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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.

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.

Dated 13 August 2018: I like Overlord better the more I watch it

Nfirea, Enri, and Nemu
Enri put on her best clothes for the visit, but not only did Nfirea
not even bother to change his shirt, it isn't even tucked in.

The third season of Overlord thankfully had only a three-month hiatus following the second season. The break between the first and second season was more than two years, which was entirely too long for casual fans of the anime who had not read the books. A lot of the events that occur in Overlord happen simultaneously or close to it, so it's helpful to keep the timeline and chain of events straight as more and more characters get introduced. That was a lot harder to do when I could barely remember a lot of the context I was supposed to know.

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Dated 23 July 2018: I'm calling my shot: Mutsuko in Major 2nd will turn out to be a five-tool player

Hikaru, Mutsuko, Daigo, and Urabe
Daigo is short.

The second cours of Major 2nd has expanded the story to give more depth to the supporting characters following the first cours' focus on Daigo (Goro's son) and Hikaru (Toshiya's son). As viewers familiar with the original Major might expect, this includes making initially hostile teammates more receptive to the new kids now that they're proving themselves on the field. This does mean revisiting themes about putting expectations on the children of superstars, but it also includes said children showing up kids who didn't know who they up against.

Tashiro and Komori
Damn, these two got old.

Major 2nd does give a lot of attention to its new characters' heritage and there are frequent appearances by characters from the original series. For example, three of the current coaches we've seen thus far have played baseball with Goro. (Okay, four, technically.) Although this is not to say that Major 2nd is dominated necessarily by characters with direct ties to the original Major. Most of the players we've seen so far don't appear to have any connection to characters from the first series.

Mutusko
It's Major. Maybe her parents will die.

Notably, Sakura Mutsuko, Daigo's classmate and the only girl on the Dolphins, is turning out to be an exceptional player in her own right. Initially just someone who sort of tagged along, there have always been hints that she's much better at baseball than anyone realized. Now that she's actually applying herself, it's obvious that she can effortlessly hit for contact, and apparently she's fast on the basepaths, too (legging out a triple on her first base hit). Really, it's just a matter of time before we see her taking people deep, making ridiculous catches in right field, and gunning down opponents who dared to round third. It's an odd thing to speculate about considering how much of the manga is probably already out, but I rather prefer not knowing how things develop for Mutsuko for the time being.

Dated 2 July 2018: Continuing shows and sequels of Summer 2018

Emiru and RUR-9500
The matching guitars are actually magic beam rifles. This is not a joke.
P.S. Spoilers.

Seven or eight of the shows I plan to watch during the Summer 2018 anime season are shows continuing from Spring 2018 or sequels. Specifically, Overlord III, One Room 2, and Cinderella Girls Gekijou 3rd Season are sequels, and the shows continuing from last season are Detective Conan, GeGeGe no Kitarou, Major 2nd, Hugtto! Precure, and possibly Piano no Mori.

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Dated 9 April 2018: I'm looking forward to Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

Tessa and Leonard
I guess you need to watch The Second Raid
to know who the person on the right is.

There has been a running gag for years about Full Metal Panic! fans in anguish about Kyoto Animation working on other projects instead of animating another sequel to follow Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. To some extent, I fit that category of disgruntled fans in the sense that I did want another FMP season, although it's not accurate to claim I harbored Kyoani any ill will, if only because I had long ago concluded no such sequel would ever be forthcoming. Surprisingly, there is going to be a fourth season after all: Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory. (Get it? Full Metal Panic! IV. Anyway....) Xebec is making this one, and it starts on 13 April. Do you need to watch the first three seasons before watching FMP IV? I dunno. Probably?

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