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Dated 4 February 2019: Yakusoku no Neverland is going to produce this season's Queen of Cardio

Emma
Emma has some hair.

I wasn't planning on watching Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland), but the Anime War Crimes Tribunal guy thought it was good, and it does have that noitaminA credibility (such as it is) attached to it, so I figured I'd give it a try. Through four episodes, it's all right, and benefits from its mostly serious subject matter and mysterious setting. Neverland is based on an ongoing manga that already has 12 volumes, though, so spoilers are plenty available, and it's just a matter of time before I stumble upon one accidentally, I'm sure. I assume this also means the anime will end without any real conclusion, unless the manga happens to have discrete stopping points.

Sister Krone
Oh, I like her.

Honestly, I don't think Yakusoku no Neverland is quite as clever as I think it wants to be, but it is at least refreshing to see non-idiot anime children think their way out of a jam. All the older kids with prominent roles are fairly precocious, and while we're not talking Ender's Game levels of genius, there is some thoughtful planning to tackle the constraints facing their plan. There is also a lot of running in this show, and it's all been animated in a satisfying sort of way. Running is one of those activities that loses me if animated in some sort of "uncanny valley" wrong way, so I'm pleased at the way the characters convincingly haul ass. In a relatively weak season (compared to, say, Winter 2018 for example), The Promised Neverland is an interesting and serious enough departure from typical generic anime that it's worth your time to chase it down.

Dated 28 January 2019: Egao no Daika teaches a 12-year-old girl that smilewar is all Hell

Yuuki
This queen's bed looks smaller than queen-sized.

Egao no Daika (The Price of Smiles) caught my attention because it is an original anime featuring mecha. But then the initial responses to the first episode suggested it was more about a silly country's 12-year-old monarch trying her best with the assistance of her loyal childhood friend, Potato-kun. Based on those reports alone, I wrote the show off. But then I heard about what happens in episode two and decided to give it a try out of curiosity. Yeah, I am totally on board. Yes, the show still stars a naïve awkward-age girl, but it's actually about a war that Smilestan's Deep State kept hidden from her. Moreover, it's clear from the OP and the ED that Egao no Daika also stars a soldier fighting for the opposing side. Indeed, Ittōheisō Shining has had a more prominent role in the show through its first four episodes than Queen Princess Yuuki.

Stella
I like Hayami Saori in this role, but I'd rather have Dark Mamiko.

Thankfully, Egao no Daika is also not one of those shows where Potato-kun spends half the series wiping out enemy mecha on easy mode before suddenly realizing people die when they are killed. I can at least guarantee this is not going to happen in The Price of Smiles. Rather, soldiers in this show display no hesitation killing their opponents even when they can see the whites of their eyes. There is still some question as to how Yuuki is going to react to the war now that she's getting a crash course in reality. It's more likely than not that she'll continue to oppose it, but other possibilities remain on the table since this is an original anime. Personally, I'm hoping for at least two cours of gripping war melodrama, but we're probably only going to get the 12 episodes scheduled thus far, alas.

Dated 21 January 2019: Eh, I guess I'm watching Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari for the next six months

Naofumi
At least he's not in high school.

So far, the reactions to Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero) don't seem to be as intense as the Goblin Slayer! initial reactions were. Then again, Goblin Slayer! came out of the gate with rape and murder, while I hear Shield Hero works in its more controversial content over time. I'm ignorant enough of the franchise that it's unclear to me what is specifically so distasteful about the show to some people, but I have seen some of the more generalized accusations levied against it. Based on the first two episodes (and the first episode was double-length too), it does seem Shield Hero leans heavily on using themes of betrayal and unfair accusations in order to make its protagonist more appealing. Ostensibly, the viewers most likely to appreciate this setup are those who feel the world unfairly demonizes them as well. (Hence the associated criticism about Shield Hero courting "incels.")

Raphtalia
At least the weather's nice.

I'm unsure this reasoning necessarily follows, mostly because I've not seen any indication that the Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari protagonist is particularly popular with anyone, regardless of how they like the show. I suppose this might be because he's been pretty much a grumpy sourpuss for most of the show so far. With a week-long break between the first and second episode, I did feel less inclined to appreciate why he might be in such a foul mood. Maybe someone who marathons the series in the future will be more sympathetic. Thankfully, the animation has been surprisingly good, at least for moments that need it, such as while showing Raphtalia's terrified expressions turning to relief during early interactions between Slave Hero and his bargain bin acquisition. Oh yeah, apparently there are going to be a lot of slaves in this show? I'm not sure if that's true, but I did read that somewhere. He's only got the one, for now, but Shield Hero is set to run for two cours, so there will be plenty of opportunities to buy more, especially considering how cheap they are on the seemingly unregulated open market.

Dated 14 January 2019: There are two Girls with Planes shows in the Winter 2019 anime season

Gripen and Kei
No, this is not a Meet Cute.

Technically, I guess there's only one show about girls with planes: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI), since Girly Air Force seems to be about girls who are planes. Both shows have only one episode out so far, but Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai seems to be far and away the better show. For one thing, the planes in Girly Air Force are strictly 3DCG sentient artificial intelligence jobbies based on contemporary jet fighters. For other, Potato-kun is in Girly Air Force. He's not too bad, actually, but the cranky Chinese girl he's partnered with is going to get annoying if she doesn't get any actual character development. Probably the real weakness of the show will be the so-called "Xi" menace which is responsible for war in China and all the refugees from the mainland fleeing to Japan. Bogus opponents hurt Strike Witches and Sky Girls and will probably hurt Girly Air Force for all the same reasons.

Kirie
The googles do nothing.

Thankfully, enemy aircraft in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai appear to have human pilots (although none were clearly shown in the first episode). At a minimum, they certainly have more personality than the Xi or the Neuroi or WORMs, even if it's only revealed in little displays such as the dipped wings at the conclusion of an air battle. Kotobuki also benefits from direction by Mizushima Tsutomu who looks ready to combine ideas from his work on GIRLS und PANZER and The Third Girls Aerial Squad of Shirobako fame. Curiously, the female characters are all 3DCG (but look good for basically the same reason 3DCG characters worked in Bubuki Buranki, as opposed to Ajin). I don't know how realistic the air battles are in Kotobuki, but they look and sound great, and the anime goes out of its way to show details of the controls. Overall, the dogfighting depicted with The Magnificient KOTOBUKI's propeller-driven planes is much more compelling than the super high-G BFM (read: bullshit fighter maneuvers) demonstrated by the AI jets of Girly Air Force.

Zero
He probably also has a video about the Hayabusa.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the practical elements of World War II fighter aircraft and the associated engineering aspects that influence performance and combat effectiveness, "Greg's Airplanes and Automobiles" on the YouTube is fascinating.

Dated 3 December 2018: Look, I don't care if Japanese-speaking Taiwanese puppets aren't really anime, Thunderbolt Fantasy is great

Xie and Shang
Well, she did poison him.

Oh. Have I not previously blogged about watching Thunderbolt Fantasy? So yeah, Urobuchi Gen of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Psycho-Pass fame apparently got interested in Taiwanese puppet shows one day and got the ball rolling on the first season of Thunderbolt Fantasy in 2016. It turns out Taiwanese puppet shows are awesome and wuxia puppetry was a genre I didn't realized I was interested in. I also found the production values unexpectedly good. Are Taiwanese puppets shows always like this? As an additional bonus, Sawano Hiroyuki's music supports a solid cast.

Lin
These are some fancy puppets.

The second season of Thunderbolt Fantasy is currently airing. (Yes, you should watch the first season before starting this one.) Not all the surviving characters from the first season have yet reappeared in the second season. I'm actually a little surprised at the relatively small number of characters thus far in the sequel. I'm much more accustomed to ballooning cast lists as shows run longer. This has also prevented the sequel from following a "sword-of-the-week" formula like I had originally feared. And while the highs are yet not quite as good as those of the first season, I am enjoying the sequel and am basically prepared to watch more Taiwanese puppet shows as they become available.

Dated 19 November 2018: I still don't really get JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (now with more Golden Wind)

Giorno
Hope you like tanlines.

Considering how many episodes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure I've seen so far (i.e., all of the anime series currently available), you'd think I'd appreciate it more. Instead, I'm not at all invested in the current season, JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind). Rather, I'm basically watching it on general principle because I recognize how signficant the property is to the manga and anime landscape as a whole.

Giorno and Guido
To be fair, lunch is pretty important.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy any of it, as the current season retains the show's trademark creativity and stylish nature. However, having a larger divide between it and the characters from the previous seaasons (at least so far) probably keeps me from being as enthused with the current cast. Possibly this is also one of those cases where it helps to have read the manga first, but I think my general aversion to shounen jive also applies here. I do intend to keep watching, but I'm hoping Golden Wind gets more interesting to me sooner than later.

Dated 12 November 2018: I've started watching the most popular anime in the world: Goblin Slayer!

Elf and Priestess
This is the highlight of Goblin Slayer! thus far.

I watched the first episode of Goblin Slayer! when it first aired, found it to be a straightforward adaptation of the manga (it was toned down a bit, honestly), and decided not to watch more. After all, I had only read about a volume or so of the manga before losing interest. (I've never read any of the original light novel.) Somewhat predictably, that episode's content generated a lot of discussion on the Information Superhighway about Goblin Slayer! and its relative merits (or lack thereof). The reactions I saw on the Twitter, at least, were almost uniformly negative.

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Dated 5 November 2018: I'm not sure I want to watch a full year of Sword Art Online: Alicization

Kazuto
Relax, he's fine.

I don't regard myself as part of the Sword Art Online fandom, a demographic I associate with "newer" anime fans (newer than me, okay), but at the same time I think I'm much less critical of the franchise than most "old ass" anime fans. Pretty much all of the major criticisms of the anime and its source material are accurate, but I also take the position—somewhat—that it doesn't really matter. Not exactly high praise, indeed, but perhaps sufficient to establish that I am happy to watch Sword Art Online: Alicization, yet not particularly enthused that it is reportedly going to be about 50 episodes long.

Asuna, Midori, and Suguha
Asuna is the best-dressed guest at this hosptial.

I think I've already been spoiled on most of the major Alicization plot developments. At least nothing in first five scene-setting episodes seemed unexpected. This does make me wonder what it is about the show that I'm even anticipating, though. Potentially, I'm only watching because Sword Art Online is a big property and I'm motivated to stay up to date since I've seen all of the anime thus far already. That could be it, but there are plenty of big shows that I've simply abandoned or ignored completely.

Yui, Suguha, and Asuna
If you didn't watch the SAO: Ordinal Scale movie, you may be confused why Yui is here.

I can't even claim to be watching it for the characters, since I'm only modestly fond of Asuna and Yui and basically ambivalent about everyone else, at best. All those jokes about MORE DEBAN? Yeah, I don't really care if y'all get more deban or not. Oh, I also like the character who died of AIDS, but I'm not expecting her to make an appearance in SAO: Alicization. You know, because she already died of AIDS. At least I think Kajiura Yuki is still doing the music, so there you go; that'll be my motivation for dragging myself through this show for the next year.