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Dated 30 June 2020: I guess I'm re-watching Kaze no Yojimbo

George
A lot of scenes look like manga panels, and I mean that in a good way.

Despite the number of times I've mentioned Kaze no Yojimbo here over the years, I've not actually re-watched the series since the final DVD came out in 2005. I have also not heard of the series being available on any streaming service, and the R1 DVDs are now out of print (although potentially still available). It's not clear to me how someone who wanted to watch the show for the first time today would go about it. I'm not even sure if piracy is a viable option, considering the show was never popular even in the early aughts.

Miyuki
You can tell Miyuki is important because she has anime hair.

With regard to the show itself, it has obvious parallels with Kurosawa's Yojimbo film. Curiously, I don't remember the promotional materials and professional reviews for Kaze no Yojimbo playing up that angle. Instead, I recall there was more of an effort to portray Kodama George (the titular bodyguard) as a sort of Spike Spiegel character. That is entirely inaccurate, and Bodyguard of the Wind bears no resemblance to Cowboy Bebop at all.

Miyuki and George
I don't think you're supposed to spread out like this on a Japanese train.

Clearly, I enjoy the show quite a bit, but not enough to re-watch it frequently. And I'm at a loss as to how to recommend the show. The answer is I can't recommend it. It's difficult to acquire and not really something with broad appeal. The first episode opens with a mystery, and multiple subsequent mysteries are layered on top of each other before any of them are resolved. It's also a 25-episode show that starts slowly. Even back when it was new, almost everyone quit watching it by the gambling episode, well before the series makes any progress with its plot.

Miyuki and George
The rural landscape consistently looks fantastic in Kaze no Yojimbo.

At least the ending is satisfying. (Well, I remember it being so when I last watched it 15 years ago.) Aside from being inspired by the Kurosawa film, Kaze no Yojimbo is not constrained by other sources (e.g., it doesn't adapt manga chapters or anything like that), so its ending feels pre-planned and deliberate. (That shouldn't be such a rare thing, but unfortunately weak endings and non-ending endings continue to plague anime today.) In any case, that's how I feel about the show's ending based on what I remember. I guess I'm going to find out if it still holds up in 2020.

Dated 19 May 2020: I'm reading the In/Spectre manga

In/Spectre volumes 01, 02, and 03
Iwanaga is not a chuuni. She's probably just re-adjusting her eye.

Although I really enjoyed the In/Spectre (Kyokō Suiri, or Invented Inference) anime, I was surprised at long the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc lasted. (Specifically, it takes up the entire rest of the cours once it starts.) I'm reading the manga now, and these volumes include afterwords by the original author that shed light on the situation.

In/Spectre volumes 04, 05, and 06
Despite appearance, Kuro is also not a chuuni. He is tsundere for his own girlfriend, though.

Kyokou Suiri was originally one book. This received a manga adaptation which spanned six volumes. The author claims he gave the mangaka essentially full control over the visuals and a lot of latitude to apply appropriate changes while adapting the book to manga form. This hands-off approach seems to have worked, as the manga proved popular enough to inspire the original author to write more stories (while lamenting the Invented Inference title no longer really fit the subject matter of the later material).

In/Spectre volumes 07, 08, and 09
Iwanaga is wearing a school uniform because one of the stories takes place while she was in high school.

Notably, the original author (Shirodaira Kyo) wrote the subsequent material as short stories, rather than collaborating with the mangaka (Katase Chasiba) to produce scripts for the manga, reasoning that doing things differently at this point could inadvertently disrupt the chemistry of whatever it was that made the manga adaptation of the original book turn out so well. Well, he wasn't wrong. The five volumes following the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc are at least as good, if not better.

In/Spectre volumes 10 and 11
Rikka's not dead, she just looks like that.

As you may have guessed, the In/Spectre anime is itself an adaptation of the manga, and not a separate adaptation of the original book (which I've not had an opportunity to read). As adaptations go, it's very close, really only moving the arc with the giant snake so that it takes place before the Steel Lady Nanase arc instead of after it. I don't know if there are any plans to produce a sequel to the anime, but there is certainly enough source material to support one. All of the subsequent stories in the volumes I've read are shorter than the Steel Lady Nanase one, but at least three of them are long enough to span multiple episodes. Thankfully, the longest of these concluded at the end of volume 11, instead of with a cliffhanger leaving the reader waiting until the release of volume 12—that one won't be out until the end of August.

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.