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

Dated 19 November 2019: It's probably a little hypocritical for me to be so stoked about Aikatsu! On Parade

Raki
Idol activities are no joke.

One of my pet peeves is people who insist on watching sequels without catching up on previous seasons first, just so they can feel like they're part of a current wave of hype. I'm expecting to see examples of this in January when the second season of that Quintuplets show starts (5-Toubun no Hanayome 2). Likewise, Magia Record: Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica Gaiden may generate enough attention that newer fans who haven't seen the original anime (from nine years ago already!) and/or its movies might want to jump straight in without catching up first. Naturally, I'll discourage that practice. However, at the same time, I'm enjoying Aikatsu! On Parade even though there are literally hundreds of older Aikatsu! episodes that I haven't seen, to include the entirety of Aikatsu! Stars and Aikatsu! Friends.

Sumire, Akari, and Hinaki
As nightmares go, this don't seem so bad.

However, I am a sucker for crossovers, so the prospect of seeing Ichigo, Aoi, Ran, Akari, et al. return is a gimmick I can't ignore. Unfortunately, it does mean that the Aikatsu! On Parade episodes that feature idols from Stars or Friends go underappreciated, since I'm entirely unfamiliar with their characters. I do find this validates my stance against skipping ahead to watch sequels without being caught up, despite the hypocrisy of disregarding the principle when it suits me. And I guess to be fair, I absolutely do not expect anyone interested in watching Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T next season to watch all the Index and Accelerator seasons first too. Additionally, I also don't know if the upcoming Madoka anime even shares continuity with the original. Being caught up is potentially not really necessary there either. Just don't try and tell yourself it's okay to watch Heya Camp△ without watching Yuru Camp△ first, fuckers.

Dated 17 September 2019: Senki Zesshou Symphogear is an anime miracle

Maria
I like this power-up, but I admit I was hoping for another Gungnir jacking.

I'm going to start out by insisting it's not just preschool girls who enjoy shows about mahou shoujo punching things. It's okay for boys to like them too. I've been on board with this concept since at least 2004 with My-HiME, First Pretty Cure, and their subsequent sequels. In 2012, Senki Zesshou Symphogear took this idea, expanded it to include singing while punching things, and raised both the intensity and absurdity levels. From my seat in the stands, this was an anime game-breaking home run. Amazingly, the popularity of Symphogear has proven sufficient enough that we gotten five seasons of it, all five of which are currently streaming on the Crunchyroll. Moreover, Discotek has even licensed it for a U.S. Blu-ray release next year.

Hibiki and Chris
Somehow, despite all the shit they've seen, it's still
possible for them to stare at something in disbelief.

Urgings on the Twitter for followers to "watch Symphogear" has turned into a meme of sorts, but I assure you the sentiment behind these admonitions is genuine. Granted, the appeal of magikal girls singing while punching things isn't always immediately apparent to every anime fan, but there's an old graph that accurately captures the trajectory of impressions by initially skeptical viewers. It's not easy ramping up the stakes continuously, but Symphogear has kept its intensity up through all five seasons. Now on the verge of its series finale, expectations are pretty high, but Symphogear has never let me down before.

Dated 10 August 2019: Here we go again (Umimi 2019)

Umimi
Well, it's been another year.

Dated 10 August 2018: Here we go again (Umimi 2018)

Umi
Okay, this is getting out of hand.

Dated 6 August 2018: This is Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

Hikari
This was a blatant effort to encourage anime tourism.

I starting watching Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight thinking it was going to be an idol anime that would contrast nicely when watched back-to-back with Ongaku Shoujo. Yeah, that turned out to be wrong. It's not an "idol anime" at all, or at least it's less so an idol anime than it is a "wack ass giraffe fight club" anime, as I've seen it characterized on the IRC. To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure what to call it.

(more…)

Dated 14 February 2018: iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA is a classic story about a teenage girl and her giant robot finding true love together

Haruka and Imber
Shameless flirting.

I was a stranger to the iDOLM@STER franchise the first time I watched iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. I mentioned this before, but perhaps I should have noted I was also mystified by the amount of hostility displayed by some fans of the original games (arcade and Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive) toward Xenoglossia when the anime came out in 2007. Although I understood in principle the objections fans would have concerning the different character designs and replaced voices, I was not personally invested in any of the characters, so some of the more venomous attacks seemed excessive. Moreover, the character designs looked fine to me, at least relative to other anime of the period and Sunrise shows in particular. I finally watched my DVDs over the past few months, and actually enjoyed Xenoglossia a lot more on re-watch than I did during its initial broadcast, despite having a better understanding now of THE iDOLM@STER as a whole. Or maybe I like Xenoglossia more because I've watched several cours of bona fide iDOLM@STER anime now, not "despite" watching them.

Iori
Yukarin Iori with purple hair is good too.

Still, I'm not quite sure how I would characterize iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. It's not really much of a giant robot show for a show about giant robots, and it's not an idol anime despite having (regular-type) idols and iDOLs in it. It's not a "cute girls doing cute things" show, nor is it an early example of the more recent phenomenon where anime girls band together to be really excited about some typically male-dominated activity, like Bakuon!! or Two Car or GIRLS und PANZER. Honestly, it really is a love story about a teenage girl and her much older robot boyfriend. Notably, the affection Haruka develops for Imber is not at all unusual, as all of the other pilots also develop complex feelings toward their robots as well. In fact, jealousy plays a huge role in the plot, as do the inevitable love triangles.

Azusa
Also, Xenoglossia Azusa > regular Azusa.

IDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA does not take itself too seriously, but does not devolve into camp either. I buy into the HARUKA X IMBER pairing enough to believe there should be real questions raised about the ED once its setting becomes clear. I also enjoy the romance enough that I think I like the Xenoglossia Haruka more than I like the regular Haruka. Not that there's anything wrong with the regular Haruka necessarily, but I like the Xenoglossia Haruka's attitude better. Perhaps it's because she comes across as more of a main character in her own show, while the "real" Haruka necessarily seems more like a token default protagonist in a franchise with an ensemble cast, must the way I regard Miyafuji in Strike Witches or ol' Bucky in the Kantai Collection anime. I don't know if true fans of THE iDOLM@STER will ever regard Xenoglossia as positively as I do—the different voices must be especially jarring for them—but perhaps they'll come to appreciate the series if they think of it as one of those in-universe television programs the iM@S characters themselves occasionally feature in as actresses.

Dated 4 December 2017: Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shō remembers that Shimada Mayu is first among equals

Shiho and Mayu
In unrelated news, I'm pretty stoked Shiho is in this too.

I can't remember where I first heard Wake Up, Girls! characterized as "failure moé," but the term has stuck with me as a fairly apt way of describing the franchise, notably for its upward swings from being the underdog as the only idol show without a Sunrise affiliation, to achieving solid triumphant moments, including what was reportedly a stunning performance at Anime Expo 2017 in Los Angeles (which I missed). Unfortunately, the current season of the anime, Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter, has fared woefully from an animation standpoint, giving the impression that the WUGs have taken a couple steps backwards. The Yamakan-helmed first season had its own problems at times, but nothing anywhere near this dire. Through seven episodes, extensive use of stills and slow pans turn much of the show into a radio drama, and it's obvious quite a bit of daylight separates reality and desire when it comes to production efforts. Problems plague even the official subtitles, which continue to display an incorrect name for one of the main characters in the opening credits even now.

(more…)

Dated 27 November 2017: Love Live! Sunshine!! is better than First Love Live

Riko and Yohane
There aren't enough scenes of Yoshiko without her clip-on hair ball.

I'm not a huge fan of the Love Live franchise, but I like it all right. Despite dropping the original series after five episodes in 2013, I gave it another try a few months ago, and decided it's okay. The rookie season of Love Live! Sunshine!! capitalized on the first generation's momentum, and Sunshine's second season appears to be even more adept at this whole School Idol business. It's gotten very good at meeting the expectations of its audience while working within the same group's constraints to ensure the right flavor of success. It knows how to goose its fans with moments designed to boost the characters' charisma precisely in the eyes of their followers. For potential viewers less inclined to venture into the School Idol universe, it likely all looks like pandering and otaku tropes, so I don't expect the series to offer much crossover appeal.

Ruby and Leah
Go on, Ruby, curse the bitch out.

If you're into it, though, Love Live! Sunshine!! second season hits all its marks and doesn't go too far with its fan-tailored moments. For example, there are regular gags about Yohane's chuuni bullshit, but never too much of it, not even in the Yoshiko episode about the robot dog. Sunshine succeeds in drawing upon its characters' strengths, especially now that the second season doesn't have to slog through bits about Dia being an ol' sourpuss like the first season did. Sunshine S2 has even managed to raise my opinion of Ruby (one of my least-favorite characters of the entire franchise) by positioning her opposite Dark Ruby from Saint Snow in episode eight. I still only regard the series as "mostly okay," and it currently scores 0.2/5 below the Detective Conan line and 1.5/5 over the Cosprayers line, but you'll probably enjoy it even more if you're mostly predisposed to like this sort of thing already.