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Dated 11 January 2022: I started watching Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku because it's part of the 100-friends anime trilogy

Akebi
Akebi is very bendy.

Well, it didn't come up at all during the first episode, but the promotional material for Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku (Akebi's Sailor Uniform) states Akebi wants to make 100 friends at her new school. This is the same goal Shouko expresses in Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. (Komi Can't Communicate) (the best show from the Autumn 2021 anime season, incidentally). I didn't know anything else about the series before I started watching it (although I was spoiled about the twist), but it seems like it's going to be one of those shows where there's not a whole lot of drama. The first classmate she meets might actually be a nutjob, so I can't rule out the possibility the show is full of weirdos. That's just speculation on my part, though.

Yamada
A girl's gotta have goals.

Oh, if you haven't worked out yet what the third show in the 100-friends anime trilogy is, it's B Gata H Kei (Yamada's First Time). After graduating from middle school, Yamada sets a goal for herself to land 100 sex friends. I guess she doesn't technically express any interest in the friends part, but I'm going to include it. I'm going to include it because B Gata H Kei is an underrated masterpiece.

Dated 4 January 2022: Sorairo Utility needs a longer course

Minami
This is product placement, isn't it?

Sorairo Utility (Sky Blue Utility) is only a single 15-minute OVA? That's it? You're kidding me! Well, that leaves me with one less show than I was expecting to follow during the Winter 2022 anime season. That's unfortunate, because it was nicely done. There is no shortage of shows about girls who obsess over a particular hobby, but this felt much more natural and realistic than the typical fare.

Ayaka, Minami, and Haruka
It happens.

I learned of Sorairo Utility from one of the hundreds of artists I sort of follow on the Twitter. Specifically, the director, Saitou Kengo occasionally mused about wanting to make a girls-playing-golf anime, and then suddenly it became a reality. I have no idea if there is ever going to be any more, but I'd certainly be in favor of it.

Reines and Waver
I did appreciate Reines sassing Waver.

Sort of unrelated aside from also coming out on 31 December 2021 is Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note - Tokubetsu-hen (Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note TV Anime's Special Edition), a short movie about magic shenanigans involving Waver's classmates from his pre-Fate/Zero days. I feel like I would have liked this more if I had a greater grasp on TYPE-MOON lore in general, but possibly not understanding is the normal and expected state.

Dated 28 December 2021: I think I'd like Demon Slayer more if I had more interest in shounen jive

Tanjirou and Inosuke
Y'all are unconvincing girls.

Now that the second season of the Kimetsu no Yaiba anime is past its Mugen Ressha-hen (Mugen Train movie repurposed as TV episodes) arc and has aired four episodes of the Yuukaku-hen (Entertainment District) arc, I'm afraid my interest in the series remains well below the heights reached during the anime's first two cours. It's fine, but I feel as if I'm the wrong target audience.

Daki and Tanjirou
I do appreciate Sawashiro Miyuki's addition to the series.

This is not unexpected, since my interest in Demon Slayer has always been something of an outlier for me; I don't typically watch or read popular shounen properties. I presume my disinterest with the current arc is because it is building up to its next big moments and it is complementing its narrative journey with the sort of flourishes and gags that I don't care for. I don't know how many episodes remain in this second season, but I believe it is continuing uninterrupted into the Winter 2022 anime season. I'm definitely still going to watch it, and not just because I don't currently have a lot other Winter 2022 shows on my radar. It's just unfortunate I'm not the right person to fully appreciate the series.

Dated 30 November 2021: Love Live! Superstar!! is the best Love Live! anime

Kanon
Despite appearances, Kanon is good at waking up in the morning.

Love Live! Superstar!! only had 12 episodes, but they spanned both the Summer 2021 and Autumn 2021 anime seasons in order to accommodate the Tokyo Olympics. It was also the best Love Live! anime of the franchise, for basically all the reasons SDS already covered at Ogiue Maniax. I presume others have also expressed the same view for similar reasons, and maybe I'd even know about them if anime blogging weren't dead.

Kanon and Kanon
This child is full of lies.

Notably, its lead, Shibuya Kanon, felt most like a genuine person among all the various characters of the Love Live! cinematic universe galaxy. I understand there are Honoka fans with a great deal of fondness for that character's development, but I've always regarded her as a casualty of a franchise that I find (as a whole) sort of off-putting in myriad minor ways that clearly don't bother real fans. Still, this is why I can't consider myself an actual Love Live! fan, and it's why I'm ambivalent about the show most of the time.

Kanon, Chisato, Sumire, Keke, and Ren
The all-singing, all-dancing 3DCG has come a long way.

However, Love Live! Superstar!! really got it right by keeping its cast of idols smaller than those of its predecessors. Devoting more time to them individually gave me, as a viewer, more opportunities to find reasons to care about them. True, Keke and Sumiere seem more like "wacky characters" than "actual characters." Likewise, Ren and Chisato seem more like capital-S, capital-C Supporting Characters to me than members of an ensemble cast.

Kanon
I still like Kanon best even though she has fucked-up hair.

In that sense, Kanon is the only True Character of the series, which I guess is why I regard Love Live! Superstar!! as being her show. Consequently, I guess she's also the titular superstar by default. I mean, she's not a superstar in the way that Sheryl Fuckin' Nome is a God damn superstar, but I've got no problem naming her as the overall Love Live! BEST GIRL. That she achieves this by tackling relatable problems and without the benefit (benefit?) of high-tension melodrama is a testament to what the franchise finally got right.

Dated 28 September 2021: I guess Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Sotsu is about how much Satoko hates school

Rena, Satoko, Rika, and Mion
I like how Yukarin occasionally breaks out Rika's adult voice and nobody seems to notice.

There's one episode remaining in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Sotsu (Higurashi: When They Cry - SOTSU), making the new anime that started last year with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou 39 episodes long. I still don't know how different the current anime is from all the previous iterations. I guess I could just look it up, but I suppose I am technically avoiding potential spoilers even though the likelihood I might go back and watch all the anime that came before is vanishingly small.

Satoko
Well, sometimes people notice.

On a related note, I am not sure it is even possible to examine Higurashi SOTSU without crashing straight into spoilers. Do the spoilers even matter? From my perspective, as someone who knew very little about the franchise before starting Higurashi GOU, it probably would have helped to have been spoiled on at least some of the major aspects of the series from the start. In my case, knowing the series would eventually concentrate almost entirely on Rika and Satoko while basically ignoring Keiichi and Rena would have provided valuable encouragement during the parts when I questioned why I was still watching Higurashi at all.

Rika and Satoko
This was a good punch.

Struggling to put up with Keiichi (initially, the show's apparent protagonist) and Rena was the reason I quickly dropped the first anime, and the reason why I nearly dropped Gou numerous times. Knowing the show would pivot its focus to two much more interesting characters definitely would have helped. Looking at this from a different perspective, what about the viewers who liked those Keiichi x Rena antics? Would they be disappointed to learn the series is actually about Rika and Satoko?

Satoko
She did the thing.

In any case, Higurashi SOTSU seems headed for a big finish now, which is itself an accomplishment of sorts considering how bewildered I was just a couple weeks ago how SOTSU might wrap anything up by the 15th episode. From the looks of it, Satoko will not compromise. It's quite a testament to the absurd lengths she will go to simply to avoid having to play the role of a phony bitch for a few years. It must have also occurred to her that she could keep her aversion to schoolwork by simply working out techniques for cheating her way though Fancy Cunts Academy. That she never did really is a testament to how hostile she was toward school in general and that school specifically as a matter of principle.

Dated 27 July 2021: I dropped Aquatope before I learned how to pronounce it

Fuuka
It's hard work, but at least you get to smell like fish all the time now.

I'm guessing Shiroi Suna no Aquatope (Aquatope of White Sand) is pronounced "aqua taupe," but I suppose it's possibly "aqua toe pay." In any case, the show is fine, and looks really nice, but I lost interest in it pretty much just as I did with Sakura Quest, another P.A. Works series about working girls (not those sorts of working girls, okay). Objectively, I guess there's nothing Aquatope really did wrong. (I guess it would have helped had I been invested in the childbirth sequence in some way.) It's just not really my sort of thing.

Shino
Shiho may or may not have kicked a giant mouse in the butt.

I admit I was more interested in Aquatope's nefarious internal idol politics (as I was with Wake Up, Girls!) than I was in failing-aquarium moé. Presumably, that aspect will re-appear at some point, since it's a two-cours series, but it's not enough to keep me watching it week-to-week, either. This does mean I'm currently down to five and two-thirds shows to watch this season. That's low enough that I watched all of last season's Odd Taxi in, like, 48 hours. It turns out it's really good. And it totally has nefarious internal idol politics. And how.

Dated 20 July 2021: Fruits Basket: The Final was the best Spring 2021 show

Tohru
This is how everyone sees Honda Tohru and yet people
still manage to be assholes to her.

It's sort of difficult to talk about Fruits Basket: The Final because it's a 13-episode conclusion in a 63-episode adaptation of a well-regarded 23-volume manga. It's also a do-over succeeding a 26-episode series from 20 years ago which was also really good even though the source material hadn't ended yet. So, there's a lot going on.

Kyo
Is cat.

I do wish I had paid closer attention when I started watching this iteration of Fruits Basket when it began in 2019. There are a lot of characters, and there is a lot of setup, and I'm certain I missed a lot of subtleties early on. I suppose that is an argument in favor of re-watching the series, even if it is 63 episodes long, but that isn't going to happen until I've finally gotten around to reading the source material. It's gonna be a while.

Tohru and Hana
This bedroom is fantastic.

Probably everyone who has heard about Fruits Basket also knows opinions about it are almost universally favorable. Likewise, anyone thinking about getting into the series probably knows at least as much as I did concerning what it's ostensibly "about" before I watched the first anime (the 2001 one with Hocchan). One thing that surprised me as I got deeper into the plot is how monstrous the zodiac aspects are regarded in-universe. They're not set up that way at the start of the series at all.

Yuki
Look, a rotary phone.

I don't really want to write about Fruits Basket, since it's basically one of those shows where you can just sort of say, "Look, everyone says it's good. It is good. Just watch it." I can also see how it might not be for everyone. You have to have to have an appetite for romance and a tolerance for assholes. So many assholes. Honda Tohru is, like, the nicest, sweetest, goodest girl in the entire world and she's constantly surrounded by bitches being bitches and assholes being assholes. Back the fuck away from Honda Tohru, people.

Machi
People are also assholes to Machi.

I guess viewers also have to be okay with "problematic" 'ships. I don't know if this heightened anxiety is an actual sign of the times, or if it's just localized sensitivity found on the Twitter. There are multiple age-gap pairings. There are people being mean to the people they love. Honda Tohru's mom dies. It's a whole thing. I guess the Fruits Basket 'ships are less "problematic" than the ones in Card Captor Sakura, but if these are the sorts of things that genuinely bother you, shoujo might not be for you.

Dated 13 July 2021: The End of KoiKimo and HigeHiro ~Air/My Purest Love for JKs~

Ryo and Ichika
They're not flirting.

I started the Spring 2021 season with an entry covering both Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love or KoiKimo) and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (I Shaved. Then I Brought a High School Girl Home. or HigeHiro), so I guess I should have a post wrapping them up as well. I found KoiKimo to be a better series, perhaps because of its straightforward story. It also helps that KoiKimo leaves Ichika in control of her fate. It is ultimately Ichika's decision whether her relationship with Ryo will advance or not.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

Sayu does not have this luxury in HigeHiro. Maybe it's disingenuous to claim HigeHiro is about Yoshida "looking for something attractive to save" (my apologies to Liz Phair), but replace Yoshida's name here with "the audience's surrogate," and maybe it's not far off the mark. KoiKimo and HigeHiro both ended up where I expected, but Sayu had much less say over the path she took to get there.

Ryo and Ichika
Making the end credits look more like the manga art was a nice touch.

In contrast, KoiKimo is an honest romance. There is no real mystery whether Ichika and Ryo will actually end up together or not, even though KoiKimo does introduce rival love interests for both leads. Moreover, the rivals are genuinely more sensible partners from every objective metric. However, the most obvioius impediment—the age gap between Ichika and Ryo—is never depicted as a meaningful obstacle. When it is finally viewed as a problem, its solution is entirely unsurprising.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

The solutions to the challenges presented in HigeHiro are also fairly obvious, but the series insists on pantomiming a number of unconvincing feints. They're unconvincing because Sayu basically has no flaws, and Yoshida clearly feels something for her. He never has a reason to turn her away, and Sayu's rivals for Yoshida's attention are dubious love interests who quickly end up supporting Sayu anyway.

Sayu
Relax, Sayu. Wonder Eggs are only 500 yen each.

In fact, Sayu's true adversaries are her lack of self-worth, her family's disinterest in her welfare, and the story's insistence at making Yoshida obtuse. Yoshida's behavior is baffling in HigeHiro, and not just because he denies being attracted to the sexually available high school girl living with him. Yoshida's behavior is baffling because he's willing to accept immediately on faith that Sayu would be better off returning to her home, without ever examining even the slightest bit the reasons why she ran away in the first place. It seems irresponsible to not at least contemplate the myriad awful situations that potentially compel teenagers to leave home and offer sex to strangers just to survive.

Sayu
HigeHiro showed Sayu orgasming on screen.

Of course, the real reason Yoshida never asks is because the story can't let him or the audience know before the narrative is ready. It turns out the unpleasant situation Sayu fled wasn't that bad, but that's the case only because HigeHiro insists on rehabilitating its antagonists immedately after introducing them. This sort of cowardice is a significant weakness of HigeHiro, as it makes its conflicts fairly hollow. The challenges presented in KoiKimo are not intractable either, but at least they don't take on a fraudulent quality.

Ichika
Ichika grew accustomed Ryo's nightly calls without realizing it.

KoiKimo succeeded by being forthright about its romance and committing to it unapologetically. In contrast, HigeHiro (like Yoshida himself) spends basically the entire series maintaining an unconvincing veneer of plausible deniability over whether or not Sayu is an actual love interest. At the risk of attracting accusations of being in favor of age-inappropriate pairings, I'm going to suggest HigeHiro does this to its detriment.

Sayu and Yoshida
They had to put him in a chair watching her sleep
so people wouldn't insist they still fucked.

I suppose I can't speak for its source material, but the anime most certainly portrays Sayu as an eligible partner. Does HigeHiro provide Sayu with agency by having her test Yoshida's resolve each time she propositions him? Or does the series undermine Sayu's agency by presenting these moments solely so Yoshida can continue to rebuff her and showcase his unflagging integrity? I'm not answering this rhetorical, but I think we all know.