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Dated 9 July 2019: TO THE ABANDONED SACRED BEASTS AND THEIR ATTORNEYS OF RECORD: PLEASE TAKE NOTICE

Schall
Have gun. Will travel.

The Summer 2019 anime season is upon us. First out the gate is Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e (To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts), an adaptation of an ongoing manga by the author/artist duo known as Maybe. Unlike the manga, the entire first episode and nearly all of the second episode provide background information for the primary characters first. The tail end of the second episode picks up where the first chapter of the manga actually begins, and the preview for episode three at least suggests the show will now be more straightforward about adapting the manga. I generally prefer when an anime isn't bound to its source material scene-for-scene. Being too rigid can be counterproductive from a storytelling perspective simply because anime, manga, and text have different advantages and limitations. You'd think this would be painfully obvious, but anime adaptations fail often enough that I'm genuinely relieved the MAPPA production seems to have put at least a little thought into this.

Hime and Sato
Also a childhood-friend romance.

To be honest, the Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e manga itself is merely all right. I have purchased all eight volumes currently available from Vertical, and I do enjoy it, but I'm also predisposed to like most of Maybe's work. The mix of seriousness and humor work for me, although the anime probably won't necessarily reproduce the more comic expressions that I enjoy from the manga. Incidentally, I also enjoy Maybe's other ongoing manga, Kekkon Yubiwa Monogatari (Tales of Wedding Rings), a double-isekai harem comedy with plenty of cheesecake and blue balls. The manga has been available via the Crunchyroll's manga jobbie for some time now, but hard copies published by Yen Press are also in print.

Dated 1 July 2019: I'm watching Re:Zero because of Isekai Quartet

Emilia and Subaru
This is some compositing.

I tried watching Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) when it aired during the Spring 2016 anime season. I made it five episodes before dropping it because I found the show rather irritating. Fast forward to the Spring 2019 anime season, and somehow Isekai Quartet finished at the top of my rankings, edging out Kono Oto Tomare! I did, in fact, expect this to happen. (The watching part, not the ranking part, that is.) I've made it through the first cours of Re:Zero so far, and do have to admit it improves quite a bit after the initial episodes.

Emilia
Partial eclipse.

I'm a little surprised how few spoilers I knew, and how many I had forgotten. That probably helped, by preserving the sense of mystery that pervades the second half of the first cours. I do 100-percent still remember the Rem and Emilia spoiler which is still to come, though. However, since I don't actually 'ship any of the characters, knowing this probably isn't going to matter much one way or another. In any case, my renewed curiosity in Re:Zero is probably a testament to the success of Isekai Quartet as a marketing ploy. Seeing as how Isekai Quartet is getting a second season, with the promise of unspecified newcomers, I suppose it's possible the premise will expand to include more than just four Kadokawa-affiliated isekai properties, although then maybe they'll need to call the sequel something like Isekai Octet or whatever. I think I'd be okay with that.

Dated 26 December 2018: Golden Kamuy and SSSS.GRIDMAN are among the best shows of the year

Asirpa
This is the sort of happiness you can only achieve by eating animal brains.

Some questionable publicity concerning some really jarring 3DCG got Golden Kamuy off to a bad start, but the strength of its source material pulled through. I'm one of those people who believe it's better to watch an anime first before reading its source manga, so basically all of the second cours was new to me. I'm told that the show truncated quite a bit of material in order to reach the second season's climax (and that it also cut out scenes that would have otherwise included more 3DCG animals). And what a climax it was. Basically, without going into spoilers, CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS, and there are real payoffs regarding characters that the viewer has gotten to know over the course of 24 episodes. With so many strong episodes this season, the second cours of Golden Kamuy is even better than SSSS.GRIDMAN.

Akane
It turns out Akane was the show's real protagonist. P.S. Spoilers.

Hopefully, word has gotten out by now that Studio Trigger did an excellent job with SSSS.GRIDMAN. I was a bit hesitant going in, since Trigger does falter somewhat frequently, and I was entirely ignorant of the GRIDMAN franchise. In fact, I'm ignorant when it comes to the entire genre, for that matter. Basically everything I know comes from posts by @TheIvanhobe on the Twitter. It turns out SSSS.GRIDMAN is satisfying even for viewers like me. I can only imagine how stoked people who recognized the various callbacks and references must have been. I should probably point out that while I put the second half of Golden Kamuy over SSSS.GRIDMAN, I find SSSS.GRIDMAN to be better if you compare its 12 episodes to the full 24 episodes of Golden Kamuy.

Shirase
That is one blue sky.

I should also mention that while I regard SSSS.GRIDMAN and Golden Kamuy to be among the best shows of the year, both were surpassed by five other shows from earlier in 2018. At the very peak is Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than the Universe), an anime that even The New York Times recognized as being one of 2018's best. I put Hinamatsuri not too far behind, and then (for pretty different reasons), Hanebado!, Yuru Camp△, and Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight. Overall, a pretty good year for anime. I can't claim that Winter 2019 looks ready to compare with Winter 2018, but maybe there will be some surprises coming up again as well.

Dated 26 March 2018: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho and Yuru Camp△ are the best shows of Winter 2018

Rin
There's also the matter of Rin's excellent hair.

Yuru Camp△ finished its 12-episode run last week with an open-ended conclusion to its deeply satisfying season. As far the actual narrative goes, I can't exactly claim Laid-Back Camp was particularly eventful, but the show's real strengths came from its pleasantly relaxed mood and its freakishly endearing lead character, Rin, anyway. I do like the other characters as well, though, and I'm particularly relieved Nadeshiko turned out to be a lot better than I initially feared, but Rin basically carried Yuru Camp△ for me. She did, after all, clinch the Girl of the Quarter crown in week 10 by racking up most of my Girl of the Week awards. If you place any stock in B.S. numerical ratings, I did score Yuru Camp△ in first place for most of the season before Sora yori mo Tooi Basho passed it.

Hinata
"When angry count four; when very angry, swear."

There's actually one episode of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho left, but I'm all but certain to subjectively regard it as this season's best show regardless of how it actually plays out. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (see this post for more about the show's name) is exceptionally well done. I'm particularly impressed with how it pays off the numerous little heartfelt investments it made during the course of the series. Also of note is the astute directing which has juggled comedy, drama, and even a little horror with skillful touches of emotional resonance in the right amounts and at the right times.

Violet
Mission top secret, destination unknown.

Speaking of emotional resonance, compare Sora yori mo Tooi Basho with the much hyped Violet Evergarden for example, which turned out to be a hot mess of wildly disparate levels of quality depending on the episode. I felt nearly all of them were clumsy and overwrought, with the exception of two episodes (both of which credit Sawa Shinpei as the episode director, incidentally). In particular, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho has made much better use of its music than Violet Evergarden has, as I've mentioned before. All in all, I'm very impressed with Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, and I'm looking forward to its creative team's future projects.

Dated 6 November 2017: Net-juu no Susume shows it's not easy being an elite NEET

Morika
I don't know if it's better or worse that she's not just having everything delivered.

Net-juu no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie) is about a woman who voluntarily drops out of the rat race to become, as she calls it, an 373370 N3370. Well, she says it instead of typing it out in 1337, but you get the idea. She starts playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, gets herself a bigger monitor for her PC, and basically lets herself go. She doesn't even bother to clean herself up a bit before heading to the convenience store for food. It's a miracle her solar-powered cat gets any light at all. Through five episodes (of only 10, apparently?), the show is not so much about why she's done this, but rather more about the characters and players she interacts with and some of the difficulties she encounters trying to keep her real identity separate from her game identity.

Morika and Yuuta
At least she still cleans up good.

Ultimately, my main draws are Noto Mamiko voicing Morioka Moriko and Ueda Reina as Lily, one of the video game characters. Netojū has moved reasonably quickly when it comes to setting up the video game characters and having their players meet. This is definitely the sort of show which would suffer if it dragged out the corresponding revelations, particularly since all the players seems to live remarkably close to each other. Ultimately, I'm not expecting anything too grand from Net-jū no Susume. It's sufficient to me that Noto Mamiko and Ueda Reina are in it, since I genuinely enjoy their performances here. It's also noteworthy that all the characters in the show are adults, even if their judgment at times might not be particular mature. It certainly feels a lot more genuine than, say, Inuyashiki, which I had prematurely expected to be this season's "adult in the room." [Spoilers: It was not.]

Dated 8 May 2017: Alice to Zouroku sure has a lot of hairy arms

Sana and Zouroku
Nice hat.

Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku) is about a little girl with essentially magic abilities who escapes from a secret facility where people with flexible morals study kids with superpowers. She then takes up with a crotchety old man and various cute things happen. Well, between periodic bouts of trauma, that is. It's a neat concept, albeit one that's been done before in various ways, but making the male lead an elderly man instead of a teenage spud is a nice change.

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Dated 31 August 2016: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable is MAMIKORE

Yukako
Domesticity Is Unbreakable.

I am enjoying Diamond Is Unbreakable quite a bit more than I enjoyed Stardust Crusaders. This is not to say Stardust Crusaders wasn't good, but rather its strengths involved a lot of shounen jive. I got my fill of that pretty quickly. On the other hand, Diamond Is Unbreakable does not seem to involve inflated power levels or a bunch of stalling with mini-bosses. Rather, it seems to be more about the Bizarre than it is about the Adventure or even the JoJo.

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Dated 7 June 2016: Surprising no one, GIRLS und PANZER der FILM is awesome

GIRLS und PANZER der FILM Blu-rays
The OVA epilogue is also pretty good even though it's not wall-to-wall tank battles.

If you watched the GIRLS und PANZER television series, then you've probably been anxiously waiting to watch GIRLS und PANZER der FILM. Since its release in November 2015, this movie continues to print money for Japanese theaters even though the Blu-ray came out at the end of May 2016. Now that I've finally gotten to see it, the reasons for the film's success and unflagging popularity are obvious.

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