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Dated 25 March 2019: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is good, but I wouldn't call it magnificent

Kylie
Go on, Kylie, curse the bitch out.

The air battles in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI) are consistently fantastic. Those alone managed to keep the show at the top of my Winter 2019 list all season long. However, I never got particularly invested in the story or the characters, perhaps with the exception of the flashback-heavy one with Kylie before she became a pilot. In contrast, Mizushima Tsutomu was much more successful with GIRLS und PANZER (admittedly a very tough act to follow), which has much more engaging characters complemented by the excellent tank battles.

Kylie
Somehow, Kylie wasn't a hellion as a kid.

With 11 episodes down and presumably only one to go, KOTOBUKI seems poised to hit its big finish. This would have greater significance if I cared more about the characters or the things they had at stake, but at least I'm confident the dogfights will be awesome. Incidentally, since my initial post included comparisons with Girly Air Force, I suppose I should note that my interest in Girly Air Force crashed and burned within four episodes. I don't think I've seen anyone else mention it on the Twitter in all that time either, so I guess it probably didn't have enough going for it even if Eagle was very American.

Dated 4 March 2019: W'z is the Hand Shakers sequel I never knew I wanted

Yukiya
Totally normal background.

To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure I want a Hand Shakers sequel, and I'm already nine episodes into it. In any case, nobody else seemed to know ahead of time that W'z was going to be a sequel until after the first episode aired. Even now, it's unclear to me whether GoHands specifically hid this information or were just really bad at promoting the show. I suppose I could have guessed, since W'z shares the extremely garish 3DCG style found in Hand Shakers, although I find it much less visually jarring now than I did in winter of 2017. Whether this is because the franchise's aesthetic has improved or whether I've just developed a tolerance for it, I have no idea. The way the show looks is pretty much the only reason why I'm watching it, incidentally. I certainly don't care for the setting or the plot or the characters.

Haruka
You are way overreacting, Haruka.

In fact, there's not even much of a cohesive plot to speak of through nine episode. There are some unifying themes, and a number of points that the show continues to re-emphasize, but nothing I consider engaging. The characters are about what you ought to expect, if you remember how they were in Hand Shakers, although there are some semi-amusing changes to a few of them that occurred during the timeskip between the two shows. As far as the new characters go, well, Haruka is doing nothing to make herself endearing. The dumb side plot about her unspoken feelings for Potato-kun is crap and does W'z no favors. She's been entirely dead weight. I'm watching W'z so you don't have to, but if you're at all curious about what this, uh, visually arresting show is like, absolutely start by watching Hand Shakers first. It might be WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS but at least it doesn't have Haruka.

Dated 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.

Dated 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.

Dated 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.

Dated 16 April 2018: Piano no Mori seems better than I was expecting

Shuuhei and Kai
Well, there is a forest.

I only watched the first episode of Piano no Mori (TV) because of the Gainax name attached to it. Hopefully, Sakuga Blog will at some point lay out how much of the Fukushima Gainax has anything to do with the Gainax of yore, if anything. Regardless of how much the name might even matter anymore, it at least served to expose me to an episode of anime I would not have otherwise considered watching. I won't call the first episode stunning, but it was at least surprising and better than I was anticipating. I went into the show knowing nothing aside from a brief vague description about two boys who play piano in a forest. That's technically true, but doesn't really detail what the show is about.

Reiko
For one thing, one of the characters is a prostitute.

As far as what a curious viewer might expect, I don't think I can offer reliable predictions based on a single episode, but think it's likely comparisons with Nodame Cantabile, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, and, uh, Piano will be inevitable. You know, because all of these shows are about people playing piano. There is some imperfect 3DCG in Piano no Mori, but I get the feeling this is an increasingly unavoidable component of anime in this particular era. In any case, it was not distracting enough to take me completely out of the show. It's certainly should not be a reason to dismiss it out of hand. I can't promise Piano no Mori will be good, but I at least claim the first episode is different and worth your time if you are still finding your way around the new anime season, trying to figure out what might be worth watching.

Dated 9 April 2018: I'm looking forward to Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

Tessa and Leonard
I guess you need to watch The Second Raid
to know who the person on the right is.

There has been a running gag for years about Full Metal Panic! fans in anguish about Kyoto Animation working on other projects instead of animating another sequel to follow Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. To some extent, I fit that category of disgruntled fans in the sense that I did want another FMP season, although it's not accurate to claim I harbored Kyoani any ill will, if only because I had long ago concluded no such sequel would ever be forthcoming. Surprisingly, there is going to be a fourth season after all: Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory. (Get it? Full Metal Panic! IV. Anyway....) Xebec is making this one, and it starts on 13 April. Do you need to watch the first three seasons before watching FMP IV? I dunno. Probably?

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Dated 26 December 2017: Infini-T Force: Local girl finds hero inside her

Emi
Emi has an epiphany.

Infini-T Force is my surprise of the season, not because it was necessarily better than I was expecting, but rather because it got me to understand the appeal of its related superhero series and sentai-type antics in general. I typically have a very low tolerance for nonsense which I characterize as shounen jive. In particular, characters described as having "a strong sense of justice" irritate the Bejesus out of me and I usually avoid any such shows if at all possible out of general principle.

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