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Dated 29 September 2020: The End of Oregairu ~Air/My Purest Yahallo for Thee~

Iroha
BEST GIRL.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!, among other localized names) completed the three-season run of a harem comedy that fared surprisingly well despite my initial misgivings. Generally speaking, the term "harem comedy" itself feels anachronistic now and less appropriate even when applied to shows such as Gotoubun no Hanayome (The Quintessential Quintuplets) compared to the label's Love Hina-era association (at least in my mind). I suppose it's probably still applicable for shows such as Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend). But I digress.

Yui
Oregairu might have been a better series if told from Yui's point of view.

These types of shows invoke a competitive element that pits various female protagonists against each other to vie for the male lead's affection, ultimately "winning" by becoming the romantic interest he selects at the conclusion of the series. Longtime readers of this blog may remember I'm not a fan of this construct when the male lead is so frequently a dull sap, to say nothing of the ones who are legitimately terrible cretins. I'm did not watch Kanojo, Okarishimasu, but I did watch it get shredded on the Twitter, and Potato-kun appears to be a colossal douche in addition to the show's numerous other problems. Does the girl who ultimately ends up with such a character really win? [Spoilers: No.]

Hachiman and Yukino
Kids and their selfies.

Oregairu does not suffer from this particular problem, at least by its conclusion. Hachiman in the third season is no longer the same person he was in the first season. Unfortunately, the girl who ultimately "wins" has her own issues. [Spoilers henceforth, obviously, if you haven't already either seen this coming or learned about it via some other way, such as discussions about the light novels' ending.]

Komachi and Iroha
It's about the future, Madam Chancellor.

Yukino is not interesting. She is supposed to be the most complex of the various love interests, and has some significant hang-ups that admittedly align well with Hachiman's character, but I never found her problems or growth compelling. As far as "winning" the harem comedy contest goes, she is the most sensible one to pair with Hachiman, but my lack of investment in their relationship makes the show's resolution somewhat hollow. Ultimately, it was still a good journey, and I can appreciate why Oregairu accumulated so much praise during its run, but I can't quite point to it as a much-watch show by any means.

Dated 15 September 2020: I think Re:Zero is trying to tell me witches need love too

Subaru and Echidna
I mean, at a minimum, at least you got free tea.

I got to Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) sort of late. I initially dropped it pretty early, and only returned to it thanks to Isekai Quartet. The show itself is a journey, and Subaru's character does change over the course of the show as a result of his experiences (read: constant trauma). I am glad I gave the show another chance, as it is proving to be much better than it initially seemed.

Subaru and Garfiel
This is not a kabedon.

It's not clear to me how much of the actual story the anime has covered thus far. From an anime-only standpoint, it certainly feels as if there is a lot left, even after 35 episodes. As I understand it, the books themselves are ongoing, so this could be a while. Of note, the anime is only just now starting to introduce the witches. Although the first season mentioned witches and their followers, I didn't fully appreciate how widespread this whole witch thing was. I'm starting to wonder if you can't throw a stick in a Re:Zero neighborhood without hitting a witch, a witch's follower, or a witch's bitter enemy.

Echidna
Look, she's drinking it. It's fine.

It's also just a matter of time before Re:Zero viewers start lining up with the various witch factions themselves. Ichidna has the clear lead for the time being, seeing as how she has been the most personable one so far. Possibly she's just playing a long con, but Ichidna also at least seems much less overtly hostile and sadistic compared to the other witches. She did make Subaru drink her bodily fluids, though.

Dated 18 August 2020: Sure not a lot of Alice in this season of Sword Art Online: Alicization

Asuna
How's it going, Asuna? Good?

I enjoyed the first half of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld because it focused mainly on Alice Synthesis Thirty. Sword Art Online is still Kirito's show, but he spent most of those episodes sort of mentally checked out while ol' 30 wheeled him around the war. Well, Kirito hasn't been doing a whole lot during the current cours either. His mind is still locked in the nightmare prison of his psyche, but XXX hasn't been dragging him around because Alice herself hasn't been around much. Mostly it's just Asuna and various other characters from previous seasons having a bad time.

Eugeo and Kirito
Kirito is really busy right now, Eugeo.

About those various other characters.... Well, there is no way to talk about the following without spoiling Sword Art Online II and Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale as well as episode 18 of War of Underworld, so avert your eyes if you care about that sort of thing.

Asuna and Yuuki
Fortuitously, meeting Yuuki was not an SAO memory for Asuna.

I like watching Sword Art Online despite being dissatisfied with the vast majority of it. A notable exception is the "Mother's Rosario" arc (i.e., the AIDS arc) which I regard as legitimately good, or at least as good as SAO ever gets. Consequently, the very brief callback in the Ordinal Scale movie to Yuuki's gift genuinely resonated with me, and I still enjoy the scene now as much as I did the first time.

Yuuki and Asuna
This was probably better in the books or if you hadn't already seen the Ordinal Scale version.

Episode 18 of War of Underworld also invokes Yuuki, but in a much less satisfying manner. I'm pretty sure this scene was originally written before the Ordinal Scale one, so you could argue the movie stole its thunder. In any case, Asuna drawing strength from Yuuki simply did not work for me in this instance. What did work was the appearance of Eiji and Yuna in the previous week's episode. I was legitimately surprised (largely because I failed to recognize them at all in their earlier cameo). I don't have strong opinions about Eiji or Yuna one way or another, but I enjoyed their surprise appearance.

Yuna
LISTEN TO MY SONG!

There is something that I'm unsure about, though. As I understand it, anyone converting their ALfheim Online or whatever characters to enter the Underworld server risks permanent character death, which is why Lisbeth had such a hard time gathering support when she pleaded for help. So what character did Eiji use? Yuna, I imagine, just sort camps out on the old SAO server (which nobody has scrapped, luckily for her) and doesn't need to abide by any real rules, but Eiji was using an ALO character, right? Does it matter? Is he bummed that it's (presumably) gone now unless the dudes on the Ocean Turtle can get around to restoring it? Is there anything stopping Eiji from simply rejoining the way American, Korean, and Chinese griefers joined? For that matter, are any of them generating new characters and rejoining over and over? I get the feeling we're just not supposed to think about any of this.

Dated 28 July 2020: Major 2nd S2 is back

Tao, Sakura, Yayoi, and Anita
This is not an enthusiasm comparison chart.

The second season of Major 2nd went on hiatus after episode seven in the spring, but has resumed production for the summer anime season. It's not clear to me how long the show will run, but I'm hoping the Major franchise remains popular enough that we'll get at least a few more cours out of it. Having a mostly female cast and (so far) no sudden tragedies are departure from the norm, but not ones that have hurt the series at all.

Daigo and Sakura
This is a baseball thing, not a Covid thing.

The first season of Major 2nd already established that Daigo's story was going to be significantly different from Goro's in that Daigo's talent for the sport has been entirely unremarkable, and certainly so compared to Goro's freakish abilities. However, through 10 episodes of the second season, Daigo has effectively applied the lessons he's learned as he finesses the new leadership role that was thrust upon him.

Yamaguchi
The teacher isn't giving signs. She got bonked on the head by a foul ball while napping.

Daigo's middle school team of mostly girls is doing well, but they're by no means assured of victory in these contests. All of them are talented to some degree, but there a few areas that could use significant improvement. Even some fundamentals are shaky at times. I'm hoping Major 2nd Season 2 continues running long enough for the team to come together, because it's not going to happen overnight. I am optimistic for an extended run, though. A new OP is scheduled to drop 22 August, coinciding with the return of Horie Yui's character from the first season. Hell yeah.

Dated 14 July 2020: Sword Art Online is back and it's the SAO we know

Alice
I still don't actually know what "Alicization" means, unless it involves energy beams to the face.

The final cours of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld began on Saturday, picking up where it left off six months ago. First, a quick overview: Sword Art Online is the franchise. Alicization is its third major season (and once complete, will be four cours long—as long as the first two seasons combined). War of Underworld is the double-cours second half of Alicization.

Alice
I bet that sleep spell wouldn't have worked if Alice S. 30 had an N95 mask.

The original SAO cast was absent from most of the previous 12 episodes, which focused instead on Alice Sythesis Thirty, a UCLA Bruin introduced for the third season. Kirito has been present during War of Underworld, sort of, but relegated to mostly convalescing in a wheelchair while Alice S. Thirty pushed him around so he could be nearer to people who want him dead.

Kirito and Sinon
He's probably trying to figure out what's going on with your outfit.

Kirito has been showing signs that he's still awake somewhere behind his dead-fish eyes, so it's a cinch he's going to make his grand return at some point. Kirito's, uh, new best friend Eugeo also features prominently during the opening and closing credits of the new season, so maybe he's going to be back, too.

Asuna and Sinon
Somehow Asuna is the only one to recognize flying is a big deal.

Asuna and Sinon both joined the titular war at the end of the previous cours. Leafa and Klein logged in during the first episode of the current cours. So yeah, they're getting the old crew back together for the season's big finish. Fans of the original cast who have been dying for more Silica and Lisbeth deban presumably won't have to wait much longer. First-season characters are not the only thing that has returned, though. Sexual assault is also back.

Quinella
I'm including the time the pope Jedi mind fucked Eugeo.

Actually, sexual assault has never really left. Attempted rape, etc., is such a common occurrence in the Sword Art Online franchise that I'm not sure I could name all the times it appears without accidentally forgetting a scene or two. I don't even object to its inclusion on principle, necessarily—it's just always contrived and presented so poorly and obnoxiously, though.

Leafa
I can't rule out the possibility Suguha just enjoys suffering.

In the instant case, Leafa logs in, makes a new friend, and is instantly tentacle raped by an exaggerated over-the-top villain (the most common sort of villain in SAO). It goes beyond even the infamous first-season example involving Asuna. (That's specific enough to identify which one I mean, right?) Leafa suffers through it for entirely unconvincing reasons.

Gabriel Miller
You can identify SAO villains because they all make this face.

Maybe Sword Art Online includes these scenes and presents them in this way because possibly a significant majority of SAO fans enjoy and appreciate them, but I'm optimistic enough to hope it's done out of deference to Kawahara Reki's light novels. I don't know how much the SAO anime deviates from the source material, but I sort of get the feeling that it's not doing it enough.

Alice
I don't remember Alice S. XXX wearing this outfit before.

If you listen to the commentary track for Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, it's quite obvious the production team changed or rejected a significant number of Kawahara's ideas and scenes. I can only guess at what the movie's original script might have looked like, but I think all but the most puerile viewers can identify with certainty which elements of the television show desperately needed re-working.

Dated 16 June 2020: If you fell behind watching Railgun Tango episodes, this is your chance to catch up

Dolly
Someone is going to have to clean that, Dolly.

There has not been a new episode of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T (A Certain Scientific Railgun T) since the seventh week of the Spring 2020 anime season. Moreover, the next episode is not scheduled to air until the 24th of July. Through 15 episodes, my perspective on the Index/Railgun franchise has not changed. It's heavily flawed, but there have been a few things I've liked.

SATEN and Kuroko
I want cake.

Ito Kanae's setup and SATEN's subsequent pratfall in episode 14 is basically the highlight of Railgun season three thus far. Misaka x Touma 'shippers (y'all exist, right?) probably enjoyed the scene for other reasons. I liked it because SATEN amuses me and because I enjoy Ito Kanae's voice work.

Misaki and Mitori
This tightly controlled facility allows kids to run in the halls.

On a sort of related note, Shokuhou Misaki also amuses me, but I'd prefer if she talked more like a normal person and less like an anime weirdo. There has been a lot of Misaki this season, but not enough for me to understand what the Hell was going on sometimes without looking up background information (like why she acted the way she did around Touma). Possibly that information was provided in episodes from different installments of the Raildex Animatic Universe, but someone who only watches the Railgun episodes will find a significant part of it perplexing.

Touma
Touma isn't dim, it's your screen.

With regard to the animation itself, the quality has remained high, no doubt thanks to the numerous Covid-19 delays and breaks between episodes to accommodate production requirements. This presumably accounts for the current hiatus as well. Nevertheless, I think it's worth pointing out that precautionary measures (contrast dimming) meant to reduce the risk of flashing-light-induced seizures among susceptible viewers means that the screen dims significantly anytime Misaka does anything, because all of her powers involve flashing lights. I don't know if there is a better solution for addressing these concerns, but I hope the industry develops one someday.

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.)