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Dated 10 September 2019: Y'all should read JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World

Front cover: JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World
Despite being a light novel, JK Haru is not illustrated.

JK Haru wa Isekai de Shoufu ni Natta (JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World) gained some notoriety last year when a licensed version became digitally available. Hard copies are now in print as well. Being an isekai light novel, the book is somewhat tongue-in-cheek despite the subject matter. However, I believe the tone it adopts appropriately approximates the sort of setup readers might expect in an isekai light novel about prostitution, thereby facilitating its ability to get them interested in the story before confronting them with the uncomfortable realities that correspond with sex work in general and the vulnerability of prostitutes specifically.

That said, JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World is not a grim book, despite a number of unsettling scenes and events. Moreover, the misogyny and violence encountered in the fantasy world setting are not exactly out of line with the sorts of hazards women face in many sectors of our real world. It's a difficult balancing act for the text, contrasting amusing adventures with these threats. And while there is plenty of sex in JK Haru—as you might expect—the scenes are typically presented matter-of-factly and not written to titilate. Sex work in JK Haru is not glamorous, and the book keeps the attention on the work part, not the sex part.

Notably, I never felt as if JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World was deliberately prurient the way that, frankly, so many light novels seems justifiably accused of being. I've seen enough comments on the Twitter to know many readers will disagree with me on this point, but I think this may have to do with one's initial expectations of the book and what sort of demands are placed on it. JK Haru is presented from Haru's first-person point of view, which I think makes it more effective at conveying the bleakness of her world and the impact of the events around her. Likewise, it also better communicates the joy she finds when she pursues various recreational diversions or actually has sex she enjoys. It also avoids presenting the violence in her world or the sadism she encounters as elements the reader is expected to like (unlike the corresponding scenes in some other light novels I might name). There are surely readers who do prefer that sort of content and wish JK Haru had more of it, but I'm inclined to regard that as an indictment against those readers themselves and not the text for obstensibly failing to omit it.

Incidentally, the various twists and reveals in JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World are good enough that I recommend a spoiler-avoidance posture if you expect to read it.

Dated 30 July 2019: Nobody knew a Mari Okada sex disaster would have so much drama

Rika
Rika could stand to be a little less uptight.

Actually, wait, the title of this post is a lie. Probably everybody did. I, for one, am in it for the potential wall-to-wall traumarama. Somehow, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo. (O Maidens in Your Savage Season) is my top Summer 2019 show through four episodes, even though I typically hate a lot of Okada Mari's work. Anohana is the best example of this, being a highly praised show about Deep Feelings which drove me nuts with its bullshit and lazy contrivances. On the other hand, I'm riveted in my front-row seat for Araoto as its melodrama plays out. So far, its themes of unrequited love, envy, lust, and cruelty are not especially unique, but they also don't have to be. Everything just works and I'm happy to see its characters struggle to make sense of this challenging stage in their lives.

Kazusa
We're going to be seeing this face a lot, I suspect.

With regard to my own feelings about the Okada-isms in Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo., it's not as if there haven't been shows I've liked despite of (or potentially because of) her contributions to them. Additionally, it's entirely unclear to me whether my opinions on Okada-type works are simply unreliable, whether the shows I end up liking were fixed by other collaborators, or whether it turns out I actually do like her work, but it's other people in the production cycle who fuck it up along the way. Seeing as how the Araoto anime is based on a manga that Okada Mari is authoring herself, there's a genuine possibility that "Pure Okada" is legitimately good, and sour products such as Anohana result from other cooks dumping shit into her broth. Or I suppose maybe I'm just finding her more palatable over the years.

Dated 17 June 2019: Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai is no B Gata H Kei

Ao
What does it mean if her pupils turn into hearts?

As I wrote earlier, I started watching Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (Ao-chan Can't Study!) by accident. I've dropped Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn: BOKUBEN), but I'm still watching Ao-chan. It's all right, but not great. Although the episodes are half-length, the story has advanced far enough that its titular character has fully accepted that she very much wants her crush to put the wood to her. Naturally, he's too much of a pure-pure boy to do anything about it, despite the wildly off-base reputation Ao-chan had associated with him, and despite her increasingly open advances. I don't know what happens in the manga, but it seems all but assured that anime-type Ao will fail in her attempts at having the sex.

Ao
Wait, then what does it mean if her pupils turn into Debian?

B Gata H Kei (Yamada's First Time) similarly features a sexually frustrated girl who can't seem to get laid despite her best efforts. There are important differences between B Gata H Kei and Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, though. Notably, actual chemistry develops between Yamada and Kosuda; I'm not really buying Ao's relationship with Takumi. Kosuda and Takumi both seem like reasonably fine fellows, and Ao does seem several degrees less insane than Yamada, but I like Yamada and Kosuda quite a bit more than Ao and Takumi, both as individuals and as couples. B Gata H Kei also has a supporting cast that adds to the story. Usually I find that if a show is going to go wrong with its supporting characters, it fails by adding too many of them. Ao-chan Can't Study! somehow doesn't have enough of them, or at least doesn't have any that improve the series at all. They're basically dead weight.

Kosuda and Yamada
Does it mean she's open for sourcing?

I guess B Gata H Kei has the advantage of having twice the run time, relative to Ao-chan's half-length episodes. Oddly, it's the former that's based on a 4-koma comic strip, while the latter is sourced from a regular manga series. The Ao-chan anime does still have the opportunity to turn things around, depending on how its ending goes. The, uh, climax to B Gata H Kei anime does not, um, perform quite as well as the comic's. It probably could use an OVA, although I suspect this is going to end up being true of both shows.

Dated 22 April 2019: There are at least two shows this season about not being able to study

Uruka
Lucky for Potato-kun, Uruka is tsundere, not yandere.

I guess I did know ahead of time that there were two shows with Benkyou ga Dekinai in the title, but managed to forget when the season started. In any event, I had decided to watch Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn: BOKUBEN) and skip Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (Ao-chan Can't Study!) based on their descriptions, and because Bokuben at least had some people on the Twitter mildly looking forward to it. Well, I ended up watching the first episode of Ao-chan by accident (it aired first) and decided to stick with it.

Takumi and Ao
Dude is literally sniffing his hand after groping Ao's thighs.

After three episodes of each, I'm going to continue watching Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai and I'm dropping Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai. I was concerned Ao-chan's little goblin father was going to ruin the show for me, particularly after his antics in the first episode, but I'm relieved to discover the show itself is pretty much a straightforward sex comedy about misunderstandings. One key that allows the show to work for me is that both Ao and her love interest are actually already into each other, and probably should be engaging in activities that might inadvertently help address Japan's declining birth rates, but they're both pretty dense. This is a small (but appreciated) departure from the usual formula where both parties are 100-percent pure. Ao-chan Can't Study! might end up being that way too, since—let's face it—anime is fucking chickenshit, but the show is okay for now. It also helps that the episodes are only half-length.

Nariyuki and Fumino
I guess now she can't get married.

Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, on the other hand, drags. I get the feeling that I would probably be okay with some of its cliches in manga form, because a reader can just blow through at his own pace. But the anime spends entirely too much time on antics I've seen plenty of times before and don't feel compelled to revisit. Most of the show's fans seem to have been fans of the manga first, but I'm not sure how they regard the adaptation specifically. I, for one, could do with less Postmodern Tsundere bullshit. I'm actually even okay with all the characters. I guess even Potato-kun has his own positive qualities, but the show absolutely does not work for me. Frankly, I stopped caring whether these BOKUBEN bonklers manage to study or not. I can't guarantee I won't also tire of Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai too, but for the time being I hope she goes all season not being able to study.

Dated 11 February 2019: I'm still watching Sword Art Online: Alicization

Cardinal, Kirito, and Eugeo
A mid-fight flashback so Cardinal can explain Eugeo's attack.

Claims that the Alicization arc of Sword Art Online is the "good one" may have been exaggerated. It's different enough from the previous SAO arc that it at least seems to be the result of writing styles and priorities changing, but whether it's necessarily better is debatable. From an SAO-tolerant non-fan's perspective, its biggest problem to me is that it's not very engaging. I'm basically only watching the show now out of general principle, and not because I care about the outcomes or the characters.

Asuna
Fuck your deban, Asuna.

Frankly, the show sort of drags. That's probably my biggest problem with it. I suppose other viewers might argue that the sexual assaults are a much bigger problem, but those aren't unique to Sword Art Online: Alicization. They're about par for the course when you consider the previous times the subject has appeared in the franchise. (For what it's worth, Kawahara claims he's moving beyond this sort of thing henceforth, but I presume that won't impact future episodes of Alicization, which I believe is based on already completed light novels.)

Alice and Kirito
This ledge keeps changing size.

Alicization strikes me as a series that contains too many elements that might work as text, but bogs down the viewing experience in anime form. Not having read the books, I can't authoritatively claim that's really the case, but it at least seems all the explanations and details that constantly interrupt the anime's narrative must originate from the light novels. I'm starting to see indications there may be a break before Alicization's final two cours. I can't see that being good for the show's pacing, but I guess I'll find out once that third cours starts, whenever that is.

Dated 20 August 2018: I'm still watching ISLAND for some reason

Setsuna and Rinne
This counts as chemistry, right?

I started watching ISLAND basically for the same reason as Anime War Crime Tribunal. I.e., hoping it would be entertainingly bad. I guess not entirely for the same reason. I'm also partially in it for the Yukarin lead and, uh, I guess maybe that's it. Unfortunately, ISLAND has been mostly unremarkable. It does have some wacky twists and unexpected revelations, but they are the sort that mostly just don't make much sense and not the variety that might stun you with disbelief. I guess I'm complaining that it is not sufficiently schlock.

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Dated 18 June 2018: Previewing new shows for Summer 2018

Yuki
Maybe she has PE first period?

After two strong anime seasons, I'm mostly ambivalent about the upcoming Summer 2018 season. The shows I'm most interested in (Overlord III, Major 2nd, and Hugtto! Precure) are all either sequels or continuations of existing shows. Thanks to the sheer volume of anime that comes out each season now, I'm sure I'll find plenty of acceptably amusing titles to watch, but I'm otherwise merely mildly optimistic about the synopses I've read and the PVs I've watched.

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Dated 12 June 2018: In defense of DARLING in the FRANXX

Mitsuru
Look, it ain't that bad, okay.

Depending on which corner of the anime fandom you find yourself, I imagine you're either on the side that doesn't believe DARLING in the FRANXX needs defending, or in the camp that doesn't believe it deserves defending. My basic perspective on the show is that it is not capital-G Good, nor is it part of the "bad but has good parts in it" category, but rather that it is a flawed result of some efforts that I genuinely appreciate.

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