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Dated 20 April 2021: Koikimo is better than Higehiro even though both are missing the same thing

Ichika and Ryo
Stalker distancing.

News that the Spring 2021 anime season would feature TWO shows about adult men paired with high school girls created ripples across the Twitter, but even this mild outrage waned after viewers discovered neither show was as torrid as anticipated. Descriptions of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love, A.K.A. Koikimo) in particular concentrated on elements that ranged from misleading (characterizing its male lead as "a womanizer") to outright untruthful (e.g., calling him "sex-crazed...with a wandering eye for women"). At the risk of stereotyping too much, I suspect more attention should have been paid to the fact that the Koikimo manga is described as josei (i.e., for adult women) instead of seinen (i.e., for adult men who miss fucking teenage girls).

Sayu and Yoshida
I was too bothered by Sayu's lack of luggage to make a Fate/stay night joke.

Curiously, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway) seemed to attract less pre-season attention than Koikimo, but perhaps its original novels and manga adaption were already known well enough to deflect unwarranted speculation that it was going to be a smutty romp. This, despite its synopsis outright stating that its characters meet when the titular teenage girl, Sayu, offers sex in exchange for a place to stay. Instead, Higehiro is about a man, Yoshida, who insists he is not attracted to the JK crashing at his place. The series begins with Yoshida being rejected by his long-term crush (his boss at work, no less) who claims she is already seeing someone. He is so devastated that he seemingly does not even notice she was CLEARLY LYING.

Gotou
Dude, you're staring.

Higehiro also draws attention to Yoshida's insistence that he is not a "nice guy" for letting Sayu live with him without strings attached (unlike everyone else she has stayed with during her previous six months as a runaway), but rather that the other men she has known are despicable people. Yoshida also repeatedly insists he is not attracted to Sayu because he only likes women with large breasts, but then the show promptly undercuts him by immediately alerting (and repeatedly reminding) the viewer that Sayu's boobs are also comfortably big.

Sayu
Higehiro even quantifies the comparison.

This is where I lose the ability to predict the path Higehiro will take. There is enough fan service and "male gaze" to the anime that we are obviously supposed to see Sayu as a legitimate love interest of Yoshida's, despite (or perhaps because of) his loud denials. But the show also retains the harem elements by keeping the CLEARLY LYING boss lady and deliberately slapdash co-worker near as potential romantic rivals. If I had to guess how this story ends, I would expect Yoshida's support to put Sayu on a path to success before re-uniting the two after a multi-year timeskip apart that has given Sayu time to become a self-sufficient adult with even bigger boobs than ever. Alternatively, we'll get a cop-out non-ending ending, potentially with all four of them living together for contrived reasons.

Ryo
You can tell he's sincere because of the sparkles.

While Higehiro is about a man who denies being attracted to the teenage girl living with him, Koikimo is about a man openly and aggressively wooing a high school girl 10 years his junior. At this point, I think it is necessary to acknowledge the tropes that govern this story's boundaries. Ryo and Ichika meet by chance and a suspension bridge moment sparks his sudden obsession with Ichika, who is coincidentally classmates with Ryo's kid sister, Rio. Fortunately for Ryo, his sister not only approves of his infatuation with her friend, but even volunteers as his wingman to provide opportunities for him to get closer with Ichika.

Ruri, Rio, Ichika, and Satsuki
Rio's anime bed is made of concrete.

Moreover, Ichika's own mother approves of Ryo's courtship, despite Ichika's clear displeasure. It is probably worth pointing out that Ryo has apparently never had to pursue a love interest before. He is not a pick-up artist chasing after fresh prey. Instead, girls and women have thrown themselves at him his entire life (Ichika's and Rio's classmates all unanimously agree Ryo is exceptionally handsome), so this is an entirely new experience for him.

Sayu and Yoshida
Dude, you're staring.

So what are Koikimo and Higehiro both missing? Lust. In the case of Koikimo, Ryo is clearly, genuinely smitten with Ichika, but he is arguably more drawn to her disinterest in him than he is to her physical appearance. Ichika is presented as being fairly unremarkable among her peers, and her own best friend describes her as "normal" (although at least one boy at her school has taken a liking to her). In the case of Higehiro, it takes three episodes of the show loudly signalling that Sayu is comely and sexually available before Yoshida finally admit he finds her attractive. However, his refusal to sleep with her is predicated on a critical, foundational cornerstone to the narrative's integrity, so I don't expect the story can too easily reverse this stance even if the audience comes to think he protests too much.

Ichika and Rio
She is upset because she is pleased.

After four episodes of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui and three episodes of Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou., I enjoy Koikimo more than Higehiro. Neither series is especially realistic (although I could believe Higehiro, despite the melodrama, were it not for the CLEARLY LYING Christmas-cake boss lady and the co-worker who deliberately fucks up her work for Yoshida's attention), but I find Koikimo more amusing. I can't rule out the possibility that I'm simply more enamored of Ichika's seemingly endless barrage of disgusted faces than I am with Sayu's "pretty big for a high school girl" bosom, though.

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 30 March 2021: Re:Zero II 2 was probably a good season for Emilia fans

Subaru and Roswaal
It's fine, they're cool now.

My enjoyment of the Re:Zero anime has been inconsistent. I initially lost interest in the series quite early and dropped the show more than once. I finally picked it up again after enjoying Isekai Quartet and its myriad gags about Ram being smug and/or abusive. After finally sticking with the first season, I did enjoy most of it. I also liked the first half of the second season, but the most recent cours, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2nd Season Part 2, did not hold my interest.

Emilia
I'm going to claim Puck is a shitty parent.

If I had to say why, I guess it's because I found Garfiel rather grating. He has legitimate reasons for being that way, but they didn't make him less tiresome to watch. This cours also focused heavily on Emilia, and deservedly so. Unfortunately, I've never had any interest in Emilia, so I wasn't exactly invested in her arc. If you are a big fan of Emilia, then I would expect you to regard this cours as being one of the strongest ones of the anime thus far. However, it is difficult for me to weigh this objectively, so possibly it still dragged even for Emilia superstans. Presuming there is a third season, I am going to continue watching it, but I do hope it gets better. Maybe have some more Rem? I could go for more Rem now.

Dated 9 March 2021: I guess I'm watching season three of Log Horizon for the 'shipping

Akatsuki and Shiroe
It's not a date.

The first season of Log Horizon provided an entertaining perspective on what it might be like to be trapped in a video game. Even now, it holds up well when compared against the relentless tide of trapped-in-a-video-game isekai bullshit anime that seems—itself—nearly inescapable now. The second season of Log Horizon was all right, but it is common to find fans who like it a lot less. The currently airing third season, Log Horizon: Entaku Houkai (Log Horizon: Destruction of the Round Table) has mostly been about politics during the past eight episodes. It doesn't exactly get the series off to a rousing fresh start after its six-year absence.

Minori
Minori is still writing shit down—still being competent and helpful.

The preview for this week's episode heralds the return of love-triangle high jinks involving Minori (who was very recently merely a shrimpy kid), Akatsuki (who was and still is a shrimpy grownup, and Shiroe (the purported adult in the room). Naturally, I don't expect this to actually go anywhere. It has (at least been) pretty obvious that Akatsuki is the only real love interest. Even then, there's no indication there will be any meaningful progress anytime soon. Ergo, propping up Minori (who I think is still only around 14) as a romantic rival is probably going to be just more of the same low-stakes love-triangle nonsense from previous episodes.

Lenessia
They're literally going to put Lenessia on a SHIP so she can go get Krusty and
bring him back instead of just quietly thinking about him all the time.

Curiously, it seems the Krusty x Lenessia pairing might actually have some life. Originally, I mostly regarded the interaction between these two as that of a young man who (somewhat inadvertently) prods a recalcitrant princess into seizing the reins of destiny when originally he just wanted to amuse himself by teasing a teenage girl for a while. However, season three is making me question whether my assumptions about Krusty—or, more specifically, the player behind Krusty's character—are wrong. It's at least not clear to me anymore how old he is or how long ago the brief flashbacks we've seen actually occurred. Suddenly, a Krusty x Lenessia pairing seems much more plausible than Shiroe x Akatsuki, and certainly more so than Shiroe x Minori, regardless of what this week's episode may bring.

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 12 January 2021: Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? (that spider anime) was the first show from Winter 2021 that I dropped

Kumoko
Should have anime-sized all of the spider eyes.

I first heard about Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? (So I'm a Spider, So What?) when it was a web novel. At least one person in an IRC channel I'm in was pretty enthusiastic about it, and I eventually read a few of the early chapters when an English translation became available. This was years ago, but "that spider thing" sort of always stayed on the radar as its popularity grew and it received light novel and manga adaptations. This made me optimistic about the anime, but it took only one episode for me to reject it entirely. I'm out, and I don't expect to give it another chance.

Kumoko
This should have been more disturbing.

For one thing, they gave the spider a softer, gentler, anime face instead of an actual spider face. I appreciate that a significant number of people are genuinely creeped out by spiders, and making the protagonist visually unsettling would instantly alienate a lot of its potential viewers. But I always felt as if the casual horror of the spider-girl's predicament was the source material's main draw. I really don't need yet another isekai about characters gaining new powers. In any case, the first episode lacked any sort of tension. At a minimum, I think it would have been better had it been at least disturbing to watch.

Feirune, Schlain, Filimøs, and Karnatia
Yeah, no. I'm not watching a show about these people.

Still, I think I could have gotten past that were it not for this other, more damnable flaw: Holy shit, who are these numbnuts? I'm talking about all the humans. Specifically, her teacher and fellow classmates who have also been reincarnated in this other world, except as mostly nobility (who aren't even cannibals) instead of as spiders. Based on comments I've seen on the Twitter, readers of the light novel really enjoy the human characters (or at least one of them?) and the roles they play in the story. That at least explains why they featured so prominently in the promotional materials, but I checked out instantly during their segment of the first episode. I'm sure it's fine if Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? is the only anime you're watching, but there are a lot of shows airing this season. In fact, there are probably close to 20 that are more interesting. I'm not watching all of those, but it guarantees I won't be making time for this one, at least not as it's currently airing.

Dated 29 December 2020: The war on pants will go on a long as it has to

Yoshika and Shizuka
I don't dislike Miyafuji anymore, but these two still aren't exactly favorites.

It's been a while since I've watched the first two Strike Witches seasons, but I felt this third season seemed better overall than those previous installments. I also liked it better than the Brave Witches spinoff. Despite this, I'm still not at all prepared to call Strike Witches: Road to Berlin the best season yet even though it sort of has to be by definition. The problem is Road to Berlin still relied on the Neuroi as the primary advesary. This is an unavoidable component of the World Witches canon, but these alien invaders have never been compelling enemies. The witches need to fight somebody, but the battles still feel hollow and the stakes haven't grown as the war has progressed, despite a fair amount of dialogue trying to convince viewers that they have.

World Witches Take Off!
That sure is a lot of witches.

Thankfully, Strike Witches 3 at least avoided some of the even less convincing drama that dragged down parts of the first two seasons. Frankly, I rather enjoy the characters more when they're doing silly things in garrison such as in the Strike Witches: 501 Butai Hasshin Shimasu! (Strike Witches: 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off!) gag anime. This bodes well for next season's World Witches Hasshin Shimasu! (World Witches Take Off!) installment, although I think I would still prefer it use the standard superlovely character designs than the simpler comedy-friendly ones.

Dated 22 December 2020: Majo no Tabitabi was interesting, but I haven't decided if I thought it was good

Sheila
Majo no Tabitabi needed more Sheila.

Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) turned out to be a lot different from what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be more laid back, like Flying Witch, but instead the series is more about Elaina observing the fucked-up world around her in a mostly non-committal sort of way. In this respect, I've seen it compared to Kino's Journey (which I haven't seen). I don't know if this is the case for Kino, but Elaina's detachment (and narcissism, honestly) makes her sort of dull, although the strange encounters she has during her travels are interesting.

Saya
Poor Saya missed out on the final episode's all-you-can-eat buffet.

I'm not suggesting there are major flaws to Wandering Witch that needs improving, but I do think it would be better if Elaina had more charisma. I found myself enjoying Saya's appearances much more than I thought I would, considering she mostly comes across as a turbo-lesbian gag character. Guest appearances by various other witches also helped out the show a lot. The best elements of the show and its finest moments all involve characters other than Elaina. I don't think this is by design, but rather it's because I just didn't find Elaina herself particularly interesting. Ultimately, I did enjoy the show overall, and I would watch more of it, but I'd rather have future episodes told from a different character's point of view if Elaina is going to remain the same.