Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
karmaburn.com karmaburn.com

8 June 2021: Tropical-Rouge! Precure is an average installment of the franchise, but that means it's pretty good

Laura
Just so you know, this is canon.

Is it racist to regard the mermaid character as the mascot of Tropical-Rouge! Precure? Because I'm gonna. The way I see it, Coco and Nuts from Yes! Precure 5 were both definitely mascots, even though they had human forms. (I think it's more appropriate to consider Milk and Syrup as sidekicks instead of mascots, but that's a digression.) Based on that precedent, I don't think it's inappropriate to also consider Laura as the team's mascot, even though she's more humanoid than, say, Hummy or Tarte.

Laura
It's lucky for the mermaid that the school and the city have so many canals.

I can see how someone might take issue with the mascot category in its entirety, due to various interpretations and implications of what "mascot" means. Some people like to refer to these sort of Pretty Cure characters as fairies, but that's clearly inappropriate here. Fairy is a biological designation which happens to apply to most of the mascots, but certainly would not apply to Laura. Mascot is a role, not a race. See, for example, the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken, or Tainan's fish thing, Sababoy.

Laura, Minori, Manatsu, and Sango
Playing "Hide the Mermaid" is a good recurring gag.

In any case, Laura is pretty great, and a significant reason why Tropical-Rouge! Precure is so good. Really, all of the characters are enjoyable, but that's basically the norm when it comes to Pretty Cure characters in general. I like the unmotivated villains as well, even if sometimes they're a little too relatable. Through 15 episodes, if I were to rack and stack it along with the previous generations, Tropical-Rouge! ends up in the middle, but among some good company. It's a testament to how many exceptional years this franchise has produced so far that it doesn't place higher.


1 June 2021: I like Back Arrow because it is bullshit

Atlee
I like Atlee even though I don't know how her hat stays on.

Back Arrow caught my eye prior to the Winter 2021 anime season because it was listed as a two-cours original anime. That suggested the show would have a reasonably well-developed story leading to a conclusive, coherent ending. Through 21 episodes so far, it's definitely got a story, and it seems to be headed toward an actual ending, but I don't know if I'd call it well-developed or coherent. Fortunately, Back Arrow doesn't really seem to need to be either of those things. It's gotten pretty entertaining simply by layering on more and more inexplicable developments. I suspect the ending will still leave a number of aspects unaddressed, but—based on the way it's getting there—it sort of doesn't matter. What I'm saying is Back Arrow is not only bullshit, it is now wall-to-wall bullshit and has been all season. It's pretty great.

Ren
I want to see what Ren's hair looks like right out of a shower.

Moreover, Back Arrow has also done a reasonably good job juggling its fairly sizable cast. Before the show started, I had preconceptions about which characters would get the most screen time. Thankfully, nearly all of my predictions were wrong, and the show devotes a considerable amount of attention to the more interesting characters while sidelining the, frankly, more boring-er ones. Nevertheless, I do still wish Ren Sin and her Han Megumi brilliance would get more scenes. I've still got quite an appetite for her constantly angry attitude, even if she does have fucked-up bangs.


25 May 2021: Thunderbolt Fantasy season three is the most complicated puppet show I have ever watched

Rin and Sho
I heard you like puppets.

Admittedly, I have not watched very many puppet shows, but the list of puppet shows that I have watched does include seasons one and two of Thunderbolt Fantasy, so I think I am at least somewhat entitled to characterize its third season as being more complex than its predecessors. At a minimum, I feel it takes focused concentration to ensure I am not missing critical plot developments or under-appreciating character decisions. This is not to say Thunderbolt Fantasy: Tōriken Yūki 3 is a daunting show to follow in principle—just that there are some factors making it a surprisingly demanding watch considering I initially got on board strictly for puppet-fu.

Nanasatsu Tenryo
If you're going to spend the rest of your life as a sword, you may as well look fabulous.

For one thing, the names of the characters are spoken in Japanese, but the subtitles display their Chinese (or sometimes English) variants. This practice is not unique to the third season, but has made names more difficult to remember as the cast list grows. And then every character seems to have their own thing going on, so there are more plot threads to track. Additionally, most of the scenes this season have been somewhat dimly lit. This doesn't help when characters are routinely changing locations by literally teleporting through magic portals. Sometimes it's difficult to determine if I'm supposed to recognize locations. Still, these are not strong complaints, and Thunderbolt Fantasy continues to serve up awesome Taiwanese puppet fights, so I'm pretty stoked this third season exists at all.


18 May 2021: I get the feeling 86 Eighty Six is about interracial dating instead of war

Vladilena Lena, Handler One, Bloody Regina Milizé
Does this mean Lena has figured out she can use the PARA-RAID for phone sex?

After 6 six episodes of 86 Eighty Six, I think I can understand why readers enjoy the original light novels. I haven't been following the reactions to the anime closely, but I believe most impressions to it are favorable as well. The story has had enough interesting developments and twists that I expect most viewers who ventured past the first episode continue to enjoy it. If the anime gets more than one cours, I could see how an eventual romance between the two leads might make up the core of the story. Moreover, it would probably be better if that is that is the case, because 86 Eighty Six as a war story is somewhat shite.

Shinei Shin, Undertaker, Reaper Nouzen
This is Mikasa Ackerman's son, isn't it.

The anime is still revealing elements about the war in 86 Eighty Six, but I get the feeling we're all better off not thinking about it too much. Aircraft exist, but only so tourists can get shot down. Artillery exists, but only in the form of weenie short-ranged mortars. The apparent objectives for the battles shown so far are also sort of questionable. On the plus side, their spider-mechs are pretty fresh. I get that it's unfair to criticize 86 Eighty Six for these sorts of things when I'm totally okay with the SSSS.DYNAZENON fights, but it is possible to make unrealistic battles compelling (see The Price of Smiles, for example), and these just aren't.


11 May 2021: Godzilla Singular Point seems to have more than one point

Mei
Mei stares a lot in this show.

I don't actually know that much about the Godzilla franchise, but I'm under the impression that the movies typically start with people noticing something unusual, and the something really unsettling happens, and then everyone gets their shit wrecked, sometimes by Godzilla, sometimes by whatever Godzilla is fighting. This at least holds true of the few Godzilla properties I have seen, and it seems to hold true in the Godzilla Singular Point anime.

Jet Jaguar
Have harpoon gun. Will travel.

Godzilla doesn't appear in the first six episodes of Godzilla S.P, but there is a nerdy grad student who wears birth control glasses that are constantly on the verge of sliding off her face. There's also an AI that's probably technically malware, and an old man with a bitchin' car and a totally sweet garage-built robot, and some regular dudes who don't have the greatest survival instincts, but are getting by so far nevertheless.

Yun, Gorou, and Haberu
You have to be the size of a child to fit in this robot.

As an anime, Godzilla Singular Point is pretty good so far, and is probably worth your time once it hits the U.S. Netflix at, I dunno, some later date. Or at least it's worth your time providing you have any sort of interest in either Godzilla or nerdy girls who wear birth control glasses. At a minimum, it's better than the three-movie 3DCG thing that's already on the Netflix. That one just wasn't very compelling. I did feature Ueda Reina, though.


4 May 2021: I'm enjoying SSSS.DYNAZENON

Yume
I love how unaccommodating the ergonomics are for flying this thing.

As with SSSS.GRIDMAN before it, SSSS.DYNAZENON is not really about either giant robots or kaiju. Rather, it is about the human struggles affecting the characters themselves. After five episodes, the most consequential plot line in the show appears to be Yume's quest to learn more about her older sister and come to grips with her death. Sure, there is that whole kaiju thing and people reappearing from 5000 years ago, but Yume's got a lot going on, okay.

Mei and Yume
Yume is basically an entirely different person around someone she trusts.

Nevertheless, she still finds time to go to giant-robot practice (I love that they have actual giant-robot practice) and seems to have embraced this whole fighting monsters thing as a reasonable part of her life. Unfortunately, SSSS.DYNAZENON has not yet abandoned Potato-kun as a protagonist. Sidelining Yuuta in favor of Rikka and Akane was one of the best things SSSS.GRIDMAN ever did. I'm not saying Yomogi is entirely worthless, but I really got my hopes up when Chise took an interest in learning how to pilot as well.


27 April 2021: Super Cub hits like a truck

Koguma
Relax, kid. You're gonna be all right.

Super Cub is not an isekai (at least not yet), but it does feature an extremely low-key girl discovering a new world. Koguma lives a life of solitude and makes obvious efforts to avoid drawing attention to her young self. However, she does score a used Honda Super Cub for about a hundred bucks, and it starts to change her life. Thematically, there are similarities to the Ah! My Goddess arc where Skuld learns how to ride a bicycle. It's a liberating moment for both of them, when Skuld finally experiences the joy Belldandy already knows, and when Koguma discovers her old boundaries are gone.

Koguma
When you double-ride with anxiety, you never ride alone.

At the risk of spoiling both the first episode of Super Cub and The Wizard of Oz (1939), color similarly bursts onto the screen when Koguma departs her drab old world for her mysterious new future once she successfully kick-starts her Cub's engine for the first time. I wouldn't call the transition subtle, but I know not all viewers caught it during the moment. Through three episodes, Super Cub regularly uses these sort of visuals and audible cues to communicate Koguma's further discoveries. I don't know if the anime will continue to concentrate on this sort of internalized wonder, or if it will transition into a more conventional "girls who really enjoy a specific hobby" show, but I'm eager to go along for the ride—even if the conveyance in question has already killed thrice before.


20 April 2021: Koikimo is better than Higehiro even though both are missing the same thing

Ichika and Ryo
Stalker distancing.

News that the Spring 2021 anime season would feature TWO shows about adult men paired with high school girls created ripples across the Twitter, but even this mild outrage waned after viewers discovered neither show was as torrid as anticipated. Descriptions of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love, A.K.A. Koikimo) in particular concentrated on elements that ranged from misleading (characterizing its male lead as "a womanizer") to outright untruthful (e.g., calling him "sex-crazed...with a wandering eye for women"). At the risk of stereotyping too much, I suspect more attention should have been paid to the fact that the Koikimo manga is described as josei (i.e., for adult women) instead of seinen (i.e., for adult men who miss fucking teenage girls).

Sayu and Yoshida
I was too bothered by Sayu's lack of luggage to make a Fate/stay night joke.

Curiously, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway) seemed to attract less pre-season attention than Koikimo, but perhaps its original novels and manga adaption were already known well enough to deflect unwarranted speculation that it was going to be a smutty romp. This, despite its synopsis outright stating that its characters meet when the titular teenage girl, Sayu, offers sex in exchange for a place to stay. Instead, Higehiro is about a man, Yoshida, who insists he is not attracted to the JK crashing at his place. The series begins with Yoshida being rejected by his long-term crush (his boss at work, no less) who claims she is already seeing someone. He is so devastated that he seemingly does not even notice she was CLEARLY LYING.

Gotou
Dude, you're staring.

Higehiro also draws attention to Yoshida's insistence that he is not a "nice guy" for letting Sayu live with him without strings attached (unlike everyone else she has stayed with during her previous six months as a runaway), but rather that the other men she has known are despicable people. Yoshida also repeatedly insists he is not attracted to Sayu because he only likes women with large breasts, but then the show promptly undercuts him by immediately alerting (and repeatedly reminding) the viewer that Sayu's boobs are also comfortably big.

Sayu
Higehiro even quantifies the comparison.

This is where I lose the ability to predict the path Higehiro will take. There is enough fan service and "male gaze" to the anime that we are obviously supposed to see Sayu as a legitimate love interest of Yoshida's, despite (or perhaps because of) his loud denials. But the show also retains the harem elements by keeping the CLEARLY LYING boss lady and deliberately slapdash co-worker near as potential romantic rivals. If I had to guess how this story ends, I would expect Yoshida's support to put Sayu on a path to success before re-uniting the two after a multi-year timeskip apart that has given Sayu time to become a self-sufficient adult with even bigger boobs than ever. Alternatively, we'll get a cop-out non-ending ending, potentially with all four of them living together for contrived reasons.

Ryo
You can tell he's sincere because of the sparkles.

While Higehiro is about a man who denies being attracted to the teenage girl living with him, Koikimo is about a man openly and aggressively wooing a high school girl 10 years his junior. At this point, I think it is necessary to acknowledge the tropes that govern this story's boundaries. Ryo and Ichika meet by chance and a suspension bridge moment sparks his sudden obsession with Ichika, who is coincidentally classmates with Ryo's kid sister, Rio. Fortunately for Ryo, his sister not only approves of his infatuation with her friend, but even volunteers as his wingman to provide opportunities for him to get closer with Ichika.

Ruri, Rio, Ichika, and Satsuki
Rio's anime bed is made of concrete.

Moreover, Ichika's own mother approves of Ryo's courtship, despite Ichika's clear displeasure. It is probably worth pointing out that Ryo has apparently never had to pursue a love interest before. He is not a pick-up artist chasing after fresh prey. Instead, girls and women have thrown themselves at him his entire life (Ichika's and Rio's classmates all unanimously agree Ryo is exceptionally handsome), so this is an entirely new experience for him.

Sayu and Yoshida
Dude, you're staring.

So what are Koikimo and Higehiro both missing? Lust. In the case of Koikimo, Ryo is clearly, genuinely smitten with Ichika, but he is arguably more drawn to her disinterest in him than he is to her physical appearance. Ichika is presented as being fairly unremarkable among her peers, and her own best friend describes her as "normal" (although at least one boy at her school has taken a liking to her). In the case of Higehiro, it takes three episodes of the show loudly signalling that Sayu is comely and sexually available before Yoshida finally admit he finds her attractive. However, his refusal to sleep with her is predicated on a critical, foundational cornerstone to the narrative's integrity, so I don't expect the story can too easily reverse this stance even if the audience comes to think he protests too much.

Ichika and Rio
She is upset because she is pleased.

After four episodes of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui and three episodes of Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou., I enjoy Koikimo more than Higehiro. Neither series is especially realistic (although I could believe Higehiro, despite the melodrama, were it not for the CLEARLY LYING Christmas-cake boss lady and the co-worker who deliberately fucks up her work for Yoshida's attention), but I find Koikimo more amusing. I can't rule out the possibility that I'm simply more enamored of Ichika's seemingly endless barrage of disgusted faces than I am with Sayu's "pretty big for a high school girl" bosom, though.