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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.

Dated 15 April 2019: I'm watching two baseball anime this season

Touma and Souichirou
Touma is shorter and has messier hair.

The Spring 2019 anime season features Mix: Meisei Story and Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine, two fairly different baseball anime. The former is an adaptation of a still-running Adachi Mitsuru manga and an apparent sequel set 30 years after one of his classics, Touch. Although I've only read the first few chapters of Mix, I have read Touch as well as a number of other Adachi titles. I also watched Cross Game, so I'm reasonably confident that Mix is basically guaranteed to be good, although I imagine newcomers to Adachi's work may wonder why everyone has the same face. I'm also counting on at least one tragic character death. Hey, baseball is a cruel sport, okay. I don't know how long the Mix anime is expected to run, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up lasting all year.

Ukita
TWO HANDS!

Unlike Mix, where baseball has been a part of the characters' lives for a long time, Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine features mostly neophytes, at least in terms of skill level. It also features a meek, somewhat clumsy girl in an animal-ears hoodie whose initial defining characteristic was anxiety. I was prepared to loathe her on general principle, but I suppose it's a credit to Cinderella Nine that I pretty much regard her as at least "okay" now after two episodes. The show does feel like yet another show where a bunch of girls are all really into something that girls stereotypically don't care so much about, but there are quite a few shows in that vein that still turn out to be very good, so I'm willing to give Cinderella Nine the benefit of the doubt. I'm not expecting it to be anywhere near as good as Taisho Yakyuu Musume or Princess Nine, but I'm hopeful the baseball itself will be better in Cinderella Nine than it was in Princess Nine. (See this earlier post for more on that.)

Dated 25 February 2019: Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is an interesting show in theory

Kurumi and Asuka
Airborne mahou shoujo, airborne mahou shoujo, where have you been?

Unfortunately, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka) is not a great anime, and quite a bit less interesting than it probably ought to be. Part of the problem is "magikal girls except adult and/or dark!" is by no means a novel idea anymore. However, I think a substantial part of the issues affecting Spec-Ops Asuka are probably intrinsic to its core concept to begin with. The anime (which I'm only assuming is at least reasonably faithful to its source manga—I've not read it) makes an effort to imagine how armed forces might integrate mahou shoujo (and dour, sadistic mages, for that matter) into their combined arms doctrine and what sorts of missions they might perform. It sort of works, but it also sort of invites more questions. When the core concept is not especially grounded in reality, maybe it's best to simply handwave away practical problems and adopt the approach used by mecha anime.

War Nurse
War Nurse is a great codename, though.

My other issue with Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is that I don't find it especially engaging. There hasn't been any particular hook to the show that grabs me, and I'm sort of simply watching it perfunctorily. It doesn't help that the animation has a somewhat unenthusiastic look to it, and I'm not a fan of the character designs either. I'm not even sure what the issue is. Perhaps everything looks too normal? I'm glad the show at least does not have a "grimdark" visual appearance, but I wonder if making it look more like an actual mahou shoujo anime might have been better. The music works at least. Digressing a bit, I don't have a good place to mention this, but Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does have more actual torture in the show than I'm used to seeing in anime. For comparison, the torture in Overlord occurs off-screen. I'm not suggesting you should count that as a positive necessarily, but it is noteworthy, at least. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 28 January 2019: Egao no Daika teaches a 12-year-old girl that smilewar is all Hell

Yuuki
This queen's bed looks smaller than queen-sized.

Egao no Daika (The Price of Smiles) caught my attention because it is an original anime featuring mecha. But then the initial responses to the first episode suggested it was more about a silly country's 12-year-old monarch trying her best with the assistance of her loyal childhood friend, Potato-kun. Based on those reports alone, I wrote the show off. But then I heard about what happens in episode two and decided to give it a try out of curiosity. Yeah, I am totally on board. Yes, the show still stars a naïve awkward-age girl, but it's actually about a war that Smilestan's Deep State kept hidden from her. Moreover, it's clear from the OP and the ED that Egao no Daika also stars a soldier fighting for the opposing side. Indeed, Ittōheisō Shining has had a more prominent role in the show through its first four episodes than Queen Princess Yuuki.

Stella
I like Hayami Saori in this role, but I'd rather have Dark Mamiko.

Thankfully, Egao no Daika is also not one of those shows where Potato-kun spends half the series wiping out enemy mecha on easy mode before suddenly realizing people die when they are killed. I can at least guarantee this is not going to happen in The Price of Smiles. Rather, soldiers in this show display no hesitation killing their opponents even when they can see the whites of their eyes. There is still some question as to how Yuuki is going to react to the war now that she's getting a crash course in reality. It's more likely than not that she'll continue to oppose it, but other possibilities remain on the table since this is an original anime. Personally, I'm hoping for at least two cours of gripping war melodrama, but we're probably only going to get the 12 episodes scheduled thus far, alas.

Dated 21 January 2019: Eh, I guess I'm watching Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari for the next six months

Naofumi
At least he's not in high school.

So far, the reactions to Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero) don't seem to be as intense as the Goblin Slayer! initial reactions were. Then again, Goblin Slayer! came out of the gate with rape and murder, while I hear Shield Hero works in its more controversial content over time. I'm ignorant enough of the franchise that it's unclear to me what is specifically so distasteful about the show to some people, but I have seen some of the more generalized accusations levied against it. Based on the first two episodes (and the first episode was double-length too), it does seem Shield Hero leans heavily on using themes of betrayal and unfair accusations in order to make its protagonist more appealing. Ostensibly, the viewers most likely to appreciate this setup are those who feel the world unfairly demonizes them as well. (Hence the associated criticism about Shield Hero courting "incels.")

Raphtalia
At least the weather's nice.

I'm unsure this reasoning necessarily follows, mostly because I've not seen any indication that the Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari protagonist is particularly popular with anyone, regardless of how they like the show. I suppose this might be because he's been pretty much a grumpy sourpuss for most of the show so far. With a week-long break between the first and second episode, I did feel less inclined to appreciate why he might be in such a foul mood. Maybe someone who marathons the series in the future will be more sympathetic. Thankfully, the animation has been surprisingly good, at least for moments that need it, such as while showing Raphtalia's terrified expressions turning to relief during early interactions between Slave Hero and his bargain bin acquisition. Oh yeah, apparently there are going to be a lot of slaves in this show? I'm not sure if that's true, but I did read that somewhere. He's only got the one, for now, but Shield Hero is set to run for two cours, so there will be plenty of opportunities to buy more, especially considering how cheap they are on the seemingly unregulated open market.

Dated 7 January 2019: In re anime materialism

<&Seem> Oof. My overburdened media shelf decided to finally collapse and it took with it all the remaining Macross/Gundam models I'd kept intact and displayed since the early 2000s
<&Seem> Just look at these shattered things and thinking all I can do is toss them in the garbage ( ._.)

Learning of Seem's misfortune reminds me that recovering my own anime merchandise from the inevitable future SoCal earthquake is going to be troublesome. Viewed from the perspective that the things you own end up owning you, there is something perversely attractive about the prospect of going through life with fewer material possessions. I do know people who favor that lifestyle, but fewer still who both favor it and actually embrace it. I, on the other hand, like having things, even though each acquisition incrementally increases the burden and complexity of storing it all and finding new spaces for additional hoarding.

GIRLS und PANZER BD box
Meanwhile, I imported more Japanese BDs.

I'm not prepared to take the position that losing everything in a catastrophe should be viewed as liberating, but hearing about events such as the above does remind me that I don't really have any sort of plan for the Blu-rays I buy and never watch, nor do I have any idea what I'm going to do with my growing collection of anime tchotchkes. I do occasionally see people selling off their stuff on the Twitter, but it sort of seems as if those efforts are intended to ensure the items at least go to people who will appreciate them, rather than to recoup financial value. Probably that's the best case scenario, long term.