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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 19 January 2021: I guess I have to call the Mushoku Tensei anime adaptation a success

Rudeus
Would he still have ended up a shithead anyway if he didn't have incredible magic powers?

I was first introduced to Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu (Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation or Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go To Another World) years ago when it was only a web novel. Specifically, every single thing I heard about it made it sound terrible, even from readers who enjoyed it. In particular, the protagonist (named Rudeus in his new life) sounded about as despicable as you can make a character, at least according to secondhand sources.

Rudeus and Roxy
Roxy thinks Rudy only has crippling equine anxiety.

The second episode of the anime adaptation focuses a fair amount on the trauma that led to Rudy becoming a hikkikomori in his previous life. Even as a five-year-old boy in his new life, severe anxiety prevents him from leaving his home or making eye contact with villagers in the countryside. He does seem to get over it, thanks to the assistance of his live-in magic tutor who has befriended the neighbors during the course of her stay. I suppose this does inspire some degree of sympathy, since the anime depicts the bullying he suffered from his point of view and without any context. Still, it's not clear what transpired between his school days and adulthood. We learn he gets kicked out after staying home to masturbate instead of attending his parents' funeral, but it's less clear how he got there, and it's unknown what sort of course corrections—if any—he attempted during his life before reaching that point. The bullying is not enough for me to just give him a pass. In any case, the anime hasn't dwelled too much on his past (at least not yet), probably to its benefit.

Roxy and Rudeus
I sort of think Roxy would have noticed this.

The anime does continue to portray him as a perverted child, but there's not any comedic value in it. I presume these scenes are there to help establish a baseline that includes his pre-reincarnation persona and will thereby underscore progress that he makes later in this two-cours series. I'm mostly ambivalent about Rudeus at this point, so that's relatively positive considering I was expecting to loathe him. The anime itself still looks really nice, so I imagine fans of the books must be pleased with how it's turning out. I don't know that I'm going to stick around for two cours of this, but the show seems all right so far. I was expecting more questionable creative choices in the writing, but it seems those impressions may have been web-novel baggage that Mushoku Tensei is not dragging with it into the anime, at least not so far.

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 9 June 2020: Giving Oregairu a second chance

Yukino
Yukino, those twintails are wearing you.

I dropped the first season of Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru. (localized as My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, but also known simply as Oregairu) after three episodes seven years ago. However, the series has a lot of fans who insist it's really good, and its third season does start in a few weeks, so I figured it deserved another try. I've finished the first season now, but most of my complaints from 2013 still hold.

Yui
Yui is a fraud. That hair ball is a clip-on. Also, unrelatedly, she is bad at dogs.

Hachiman and Yukino simply aren't endearing characters. Maybe they appeal to viewers who identify with them. I guess Yui is okay, but I'm mostly ambivalent about her. One thing I will give the show credit for is its portrayal of the popular kids. Instead of being backstabbing sadists like you'll typically find in anime school cliques, it's pretty obvious why their classmates gravitate toward Hayato and Yumiko.

Rumi
This one kid who appeared in two episodes is a better character than most of the regular cast.

Unfortunately, Oregairu also has entirely worthless characters as well. Specifically, the chuuni guy never stopped being annoying, and the fujoshi literally has no scenes or dialogue that don't involve screaming about boys love. These two characters could not be any more one-note if you tried, and they really drag down the rest of the show, especially when the episode is trying to say something insightful about relationships or the challenges facing students who feel as if they don't fit in with their classmates or what society expects of them.

Hachiman
I hope those who compared Hachiman to Batman while Oregairu was airing were doing so in jest.

I'm hoping the second season will be much better, because so far I'm entirely unimpressed with Oregairu. At least the second season (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku) adds Iroha to the cast. Granted, literally everything I know about Iroha comes from this video on the YouTube, but she also seems more popular than either Yukino or Yui, so presumably she has something going for her. Granted, that's sort of a low bar to clear considering how unimpressed I am by the show's two main girls so far. Really, the one to beat is Komachi, Hachiman's surprisingly reliable kid sister. She has her shit together and is clearly more intelligent than her brother, at least.

Dated 28 April 2020: Tamayomi v. Major 2nd S2

Yomi
I don't know why she's wearing a Suzuki hat.

Based on the promotional materials leading up to the Spring 2020 anime season, I expected Tamayomi to be a show more about "cute girls doing cute things" than a show about baseball. Its source material is a Manga Time Kirara property, and besides, the characters play in shorts. Sure enough, the series turned out to be more about friendship and fan-service lesbianism than baseball. It's not a bad series, although it helps to really enjoy that sort of show. The baseball parts were also depicted reasonably well. Unfortunately, production levels were never especially high, and started declining immediately. By episode four, the animation had all but collapsed, presumably at least partially due to impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Anita, Chisato, Seira, Sakura, Yayoi, Tao, Akira
They're gonna need more players.

Having watched the previous seven seasons of Major, I was much more confident about Major 2nd S2. Through the first four episodes, it has turned out to be as good as I was expecting. I was also pleasantly surprised by its focus on female characters. Girls playing baseball have appeared in previous installments of Major fairly often, but they've always been the minority. However, season two of Major 2nd is about a team that has six girls in the starting lineup. There are only nine players so far, so it's unclear where this will go from here, but it's a welcome new direction for the franchise. Unfortunately, production has stalled due to the pandemic, with no date announced yet for its return.

Tamaki and Yomi
Financial questions aside, Tamayomi should probably go on hiatus.

Curiously, I don't believe Tamayomi has announced any planned delays yet, although it probably should. Episode four was dire. I'm not especially confident episode five will fare much better. In any case, I've already dropped the show. I'm not specifically dropping it because of the animation, although that certainly isn't helping. Rather, I just don't find the show particularly compelling, and there are plenty of other titles in my backlog I could be watching instead. (See this post for more on that.)

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 8 October 2019: Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was the best show of the Summer 2019 anime season

Sugawara
Lewd.

I suppose I need to set aside my anti-Okada bias now that I've enjoyed one of her melodramas so much. As far as sex disasters go, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was honestly a little light on the sex and not as traumatic in the disaster department as I would have liked, but O Maidens in Your Savage Season did have the courage to do a lot of things that I don't think an Okada-free show would have attempted. Framed in the sense that tragedies end in murder while comedies end in marriage. I was optimistically hoping Araoto would turn out to be a tragedy, but I still liked it quite a bit even though it turned out to be a comedy.

Sonezaki
Relax, it's only lust.

Not that there wasn't tragic stuff in it, but we're talking emotional-trauma tragic, not murder-suicide tragic. I do wish Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 had not gone quite so easy on the arcs that had the best opportunities for going really poorly for everyone involved, but I acknowledge this is a sadistic perspective. Besides, fully exploring some of the paths that its characters could have taken would have changed the tone of the show dramatically. Probably I still would have been entertained, but I appreciate that many viewers would not have been as accepting. Still, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to hope an Okada Mari sex disaster would end with a murder instead of a marriage. I'm just sayin'.

Dated 2 April 2018: FLCL revisited

Mossan, Pets, Hijiri, and Hana
Drills are a girl's romance.

Adult Swim aired the first episode of FLCL Alternative in Japanese with English subtitles five months early as an April Fool's prank. That is, the first episode of the third season before any of the second season episodes had aired. Those anxious about potential spoilers can probably rest easy knowing nothing depicted or revealed in this episode struck me as potentially volatile spoiler material, although I can't rule out the possibility that it contained huge spoilers for the yet unaired second season, FLCL Progressive. Although no longer a Gainax property (as I understand it anyway) the tone and themes of this leaked (technically not leaked) episode fit the character and qualities I associate with the original OVA series from 2000 and 2001, albeit toned down to be a bit less high-test wacky.

Haruka
キタ━━━━━━(゚∀゚)━━━━━━ !!!!!

Speaking of the original FLCL I also had the opportunity to re-watch this series via its inexpensive Blu-ray set. (The whole set cost me less than what I paid for each of the original three Synch-Point DVDs, and I didn't even have to journey out to GAMERS in Westwood to buy it.) The original FLCL absolutely holds up, and remains as good as I remember. If anything, it's even better now, since there were a number of references I didn't recognize originally, and I'm able to contextualize many of the scenes better nowadays. In any case, I highly encourage all y'all to re-watch the original at some point before starting with FLCL Progressive when it begins in June. Those of you who have never seen it obviously should rectify that as well.