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Dated 26 May 2020: My Bakarina 'ship is a harem

Catarina
It's not easy being rich.

While a significant number of shows from the Spring 2020 anime season are delayed, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) marches on. Hamehura (alternatively Hamefura, but really now: Bakarina) is a solid adaptation of the popular web novel turned light novel. I've enjoyed the manga adaptation as well, thanks to some great character designs and relentless mugging which the anime sensibly adopts as well.

Mary and Maria
Relax, ladies, it's fine.

As for the show itself, the Bakarina anime features our clueless antagonist's ongoing efforts at avoiding either exile or a grisly demise, all while entirely ignorant that she's actually the protagonist now and entirely too successful at currying favor among her peers and erstwhile rivals. Clueless love interests in harem anime are nothing new (see, for example, Ichika in IS <:Infinite Stratos>), but I find Bakarina herself an amusing character and sort of endearing. At a minimum, that differentiates her from Potato-kun from such-and-such series quite a bit.

Catarina
Fruits Basket face.

If I had to identify why this distinction exists, I want to say it's because those typical harem comedy protagonists who remain oblivious to all the potential love interests hurling their undergarments at them tend to be in that position solely because the story says that's just the way it is, and not as a result of any qualities or efforts on their parts—at least not in any reasonable capacity. Catarina Claes, on the other hand, is fully committed to making sure all of these other characters like her as much as possible and get along with each other as well. That she doesn't realize she has already long accomplished this and is on the verge of collapsing her world into a harem comedy singularity sort of makes me like her too.

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 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 8 October 2019: Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was the best show of the Summer 2019 anime season

Sugawara
Lewd.

I suppose I need to set aside my anti-Okada bias now that I've enjoyed one of her melodramas so much. As far as sex disasters go, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was honestly a little light on the sex and not as traumatic in the disaster department as I would have liked, but O Maidens in Your Savage Season did have the courage to do a lot of things that I don't think an Okada-free show would have attempted. Framed in the sense that tragedies end in murder while comedies end in marriage. I was optimistically hoping Araoto would turn out to be a tragedy, but I still liked it quite a bit even though it turned out to be a comedy.

Sonezaki
Relax, it's only lust.

Not that there wasn't tragic stuff in it, but we're talking emotional-trauma tragic, not murder-suicide tragic. I do wish Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 had not gone quite so easy on the arcs that had the best opportunities for going really poorly for everyone involved, but I acknowledge this is a sadistic perspective. Besides, fully exploring some of the paths that its characters could have taken would have changed the tone of the show dramatically. Probably I still would have been entertained, but I appreciate that many viewers would not have been as accepting. Still, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to hope an Okada Mari sex disaster would end with a murder instead of a marriage. I'm just sayin'.

Dated 30 July 2019: Nobody knew a Mari Okada sex disaster would have so much drama

Rika
Rika could stand to be a little less uptight.

Actually, wait, the title of this post is a lie. Probably everybody did. I, for one, am in it for the potential wall-to-wall traumarama. Somehow, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo. (O Maidens in Your Savage Season) is my top Summer 2019 show through four episodes, even though I typically hate a lot of Okada Mari's work. Anohana is the best example of this, being a highly praised show about Deep Feelings which drove me nuts with its bullshit and lazy contrivances. On the other hand, I'm riveted in my front-row seat for Araoto as its melodrama plays out. So far, its themes of unrequited love, envy, lust, and cruelty are not especially unique, but they also don't have to be. Everything just works and I'm happy to see its characters struggle to make sense of this challenging stage in their lives.

Kazusa
We're going to be seeing this face a lot, I suspect.

With regard to my own feelings about the Okada-isms in Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo., it's not as if there haven't been shows I've liked despite of (or potentially because of) her contributions to them. Additionally, it's entirely unclear to me whether my opinions on Okada-type works are simply unreliable, whether the shows I end up liking were fixed by other collaborators, or whether it turns out I actually do like her work, but it's other people in the production cycle who fuck it up along the way. Seeing as how the Araoto anime is based on a manga that Okada Mari is authoring herself, there's a genuine possibility that "Pure Okada" is legitimately good, and sour products such as Anohana result from other cooks dumping shit into her broth. Or I suppose maybe I'm just finding her more palatable over the years.

Dated 17 June 2019: Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai is no B Gata H Kei

Ao
What does it mean if her pupils turn into hearts?

As I wrote earlier, I started watching Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (Ao-chan Can't Study!) by accident. I've dropped Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn: BOKUBEN), but I'm still watching Ao-chan. It's all right, but not great. Although the episodes are half-length, the story has advanced far enough that its titular character has fully accepted that she very much wants her crush to put the wood to her. Naturally, he's too much of a pure-pure boy to do anything about it, despite the wildly off-base reputation Ao-chan had associated with him, and despite her increasingly open advances. I don't know what happens in the manga, but it seems all but assured that anime-type Ao will fail in her attempts at having the sex.

Ao
Wait, then what does it mean if her pupils turn into Debian?

B Gata H Kei (Yamada's First Time) similarly features a sexually frustrated girl who can't seem to get laid despite her best efforts. There are important differences between B Gata H Kei and Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, though. Notably, actual chemistry develops between Yamada and Kosuda; I'm not really buying Ao's relationship with Takumi. Kosuda and Takumi both seem like reasonably fine fellows, and Ao does seem several degrees less insane than Yamada, but I like Yamada and Kosuda quite a bit more than Ao and Takumi, both as individuals and as couples. B Gata H Kei also has a supporting cast that adds to the story. Usually I find that if a show is going to go wrong with its supporting characters, it fails by adding too many of them. Ao-chan Can't Study! somehow doesn't have enough of them, or at least doesn't have any that improve the series at all. They're basically dead weight.

Kosuda and Yamada
Does it mean she's open for sourcing?

I guess B Gata H Kei has the advantage of having twice the run time, relative to Ao-chan's half-length episodes. Oddly, it's the former that's based on a 4-koma comic strip, while the latter is sourced from a regular manga series. The Ao-chan anime does still have the opportunity to turn things around, depending on how its ending goes. The, uh, climax to B Gata H Kei anime does not, um, perform quite as well as the comic's. It probably could use an OVA, although I suspect this is going to end up being true of both shows.

Dated 20 May 2019: There are two shows this season about girls who don't talk

Nanako
People would not put up with this if Nanako weren't so nice.

Senryuu Shoujo (Senryuu Girl) is about a girl who doesn't speak. Instead, she communicates with senryuu poems written on little placards. It works out really well for her, since she either writes super fast or is extraordinarily prescient enough to have suitable responses prepared ahead of time. There's nothing physically preventing Nanako from speaking, as far as I can tell. She just has severe anxiety.

Momoko and Mayumi
Joshikausei consists entirely of schoolgirls fucking off.

Joshikausei (also written as two words, Joshi Kausei), on the other hand, features a cast of girls (and unimportant supporting characters) who can speak but choose not to. This is a short anime with three-minute episodes—even shorter than Senryuu Shoujo which has half-length 13-minute episodes. Neither the Joshikausei anime nor its source manga have any dialogue at all. I haven't read the Senryuu Shoujo manga, but Nanako is voiced in the anime. We're privy to her thoughts and Hanakana reads all of the cards aloud. This makes Senryuu Shoujo less gimmicky, but it also takes a little away from the show's premise. Both Senryuu Shoujo and Joshikausei are all right. They're uniformly pleasant, but I wouldn't regard them as must-watch shows this season.