Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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21 August 2017: I was probably predisposed to like Princess Principal on general principle

Ange
Princess Principal also features some good hats.

Princess Principal features steampunk alternate history, Kajiura Yuki music, and copious helpings of espionage. Moreover, it's an original anime. Those don't appear to be quite as common these days; everything seems to be a light novel or mobile video game adaptation. Based on these elements, I was guaranteed to at least give the show a try. And, hey, it turns out it's pretty good. At a minimum, the action is a lot better than I was expecting, and the stories frequently take unexpected turns away from anticipated norms when the plot encounters common tropes. Nothing too crazy, but enough of a twist to make each resolution more satisfying than I was expecting.

Princess
Princess Mode activated.

I do agree with critics who noted it wasn't really necessary to introduce the princess in the first episode. It probably would have made the payoffs in the second and third episodes stronger. Then again, she's right in the title of the anime, so it's not as if she could have caught viewers by total surprise. Incidentally, the episodes are not in chronological order, seemingly to produce the same effects as when Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu aired out of order. It works so far, but the titles also imply there are more episodes than I'd expect in a single cours. Maybe this suggests they're teeing it up for a second season, or maybe it means nothing at all. In either case, I'm at least optimistic the season will end in a sensible, satisfying way and not the non-ending-ending bullshit that is too often the norm. As an original anime, Princess Principal doesn't have an excuse to screw up its second half, particularly considering the first half has been so strong.


14 August 2017: I'd be more inclined to watch Fate/Apocrypha if it weren't so much work

Mordred
You can't tell from a still, but Mordred has, like, mecha armor.

Experts predict that at the current rate of growth, all anime will be Fate/stay night by 2062. There is, shall we say, at lot of Fate anime. Besides the first television series in 2006, there is the Unlimited Blade Works movie from 2010, the Fate/Zero anime from 2011-12, the Unlimited Blade Works series from 2014-15, the Fate/Grand Order: First Order movie from 2016, and Fate/Extra coming in 2018. This doesn't even count Carnival Phantasm or anything else I might have overlooked. One does not explicitly need to watch all the other Fate/stay night properties in order to watch Fate/Apocrypha, but I think it's sort of expected a fan will make at least a token effort before attempting a 25-episode Netflix binge once it becomes available.

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10 August 2017: Umi 2017

Umi
What, another year already?


7 August 2017: There is a 50/50 chance you will like Kakegurui

Yumeko and Ryouta
Don't worry, Potato-kun doesn't fuck up this show.

If you're even passably familiar with gambling-type anime and manga, then you already know the genre leans heavily on absurd premises and tension-filled high-stakes outcomes that frequently turn against expectations due to sudden twists or deft maneuvers by characters trying to outwit or intimidate their opponents. As such, the success or failure of any given title often lies very much on its execution. Based on what I've seen of the anime and read of its manga, the execution in Kakegurui (Compulsive Gambler) is top-notch.

Dimension W and Kakegurui
The Kakegurui manga was also previously released digitally.

Specifically, the art style lends itself well to garish deformations of its otherwise superlovely character designs, contrasting starkly with the calmer scenes and Yumeko's penchant to adopt a Fruits Basket Face almost by default. Notably, Hayami Saori is wonderful as Yumeko, and a major plus for the anime which would otherwise be a clear runner-up to the manga. It's close, anyway, and I might still give the manga the edge. Bear in mind, I'm basically spoiled on the anime by reading part of the manga, so it's not clear to me whether I'd actually like the manga better otherwise. In either case, both are enjoyable, and the anime does not suffer from any meaningful faults. I suppose the color palette is bit darker and heavily red in the anime compared to the impression which the black & white manga conveyed to me, but it works. Incidentally, the manga volumes are A5-sized, so notably bigger than typical Yen Press offerings.


31 July 2017: Kyoukai no Rinne is as good as ever

Rinne
I think the title gets localized as RIN-NE just to be petulant.

Joining the ranks of Pretty Cure and Detective Conan is Kyoukai no Rinne (often just RIN-NE), a long-running Takahashi Rumiko show which I'm willing to watch essentially indefinitely despite its recycled jokes. That probably doesn't sound like high praise, but I'm not claiming the show is brilliant—just that it's pleasant and enjoyable despite a fairly static setup.

Sakura
Super-pleasant girl enjoys her meal.

At 67 episodes now and counting, the cast of characters has grown quite a bit from when the anime adaptation first started in 2015. I guess this helps prevent the constantly recycled jokes (Rinne is beset by poverty, Sakura observes something startling but reacts nonchalantly, Rinne's dad is a cretin, etc.) from getting old. I'm not actually tired of the re-used jokes, though. Sakura's droll reactions remain as amusing as ever. I fell behind my Girl of the Year awards, but Sakura was a two-time winner of my short-lived Girl of the Week project in spring 2016.


24 July 2017: The top 10 best Love Live! School Idol Project girls

Muse
The round eyes aren't as bad in long shots.

I first tried watching Love Live! School Idol Project as it aired winter 2013, but I gave up after five episodes because I just never got into it. I finally gave it another try and watched all 13 episodes of the first cours this month. My recollection regarding the popularity of Love Live! is that the first cours was a mild success, producing some avid fans, but it wasn't until the second cours (Love Live! School Idol Project 2nd Season) started airing spring 2014 that it exploded into a real phenomenon, peaking in the American market when its 2015 movie received a U.S. theater release. This is an outsider's perspective, to be sure, and actual fans of the franchise will likely disagree with me on a number of points, but this how it seemed to me.

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17 July 2017: Isekai Shokudou breaks all the rules about location, location, location

Aletta
I like Aletta even though she admitted her bodily fluids are not poisonous.

Food-based anime is all about reaction shots. Isekai Shokudō (Restaurant to Another World) is no different, but it does spice up the usual recipe by with its fantasy element and its somewhat unremarkable menu. As the title indicates, the restaurant in question features an entrance which pops up periodically in fantasy world locations, ensuring an eclectic mix of clientele who are amazed by the exquisite way food can taste when it does not consist entirely of plain boiled meat and wilted vegetables.

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10 July 2017: Alice to Zouroku is more frabjous than I expected

Sana and the March Hare
Fuck you, rabbit.

There are a lot of tonal shifts in Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku). The shifts themselves are not jarring. It's just that the show covers a lot more emotional ground than you might expect. There are people getting fucked up in fight scenes, but also scenes of a little girl joyously talking to the plants she's watering. There's also a dramatic arc which abruptly ends midway through the one-cours show. I don't know how closely the anime follows the manga, but I presume that must be at least partially responsible for the somewhat unconventional way everything plays out.

Zouroku and Sanae
You can tell Sanae is a responsible girl because she packed an umbrella.

Ordinarily, these sort of factors result in a disjointed show that's mostly a mess, but Alice to Zouroku is quite good the whole way though. I like that despite having superpowers, Sana is still very much a little kid with all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that come along with that. It helps that Ohwada Hitomi does a fine job voicing her. I like the way Sana talks and the inflections she uses. I also like that the show is filled with interesting bits, such as its depiction of "Wonderland" and how various superpowers manifest. Naturally, I also like that there's a combat maid who shows up to bail people out from time to time, because of course there's a dependable combat maid. Ultimately, it's not so much that Alice to Zouroku is necessarily capital-G Good, although it is pretty good, but rather mostly that the show is really likeable. I think that's reason enough to give it a try.