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Dated 23 March 2021: Higurashi gets good after 74 episodes

Rena and Mion
It turns out I don't really like these two.

I need to caveat this post by acknowledging that I effectively don't know anything about the Higurashi franchise. I initially tried watching the first anime back in 2006, but dropped it after (I think) the first episode because I didn't find it interesting. It subsequently ran for 26 episodes, then 24 more in 2007. Somewhere in there we'll also find 11 assorted episodes that dropped at various times before Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou started in 2020.

Satoko
Satoko seems like a pleasant kid who probably has a stable home life.

I was aware of the franchise's popularity, and knew that Higurashi somehow fit into a much larger extended universe which included properties such as Umineko no Naku Koro ni. I basically don't know anything about these other titles either, though. Nevertheless, I decided to give the 2020 anime a chance because all these factors must mean it's got to have something going for it, right? Besides, it meant the return of Yukino Satsuki, and I love me some Yukino Satsuki. I'm also a fan of Nakahara Mai, so how bad could it be?

Rika
I guess this is not a "NIPAH" sort of moment.

Well, getting through the first 13 episodes of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou was a slog. I still have no idea how much it departed from the previous anime. I also don't know whether watching the previous anime is really required. Likewise, I don't know how necessary it is to have read the visual novels first either. Approaching the 2020 anime strictly as a neophyte anime-only viewer, I was teased something special on occasion, but lacked the proper context to fully appreciate those moments. On the other hand, the show regularly confronted me with my ever-increasing dislike for Keiichi, Rena, and Detective Ooishi.

Satoko
I'm pretty sure this qualifies as a huge spoiler.

Fortunately, episode 14 and all subsequent episodes focused on other characters. Suddenly, Keiichi was no longer the primary protagonist, and Higurashi is actually pretty good! I can't claim I really understand what's going on, but it's at least a lot more enjoyable and interesting to watch than everything I've seen prior. In fact, I'm even looking forward to the next cours which is slated to start in July 2021.

Featherine and Satoko
Maybe not as big as this shot.

Does it really take Higurashi 74 episodes to get good? Presumably not. But if the previous anime is anything like the present anime, then I feel comfortable about assuming it does not get good until Keiichi stops being its main character. If it turns out episodes were centered around him for the previous anime's entire run—and there isn't a departure until episode 14 of Gou—then, yeah, it doesn't get good until after 74 episodes.

Dated 27 October 2020: More more more Autumn 2020 impressions

Tsurumi and Tsukishima
He had it coming.

Some of the shows I covered in previous posts (1st, 2nd, 3rd) included remakes and sequels or continuations. Well, there are more. Golden Kamuy also resumed this season. It's described as the third season, but really it's just the third cours of series. The anime remains as good as ever, thanks to the strength of the source material. In fact, the anime has improved by thus far avoiding the 3DCG pitfalls that unfortunately distracted from the first cours.

Mutsuko and Daigo
Daigo is short.

Major 2nd S2 remains consistently good as anyone who has ever followed the franchise would expect. The current arc again revisits events from the first season of Major 2nd, but it should still be accessible to new viewers. Well, they can be new to Major, but it probably helps to know at least a little about baseball. At a minimum, it will reinforce how relatively lucky the new girl has been so far despite making a lot of basic mistakes.

Akira
This is not actually a room.

One Room is also back for a third season. It's first-person-anime gimmick seems a bit lewder this time around than I remember from the previous installments. However, it's still fairly tame even though the first girl found an excuse to whip off her clothes by the second episode. I guess since the characters only gets three episodes for each arc they have to make the best of their opportunities.

Hattori and Miyafuji
Strike Witches is still Miyafuji's show.

Going the other way, Strike Witches: Dai-501 Tougou Sentou Koukuudan ROAD to BERLIN (the third "proper" season of Strike Witches) is definitely less lewd now compared to how it started out. The first season of Strike Witches featured uncensored casual nudity on a fairly regular basis. This season started with an appearance by Sakamoto Mio wearing pants, of all things. PANTS!

Dated 20 October 2020: More more Autumn 2020 first impressions

Kyouko
The childhood friend has good hair.

In addition to the shows described in the first and second installments, I am also following Kamisama ni Natta hi (The Day I Became a God). I find its comic timing better than the jokes themselves, but that already makes it better than most other anime comedies. This is also a Key anime, so some sort of trauma is assured by the show's end. It's probably not for everyone, but it's one of the better offerings this season so far.

Rena
Rena seems sort of upset about something.

I only watched the first episode of the 2006 Higurashi no Naku Koro ni anime, and basically know nothing about the franchise except that it involves lots of murder and possibly time loops? However, I am willing to give 2020's Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - Gou (Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou) a try even though its first three episodes haven't especially impressed me. I'm not even sure why the Gou part of the title needed to be hidden until after the second episode. In any case, it's an excuse for more Yukino Satsuki (see also YashaHime), and I'll presumably enjoy the show more as the mystery develops.

Yuna
I still don't know why specifically a bear suit, though.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear (localized as The Bears Bear a Bare Kuma in English because each Kuma is written differently in the original Japanese title) is a silly show. Events within the first two episodes occurred non-chronologically, but I think that made the first episode more interesting. It's not really fursuit One Punch Man, but I at least enjoy Yuna's unconcerned reactions to fairly absurd events. Incidentally, I'm also enjoying Kawase Maki as Yayoi in Major 2nd S2, so she could be a seiyuu to watch for in the future.

Lou
Chicks love handkerchiefs.

Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen (Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World) is sort of terrible. Like, I don't even feel motivated to point out the parts it really gets wrong. I will mention, though, that it cast Amamiya Sora in the sort of dignified princess roles she was initially known for (e.g., Asseylum from Aldnoah.Zero) before everyone realized Tenchan's true calling was loudmouthed shitbag roles (like Aqua from Konosuba). I'm pretty sure I'm only giving the anime a chance because someone on the Twitter said something nice about the light novels once, but there's also a good chance I've mixed it up with a completely different title.

Dated 6 October 2020: Autumn 2020 first impressions

Setsuna
2D & 3DCG integration during the all-signing, all-dancing parts finally look right.

A new anime season is upon us again. Every quarter, I assess which shows I expect to watch during the upcoming season and add them to my animetrics table. However what actually seems to happen is that I just watch whatever comes out first, providing it's not shounen jive or something that looks super bad. In the past, I would write up a comprehensive post that summarizes every show that I sampled, but those days are long gone now.

Kasumi
Are you Best Girl? You sort of seem like you might be Best Girl.

What I can do, though, is draw your attention to a few of the bright spots from this first batch. Unexpectedly, the launch of a new Love Live installment caught me by surprise. I knew one was in the works, but somehow missed that it was starting in October. I don't actually regard myself as a Love Live fan, but I have seen all of it and I guess I'm going to watch Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai (Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club) too. The first episode was about what I would have expected from a new Love Live spinoff, but I can at least identify three highlights: (1) The somen joke was genuinely amusing. (2) The character who I expected to suffer from debilitating shyness seems to merely be kuudere. (3) The aggravated red-eyed girl at the end made faces I enjoyed.

Elaina
Flan has a better hat, but she's been a witch longer than Elaina.

Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) had the best first episode of the shows I sampled. [Update: I wrote this before I watched Munou na Nana (Talentless Nana), the new champ. It's worth checking out, but I suggest going in blind to avoid spoilers.] The visuals look fantastic, and the episode itself did not go the way I expected, so I'm hopeful that the rest of the show will continue to remain interesting. I also like witches and big hats, and this show had witches AND big hats, so that's a bonus.

Claudia
I don't think it's actually Claudia's fault everyone keeps dying.

Finally (for now), I'm going to mention that Senyoku no Sigrdrifa (Warlords of Sigrdrifa) has airplanes and tolerable lore. The dogfights are nice (albeit with handwaved physics), but they are not as spectacular as in The Magnificient KOTOBUKI. (Admittedly, that's a really high bar.) One serious potential problem is they're basically fighting the Neuroi from Strike Witches. Those types of adversaries are basically never interesting, so this could be a liability for Sigrdrifa too. One thing I am curious about, though, is why the anime appeared to cast Kayano Ai and Horie Yui in what seemed like unimportant bit parts. I can't tell if there's no meaning to it, or if it reveals these characters will actually take on much greater importance as the show develops. I guess I'm going to have to stick around to find out.

Dated 1 September 2020: Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy) is okay

Anos and Sasha
If you keep making eye contact like that, she's gonna do the thing.

I started watching Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy) because I like the way its character designer draws eyes. True story. (This is also why I watched Toji no Miko (Katana Maidens. But I digress.) As it turns out, the Maou Academy anime has stayed reasonably entertaining through its first nine episodes, and about in line with what I hoped for after the first two episodes.

Eleanor
It took nine episodes to introduces this twin-braided character from the promo art.

One key to its success is having enough lore to keep the viewer guessing as to what's happened in the world during the two thousands years Anos was busy staying dead. Or rather, enough lore to make it interesting, but not so much lore that it becomes oppressingly sonorous. (Fate/stay night, I am looking in your direction.) I don't think anyone is going into Maou-kun Goes to Maou-kun School expecting the best thing ever, but anyone in the mood for casually lopsided fights and a fair amount of tsundere yammering has come to the right place.

Momoka
I don't know why they censored this. She's wearing panties.

Since I first introduced Maou Gakuin together with Dokyuu Hentai HxEros (SUPER HXEROS), I guess I should also include that I dropped HXEROS after five episodes. It is what it is, but there were other things I preferred to spend my time on instead.

Dated 18 August 2020: Sure not a lot of Alice in this season of Sword Art Online: Alicization

Asuna
How's it going, Asuna? Good?

I enjoyed the first half of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld because it focused mainly on Alice Synthesis Thirty. Sword Art Online is still Kirito's show, but he spent most of those episodes sort of mentally checked out while ol' 30 wheeled him around the war. Well, Kirito hasn't been doing a whole lot during the current cours either. His mind is still locked in the nightmare prison of his psyche, but XXX hasn't been dragging him around because Alice herself hasn't been around much. Mostly it's just Asuna and various other characters from previous seasons having a bad time.

Eugeo and Kirito
Kirito is really busy right now, Eugeo.

About those various other characters.... Well, there is no way to talk about the following without spoiling Sword Art Online II and Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale as well as episode 18 of War of Underworld, so avert your eyes if you care about that sort of thing.

Asuna and Yuuki
Fortuitously, meeting Yuuki was not an SAO memory for Asuna.

I like watching Sword Art Online despite being dissatisfied with the vast majority of it. A notable exception is the "Mother's Rosario" arc (i.e., the AIDS arc) which I regard as legitimately good, or at least as good as SAO ever gets. Consequently, the very brief callback in the Ordinal Scale movie to Yuuki's gift genuinely resonated with me, and I still enjoy the scene now as much as I did the first time.

Yuuki and Asuna
This was probably better in the books or if you hadn't already seen the Ordinal Scale version.

Episode 18 of War of Underworld also invokes Yuuki, but in a much less satisfying manner. I'm pretty sure this scene was originally written before the Ordinal Scale one, so you could argue the movie stole its thunder. In any case, Asuna drawing strength from Yuuki simply did not work for me in this instance. What did work was the appearance of Eiji and Yuna in the previous week's episode. I was legitimately surprised (largely because I failed to recognize them at all in their earlier cameo). I don't have strong opinions about Eiji or Yuna one way or another, but I enjoyed their surprise appearance.

Yuna
LISTEN TO MY SONG!

There is something that I'm unsure about, though. As I understand it, anyone converting their ALfheim Online or whatever characters to enter the Underworld server risks permanent character death, which is why Lisbeth had such a hard time gathering support when she pleaded for help. So what character did Eiji use? Yuna, I imagine, just sort camps out on the old SAO server (which nobody has scrapped, luckily for her) and doesn't need to abide by any real rules, but Eiji was using an ALO character, right? Does it matter? Is he bummed that it's (presumably) gone now unless the dudes on the Ocean Turtle can get around to restoring it? Is there anything stopping Eiji from simply rejoining the way American, Korean, and Chinese griefers joined? For that matter, are any of them generating new characters and rejoining over and over? I get the feeling we're just not supposed to think about any of this.

Dated 28 July 2020: Major 2nd S2 is back

Tao, Sakura, Yayoi, and Anita
This is not an enthusiasm comparison chart.

The second season of Major 2nd went on hiatus after episode seven in the spring, but has resumed production for the summer anime season. It's not clear to me how long the show will run, but I'm hoping the Major franchise remains popular enough that we'll get at least a few more cours out of it. Having a mostly female cast and (so far) no sudden tragedies are departure from the norm, but not ones that have hurt the series at all.

Daigo and Sakura
This is a baseball thing, not a Covid thing.

The first season of Major 2nd already established that Daigo's story was going to be significantly different from Goro's in that Daigo's talent for the sport has been entirely unremarkable, and certainly so compared to Goro's freakish abilities. However, through 10 episodes of the second season, Daigo has effectively applied the lessons he's learned as he finesses the new leadership role that was thrust upon him.

Yamaguchi
The teacher isn't giving signs. She got bonked on the head by a foul ball while napping.

Daigo's middle school team of mostly girls is doing well, but they're by no means assured of victory in these contests. All of them are talented to some degree, but there a few areas that could use significant improvement. Even some fundamentals are shaky at times. I'm hoping Major 2nd Season 2 continues running long enough for the team to come together, because it's not going to happen overnight. I am optimistic for an extended run, though. A new OP is scheduled to drop 22 August, coinciding with the return of Horie Yui's character from the first season. Hell yeah.

Dated 7 July 2020: Dokyuu Hentai HxEros and Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha demonstrate it can be better to be first than good

Retto
I bet this watch doesn't even keep time.

The Summer 2020 anime season is upon us, and the first shows I watched were Dokyuu Hentai HxEros (SUPER HXEROS) and Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy). These were not exactly shows I was looking forward to seeing, but they were among the ones first out the gate, so why not? As it turns out, neither are as bad as I might have feared, although I can't exactly call them good either.

Retto and Kirara
Ol' Red here is literally powered by this blonde girl's indefatigable libido.

In the case of Dokyuu Hentai HxEros, there have been multiple anime in the past that involved teenagers harnessing the power of their youth to battle various evildoers. Dakara Boku wa, Ecchi ga Dekinai. (So, I Can't Play H!) comes to mind, as does Hybrid × Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia (i.e., the other HxH anime—the one that is not Hunter x Hunter). SUPER HXEROS was actually sort of amusing thanks to its embrace of tokusatsu live-action tropes. The show is self-aware, but not to a negative extent.

Anos and Misha
Picking up The Precious Thing is apparently a big deal in Misha's eyes.

I'm expecting Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha to be light-novel rubbish, but I genuinely appreciate that the first episode skipped the backstory and setup entirely, dropping the reader straight into the reincarnated demon king's first day at Evil Hogswarth. (Okay, fine, at a slightly eviler Hogswarth.) The characters at school are entirely forgettable so far, and exist mostly so the "misfit demon king" has various assholes he can easily defeat. (They totally have it coming.) His parents seem really dumb, but in a good-natured sort of way, so I'm willing to watch more. Overall, not a great start to the Summer 2020 anime season, but good enough for its first week.