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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 27 August 2019: I'm still rooting for the mahou shoujo in Machikado Mazoku, you know

Momo and Yuuko
Yuuko is pretty lucky that Momo goes so easy on her.

One of the best surprises of the Summer 2019 anime season is how good Machikado Mazoku (The Demon Girl Next Door) turned out to be. Shadow Mistress Yuuko is the hapless opponent of Chiyoda Momo, a veteran magikal girl who grossly outclasses "Shamiko" in basically every way imaginable. In the grand tradition of overpowered pink mahou shoujo, Momo quickly subdues Yuuko with the power of friendship, which works out pretty well in Yuuko's favor, since I'm guessing the only other option is a humiliating and pointless death. Viewers who liked Gabriel DropOut will probably find a lot to enjoy here as well, in that both shows regard the struggle between good and evil as a bit of a farce.

Yuuko and Lilith
You're only flying because you're short, aren't you?

I instantly took a liking to Momo, because she's freakishly strong and constantly droll. She's not an emotionless kuudere stereotype, but rather apparently just not easily excited. I think that's understandable for a veteran mahou shoujo who has probably seen some shit in her day and just does what she wants now. I haven't read the original Machikado Mazoku 4-koma comic, but the anime adaptation is consistently funny and peppered with amusing gags. After seven episodes, The Demon Girl Next Door is right up there with an Okada sex disaster and a fantastic fifth season of Symphogear in a three-way tie as this season's top three shows.

Dated 13 August 2019: I might have delayed this Star☆Twinkle Precure entry because I wasn't sure I was using the correct ☆

Hikaru
Is it racist to refer to those aliens as bananafish?

Actually, probably the real reason I haven't written about Star☆Twinkle Precure yet is because it's fine. I've watched every episode of Pretty Cure. It's been running non-stop for more than 15 years now. That is, quite frankly, a LOT of Pretty Cure. Most of the seasons are reasonably good. Some are great. And even the ones on the bottom of the list aren't actually bad. So it's not as if Star☆Twinkle Precure isn't good, it's just that I don't have much to say about it. What I should have done was provide a end-of-series write-up for Hugtto! Precure, because that was bananas. No promises, but maybe I'll go back and eventually give Hugtto! Precure a proper sendoff. At a minimum, I've got to say that Hugtto! Precure ended in a totally unique way that differed dramatically from how every other series in the franchise dealt with its main antagonist.

Elena
Bonus secondary transformation in episode 27.

Seeing as how Star☆Twinkle Precure is only a little past its halfway mark, there are plenty of opportunities left for it to go off the rails. I mean, its squad of legendary warriors already includes actual space aliens, one of which has so many different personas that I'm losing track of which one is her "real" one. It's arguably the embodiment of the idea SDS applies to Cure Sword. At a minimum, it has a lot of diversity and no shortage of new ideas. However, through 27 episodes, I'm still waiting for Star☆Twinkle Precure to do something dramatic enough that I'll want to revisit it in the years to come. That's surely not a fair demand to place on the latest installment of a show intended for small children—one that's been running since 2004, but that's at least where I'm at in 2019.

Dated 16 July 2019: I was guaranteed to watch Cop Craft as a matter of general principle

Kei, O'Neill, and Tilarna
This is some shakedown.

Seeing as how Cop Craft features a post-WUG Yoshioka Mayu and an Orikasa Fumiko + Nakahara Mai + Inoue Marina trifecta in its cast, I knew I was going to at least give the first episode a chance. The fact that its main character is an adult instead of yet another teenage boy? So much the better. You'll also find other notable talents in the show's credits, but I can't claim I would have personally regarded the inclusion of anyone else alone sufficiently persuasive. Fortunately, the first episode was legitimately interesting, which was somewhat of a relief.

Kei and Tilarna
Well, I guess someone is about to get fucked.

As either a police drama or a buddy comedy featuring two mismatched partners fighting crime, Cop Craft may tread a well-worn path, but this is a formula with a good chance for success. I suppose it's also technically yet another isekai, albeit it not one in the typical contemporary sense a la Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki desu ka? (that mom show). It's too early in the season yet to make any reliable projections, but I at least have solid hopes for Cop Craft among the shows I'm watching during Summer 2019.

Dated 25 February 2019: Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is an interesting show in theory

Kurumi and Asuka
Airborne mahou shoujo, airborne mahou shoujo, where have you been?

Unfortunately, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka) is not a great anime, and quite a bit less interesting than it probably ought to be. Part of the problem is "magikal girls except adult and/or dark!" is by no means a novel idea anymore. However, I think a substantial part of the issues affecting Spec-Ops Asuka are probably intrinsic to its core concept to begin with. The anime (which I'm only assuming is at least reasonably faithful to its source manga—I've not read it) makes an effort to imagine how armed forces might integrate mahou shoujo (and dour, sadistic mages, for that matter) into their combined arms doctrine and what sorts of missions they might perform. It sort of works, but it also sort of invites more questions. When the core concept is not especially grounded in reality, maybe it's best to simply handwave away practical problems and adopt the approach used by mecha anime.

War Nurse
War Nurse is a great codename, though.

My other issue with Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is that I don't find it especially engaging. There hasn't been any particular hook to the show that grabs me, and I'm sort of simply watching it perfunctorily. It doesn't help that the animation has a somewhat unenthusiastic look to it, and I'm not a fan of the character designs either. I'm not even sure what the issue is. Perhaps everything looks too normal? I'm glad the show at least does not have a "grimdark" visual appearance, but I wonder if making it look more like an actual mahou shoujo anime might have been better. The music works at least. Digressing a bit, I don't have a good place to mention this, but Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does have more actual torture in the show than I'm used to seeing in anime. For comparison, the torture in Overlord occurs off-screen. I'm not suggesting you should count that as a positive necessarily, but it is noteworthy, at least. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 17 December 2018: Maybe I just like neurotic orange-haired girls

Ranze and Saaya
So who's taller?

Ranze is a pretty minor character in Hugtto! Precure, and even her guest appearance in the most recent episode (44) was rather limited. Nevertheless, I appreciate that she occasionally shows up even if she's not necessarily bitching people out. That said, my enjoyment of her scenes is directly proportional to the amount and degree of sassing and/or highly motivated-but-questionable activities in which she engages.

Saaya and Ranze
Saaya or Ranze?

With regard to Hugtto! Precure itself, the show turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting. It's been consistently fun and it has good little gags. Fortunately, the magic baby did not turn out to be nearly as bad as I had feared. In fact, she can even sort of babble in technically complete sentences now. Seeing as how the magic baby is inevitably going to get her full-grown form back as Cure Spoilers again in the finale, I'm inclined to believe they should have just restored her, like, 20 episodes ago and been done with it. In any case, five will get you 10 that the mouse will still regard her as a love interest even after a year of basically being the magic baby's single parent.

Dated 3 September 2018: Many thanks to Stevie Wonder for Hugtto! Precure

Emiru and RUR-9500
Emiru is probably remembering that everyone at school still thinks she's nuts.

Now well past the halfway mark, Hugtto! Precure is better than it has any right to be. Based on the number of strikes it normally would have against it, I shouldn't be enjoying it so much. Namely, it's got a magic baby. It has a shrimpy Cure. And it has my least favorite battle costumes of the entire franchise. It turns out, though, that the magic-baby scenes are not as objectionable as I had feared (although I could still do without them). The battle costumes are tragic; I guess that's not going to change. On the plus side, though, the shrimpy Cure is tops.

Harry, Hug-tan, Saaya, Kotori, Homare, Hana, RUR-9500, and Emiru
Actually, most of the cast is pretty good.

Cure Muse basically ruined shrimpy Cures for me. Cure Ace, I guess she was okay. Aguri was definitely more endearing than Ako. Emiru, though, as Cure Ma Chérie? Emiru is frickin' great. It's mostly because she's completely neurotic, which we got to see ahead of time in her two really good pre-transformation introductory episodes. It also helps that she's partnered with RUR-9500. The two of them bring out the best in each other's scenes. I suppose I can't quite say the same thing about Cure Amour, although they are fine together as well. After all, they do have beam-rifle guitars.

Dated 2 July 2018: Continuing shows and sequels of Summer 2018

Emiru and RUR-9500
The matching guitars are actually magic beam rifles. This is not a joke.
P.S. Spoilers.

Seven or eight of the shows I plan to watch during the Summer 2018 anime season are shows continuing from Spring 2018 or sequels. Specifically, Overlord III, One Room 2, and Cinderella Girls Gekijou 3rd Season are sequels, and the shows continuing from last season are Detective Conan, GeGeGe no Kitarou, Major 2nd, Hugtto! Precure, and possibly Piano no Mori.

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