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Dated 31 August 2021: I sure watch a lot of Love Live! for someone who claims not to care about Love Live! at all

Rina and Setsuna
It probably tastes fine with enough hot sauce.

Thanks to a fairly light season, I went back and undropped Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai (Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club) from the Autumn 2020 anime season. Initially, I was going to watch it concurrently with this season's Love Live! Superstar!!, but I only had seven episodes left in Nijigasaki, and Superstar!! episodes have been delayed twice for the Olympics already.

Kasumi
It's not easy being Love Live!'s Queen of Faces.

As it turns out, Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai is just all right. The series does seem more episodic than its predecessors, but that's probably because it is only one cours1 and its idols are soloists, unlike the ones forming μ's and Aqours in previous Love Live! iterations. As individual characters, I enjoy Setsuna's double life and her unsafe use of pyrotechnics. I enjoy Rina's gimmick even though it's objectively stupid and I suspect her illustrated expressions are insincere much of the time. And I enjoy Kasumi, Love Live!'s reigning Queen of Faces, even though she's sort of a shit idol. Eh, I guess I'm technically looking forward to the second cours next year.

Kanon and Sumire
Kanon is very bendy and occasionally doesn't wear pants.

Through the first five episodes, Love Live! Superstar!! is mostly notable for my positive impressions of Kanon, the ostensible main character. I typically have a low opinion of the lead girl in these sorts of things. For example, I was not a fan of Honoka, not a fan of Chika, and definitely not a fan of Ayumu. This phenomenon isn't only limited to Love Live! either. Miyafuji from Strike Witches was on my shit list for a while. However, my opinions regarding Kanon are uniformly positive, and I don't have any special reason why. Conversely, the show's efforts to make Keke more interesting by making her a huge nutjob aren't working for me at all, even though I typically love me some nutjobs.

Keke
How long has Sunny Passion been around again?

As the series goes, Love Live! Superstar!! has also been fine. It does share a significant shortcoming with Love Live! Nijigasaki, though. Neither of those shows had interesting rivals such as A-RISE or Saint Snow like First Love Live! and Love Live! Sunshine!! did. Aside from looking like Aikatsu! transfer students, Sunny Passion hasn't had a lot going for them, never mind Keke's efforts to convince us otherwise. Someone is going to have to really step up if one of the characters hopes to be the titular superstar of the series.


Note 1: It's actually split-cours, with a sequel expected in 2022

Dated 10 August 2021: Here we go again (Umimi 2021)

Umi
It's already been five years.

Dated 27 July 2021: I dropped Aquatope before I learned how to pronounce it

Fuuka
It's hard work, but at least you get to smell like fish all the time now.

I'm guessing Shiroi Suna no Aquatope (Aquatope of White Sand) is pronounced "aqua taupe," but I suppose it's possibly "aqua toe pay." In any case, the show is fine, and looks really nice, but I lost interest in it pretty much just as I did with Sakura Quest, another P.A. Works series about working girls (not those sorts of working girls, okay). Objectively, I guess there's nothing Aquatope really did wrong. (I guess it would have helped had I been invested in the childbirth sequence in some way.) It's just not really my sort of thing.

Shino
Shiho may or may not have kicked a giant mouse in the butt.

I admit I was more interested in Aquatope's nefarious internal idol politics (as I was with Wake Up, Girls!) than I was in failing-aquarium moé. Presumably, that aspect will re-appear at some point, since it's a two-cours series, but it's not enough to keep me watching it week-to-week, either. This does mean I'm currently down to five and two-thirds shows to watch this season. That's low enough that I watched all of last season's Odd Taxi in, like, 48 hours. It turns out it's really good. And it totally has nefarious internal idol politics. And how.

Dated 6 July 2021: I knew little about Wonder Egg Priority before I started watching, and might know even less now that it's over

Ai
Double-peace Ai, eh.

I went into Wonder Egg Priority essentially blind, as its promotional materials offered no meaningful details about the series. What I found was an extremely strong start with impressive visuals and an engaging story. Throughout most of the show's run, it maintained this high standard, despite evidence of frantic production difficulties that eventually forced an operational pause. This relief proved insufficient, and the series finale itself pushed to the right three months.

Rika
So, are you going to go back to being an idol?

I suppose it was naïve of me to presume the studio would dedicate this additional time to getting the Wonder Egg Priority ending just right. I can't verify the veracity of the claims I've read about what ultimately happened with the production effort, but what actually dropped frankly made me nostalgic for the Gainax endings of yore. No, I don't think we're going to get The End of Wonder Egg Priority a couple years later, and it's not as if episode 13 enlisted the assistance of paper dolls on sticks, but the final episode did not seem like it benefited from three months of refinement—certainly, the writing did not.

Dot
Why, though?

For one thing, there were reports the final episode of Wonder Egg Priority would be a one-hour special. It actually turned out to be about 45 minutes, fully half of which was a clip show recapping the previous 12 episodes. So I'm curious whether this resulted from misunderstandings and optimistic assumptions on the viewership's part, or if those reports would have been accurate were it not for impassable obstacles impeding the journey from desire to reality. (Most likely the latter, I think.)

Neiru
How are you feeling, Neiru? Good?

This is a long-winded way of saying the conclusion to Wonder Egg Priority made no sense. Absent a more compelling example, I think I'm going to end up adding it alongside The Rise of Skywalker and the Game of Thrones finale as the third leg of my tripod of endings so flawed that they manage to undermine everything good that came before. Curiously, though, I can't quite claim the final episode of Wonder Egg Priority itself is bad. It's not unsalvageable. It's largely its lack of resolution and its role in the narrative itself that are bad.

Koito and Sawaki
I want to say it was murder, but there were witnesses, albeit
ones all conveniently looking the wrong way. Unless....

I guess this means it's the creative decisions themselves that are bad—specifically, every effort to explain the mechanics driving the story. That is, everything involving recorded dreams, parallel worlds, robots, Acca, the one who is not Acca, Frill, or Frill's weirdo minions detract from everything else presented in Wonder Egg Priority previously. In fact, let us also add the support animals to this category, even if they do taste like chicken.

Momoe, Rika, Neiru, and Ai
Congratulations.

Despite all of this, I still regard Wonder Egg Priority as one of the best shows of the Winter 2021 anime season. I'm just at a loss as to how to characterize it for someone approaching it for the first time. I guess just watching half and walking away is an option. I suppose it depends on the inquisitive potential viewer's tolerance for unsatisfying endings. I'm certainly no stranger to them at this point, and I was never too fussed about so-called "Gainax endings" or "Gonzo endings" to begin with. I wonder if there is a place in the world for the capital-C, capital-W "CloverWorks ending" as well. I wonder egg if there is.

Dated 13 April 2021: Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- places the fate of humanity in the hands of an amusement park animatronic

Diva
Diva runs sort of weird, but she is a robot.

Vivy -Flourite Eye's Song- is an original anime about a time traveler's efforts to prevent an artificial intelligence uprising that caused robots to run amok, resulting in the deaths of a whole mess of humans who—let's face it—probably had it coming. Due to desperate measures, this mission to prevent the looming disaster falls on Diva (Vivy), an amusement park android who is not at all enthusiastic about just going along with the plan. For one thing, her new AI pal from the future openly admits to withholding information from her and doesn't seem to care that she might have her own priorities and goals.

Diva
Maybe virus scans aren't as effective as you'd hope.

The AI from the future sort of reminds me of Frontier Setter from Rakuen Tsuihō (Expelled from Paradise), except without the charisma. Through the first three episodes, the viewer doesn't really have much reason to be suspicious of its intentions. After all, we do benefit from seeing the future events during the anime's prologue. Nevertheless, I'm at least inclined to take Diva's side during their disagreements. For one thing, altering a significant event does not seem to produce radical "butterfly effect" results that would render subsequent predictions related to upcoming milestones unreliable. Consequently, it's not clear whether Diva's desire to prevent future disasters unrelated to the AI uprising is necessarily impractical.

Diva
Considering the volume of Diva's hair, I have no idea
how she compressed it into such a small bun.

I have no idea how Diva is supposed to prevent the AI uprising. The events she's tasked with stopping during the first three episodes don't seem consequential enough to prevent what is surely the product of a great many circumstances beyond one android's ability to control. This is not as straightforward as going back to the '80s to kill Sarah Connor. It's not lost on me that Diva is likely not an amusement park animatronic (albeit a very sophisticated one) by accident. I'm ready to believe Diva unfucks the future by unleashing the power of song and making everyone happy, just as she's always wanted. You know, like the Minmay Attack except without genocide.

Dated 6 April 2021: IDOLY PRIDE and SukaSuka both spoiled their anime endings during the opening minutes of their first episodes

Kotono
It's not easy being an idol.

IDOLY PRIDE turned out to be a much more satisfying anime than I was expecting. I already had some idea where the show was going, since it became increasingly clear what the first episode's prologue implied as the anime progressed. Nevertheless, it also still retained enough ambiguity to allow the show to develop dramatic tension as it approached its climax. Ultimately, this was still very much a story about Mana and Makino, and remembering this worked out well for the anime.

Mana
What is the sound of one ghost clapping?

However, there is more to IDOLY PRIDE than just the anime, and this is where my lack of familiarity with the franchise as a whole falters. Based on the release dates of the associated videos on the YouTube, IDOLY PRIDE has been in the works for over a year. Was it just delayed for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or was it originally planned as an extended mixed-media production? There are CDs to purchase, and a mobile game of some sort to play, but I don't know how critical the anime itself is to the whole.

Chtholly
Goodbye, Chtholly's last bit of blue hair.

I didn't really need to mention SukaSuka here, since it's not as if Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? and IDOLY PRIDE really have that much in common aside from dropping spoilers at the start of the first episode. The SukaSuka spoilers are much more overt, though, and consequently much more memorable. There is also a certain finality to the series, in that while there are still additional volumes to adapt, adding a sequel to SukaSuka would not necessarily be the same thing as "making more" SukaSuka. In the case of IDOLY PRIDE, there are certainly enough characters to provide new opportunities for expansion through sequels, but I'm hesitant to suggest there's any need at this stage.

Dated 16 February 2021: This is an IDOLY PRIDE spoiler, but I don't think it matters anymore

Mana
"I can see my house from here."

There are plenty of other shows I'm watching that I should probably write about instead, but y'all getting an IDOLY PRIDE update instead. Deal with it. Okay, so after six episodes, I don't know why there is a ghost. Mana gives Makino someone to talk to, but there's no reason why she needs to be dead. She could have just retired, or started her own production company instead, or any number of other options. Or she could still have died, but not returned as a ghost. So far, Mana returning as a ghost has had no meaningful impact on the story.

Mana and Makino
I wonder if Mana can change her outfit.

And we do have confirmation that she's an actual ghost (as opposed to a hallucination). One of the other idols can see her, although they haven't continued interacting after the episode with the initial revelation. If we're racking and stacking idols in the show, I do like Mana best, so I appreciate having her around, but I was sort of expecting her whole phantasmness to have a bigger role in shaping the IDOLY PRIDE lore. As far as I can tell, there aren't even any other ghosts in IDOLY PRIDE—former idols or otherwise.

Dated 26 January 2021: I could tell you about all the good anime I'm watching this season, or I could tell you about IDOLY PRIDE instead

Kotono
We can tell you're the kid sister because you look the same except for having darker hair.

Actually, wait, IDOLY PRIDE is pretty good too, or at least it is for sufficiently generous definitions of good. I started watching IDOLY PRIDE because it was described as an original anime and the PV made the show seem oddly sincere. Meaning, I was expecting a brand new entry into the idol wars to lean more on a gimmick of some sort. (See, for example, this season's Gekidol and its gimmick.) However, it looked as if IDOLY PRIDE would simply be a straightforward show about idols trying their best. [Spoilers: It is not.]

Kouhei and Mana
She is sort of distracting.

So yeah, there is a gimmick. (Spoilers from here on out.) One of the idols is a ghost. Well, not one of the idols in the troupe, but there is a ghost. Specifically, it's the older sister of the dour idol who has main-character hair. However, the only one who can see or hear her is her old manager (a former classmate from high school) who is now in charge of a lot of rookie idols. I'll need to go back and re-watch some scenes to be sure, but I suspect it's also entirely possible that there is no ghost and Manager Guy (Kouhei) is just cracking up. I mean, he does do that thing where he'll look in her direction and respond aloud to her while everyone else around him is deeply confused by his constant non sequiturs. I have to say that's probably a worrying trait to see in someone who is responsible for your career.

Kouhei and Mana
Mana doesn't cast reflections or shadows, but Kouhei appeared to feel her leaning on him.

Whether Mana actually is a ghost or just a constant hallucination that Kouhei can't shake, I'm enjoying the dynamic. I get the feeling a single-cours anime is not going to be long enough to get me invested in what the other idols have going on, but I am enjoying IDOLY PRIDE so far. In fact, I'm probably enjoying it somewhat disproportionately, since I'm not sure I can really characterize the show as being anything more than merely okay. Still, I'm eager to see where this is going, even though I suspect it would probably be better as a ghost-girlfriend romance than as an idol show about rookies doing their best.