Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
karmaburn.com karmaburn.com

Dated 15 June 2021: There are more than a thousand episodes of Detective Conan now

Conan
I wonder if Conan has ever accidentally put that thing through the wash.

Meitantei Conan crossed the 1000-episode threshold during the Winter 2021 anime season. Not counting the season it skipped due to Covid, Detective Conan churns out about nine or 10 new episodes each cours. Predicated on the assumption that the quality of these episodes remains basically constant, I have been using the series as a sort of control against which I measure my subjective impressions of the relative quality of seasonal anime. Theoretically, this will allow me to determine whether I am getting more jaded over time (or softer, as it were).

Kogoro and Conan
I do think it's odd when anime kids are drawn the size of literal babies.

In practice, I'm not sure this has worked out. This is not to say that the quality of Detective Conan episodes have declined necessarily, but the anime-original ones do seem less clever than I remember. And I think there are proportionally more anime-original episodes now. (I haven't actually compared seasons to see for sure.) I guess it ain't easy constantly coming up with new mysteries. The standalone cases based on the manga still seem fine, though.

Kogoro
What happens to the darts? I've never seen Conan retrieve one.

Incidentally, the various actual plot lines of the franchise have made some progress, but they advance slowly, as you might expect of such a long-running series. I don't have any issue with the pace, to tell you the truth, but I do wish the series was willing to explore new gimmicks instead of relying on the exact same ones from a thousand episodes ago. Being drugged so often surely can't be good for Kogorou or Sonoko. For that matter, does Conan use the exact same tranquilizer darts on a teenage girl that he uses on an alcoholic middle-aged man? It seems as if the doses required would be dissimilar. Detective Conan is going to end with Shinichi in prison.

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 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 7 April 2020: I finally finished Dimension W

Dimension W manga volume 16 cover
The glow-in-the dark covers are a nice touch.

The Dimension W anime ran for 12 episodes during the Winter 2016 anime season. I liked it a lot more than I was expecting—specifically, good enough that I started buying the manga. It took four years, but I have the final (16th) volume now. This took a bit longer than I would have liked, but the manga itself was still ongoing when the anime ended. (The manga completed in June 2019.) Ideally, there would be less time between when an anime ends and when its source material wraps up. I, for one, would much rather watch original anime or adaptations of properties that have already concluded, but those types of shows do seem to be in the minority. At least four years no longer seems like an extraordinary amount of time to wait after an anime stops airing before finding out how the series ends. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing, though. I have to admit it's a little troubling to notice how fast years seem to whip by now.

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 14 January 2020: 22/7, In/Spectre, and Fate/Baby are my top three shows of the Winter 2020 anime season

Ishtar
Ishtar is a game-breaking home run.

If you believe in my B.S. episode ratings, Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia) is my highest-ranked show so far this season. Fate/Baby sure sounds great and looks fuckin' fantastic, but I can't exactly call it a good show. It's one of those anime where I can't quite care about what happens, and it probably only genuinely makes sense to people who are enthusiastic about the Fate/Grand Order game. But none of that presents much of an obstacle to my ability to enjoy the series. I mentioned that it sounds great, and that's not just because it features Ueda Kana yammering back and forth on a regular basis. The audio mix for the sound effects during the frequent battles makes for an entertaining experience if you've bothered with an audio setup that can take advantage of it. Visually, the animation also remains impeccable.

Sakura, Miu, and Reika
Welcome to to idol mines, suckers.

Thankfully, 22/7 (Nanabun no Nijyuuni) also looks good. I'm expecting some janky 3DCG bits once we get to the all-singing, all-dancing portions of this idol show, but the anime looks pretty good so far, at least. I've been medium-hyped for 22/7 for some time now, thanks to Sally Amaki being a bilingual goofball on the Twitter. I'm hoping her character gets some English lines that aren't complete non sequiturs, though. Each of the idols had a different character designer, but the styles got evened out so they look more uniform when they're together. (Like in the Pretty Cure team-up movies.) This is the sensible thing to do, but I sort of wish they could have remained unique for reasons not at all explained in the show.

Kotoko
Nice hat.

I wasn't sure what to expect from In/Spectre (Kyokou Suiri), but I knew fans of the manga were looking forward to the anime adaptation, and the trailer looked okay. The first episode was good, and I like Kotoko so far, even though she doesn't have any depth perception. She also seems to move pretty well, despite her prosthetic leg. It sort of seems as if her cane is mostly for show. Frankly, it's a little early yet to judge In/Spectre (or 22/7, for that matter), but my top three anime of Winter 2020 at the moment all have / in their titles, and this was a serendipitous bloggering opportunity I didn't want to pass up. I'm sure y'all understand.

Dated 26 November 2019: There sure are a lot of anime-original episodes of Detective Conan these days

Conan
Well, this hasn't changed at all.

Surprising almost one one, I'm sure, there are not a lot of plot-specific episodes of Detective Conan. Rather, there are probably readers who may be legitimately surprised to hear that Detective Conan even has a plot. Even though most episodes of the show do not feature any continuity, the anime-original ones are notably inferior to the non-plot-specific episodes that at least still derive from the source manga. I can usually tell when an episode is an anime original, mostly because the mystery's contrivances will be stupid instead of merely silly, and oftentimes characters will do something perplexing simply because the action more easily advances the story from point A to point B. Basically, I'll be watching an episode, and something will happen to make me think it's an anime-original one, and when I check later it will turn out I was right. In fact, I'm not sure I've been wrong yet.

Ai
I'm pretty happy Hayashibara Megumi continues to have regular appearances, even if Ai seems sort of bored.

Having a greater ratio of anime-original episodes in Detective Conan now is perfectly understandable, seeing as how the anime has nearly exhausted the available cases from the source manga by this point. One of the secondary impacts, though, is that this means I can no longer reliably use Detective Conan as my control. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I started rating shows by episode as a goof years ago, but then the chart kept growing and now it's just one of those things I guess I'm going to continue doing indefinitely. But I also can't assume that my rating standards will remain consistent from season to season and year to year. Hence, I used Detective Conan as my control, theorizing that I could count on such a long-running show to remain pretty much as good as it ever was. Therefore, how much better or worse another show's rating is relative to the average Detective Conan score for the same time period would offer a reliable check on quality beyond the numerical scores themselves. This is probably no longer the case if there are more anime-original episodes of Detective Conan now, and assuming the anime-original episodes are not as good. I guess I'm going to need to come up with some other form of sham metric now. Alas.

Dated 6 August 2019: There's less impenetrable lore so far in Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note than I was expecting

Reines
Sure are a lot of TYPE-MOON characters with crazy eyes.

There's a non-zero chance I started watching Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note (The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II) because I dropped Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki desu ka? (Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?) and Uchi no Ko no Tame Naraba, Ore wa Moshikashitara Maou mo Taoseru Kamo Shirenai. (For My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord), leaving my queue empty of shows with super-long titles (unless you count Symphogear). Besides, The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II features Ueda Reina in the voice cast, production by TROYCA, and I'm basically too far down TYPE-MOON's Fate-franchise rabbit hole to not at least give new installments a chance. Speaking of which, I'm going to go ahead and say newcomers can forget about trying to get up to speed on all the Fate mumbo jumbo before watching this. Someone going in blind with no prior knowledge of the Fate universe can get by well enough. Although it would probably help to at least watch Fate/Zero, I don't think it's strictly necessary, based on how I'm faring despite having forgotten a lot about Fate/Zero by now. Frankly, there's just entirely too much Fate canon to explore, and it goes back so far that it's not really reasonable to expect new viewers to have seen all the previous installments before starting Rail Zeppelin.

Gray, Waver, and Kairi
Hey, it's that guy.

Thankfully, the first six episodes (this includes the episode 0 special prequel) of Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note have been fairly episodic, and free of the wall-to-wall nonsense that saturates all things Fate. (E.g., the series does explain eventually what the fuck a "Rail Zeppelin" is.) So far, The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II has been about, well, the case files of Lord El-Melloi II. It's a detective show featuring mages set a little before the start of the Holy Grail War from the original Fate/stay night game and its direct anime adaptations. I get the feeling this isn't necessarily going to remain the case for much longer, because surely a show set in the Fate universe isn't going to go too long without piling on more convoluted, interconnected plot threads, right? Even Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya wasn't able to resist lore's allure. Frankly, I'd be content if Lord El-Melloi II Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note remained mostly an excuse for TYPE-MOON cameos, but I'm fine with it either way.