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Dated 29 September 2020: The End of Oregairu ~Air/My Purest Yahallo for Thee~

Iroha
BEST GIRL.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!, among other localized names) completed the three-season run of a harem comedy that fared surprisingly well despite my initial misgivings. Generally speaking, the term "harem comedy" itself feels anachronistic now and less appropriate even when applied to shows such as Gotoubun no Hanayome (The Quintessential Quintuplets) compared to the label's Love Hina-era association (at least in my mind). I suppose it's probably still applicable for shows such as Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend). But I digress.

Yui
Oregairu might have been a better series if told from Yui's point of view.

These types of shows invoke a competitive element that pits various female protagonists against each other to vie for the male lead's affection, ultimately "winning" by becoming the romantic interest he selects at the conclusion of the series. Longtime readers of this blog may remember I'm not a fan of this construct when the male lead is so frequently a dull sap, to say nothing of the ones who are legitimately terrible cretins. I'm did not watch Kanojo, Okarishimasu, but I did watch it get shredded on the Twitter, and Potato-kun appears to be a colossal douche in addition to the show's numerous other problems. Does the girl who ultimately ends up with such a character really win? [Spoilers: No.]

Hachiman and Yukino
Kids and their selfies.

Oregairu does not suffer from this particular problem, at least by its conclusion. Hachiman in the third season is no longer the same person he was in the first season. Unfortunately, the girl who ultimately "wins" has her own issues. [Spoilers henceforth, obviously, if you haven't already either seen this coming or learned about it via some other way, such as discussions about the light novels' ending.]

Komachi and Iroha
It's about the future, Madam Chancellor.

Yukino is not interesting. She is supposed to be the most complex of the various love interests, and has some significant hang-ups that admittedly align well with Hachiman's character, but I never found her problems or growth compelling. As far as "winning" the harem comedy contest goes, she is the most sensible one to pair with Hachiman, but my lack of investment in their relationship makes the show's resolution somewhat hollow. Ultimately, it was still a good journey, and I can appreciate why Oregairu accumulated so much praise during its run, but I can't quite point to it as a much-watch show by any means.

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 4 August 2020: The End of Oregairu ~Air/My Purest Heart for Thee~

Yukino
I wonder if sales of blue-blocking computer glasses are down
now that you can just enable night mode on basically any OS.

I gave Oregairu a second chance in anticipation of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!) completing the series this season. I'm glad this worked out a lot better this time than when I watched Shakugan no Shana II so I could watch Shakugan no Shana III. (Shana II is not great.) Through four episodes, the conclusion of Oregairu III contains the sort of emotional resonance you ought to expect by now if you've been following the previous seasons.

Yui and Hikigaya
Kids and their selfies.

It's a difficult balancing act, to be sure, capturing the stakes in a way that makes us care about the outcome without swinging too far into melodrama. Still, I'm only about 80-percent sure that this season will cover the source material's conclusion. I mean, I have at least heard that this is the case. But not having read the light novels, I'm a little unsure how the series will manage to wrap things up within the remaining episodes. My guess is that some characters just won't get covered to the satisfaction of their more ardent fans.

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.

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 26 May 2020: My Bakarina 'ship is a harem

Catarina
It's not easy being rich.

While a significant number of shows from the Spring 2020 anime season are delayed, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) marches on. Hamehura (alternatively Hamefura, but really now: Bakarina) is a solid adaptation of the popular web novel turned light novel. I've enjoyed the manga adaptation as well, thanks to some great character designs and relentless mugging which the anime sensibly adopts as well.

Mary and Maria
Relax, ladies, it's fine.

As for the show itself, the Bakarina anime features our clueless antagonist's ongoing efforts at avoiding either exile or a grisly demise, all while entirely ignorant that she's actually the protagonist now and entirely too successful at currying favor among her peers and erstwhile rivals. Clueless love interests in harem anime are nothing new (see, for example, Ichika in IS <:Infinite Stratos>), but I find Bakarina herself an amusing character and sort of endearing. At a minimum, that differentiates her from Potato-kun from such-and-such series quite a bit.

Catarina
Fruits Basket face.

If I had to identify why this distinction exists, I want to say it's because those typical harem comedy protagonists who remain oblivious to all the potential love interests hurling their undergarments at them tend to be in that position solely because the story says that's just the way it is, and not as a result of any qualities or efforts on their parts—at least not in any reasonable capacity. Catarina Claes, on the other hand, is fully committed to making sure all of these other characters like her as much as possible and get along with each other as well. That she doesn't realize she has already long accomplished this and is on the verge of collapsing her world into a harem comedy singularity sort of makes me like her too.

Dated 12 May 2020: Log Horizon isn't funny

Minori and Akatsuki
Minori and Akatsuki realize they are rivals.

I finished my re-watch of Log Horizon. It did not go as well as I was expecting. I remembered liking the series more in the past. Objectively, this is still true. I know this because I keep track of my ratings for individual anime episodes on a spreadsheet. (This was originally a joke, but then I kept doing it. See this, for example.) So I can technically quantify numerically specifically how much liked the series more in the past, even though I didn't score the second season very high to begin with. In any case, I liked the series less overall the second time around. That's not doing the upcoming third season any favors. There are two basic problems I have with the anime.

Lenessia and Crusty
You know you like it.

First, none of the jokes work for me. This includes the recurring gags involving Naotsugu and Akatsuki. There wasn't a reason to repeat them beyond the first episode. Then Tetora shows up in the second season. And fuuuck, Tetora is not amusing. None of those jokes work either. The other problem is the inverse relationship between the characters' reported ages and the maturity levels of their behavior. Well, at least that's the way it seems for the girls.

Nyanta and Serara
I seriously thought Serara was 12.

The worst offenders are Marielle (28), Henrietta (28), and Serara (16). Marielle is whiny and petulant, constantly throwing literal tantrums about the work she has to do. (She's sort of in charge.) Henrietta is obsessed with molesting Akatsuki and does so at every opportunity. Serara is the nekosexual girl who really, really, really likes Nyanta. All of these characters and their behavior are played for laughs. None of it is funny. On the other hand, Minori is only 14, and the princess who ends up saving her kingdom when the men in charge couldn't get their shit together is only 15. Presumably they'll be older during season three, though. Maybe they'll become less mature in keeping with the rest of the show.