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Dated 17 March 2020: In re Spring 2020 anime delays

Subaru
Subaru has seen some shit.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already responsible for bumping next season's Re:Zero sequel and Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy) to the Summer 2020 anime season instead. If conditions do not improve, there will presumably be more. There are a few shows I'm looking forward to next season, but I'd actually prefer to have the entire season delayed if production values might otherwise be rather spotty or suspect. Naturally, the above hypothetical does not consider the individual or industry-wide impacts such an occurrence might entail. There are some obvious financial burdens related to the secondary and tertiary effects this would generate, particularly given the already infamous hardships suffered by those in the animation trenches.

Subaru
On the plus side, it's a really nice day out.

From the strictly narrow perspective of a viewer who has nothing to personally lose other than delayed enjoyment of anticipated anime, this would present an opportunity to reduce a backlog or re-watch old favorites. I, for one, have got a long list of shows I've been meaning to watch "someday" and an almost impossibly deep pool of potential re-watches. And this is to say nothing of all the other non-anime-related options I've been putting off because there's typically so much new anime to try out each quarter. Naturally, I do hope things get better sooner rather than later. After all, COVID-19 does, you know, kill people. I could do without that.

Dated 25 February 2020: In/Spectre is my top show of the Winter 2020 anime season so far

Kotoko
Nearly the entire seventh episode takes place in a hotel room.

Before the season started, I wasn't expecting too much out of Kyokou Suiri (In/Spectre), but it's really turning out to be quite enjoyable. There is a significant amount of dialogue in the series, as the characters spend a lot of time discussing the details from various angles first before tacking the mysteries they're facing. Consequently, there is a lot more talking and much less neck kicking than the trailer led me to believe. Thankfully, I do find the banter entertaining, and the characters are pleasant to have around. The lead male doesn't seem to get excited very often, which is a huge improvement over anime's penchant for making these dudes spazzes.

Kotoko and Kurou
These two are okay together.

The pacing in Kyokou Suiri is slower than I expected, though. In fact, it's slow enough that I'm starting to wonder if the ongoing Nanase mystery is going to take up the entire cours. I suppose this means a non-ending "read the books" ending is all but assured. I'd rather In/Spectre turn into a long-running series (it could take over the yokai niche for GeGeGe no Kitarou, which I think is ending this season after a two-year run), but the chances of that seem pretty slim. As far as I know, it's only scheduled for 12 episodes, and I'm not certain it's been popular enough to have the, uh, legs for more.

Dated 3 December 2019: Still enjoying Kono Oto Tomare! despite (or because of) all the drama

Hozuki
Hozuki is still Best Girl even though she's nice to people now.

The second cours of Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life continues to satisfy with its steady stream of people being judgmental assholes. That bit from the first cours where smug douches jump to conclusions based on false accusations and totally unfair assumptions reappears here, but still manages to avoid crossing into irritating territory. It's a fine line, but I like how the show doles out the inevitable comeuppance and vindicates the accused.

Akira
You're okay. Try not to drive into a hedge.

I don't know how the source material is paced, but a bunch of characters are piling into the show as of the most recent episode, presumably in a rush to work in all the bits related to the upcoming competition before the season ends. This does work to its detriment, but it's the sort of thing I'm willing to excuse since the sum of the parts totals favorably. I'm not expecting further episodes of Kono Oto Tomare! after this season ends, but I'd watch more.

Dated 1 October 2019: I wish Cop Craft looked as good as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Tilarna
Literally a still frame with a voice over.

Cop Craft and Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) didn't really have much in common aside from airing during the same season. As far as their respective stories went, I was more interested in Cop Craft than in Kimetsu no Yaiba, but there is no question the latter was a better show. This despite the fact that Zenitsu (that panicky orange-haired fucker who shouted all his lines) was annoying as all Hell. Frankly, overcoming that is a testament to how good ufotable can be. Kimetsu no Yaiba looked amazing. It's hard to believe some of its sequences were even possible in a TV anime. Conversely, Cop Craft very much looked like television anime, and one that was constantly pressured to meet timelines. Nearly all of its action sequences had an unfinished quality to them pretty much all season long, and there was a recap episode inserted between episodes nine and 10. Based on how these scenes actually played out—with various shortcuts to substitute for missing animation—you get the sense that Millepensee at least had high ambitions, initially. (See also Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter.)

Nezuko
Pretty much anything I tell you about this would be a spoiler.

Would Cop Craft be better than Kimetsu no Yaiba if its animation looked as good? I don't think I can claim that, but I suppose potentially in the eyes of viewers who enjoy police stories with odd-couple crimefighters forced to work together. As far as the Demon Slayer story goes, I'm certainly not intrigued enough to seek out the manga now that the series has ended (although there will be a movie to cover the next arc). The fact I enjoyed it as much as I did is another testament to ufotable's anime adaptation which remained consistently good during its 26-episode run. At a minimum, episode 20 contained probably the best sequence I've seen all year. (I'm referring to the scene that basically everyone else who was watching the show went nuts about.) Unfortunately, the following episode did diminish the impact a bit with what I like to call "bullshit shounen jive," but I'm blaming the source material for that one. ufotable at least kept us astounded for the week.

Dated 10 September 2019: Y'all should read JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World

Front cover: JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World
Despite being a light novel, JK Haru is not illustrated.

JK Haru wa Isekai de Shoufu ni Natta (JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World) gained some notoriety last year when a licensed version became digitally available. Hard copies are now in print as well. Being an isekai light novel, the book is somewhat tongue-in-cheek despite the subject matter. However, I believe the tone it adopts appropriately approximates the sort of setup readers might expect in an isekai light novel about prostitution, thereby facilitating its ability to get them interested in the story before confronting them with the uncomfortable realities that correspond with sex work in general and the vulnerability of prostitutes specifically.

That said, JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World is not a grim book, despite a number of unsettling scenes and events. Moreover, the misogyny and violence encountered in the fantasy world setting are not exactly out of line with the sorts of hazards women face in many sectors of our real world. It's a difficult balancing act for the text, contrasting amusing adventures with these threats. And while there is plenty of sex in JK Haru—as you might expect—the scenes are typically presented matter-of-factly and not written to titilate. Sex work in JK Haru is not glamorous, and the book keeps the attention on the work part, not the sex part.

Notably, I never felt as if JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World was deliberately prurient the way that, frankly, so many light novels seems justifiably accused of being. I've seen enough comments on the Twitter to know many readers will disagree with me on this point, but I think this may have to do with one's initial expectations of the book and what sort of demands are placed on it. JK Haru is presented from Haru's first-person point of view, which I think makes it more effective at conveying the bleakness of her world and the impact of the events around her. Likewise, it also better communicates the joy she finds when she pursues various recreational diversions or actually has sex she enjoys. It also avoids presenting the violence in her world or the sadism she encounters as elements the reader is expected to like (unlike the corresponding scenes in some other light novels I might name). There are surely readers who do prefer that sort of content and wish JK Haru had more of it, but I'm inclined to regard that as an indictment against those readers themselves and not the text for obstensibly failing to omit it.

Incidentally, the various twists and reveals in JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World are good enough that I recommend a spoiler-avoidance posture if you expect to read it.

Dated 23 July 2019: In re Kyoto Animation

The horrific Kyoto Animation fire on 18 July 2019 overshadows everything else I might have written about instead for this week's blog update. This is certainly not the first newsworthy event that's occurred during the 17+ years I've been blogging about anime, but aside from one personally upsetting example, I typically do not use this website as a venue to opine on current events. Nevertheless, the sheer scale of Thursday's KyoAni tragedy compels acknowledgement at a minimum, despite doubts about my ability to in any way adequately convey the scope of either the human cost or the artistic losses.

Complicating this effort is my reluctance to characterize myself as a Kyoto Animation fan, which will surely make this entry much less personal in comparison to pretty much any other example among the outpouring of responses worldwide. This is not to say that I haven't appreciated KyoAni as a studio. Although I have to admit I have usually been ambivalent about most of the anime it has produced, a few of its shows still number among my favorites. Moreover, I also at least recognize its superb artistic accomplishments, its positive reputation as a workplace, and the unquestionable talents of its workforce. I suppose this is my clumsy, roundabout way of saying that while this is a calamity that I wouldn't want to have happen to anyone, it seems worse that it happened to Kyoto Animation in particular.

Dated 1 July 2019: I'm watching Re:Zero because of Isekai Quartet

Emilia and Subaru
This is some compositing.

I tried watching Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) when it aired during the Spring 2016 anime season. I made it five episodes before dropping it because I found the show rather irritating. Fast forward to the Spring 2019 anime season, and somehow Isekai Quartet finished at the top of my rankings, edging out Kono Oto Tomare! I did, in fact, expect this to happen. (The watching part, not the ranking part, that is.) I've made it through the first cours of Re:Zero so far, and do have to admit it improves quite a bit after the initial episodes.

Emilia
Partial eclipse.

I'm a little surprised how few spoilers I knew, and how many I had forgotten. That probably helped, by preserving the sense of mystery that pervades the second half of the first cours. I do 100-percent still remember the Rem and Emilia spoiler which is still to come, though. However, since I don't actually 'ship any of the characters, knowing this probably isn't going to matter much one way or another. In any case, my renewed curiosity in Re:Zero is probably a testament to the success of Isekai Quartet as a marketing ploy. Seeing as how Isekai Quartet is getting a second season, with the promise of unspecified newcomers, I suppose it's possible the premise will expand to include more than just four Kadokawa-affiliated isekai properties, although then maybe they'll need to call the sequel something like Isekai Octet or whatever. I think I'd be okay with that.

Dated 27 May 2019: I probably would have stopped watching Fruits Basket by now if it weren't Fruits Basket

Tohru
Death to those who make Honda Tohru cry.

I am enjoying the new Fruits Basket anime mostly as a matter of general principle. It's well done, and hits all the right marks that I think it ought to, but I'm frankly not especially into it. Somewhat appropriately, this is how I felt about the first Fruits Basket anime as well. I don't even remember exactly when I watched it, but I do know it was several years after it aired and already regarded as a classic. Despite going in without knowing anything about the story, I did enjoy the 2001 Fruits Basket, no small part due to being a Horie Yui fan. In fact, I even bought the DVDs in 2009 (although I haven't re-watched the show). Still, even though I thought the show was quite good, it still wasn't the sort of show I typically watch, so I wasn't quite as invested in it as its more ardent fans tend to be.

Tohru
Not counting her mom, who is already dead.

This is pretty much how I feel about the 2019 Fruits Basket anime. Iwami Manaka is also very convincing as Honda Tohru, which is pretty important because Tohru is basically one of the all-time sweetest and nicest girls in the world. Nevertheless, I'm not particularly into the show itself, even though I intend to watch both cours (assuming it also runs 20-something episodes like the 2001 anime). Notably, there's a lot I don't remember about Fruits Basket now, so these 2019 episodes feel quite new to me. Since I haven't read the manga, I have no idea if this phenomenon is because one or both of the anime deviated from the original story, or if they're both faithful adaptations and I've simply forgotten nearly everything from the first anime. I mean, I have, but I'd expect some recollections to return by seeing newly adapted scenes of the same thing again now. In any case, both the 2001 and the 2019 Fruits Basket adaptations occupy that curious position where I'm willing to recommend them, despite being neither deeply enthusiastic about either anime nor knowledgeable in any capacity when it comes to the source material.