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28 July 2020: Major 2nd S2 is back

Tao, Sakura, Yayoi, and Anita
This is not an enthusiasm comparison chart.

The second season of Major 2nd went on hiatus after episode seven in the spring, but has resumed production for the summer anime season. It's not clear to me how long the show will run, but I'm hoping the Major franchise remains popular enough that we'll get at least a few more cours out of it. Having a mostly female cast and (so far) no sudden tragedies are departure from the norm, but not ones that have hurt the series at all.

Daigo and Sakura
This is a baseball thing, not a Covid thing.

The first season of Major 2nd already established that Daigo's story was going to be significantly different from Goro's in that Daigo's talent for the sport has been entirely unremarkable, and certainly so compared to Goro's freakish abilities. However, through 10 episodes of the second season, Daigo has effectively applied the lessons he's learned as he finesses the new leadership role that was thrust upon him.

Yamaguchi
The teacher isn't giving signs. She got bonked on the head by a foul ball while napping.

Daigo's middle school team of mostly girls is doing well, but they're by no means assured of victory in these contests. All of them are talented to some degree, but there a few areas that could use significant improvement. Even some fundamentals are shaky at times. I'm hoping Major 2nd Season 2 continues running long enough for the team to come together, because it's not going to happen overnight. I am optimistic for an extended run, though. A new OP is scheduled to drop 22 August, coinciding with the return of Horie Yui's character from the first season. Hell yeah.


21 July 2020: I don't know what I expected from DECA-DENCE, but it wasn't this

Natsume
I sort of get the feeling this job would benefit from additional PPE.

The first episode of DECA-DENCE makes it look like a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age tale about a girl who refuses to give up her dreams. Based on the second episode, it still seems to be all that, but we learn there is a lot more to this world than previously revealed. (And we also learn one of the characters is tired of living.)

Natsume
Still looks more comfortable than many anime beds.

I'm not sure what to make of DECA-DENCE yet. The show looks fantastic, and the animation is great. I enjoy the two apparent main leads (recent graduate Natsume and Kaburagi, her supervisor at work) so far, but I'm glad that green-haired douche from the first episode took a week off. It's also not clear yet whether Deca-dence—the name of the giant mobile fortress—has anything to do with "decadence." Maybe it's meant to be ironic; life as a tanker looks austere.


14 July 2020: Sword Art Online is back and it's the SAO we know

Alice
I still don't actually know what "Alicization" means, unless it involves energy beams to the face.

The final cours of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld began on Saturday, picking up where it left off six months ago. First, a quick overview: Sword Art Online is the franchise. Alicization is its third major season (and once complete, will be four cours long—as long as the first two seasons combined). War of Underworld is the double-cours second half of Alicization.

Alice
I bet that sleep spell wouldn't have worked if Alice S. 30 had an N95 mask.

The original SAO cast was absent from most of the previous 12 episodes, which focused instead on Alice Sythesis Thirty, a UCLA Bruin introduced for the third season. Kirito has been present during War of Underworld, sort of, but relegated to mostly convalescing in a wheelchair while Alice S. Thirty pushed him around so he could be nearer to people who want him dead.

Kirito and Sinon
He's probably trying to figure out what's going on with your outfit.

Kirito has been showing signs that he's still awake somewhere behind his dead-fish eyes, so it's a cinch he's going to make his grand return at some point. Kirito's, uh, new best friend Eugeo also features prominently during the opening and closing credits of the new season, so maybe he's going to be back, too.

Asuna and Sinon
Somehow Asuna is the only one to recognize flying is a big deal.

Asuna and Sinon both joined the titular war at the end of the previous cours. Leafa and Klein logged in during the first episode of the current cours. So yeah, they're getting the old crew back together for the season's big finish. Fans of the original cast who have been dying for more Silica and Lisbeth deban presumably won't have to wait much longer. First-season characters are not the only thing that has returned, though. Sexual assault is also back.

Quinella
I'm including the time the pope Jedi mind fucked Eugeo.

Actually, sexual assault has never really left. Attempted rape, etc., is such a common occurrence in the Sword Art Online franchise that I'm not sure I could name all the times it appears without accidentally forgetting a scene or two. I don't even object to its inclusion on principle, necessarily—it's just always contrived and presented so poorly and obnoxiously, though.

Leafa
I can't rule out the possibility Suguha just enjoys suffering.

In the instant case, Leafa logs in, makes a new friend, and is instantly tentacle raped by an exaggerated over-the-top villain (the most common sort of villain in SAO). It goes beyond even the infamous first-season example involving Asuna. (That's specific enough to identify which one I mean, right?) Leafa suffers through it for entirely unconvincing reasons.

Gabriel Miller
You can identify SAO villains because they all make this face.

Maybe Sword Art Online includes these scenes and presents them in this way because possibly a significant majority of SAO fans enjoy and appreciate them, but I'm optimistic enough to hope it's done out of deference to Kawahara Reki's light novels. I don't know how much the SAO anime deviates from the source material, but I sort of get the feeling that it's not doing it enough.

Alice
I don't remember Alice S. XXX wearing this outfit before.

If you listen to the commentary track for Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, it's quite obvious the production team changed or rejected a significant number of Kawahara's ideas and scenes. I can only guess at what the movie's original script might have looked like, but I think all but the most puerile viewers can identify with certainty which elements of the television show desperately needed re-working.


7 July 2020: Dokyuu Hentai HxEros and Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha demonstrate it can be better to be first than good

Retto
I bet this watch doesn't even keep time.

The Summer 2020 anime season is upon us, and the first shows I watched were Dokyuu Hentai HxEros (SUPER HXEROS) and Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy). These were not exactly shows I was looking forward to seeing, but they were among the ones first out the gate, so why not? As it turns out, neither are as bad as I might have feared, although I can't exactly call them good either.

Retto and Kirara
Ol' Red here is literally powered by this blonde girl's indefatigable libido.

In the case of Dokyuu Hentai HxEros, there have been multiple anime in the past that involved teenagers harnessing the power of their youth to battle various evildoers. Dakara Boku wa, Ecchi ga Dekinai. (So, I Can't Play H!) comes to mind, as does Hybrid × Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia (i.e., the other HxH anime—the one that is not Hunter x Hunter). SUPER HXEROS was actually sort of amusing thanks to its embrace of tokusatsu live-action tropes. The show is self-aware, but not to a negative extent.

Anos and Misha
Picking up The Precious Thing is apparently a big deal in Misha's eyes.

I'm expecting Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha to be light-novel rubbish, but I genuinely appreciate that the first episode skipped the backstory and setup entirely, dropping the reader straight into the reincarnated demon king's first day at Evil Hogswarth. (Okay, fine, at a slightly eviler Hogswarth.) The characters at school are entirely forgettable so far, and exist mostly so the "misfit demon king" has various assholes he can easily defeat. (They totally have it coming.) His parents seem really dumb, but in a good-natured sort of way, so I'm willing to watch more. Overall, not a great start to the Summer 2020 anime season, but good enough for its first week.


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.