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Dated 17 December 2019: The war in Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is not much of a war

Alice
This break in the battle has lasted so long that Alice changed into her pajamas.

It's not particularly sensible to demand accurate war-type stuff in an anime, especially something like Sword Art Online, but they did put War in the title, and they have been building up to this particular conflict for some time. What we've gotten instead is tens of thousands of random schmucks directly facing each other in a narrow canyon making no effort to do anything other than having head-to-head fights. Some people might claim that the battles at least look pretty cool, but that's a concession I'm not willing to make this season, what with Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia raising the bar to ridiculous new levels every week now.

<Divine> Maybe that's just what happens when two sides who don't know what war is given it a try

That's basically it. Now, I'm not unreasonable enough to demand "actually realistic" war in my SAO ~ War Is All Hell ~ anime, but I would have given it a pass without commenting on it had it at least aspired to, say, Strike Witches: War on Underpants levels of realism.

Asuna and Alice
This show is called Alicization, not Asunization, toots.

Now that I've got this bitching out of the way, I guess I can get around to the main point of this post: Spoiling the most recent episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld. So, Asuna finally logs into the AI world and is immediately beset upon by an extremely yellow blur. Everyone eventually calms the fuck down, though. They even listen to the batshit crazy things Asuna tells them. Frankly, I'm impressed they don't even seem irked that she's referring to her own world as the "real world." Yeah, these AIs are living in a computer, but it probably feels pretty real to them. I would be at least a little insulted. On the plus side, at least she isn't being racist about it.

Kirito
Have you tried rebooting the Kirito in the "real world"?

I'm generally pro-Asuna, even though she hasn't fared particularly well as an actual character in Sword Art Online as a franchise. It was also not encouraging to see all the latest members of Kirito's ever-expanding harem butt in for additional deban and to boast about how great their times with him have been. Hopefully, they're getting all of this out of the way now, and maybe the show can go back to leaving him in a wagon somewhere while Alice is off doing very yellow very important things. I'm okay with Asuna coming along too, providing she doesn't spend all her time talking about Kirito.

Dated 5 November 2019: Rifle Is Beautiful doesn't actually feature any rifles

Yukio, Erika, Izumi, and Hikari
I'm disappointed none of them shoot left-handed.

I'm being pedantic by arguing that rifles, by definition, have rifled barrels. The guns in Rifle Is Beautiful (officially known as Chidori RSC or Chidori High School Shooting Club, depending on who you ask) are light-based, don't shoot any sort of projectiles, and accordingly do not have rifled barrels. (I mean, I guess they technically could, but it would be pointless to add rifling to the barrel of a light-based gun except to shut up nitpicking anime bloggers.) As far as the show itself goes, this is yet another anime where high school girls get really into a thing. In the best-case scenario, you end up with something phenomenal like GIRLS und PANZER or Yuru Camp△. Below that, Bakuon!! and Sabagebu! set really high standards as well. Honestly, these sorts of shows should count themselves lucky just hitting the C3-bu, Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu, or Two Car tiers.

Tsubasa and Mikaze
Tsubasa kicks Mikaze's ass.
P.S. Spoilers.

As far as Rifle Is Beautiful goes, the show is basically fine. Through the first four episodes, I don't find any of the characters particularly memorable, but I am impressed by the show's attention to detail. I'm reasonably familiar with guns, but I'm entirely ignorant about the sport featured in this anime. It seems to be real, though. Notably, the sport itself in Rifle Is Beautiful sounds much more difficult than how it's been depicted thus far. If you've done much shooting from a standing position, you'll appreciate that it can get rather fatiguing fairly quickly. Even assuming these light-beam rifles are significantly lighter than, say, an FAL, maintaining precise hits on a tiny target with a 1mm bull's-eye 10 meters away for the duration of a 45-minute match is no joke. Incidentally, Rifle Is Beautiful is also noteworthy in being one of the few shows I can name off the top of my head featuring a marksmanship competition of any sort involving guns. There was one in Stratos 4, many years ago, with characters using Howa Type 64 battle rifles, but Stratos 4 is also basically a perfect anime.

Dated 20 August 2019: Dr. STONE is neither a doctor nor a stone

Yuzuriha and Taiju
Guess who gets to be Eve and Adam? Go on, guess.

I wasn't really planning on watching Dr. STONE, but its premise involving mankind (and one particular species of bird, for some reason) being petrified for eons before re-emerging in a new primitive society sounded too weird to completely dismiss. Then I kept seeing reports that it was legitimately good, so that's basically how I got myself into this mess. It turns out the anime is pretty good (I have no idea about the original manga), despite my general loathing of shounen jive. Unfortunately, one of the lead characters shouts all of his lines (which, it seems from the Twitter, is a trait some people actually enjoy?!) because he's constantly excited or agitated about something. God, just chill out a little bit, okay? At least he's not as bad as Zenitsu from Kimetsu no Yaiba, since at least Taiju isn't a shithead. I swear to Haruhi, these two are the evil opposites of Momo from Machikado Mazoku who is wonderfully chill all the time. Maybe there is a Law of Conservation of Indoor Voice that I don't know about.

Kohaku and Senku
Senku pretends he's not trying to impress the
first blonde girl he's met in the new world.

Despite this, Dr. STONE manages to be interesting, if absurd. This is very much a cartoon, but it doesn't ignore the fundamental questions a viewer will likely come to ask. For example, why did everyone turn to stone? Why was Senku the first one revived? If you start drawing the girls with Key eyes, does it increase the likelihood one of them will contract Key AIDS? These are the sorts of things a sophisticated anime audience demands to know of its shounen anime. Dr. STONE doesn't actually answer all of these questions right away, but it acknowledges they exist. It seems I can expect to be watching this show for at least two cours, and it is paced accordingly. After seven episodes, the anime is only just now starting to introduce outside characters. Thankfully, they don't seem to be shouting literally all of their lines. One of them does appear to be totally dying of Key AIDS, though. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 1 July 2019: I'm watching Re:Zero because of Isekai Quartet

Emilia and Subaru
This is some compositing.

I tried watching Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) when it aired during the Spring 2016 anime season. I made it five episodes before dropping it because I found the show rather irritating. Fast forward to the Spring 2019 anime season, and somehow Isekai Quartet finished at the top of my rankings, edging out Kono Oto Tomare! I did, in fact, expect this to happen. (The watching part, not the ranking part, that is.) I've made it through the first cours of Re:Zero so far, and do have to admit it improves quite a bit after the initial episodes.

Emilia
Partial eclipse.

I'm a little surprised how few spoilers I knew, and how many I had forgotten. That probably helped, by preserving the sense of mystery that pervades the second half of the first cours. I do 100-percent still remember the Rem and Emilia spoiler which is still to come, though. However, since I don't actually 'ship any of the characters, knowing this probably isn't going to matter much one way or another. In any case, my renewed curiosity in Re:Zero is probably a testament to the success of Isekai Quartet as a marketing ploy. Seeing as how Isekai Quartet is getting a second season, with the promise of unspecified newcomers, I suppose it's possible the premise will expand to include more than just four Kadokawa-affiliated isekai properties, although then maybe they'll need to call the sequel something like Isekai Octet or whatever. I think I'd be okay with that.

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 25 February 2019: Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is an interesting show in theory

Kurumi and Asuka
Airborne mahou shoujo, airborne mahou shoujo, where have you been?

Unfortunately, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka) is not a great anime, and quite a bit less interesting than it probably ought to be. Part of the problem is "magikal girls except adult and/or dark!" is by no means a novel idea anymore. However, I think a substantial part of the issues affecting Spec-Ops Asuka are probably intrinsic to its core concept to begin with. The anime (which I'm only assuming is at least reasonably faithful to its source manga—I've not read it) makes an effort to imagine how armed forces might integrate mahou shoujo (and dour, sadistic mages, for that matter) into their combined arms doctrine and what sorts of missions they might perform. It sort of works, but it also sort of invites more questions. When the core concept is not especially grounded in reality, maybe it's best to simply handwave away practical problems and adopt the approach used by mecha anime.

War Nurse
War Nurse is a great codename, though.

My other issue with Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is that I don't find it especially engaging. There hasn't been any particular hook to the show that grabs me, and I'm sort of simply watching it perfunctorily. It doesn't help that the animation has a somewhat unenthusiastic look to it, and I'm not a fan of the character designs either. I'm not even sure what the issue is. Perhaps everything looks too normal? I'm glad the show at least does not have a "grimdark" visual appearance, but I wonder if making it look more like an actual mahou shoujo anime might have been better. The music works at least. Digressing a bit, I don't have a good place to mention this, but Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does have more actual torture in the show than I'm used to seeing in anime. For comparison, the torture in Overlord occurs off-screen. I'm not suggesting you should count that as a positive necessarily, but it is noteworthy, at least. P.S. Spoilers.

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 4 February 2019: Yakusoku no Neverland is going to produce this season's Queen of Cardio

Emma
Emma has some hair.

I wasn't planning on watching Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland), but the Anime War Crimes Tribunal guy thought it was good, and it does have that noitaminA credibility (such as it is) attached to it, so I figured I'd give it a try. Through four episodes, it's all right, and benefits from its mostly serious subject matter and mysterious setting. Neverland is based on an ongoing manga that already has 12 volumes, though, so spoilers are plenty available, and it's just a matter of time before I stumble upon one accidentally, I'm sure. I assume this also means the anime will end without any real conclusion, unless the manga happens to have discrete stopping points.

Sister Krone
Oh, I like her.

Honestly, I don't think Yakusoku no Neverland is quite as clever as I think it wants to be, but it is at least refreshing to see non-idiot anime children think their way out of a jam. All the older kids with prominent roles are fairly precocious, and while we're not talking Ender's Game levels of genius, there is some thoughtful planning to tackle the constraints facing their plan. There is also a lot of running in this show, and it's all been animated in a satisfying sort of way. Running is one of those activities that loses me if animated in some sort of "uncanny valley" wrong way, so I'm pleased at the way the characters convincingly haul ass. In a relatively weak season (compared to, say, Winter 2018 for example), The Promised Neverland is an interesting and serious enough departure from typical generic anime that it's worth your time to chase it down.