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30 June 2020: I guess I'm re-watching Kaze no Yojimbo

George
A lot of scenes look like manga panels, and I mean that in a good way.

Despite the number of times I've mentioned Kaze no Yojimbo here over the years, I've not actually re-watched the series since the final DVD came out in 2005. I have also not heard of the series being available on any streaming service, and the R1 DVDs are now out of print (although potentially still available). It's not clear to me how someone who wanted to watch the show for the first time today would go about it. I'm not even sure if piracy is a viable option, considering the show was never popular even in the early aughts.

Miyuki
You can tell Miyuki is important because she has anime hair.

With regard to the show itself, it has obvious parallels with Kurosawa's Yojimbo film. Curiously, I don't remember the promotional materials and professional reviews for Kaze no Yojimbo playing up that angle. Instead, I recall there was more of an effort to portray Kodama George (the titular bodyguard) as a sort of Spike Spiegel character. That is entirely inaccurate, and Bodyguard of the Wind bears no resemblance to Cowboy Bebop at all.

Miyuki and George
I don't think you're supposed to spread out like this on a Japanese train.

Clearly, I enjoy the show quite a bit, but not enough to re-watch it frequently. And I'm at a loss as to how to recommend the show. The answer is I can't recommend it. It's difficult to acquire and not really something with broad appeal. The first episode opens with a mystery, and multiple subsequent mysteries are layered on top of each other before any of them are resolved. It's also a 25-episode show that starts slowly. Even back when it was new, almost everyone quit watching it by the gambling episode, well before the series makes any progress with its plot.

Miyuki and George
The rural landscape consistently looks fantastic in Kaze no Yojimbo.

At least the ending is satisfying. (Well, I remember it being so when I last watched it 15 years ago.) Aside from being inspired by the Kurosawa film, Kaze no Yojimbo is not constrained by other sources (e.g., it doesn't adapt manga chapters or anything like that), so its ending feels pre-planned and deliberate. (That shouldn't be such a rare thing, but unfortunately weak endings and non-ending endings continue to plague anime today.) In any case, that's how I feel about the show's ending based on what I remember. I guess I'm going to find out if it still holds up in 2020.


23 June 2020: Healin' Good ♡ Precure is returning because sometimes a punch to the face is the best medicine

Cure Grace
If it doesn't work the first time, punch him again.

Healin' Good ♡ Precure has been on hiatus since episode 12 because of Covid-19 production delays, but will reportedly return 28 June. I'm curious whether this means Healin' Good ♡ Precure will have fewer episodes than its predecessors, or if it will still have the same number of episodes but just shift the turnover date for the next installment to the right.

Nodoka
Maybe the Cures spent their time off vigorously training.

I also wonder if episode 13 will pick up right where episode 12 left off (i.e., unchanged from what was planned when the next-episode preview came out), or if there will be some adjustments to account for the delay. If I had to guess, it'll probably just drive on as originally planned, but I would be interested in seeing a real-world timeskip corresponding with the pandemic. I mean, this is a show for children, and it coincidentally has a health and medical theme. It suggests there may be an opportunity to explain to young viewers what happened by depicting how it affected Pretty Cure as well.


16 June 2020: If you fell behind watching Railgun Tango episodes, this is your chance to catch up

Dolly
Someone is going to have to clean that, Dolly.

There has not been a new episode of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T (A Certain Scientific Railgun T) since the seventh week of the Spring 2020 anime season. Moreover, the next episode is not scheduled to air until the 24th of July. Through 15 episodes, my perspective on the Index/Railgun franchise has not changed. It's heavily flawed, but there have been a few things I've liked.

SATEN and Kuroko
I want cake.

Ito Kanae's setup and SATEN's subsequent pratfall in episode 14 is basically the highlight of Railgun season three thus far. Misaka x Touma 'shippers (y'all exist, right?) probably enjoyed the scene for other reasons. I liked it because SATEN amuses me and because I enjoy Ito Kanae's voice work.

Misaki and Mitori
This tightly controlled facility allows kids to run in the halls.

On a sort of related note, Shokuhou Misaki also amuses me, but I'd prefer if she talked more like a normal person and less like an anime weirdo. There has been a lot of Misaki this season, but not enough for me to understand what the Hell was going on sometimes without looking up background information (like why she acted the way she did around Touma). Possibly that information was provided in episodes from different installments of the Raildex Animatic Universe, but someone who only watches the Railgun episodes will find a significant part of it perplexing.

Touma
Touma isn't dim, it's your screen.

With regard to the animation itself, the quality has remained high, no doubt thanks to the numerous Covid-19 delays and breaks between episodes to accommodate production requirements. This presumably accounts for the current hiatus as well. Nevertheless, I think it's worth pointing out that precautionary measures (contrast dimming) meant to reduce the risk of flashing-light-induced seizures among susceptible viewers means that the screen dims significantly anytime Misaka does anything, because all of her powers involve flashing lights. I don't know if there is a better solution for addressing these concerns, but I hope the industry develops one someday.


9 June 2020: Giving Oregairu a second chance

Yukino
Yukino, those twintails are wearing you.

I dropped the first season of Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru. (localized as My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, but also known simply as Oregairu) after three episodes seven years ago. However, the series has a lot of fans who insist it's really good, and its third season does start in a few weeks, so I figured it deserved another try. I've finished the first season now, but most of my complaints from 2013 still hold.

Yui
Yui is a fraud. That hair ball is a clip-on. Also, unrelatedly, she is bad at dogs.

Hachiman and Yukino simply aren't endearing characters. Maybe they appeal to viewers who identify with them. I guess Yui is okay, but I'm mostly ambivalent about her. One thing I will give the show credit for is its portrayal of the popular kids. Instead of being backstabbing sadists like you'll typically find in anime school cliques, it's pretty obvious why their classmates gravitate toward Hayato and Yumiko.

Rumi
This one kid who appeared in two episodes is a better character than most of the regular cast.

Unfortunately, Oregairu also has entirely worthless characters as well. Specifically, the chuuni guy never stopped being annoying, and the fujoshi literally has no scenes or dialogue that don't involve screaming about boys love. These two characters could not be any more one-note if you tried, and they really drag down the rest of the show, especially when the episode is trying to say something insightful about relationships or the challenges facing students who feel as if they don't fit in with their classmates or what society expects of them.

Hachiman
I hope those who compared Hachiman to Batman while Oregairu was airing were doing so in jest.

I'm hoping the second season will be much better, because so far I'm entirely unimpressed with Oregairu. At least the second season (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku) adds Iroha to the cast. Granted, literally everything I know about Iroha comes from this video on the YouTube, but she also seems more popular than either Yukino or Yui, so presumably she has something going for her. Granted, that's sort of a low bar to clear considering how unimpressed I am by the show's two main girls so far. Really, the one to beat is Komachi, Hachiman's surprisingly reliable kid sister. She has her shit together and is clearly more intelligent than her brother, at least.


2 June 2020: Nami yo Kiitekure (Wave, Listen to Me!) celebrates poor decisions

Minare
What sort of bad decisions? Like, texting-your-ex bad.

Nami yo Kiitekure (Wave, Listen to Me!) features a rookie radio personality with a gift for yammering at a hundred miles per hour. There is an unreliable quality to the narration which leads me to wonder at times whether the events being depicted are accurately portrayed or if they are embellished by the point-of-view characters. The anime opens with a fictional fight between Minare and a thankfully non-3DCG bear. But later scenes frequently take an almost equally surreal quality that leads the viewer to question if they are genuinely occurring. New information comes to light in subsequent episodes, but the reasonableness of these revalations can themselves be somewhat uncertain.

Minare
I guess Mizuho is okay even though she not straight fucked-up.

In all likelihood, the "real" events are accurate portrayals of things that occur in Nami yo Kiitekure, and the actual reason for why they seem so farfetched is that some of these characters are just hot messes. On the other hand, Mizuho appears to have her shit together. Putting Minare and Mizuho in scenes together might make Minare look bad, but it's not Mizuho's fault for being better.

Minare
Look, don't make any hasty decisions. Get drunk first.

I don't know that I would still be watching Wave, Listen to Me! if so many other shows were not currently delayed. It is generally interesting and the show has great moments, plus its characters are all adults. However, some of these grown-ups seem only good for making the lives of other people more difficult. This makes them sort of interesting to watch, but not necessarily the type of people you should listen to, regardless of whether you are a wave or not.


26 May 2020: My Bakarina 'ship is a harem

Catarina
It's not easy being rich.

While a significant number of shows from the Spring 2020 anime season are delayed, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) marches on. Hamehura (alternatively Hamefura, but really now: Bakarina) is a solid adaptation of the popular web novel turned light novel. I've enjoyed the manga adaptation as well, thanks to some great character designs and relentless mugging which the anime sensibly adopts as well.

Mary and Maria
Relax, ladies, it's fine.

As for the show itself, the Bakarina anime features our clueless antagonist's ongoing efforts at avoiding either exile or a grisly demise, all while entirely ignorant that she's actually the protagonist now and entirely too successful at currying favor among her peers and erstwhile rivals. Clueless love interests in harem anime are nothing new (see, for example, Ichika in IS <:Infinite Stratos>), but I find Bakarina herself an amusing character and sort of endearing. At a minimum, that differentiates her from Potato-kun from such-and-such series quite a bit.

Catarina
Fruits Basket face.

If I had to identify why this distinction exists, I want to say it's because those typical harem comedy protagonists who remain oblivious to all the potential love interests hurling their undergarments at them tend to be in that position solely because the story says that's just the way it is, and not as a result of any qualities or efforts on their parts—at least not in any reasonable capacity. Catarina Claes, on the other hand, is fully committed to making sure all of these other characters like her as much as possible and get along with each other as well. That she doesn't realize she has already long accomplished this and is on the verge of collapsing her world into a harem comedy singularity sort of makes me like her too.


19 May 2020: I'm reading the In/Spectre manga

In/Spectre volumes 01, 02, and 03
Iwanaga is not a chuuni. She's probably just re-adjusting her eye.

Although I really enjoyed the In/Spectre (Kyokō Suiri, or Invented Inference) anime, I was surprised at long the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc lasted. (Specifically, it takes up the entire rest of the cours once it starts.) I'm reading the manga now, and these volumes include afterwords by the original author that shed light on the situation.

In/Spectre volumes 04, 05, and 06
Despite appearance, Kuro is also not a chuuni. He is tsundere for his own girlfriend, though.

Kyokou Suiri was originally one book. This received a manga adaptation which spanned six volumes. The author claims he gave the mangaka essentially full control over the visuals and a lot of latitude to apply appropriate changes while adapting the book to manga form. This hands-off approach seems to have worked, as the manga proved popular enough to inspire the original author to write more stories (while lamenting the Invented Inference title no longer really fit the subject matter of the later material).

In/Spectre volumes 07, 08, and 09
Iwanaga is wearing a school uniform because one of the stories takes place while she was in high school.

Notably, the original author (Shirodaira Kyo) wrote the subsequent material as short stories, rather than collaborating with the mangaka (Katase Chasiba) to produce scripts for the manga, reasoning that doing things differently at this point could inadvertently disrupt the chemistry of whatever it was that made the manga adaptation of the original book turn out so well. Well, he wasn't wrong. The five volumes following the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc are at least as good, if not better.

In/Spectre volumes 10 and 11
Rikka's not dead, she just looks like that.

As you may have guessed, the In/Spectre anime is itself an adaptation of the manga, and not a separate adaptation of the original book (which I've not had an opportunity to read). As adaptations go, it's very close, really only moving the arc with the giant snake so that it takes place before the Steel Lady Nanase arc instead of after it. I don't know if there are any plans to produce a sequel to the anime, but there is certainly enough source material to support one. All of the subsequent stories in the volumes I've read are shorter than the Steel Lady Nanase one, but at least three of them are long enough to span multiple episodes. Thankfully, the longest of these concluded at the end of volume 11, instead of with a cliffhanger leaving the reader waiting until the release of volume 12—that one won't be out until the end of August.


12 May 2020: Log Horizon isn't funny

Minori and Akatsuki
Minori and Akatsuki realize they are rivals.

I finished my re-watch of Log Horizon. It did not go as well as I was expecting. I remembered liking the series more in the past. Objectively, this is still true. I know this because I keep track of my ratings for individual anime episodes on a spreadsheet. (This was originally a joke, but then I kept doing it. See this, for example.) So I can technically quantify numerically specifically how much liked the series more in the past, even though I didn't score the second season very high to begin with. In any case, I liked the series less overall the second time around. That's not doing the upcoming third season any favors. There are two basic problems I have with the anime.

Lenessia and Crusty
You know you like it.

First, none of the jokes work for me. This includes the recurring gags involving Naotsugu and Akatsuki. There wasn't a reason to repeat them beyond the first episode. Then Tetora shows up in the second season. And fuuuck, Tetora is not amusing. None of those jokes work either. The other problem is the inverse relationship between the characters' reported ages and the maturity levels of their behavior. Well, at least that's the way it seems for the girls.

Nyanta and Serara
I seriously thought Serara was 12.

The worst offenders are Marielle (28), Henrietta (28), and Serara (16). Marielle is whiny and petulant, constantly throwing literal tantrums about the work she has to do. (She's sort of in charge.) Henrietta is obsessed with molesting Akatsuki and does so at every opportunity. Serara is the nekosexual girl who really, really, really likes Nyanta. All of these characters and their behavior are played for laughs. None of it is funny. On the other hand, Minori is only 14, and the princess who ends up saving her kingdom when the men in charge couldn't get their shit together is only 15. Presumably they'll be older during season three, though. Maybe they'll become less mature in keeping with the rest of the show.