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15 October 2019: I'm pretending to watch Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia for reasons other than Ishtar

Ishtar, Mash, Fou, and Ritsuka
Potato-kun, are you wearing capri pants on this expedition?

The actual story and lore associated with Fate/Grand Order is incomprehensible to me because everything I know about it comes from secondary or tertiary sources such as people on the Twitter talking about the game, or from its fan art, or from people on the Twitter talking about the game's fan art. And while I have a semi-coherent understanding of the original Fate/stay night game, the currently airing Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia) anime is so removed from those origins that what I do know doesn't help at all. Compounding the problem, the anime seems to be adapting the seventh major arc of the FGO game, so there's an implied understanding that viewers should be familiar with the equivalent of six previous seasons. After the prologue and two proper episodes (plus the Fate/Grand Order -First Order- OVA), I'm still sort of lost.

Ishtar
I can't rule out the possibility Marisa stole Ishtar's shit.

Thankfully, it seems recognizing references or knowing all the lore is not strictly necessary to enjoying the Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia anime. For one thing, it looks fantastic, and is probably the first solid example of a show where I can clearly identify 3DCG elements without having any of it bother me at all. (Okay, the lions bother me a little bit.) For example, flowing water actually looks as if it belongs in the same world. Additionally, the action scenes are entertaining, albeit rather busy. There is a lot of shit going on and a lot of cuts that seem designed to impress via fancy animation. Well, they are fancy, and I am impressed, but I think I'd prefer a less frantic style. Really, though, these are minor complaints on my part at best (even the stuff about the incomprehensible lore). As a matter of general principle, I'll almost certainly continue to watch Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia for as long as it runs, providing it periodically features Ishtar doing Ishtar-type things.


8 October 2019: Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was the best show of the Summer 2019 anime season

Sugawara
Lewd.

I suppose I need to set aside my anti-Okada bias now that I've enjoyed one of her melodramas so much. As far as sex disasters go, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was honestly a little light on the sex and not as traumatic in the disaster department as I would have liked, but O Maidens in Your Savage Season did have the courage to do a lot of things that I don't think an Okada-free show would have attempted. Framed in the sense that tragedies end in murder while comedies end in marriage. I was optimistically hoping Araoto would turn out to be a tragedy, but I still liked it quite a bit even though it turned out to be a comedy.

Sonezaki
Relax, it's only lust.

Not that there wasn't tragic stuff in it, but we're talking emotional-trauma tragic, not murder-suicide tragic. I do wish Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 had not gone quite so easy on the arcs that had the best opportunities for going really poorly for everyone involved, but I acknowledge this is a sadistic perspective. Besides, fully exploring some of the paths that its characters could have taken would have changed the tone of the show dramatically. Probably I still would have been entertained, but I appreciate that many viewers would not have been as accepting. Still, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to hope an Okada Mari sex disaster would end with a murder instead of a marriage. I'm just sayin'.


1 October 2019: I wish Cop Craft looked as good as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Tilarna
Literally a still frame with a voice over.

Cop Craft and Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) didn't really have much in common aside from airing during the same season. As far as their respective stories went, I was more interested in Cop Craft than in Kimetsu no Yaiba, but there is no question the latter was a better show. This despite the fact that Zenitsu (that panicky orange-haired fucker who shouted all his lines) was annoying as all Hell. Frankly, overcoming that is a testament to how good ufotable can be. Kimetsu no Yaiba looked amazing. It's hard to believe some of its sequences were even possible in a TV anime. Conversely, Cop Craft very much looked like television anime, and one that was constantly pressured to meet timelines. Nearly all of its action sequences had an unfinished quality to them pretty much all season long, and there was a recap episode inserted between episodes nine and 10. Based on how these scenes actually played out—with various shortcuts to substitute for missing animation—you get the sense that Millepensee at least had high ambitions, initially. (See also Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter.)

Nezuko
Pretty much anything I tell you about this would be a spoiler.

Would Cop Craft be better than Kimetsu no Yaiba if its animation looked as good? I don't think I can claim that, but I suppose potentially in the eyes of viewers who enjoy police stories with odd-couple crimefighters forced to work together. As far as the Demon Slayer story goes, I'm certainly not intrigued enough to seek out the manga now that the series has ended (although there will be a movie to cover the next arc). The fact I enjoyed it as much as I did is another testament to ufotable's anime adaptation which remained consistently good during its 26-episode run. At a minimum, episode 20 contained probably the best sequence I've seen all year. (I'm referring to the scene that basically everyone else who was watching the show went nuts about.) Unfortunately, the following episode did diminish the impact a bit with what I like to call "bullshit shounen jive," but I'm blaming the source material for that one. ufotable at least kept us astounded for the week.


24 September 2019: The Sig Sauer P230SL, another gun of Gunslinger Girl

Sig Sauer P230SL pistol and magazine
See also Part I and Part II.

I wasn't actually planning on writing a series of blog entries on the guns of Gunslinger Girl, but here we are. I've joked on occasion that Triela is one of the best characters because she once shot a dude because of her PMS (true story). Well, the firearm Triela uses to shoot that guy was her Sig Sauer P230SL, a sidearm she carries to accompany her Winchester M1897 shotgun. This pistol also features prominently in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino, the anime's sequel which covers the Pinnochio arc from the original manga.

Triela
Cyborgs with serious menstural cramps do not fuck around.

The Sig P230SL itself is a compact double-action/single-action blowback-operated semi-automatic pistol with a fixed-barrel chambered in .380 ACP (also known as 9mm Kurz, among other names). Physically, it resembles the Walther PPK of James Bond fame, but there are notable mechanical differences. For example the P230's decocker for bringing it to double-action from single-action is located on the frame instead of slide. The P230 also has a disassembly lever, while taking down a PPK involves tugging on the trigger guard.

Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino Blu-ray cover and Sig Sauer P230SL pistol
It's not heavy because it's full of mercy.
It's heavy because it's made of steel.

Neither the Sig Sauer P230 nor its successor, the P232 (which also appears in Gunslinger Girl), are in production any longer, and this decades-old pistol (this sample depicted carries a "Made in W. Germany" designation) is quite a bit heavier than the myriad striker-fired polymer-framed .380 ACP pocket pistols popular in the contemporary marketplace. Still, it certainly gets the job done, even if the job happens to involve shooting a deadbeat because of your PMS. And let's face it, he totally had it coming. Triela did nothing wrong.


17 September 2019: Senki Zesshou Symphogear is an anime miracle

Maria
I like this power-up, but I admit I was hoping for another Gungnir jacking.

I'm going to start out by insisting it's not just preschool girls who enjoy shows about mahou shoujo punching things. It's okay for boys to like them too. I've been on board with this concept since at least 2004 with My-HiME, First Pretty Cure, and their subsequent sequels. In 2012, Senki Zesshou Symphogear took this idea, expanded it to include singing while punching things, and raised both the intensity and absurdity levels. From my seat in the stands, this was an anime game-breaking home run. Amazingly, the popularity of Symphogear has proven sufficient enough that we gotten five seasons of it, all five of which are currently streaming on the Crunchyroll. Moreover, Discotek has even licensed it for a U.S. Blu-ray release next year.

Hibiki and Chris
Somehow, despite all the shit they've seen, it's still
possible for them to stare at something in disbelief.

Urgings on the Twitter for followers to "watch Symphogear" has turned into a meme of sorts, but I assure you the sentiment behind these admonitions is genuine. Granted, the appeal of magikal girls singing while punching things isn't always immediately apparent to every anime fan, but there's an old graph that accurately captures the trajectory of impressions by initially skeptical viewers. It's not easy ramping up the stakes continuously, but Symphogear has kept its intensity up through all five seasons. Now on the verge of its series finale, expectations are pretty high, but Symphogear has never let me down before.


10 September 2019: Y'all should read JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World

Front cover: JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World
Despite being a light novel, JK Haru is not illustrated.

JK Haru wa Isekai de Shoufu ni Natta (JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World) gained some notoriety last year when a licensed version became digitally available. Hard copies are now in print as well. Being an isekai light novel, the book is somewhat tongue-in-cheek despite the subject matter. However, I believe the tone it adopts appropriately approximates the sort of setup readers might expect in an isekai light novel about prostitution, thereby facilitating its ability to get them interested in the story before confronting them with the uncomfortable realities that correspond with sex work in general and the vulnerability of prostitutes specifically.

That said, JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World is not a grim book, despite a number of unsettling scenes and events. Moreover, the misogyny and violence encountered in the fantasy world setting are not exactly out of line with the sorts of hazards women face in many sectors of our real world. It's a difficult balancing act for the text, contrasting amusing adventures with these threats. And while there is plenty of sex in JK Haru—as you might expect—the scenes are typically presented matter-of-factly and not written to titilate. Sex work in JK Haru is not glamorous, and the book keeps the attention on the work part, not the sex part.

Notably, I never felt as if JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World was deliberately prurient the way that, frankly, so many light novels seems justifiably accused of being. I've seen enough comments on the Twitter to know many readers will disagree with me on this point, but I think this may have to do with one's initial expectations of the book and what sort of demands are placed on it. JK Haru is presented from Haru's first-person point of view, which I think makes it more effective at conveying the bleakness of her world and the impact of the events around her. Likewise, it also better communicates the joy she finds when she pursues various recreational diversions or actually has sex she enjoys. It also avoids presenting the violence in her world or the sadism she encounters as elements the reader is expected to like (unlike the corresponding scenes in some other light novels I might name). There are surely readers who do prefer that sort of content and wish JK Haru had more of it, but I'm inclined to regard that as an indictment against those readers themselves and not the text for obstensibly failing to omit it.

Incidentally, the various twists and reveals in JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World are good enough that I recommend a spoiler-avoidance posture if you expect to read it.


3 September 2019: Sounan desu ka? is Dr. STONE without Dr. Stone

Homare and Mutsu
Don't let rabbit shit go to waste.

Sounan desu ka? (English title, Are You Lost?) has turned out to be reliably amusing thanks almost entirely to Homare, without whom the rest of the girls would be as fucked on that island as they would be on the moon. For perfectly valid anime reasons, Homare spent a considerable part of her childhood getting stranded over and over with her hyper-competent survivalist father. This provided her with the knowledge and experience to keep herself and the other girls who are stranded with her on a deserted island alive through an otherwise harrowing situation. Every other girl with her is basically dead weight, but Homare has managed to provide substinance and shelter with relative ease, so she's already advanced from survival basics to quality-of-life considerations.

Homare
Look at how happy she is to have metal.

In this respect, there are some similarities with Dr. STONE in that both shows are about pursuing makeshift improvements in a primitive environment, and applying science and cunning against the various threats posed by nature. Dr. STONE is significantly more ambitious in this regard as it also involves threats posed by man, whereas Sounan desu ka? takes a more matter-of-fact approach toward its concerns, many of which are inspired by whining teenage girls. Lucky for them, Homare is a treasure, and incredibly patient and accommodating. It is abundantly clear to me that she would be perfectly happy being stranded apparently indefinitely. Really, if you are going to be lost in the middle of nowhere, being lost with Homare is basically your best-case scenario.


27 August 2019: I'm still rooting for the mahou shoujo in Machikado Mazoku, you know

Momo and Yuuko
Yuuko is pretty lucky that Momo goes so easy on her.

One of the best surprises of the Summer 2019 anime season is how good Machikado Mazoku (The Demon Girl Next Door) turned out to be. Shadow Mistress Yuuko is the hapless opponent of Chiyoda Momo, a veteran magikal girl who grossly outclasses "Shamiko" in basically every way imaginable. In the grand tradition of overpowered pink mahou shoujo, Momo quickly subdues Yuuko with the power of friendship, which works out pretty well in Yuuko's favor, since I'm guessing the only other option is a humiliating and pointless death. Viewers who liked Gabriel DropOut will probably find a lot to enjoy here as well, in that both shows regard the struggle between good and evil as a bit of a farce.

Yuuko and Lilith
You're only flying because you're short, aren't you?

I instantly took a liking to Momo, because she's freakishly strong and constantly droll. She's not an emotionless kuudere stereotype, but rather apparently just not easily excited. I think that's understandable for a veteran mahou shoujo who has probably seen some shit in her day and just does what she wants now. I haven't read the original Machikado Mazoku 4-koma comic, but the anime adaptation is consistently funny and peppered with amusing gags. After seven episodes, The Demon Girl Next Door is right up there with an Okada sex disaster and a fantastic fifth season of Symphogear in a three-way tie as this season's top three shows.