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Dated 1 May 2017: SukaSuka, the light novel at the WorldEnd of the tunnel

No pressure.

My preconceptions about Shūmatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? (WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? also known as SukaSuka) were generally negative. After all, it's an anime adaptation of a light novel with a stupidly long title. It also seems to feature a lot of shrimpy anime children. Moreover, the lead is a male character who seems to be absent from much of the promotional art, which instead focuses on yet another girl with a sword. On the plus side, her hair isn't red and she didn't seem to use fire magic. That's at least a departure. And she has a giant witch hat. So, while I could find positive aspects, it was not an inspiring first impression. Nevertheless, I was at least willing to give it a shot. Thankfully, through three episodes, Shūmatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? is surprisingly all right.

Ruri cosplaying as Mini-Kashima.

Notably, the show has neat little gags. And while they aren't kneeslappers, they are a lot more amusing and deft than the sort of thing you typically find in run-of-the-mill light novel adaptations. Does it also feature a duel between the male lead and the female lead? Of course. That's basically a given. However, I liked the way the scene played out, making it apparent why Chtholly was getting so agitated without dwelling too much on it during the short fight itself. I am at least willing to accept them both as soldiers.

I like the design of Chtholly's wings.

Now, three episodes is not enough to make reliable projections as to how the rest of the show might turn out. That positive three-episode run might just be a lucky streak and the rest of the show could pretty easily turn into a garbage fire, but it's a good start so far, and a welcome surprise for something I had nearly written off on general principle. Alternatively, it could also easily turn into Saikano, which is itself not necessarily a bad possibility. Having lots of shrimpy anime kids in a war story does increase the likelihood that it will end up with wall-to-wall dead kids to generate maximum traumarama. What can I tell you? War is all Hell. Sometimes even light novel war.

Dated 19 June 2017: SukaSuka found romance at the WorldEnd

Best Girl.

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? continues to surpass all expectations. That an anime adaptation of a light novel with a ridiculous title (WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?) could turn out to be one of the best shows of the year is somewhat absurd, yet here we are. With 10 episodes in and two to go, I'm looking forward to the ending which was telegraphed in the first episode's 60-second prologue, but I'll also be sad to reach the end of the series, given that successful anime romances are so rare.

Nephren and Ithea
Ithea Seal of Approval

Since the most basic criterion for a successful romance is a pair of characters that the audience wants to see achieve happiness together, you'd think at least this minimum bit would be more common. Unfortunately, anime can't quite rid itself of the worthless dipshits who seem to be the male leads more often than not. They lend a real dubious quality to the frequent arguments about which love interest should "win." Is it really winning when her counterpart is odious? We saw this problem last season in Seiren, for example. When I last wrote about it, I suggested it was getting better. Yeah, it turns out I was way wrong.

Chtholly, Willem, Nephren, and Ithea
Mini-Kashima Double Seal of Approval

Willem, thankfully, joins the vanishingly slim ranks of decent fellows in the pantheon of anime male leads. Moreover, he and Chtholly have genuine chemistry together. It helps that the other characters see it as well. This is not a harem comedy, and there are no real competitors for either character's affections. SukaSuka is very much about Willem and Chtholly falling in love, and the show is a lot better off this way.

Willem and Chtholly
Definitely not symbolism.

If that's all it takes to have an effective anime romance, then why are they so rare? I suppose it probably comes down to the primary consumers of anime having different standards and expectations than I do. Airing this season, for example, I presume some viewers might argue Eromanga-sensei is a "good" romance, even though it is very much a harem comedy where the Best Girl almost certainly won't "win." Additionally, I think you also have to be a bit fucked in the head to sincerely root for Potato-kun and the girl who we all know he will choose at the end of the light novel's run. Thankfully, this season also features Tsuki ga Kirei (The Moon Is Beautiful), which I stopped watching at episode three, but hope to finish eventually because it seems to be another Actually Good anime about romance, albeit of the junior high school variety.

Dated 3 July 2017: The WorldEnd of SukaSuka ~Air/My Purest Love for Leprechauns~

The happiest girl in the world.

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? completed its 12-episodes admirably. There's basically no way to talk about it without going into spoilers, but I'll try to avoid major details beyond what's revealed in the first 60 seconds of the first episode. That prologue does test the theory that spoilers don't matter. Personally, I think spoilers absolutely do matter for comedies and punchlines, but I'm willing to entertain the notion they don't matter for drama. In the case of SukaSuka, having an understanding ahead of time about some major developments in the final episodes by having them revealed in the opening prologue did not detract from the show, and I have to admit the revelations likely improved the anime as a whole.

Willem and Ren
Well, keep your feet and knees together, but beyond that, you're on your own.

What then of the framework from which SukaSuka derives? The anime is an adaptation of a series of light novels, and a cursory glance reveals how many volumes there are, and where the anime did or did not leave off. Likewise, cover illustrations reveal who the lead characters are in the later volumes, and make it easy to deduce who might or might not be around anymore.

Lakhesh and Willem
Amazingly, all the shrimpy kids in this show were all right.

Moreover, many of the volumes have been translated into English. I skimmed through a few bits and am pleased to see the text is a lot more readable than what I'm used to seeing in fan-translated light novels (my experience admittedly may be years out of date at this point), and there are definitely aspects of the anime which took a few liberties during the adaptation. For example, there are at least two scenes in the final episode's epilogue which are deliberately misleading in the anime. The corresponding scenes occur in the original light novel, but the anime scenes omit or change the context.

Air power.

Now, is this good or bad? Should fans of the SukaSuka anime read the original light novels? I believe this is an open question, and while in most cases I will default in favor of the source material, my high degree of skepticism regarding light novels in general (even if they are well-regarded) calls this practice into question. Additionally, I think it is valid to regard the two properties separately, even if they do not necessarily contradict. That is, you don't have to appreciate one in order to like the other, although I can't rule out the possibility that I'm promoting this view here simply because the SukaSuka anime turned out so much better than I could have hoped. That said, I'll probably still read the light novels anyway.

Dated 11 September 2017: In re Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? light novels

SukaSuka Blu-rays and light novels
Spoilers all over these covers. Maybe.

I enjoyed the Shūmatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? anime enough to import the first two (so far, anyway) Blu-ray discs and all five light novels. Fortuitously, a fan has translated all five of these books, leaving only the EX volumes and the SukaMoka sequels remaining. As you might expect, anime adaptations of light novels can benefit quite a bit in how they interpret the original works, presumably in ways not available to anime adaptations of manga. Anime adaptations of manga seem to be a bit more straightforward (often to their detriment), I assume out of deference to the mangaka or to avoid dealing with irate fans who won't accept an anime that changed something from the original manga.

But I digress.

SukaSuka Blu-ray volumes one and two
Surprising no one, the lead male character does not appear
on the cover of either of the first two Blu-ray sets.
(Not on the first four, for that matter.)

From a narrative standpoint, the SukaSuka anime generally follows the light novels, with really only minor tweaks to reinforce the anime's Chtholly-centric perspective. This is very much her story, so the anime omits some details about Willem and his backstory. Or rather, they're still present in the anime, but not explicitly addressed. It's reasonable for the viewer to draw different conclusions based on what the anime depicts, particularly when the clues provided in reference to parts explained in the light novel only appear briefly and without explanation. For example, Willem and Nephren are not necessarily falling to their deaths (absent outside intervention) in the opening one-minute prologue at the start of the first episode. These bits relate mostly to specifics provided in the light novels regarding the mechanics of "venenun" (alternatively, "venom") and origins of the Beasts and the Visitors. Components of these are in the anime, but remain somewhat vague in order to keep the attention on the core story it's telling. I.e., the romance.

SukaSuka Blu-ray volume two
At least there's a box.

These additional details in the light novels do help the reader understand the world better, but can go a bit too far at times. Most notably, there's a portion of the books that explicitly describes power levels from an objective standpoint. I find that contextualizing abilities in this video game sort of way detracts from the characters and is completely unnecessary in terms of helping the reader understand their relative strengths. Thankfully, this aspect does not pervade the entire series and is a relatively minor part of the narrative as a whole. On a more favorable note, details regarding the history of the world and the people involved do add to the story in positive ways. While there is no shortage of fantasy world stories, and no shortage of post-apocalyptic stories either, SukaSuka combines both. I rather enjoy the idea of a fantasy world which has gone through an apocalypse, leaving survivors weak and struggling for survival. In any case, it works a lot better here than having a "real" world go through an apocalyptic event, turning into a fantasy world.

SukaSuka Blu-ray volume two
And they come with books.

Anyone interested enough in the SukaSuka light novels to have reached this far probably already knows that the events of the 12-episode anime only run through the first three volumes. Naturally, this raises questions concerning the fates and futures of the characters after the anime. It's not really possible to discuss the fourth or fifth volumes of the light novels without including a lot of spoilers for the anime. At a minimum, the discussion would confirm or deny what may or may not occur towards the end of the anime or afterwards. I suppose I will at least say this to satisfy curious fans of the anime who still wish to avoid explicit spoilers: At least some of the chapters in the last two volumes are set during past events, so things you may have heard about certain characters are not necessarily as they seem. I've mentioned before that the anime itself is a little misleading in this way, as it presents things from the light novels outside of the same context, leading viewers to naturally draw conclusions which might not be entirely correct. (Or at least different from the source material, even if "correct" is arguably inapplicable in an adaptation.)

SukaSuka Blu-ray volume two
And there's an audio thingy.

With regard to the characters, the anime is very much Chtholly's show. Viewers of the anime should find it unsurprising I list her among the front-runners for 2017's Girl of the Year honors (or at least I would, if I still gave these awards). However, Nephren is the real star in the books. I already had a positive view of Ren from the anime, even if I mostly referred to her on the Twitter as "Mini-Kashima." The light novels expand her role in the story quite a bit by presenting a significant number of scenes from her perspective. The anime mostly tells its story from Chtholly's or Willem's points of view. This is appropriate, given the narrative the episodes are framing, but it does leave Nephren in a somewhat standard kuudere role, albeit one benefiting from a number of visual gags. Light novel Ren, though, is a real favorite, and a genuine reason to read the books if you're already inclined to like her. I do consider the anime and the light novels to be separate properties, and the anime ending is a Real Ending which does not need to incorporate parts of the books for reference or for validation. That is, any compulsion to read the books should come from an independent desire to enjoy them in their own right, and not out of any sort of preconceived notion that the anime needs more than what is actually there. Is there room in the anime for a sequel? I've not read SukaMoka (Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Mou Ichido dake, Aemasu ka?), the actual sequel, but presumably yes. In any case, SukaSuka volumes four and five themselves contain enough text to support another cours of anime—one I'd very much like to see.

Dated 6 April 2021: IDOLY PRIDE and SukaSuka both spoiled their anime endings during the opening minutes of their first episodes

It's not easy being an idol.

IDOLY PRIDE turned out to be a much more satisfying anime than I was expecting. I already had some idea where the show was going, since it became increasingly clear what the first episode's prologue implied as the anime progressed. Nevertheless, it also still retained enough ambiguity to allow the show to develop dramatic tension as it approached its climax. Ultimately, this was still very much a story about Mana and Makino, and remembering this worked out well for the anime.

What is the sound of one ghost clapping?

However, there is more to IDOLY PRIDE than just the anime, and this is where my lack of familiarity with the franchise as a whole falters. Based on the release dates of the associated videos on the YouTube, IDOLY PRIDE has been in the works for over a year. Was it just delayed for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or was it originally planned as an extended mixed-media production? There are CDs to purchase, and a mobile game of some sort to play, but I don't know how critical the anime itself is to the whole.

Goodbye, Chtholly's last bit of blue hair.

I didn't really need to mention SukaSuka here, since it's not as if Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? and IDOLY PRIDE really have that much in common aside from dropping spoilers at the start of the first episode. The SukaSuka spoilers are much more overt, though, and consequently much more memorable. There is also a certain finality to the series, in that while there are still additional volumes to adapt, adding a sequel to SukaSuka would not necessarily be the same thing as "making more" SukaSuka. In the case of IDOLY PRIDE, there are certainly enough characters to provide new opportunities for expansion through sequels, but I'm hesitant to suggest there's any need at this stage.