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Dated 31 December 2019: Ascendance of a Bookworm is good, but I've lost all interest in watching more

Main and Gunther
Did fist bumps already exists in this community or did Main introduce them?

I find the individual episodes of Honzuki no Gekokujō - Shisho ni Naru Tame niwa Shudan o Erandeiramasen (Ascendance of a Bookworm) reasonably well done, but there's something about the show as a whole that I find rather unappealing. I've never been able to precisely identify what the issue was, but now I guess I don't have to. Honzuki is getting a (split-cours) second season which starts in April, but I think I'm done with this franchise.

Main
You're not Alice. Why are you so yellow now?

So, spoilers for the first season's grand finale, but Honzuki somewhat abruptly switched from "Main's disease will eventually kill her" to "we found a solution to Main's disease, but this social class we've entirely ignored up until this very moment will capriciously kill you and your entirely family and there's nothing you can do about it unless you're strong in The Force." I don't have any problem with including these sorts of elements in a fantasy show, but the way Ascendance of a Bookworm is putting all its pieces together is not at all compelling. I'd much rather watch more chuuni magic school battle nonsense like Assassin's Pride than more Honzuki, to tell you the truth.

Dated 24 December 2019: I didn't plan to write back-to-back Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld entries

Yui
Go on, Yui, curse the bitches out.

Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld has a mind of its own. Or at least, Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is about AIs having minds of their own. Specifically, Alice Synthesis Thirty MacGuffin is the prize AI the bad men are trying to seize because she is a real girl. Never mind that Sword Art Online has had a Real Girl AI almost from the start in the form of Yui, Kirito's and Asuna's adopted daughter. Yui isn't even a secret!

Pope
It's not easy being pope.

For that matter, I'm not sure there's any meaningful distinction between the Underworld AI yahoos and the "real world" regular-ass people. I certainly regard Alice as being every bit as much as a real character as I do, say, Asuna, even though Alice is very yellow. I definitely regarded the pope as being more of a real person than nearly every other Sword Art Online villain (including the current ones). Ultimately, this has a lot less to do with Alice and the pope being AIs than it does with Sword Art Online having lots of terribly written characters—especially when it comes to its villains.

Alice
This reminds me I need to get a new video card.

I'm inclined to believe Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld theoretically could actually have something intelligent to say about artificial intelligence and what makes someone a real person, but any chance it had got undermined by the really awful writing that has plagued the franchise from the beginning. I still find it entertaining, even though Alice is very yellow, but I do wish the franchise would move past its more egregious tropes. The Ordinal Scale movie accomplished this with some success, but it seems to be the exception, not the norm.

Dated 17 December 2019: The war in Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is not much of a war

Alice
This break in the battle has lasted so long that Alice changed into her pajamas.

It's not particularly sensible to demand accurate war-type stuff in an anime, especially something like Sword Art Online, but they did put War in the title, and they have been building up to this particular conflict for some time. What we've gotten instead is tens of thousands of random schmucks directly facing each other in a narrow canyon making no effort to do anything other than having head-to-head fights. Some people might claim that the battles at least look pretty cool, but that's a concession I'm not willing to make this season, what with Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia raising the bar to ridiculous new levels every week now.

<Divine> Maybe that's just what happens when two sides who don't know what war is given it a try

That's basically it. Now, I'm not unreasonable enough to demand "actually realistic" war in my SAO ~ War Is All Hell ~ anime, but I would have given it a pass without commenting on it had it at least aspired to, say, Strike Witches: War on Underpants levels of realism.

Asuna and Alice
This show is called Alicization, not Asunization, toots.

Now that I've got this bitching out of the way, I guess I can get around to the main point of this post: Spoiling the most recent episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld. So, Asuna finally logs into the AI world and is immediately beset upon by an extremely yellow blur. Everyone eventually calms the fuck down, though. They even listen to the batshit crazy things Asuna tells them. Frankly, I'm impressed they don't even seem irked that she's referring to her own world as the "real world." Yeah, these AIs are living in a computer, but it probably feels pretty real to them. I would be at least a little insulted. On the plus side, at least she isn't being racist about it.

Kirito
Have you tried rebooting the Kirito in the "real world"?

I'm generally pro-Asuna, even though she hasn't fared particularly well as an actual character in Sword Art Online as a franchise. It was also not encouraging to see all the latest members of Kirito's ever-expanding harem butt in for additional deban and to boast about how great their times with him have been. Hopefully, they're getting all of this out of the way now, and maybe the show can go back to leaving him in a wagon somewhere while Alice is off doing very yellow very important things. I'm okay with Asuna coming along too, providing she doesn't spend all her time talking about Kirito.

Dated 12 November 2019: Assassin's Pride sort of disappoints me, but I mean that as a compliment

Elise and Melida
Melida is still not as yellow as Alice Synthesis XXX

I had low expectations for Assassin's Pride because of its synopsis: "Kufa is a noble born to a duke's family who is sent to tutor a young woman named Merida. If it turns out that Merida has no talent with mana, Kufa is secretly instructed to assassinate her." It also looked to be super-chuuni, but I gave it a chance anyway, though, because sometimes I'm just in the mood for super-chuuni bullshit. It turns out the first episode at least had visually neat aspects suggesting the people making the anime were not just phoning it in despite the show's light novel origins.

Kufa and Melida
Assassin's Pride sure likes its angles.

Since I'm not familiar with the source material, I wasn't actually expecting Assassin's Pride to be a magic-battle high school show of the sort we used to see all the damn time before the current wall-to-wall isekai trend. I legitimately assumed this was going to be some high-chuuni "I must protect her" nonsense with the lead characters constantly on the run or something, perhaps a la Innocent Venus. On the plus side, the various battle tournaments shown thus far have advanced quickly. Still, I hope there's going to be more to the story than this, even though the show is surely destined for a non-ending ending after a single cours. Ordinarily, I would have just stopped watching a show like this, but the start showed enough of a spark that I'm optimistically hopeful there will be more of that sort of thing, thereby making its remaining episodes worth watching.

Dated 29 October 2019: Honzuki no Gekokujō - Shisho ni Naru Tame niwa Shudan o Erandeiramasen is okay, but mostly just okay

Tuli, Main, and Eva
Nakajima Megumi and Orikasa Fumiko are both in this, incidentally, for those of you who care about that sort of thing.

I am more tired of isekai anime with male protagonists than I am of isekai just in general, so I'm willing to give Honzuki no Gekokujō - Shisho ni Naru Tame niwa Shudan o Erandeiramasen (Ascendance of a Bookworm) more chances to prove itself than I normally would. Although I liked the fourth episode quite a bit, I'm not especially impressed with the show as a whole so far. Even with regard to the fourth episode I enjoyed it mostly because Main's efforts—which were doomed from the very start—went to waste. It seems the usual tendency in these isekai jobbies is for the resurrected protagonists to use their superior knowledge to smugly dominate the simple folk around them, so it's nice to see things go tits up once in a while despite their best efforts.

Tuli, Main, and Lutz
This plan should have been a non-starter. It's difficult enough trying to cram a manga collection on an Ikea shelf.

I get the feeling that after these initial setbacks, Main is going to start smugly lording her knowledge of modern technology and techniques over these townsfolk more aggressively now that she's not constantly on the verge of dying. I don't know where any of this is going, since Honzuki no Gekokujō - Shisho ni Naru Tame niwa Shudan o Erandeiramasen so far seems to be genuinely about a woman's attempts to introduce books (and literacy) to this backwater where she was resurrected. Well, I say resurrected, but it's more like she hijacked this poor kid's life. Seeing as how introducing books and literacy to her new world could take more than a single lifetime to accomplish, maybe Main will still succumb to Key AIDS and this Japanese lady's spirit will move on to hijack the lives other other little girls, one after another. Not that I think Ascendance of a Bookworm will actually be some manner of bibliophile metempsychosis horror show, but I think that ought to at least be on the table.

Dated 22 October 2019: I am legit stoked about Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld

Alice
The most powerful swords are the ones without blades.

I am counting on reports from the Twitter that the War of Underworld arc of Sword Art Online: Alicization will be mostly Kirito-free for all of the next cours and a third of the final one. Based on how the AIDS "Mother's Rosario" arc and the Gun Gale Online spin-off panned out, I'm expecting to enjoy this quite a bit. For one thing, I already view Alice Synthesis Thirty pretty favorably, even though it's mostly because she sounds like an old sourpuss instead of a teenage girl when she talks, and because I think her armor's yellow and blue color scheme works really well—never mind that I sort of dislike UCLA.

Alice
I wanted to see unattended Coma Kirito fall off Alice's dragon.

After a perfunctory recap episode and two proper episodes of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld, the anime seems to be off to a good start. True to SAO form, there sure are a lot of sneering assholes among the various unimportant characters. I'm okay with it, because Lalatina is entirely too resilient for any of these scrubs to fuck with, and I don't really care if random schmucks are dicks to Kirito for no reason. Honestly, I don't even know what War on Underpants War of Underworld is even about (so far it is about playing a Goblin Slayer simulator on easy mode), but it sort of doesn't matter as long as it's at least indirectly about Alice being very yellow. She sure ditched that eye patch rather fast, though.

Dated 1 October 2019: I wish Cop Craft looked as good as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Tilarna
Literally a still frame with a voice over.

Cop Craft and Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) didn't really have much in common aside from airing during the same season. As far as their respective stories went, I was more interested in Cop Craft than in Kimetsu no Yaiba, but there is no question the latter was a better show. This despite the fact that Zenitsu (that panicky orange-haired fucker who shouted all his lines) was annoying as all Hell. Frankly, overcoming that is a testament to how good ufotable can be. Kimetsu no Yaiba looked amazing. It's hard to believe some of its sequences were even possible in a TV anime. Conversely, Cop Craft very much looked like television anime, and one that was constantly pressured to meet timelines. Nearly all of its action sequences had an unfinished quality to them pretty much all season long, and there was a recap episode inserted between episodes nine and 10. Based on how these scenes actually played out—with various shortcuts to substitute for missing animation—you get the sense that Millepensee at least had high ambitions, initially. (See also Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter.)

Nezuko
Pretty much anything I tell you about this would be a spoiler.

Would Cop Craft be better than Kimetsu no Yaiba if its animation looked as good? I don't think I can claim that, but I suppose potentially in the eyes of viewers who enjoy police stories with odd-couple crimefighters forced to work together. As far as the Demon Slayer story goes, I'm certainly not intrigued enough to seek out the manga now that the series has ended (although there will be a movie to cover the next arc). The fact I enjoyed it as much as I did is another testament to ufotable's anime adaptation which remained consistently good during its 26-episode run. At a minimum, episode 20 contained probably the best sequence I've seen all year. (I'm referring to the scene that basically everyone else who was watching the show went nuts about.) Unfortunately, the following episode did diminish the impact a bit with what I like to call "bullshit shounen jive," but I'm blaming the source material for that one. ufotable at least kept us astounded for the week.

Dated 10 September 2019: Y'all should read JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World

Front cover: JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World
Despite being a light novel, JK Haru is not illustrated.

JK Haru wa Isekai de Shoufu ni Natta (JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World) gained some notoriety last year when a licensed version became digitally available. Hard copies are now in print as well. Being an isekai light novel, the book is somewhat tongue-in-cheek despite the subject matter. However, I believe the tone it adopts appropriately approximates the sort of setup readers might expect in an isekai light novel about prostitution, thereby facilitating its ability to get them interested in the story before confronting them with the uncomfortable realities that correspond with sex work in general and the vulnerability of prostitutes specifically.

That said, JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World is not a grim book, despite a number of unsettling scenes and events. Moreover, the misogyny and violence encountered in the fantasy world setting are not exactly out of line with the sorts of hazards women face in many sectors of our real world. It's a difficult balancing act for the text, contrasting amusing adventures with these threats. And while there is plenty of sex in JK Haru—as you might expect—the scenes are typically presented matter-of-factly and not written to titilate. Sex work in JK Haru is not glamorous, and the book keeps the attention on the work part, not the sex part.

Notably, I never felt as if JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World was deliberately prurient the way that, frankly, so many light novels seems justifiably accused of being. I've seen enough comments on the Twitter to know many readers will disagree with me on this point, but I think this may have to do with one's initial expectations of the book and what sort of demands are placed on it. JK Haru is presented from Haru's first-person point of view, which I think makes it more effective at conveying the bleakness of her world and the impact of the events around her. Likewise, it also better communicates the joy she finds when she pursues various recreational diversions or actually has sex she enjoys. It also avoids presenting the violence in her world or the sadism she encounters as elements the reader is expected to like (unlike the corresponding scenes in some other light novels I might name). There are surely readers who do prefer that sort of content and wish JK Haru had more of it, but I'm inclined to regard that as an indictment against those readers themselves and not the text for obstensibly failing to omit it.

Incidentally, the various twists and reveals in JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World are good enough that I recommend a spoiler-avoidance posture if you expect to read it.