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26 January 2021: I could tell you about all the good anime I'm watching this season, or I could tell you about IDOLY PRIDE instead

Kotono
We can tell you're the kid sister because you look the same except for having darker hair.

Actually, wait, IDOLY PRIDE is pretty good too, or at least it is for sufficiently generous definitions of good. I started watching IDOLY PRIDE because it was described as an original anime and the PV made the show seem oddly sincere. Meaning, I was expecting a brand new entry into the idol wars to lean more on a gimmick of some sort. (See, for example, this season's Gekidol and its gimmick.) However, it looked as if IDOLY PRIDE would simply be a straightforward show about idols trying their best. [Spoilers: It is not.]

Kouhei and Mana
She is sort of distracting.

So yeah, there is a gimmick. (Spoilers from here on out.) One of the idols is a ghost. Well, not one of the idols in the troupe, but there is a ghost. Specifically, it's the older sister of the dour idol who has main-character hair. However, the only one who can see or hear her is her old manager (a former classmate from high school) who is now in charge of a lot of rookie idols. I'll need to go back and re-watch some scenes to be sure, but I suspect it's also entirely possible that there is no ghost and Manager Guy (Kouhei) is just cracking up. I mean, he does do that thing where he'll look in her direction and respond aloud to her while everyone else around him is deeply confused by his constant non sequiturs. I have to say that's probably a worrying trait to see in someone who is responsible for your career.

Kouhei and Mana
Mana doesn't cast reflections or shadows, but Kouhei appeared to feel her leaning on him.

Whether Mana actually is a ghost or just a constant hallucination that Kouhei can't shake, I'm enjoying the dynamic. I get the feeling a single-cours anime is not going to be long enough to get me invested in what the other idols have going on, but I am enjoying IDOLY PRIDE so far. In fact, I'm probably enjoying it somewhat disproportionately, since I'm not sure I can really characterize the show as being anything more than merely okay. Still, I'm eager to see where this is going, even though I suspect it would probably be better as a ghost-girlfriend romance than as an idol show about rookies doing their best.


19 January 2021: I guess I have to call the Mushoku Tensei anime adaptation a success

Rudeus
Would he still have ended up a shithead anyway if he didn't have incredible magic powers?

I was first introduced to Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu (Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation or Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go To Another World) years ago when it was only a web novel. Specifically, every single thing I heard about it made it sound terrible, even from readers who enjoyed it. In particular, the protagonist (named Rudeus in his new life) sounded about as despicable as you can make a character, at least according to secondhand sources.

Rudeus and Roxy
Roxy thinks Rudy only has crippling equine anxiety.

The second episode of the anime adaptation focuses a fair amount on the trauma that led to Rudy becoming a hikkikomori in his previous life. Even as a five-year-old boy in his new life, severe anxiety prevents him from leaving his home or making eye contact with villagers in the countryside. He does seem to get over it, thanks to the assistance of his live-in magic tutor who has befriended the neighbors during the course of her stay. I suppose this does inspire some degree of sympathy, since the anime depicts the bullying he suffered from his point of view and without any context. Still, it's not clear what transpired between his school days and adulthood. We learn he gets kicked out after staying home to masturbate instead of attending his parents' funeral, but it's less clear how he got there, and it's unknown what sort of course corrections—if any—he attempted during his life before reaching that point. The bullying is not enough for me to just give him a pass. In any case, the anime hasn't dwelled too much on his past (at least not yet), probably to its benefit.

Roxy and Rudeus
I sort of think Roxy would have noticed this.

The anime does continue to portray him as a perverted child, but there's not any comedic value in it. I presume these scenes are there to help establish a baseline that includes his pre-reincarnation persona and will thereby underscore progress that he makes later in this two-cours series. I'm mostly ambivalent about Rudeus at this point, so that's relatively positive considering I was expecting to loathe him. The anime itself still looks really nice, so I imagine fans of the books must be pleased with how it's turning out. I don't know that I'm going to stick around for two cours of this, but the show seems all right so far. I was expecting more questionable creative choices in the writing, but it seems those impressions may have been web-novel baggage that Mushoku Tensei is not dragging with it into the anime, at least not so far.


12 January 2021: Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? (that spider anime) was the first show from Winter 2021 that I dropped

Kumoko
Should have anime-sized all of the spider eyes.

I first heard about Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? (So I'm a Spider, So What?) when it was a web novel. At least one person in an IRC channel I'm in was pretty enthusiastic about it, and I eventually read a few of the early chapters when an English translation became available. This was years ago, but "that spider thing" sort of always stayed on the radar as its popularity grew and it received light novel and manga adaptations. This made me optimistic about the anime, but it took only one episode for me to reject it entirely. I'm out, and I don't expect to give it another chance.

Kumoko
This should have been more disturbing.

For one thing, they gave the spider a softer, gentler, anime face instead of an actual spider face. I appreciate that a significant number of people are genuinely creeped out by spiders, and making the protagonist visually unsettling would instantly alienate a lot of its potential viewers. But I always felt as if the casual horror of the spider-girl's predicament was the source material's main draw. I really don't need yet another isekai about characters gaining new powers. In any case, the first episode lacked any sort of tension. At a minimum, I think it would have been better had it been at least disturbing to watch.

Feirune, Schlain, Filimøs, and Karnatia
Yeah, no. I'm not watching a show about these people.

Still, I think I could have gotten past that were it not for this other, more damnable flaw: Holy shit, who are these numbnuts? I'm talking about all the humans. Specifically, her teacher and fellow classmates who have also been reincarnated in this other world, except as mostly nobility (who aren't even cannibals) instead of as spiders. Based on comments I've seen on the Twitter, readers of the light novel really enjoy the human characters (or at least one of them?) and the roles they play in the story. That at least explains why they featured so prominently in the promotional materials, but I checked out instantly during their segment of the first episode. I'm sure it's fine if Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? is the only anime you're watching, but there are a lot of shows airing this season. In fact, there are probably close to 20 that are more interesting. I'm not watching all of those, but it guarantees I won't be making time for this one, at least not as it's currently airing.


5 January 2021: Kamisama ni Natta Hi is not a good anime

Hina and Youta
I had to include a picture of these two because they're the main characters.

Despite a promising first episode, Kamisama ni Natta Hi (The Day I Became a God) turned out to be fairly awful in a number of areas, and likely disappointed even fans of Key's usual shtick. Critically, I felt nothing when The Big Sad Thing inevitably happened. This despite reports Maeda Jun intended for it to be the saddest anime ever. Surprising no one, I'm sure, Hina suffers debilitating mental degradation just as Potato-kun comes to realize how important she has become to him. Unfortunately, the way he conveys his emotions and the actions he takes for pretty much the entire rest of the anime are aggravating to watch. It's sort of baffling, even if you're already expecting this to happen to some degree.

Kyouko
For real, though, Kyouko had excellent hair.

Ultimately, it's entirely unrewarding. I can see how at least in theory Kamisama ni Natta Hi looked like it could succeed when viewed as an outline or synopsis (you know, assuming you're okay with infantalizing love interests), but it certainly fell apart somewhere between the initial pitch and the screen. It's not all bad, though. I genuinely enjoyed the mostly standalone episode where Violet Evergarden and her father come to grips with Dead Mom Subplot. That basically had all the, uh, Key elements of Maeda Jun's bullshit done right. And I liked the Mahjong Calvinball episode which had the sort of high-energy wackiness I remember from the Angel Beats! fishing episode. The Day I Became a God did continue to have some nice gags throughout its run, although the first episode probably had the most successful jokes. I'm still willing to watch the next Key anime, but I get the feeling I'll enjoy it a lot more if its a sports comedy of some sort instead of another romance involving mentally impaired girls.


29 December 2020: The war on pants will go on a long as it has to

Yoshika and Shizuka
I don't dislike Miyafuji anymore, but these two still aren't exactly favorites.

It's been a while since I've watched the first two Strike Witches seasons, but I felt this third season seemed better overall than those previous installments. I also liked it better than the Brave Witches spinoff. Despite this, I'm still not at all prepared to call Strike Witches: Road to Berlin the best season yet even though it sort of has to be by definition. The problem is Road to Berlin still relied on the Neuroi as the primary advesary. This is an unavoidable component of the World Witches canon, but these alien invaders have never been compelling enemies. The witches need to fight somebody, but the battles still feel hollow and the stakes haven't grown as the war has progressed, despite a fair amount of dialogue trying to convince viewers that they have.

World Witches Take Off!
That sure is a lot of witches.

Thankfully, Strike Witches 3 at least avoided some of the even less convincing drama that dragged down parts of the first two seasons. Frankly, I rather enjoy the characters more when they're doing silly things in garrison such as in the Strike Witches: 501 Butai Hasshin Shimasu! (Strike Witches: 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off!) gag anime. This bodes well for next season's World Witches Hasshin Shimasu! (World Witches Take Off!) installment, although I think I would still prefer it use the standard superlovely character designs than the simpler comedy-friendly ones.


22 December 2020: Majo no Tabitabi was interesting, but I haven't decided if I thought it was good

Sheila
Majo no Tabitabi needed more Sheila.

Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) turned out to be a lot different from what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be more laid back, like Flying Witch, but instead the series is more about Elaina observing the fucked-up world around her in a mostly non-committal sort of way. In this respect, I've seen it compared to Kino's Journey (which I haven't seen). I don't know if this is the case for Kino, but Elaina's detachment (and narcissism, honestly) makes her sort of dull, although the strange encounters she has during her travels are interesting.

Saya
Poor Saya missed out on the final episode's all-you-can-eat buffet.

I'm not suggesting there are major flaws to Wandering Witch that needs improving, but I do think it would be better if Elaina had more charisma. I found myself enjoying Saya's appearances much more than I thought I would, considering she mostly comes across as a turbo-lesbian gag character. Guest appearances by various other witches also helped out the show a lot. The best elements of the show and its finest moments all involve characters other than Elaina. I don't think this is by design, but rather it's because I just didn't find Elaina herself particularly interesting. Ultimately, I did enjoy the show overall, and I would watch more of it, but I'd rather have future episodes told from a different character's point of view if Elaina is going to remain the same.


15 December 2020: I'm probably less likely to watch Wonder Egg Priority if I find out what it's about before it starts

Saki
Every word in Wonder Egg Priority is English, but that combination has no meaning!

The Winter 2021 anime season is going to be a busy one. Not only are there a mess of sequels coming out, there are also a fair number of anime-original offerings for anyone exhausted from years of light novel adaptations. One such show is Wonder Egg Priority from CloverWorks which recently released a PV but offered basically no other information. I know it features a character with heterochromia and there is at least one dekochin, but I'm otherwise entirely ignorant about it. However, I am curious enough to watch at least the first episode, and it seems likely the anime will at least look good.

Elisha
I guess this post is getting the "Girls With Guns" tag.

The promotional material for another original anime, Back Arrow, features cowboys and giant robots. These are not things I associate with each other (well, there was Bakuretsu Tenshi years ago), so there's the potential for some originality here. It's reportedly going to be at least two cours and I'm reasonably confident Bones isn't going to just half-ass this project. It looks like it has a fairly large cast, too, and I spotted Ueda Reina's name associated with the show. The combination of these factors are enough to get me to at least check it out. The PV could use more robots, though.

Shadow and Reki
Prince of Stride: Alternative at least had Hanakana supporting its racers.

Among the remaining original anime offerings, I'm almost certainly going to ignore all the ones about idols. I'm also staying away from the GoHands project which looks suspiciously like another secret sequel to Hand Shakers. You're not getting me twice, fuckers. On the upside, there is a racing show called SK∞ (SK8 the Infinity) about dudes skateboarding down into a mine shaft while beating the shit out of each other. It probably suffers from not-enough-anime-girls syndrome, but it might turn out to still be entertaining anyway.


8 December 2020: Golden Kamuy is the best show of the season

Sugimoto
Sugimoto embarks on another culinary adventure.

I probably don't mention Golden Kamuy enough, considering how good it is. Its third season is easily the best show from the Autumn 2020 anime season, at least among the 20-ish titles I've sampled. (Really, it's more like the third split cours of a continuous narrative than a third "season" necessarily.)

Asirpa
I hope y'all are also taking measurements and not just copying by eye.

Launching into the Golden Kamuy anime from its starting point involves crashing headlong into some really janky 3DCG work in the first season, but the show itself is excellent. The anime's episode count is still only in the low thirties, so it's not a huge commitment for anyone curious about getting into it for the first time.

Hijikata and Ushiyama
Hijikata is the strongest swordsman because he carries a rifle.

Of course, the other option is to just read the source manga instead. The 19th volume of the official English language release comes out this month. However, the manga is still ongoing with new chapters appearing weekly. I've heard the fan translations are quite good and provide well-researched contextual notes. Personally, I've been sticking with the official releases, so I'm quite a bit behind when it comes to the manga, but at least I'm caught up with the anime.