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Dated 20 September 2022: I hope Lycoris Recoil and Engage Kiss can both stick their landings

Chisato and Takina
What are you thinking about?

You might see Lycoris Recoil and Engage Kiss compared every so often (and I guess that's what I'm doing now), but they don't share much in common. Well, I guess they both have Aniplex and A1-Pictures behind them, and both anime air on Saturdays, but the shows themselves aren't similar. Also, both are headed towards a big finish this weekend, although I can see how Lycoris Recoil might earn itself a sequel, depending on how things go.

Chisato
Look, there aren't even any bullet holes!

To be clear, Lycoris Recoil is a significantly better show than Engage Kiss. I like both, although for different reasons, but there's a good reason why fans of Lycoris Recoil are so enthused. It features a well-balanced mix of serious drama with genuine stakes, wacky high jinks, and significant amounts of entertaining (albeit unrealistic) gun play.

Sharon and Shuu
My opinions about SHARON HOLYGRAIL are wholly positive.

On the other hand, Engage Kiss has a combat nun sensibly named SHARON HOLYGRAIL who only takes off her habit's headpiece during sex. It also features a high school demon girl whose motivation for being so devoted to Potato-kun is somewhat unclear. She at least seems willing to accept she must have had a good reason. Maybe she found instructions scrawled on her hand telling her to be, and just assumed there was a good reason that she merely forgot.

Dated 13 September 2022: I guess that's why Yofukashi no Uta is a noitaminA show

Nazuna
Not sure if gap moé.

I generally expect more from anime airing in the noitaminA block. It's not always a clear indicator of quality, as there have been a fair number of noitaminA shows that seemed "undeserving" of the designation, but they do seem to be better more often than not. In the case of Yofukashi no Uta (Call of the Night), I have read some of the manga because I enjoyed the author's previous work, Dagashi Kashi, but I can't claim to have been a huge fan.

Seri
What's a nice girl like you doing in an alley at night?

The Yofukashi no Uta anime adaptation, though, is really well done. The visuals, the music, and Tenchan's characterization of Nazuna are all top-notch. (Haruka DeTomaso Pantera also appears in the anime, and Sawashiro Miyuki is reportedly joining the cast as well.) There's honestly not much about the show's ostensible plot that I especially care about, but each episode continues to impress me with the execution. It's possible I merely failed to fully appreciate the manga, but Call of the Night might also deserve to be one of those examples where an anime adaptation improves upon its source material.

Dated 2 August 2022: Luminous Witches doesn't have any nudity

Ginny
They're like magic headphones.

Renmei Kuugun Koukuu Mahou Ongakutai: Luminous Witches (League of Nations Air Force Aviation Magic Band Luminous Witches) is a Strike Witches spinoff set in the greater World Witches universe with a key difference: Instead of fighting Neuroi invaders, they sing and dance to raise the spirits of the populace. At least that's the way it has been through the first five episodes. Maybe later on they will also fight along with and/or perform for combat units.

Mana, Milasha, Inori, Ginny, and Elly
They're almost dressed normally.

We've come a long way from the original Strike Witches anime with its copious amounts of fan service and casual nudity. True, the Luminous Witches are still engaged in the War on Pants, but the series also relies on technicalities by cladding its characters in leggings, skirts, dresses, and shorts. In fact, some characters DO wear trousers, if you can believe it. Like I said, we've come a long way from the days when even the civilian girls in the franchise ran around without pants on for no clear reason. Actually, there was a reason: Because Fuck Pants. No peace in our time.

Jo, Sylvie, Maria, Milasha, Aila, Elly, Mana, Ginny, and Inori.
The original Strike Witches OVA also features animal familiars.

As far as the Luminous Witches anime itself goes, it's fine. I'm not exactly invested in any of the events or the characters. In fact, I definitely could not tell you all of their names or match most of the individual witches with their familiars. For that matter, I couldn't tell you the names of all the Brave Witches, either. (This might have more to do with the fact that Brave Witches ended more than five years ago.) I can still name all the characters from the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, though, even though they sometimes paraded around in the nude. I'm just saying.

Dated 12 July 2022: I'm too old to enjoy Engage Kiss, but I still do

Kisara
You can tell she's serious because she changed clothes.

I have to concede Engage Kiss is "bad" by the standards I'm probably supposed to apply when evaluating anime. It embodies a number of qualities I associate with juvenile shows that cater to teenage boys. For one thing, the protagonist is a schlub who starts the series with two women (well, one woman, and one high school girl who is actually a demon, so she's probably hundreds of years old, if conventions hold) who are interested in him romantically for no clear reason.

Kisara
It's like Fruits Basket Face, except less sane.

However, the first two episodes do embrace a refreshingly carefree approach to old tropes that's sort of nostalgic in this modern era dominated instead by newer (but no less inane) clichés, and governed by sensibilities that are limiting without necessarily making things better. It's in this environment that Engage Kiss manages to shine, with some surprisingly satisfying gags that work well because the setting and premise are both absurd.

Kisara
Durable dress.

It's the little things, like hiding Tupperware® under a dress, or perfecting just-in-time delivery without resorting to drones, or broke shitbags shamelessly bumming cigarettes that really sell me on this series. Or maybe I just like the idea of a yandere demon employee because I haven't actually watched very many shows featuring yandere characters, so the stereotype still feels fresh to me.

Kisara
She seems nice.

Whatever the reason is, and I admit I'm not trying very hard to justify my affection for this bad (it's only mildly bad, okay!) show, I am rather enjoying it so far. It manages to feel both familiar and new at the same time, and it doesn't drag. I can't promise it will turn out to be capital-G Good at any point, but I've watched a lot worse.

Dated 12 April 2022: Akebi-chan is an escapist fantasy

Komichi
Life sure is great.

Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform) is a show that encourages adopting a positive attitude. It promotes the idea that if you embrace optimism and do your best, things will work out better and your life will be filled with amazing moments that create wonderful memories. It's not a bad argument for a series to make. There's a place in the world for these sorts of perspectives, and you'll find it in a countryside that's always gorgeous and not at all filled with countless biting insects.

Komichi, Ai, Minoru, and Riri
Every swimming segment was really good.

Aside from that observation, I don't have much to add to this end-of-season wrap-up post, except maybe just acknowledging that it was one of the best shows from the Winter 2022 anime season. It turned out much better than I was expecting. I guess I should also point out that I am aware some viewers had a much different opinion of it, with some even taking an especially negative stance towards Akebi-chan.

Komichi and Erika
Now you're just showing off.

In this regard, I suspect some of the more visceral responses probably reveal more about the internalized reactions some viewers experienced—and their discomfort reconciling them—than anything about the Akebi-chan series itself. Over the years, I've come to understand my more oblique way to conveying ideas can be unnecessarily unclear, so I'll just say it plainly this time (hopefully without implying that those who aren't getting it are obtuse).

Actually, you know what? I changed my mind. I'm not gonna spell it out.

Dated 5 April 2022: The End of KiseKoi ~Air/My Purest Love for Cosplay~

Marin
Best Girl.

I'm pleased to report Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling) completed its first cours with a solid finish, capping off a remarkable run well ahead of whatever expectations I may have had prior to starting the series. I'm by no means alone in praising the show as the best from the Winter 2022 anime season, so I'm hopeful we'll see a second cours at some point.

Nowa and Marin
Things I know about Nowa: She has great hair, and is purportedly freakishly strong.

In addition to the factors I've mentioned in my previous posts, the small cast also worked in its favor. I was sure the childhood friend who bitched Wakana out years ago was going to appear at some point, and similarly expected at least one arc involving Marin's friends getting into her business. The fact that neither of these things came to pass is a credit to the storytelling in KiseKoi and the attention it gave to Marin's point of view as her romantic feelings grew.

Wakana and Marin
These are some fireworks.

My Dress-Up Darling consistently defied expectations in these small ways throughout the season, but their impact in the aggregate is considerable. I hope authors and directors of future works take note of this phenomenon. You'd expect a story should need entirely original, novel ideas to gain this benefit, but Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru demonstrated simply not following familiar tropes to their specific expected destinations can be enough to transform scenes that would otherwise have been unremarkable.

Dated 8 March 2022: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru remains the best series of the Winter 2022 anime season

Wakana and Marin
They're not panties, so it's not embarrassing.

Through nine episodes, Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling, also KiseKoi for short) continues to outperform even the most optimistic expectations I initially had for it. Two factors are primarily responsible for how it has accomplished this. First, it is sincere about its subject matter. Second, the series subvert clichés, even though it's mostly doing it in only small ways.

Marin, Sajuna, and Wakana
Marin has good hair.

With regard to the first point, I can't claim to know anything about cosplay, but KiseKoi seems earnest about the subject. The anime's instructional segments also seem framed to be accessible, informative, and sort of encouraging to neophytes who may have an interest in getting into cosplay themselves.

Marin
There is fan service, but that's not what makes KiseKoi good..

Concerning the second point, I'm pleased with how My Dress-Up Darling presents common anime tropes. There are a lot of scenes with setups that are extremely familiar to anyone who has watched a lot of anime. However, they end up playing out differently from the norm. This is not to say KiseKoi is subverting these conventions, but it's remarkable how simply executing them in ways slightly differently than usual makes all the difference.

Marin
It's not easy being anime.

To some degree, the success Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru achieves by simply doing things right is an indictment against all those other anime that end up being mostly mediocre because they seem to embrace shortcomings viewers regard as avoidable. Well, maybe My Dress-Up Darling is an example of how good an anime can be as a result of doing small things right. I should probably also mention the romance part of the series, since KiseKoi, you know, is a romantic comedy after all. However, I'm going to wait and see how it all progresses and just state, for now, that the anime is also handling this aspect well.

Dated 1 March 2022: Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku sure is lewd

Komichi and Yuwa
I don't know why Komichi doesn't have more uniforms or do laundry more often.

Saying Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform) has a lot of fan service is not exactly a controversial claim now that we're eight episodes into the season, but I don't mean it as criticism anyway. Rather, this is an indirect segue to acknowledging the series is beautifully animated. It's remarkable how consistently gorgeous every shot looks, honestly. In particular, the setting is so exquisitely detailed it's basically pornographic.

House
I mean, look at this house.

In light of this, I suppose it is not exactly inaccurate to suggest the Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku anime provides so many lingering shots examining its characters' bodies considering it basically does this for everything else in the show. Whether or not this makes it lewd is subjective, but I'm hardly the first person to comment on the sort of framing that pervades the anime. I've not read the source manga, but I have encountered claims the anime is toned down in comparison, so I'm pretty confident in concluding there is something there.

Riri and Komichi
"Come with me if you want to live swim."

Like I said, none of this is meant as a criticism. The show is legitimately entertaining in addition to looking fantastic. Akebi's Sailor Uniform (like My Dress-Up Darling) has pleasantly surprised me with how good it is. This might not be the deepest-stacked anime season, but it's not a barren one either. Even though I don't believe I'm in the target audience for something like Akebi-chan, it's appealing enough that I enjoy it anyway. Oh, and I assume that "100 friends" thing was made up for the promotional materials or whatever. It hasn't come up at all.