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Dated 17 September 2019: Senki Zesshou Symphogear is an anime miracle

Maria
I like this power-up, but I admit I was hoping for another Gungnir jacking.

I'm going to start out by insisting it's not just preschool girls who enjoy shows about mahou shoujo punching things. It's okay for boys to like them too. I've been on board with this concept since at least 2004 with My-HiME, First Pretty Cure, and their subsequent sequels. In 2012, Senki Zesshou Symphogear took this idea, expanded it to include singing while punching things, and raised both the intensity and absurdity levels. From my seat in the stands, this was an anime game-breaking home run. Amazingly, the popularity of Symphogear has proven sufficient enough that we gotten five seasons of it, all five of which are currently streaming on the Crunchyroll. Moreover, Discotek has even licensed it for a U.S. Blu-ray release next year.

Hibiki and Chris
Somehow, despite all the shit they've seen, it's still
possible for them to stare at something in disbelief.

Urgings on the Twitter for followers to "watch Symphogear" has turned into a meme of sorts, but I assure you the sentiment behind these admonitions is genuine. Granted, the appeal of magikal girls singing while punching things isn't always immediately apparent to every anime fan, but there's an old graph that accurately captures the trajectory of impressions by initially skeptical viewers. It's not easy ramping up the stakes continuously, but Symphogear has kept its intensity up through all five seasons. Now on the verge of its series finale, expectations are pretty high, but Symphogear has never let me down before.

Dated 6 August 2019: There's less impenetrable lore so far in Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note than I was expecting

Reines
Sure are a lot of TYPE-MOON characters with crazy eyes.

There's a non-zero chance I started watching Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note (The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II) because I dropped Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki desu ka? (Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?) and Uchi no Ko no Tame Naraba, Ore wa Moshikashitara Maou mo Taoseru Kamo Shirenai. (For My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord), leaving my queue empty of shows with super-long titles (unless you count Symphogear). Besides, The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II features Ueda Reina in the voice cast, production by TROYCA, and I'm basically too far down TYPE-MOON's Fate-franchise rabbit hole to not at least give new installments a chance. Speaking of which, I'm going to go ahead and say newcomers can forget about trying to get up to speed on all the Fate mumbo jumbo before watching this. Someone going in blind with no prior knowledge of the Fate universe can get by well enough. Although it would probably help to at least watch Fate/Zero, I don't think it's strictly necessary, based on how I'm faring despite having forgotten a lot about Fate/Zero by now. Frankly, there's just entirely too much Fate canon to explore, and it goes back so far that it's not really reasonable to expect new viewers to have seen all the previous installments before starting Rail Zeppelin.

Gray, Waver, and Kairi
Hey, it's that guy.

Thankfully, the first six episodes (this includes the episode 0 special prequel) of Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note have been fairly episodic, and free of the wall-to-wall nonsense that saturates all things Fate. (E.g., the series does explain eventually what the fuck a "Rail Zeppelin" is.) So far, The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II has been about, well, the case files of Lord El-Melloi II. It's a detective show featuring mages set a little before the start of the Holy Grail War from the original Fate/stay night game and its direct anime adaptations. I get the feeling this isn't necessarily going to remain the case for much longer, because surely a show set in the Fate universe isn't going to go too long without piling on more convoluted, interconnected plot threads, right? Even Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya wasn't able to resist lore's allure. Frankly, I'd be content if Lord El-Melloi II Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note remained mostly an excuse for TYPE-MOON cameos, but I'm fine with it either way.

Dated 24 June 2019: Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! takes us behind the lines of the War on Pants

Mio
Sakamoto is more of a nutjob than I remember.

It's been more than 12 years since the first Strike Witches OVA. Since that time, we've gotten a proper television series, a sequel series, a spinoff series, a movie, more OVAs, and this season's Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! (Strike Witches: 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off!) comedy series with half-length episodes. Additionally, I understand there are more sequels and spinoffs in the works, so it seems we'll continue to wage the War on Pants for some time to come. The weakest aspect of the Strike Witches universe (now actually the World Witches universe) has always been the Neuroi—the boring, vaguely threatening opponents with no personalities that our stalwart witches must fight. Fortunately, Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! is entirely Neuroi-free, as the show is strictly about the 501st Joint Fighter Wing fucking around in garrison.

Barkhorn and Hartmann
Go on, Barkhorn, curse the bitch out.

Surprisingly, this setting worked quite favorably for Erica Hartmann and Miyafuji Yoshika as characters. I wasn't fans of either of them going in, but I like them both a lot better now. I'm glad Hartmann in particular got more to do than merely be a lazy slob. I wasn't expecting her to be the focus of so many of the show's best gags. In Miyafuji's case, I think being free of her Main Character baggage made her scenes a lot better. Miyafuji stopped being on my shitlist after the Strike Witches movie, but she's still better off in a supporting role.

Yoshika
This style probably takes less time to draw, I'd imagine.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the character design changes. I'm not a huge fan of this style. I can understand why they're different for this sort of show, but the effect isn't as successful as, say, the changes for Isekai Quartet. Also, I do wish Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! had brought back casual nudity, which used to be a staple of the franchise. Sure, these character designs are not quite as...aerodynamic as the normal ones, but I think it would have made for some amusing gags. Casual nudity has been missing from the World Witches universe for quite some time now, so bringing it back unexpectedly in this guise would have been quite the bombshell in the War on Pants.

Dated 13 May 2019: Isekai Quartet is a ploy to get us to watch more isekai anime

Ainz
It's because Ainz can't close his eyes. He has no eyelids.

As far as gimmicks go, I find Isekai Quartet fairly effective because I'm a sucker for crossovers. Plus, I was already a fan of the Ple Ple Pleiades shorts accompanying the Overlord anime. Isekai Quartet essentially expands Ple Ple Pleiades by adding characters from Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, and Youjo Senki for additionally high-wacky antics. I have watched all of these shows, and although I dropped Re:Zero after five episodes, I'm at least familiar enough with the franchise to understand the basic references and character dynamics.

Ram
Ram seems okay.

As far as the show itself goes, Isekai Quartet has half-length episodes and is not particularly ambitious. It seems to mostly trust that viewers will enjoy seeing the interactions among characters from different shows they already like. Nobody strays too far from their idiom, and the series is entertaining enough for what it is. Isekai Quartet is surely also an effort to encourage viewers to explore these shows further if they didn't catch them the first time around. Youjo Senki and Konosuba both have movies I want to watch, and Re:Zero recently announced a sequel. I have to admit that I'm amused enough by Ram's mistreatment of Subaru during each episode of Isekai Quartet that I'm considering giving the first season of Re:Zero another chance. If I do, maybe I'll be caught up before the sequel begins. Just as planned, I'm sure, eh, Kadokawa.

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 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 26 November 2018: I heard Golden Kamuy is leaving out a lot of material from the manga

Inkarmat
Inkarmat is Best Girl.

I'm pretty far behind in the Golden Kamuy manga. As in, I can't remember how many volumes I've purchased and not yet read, and I have no idea how many fan-translated chapters are currently available. However, I am caught up on the anime. From the looks of it, there is a conspicuous absence of the sort of animals that had been rendered in 3DCG during the first season. I don't know if this is a coincidence, or if the anime is actually cutting scenes that feature bears and wolves in order to avoid the sort of distractions that widespread criticism of 3DCG animals generated during the first cours.

Asirpa
Suck it, Asirpa.

I have been informed, however, that the anime has been truncating some arcs or skipping them entirely. The prevailing theory seems to be that it's an effort to accelerate the events in order to reach a notable climax at the end of this season. So it might actually be also cutting scenes that would have otherwise featured 3DCG animals, albeit just sort of fortuitously and not as a primary goal. I can definitely tell some events have been left out or condensed, but I don't think it has hurt the anime too much. After all, Golden Kamuy is still comfortably in my top three shows for the current season. Maybe I'll feel differently after I finally catch up with the manga, but I don't have any serious complaints for now.

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.