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Dated 26 March 2018: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho and Yuru Camp△ are the best shows of Winter 2018

Rin
There's also the matter of Rin's excellent hair.

Yuru Camp△ finished its 12-episode run last week with an open-ended conclusion to its deeply satisfying season. As far the actual narrative goes, I can't exactly claim Laid-Back Camp was particularly eventful, but the show's real strengths came from its pleasantly relaxed mood and its freakishly endearing lead character, Rin, anyway. I do like the other characters as well, though, and I'm particularly relieved Nadeshiko turned out to be a lot better than I initially feared, but Rin basically carried Yuru Camp△ for me. She did, after all, clinch the Girl of the Quarter crown in week 10 by racking up most of my Girl of the Week awards. If you place any stock in B.S. numerical ratings, I did score Yuru Camp△ in first place for most of the season before Sora yori mo Tooi Basho passed it.

Hinata
"When angry count four; when very angry, swear."

There's actually one episode of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho left, but I'm all but certain to subjectively regard it as this season's best show regardless of how it actually plays out. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (see this post for more about the show's name) is exceptionally well done. I'm particularly impressed with how it pays off the numerous little heartfelt investments it made during the course of the series. Also of note is the astute directing which has juggled comedy, drama, and even a little horror with skillful touches of emotional resonance in the right amounts and at the right times.

Violet
Mission top secret, destination unknown.

Speaking of emotional resonance, compare Sora yori mo Tooi Basho with the much hyped Violet Evergarden for example, which turned out to be a hot mess of wildly disparate levels of quality depending on the episode. I felt nearly all of them were clumsy and overwrought, with the exception of two episodes (both of which credit Sawa Shinpei as the episode director, incidentally). In particular, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho has made much better use of its music than Violet Evergarden has, as I've mentioned before. All in all, I'm very impressed with Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, and I'm looking forward to its creative team's future projects.

Dated 6 March 2018: Violet Evergarden is a fully automatic memory doll

Violet
Actually, Violet doesn't seem to brush her hair either.

Violet Evergarden is not subtle. The animation is beautiful, even by the already high standards I've come to expect of Kyoto Animation, but it's somewhat wasted in an uneven show. After eight episodes, I don't care about any of the characters—certainly none of these personality-free men with perpetually uncombed hair. I'm willing to pretend to care about Violet as the main character, but I think I should be more involved by this point so close to the show's end. I would have less of a problem with Violet being a cipher if the show were two cours or longer. As it is, it feels as if the entire auto memory doll letter-writing bit is filler instead of ostensibly one of the main aspects of the series. Is it telling that the far-and-away best episode to date was an anime-original addition?

Violet
WHAT MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW?

Writing aside, Violet Evergarden also seems too intent to serve as a talent showcase. It's filled with glorious vignettes, but mostly does not work for me as a whole. In particular, I find the background music incredibly intrusive. The music itself is good, despite not being especially memorable, but the bigger problem is I don't think I should be noticing it nearly as much as I do. In any case, it takes me out of the scene entirely too often. As with most of the other problems I have with Violet Evergarden, it's good from a technical perspective, but would benefit from more restraint. Or perhaps I'm only getting distracted by these components because I'm not invested in the show itself? Probably the lack of appreciation for the plot is entirely my fault, as I'm clearly more interested in the wartime flashbacks and post-war aspects than I am in Violet's effort to understand feelings. Violet Evergarden is only just now revealing the role its titular character played in the war and how she reached the state where we found her in the first episode.

Violet
I don't know why Violet is wearing short pants.

The explanations raise a lot of additional questions that I don't expect to be addressed. For one, considering how unremarkable Violet seemed to be when she was, uh, acquired, why doesn't the army have a lot more of these emotionless child soldiers? Violet was a goddamn wrecking machine that her unit dispatched when it needed someone to ninja the shit out of the enemy. And she was the only one with the situational awareness to identify a pretty obviously vulnerable position. It just seems they could have used a lot more of her ilk. I don't think this is nitpicking, because there should be a compelling reason why Violet has such a gift for killing. If the focus of the show is supposed to be emotional discovery and recovering from loss and the horrors of war, Violet Evergarden could conceivably hit the same points by making her a regular-type scrub child solider as opposed to a Norse valkyrie holy terror.

Dated 7 June 2016: Surprising no one, GIRLS und PANZER der FILM is awesome

GIRLS und PANZER der FILM Blu-rays
The OVA epilogue is also pretty good even though it's not wall-to-wall tank battles.

If you watched the GIRLS und PANZER television series, then you've probably been anxiously waiting to watch GIRLS und PANZER der FILM. Since its release in November 2015, this movie continues to print money for Japanese theaters even though the Blu-ray came out at the end of May 2016. Now that I've finally gotten to see it, the reasons for the film's success and unflagging popularity are obvious.

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Dated 16 March 2015: Idols need boats, idols need boats, idols idols idols idols idols idols idols need boats

Oodoyo
Ayako Boat needs more lines.

I enjoy both Kantai Collection and The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, and I still look forward to the new episodes each week, but neither show is particularly successful at getting me invested in the characters. This is surely because both shows are adaptations of already successful games and are intended to cater to established fans. However, this means cramming both shows with simply too many characters that never get developed. They end up existing simply as catchphrase-spouting bits of scenery.

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Dated 20 February 2015: War is all Hell, even on a healing anime such as Aldnoah.Zero

Slaine
Slaine's pistol in episode 13 looks the same as
the one Asseylum waves around in the first OP.

Guess what's about to hit the fan on Aldnoah.Zero. Go on, guess. The rest of this entry contains substantial spoilers for both seasons of Aldnoah.Zero and quite a bit of speculation as well. If you're not prepared, avert your eyes, etc.

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Dated 23 December 2014: Two voices

Sento
It sort of bugs me there are no sights on that weapon.

I first noticed Kakuma Ai because of her Aldnoah.Zero supporting character. She voices Nina, the schoolgirl refugee who nearly collided a ship with a giant obstacle the instant they let her steer. There's not much to the character that really stands out, but her panicky cries as she nearly wrecks the boat were pretty amusing. But then I noticed she's also in Amagi Brilliant Park, voicing Sento who sounds completely different than Nina. Sento didn't do any panicky yammering in the episodes I watched, but I did like the way she said "brilllyant paahk." I'm not particularly familiar with the rest of her work, but given the contrast between Nina and Sento and their aforementioned highlights, I'm encouraged to pay more attention to her in the future.

Emi
Emi's piano? Also a weapon.

Hayami Saori, who voices Emi from Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso caught my attention for the same reason I really enjoy Ito Kanae: She speaks with a normal voice. I find artificially squeaky "anime" voices a bit tiresome at times, and perhaps moreso when that fake-sounding anime voice is one the seiyuu uses as her "real" voice. Hayami Saori, on the other hand, sounds like a genuine person to me, which contributes a great deal towards my positive impressions of her character. Emi, if you don't know, is pathologically passionate about piano in such a way that would be sort of grating if I hadn't fully bought into her character. Emi's success in this regard speaks volumes to Hayami Saori's contribution to the show. It turns out I've also liked her in a few of her previous works, so she's another seiyuu to keep an ear out for, as it were.

Dated 10 May 2011: Do well in the Pretty Cure minor leagues and maybe you'll make it to The Show

Erika and Tsubomi
Erika and Tsubomi spray on some clothes.

I figured out why I have low opinions of Cure Blossom and Cure Rhythm: No game faces. When a Cure goes through her transformation sequence, she gets a battle costume upgrade and some fancy charm points. But in most cases, the transformation doesn't just change a Cure's appearance; it also changes her personality, or at least her demeanor. This didn't happen with Cure Blossom in Heartcatch Precure! and it doesn't really happen with Cure Rhythm in Suite Pretty Cure now.

Cure Black and Cure White
"Go ahead, make our day."

Contrast this with, for example, Cure Black and Cure White who announce with authority their readiness to whoop some ass, both during their transformations and while powering up their finishing attacks. Yukana going off about Pretty Cure's "beautiful souls" is basically the best smack talk in all of anime.

Cure White
Cure White gets pissed.

Honoka is a sweet kid, but Cure White will boot you upside the head if you annoy her. Cure Rouge from the Yes! Precure 5 crew yammers on about her purity a little too much, which admittedly is not an especially effective threat, but her soliloquy does signal some serious beat downs on the way that would be out of character for Rin.

Cure Black, Cure Dream, and Cure Bloom
These are some pretty smug-looking veteran Cures.

Even a complete ditz like Nozomi knows the score. When she's transformed into Cure Dream, it's Game On. Hell, Cure Dream doesn't just have a game face, she has a freakin' War Face.

Cure Dream
I recommend backing the Hell away from Cure Dream. She's psycho.

When Cure Dream announces a finishing move, you know someone is about to get fucked hard core:

[Puts her hands in front.]
"PRETTY CURE"
[Dramatic pause.]
"SHOOTING STAR!"
[Unleashes searing energy beam.]
[Obliterates target by ramming it face first.]

Cure Dream doesn't play.

Cure Sunshine
Cure Sunshine
"I get to transform into a GIRL!" [Turns hair blond.]

This kind of thing didn't happen so much in Heartcatch Precure! and doesn't occur often in Suite Precure either. I can't take Cure Sunshine as seriously because she is all smiles during her transformation sequence. I'd have my doubts about the whole crew were it not for Erika's willingness to sucker-punch people in the face while she's transformed as Cure Marine.

Kanade
Kanade falls on her cake. Did I say cake? I meant ass.

However, Cure Rhythm is basically just Kanade in a white dress instead of an apron. Hell, I bet her battle costume even smells like cake.

Cure Black, Cure Bright, Shiny Luminous, Cure Windy, and Cure White
Cure fire team in wedge formation.

Even Shiny Luminous has a game face. Shiny Freaking Luminous! Shiny Freaking-Thirteen-Year-Old-Girl-with-Zero-Offensive-Abilities-Not-Really-a-Cure Luminous. Good bluffer, though.

Cure Muse and Cure Rhythm
"Cure Muse, Cure Muse, how do I work this thing?" [Points berthier belltier at own face.]

13 episodes down and none of the singsong goons take the local Pretty Cure team seriously. Given that Cure Rhythm and Cure Melody keep getting bailed out by a free agent Cure, it's no wonder even the scrub bad guys feel confident screwing with these rookie Cures. Yeah, go ahead and try that weak shit on Cure Egret, Bassdrum. She'll jack you up.

Cure Pine
Even Cure Pine had a game face. CURE PINE.

Maybe I'm just being impatient. It took Buki a while to get going too. But feel free to tear that apron off anytime, Kanade.

Dated 30 September 2009: Canaan's Tactical Purse CHECK

Canaan, Shem, and Hakko
Canaan's tactical purse.

It's been a while since the last CHECK. This installment features Canaan's tactical purse. I don't know exactly what she keeps in there—probably extra magazines and perhaps a cleaning kit—but Canaan's tactical purse is clearly built for war. I'm sure we'll find knockoffs at Brigade Quartermaster shortly.

Alphard, Maria, and Canaan
Turns out Maria is a real photographer. Who knew?

In related news, Canaan turned out to be quite better than its early episodes suggested. It's not a fantastic series by my reckoning, but it is much better than jaded anime fans give it credit for. Moreover, the production values throughout remained impeccable—notable nowadays since more studios and series seem financially strapped. I guess they had to keep the animation quality up because of the three compilation movies in the works. Speaking of which, I wonder if they will change anything, and if they will be better received.