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Dated 15 August 2023: I should probably re-watch Hibike! Euphonium

Reina
Softcream Summer.

I was mostly ambivalent about Hibike! Euphonium (clumsily localized as Sound! Euphonium) when it first came out, despite being Internet-adjacent to school-band veterans and fans of Kyoto Animation. I basically thought it looked great, but was otherwise mostly merely fine. It's why I've mentioned it so little on this blog. However, in hindsight and with its movies behind me (albeit also sort of a long time ago now), my opinion of the series has improved in retrospect. Meaning, I think I like it more now? Or at least I like what I remember of the series more now.

Mirei and Kumiko
Tall newbie is tall.

However, I don't know if I would actually like it more if I re-watched it. Seeing as how I'm watching relatively few shows during the current season, I could probably just binge watch it all and find out for sure. Other people did. There's a good excuse for it now: A new OVA is already out, and there's even more Euphonium on the way soon.

Kumiko
Does this qualify as an Asuka cameo?.

Actually, I did re-watch Hibike! Euphonium Movie 3: Chikai no Finale (Sound! Euphonium: Our Promise: A Brand New Day), and now I'm going to spoil the Bejesus out of something that has been bugging me since I first watched it years ago. (This is your last warning: I'm gonna do it even though Kumiko probably doesn't even believe in Bejesus.) Asuka shows up. She almost certainly used the arrival of Kaori and Haruka as a distraction so she could flank Kumiko and fluff her defenseless poofy hair from behind.

Asuka's postcard
Слава Україні!

And then she disappears in seconds despite (or because of) Kumiko's very obvious desire to reconnect with her. It's how Asuka do. But I gotta ask, "What was on that postcard Asuka gave to her before leaving?" I don't think the movie explains this at all, but I presume the books do. My guess is I'm way overthinking it, and probably it's simply a postcard that Asuka had received and happened to have with her. But by giving it to Kumiko, she indirectly passes along her current address, thereby offering Kumiko a way to reach her in the future. It didn't seem like they had exchanged contact information previously. Anyway, this is a rhetorical question. I'm happy to wait for future Euphonium installments to elaborate on the exchange in due time (or never explain it), even if it means waiting years more.

Dated 30 June 2020: I guess I'm re-watching Kaze no Yojimbo

George
A lot of scenes look like manga panels, and I mean that in a good way.

Despite the number of times I've mentioned Kaze no Yojimbo here over the years, I've not actually re-watched the series since the final DVD came out in 2005. I have also not heard of the series being available on any streaming service, and the R1 DVDs are now out of print (although potentially still available). It's not clear to me how someone who wanted to watch the show for the first time today would go about it. I'm not even sure if piracy is a viable option, considering the show was never popular even in the early aughts.

Miyuki
You can tell Miyuki is important because she has anime hair.

With regard to the show itself, it has obvious parallels with Kurosawa's Yojimbo film. Curiously, I don't remember the promotional materials and professional reviews for Kaze no Yojimbo playing up that angle. Instead, I recall there was more of an effort to portray Kodama George (the titular bodyguard) as a sort of Spike Spiegel character. That is entirely inaccurate, and Bodyguard of the Wind bears no resemblance to Cowboy Bebop at all.

Miyuki and George
I don't think you're supposed to spread out like this on a Japanese train.

Clearly, I enjoy the show quite a bit, but not enough to re-watch it frequently. And I'm at a loss as to how to recommend the show. The answer is I can't recommend it. It's difficult to acquire and not really something with broad appeal. The first episode opens with a mystery, and multiple subsequent mysteries are layered on top of each other before any of them are resolved. It's also a 25-episode show that starts slowly. Even back when it was new, almost everyone quit watching it by the gambling episode, well before the series makes any progress with its plot.

Miyuki and George
The rural landscape consistently looks fantastic in Kaze no Yojimbo.

At least the ending is satisfying. (Well, I remember it being so when I last watched it 15 years ago.) Aside from being inspired by the Kurosawa film, Kaze no Yojimbo is not constrained by other sources (e.g., it doesn't adapt manga chapters or anything like that), so its ending feels pre-planned and deliberate. (That shouldn't be such a rare thing, but unfortunately weak endings and non-ending endings continue to plague anime today.) In any case, that's how I feel about the show's ending based on what I remember. I guess I'm going to find out if it still holds up in 2020.

Dated 12 May 2020: Log Horizon isn't funny

Minori and Akatsuki
Minori and Akatsuki realize they are rivals.

I finished my re-watch of Log Horizon. It did not go as well as I was expecting. I remembered liking the series more in the past. Objectively, this is still true. I know this because I keep track of my ratings for individual anime episodes on a spreadsheet. (This was originally a joke, but then I kept doing it. See this, for example.) So I can technically quantify numerically specifically how much liked the series more in the past, even though I didn't score the second season very high to begin with. In any case, I liked the series less overall the second time around. That's not doing the upcoming third season any favors. There are two basic problems I have with the anime.

Lenessia and Crusty
You know you like it.

First, none of the jokes work for me. This includes the recurring gags involving Naotsugu and Akatsuki. There wasn't a reason to repeat them beyond the first episode. Then Tetora shows up in the second season. And fuuuck, Tetora is not amusing. None of those jokes work either. The other problem is the inverse relationship between the characters' reported ages and the maturity levels of their behavior. Well, at least that's the way it seems for the girls.

Nyanta and Serara
I seriously thought Serara was 12.

The worst offenders are Marielle (28), Henrietta (28), and Serara (16). Marielle is whiny and petulant, constantly throwing literal tantrums about the work she has to do. (She's sort of in charge.) Henrietta is obsessed with molesting Akatsuki and does so at every opportunity. Serara is the nekosexual girl who really, really, really likes Nyanta. All of these characters and their behavior are played for laughs. None of it is funny. On the other hand, Minori is only 14, and the princess who ends up saving her kingdom when the men in charge couldn't get their shit together is only 15. Presumably they'll be older during season three, though. Maybe they'll become less mature in keeping with the rest of the show.

Dated 28 April 2020: Tamayomi v. Major 2nd S2

Yomi
I don't know why she's wearing a Suzuki hat.

Based on the promotional materials leading up to the Spring 2020 anime season, I expected Tamayomi to be a show more about "cute girls doing cute things" than a show about baseball. Its source material is a Manga Time Kirara property, and besides, the characters play in shorts. Sure enough, the series turned out to be more about friendship and fan-service lesbianism than baseball. It's not a bad series, although it helps to really enjoy that sort of show. The baseball parts were also depicted reasonably well. Unfortunately, production levels were never especially high, and started declining immediately. By episode four, the animation had all but collapsed, presumably at least partially due to impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Anita, Chisato, Seira, Sakura, Yayoi, Tao, Akira
They're gonna need more players.

Having watched the previous seven seasons of Major, I was much more confident about Major 2nd S2. Through the first four episodes, it has turned out to be as good as I was expecting. I was also pleasantly surprised by its focus on female characters. Girls playing baseball have appeared in previous installments of Major fairly often, but they've always been the minority. However, season two of Major 2nd is about a team that has six girls in the starting lineup. There are only nine players so far, so it's unclear where this will go from here, but it's a welcome new direction for the franchise. Unfortunately, production has stalled due to the pandemic, with no date announced yet for its return.

Tamaki and Yomi
Financial questions aside, Tamayomi should probably go on hiatus.

Curiously, I don't believe Tamayomi has announced any planned delays yet, although it probably should. Episode four was dire. I'm not especially confident episode five will fare much better. In any case, I've already dropped the show. I'm not specifically dropping it because of the animation, although that certainly isn't helping. Rather, I just don't find the show particularly compelling, and there are plenty of other titles in my backlog I could be watching instead. (See this post for more on that.)

Dated 21 April 2020: Something something DATABASE [or] re-watching Log Horizon

Shiroe
That collar would be so uncomfortable

Log Horizon is much, much better than typical isekai fare. However, as an anime, it's perhaps not as entertaining as people make it out to be. I suspect it's probably better as a book. This is my second time watching the anime, and I like it about the same now as I did originally, but there are definitely parts of it I find less interesting than others. There is a lot of info-dumping, for example, and there are a few arcs that I simply don't care about, such as kids learning the hard way how to be adventurers because nobody will listen to Minori.

Isuzu
I guess he's fine when he doesn't talk.

With regard to that particular arc, Log Horizon deliberately made the boys shounen-type dipshits in order to make Minori a more sympathetic character. I guess it's working, because Minori is the only member of that party I care about. I appreciate that Rudy has an actual character arc, but he was way too annoying in the beginning. It was unrecoverable. It also helped that Shiroe reached out to Minori instead of her brother when the two of them were slaves in an MMORPG sweatshop. I guess he liked her better, too.

Minori
Minori getting shit done.

The mentoring Shiroe provides to Minori, her shounen-type dipshit brother, and other characters does make Shiroe more likable. Most fans of the show point to Shiroe's various schemes and plans when identifying his attributes, but I think those are less important than his penchant for helping people. I mean, the craftiness is neat, too, but I think that aspect gets overstated when fans highlight the elements that differentiate Log Horizon from other isekai anime. The problem is you'll run up against a bunch of questions you're meant to ignore if you think too hard about how those plans of his work out. In comparison, despite being simple and straightforward, the mentoring thing remains compelling because other shows often try to prop up their protagonists by focusing on how great they are at everything. (For example, consider Kirito from Sword Art Online.) Conversely, Shiroe's whole shtick is that he makes other people better.

Henrietta and Akatsuki
Henrietta's relentless harassment is fine because they're both girls, right?

There are a lot of characters in Log Horizon, and I like most of the ones who are not shounen-type dipshits, but I could do without the jokes some of them are stuck with. For example, every gag involving Akatsuki. It's a shame, because I'd probably like Akatsuki quite a bit without them. She's at least a fan favorite even despite those tired jokes.

Lenessia
They definitely just wanted to dress up the princess in ridiculous clothes.

I do wish Log Horizon explored the NPCs more, though. I'm more interested in how they handle sharing their world with immortal superbeings. The show does address this to some degree, but still think it deserves more attention. Perhaps there is a stronger focus on this in the books, and I'll get my wish when season three starts in October. Well, if it starts in October. Just don't put all the attention on shounen-type dipshit NPCs, okay.

Dated 10 December 2019: The Beretta M1934, Kirika's pistol in Noir

Noir ED
MiniDiscs are rad, okay.

Fans of Noir, the BeeTrain anime from 2001, probably noticed the inverse relationship between the generally accepted lethality of a weapon and how dangerous its wielder tends to be. For example, a character armed with an expensive SIG Sauer pistol is probably just some flunkie from Soldats who will die faster than a Star Trek redshirt. On the other hand, a tiny Japanese girl armed with her school ID is definitely someone you do not want to fuck with. Like, not even a little bit.

Noir ED recreation
This turned out to be a high-effort post compared to my usual updates.

Despite Kirika's penchant for arming herself with makeshift weapons, her signature firearm is featured prominently throughout the series (likewise, Mireille's pistol). I've always recognized Kirika's gun as a Beretta, but it wasn't until much later that I fully appreciated she wasn't using some double-stacked wondernine, but rather a Model 1934—a small .380 ACP with a seven-round magazine. Also known as the M34, this design predates World War II (although its Wikipedia article claims they remained in production until the early 1990s).

Beretta Model 1934
This doesn't look particularly small in the show because
Kirika is a tiny Japanese girl.

This particular example features a rather stiff trigger and very small sights, which can make accurate shots more challenging for people who aren't Kirika. I already knew she was basically a goddamn witch, but knowing more now about her gun of choice does make her feats even more incredible than I previously understood. I guess during my next Noir re-watch, I should probably see if she ever bothers reloading. Kirika has no qualms about picking up additional weapons when facing multiple adversaries, so it's not as if she's handicapping herself on purpose.

Mireille and Kirika
Mireille is bewildered because this is only the third episode.

In all likelihood, it probably never even occurs to Kirika that she can arm herself with something else. I imagine it also has sentimental value—at least as much as her school ID, anyway. In any case, I don't think she's deliberately showing up her partner. I mean, Mireille is still pretty hot shit, what with picking off rooftop snipers from who-knows-how-damn-far with her Walther P99. It's not Mireille's fault that Kirika's a goddamn witch.

Beretta M34
Ballistics aside, gun-related details are pretty accurate throughout Noir.

This is the second 9x17mm pistol I've featured on this site. (See this Gunslinger Girl post for the first one.) I don't actually intend to turn the world's longest-running English language anime blog into the world's newest anime guns blog, but this does make four featured firearms just this year alone. What's really surprisingly is how little I've written about Noir since my haphazard 2006 transition to WordPress. I should probably at least transfer over the old entries.

Dated 2 April 2018: FLCL revisited

Mossan, Pets, Hijiri, and Hana
Drills are a girl's romance.

Adult Swim aired the first episode of FLCL Alternative in Japanese with English subtitles five months early as an April Fool's prank. That is, the first episode of the third season before any of the second season episodes had aired. Those anxious about potential spoilers can probably rest easy knowing nothing depicted or revealed in this episode struck me as potentially volatile spoiler material, although I can't rule out the possibility that it contained huge spoilers for the yet unaired second season, FLCL Progressive. Although no longer a Gainax property (as I understand it anyway) the tone and themes of this leaked (technically not leaked) episode fit the character and qualities I associate with the original OVA series from 2000 and 2001, albeit toned down to be a bit less high-test wacky.

Haruka
キタ━━━━━━(゚∀゚)━━━━━━ !!!!!

Speaking of the original FLCL I also had the opportunity to re-watch this series via its inexpensive Blu-ray set. (The whole set cost me less than what I paid for each of the original three Synch-Point DVDs, and I didn't even have to journey out to GAMERS in Westwood to buy it.) The original FLCL absolutely holds up, and remains as good as I remember. If anything, it's even better now, since there were a number of references I didn't recognize originally, and I'm able to contextualize many of the scenes better nowadays. In any case, I highly encourage all y'all to re-watch the original at some point before starting with FLCL Progressive when it begins in June. Those of you who have never seen it obviously should rectify that as well.

Dated 14 February 2018: iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA is a classic story about a teenage girl and her giant robot finding true love together

Haruka and Imber
Shameless flirting.

I was a stranger to the iDOLM@STER franchise the first time I watched iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. I mentioned this before, but perhaps I should have noted I was also mystified by the amount of hostility displayed by some fans of the original games (arcade and Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive) toward Xenoglossia when the anime came out in 2007. Although I understood in principle the objections fans would have concerning the different character designs and replaced voices, I was not personally invested in any of the characters, so some of the more venomous attacks seemed excessive. Moreover, the character designs looked fine to me, at least relative to other anime of the period and Sunrise shows in particular. I finally watched my DVDs over the past few months, and actually enjoyed Xenoglossia a lot more on re-watch than I did during its initial broadcast, despite having a better understanding now of THE iDOLM@STER as a whole. Or maybe I like Xenoglossia more because I've watched several cours of bona fide iDOLM@STER anime now, not "despite" watching them.

Iori
Yukarin Iori with purple hair is good too.

Still, I'm not quite sure how I would characterize iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. It's not really much of a giant robot show for a show about giant robots, and it's not an idol anime despite having (regular-type) idols and iDOLs in it. It's not a "cute girls doing cute things" show, nor is it an early example of the more recent phenomenon where anime girls band together to be really excited about some typically male-dominated activity, like Bakuon!! or Two Car or GIRLS und PANZER. Honestly, it really is a love story about a teenage girl and her much older robot boyfriend. Notably, the affection Haruka develops for Imber is not at all unusual, as all of the other pilots also develop complex feelings toward their robots as well. In fact, jealousy plays a huge role in the plot, as do the inevitable love triangles.

Azusa
Also, Xenoglossia Azusa > regular Azusa.

IDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA does not take itself too seriously, but does not devolve into camp either. I buy into the HARUKA X IMBER pairing enough to believe there should be real questions raised about the ED once its setting becomes clear. I also enjoy the romance enough that I think I like the Xenoglossia Haruka more than I like the regular Haruka. Not that there's anything wrong with the regular Haruka necessarily, but I like the Xenoglossia Haruka's attitude better. Perhaps it's because she comes across as more of a main character in her own show, while the "real" Haruka necessarily seems more like a token default protagonist in a franchise with an ensemble cast, must the way I regard Miyafuji in Strike Witches or ol' Bucky in the Kantai Collection anime. I don't know if true fans of THE iDOLM@STER will ever regard Xenoglossia as positively as I do—the different voices must be especially jarring for them—but perhaps they'll come to appreciate the series if they think of it as one of those in-universe television programs the iM@S characters themselves occasionally feature in as actresses.