Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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26 April 2022: The lore in Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road is actually interesting

Menou
WHAT MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW?

I don't have a huge appetite for lore, and often find it enervating (Fate/Grand Order, I'm looking in your direction), but the setting and backstory for Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road (The Executioner and Her Way of Life) strikes the right balance of being both silly enough and sensible enough for me to appreciate. For example, I'm totally okay with the explanation as to why everyone in this isekai destination speaks modern Japanese.

Menou and Akari
This was a pretty transparent attempt to tee-up some make-up sex later.

I'm also enjoying the casual duplicity that surely taints probably every character's interaction with every other character, even their allies. I have seen some indications on the Twitter that there were some (presumably juvenile) viewers who took the first-episode betrayal rather poorly, but I'm willing to assume those reactions are in the minority, and only came to my attention at all because their outrage amused more seasoned anime fans. Besides, knowing even the bare minimum about the show from the synopsis or the PVs, or potentially even from the title should have provided sufficient notice that the first episode of the series might be somewhat misleading.

Momo
It helps that Momo has nice hair.

In any case, I'm enjoying basically every part of The Executioner and Her Way of Life even though I don't typically pursue anime that correspond with many of its more prominent themes. The light-novel bullshit is fine with me so far, and even the very anime antics of a Kuroko-esque turbo lesbian being used as gags aren't off-putting. Momo is sufficiently exasperated by various hassles frequently enough to round out her character, so I'm mildly pro-Momo at this point. She's quite a step down from the Spring 2022 anime season's other Momo, of course, but that's a really high bar, so don't view it as a strike against the Shokei Shoujo Momo, necessarily.


19 April 2022: Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is off to a good start; Kono Healer, Mendokusai, not so much

Reina and Matsuboshi
Aharen-san is small.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai (Aharen Is Indecipherable) is about Reina, a weird girl with KCY, and her classmate who is undaunted in his determination to be her friend despite constantly finding her perplexing. The anime works surprisingly well as a comedy that relies heavily on visual gags. Critically, the comic timing is deft, so the show is consistently funny. This is a harder thing to succeed at than I think many people appreciate, so I'm pleased it's doing so well.

Matsuboshi and Reina
And she does not adhere to conventional notions about personal space.

This is not to say that Aharen-san does not occasionally stumble. I'm not a huge fan of the girl who is constantly sort of hovering protectively around Reina. It's not a deal breaker, but her frequent anxiety attacks do less for the show than the other gags. However, even at its worst, Aharen Is Indecipherable has been much funnier than Kono Healer, Mendokusai (Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer!) which I wanted to like, but...man.

Karla
I was also expecting her voice to be deadpan.

Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer! (alternatively This Healer is Annoying or This Healer's a Handful) seemed like it could be funny, based on what little of the manga I had read. Unfortunately, it turns out the dread I felt ever since I watched its first PV was justified. It's one of "those" awful anime comedies that thinks drawing out reactions is funnier than it actually is. I dunno, maybe those types of jokes really work for some viewers, but I dropped it after watching one episode. I might revisit the manga, though.


12 April 2022: Akebi-chan is an escapist fantasy

Komichi
Life sure is great.

Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform) is a show that encourages adopting a positive attitude. It promotes the idea that if you embrace optimism and do your best, things will work out better and your life will be filled with amazing moments that create wonderful memories. It's not a bad argument for a series to make. There's a place in the world for these sorts of perspectives, and you'll find it in a countryside that's always gorgeous and not at all filled with countless biting insects.

Komichi, Ai, Minoru, and Riri
Every swimming segment was really good.

Aside from that observation, I don't have much to add to this end-of-season wrap-up post, except maybe just acknowledging that it was one of the best shows from the Winter 2022 anime season. It turned out much better than I was expecting. I guess I should also point out that I am aware some viewers had a much different opinion of it, with some even taking an especially negative stance towards Akebi-chan.

Komichi and Erika
Now you're just showing off.

In this regard, I suspect some of the more visceral responses probably reveal more about the internalized reactions some viewers experienced—and their discomfort reconciling them—than anything about the Akebi-chan series itself. Over the years, I've come to understand my more oblique way to conveying ideas can be unnecessarily unclear, so I'll just say it plainly this time (hopefully without implying that those who aren't getting it are obtuse).

Actually, you know what? I changed my mind. I'm not gonna spell it out.


5 April 2022: The End of KiseKoi ~Air/My Purest Love for Cosplay~

Marin
Best Girl.

I'm pleased to report Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling) completed its first cours with a solid finish, capping off a remarkable run well ahead of whatever expectations I may have had prior to starting the series. I'm by no means alone in praising the show as the best from the Winter 2022 anime season, so I'm hopeful we'll see a second cours at some point.

Nowa and Marin
Things I know about Nowa: She has great hair, and is purportedly freakishly strong.

In addition to the factors I've mentioned in my previous posts, the small cast also worked in its favor. I was sure the childhood friend who bitched Wakana out years ago was going to appear at some point, and similarly expected at least one arc involving Marin's friends getting into her business. The fact that neither of these things came to pass is a credit to the storytelling in KiseKoi and the attention it gave to Marin's point of view as her romantic feelings grew.

Wakana and Marin
These are some fireworks.

My Dress-Up Darling consistently defied expectations in these small ways throughout the season, but their impact in the aggregate is considerable. I hope authors and directors of future works take note of this phenomenon. You'd expect a story should need entirely original, novel ideas to gain this benefit, but Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru demonstrated simply not following familiar tropes to their specific expected destinations can be enough to transform scenes that would otherwise have been unremarkable.


29 March 2022: Ranking of Kings disappointed me

Kage and Bojji
More of this would have been better.

I am going to caveat this by acknowledging first of all that Ousama Ranking (Ranking of Kings) was never actually capital-B Bad. However, I am hard pressed to identify another show with greater distance between how much I enjoyed it at the beginning and how disinterested I was by the end. I'm sort of appalled, to tell you the truth. Anime War Crime Tribunal provides a spoiler-heavy examination that covers basically every issue I had with the series, although I'm more negative about the problems overall.

Dorsche and Hiling
He's not going to be big enough for her.

I feel as if I must be overlooking shows that genuinely collapsed, but I suspect those examples that escape me at the moment likely showed less initial promise. Ousama Ranking, at a minimum, had a solid start (that admittedly started declining towards the end of its first cours). I did already mention that I was sick of all the fighting. Well, it went on like that during the second cours, but then the monkey's paw curled, the fighting stopped, and it got even worse. As I understand it, the source manga is still running, so maybe the story gets good again. The very end of the final anime episode did open the door for that possibility, but I'm in no hurry to revisit Ranking of Kings in any capacity for the time being.


22 March 2022: Waiting on Delicious Party♡Precure

Cure Precious
I feel like the mascot should at least have a helmet.

There have been five episodes of Delicious Party♡Precure so far, but it's been two weeks since the last episode, and current projections estimate it will be at least another two more before episode six airs. (Toei is reportedly delaying the broadcast as it assesses the extent of a cybersecurity breach.) As a result, the third Cure of the initial trio has been left waiting in the wings. Her character hasn't even really been properly introduced yet. She's only appeared in minor scenes, typically involving her meals being ruined.

Ran
Miss Not Appearing In This Show.

Although there is no rigid formula, Pretty Cure has commonly introduced its main cast fairly quickly. The lead Cure will get her powers in the first episode, another girl will become a Pretty Cure in the second episode, and so forth. In the case of Delicious Party♡Precure (based on the titles of the upcoming episodes), it doesn't appear the third girl (Ran) will get her powers until episode seven, maybe in the middle of April if all goes well. It's not a huge delay for a series that runs for a full year, but it's still nearly two months later than the norm.

Gentle
Nice hat.

On the plus side, the character design for Pretty Cure's first-round adversary this season (voiced by Kayano Ai), is a GAME-BREAKING HOME RUN. Just look at that outfit! So good. I do think that her name, Gentle (ジュントルー), is sort of silly, even though I was totally okay with past names such as Bunbee, for example. I keep hearing that Gentle is supposed to be somewhat of a pacifist (and she did make a statement sort of against violence in an early episode), but I'm not seeing this reflected in the battles from the first five episodes. Maybe what she really means is she won't straight-up punch Cure Yum-Yum in the mouth, assuming Cure Yum-Yum ever joins this show.


15 March 2022: 86 Eighty Six ends its operational pause

Lena
Congratulations on not being dead.
P.S. Spoilers.

To tell you the truth, I sort of forgot 86 Eighty Six season 2 two had delayed its final 2 two episodes to March 2022 Two Thousand Twenty Two. I mean, things were sort of tense when we last saw our characters, but it totally could have just ended the season where it was. I would have accepted a cliffhanger-ish ending and an indefinite wait until the next cours, whenever that happens to be. I mean, I think it's reasonable to expect there will be another cours at some point. The anime seems pretty well-regarded, and I've warmed up to it as well, despite some initial misgivings.

Frederica and Shin
Congratulations on not being dead.
P.S. Spoilers.

86 is at its best when it's exploring how its characters relate to each other and to their shared experiences with war. These aspects of the series are much more compelling than how it depicts the war itself or the dynamics of the societies involved. This is not necessarily because I find many of those elements unrealistic, but rather more because I'm not invested in their outcomes. I'm not particularly invested in most of the characters either, but the series has devoted enough time to developing them that I can at least appreciate their emotional resonance.


8 March 2022: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru remains the best series of the Winter 2022 anime season

Wakana and Marin
They're not panties, so it's not embarrassing.

Through nine episodes, Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling, also KiseKoi for short) continues to outperform even the most optimistic expectations I initially had for it. Two factors are primarily responsible for how it has accomplished this. First, it is sincere about its subject matter. Second, the series subvert clichés, even though it's mostly doing it in only small ways.

Marin, Sajuna, and Wakana
Marin has good hair.

With regard to the first point, I can't claim to know anything about cosplay, but KiseKoi seems earnest about the subject. The anime's instructional segments also seem framed to be accessible, informative, and sort of encouraging to neophytes who may have an interest in getting into cosplay themselves.

Marin
There is fan service, but that's not what makes KiseKoi good..

Concerning the second point, I'm pleased with how My Dress-Up Darling presents common anime tropes. There are a lot of scenes with setups that are extremely familiar to anyone who has watched a lot of anime. However, they end up playing out differently from the norm. This is not to say KiseKoi is subverting these conventions, but it's remarkable how simply executing them in ways slightly differently than usual makes all the difference.

Marin
It's not easy being anime.

To some degree, the success Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru achieves by simply doing things right is an indictment against all those other anime that end up being mostly mediocre because they seem to embrace shortcomings viewers regard as avoidable. Well, maybe My Dress-Up Darling is an example of how good an anime can be as a result of doing small things right. I should probably also mention the romance part of the series, since KiseKoi, you know, is a romantic comedy after all. However, I'm going to wait and see how it all progresses and just state, for now, that the anime is also handling this aspect well.