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Dated 15 April 2019: I'm watching two baseball anime this season

Touma and Souichirou
Touma is shorter and has messier hair.

The Spring 2019 anime season features Mix: Meisei Story and Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine, two fairly different baseball anime. The former is an adaptation of a still-running Adachi Mitsuru manga and an apparent sequel set 30 years after one of his classics, Touch. Although I've only read the first few chapters of Mix, I have read Touch as well as a number of other Adachi titles. I also watched Cross Game, so I'm reasonably confident that Mix is basically guaranteed to be good, although I imagine newcomers to Adachi's work may wonder why everyone has the same face. I'm also counting on at least one tragic character death. Hey, baseball is a cruel sport, okay. I don't know how long the Mix anime is expected to run, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up lasting all year.

Ukita
TWO HANDS!

Unlike Mix, where baseball has been a part of the characters' lives for a long time, Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine features mostly neophytes, at least in terms of skill level. It also features a meek, somewhat clumsy girl in an animal-ears hoodie whose initial defining characteristic was anxiety. I was prepared to loathe her on general principle, but I suppose it's a credit to Cinderella Nine that I pretty much regard her as at least "okay" now after two episodes. The show does feel like yet another show where a bunch of girls are all really into something that girls stereotypically don't care so much about, but there are quite a few shows in that vein that still turn out to be very good, so I'm willing to give Cinderella Nine the benefit of the doubt. I'm not expecting it to be anywhere near as good as Taisho Yakyuu Musume or Princess Nine, but I'm hopeful the baseball itself will be better in Cinderella Nine than it was in Princess Nine. (See this earlier post for more on that.)

Dated 4 March 2019: W'z is the Hand Shakers sequel I never knew I wanted

Yukiya
Totally normal background.

To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure I want a Hand Shakers sequel, and I'm already nine episodes into it. In any case, nobody else seemed to know ahead of time that W'z was going to be a sequel until after the first episode aired. Even now, it's unclear to me whether GoHands specifically hid this information or were just really bad at promoting the show. I suppose I could have guessed, since W'z shares the extremely garish 3DCG style found in Hand Shakers, although I find it much less visually jarring now than I did in winter of 2017. Whether this is because the franchise's aesthetic has improved or whether I've just developed a tolerance for it, I have no idea. The way the show looks is pretty much the only reason why I'm watching it, incidentally. I certainly don't care for the setting or the plot or the characters.

Haruka
You are way overreacting, Haruka.

In fact, there's not even much of a cohesive plot to speak of through nine episode. There are some unifying themes, and a number of points that the show continues to re-emphasize, but nothing I consider engaging. The characters are about what you ought to expect, if you remember how they were in Hand Shakers, although there are some semi-amusing changes to a few of them that occurred during the timeskip between the two shows. As far as the new characters go, well, Haruka is doing nothing to make herself endearing. The dumb side plot about her unspoken feelings for Potato-kun is crap and does W'z no favors. She's been entirely dead weight. I'm watching W'z so you don't have to, but if you're at all curious about what this, uh, visually arresting show is like, absolutely start by watching Hand Shakers first. It might be WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS but at least it doesn't have Haruka.

Dated 25 February 2019: Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is an interesting show in theory

Kurumi and Asuka
Airborne mahou shoujo, airborne mahou shoujo, where have you been?

Unfortunately, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka) is not a great anime, and quite a bit less interesting than it probably ought to be. Part of the problem is "magikal girls except adult and/or dark!" is by no means a novel idea anymore. However, I think a substantial part of the issues affecting Spec-Ops Asuka are probably intrinsic to its core concept to begin with. The anime (which I'm only assuming is at least reasonably faithful to its source manga—I've not read it) makes an effort to imagine how armed forces might integrate mahou shoujo (and dour, sadistic mages, for that matter) into their combined arms doctrine and what sorts of missions they might perform. It sort of works, but it also sort of invites more questions. When the core concept is not especially grounded in reality, maybe it's best to simply handwave away practical problems and adopt the approach used by mecha anime.

War Nurse
War Nurse is a great codename, though.

My other issue with Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is that I don't find it especially engaging. There hasn't been any particular hook to the show that grabs me, and I'm sort of simply watching it perfunctorily. It doesn't help that the animation has a somewhat unenthusiastic look to it, and I'm not a fan of the character designs either. I'm not even sure what the issue is. Perhaps everything looks too normal? I'm glad the show at least does not have a "grimdark" visual appearance, but I wonder if making it look more like an actual mahou shoujo anime might have been better. The music works at least. Digressing a bit, I don't have a good place to mention this, but Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does have more actual torture in the show than I'm used to seeing in anime. For comparison, the torture in Overlord occurs off-screen. I'm not suggesting you should count that as a positive necessarily, but it is noteworthy, at least. P.S. Spoilers.

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.