Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

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Dated 4 December 2017: Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shō remembers that Shimada Mayu is first among equals

Shiho and Mayu
In unrelated news, I'm pretty stoked Shiho is in this too.

I can't remember where I first heard Wake Up, Girls! characterized as "failure moé," but the term has stuck with me as a fairly apt way of describing the franchise, notably for its upward swings from being the underdog as the only idol show without a Sunrise affiliation, to achieving solid triumphant moments, including what was reportedly a stunning performance at Anime Expo 2017 in Los Angeles (which I missed). Unfortunately, the current season of the anime, Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter, has fared woefully from an animation standpoint, giving the impression that the WUGs have taken a couple steps backwards. The Yamakan-helmed first season had its own problems at times, but nothing anywhere near this dire. Through seven episodes, extensive use of stills and slow pans turn much of the show into a radio drama, and it's obvious quite a bit of daylight separates reality and desire when it comes to production efforts. Problems plague even the official subtitles, which continue to display an incorrect name for one of the main characters in the opening credits even now.


Dated 27 November 2017: Love Live! Sunshine!! is better than First Love Live

Riko and Yohane
There aren't enough scenes of Yoshiko without her clip-on hair ball.

I'm not a huge fan of the Love Live franchise, but I like it all right. Despite dropping the original series after five episodes in 2013, I gave it another try a few months ago, and decided it's okay. The rookie season of Love Live! Sunshine!! capitalized on the first generation's momentum, and Sunshine's second season appears to be even more adept at this whole School Idol business. It's gotten very good at meeting the expectations of its audience while working within the same group's constraints to ensure the right flavor of success. It knows how to goose its fans with moments designed to boost the characters' charisma precisely in the eyes of their followers. For potential viewers less inclined to venture into the School Idol universe, it likely all looks like pandering and otaku tropes, so I don't expect the series to offer much crossover appeal.

Ruby and Leah
Go on, Ruby, curse the bitch out.

If you're into it, though, Love Live! Sunshine!! second season hits all its marks and doesn't go too far with its fan-tailored moments. For example, there are regular gags about Yohane's chuuni bullshit, but never too much of it, not even in the Yoshiko episode about the robot dog. Sunshine succeeds in drawing upon its characters' strengths, especially now that the second season doesn't have to slog through bits about Dia being an ol' sourpuss like the first season did. Sunshine S2 has even managed to raise my opinion of Ruby (one of my least-favorite characters of the entire franchise) by positioning her opposite Dark Ruby from Saint Snow in episode eight. I still only regard the series as "mostly okay," and it currently scores 0.2/5 below the Detective Conan line and 1.5/5 over the Cosprayers line, but you'll probably enjoy it even more if you're mostly predisposed to like this sort of thing already.

Dated 20 November 2017: Just Because! is good even when it is not about baseball

I guarantee Himura Kiseki wanted to give her huge breasts.

If you're not watching Just Because!, you may at least have seen discussions about it on the Twitter, mostly about how it's apparently always on the verge of a production meltdown. Alternatively, you might also have heard about it because its character designer is the artist who provides weekly blue illustrations of buxom characters every Monday morning. Just Because! also featured in its first episode a very well done baseball sequence, a motif that reappears during the series. Really, the series is about romance, and unrequited love, and people being too chickenshit to let others know how they feel, but it's all the other parts that ensure the show works. Usually, the part about teenagers not being honest with their feelings is a pretty big red flag when you're looking for entertaining anime, but Just Because! handles these various plot lines fairly well, at least through the first six episodes.

Ena and Eita
Go on, Ena. Curse the bitch out.

The real star of the show, however, is the Photography Club girl whose photojournalism skills are on point. I'm not all that familiar with Lynn, her seiyuu (I actually thought it was Haruka De Tomaso Pantera initially), despite her numerous past roles (of which, I'm most familiar with Keijo!!!!!!!!), but she's pretty good here. It looks like Ena is going to get laid out on the teen romance smorgasbord as well, which I guess is fine as long as Just Because! remembers to retains her comic scenes and occasional griefing.

Dated 13 November 2017: The second season of Kekkai Sensen doesn't seem very Beyond

Sonic and Leo
Leonardo Watch, default expression.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond seems to offer about the same level of interesting developments and entertaining action as the first season did, but I'm still not quite as enamored with the show this time around. I think most fans of the first season were primarily concerned about how the sequel would fare without Matsumoto Rie directing, but I don't believe the series has suffered too much in this regard. On its face, Blood Blockade Battlefront ought to be as enjoyable as it always was. If anything, it ought to be better, since we finally got some episodes featuring Chain who basically did fuck all the first season. But Beyond seems to be missing something to me, and I think I know what it is: White.

Snappy dresser, great hair. Pity she's a slob, though.

This is probably heresy, since White is reportedly an anime-original addition to the first season. Nevertheless, I think White helped tie the series together by providing a more cohesive narrative in an otherwise mostly episodic series. Scenes featuring White and Leo getting to know each other better helped me as a viewer get to know them better. Aside from Zapp, I don't believe I can say the same thing about any of the other characters. And in Zapp's case, all I really learned is that he's sort of a dick, and often not in an amusing sort of way. Ultimately, Kekkai Sensen is still good (it's currently the third-highest rated show on my seasonal chart), but it's also a little unsatisfying because I can't help but feel as if it could be better. It is still very flashy, even though the screen dims during the frequently literally flashy scenes. (This seems to be common practice these days for reducing the risk of inducing seizures among those susceptible to such.) There is probably a metaphor in here somewhere, but it will take a better anime detective than me to find it.

Dated 6 November 2017: Net-juu no Susume shows it's not easy being an elite NEET

I don't know if it's better or worse that she's not just having everything delivered.

Net-juu no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie) is about a woman who voluntarily drops out of the rat race to become, as she calls it, an 373370 N3370. Well, she says it instead of typing it out in 1337, but you get the idea. She starts playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, gets herself a bigger monitor for her PC, and basically lets herself go. She doesn't even bother to clean herself up a bit before heading to the convenience store for food. It's a miracle her solar-powered cat gets any light at all. Through five episodes (of only 10, apparently?), the show is not so much about why she's done this, but rather more about the characters and players she interacts with and some of the difficulties she encounters trying to keep her real identity separate from her game identity.

Morika and Yuuta
At least she still cleans up good.

Ultimately, my main draws are Noto Mamiko voicing Morioka Moriko and Ueda Reina as Lily, one of the video game characters. Netojū has moved reasonably quickly when it comes to setting up the video game characters and having their players meet. This is definitely the sort of show which would suffer if it dragged out the corresponding revelations, particularly since all the players seems to live remarkably close to each other. Ultimately, I'm not expecting anything too grand from Net-jū no Susume. It's sufficient to me that Noto Mamiko and Ueda Reina are in it, since I genuinely enjoy their performances here. It's also noteworthy that all the characters in the show are adults, even if their judgment at times might not be particular mature. It certainly feels a lot more genuine than, say, Inuyashiki, which I had prematurely expected to be this season's "adult in the room." [Spoilers: It was not.]

Dated 30 October 2017: Infini-T Force makes me want to watch more Gatchaman

Literally the only costume in this series I recognized.

I've heard Infini-T Force compared to the CG cut scenes in a video game, and I suppose it does have that quality to it, but I am a total sucker for crossovers, so here I am. It would actually help a great deal if I had any idea who any of these characters were aside from Ken from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and Casshern from...whatever it is Casshern is from. Casshern I only know of—not know about. The rest of the characters? I have no idea. I understand that I'm supposed to recognize them, because they are all anime heroes with cultural and historical import. But, c'mon, it was a long time ago, okay.

I do like the polka-dot dresses Emi's school uses for uniforms

Through four episodes, the show is all right, with a suitable amount of action and CGI mugging by the various heroes slumming with a poor little rich girl. Speaking of which, I don't believe Emi has any corresponding analogue in any of the heroes' original shows (and it seems the villains might not either). I'm not fully convinced she has a good reason to be so nihilistic (basically suicidal, really), but I do like she caused the MacGuffin to take the form of a giant novelty pencil. I also like that she calls Ken ossan even though he's probably, like, 25, tops. (He was a teenager in the original Gatchaman anime.) I do hope more characters show up for additional crossover shenanigans, but that seems less and less likely the more they talk about all the original worlds being destroyed. It sure seems they ought to be more distraught at the death of billions, but at least Emi's house is really warm and contains plenty of avocados. Plus their host is very aerodynamic. You gotta focus on the positive side.

Dated 23 October 2017: I can't believe Best Girl is already dead (full-on Juuni Taisen spoilers)

Seriously, though, this is great hair.

I'm going to depart from my typical spoiler-free policy for this bit. Avert your eyes if you care about Juuni Taisen spoilers at all. Juuni Taisen (also Juni Taisen: Zodiac War) is an anime adaptation of a NisiOisiN light novel about 12 psychos (loosely based on the Chinese zodiac) killing each other in an urban ghost town. Their reasons for doing so aren't particularly important, as the main draw of the series simply happens to be the homicide carnival. After three episodes, I'm mostly unimpressed with the menagerie of murderers who mostly seem sort of uninteresting, even the ones intentionally designed to be weirdos. That is, except for Chicken, who is already dead now. This is some bullshit. P.S. Spoilers.


Dated 16 October 2017: Two Car looks good, sounds good

Yuri and Megumi
They're late for school, but not toast-in-mouth late.

It's not as good as Bakuon!! or Aa! Megami-sama through two episodes, but Two Car is pretty all right as far as a motorcycle anime goes. Whereas Ah! My Goddess (at least the manga) excelled at promoting motorcycles as magnificent machines offering transcendental experiences under theoretically plausible, realistic (banal, even) situations, Two Car takes an approach somewhat closer to Bakuon!!'s. That is, it presents medium-wacky motorcycle hijinks in a world which does not exist, but really ought to. If you can accept that sensha-dō is a real girl's sport, then accepting the world of Two Car where high school girls dominate the sport of sidecar motorcycle racing should be a cinch.