just “Chestnut Manju.” I’m not sure what trajectory this manga turned anime will take, but it has three routes: Barakamon, Sweetness and Lightning, and Usagi Drops. There’s, uh, precedence for manga stories involving food and a thirty year old man and a girl much, much younger than him. The MC of Deaimon is a sad, failed musician who goes back home to take over his family’s manju business to discover that a ten year old girl that the family “adopted” after she was abandoned by her awful dad is now going to take over the shop instead of him.

The girl has obvious trauma from her dad abandoning her that no one seems to deal with or notices, and does Japan have any sort of social service for this scenario? Wouldn’t someone report them for housing a child that isn’t theirs? Beyond that aspect, the story involves the MC and the girl start to depend on each other to make the most bitchin’ manjus possible. It’s a sweet, slice-of-life drama that I’m afraid might have a central theme of responsibility (which is boring).

(I do like how the parents look like parents and not just a doofy dad and a mom who looks like she could be in high school. I don’t like all the bold medical and health claims about manju. I was waiting for someone to say that manju can cure COVID when the grandpa was listing off the health benefits of something made of sugar and rice flour.)

(“Is mochi life or is life mochi?” Sun Tzu, The Art of Manju.)

(Fashion Czar: “No ten year old is that put together. It’s literally impossible.” Editor’s Note: Mozart composed his first piece at three years old.)


#1. Paripi Koumei
PA Works

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“What? Are you a flip phone user or what?”

Whenever an anime starts with a recap of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era, I know I’m in for a treat. Will the Chinese generals become little girls? Or will they become samurai riding motorcycles? Or will they be isekai’ed into modern Japan as little girls? Paripi Koumei (Ya Boy Kongming! / Party People Koumei) is about our favorite Chinese general, Zhuge Liang, dying and being reborn as Waver Velvet a younger, hipper version of himself in modern Shibuya. I like how he can speak Japanese flawlessly despite being a Chinese historical figure and that they call it out in the show but never explain it.

Our boy Kongming runs into an aspiring musician who somehow invites him into her apartment right after meeting him. Yoshida hesitated more in bringing Sayu home in HigeHiro. She somehow is a RoTK freak because why the hell not. Shibuya is overrun with hot girls who sing in English and love Zhou Deng. I did not expect her singing and animation to be good. I expected idol quality songs with CG movement. Only after watching the end credits did I realize… wait… this is PA Works? And a lot of the Shirobako team? Ok. Makes sense. That’s why all the characters, especially the female ones, wear realistic clothing rather than female mobage clothing.

I do enjoy our boy Kongming’s antics in Japan as he wants to dedicate his services now to helping the poor musician. He’s also a great fish out of water, but not in an imbecile way. He is curious about our world and wants to know more, especially about blockchains and NFTs. It’s a promising show backed with good production and reminds me that sometimes we get pleasant surprises out of the anime industrial complex. Kongming would be as proud as he was watching his plan work at Red Cliffs. Chiki chiki ban ban.

(“Round and round, the dancing laundry. Let’s lose our minds, forget the time.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War.)

(Fashion Czar: “Kongming loves EDM.”)

(Sakura Watch: D+. Only one quick, non-animated pan interspersed by over-animated singing.)

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See you (after a nine year gap) next season.

One Response to “thin slicing the new season, spring 2022 edition”

  1. So far I’ve only seen a couple of shows on this list, but as always your descriptions of a few of them have caught my interest so I’ll check them out. I am particularly enjoying Spy x Family, and your description makes me grateful that I have not read the manga yet. I’m holding off on reading more of Made in Abyss until season 2 comes out, for the same reason.

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