Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 6 February 2024: I like the Frieren approach to solving problems

Frieren and Denken
Don't hurt him. He's just a child.

After 21 episodes, I presume most viewers have noticed Sousou no Frieren (Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End) adopts understated, laid-back approaches to most of its tasks and conflicts. Neither Frieren nor Fern tend to get particularly excited about anything, even during life-and-death struggles. Only Stark's occasionally quavering voice externally reveals much anxiety, typically from stifling his despair over companions who don't seem outwardly concerned about their shared predicaments. Fern, in particular, has come a long way from the terrified girl fleeing from her first violent encounter (against an scary monster that she can—and does—easily defeat). Now she displays no emotion as she uses "boring" attacks to dispatch a fellow mage (without even harming her).

Frieren
Maybe you'll find a grimoire containing umbrella magic.

I presume not everyone enjoys the tone or nature of these fights, particularly if there's an expectation for something more dramatic than waiting for Chekhov's Rainfall to finally factor in as a decisive tide-turning element. However, given the unflagging popularity of the Frieren anime (and manga), I have to assume I'm not alone in relishing extended moments where Frieren simply stares as she patiently waits for her opponent to fuck up. It's fitting for someone who has all the time in the world.

Dated 23 January 2024: Chained Solider is what we're calling it to avoid having Slave in the title

Kyouka and Yuuki
It's not a date.

Mato Seihei no Slave (localized as Chained Soldier instead of as Slave of the Magic Capital's Elite Troops) is a new anime based on the manga by the same author who wrote Akame ga Kill!. Consequently, you might expect it to be edgy nonsense (I mean that in a good way, okay), but it's more of a gratuitous fan service romp. I suppose I could characterize the manga as a guilty pleasure except I don't feel guilty about enjoying it. It's great, actually.

Himari and Yuuki
You're in the sort of anime where this happens, Himari. Deal with it.

Through three episodes, the anime isn't quite as good, mostly because (I suspect) this is the sort of thing that works better as manga than as anime. For one thing, there's something not right about seeing it in color—or at least in these colors. There is, also, the fan service, which does honestly come across differently animated than in manga form. Still, I'm generally in favor of gratuitous content, even if a show is forced to prepare a censored version for the delicate to go along with the uncensored version for general audiences.

Kyouka and Yuuki
See, just like Fullmetal Alchemist.

Oh, am I going to need to describe the premise? Fiiine. Chained Soldier is about women (well, teenage girls, mostly) with superpowers defending the world (well, Japan, mostly) against inhuman monsters. The leader of one of these groups has the ability to enslave these beasts, but it turns out her power works on humans, too (well, on one male human in particular, anyway). Naturally, payment is required in exchange for using this power. In principle, it's like Darker than Black (where a price is paid for using one's powers) or, uh, Fullmetal Alchemist (where, uh, you know, equivalent exchange). Same thing, honestly, except lewd.

Dated 16 January 2024: 10 years of Tales of Wedding Rings

Satou and Hime
This anime bed is made of concrete.

I've been reading Kekkon Yubiwa Monogatari (Tales of Wedding Rings) since it first came out a decade ago. It's honestly not an especially compelling story, but I got in at the ground floor because I like Maybe, the manga duo who also gave us Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e (To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts) and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia). Wedding Rings is a fairly straightforward Hero v. Evil Menace fantasy story. It's also one of those deals where the hero's strength is bolstered by the power of polygamy. There are plenty of stories where magic abilities correspond with boner status (e.g., Dakara Boku wa, Ecchi ga Dekinai and Dokyuu Hentai HxEros, among others), but that's not quite what's going on here.

Saphir, Nephrites, Hime, Granart, and Amber
There sure has been a a lot of polygamy anime lately.

Still, the whole going-on-wife-collection-adventures thing sets the tone for what you can expect. I don't think the anime will attempt to cover the entire manga in a single cours, but I also have my doubts about the likelihood of this getting multiple seasons. Through two episodes, it's mostly just fine, although I'm less enthusiastic about it since most of what I liked about the manga is how it looks. In comparison, the Tales of Wedding Rings anime simply looks like, well, just another anime. I'm sticking with it, but I can see how anyone coming to the series with a blank slate may be somewhat unimpressed.

Dated 2 January 2024: The End of 2023 ~Air/My Purest Heart for Tired Evangelion Jokes~

Suletta
I don't mention Witch Gundam until the end.

I started out thinking about doing a "Best Anime of 2023" summary, considered a "Favorite Anime of 2023" post would be better instead, then briefly contemplated an "Underrated Anime of 2023" write-up next before settling on just highlighting a few series I enjoyed without constraining myself to any particular category. And here we are. Don't be afraid of your freedom.

Yamada
This is the face Anna makes when she overhears people speaking from the heart.

Foremost is BokuYaba (Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu | The Dangers in My Heart), which I'm front-loading because its second season begins on January 7th. Get on it, if you haven't already. This has been a hard sell on occasion because summaries describing it are so misleading. The irony is not lost on me that a series I praise for its authenticity deceives the audience at the outset with misdirection. As I've previously advised, Kyoutarou is not an "edgelord," he's a cringelord. BokuYaba is about the mistakes that occur when people make bad assumptions about themselves and others. Likewise, it's a mistake to make assumptions about BokuYaba.

Soyo, Raana, and Taki
MVP.

Second, I got to BanG Dream! It's MyGO!!!!! late, but better late than never, eh. I had initially written it off as some sort of Cute Girls Doing Cute Thing show cobbled together as a vehicle for yuri 'shipping, but it turns out to be about DRAMA. Probably, technically, it's melodrama, but that bit when Best Girl Rāna starts backing up the singer (whose pockets may still be filled with rolly pollies) while she's forcing herself to bleed out on stage instead of packing up so everyone can get the Hell out of there? And then Rāna seamlessly transitions to The Forbidden Song that causes the Begging Bassist to go completely mental as The Quitter quits the venue and nearly banishes herself from the hero's party by piling down some stairs? That is some Good Shit right there.

Ganta and Isaki
Especially if the entire story includes telescopic sex.

Kimi wa Houkago Insomnia (Insomniacs After School) was a lot better than I was expecting. It's not much of a stretch to imagine a couple of teenagers who spend a lot of time napping together might also fall in love, so, spoilers, I guess. Mostly I'm glad neither of them tragically dropped dead at the end of the anime or some bullshit like that. The manga did end recently, but the U.S. release is still 10 volumes behind, so I'm on the fence about reading it before it's caught up, considering how many other titles I'm still following. What they ought to do is make more of the anime and cover the entire story.

Umi
Not one Like!

The IDOLM@STER Million Live! was entirely too short considering how many idols it featured, but at least we got an Umi episode. If y'all ain't heard, I do love me some Umimi.

Frieren
I enjoyed how nonchalantly Frieren made this decision.

Beyond this list, there are a lot of really good shows that I watched in 2023 that you probably already know about. Like, is it necessary to say I'm enjoying Sousou no Frieren (Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End), or that Kidou Senshi Gundam: Suisei no Majo (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury) was fuckin' great? The former is hugely popular and is continuing into the Winter 2024 anime season, and the latter is frickin' Gundam, so it's not as if anyone is going to forget about it. I certainly won't. Honestly, there is entirely too much capital-G Good anime each year, and 2024 doesn't seem as if it will be any different.

Dated 19 December 2023: I still don't know why PLUTO is written in all caps

Helena, Robita, and Geshicht
Not to spoil the moment, but can we workshop some other names?

It took me a while, but I finished PLUTO. This is not to say that it was slog to watch, bad, or uninteresting. Rather, it's a reflection of my lack of personal investment in the story and at least partially an acknowledgement that each episode is three times as long as they are for a more typical show. Now that I've finished it, my thoughts on the series haven't changed much. That nagging disconnect between my ambivalence and the very high praise I see everywhere else for PLUTO remains. What am I not getting?

Duncan
But are you pointing in the correct direction?

This is not a question I'm motivated to unpack, but I am willing to volunteer that the parts I liked best involved the blind composer. That arc was, frankly, rather sappy, but I think that's why I enjoyed it. Narrowing the story to focus on two characters provided for good moments as their interactions and exchanges evolved. I did notice—and this is not a complaint—that the composer was willing to occasionally use a mechanical conveyance. The practice clashed with his loathing of machines in general. True, there's no shortage of contradictory or hypocritical behaviors among the impulses that make us human, but I don't believe I was supposed to think about that in this case.

Atom
Would it help if I knew anything about Astro Boy?

I should probably give the manga another try at some point. I don't expect it to change my opinion too much, but there are at least indications I'll probably like it more than the anime. Most of these assumptions are based on this review of the PLUTO anime by a fan of the source material. (See also this one, while you're at it.) I'm more likely to re-watch and/or re-read Monster, though, if I'm being honest.

Dated 5 December 2023: I'm not as interested in The Ancient Magus’ Bride as I used to be

Morrigan and Chise
On the plus side, Ayako Doctrine invoked.

I've been buying the Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus’ Bride) manga for more than eight years. When I started, I didn't really think about how long I'd be reading it, let along buying it, but I do have volume 19 pre-ordered. I still enjoy it, but it's no surprise the story has evolved over that time. And when I say it has evolved, I mean it gained a magic school arc. This is also the focus of Mahoutsukai no Yome SEASON 2 Part 2, currently airing now. Seeing as how Chise is still a teenager, it does make sense to end her prolonged truancy. It's also providing more opportunities for her to interact with humans her age.

Philomela and Chise
How you feel about Philomela will influence how you feel about the magic school arc.

Unfortunately, I—as the reader and viewer observing Chise's life of sorcery and mystical weirdness—don't care so much about the other humans her age. I mean, they're fine. A lot of them have had shitty lives, and some of them have exasperating hangups, as one might expect of humans in general and human teenagers in particular, but I don't find the sources of these tensions quite as engaging as one might expect. So yeah, I'm still watching the anime, and I'm still buying the manga, and I'm even still enjoying them both, but I do sometimes wish I could see what Silky has been up to instead.

Dated 14 November 2023: I don't know why PLUTO is written in all caps

Gesicht
How are you feeling, Gesicht? Good?

I don't know very much about PLUTO despite reading some of the manga when it was new. I know that it is well regarded, and that fans have been eagerly anticipating the anime adaptation for years. But then the anime adaptation really happened, and basically no one is talking about it (at least not adjacent to the sliver of Internet that I occupy), presumably because every episode got dumped at once on the Netflix, as the Netflix is wont to do.

Atom
I don't know anything about Astro Boy either.

There are only eight episodes, but each episode is about triple-length, so it works out equivalent to a two-cours series. I've watched three of these episodes so far. The anime is good, but it's not blowing me away. I should probably have mentioned the author of the manga earlier, but yeah, the mangaka is Urasawa Naoki. I think Monster is fantastic, and I enjoyed 20th Century Boys. Everything else he's written is critically acclaimed too, but I haven't read them. Honestly, I'm surely unqualified to provide more than a passing acknowledgment that a PLUTO anime exists, and you should probably give it a try to see for yourself rather than going off of anything I might say about it. Still, maybe I'll circle back after finishing the rest of it to tell y'all how it went.

Dated 3 October 2023: Sousou no Frieren is off to a great start

Frieren
I bet Frieren has a spell to stifle allergies.

The first four episodes of Sousou no Frieren (Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, alternatively, Frieren at the Funeral) released simultaneously. These sorts of drops (and extended-length first episodes) seem more common recently, but the first four Frieren episodes break at natural points in the story, so they should be digestible for busy viewers trying to find time to watch them all. I suppose that's appropriate, as Frieren is very much about how people use the time they have, after all.

Fern
That's nice luggage, but it's less convenient than a rucksack.

As an elf, Frieren measures time on an entirely different scale than her human companions. For her, the 10-year adventure her party completes at the start of the story disappeared in a flash, as did the subsequent decades. I've been enjoying the ongoing manga's portrayal of how Frieren forces herself to value moments that she would normally regard as ephemeral. Through four episodes, the anime captures this mood perfectly. It's also beautifully animated. Naturally, I'm looking forward to the rest of its planned two-cours (not even split cours!) run. Don't get a lot of those anymore.

Fern and Frieren
Do your homework, Fern.

Fans of the Frieren manga have a lot to enjoy here, but what about newcomers unfamiliar with the source material? What can they expect? Aside from its different perspective on the otherwise familiar "defeat a demon lord" story, I also like its portrayal of magic as a discipline to be studied, taught, and improved upon from academic and engineering standpoints. At the same time, Frieren's hobby of collecting quirky (occasionally useless) spells is also endearing.

Frieren
They fly now.

There's a recurring question in the series concerning the enjoyment of magic for its own sake. I appreciate that Sousou no Frieren includes this aspect alongside its depiction of magic as a vehicle for work, and as a weapon. Honestly, there's a lot to like in this series. I can't claim there's something for everyone, and perhaps not all viewers will enjoy it as much as I do, but I do recommend spending time with it.