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Dated 20 July 2021: Fruits Basket: The Final was the best Spring 2021 show

Tohru
This is how everyone sees Honda Tohru and yet people
still manage to be assholes to her.

It's sort of difficult to talk about Fruits Basket: The Final because it's a 13-episode conclusion in a 63-episode adaptation of a well-regarded 23-volume manga. It's also a do-over succeeding a 26-episode series from 20 years ago which was also really good even though the source material hadn't ended yet. So, there's a lot going on.

Kyo
Is cat.

I do wish I had paid closer attention when I started watching this iteration of Fruits Basket when it began in 2019. There are a lot of characters, and there is a lot of setup, and I'm certain I missed a lot of subtleties early on. I suppose that is an argument in favor of re-watching the series, even if it is 63 episodes long, but that isn't going to happen until I've finally gotten around to reading the source material. It's gonna be a while.

Tohru and Hana
This bedroom is fantastic.

Probably everyone who has heard about Fruits Basket also knows opinions about it are almost universally favorable. Likewise, anyone thinking about getting into the series probably knows at least as much as I did concerning what it's ostensibly "about" before I watched the first anime (the 2001 one with Hocchan). One thing that surprised me as I got deeper into the plot is how monstrous the zodiac aspects are regarded in-universe. They're not set up that way at the start of the series at all.

Yuki
Look, a rotary phone.

I don't really want to write about Fruits Basket, since it's basically one of those shows where you can just sort of say, "Look, everyone says it's good. It is good. Just watch it." I can also see how it might not be for everyone. You have to have to have an appetite for romance and a tolerance for assholes. So many assholes. Honda Tohru is, like, the nicest, sweetest, goodest girl in the entire world and she's constantly surrounded by bitches being bitches and assholes being assholes. Back the fuck away from Honda Tohru, people.

Machi
People are also assholes to Machi.

I guess viewers also have to be okay with "problematic" 'ships. I don't know if this heightened anxiety is an actual sign of the times, or if it's just localized sensitivity found on the Twitter. There are multiple age-gap pairings. There are people being mean to the people they love. Honda Tohru's mom dies. It's a whole thing. I guess the Fruits Basket 'ships are less "problematic" than the ones in Card Captor Sakura, but if these are the sorts of things that genuinely bother you, shoujo might not be for you.

Dated 13 July 2021: The End of KoiKimo and HigeHiro ~Air/My Purest Love for JKs~

Ryo and Ichika
They're not flirting.

I started the Spring 2021 season with an entry covering both Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love or KoiKimo) and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (I Shaved. Then I Brought a High School Girl Home. or HigeHiro), so I guess I should have a post wrapping them up as well. I found KoiKimo to be a better series, perhaps because of its straightforward story. It also helps that KoiKimo leaves Ichika in control of her fate. It is ultimately Ichika's decision whether her relationship with Ryo will advance or not.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

Sayu does not have this luxury in HigeHiro. Maybe it's disingenuous to claim HigeHiro is about Yoshida "looking for something attractive to save" (my apologies to Liz Phair), but replace Yoshida's name here with "the audience's surrogate," and maybe it's not far off the mark. KoiKimo and HigeHiro both ended up where I expected, but Sayu had much less say over the path she took to get there.

Ryo and Ichika
Making the end credits look more like the manga art was a nice touch.

In contrast, KoiKimo is an honest romance. There is no real mystery whether Ichika and Ryo will actually end up together or not, even though KoiKimo does introduce rival love interests for both leads. Moreover, the rivals are genuinely more sensible partners from every objective metric. However, the most obvioius impediment—the age gap between Ichika and Ryo—is never depicted as a meaningful obstacle. When it is finally viewed as a problem, its solution is entirely unsurprising.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

The solutions to the challenges presented in HigeHiro are also fairly obvious, but the series insists on pantomiming a number of unconvincing feints. They're unconvincing because Sayu basically has no flaws, and Yoshida clearly feels something for her. He never has a reason to turn her away, and Sayu's rivals for Yoshida's attention are dubious love interests who quickly end up supporting Sayu anyway.

Sayu
Relax, Sayu. Wonder Eggs are only 500 yen each.

In fact, Sayu's true adversaries are her lack of self-worth, her family's disinterest in her welfare, and the story's insistence at making Yoshida obtuse. Yoshida's behavior is baffling in HigeHiro, and not just because he denies being attracted to the sexually available high school girl living with him. Yoshida's behavior is baffling because he's willing to accept immediately on faith that Sayu would be better off returning to her home, without ever examining even the slightest bit the reasons why she ran away in the first place. It seems irresponsible to not at least contemplate the myriad awful situations that potentially compel teenagers to leave home and offer sex to strangers just to survive.

Sayu
HigeHiro showed Sayu orgasming on screen.

Of course, the real reason Yoshida never asks is because the story can't let him or the audience know before the narrative is ready. It turns out the unpleasant situation Sayu fled wasn't that bad, but that's the case only because HigeHiro insists on rehabilitating its antagonists immedately after introducing them. This sort of cowardice is a significant weakness of HigeHiro, as it makes its conflicts fairly hollow. The challenges presented in KoiKimo are not intractable either, but at least they don't take on a fraudulent quality.

Ichika
Ichika grew accustomed Ryo's nightly calls without realizing it.

KoiKimo succeeded by being forthright about its romance and committing to it unapologetically. In contrast, HigeHiro (like Yoshida himself) spends basically the entire series maintaining an unconvincing veneer of plausible deniability over whether or not Sayu is an actual love interest. At the risk of attracting accusations of being in favor of age-inappropriate pairings, I'm going to suggest HigeHiro does this to its detriment.

Sayu and Yoshida
They had to put him in a chair watching her sleep
so people wouldn't insist they still fucked.

I suppose I can't speak for its source material, but the anime most certainly portrays Sayu as an eligible partner. Does HigeHiro provide Sayu with agency by having her test Yoshida's resolve each time she propositions him? Or does the series undermine Sayu's agency by presenting these moments solely so Yoshida can continue to rebuff her and showcase his unflagging integrity? I'm not answering this rhetorical, but I think we all know.

Dated 6 July 2021: I knew little about Wonder Egg Priority before I started watching, and might know even less now that it's over

Ai
Double-peace Ai, eh.

I went into Wonder Egg Priority essentially blind, as its promotional materials offered no meaningful details about the series. What I found was an extremely strong start with impressive visuals and an engaging story. Throughout most of the show's run, it maintained this high standard, despite evidence of frantic production difficulties that eventually forced an operational pause. This relief proved insufficient, and the series finale itself pushed to the right three months.

Rika
So, are you going to go back to being an idol?

I suppose it was naïve of me to presume the studio would dedicate this additional time to getting the Wonder Egg Priority ending just right. I can't verify the veracity of the claims I've read about what ultimately happened with the production effort, but what actually dropped frankly made me nostalgic for the Gainax endings of yore. No, I don't think we're going to get The End of Wonder Egg Priority a couple years later, and it's not as if episode 13 enlisted the assistance of paper dolls on sticks, but the final episode did not seem like it benefited from three months of refinement—certainly, the writing did not.

Dot
Why, though?

For one thing, there were reports the final episode of Wonder Egg Priority would be a one-hour special. It actually turned out to be about 45 minutes, fully half of which was a clip show recapping the previous 12 episodes. So I'm curious whether this resulted from misunderstandings and optimistic assumptions on the viewership's part, or if those reports would have been accurate were it not for impassable obstacles impeding the journey from desire to reality. (Most likely the latter, I think.)

Neiru
How are you feeling, Neiru? Good?

This is a long-winded way of saying the conclusion to Wonder Egg Priority made no sense. Absent a more compelling example, I think I'm going to end up adding it alongside The Rise of Skywalker and the Game of Thrones finale as the third leg of my tripod of endings so flawed that they manage to undermine everything good that came before. Curiously, though, I can't quite claim the final episode of Wonder Egg Priority itself is bad. It's not unsalvageable. It's largely its lack of resolution and its role in the narrative itself that are bad.

Koito and Sawaki
I want to say it was murder, but there were witnesses, albeit
ones all conveniently looking the wrong way. Unless....

I guess this means it's the creative decisions themselves that are bad—specifically, every effort to explain the mechanics driving the story. That is, everything involving recorded dreams, parallel worlds, robots, Acca, the one who is not Acca, Frill, or Frill's weirdo minions detract from everything else presented in Wonder Egg Priority previously. In fact, let us also add the support animals to this category, even if they do taste like chicken.

Momoe, Rika, Neiru, and Ai
Congratulations.

Despite all of this, I still regard Wonder Egg Priority as one of the best shows of the Winter 2021 anime season. I'm just at a loss as to how to characterize it for someone approaching it for the first time. I guess just watching half and walking away is an option. I suppose it depends on the inquisitive potential viewer's tolerance for unsatisfying endings. I'm certainly no stranger to them at this point, and I was never too fussed about so-called "Gainax endings" or "Gonzo endings" to begin with. I wonder if there is a place in the world for the capital-C, capital-W "CloverWorks ending" as well. I wonder egg if there is.

Dated 29 June 2021: I'd rather watch more Two Car than watch more Super Cub

Koguma, Shii, and Reiko
There was also a fair amount of anime tourism.

Super Cub is a great show. Or rather, Super Cub starts out as a great show, but is basically only all right towards the end of the anime. The reason for this is because Super Cub is at its best when it is about changing Koguma's life. Consequently, the best episodes are the ones where she learns more about the little motorcycle and discovers the new opportunities it provides her. However, the anime later settles into a more typical "girls really enjoy a specific thing" sort of show with various adventures. These episodes are still good, but don't convey quite the same sort of magic.

Shii, Reiko, and Koguma
Carcinisation.

This also means the later episodes of Super Cub invite comparisons with other girls-on-bikes anime, notably Bakuon!!, Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu, and Two Car. In that regard, Super Cub isn't quite as compelling. This is partly because it's not just a Honda commercial in this environment, but straight-up Honda propaganda. It's fine, but I don't find it as interesting. The bigger problem is I also don't think Shii (the third girl) is interesting. Reiko, at least, is a nutjob. I do love me some nutjobs.

Yuri and Megumi
Go fast or stay home.

I'm inclined to believe Super Cub would be better as a much shorter series or as a collection of OVAs. I don't know how much more source material remains, but I'm ambivalent about it now. I'd rather watch a second season of Two Car. Objectively, it's admittedly not a better show, but it does have girls bitching each other out when they're supposed to be relying on each other as a team, and I enjoyed its parade of high-speed caricatures more than I enjoyed Shii lying in a freezing river waiting to die. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 22 June 2021: The End of DYNAZENON ~Back Arrow/My Fluorite Eye's Singular Point Song for Thee~

Mujina
This is a picture of Mujina that doesn't show her thighs.

First off, SSSS.DYNAZENON is excellent. After this show and SSSS.GRIDMAN, I feel like Studio Trigger has finally figured out how to convey the sort of interpersonal tension and emotional baggage that they were trying to get right in Kiznaiver. As you may have surmised, the kaiju monster v. robot battles in SSSS.DYNAZENON are sort of incidental to the show's success. I mean, they're entertaining, but the series really is about the characters.

Koyomi and Chika
Both of them get their shit together. P.S. Spoilers.

If there's a weak spot, it's that I never cared that much about Yomogi. He's fine, but Koyomi (the NEET) had a much more interesting character arc. The bait & switch SSSS.GRIDMAN pulled with its leads was critical to its success, and I was sort of hoping SSSS.DYNAZENON would do something similar, but it worked out anyway. I don't know what this next thing is going to be, but I am looking forward to more.

Ren
I like it when they show the hidden eye of hidden-eye characters.

As I said recently, Back Arrow is bullshit. Appropriately, its ending is also bullshit, and none of that matters because I wouldn't have it any other way. Do the end-of-series reveals make any sense? Enough so, I guess. Do I wish they seemed more sensible? Not at all. How much you enjoy this show very much depends on your expectations for it. Ideally, you should expect scenery to get chewed. And how.

Vivy
I came here to sing songs and kick ass, and I'm all out of songs. (Well, except one.)

Based on reactions I saw on the Twitter and elsewhere, reactions to the ending of Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- are generally negative. I think most of the dissatisfaction has to do with logical inconsistencies, lazy storytelling, and not making any damn sense. Basically every criticism I've seen has been valid, although I'm considerably more positive about the show overall than its detractors. Potentially, this has to do with expectations and me setting a pretty low narrative hurdle for Vivy to clear. Possibly, I just have a soft spot for singing robots the way Jenny Nicholson has a soft spot for animatronics.

Mei
Extremely loose birth control glasses is somebody's fetish.

Godzilla Singular Point also recently ended. Y'know, there was a lot less Godzilla in a show about Godzilla than I was expecting. Unfortunately, what the show was mostly about was barely comprehensible technobabble. It had some neat ideas, but I'm not really sure a Godzilla anime was the right vehicle for it. Really, they could have just done that story on its own, separately, without involving Godzilla at all. (And they almost sort of did.) The other part of Singular Point, though, with the dudes and their extremely Kugimiya Rie robot, was a lot more fun, even if none of those characters wore birth control glasses.

Mei and Lina
Lucky for Mei, her extremely loose birth control glasses stay on when she runs.

I still enjoyed Godzilla Singular Point overall, but I don't know that I would recommend it to anyone who isn't obsessed with grad students who always dress like it's laundry day. For that matter, SSSS.DYNAZENON is probably the only one of these four that I would recommend without qualification. Back Arrow, I can recommend to people who enjoy bullshit and fucked-up bangs. Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-, I can recommend to people with fond memories of Chuck E. Cheese. Also, robosexuals.

Dated 15 June 2021: There are more than a thousand episodes of Detective Conan now

Conan
I wonder if Conan has ever accidentally put that thing through the wash.

Meitantei Conan crossed the 1000-episode threshold during the Winter 2021 anime season. Not counting the season it skipped due to Covid, Detective Conan churns out about nine or 10 new episodes each cours. Predicated on the assumption that the quality of these episodes remains basically constant, I have been using the series as a sort of control against which I measure my subjective impressions of the relative quality of seasonal anime. Theoretically, this will allow me to determine whether I am getting more jaded over time (or softer, as it were).

Kogoro and Conan
I do think it's odd when anime kids are drawn the size of literal babies.

In practice, I'm not sure this has worked out. This is not to say that the quality of Detective Conan episodes have declined necessarily, but the anime-original ones do seem less clever than I remember. And I think there are proportionally more anime-original episodes now. (I haven't actually compared seasons to see for sure.) I guess it ain't easy constantly coming up with new mysteries. The standalone cases based on the manga still seem fine, though.

Kogoro
What happens to the darts? I've never seen Conan retrieve one.

Incidentally, the various actual plot lines of the franchise have made some progress, but they advance slowly, as you might expect of such a long-running series. I don't have any issue with the pace, to tell you the truth, but I do wish the series was willing to explore new gimmicks instead of relying on the exact same ones from a thousand episodes ago. Being drugged so often surely can't be good for Kogorou or Sonoko. For that matter, does Conan use the exact same tranquilizer darts on a teenage girl that he uses on an alcoholic middle-aged man? It seems as if the doses required would be dissimilar. Detective Conan is going to end with Shinichi in prison.

Dated 8 June 2021: Tropical-Rouge! Precure is an average installment of the franchise, but that means it's pretty good

Laura
Just so you know, this is canon.

Is it racist to regard the mermaid character as the mascot of Tropical-Rouge! Precure? Because I'm gonna. The way I see it, Coco and Nuts from Yes! Precure 5 were both definitely mascots, even though they had human forms. (I think it's more appropriate to consider Milk and Syrup as sidekicks instead of mascots, but that's a digression.) Based on that precedent, I don't think it's inappropriate to also consider Laura as the team's mascot, even though she's more humanoid than, say, Hummy or Tarte.

Laura
It's lucky for the mermaid that the school and the city have so many canals.

I can see how someone might take issue with the mascot category in its entirety, due to various interpretations and implications of what "mascot" means. Some people like to refer to these sort of Pretty Cure characters as fairies, but that's clearly inappropriate here. Fairy is a biological designation which happens to apply to most of the mascots, but certainly would not apply to Laura. Mascot is a role, not a race. See, for example, the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken, or Tainan's fish thing, Sababoy.

Laura, Minori, Manatsu, and Sango
Playing "Hide the Mermaid" is a good recurring gag.

In any case, Laura is pretty great, and a significant reason why Tropical-Rouge! Precure is so good. Really, all of the characters are enjoyable, but that's basically the norm when it comes to Pretty Cure characters in general. I like the unmotivated villains as well, even if sometimes they're a little too relatable. Through 15 episodes, if I were to rack and stack it along with the previous generations, Tropical-Rouge! ends up in the middle, but among some good company. It's a testament to how many exceptional years this franchise has produced so far that it doesn't place higher.

Dated 1 June 2021: I like Back Arrow because it is bullshit

Atlee
I like Atlee even though I don't know how her hat stays on.

Back Arrow caught my eye prior to the Winter 2021 anime season because it was listed as a two-cours original anime. That suggested the show would have a reasonably well-developed story leading to a conclusive, coherent ending. Through 21 episodes so far, it's definitely got a story, and it seems to be headed toward an actual ending, but I don't know if I'd call it well-developed or coherent. Fortunately, Back Arrow doesn't really seem to need to be either of those things. It's gotten pretty entertaining simply by layering on more and more inexplicable developments. I suspect the ending will still leave a number of aspects unaddressed, but—based on the way it's getting there—it sort of doesn't matter. What I'm saying is Back Arrow is not only bullshit, it is now wall-to-wall bullshit and has been all season. It's pretty great.

Ren
I want to see what Ren's hair looks like right out of a shower.

Moreover, Back Arrow has also done a reasonably good job juggling its fairly sizable cast. Before the show started, I had preconceptions about which characters would get the most screen time. Thankfully, nearly all of my predictions were wrong, and the show devotes a considerable amount of attention to the more interesting characters while sidelining the, frankly, more boring-er ones. Nevertheless, I do still wish Ren Sin and her Han Megumi brilliance would get more scenes. I've still got quite an appetite for her constantly angry attitude, even if she does have fucked-up bangs.