Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
karmaburn.com karmaburn.com

Dated 7 August 2017: There is a 50/50 chance you will like Kakegurui

Yumeko and Ryouta
Don't worry, Potato-kun doesn't fuck up this show.

If you're even passably familiar with gambling-type anime and manga, then you already know the genre leans heavily on absurd premises and tension-filled high-stakes outcomes that frequently turn against expectations due to sudden twists or deft maneuvers by characters trying to outwit or intimidate their opponents. As such, the success or failure of any given title often lies very much on its execution. Based on what I've seen of the anime and read of its manga, the execution in Kakegurui (Compulsive Gambler) is top-notch.

Dimension W and Kakegurui
The Kakegurui manga was also previously released digitally.

Specifically, the art style lends itself well to garish deformations of its otherwise superlovely character designs, contrasting starkly with the calmer scenes and Yumeko's penchant to adopt a Fruits Basket Face almost by default. Notably, Hayami Saori is wonderful as Yumeko, and a major plus for the anime which would otherwise be a clear runner-up to the manga. It's close, anyway, and I might still give the manga the edge. Bear in mind, I'm basically spoiled on the anime by reading part of the manga, so it's not clear to me whether I'd actually like the manga better otherwise. In either case, both are enjoyable, and the anime does not suffer from any meaningful faults. I suppose the color palette is bit darker and heavily red in the anime compared to the impression which the black & white manga conveyed to me, but it works. Incidentally, the manga volumes are A5-sized, so notably bigger than typical Yen Press offerings.

Dated 22 May 2017: Only one character remains on the Saekano balance beam

Megumi
The face of a Best Girl trapped in a harem comedy with a loathsome protagonist.

Despite some very questionable components, I liked the first season of Saekano a decent amount. Unfortunately, its Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata♭ sequel (How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend Flat) isn't working for me. All of the problems I have with the show were present during the first season, but either the execution was better or I was simply more willing to accept its shortcomings, something I acknowledged when I blogged about it. Ultimately, it's Potato-kun being a shitbag and the show's proselytization of the Otaku Virtues that kill my enthusiasm for Saekano Flat. These are the sort of bits that can sort of work from a meta perspective when lightly used, but the heavier a show relies on these tropes, the less meta it feels and the more bona fide it becomes. And then you just end up with regular ol' tsundere bullshit and a harem comedy gravity well which pulls inversely proportional to its hold on reality.

Utaha
I bet those boxes are empty.

What I'm left with is loathing for Potato-kun and open disdain for every other character on the show with the sole exception of Megumi, who has rocketed so far ahead in the show's Best Girl standings that she can almost assuredly boat race the rest of the competition from here on out. And this is nearly entirely a consequence of her (thus far, through six episodes and one pool-romp prologue) refusal to go along with Tomoya's high-intensity idiocy. That said, I'm still not quite as hostile to the show as these couple of paragraphs might suggest, so it's not as if I intend to drop it. I'm just disappointed Saekano Flat keeps tumbling into avoidable pitfalls. The show is unworthy of its animation and its Misaki Kurehito superlovely character designs. I guess it does deserve the glare of displeased long-hair Megumi, though.

Dated 30 December 2016: Shiho Standings 2016

Top-Tier Shiho

Iwasaki Shiho
Wake Up, Girls! I-1 Club Shiho.

Great Shiho

Kitazawa Shiho
The iDOLM@STER: Million Live! Shiho.

Good Shiho

Shiho Huit
My-Otome Shiho.

Bad Shiho

Shiho Munakata
My-HiME Shiho.

Know your Shihoes. The life you save could be your own!

Dated 5 December 2016: I guess Seiren is an Amagami SS sequel

Hikari
Maybe Seiren will just be about Hikari sitting on things.

Remembered mostly for its Battle of the Best Girls, Amagami SS was an all right 2010 harem comedy with an omnibus gimmick. That is, the series as a whole consisted of multiple short parallel-universe story arcs reflecting the Amagami game's different routes. This was a structure also used by, uh, Yosuga no Sora. I guess I liked Amagami SS and its sequel Amagami SS+ Plus all right, despite containing some high-level bullshit. They at least had reasonably charming girls. Potato-kun, though, was a pretty unremarkable putz, and it was not at all clear why any of the girls (aside from Rihoko, I suppose) were into him. I can only assume every other dude in that school was a cretin like Potato-kun's pervy friend.

(more…)

Dated 2 December 2014: "It's not easy being a genius" and other lies told in April

Kousei and Kaori
Ah! Ghost glasses!

Despite having no sympathy for its lead, a pathetic middle school boy with deep-seated emotional problems, I find Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) exceptional thus far. It's a two-cour adaptation of an award-winning manga that's already ended, so I'm optimistic the anime will have a real conclusion after a solid run instead of meandering aimlessly before trailing off like I might expect from some crappy harem comedy. (Read: A one-cour advertisement for some sorry light novel series.) Nevertheless, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso does teeter on the brink every episode, mostly because the lead character is an incredibly vulnerable boy and practically every other character in the show (men, women, boys, and girls) is obsessed with him. It technically is a harem comedy if you think about it, so letting a schmuck (albeit a talented one) drive the story turns the entire vehicle into a train wreck waiting to happen if A-1 Pictures should falter even a little bit.

Tsubaki
Williams Rotation.

In a way, this is appropriate for a show about musical prodigies. The episodes and the characters are excellent when they are on their games, but even a single minor mistake could cascade into catastrophe. Thankfully, A-1 Pictures has been spot-on so far, serving up beautiful visuals and captivating music during the performances. The supporting characters are also charismatic, even the childhood friend who unfortunately turns into a Childhood Friend. Even the erstwhile womanizing ladies' man who has displayed no actual evidence of such proclivities and appears to be hiding a sensitive side. Hell, I'm even interested in the mopey shell-shocked lead's wheelchair-bound Tiger Mom's specter, albeit to a much lesser extent than, say, the blond dervish (who is probably secretly dying despite her vivacious, constantly churning limbs), or the stiletto in a red dress. Especially the stiletto in a red dress.

Dated 23 November 2014: Anime triage

Conan and Sera
As if there is any chance in Hell of Sera turning out to be bad.

Because of "circumstances," I find myself dropping about half the shows I was following this season. Well, perhaps not so much dropping as putting on hiatus for the time being. Maybe I'll catch back up during a particularly lousy season that coincides with greater anime-watching opportunities. (Won't be next season, because next season looks pretty sweet.)

(more…)

Dated 5 April 2014: Golden Time and Wake Up, Girls! share a common problem

Mayu
The once and future center.

Both Golden Time and Wake Up, Girls! are good concepts with some flaws in their execution. For the most part, the two shows' flaws are not related, but there is one issue they both share: Neither Kaga Koko nor Shimada Mayu seem special enough.

(more…)

Dated 12 January 2014: Wake Up, Girls! seems better than I was led to believe

Mayu
This is just like the Mushishi special!

Most of the initial reactions to Wake Up, Girls! seem to be profoundly negative. In particular, they caused me to expect poor production values, unattractive art, and terrible voice acting. Now that I've seen the one-hour prequel movie and the first episode, I find most of these complaints to be somewhat overblown and likely inspired (at least in part) by the running joke Yamamoto "Yamakan" Yutaka himself has become. I consider myself "Yamakan neutral" with regard to the typical attitude serious anime fans seem to hold towards him. I enjoyed some of his pre-controversy shows (e.g., Kannagi), disliked some (e.g., Lucky Star), and generally feel all his "saving anime" baggage is silly, undeserved, and irrelevant.

(more…)