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14 January 2019: There are two Girls with Planes shows in the Winter 2019 anime season

Gripen and Kei
No, this is not a Meet Cute.

Technically, I guess there's only one show about girls with planes: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI), since Girly Air Force seems to be about girls who are planes. Both shows have only one episode out so far, but Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai seems to be far and away the better show. For one thing, the planes in Girly Air Force are strictly 3DCG sentient artificial intelligence jobbies based on contemporary jet fighters. For other, Potato-kun is in Girly Air Force. He's not too bad, actually, but the cranky Chinese girl he's partnered with is going to get annoying if she doesn't get any actual character development. Probably the real weakness of the show will be the so-called "Xi" menace which is responsible for war in China and all the refugees from the mainland fleeing to Japan. Bogus opponents hurt Strike Witches and Sky Girls and will probably hurt Girly Air Force for all the same reasons.

Kirie
The googles do nothing.

Thankfully, enemy aircraft in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai appear to have human pilots (although none were clearly shown in the first episode). At a minimum, they certainly have more personality than the Xi or the Neuroi or WORMs, even if it's only revealed in little displays such as the dipped wings at the conclusion of an air battle. Kotobuki also benefits from direction by Mizushima Tsutomu who looks ready to combine ideas from his work on GIRLS und PANZER and The Third Girls Aerial Squad of Shirobako fame. Curiously, the female characters are all 3DCG (but look good for basically the same reason 3DCG characters worked in Bubuki Buranki, as opposed to Ajin). I don't know how realistic the air battles are in Kotobuki, but they look and sound great, and the anime goes out of its way to show details of the controls. Overall, the dogfighting depicted with The Magnificient KOTOBUKI's propeller-driven planes is much more compelling than the super high-G BFM (read: bullshit fighter maneuvers) demonstrated by the AI jets of Girly Air Force.

Zero
He probably also has a video about the Hayabusa.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the practical elements of World War II fighter aircraft and the associated engineering aspects that influence performance and combat effectiveness, "Greg's Airplanes and Automobiles" on the YouTube is fascinating.


7 January 2019: In re anime materialism

<&Seem> Oof. My overburdened media shelf decided to finally collapse and it took with it all the remaining Macross/Gundam models I'd kept intact and displayed since the early 2000s
<&Seem> Just look at these shattered things and thinking all I can do is toss them in the garbage ( ._.)

Learning of Seem's misfortune reminds me that recovering my own anime merchandise from the inevitable future SoCal earthquake is going to be troublesome. Viewed from the perspective that the things you own end up owning you, there is something perversely attractive about the prospect of going through life with fewer material possessions. I do know people who favor that lifestyle, but fewer still who both favor it and actually embrace it. I, on the other hand, like having things, even though each acquisition incrementally increases the burden and complexity of storing it all and finding new spaces for additional hoarding.

GIRLS und PANZER BD box
Meanwhile, I imported more Japanese BDs.

I'm not prepared to take the position that losing everything in a catastrophe should be viewed as liberating, but hearing about events such as the above does remind me that I don't really have any sort of plan for the Blu-rays I buy and never watch, nor do I have any idea what I'm going to do with my growing collection of anime tchotchkes. I do occasionally see people selling off their stuff on the Twitter, but it sort of seems as if those efforts are intended to ensure the items at least go to people who will appreciate them, rather than to recoup financial value. Probably that's the best case scenario, long term.


31 December 2018: Shima Rin from Yuru Camp△ is 2018's Girl of the Year

Rin
Best job ever.

I haven't consistently awarded a Girl of the Year title in quite a while, mostly for the same reasons why I only seem to update the world's longest-running English-language anime blog once per week these days. I actually tried regularly posting a Girl of the Week award on the Twitter this year, but fell behind once the Autumn 2018 season began. I did continue to keep track, though, so I can at least pretend I have objective metrics that I use with my made-up competition.

Akane
At least the weather's nice.

Just to recap, Shima Rin from Yuru Camp△ was Girl of the Quarter for Winter 2018. The Spring 2018 award went to Mishima Hitomi from Hinamatsuri. In a somewhat unexpected development, Hanesaki Ayano captured the Girl of the Quarter award for Summer 2018 despite not having the most Girl of the Week titles for that season. Girl of the Quarter for Autumn 2018 goes to Shinjou Akane from SSSS.GRIDMAN of course, one of the best shows of the year.

Hitomi
It's Hitomi's world; we're all just living in it.

Actually, all of the Girl of the Quarter winners are associated with the year's best shows. That's probably not much of a surprise. Likewise, those of y'all who watched Yuru Camp△ are probably unsurprised that Rin boat raced the Girl of the Year category. What is sort of surprising, though, is that Shinjou Akane from SSSS.GRIDMAN placed runner up. I fully expected Mishima Hitomi from Hinamatsuri to take the number-two spot, but her totally objective numerical rankings suffered because there were many episodes in which she had few or no scenes.


26 December 2018: Golden Kamuy and SSSS.GRIDMAN are among the best shows of the year

Asirpa
This is the sort of happiness you can only achieve by eating animal brains.

Some questionable publicity concerning some really jarring 3DCG got Golden Kamuy off to a bad start, but the strength of its source material pulled through. I'm one of those people who believe it's better to watch an anime first before reading its source manga, so basically all of the second cours was new to me. I'm told that the show truncated quite a bit of material in order to reach the second season's climax (and that it also cut out scenes that would have otherwise included more 3DCG animals). And what a climax it was. Basically, without going into spoilers, CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS, and there are real payoffs regarding characters that the viewer has gotten to know over the course of 24 episodes. With so many strong episodes this season, the second cours of Golden Kamuy is even better than SSSS.GRIDMAN.

Akane
It turns out Akane was the show's real protagonist. P.S. Spoilers.

Hopefully, word has gotten out by now that Studio Trigger did an excellent job with SSSS.GRIDMAN. I was a bit hesitant going in, since Trigger does falter somewhat frequently, and I was entirely ignorant of the GRIDMAN franchise. In fact, I'm ignorant when it comes to the entire genre, for that matter. Basically everything I know comes from posts by @TheIvanhobe on the Twitter. It turns out SSSS.GRIDMAN is satisfying even for viewers like me. I can only imagine how stoked people who recognized the various callbacks and references must have been. I should probably point out that while I put the second half of Golden Kamuy over SSSS.GRIDMAN, I find SSSS.GRIDMAN to be better if you compare its 12 episodes to the full 24 episodes of Golden Kamuy.

Shirase
That is one blue sky.

I should also mention that while I regard SSSS.GRIDMAN and Golden Kamuy to be among the best shows of the year, both were surpassed by five other shows from earlier in 2018. At the very peak is Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than the Universe), an anime that even The New York Times recognized as being one of 2018's best. I put Hinamatsuri not too far behind, and then (for pretty different reasons), Hanebado!, Yuru Camp△, and Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight. Overall, a pretty good year for anime. I can't claim that Winter 2019 looks ready to compare with Winter 2018, but maybe there will be some surprises coming up again as well.


17 December 2018: Maybe I just like neurotic orange-haired girls

Ranze and Saaya
So who's taller?

Ranze is a pretty minor character in Hugtto! Precure, and even her guest appearance in the most recent episode (44) was rather limited. Nevertheless, I appreciate that she occasionally shows up even if she's not necessarily bitching people out. That said, my enjoyment of her scenes is directly proportional to the amount and degree of sassing and/or highly motivated-but-questionable activities in which she engages.

Saaya and Ranze
Saaya or Ranze?

With regard to Hugtto! Precure itself, the show turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting. It's been consistently fun and it has good little gags. Fortunately, the magic baby did not turn out to be nearly as bad as I had feared. In fact, she can even sort of babble in technically complete sentences now. Seeing as how the magic baby is inevitably going to get her full-grown form back as Cure Spoilers again in the finale, I'm inclined to believe they should have just restored her, like, 20 episodes ago and been done with it. In any case, five will get you 10 that the mouse will still regard her as a love interest even after a year of basically being the magic baby's single parent.


10 December 2018: I guess I'm going to be watching GeGeGe no Kitarou indefinitely now

Kitarou and Medama Oyaji
Neither of these two have binocular vision.

I saw an announcement about the next GeGeGe no Kitarou ED planned for January. I guess this means the show will be continuing through at least the Winter 2019 anime season, giving it a yearlong run. More, if it continues after that uninterrupted. I'm mostly content to continue watching it as long as there are new episodes. It's been a reliably good family show through the 35 episodes I've seen, and I can appreciate it for its decades-spanning impact.

NekoMusume and Agnès
Hey, she's wearing a different outfit.

For a show with so much history, it's unexpectedly eager to challenge certain subjects I'm not accustomed to encountering in anime. Notably, there was an episode concerning World War II that spoke directly to an apparent failure in the current education system to adequately cover Japan's roles in the war. Then there's the current major arc involving foreign yokai (some of whom were outright refugees) and the different receptions they face, from sympathy to outright hostility as both xenophobia as well as some understandably unwelcome foreign yokai behavior created flashpoints not unlike contemporary real-world events and concerns. Or perhaps it's because GeGeGe no Kitarou has so much history and is such an established part of the anime landscape that it has greater latitude to address these topics.


3 December 2018: Look, I don't care if Japanese-speaking Taiwanese puppets aren't really anime, Thunderbolt Fantasy is great

Xie and Shang
Well, she did poison him.

Oh. Have I not previously blogged about watching Thunderbolt Fantasy? So yeah, Urobuchi Gen of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Psycho-Pass fame apparently got interested in Taiwanese puppet shows one day and got the ball rolling on the first season of Thunderbolt Fantasy in 2016. It turns out Taiwanese puppet shows are awesome and wuxia puppetry was a genre I didn't realized I was interested in. I also found the production values unexpectedly good. Are Taiwanese puppets shows always like this? As an additional bonus, Sawano Hiroyuki's music supports a solid cast.

Lin
These are some fancy puppets.

The second season of Thunderbolt Fantasy is currently airing. (Yes, you should watch the first season before starting this one.) Not all the surviving characters from the first season have yet reappeared in the second season. I'm actually a little surprised at the relatively small number of characters thus far in the sequel. I'm much more accustomed to ballooning cast lists as shows run longer. This has also prevented the sequel from following a "sword-of-the-week" formula like I had originally feared. And while the highs are yet not quite as good as those of the first season, I am enjoying the sequel and am basically prepared to watch more Taiwanese puppet shows as they become available.


26 November 2018: I heard Golden Kamuy is leaving out a lot of material from the manga

Inkarmat
Inkarmat is Best Girl.

I'm pretty far behind in the Golden Kamuy manga. As in, I can't remember how many volumes I've purchased and not yet read, and I have no idea how many fan-translated chapters are currently available. However, I am caught up on the anime. From the looks of it, there is a conspicuous absence of the sort of animals that had been rendered in 3DCG during the first season. I don't know if this is a coincidence, or if the anime is actually cutting scenes that feature bears and wolves in order to avoid the sort of distractions that widespread criticism of 3DCG animals generated during the first cours.

Asirpa
Suck it, Asirpa.

I have been informed, however, that the anime has been truncating some arcs or skipping them entirely. The prevailing theory seems to be that it's an effort to accelerate the events in order to reach a notable climax at the end of this season. So it might actually be also cutting scenes that would have otherwise featured 3DCG animals, albeit just sort of fortuitously and not as a primary goal. I can definitely tell some events have been left out or condensed, but I don't think it has hurt the anime too much. After all, Golden Kamuy is still comfortably in my top three shows for the current season. Maybe I'll feel differently after I finally catch up with the manga, but I don't have any serious complaints for now.