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Dated 3 June 2019: Chou Kadou Girl ⅙: Amazing Stranger is no Hand Maid May

Haruto and Nona
It's probably so nasty under there.

Chou Kadou Girl ⅙: Amazing Stranger is about a sentient 1/6th scale anime figurine who lives with a fan of her franchise. Although there are other shows about tiny wives and the people who love them (for example, Nona arguably has more in common with her Frame Arms Girl counterparts), I'm still going to point to Hand Maid May as the best example of this sort of thing. I think it's because I enjoy the two human leads in Hand Maid May (Kazuya and Kasumi), whereas I'm mostly ambivalent about Haruto from Amazing Stranger. His kid sister seems okay, but she's not in the show much. Both Hand Maid May and Amazing Stranger do feature copious amounts of fan service and lots of meta humor, so I guess they also have that in common. I've written about Hand Maid May a fair amount on this site already, so just read those old entries if you're still curious why I seem to like it so much.

Nona
The explanation for why Nona sleeps in the refrigerator was not at all convincing.

With regard to Chou Kadou Girl ⅙: Amazing Stranger, it's sort of uneven, but I find some of the gags amusing. I also like the robotic autotuned voice in the OP. More importantly, I appreciate that Nona is not entirely dense, so the show isn't structured around increasingly strained misunderstandings and complex scams. That is a nice change of pace. It also makes her a bit more human. I guess that's technically a sort of racist thing to say about a tiny plastic space...whatever she is, but it is an important part of getting me to care about the events within the show. That was something notable about Hand Maid May—I cared about where the characters were going to end up. Amazing Stranger isn't quite there yet, but hopefully its remaining episodes will provide at least a little more emotional resonance.

Dated 11 March 2019: In praise of the oldest star in Gunslinger Girl

Triela
I'm impressed Triela didn't get any blood on her.

I've written a fair amount about Gunslinger Girl, but haven't mentioned much about the firearms themselves. The first gun to appear in the show (outside of the OP) is Triela's shotgun, a Winchester Model 1897 Trench Gun with its big ass 17-inch M1917 bayonet fixed. I believe this is also the oldest firearm to appear in the anime. As its name suggests, this is literally a 19th-century design which Winchester started selling in 1897 (although it remained in production until 1957). In contrast, the primary weapon of the show's ostensible lead, Henrietta, is an ever popular FN P90, which was barely more than 10 years old when the manga began publication in 2002. Triela's M1897 is also the only shotgun in the first cours, but I don't remember it featuring in particularly many scenes. The old Winchester gets a lot more attention in the sequel, Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. (And occasionally appears in fanart.)

M1897 action
The action can git ya if you're careless while racking the slide back.

Prices of the World War I-era M1897 Trench Guns have risen quite a bit as of late, probably at least partially because of The Great War's centennial and maybe because of the shotgun's inclusion in popular media such as Gunslinger Girl itself and the Battlefield video games. For example, a "very fine" Model 1897 sold for $8625 in December 2018. I am somewhat amused that Gunslinger Girl features a firearm from the 19th century when basically every other gun in the series is from the Cold War or newer. I have to assume the original mangaka, Aida Yu, just really liked it. That's totally understandable, at least.

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 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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