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25 June 2018: Anime product placement strikes again

Asuna
I also own Sony phones.

I bought AKG K701 headphones in 2011. These are the same headphones Mio wears in K-On!, but I think I can at least claim I did not buy them because of Mio since I sort of hated what few episodes of K-On! I even watched. (I did like the movie, though.) But, on the other hand, I did at least know these were "the Mio headphones" when I bought them. Sure, I was already considering these AKGs before I even learned of the K-On! connection, but I can't necessarily argue that the increased awareness generated by the buzz following their appearance in the anime had no influence on my decision to ultimately buy them.

Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear wireless headphones
NFC pairing is also magic.

Then there's the Sony MDR-100ABN headphones that I bought in 2018. Their appearance in Sword Art Online: The Movie —Ordinal Scale— most definitely factored into my decision to buy them. Sure, I was in the market for both wireless and noise-cancelling headphones, but the fact that I specifically purchased the Asuna-flavored version was absolutely influenced by the handful of seconds they appeared in the anime. (Wireless headphones are great around the house and having noise cancellation on a plane may as well be Goddamn magic, incidentally.) They were actually a little difficult to find because I bought them after their newer WH-H900N successors had been out for a while already. Hey, at least I didn't hunt down the insanely priced SAO-limited-edition ones (since I'm not not actually an SAO fan, despite appearances).


18 June 2018: Previewing new shows for Summer 2018

Yuki
Maybe she has PE first period?

After two strong anime seasons, I'm mostly ambivalent about the upcoming Summer 2018 season. The shows I'm most interested in (Overlord III, Major 2nd, and Hugtto! Precure) are all either sequels or continuations of existing shows. Thanks to the sheer volume of anime that comes out each season now, I'm sure I'll find plenty of acceptably amusing titles to watch, but I'm otherwise merely mildly optimistic about the synopses I've read and the PVs I've watched.

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12 June 2018: In defense of DARLING in the FRANXX

Mitsuru
Look, it ain't that bad, okay.

Depending on which corner of the anime fandom you find yourself, I imagine you're either on the side that doesn't believe DARLING in the FRANXX needs defending, or in the camp that doesn't believe it deserves defending. My basic perspective on the show is that it is not capital-G Good, nor is it part of the "bad but has good parts in it" category, but rather that it is a flawed result of some efforts that I genuinely appreciate.

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4 June 2018: I think I like the idea of Cutie Honey Universe more than I enjoy the show

Honey
Have sword, will travel.

I do appreciate that Cutie Honey Universe exists at all. It's been a good year with regard to the return of old (way old) classics. I'm not particularly familiar with the Cutie Honey franchise, but I've seen enough of the original 1973 Cutie Honey anime and Gainax's Re: Cutie Honey OVAs from 2004 to appreciate that Cutie Honey Universe is a faithful re-introduction of the show to modern anime fans. However, although I enjoy it, I suspect that the return of Cutie Honey might work better in theory than it does in practice for general audiences. I don't feel that Cutie Honey Universe is dated, but it does seem anachronistic. That does contribute to its charm, but I can't help but think I should at least finish watching the 1973 series first.

Tarantula Panther
Tarantula Panther, best tarantula, best panther.

The parts that are probably the most jarring to modern viewers are the occasional fan service gags involving Junpei (the little boy) and Danbei (the dirty old man) as they aggressively pursue perverted opportunities to ogle and grope Honey whenever possible. I hesitate to call them gags because they're not presented as if they're supposed to be comedic moments necessarily, but I can't quite call it fan service either because I'm not sure anyone considers the bits titillating. It's probably more accurate to call them tropes or callbacks to the original Go Nagai manga and anime series. Now, I'm not suggesting '70s fan service staples have no place in our upstanding world of the current generation, but I think I would appreciate an effort to present these blatantly gratuitous scenes in creative new ways instead, despite the risk of alienating those fans who insist on preserving original aspects as a matter of general principle.


28 May 2018: GeGeGe no Kitarou is surprisingly informative

Neko Musume, Nezumi Otoko, and Kitarou
Well, she's not THAT tall. There are just a lot of short characters.

I don't know very much about yokai or Japanese fairy tales in general. In fact, probably most of what I know comes from that one episode of Azumanga Daioh. Oh, and I guess I've gleaned enough from other anime over the years to become racist toward kappas. Good job, School Rumble. In comes GeGeGe no Kitarou, a family show about yokai. Because it's heavily aimed at children, it also provides a lot of background and explanations about the various monsters of the week and their traditional lore. Hence, I get to learn along with the young audiences about yokai and how they might fit in the modern world.

Mana and Neko Musume
Also, she's wearing heels.

As far as the anime's other merits go, it's reasonably well done and I enjoy Sawashiro Miyuki as Kitarou. It's a good enough show that I'm still interested week-to-week, but I can't claim I'm at all in the target audience demographic. I do have to admit that I only started watching because of all the attention GeGeGe no Kitarou received before the season started due to the radical changes it made to one of the supporting character's designs. Originally known as Hakaba Kitarou, the franchise began in the '60s as a manga series and has appeared on television every decade since. The character design for Neko Musume has evolved each time around. However, her appearance in the 2018 iteration is entirely unrecognizable compared to her original form. It's a good hook, and I'm okay with shows making these types of changes from time to time, even if it means making a shrimpy character really tall and giving her legs that go up to her neck.


21 May 2018: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online does not have sword arts, but it is online

Llenn
The FN P90 is pretty cute.

I'm much less critical of Sword Art Online than you might assume, considering how long I've been blogging about anime, so I can understand if readers who loathe SAO are skeptical when I claim Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is a fine series which stands on its own and doesn't have any of the Sword Art Online baggage that inspires the most criticism. For example, there's no Kirito in SAO ALT: GGO. (SAOALTGGO? SAOALT:GGO? Whatever.) In fact, there are no returning characters as far as I can see (there was a Zekken namedrop in the most recent episode, but with no context or elaboration).

Llenn
Most people don't realize Pink Camouflage Pattern was a
leading contender before narrowly losing to UCP in 2004.

Instead, Gun Gale Online is a reasonably fun low-stakes anime about girls being goofballs at a gun-themed video game with characters who all clearly understand it's just a video game. Well, at least through six episodes. I've probably jinxed it now. In any case, I think the first episode provides a good indication as to what the show is like so far, and is at least worth checking out if you're still on the fence about it. It's different enough that anime fans who hate Sword Art Online can probably enjoy GGO for what it is. On the other hand, I suppose this means I'm not sure anime fans who love SAO will also enjoy GGO—maybe if the rest of the anime suddenly flips from "video game guns don't kill people" to "nutjobs who play video games kill people" or something like that. Since this is an anime adaption of light novels (written by the Kino's Journey author, not the Sword Art Online author), spoilers are obviously available for the harvesting, but I'd rather discover the answer to this question in due time the slow way.


14 May 2018: Hugtto! Precure is a mixed bag

Cure Ange, Cure Yell, and Cure Étoile
I can't claim these are the most memorable Cures of the franchise.

Hugtto! Precure is about a quarter of the way through its (presumably) year-long run, so we should have a pretty good sense as to what sort of Pretty Cure it is. In contrast with its predecessor, Kirakira☆Pretty Cure à la Mode, Hugtto! is notably more violent. At least there is significantly more melee in the fights again. This was immediately apparent in its first appearance during the crossover cameo at the end of the Kirakira run, as that series quite obviously avoided direct punching and kicking—probably more so than any other Precure generation thus far. (Kirakira sure was happy to lean way into the emotional trauma side of things, though.) In any case, the return of fancy beatdowns is a welcome development.

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7 May 2018: There's more to Golden Kamuy than 3DCG bears

Asirpa and Sugimoto
At least the smaller animals are 2D, even when they're delicious.

Golden Kamuy was one of the Spring 2018 shows I was looking forward to the most. It stumbled a bit out the gate when the first episode's infamously out-of-place looking 3DCG animals dominated most of the show's initial discussion. That this got the most attention is a bit of a shame, because Golden Kamuy has a lot going for it. Notably, the manga is good enough that a few misses in the anime adaptation are not going to be enough to ruin it. I didn't watch the all-3DCG Berserk, but the problems facing Golden Kamuy here are by no means as severe. It's not as if the entire show is 3DCG—just the larger animals when they appear.

Asirpa
Golden Kamuy is also about Asirpa looking displeased.

Seeing as how the show isn't actually about bears, 3DCG or otherwise, it's pretty good most of the time. Well, that's assuming you have an appetite for the horrors of war, collecting the skins of dead convicts, brutal violence, Japanese history, Ainu cultural lessons, and delicious meals made with freshly killed game. I suppose I'm not fully prepared to resist arguments that anyone interested should just read the manga instead, but I do believe the anime adds bits worth appreciating separately. I suggest watching the anime first before turning to the start of the manga. The way I see it, the anime will inevitably finish far short of the still ongoing manga's current position, and you'll probably want to read it anyway.