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Dated 21 June 2022: Mahoutsukai Reimeiki is not as good as Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho

Zero
I would later watch Toji no Miko because of the character designer.

I guess I never wrote a proper blog entry for Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho (Grimoire of Zero) from the Spring 2017 anime season. It was all right. I liked Miss Not Shimakaze, and I was able to pad my list of anime about loving books. Consequently, when I learned this season's Mahoutsukai Reimeiki (The Dawn of the Witch) was a spin-off with sequel-type continuity, I figured it was worth giving a try.

Roux and Sable
She's standing on a chair because she's short.

Well, it's not great. I can't even blame it all on Potato-kun, even though the series made him as dull as possible. The show is just not very good, and I'm not interested in any of the characters—not even the returning ones who I liked in Grimoire of Zero. I'm already 10 episodes into it, so I'll still finish it out. Somehow, I'm still disappointed despite never having high hopes in the first place.

Dated 3 May 2022: I'm watching two sports anime: Birdie Wing and Gunjou no Fanfare

Eve and Viper
Underground golf does not have to take place underground.

BIRDIE WING -Golf Girls' Story- has the misfortune of coming right on the heels of Sorairo Utility, giving it a sort of distasteful corporate flavor in comparison. I don't know if that's actually justified, but it sure is odd that we got two girls-playing-golf shows in back-to-back seasons after years of no golf anime at all. Still, Birdie Wing isn't nearly as wacky as it needs to be, although episode four was progress. It is set in Nafrece, so it potentially takes place in the same universe as Madlax (and Valkyrie Drive, of all things), but Eve hasn't started golfing in a white cocktail dress within the first four episodes.

Aki
Some of these dudes are dicks to each other, but they're also sort of tsundere.

Gunjou no Fanfare (Fanfare of Adolescence), on the other hand, is too wacky. Or at least its first episode was. It's toned it down since then. I'm mostly thinking of utterly implausible and entirely unnecessary contrivances such as a truck blowing over in the wind (?!) and the genki kid being a natural despite never having ridden a horse before. None of that was necessary. What is necessary is a substantial increase in screen time for the token girl. I was really hoping prior to the start of the series that the token girl was actually a secret girl who was busting through sexist horse-racing-school conventions, but that turned out to not be the case.

Aki, Hayato, Soujirou, Eri, Shun, Kouta, and Yuu
Eri's thighs don't touch.

Really, Gunjou no Fanfare is just about boys on horses doing boys-on-horses things. I suspect the show is meant to also sort of be fujoshi bait, but I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of what that entails. That's a question for Ogiue Maniax. In terms of the anime themselves, both Birdie Wing and Fanfare of Adolescence are "fine," but I wouldn't characterize either as must-see shows of the Spring 2022 anime season by any stretch of the imagination.

Dated 9 November 2021: Taishou Otome Otogibanashi might actually be playing it straight

Yuzuki and Tamahiko
Kiss her, you idiot.

Taishō Otome Otogibanashi (Taishō Otome Fairy Tale) is about a Taishou-era 17-year-old rich kid who loses the use of his right arm in a car accident that also kills his mother. Subsequently, his hateful father banishes him out of sight to a house overlooking a small village. Oh, and the father buys the guy a tiny, freakishly cheerful, 14-year-old girl to be the dour boy's wife.

Yuzuki and Tamahiko
Those are some colorful straps.

I was expecting some plot twists leading to melodrama, or at least a revelation or two about why the girl is so pleasant all the time despite her predicament. Tamahiko, the boy, has a fairly negative outlook on the world, and the series balances this with Yuzuki's constant—and apparently earnest—cheerfulness. After five episodes, it's looking less and less like Yuzuki might be harboring some dark secret. Maybe this series really is what it appears to be.

Tamako and Tamahiko
Dude's 12-year-old sister turned out to be okay.

I will be disappointed if Yuzuki simply has no problems with being sold as a child bride to a complete stranger to help cover a family member's debt, and lacks any agency or complex character traits of her own. It's probably also worth pointing out some similarities to Ai Yori Aoshi also exist, at least on the surface level. Unfortunately, as flawed as Ai Yori Aoshi is, it still bests Taishou Otome Otogibanashi in terms of both drama and romance. Nevertheless, I plan to continue watching Taisho Otome Fairy Tale. The show itself is fine. I don't genuinely have any meaningful issues with it, even if it is seemingly offensive in principle.

Dated 12 October 2021: I am enjoying Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu

Anya
Nice hat.

Cold War PseudoSoviets sending a vampire into space is an interesting enough premise that I would give Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu (localized as either Moon, Laika, and the Bloodsucking Princess or Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut) a chance on general principle. Having Hayashibara Megumi voice the lead role seals it. (She's had plenty of lead roles, but this is much less common these days.) Giving it an OP by ALI PROJECT is also a bonus.

Irina and Lev
The tubes contain cosmonaut food. I wonder if there is also CMYK cosmonaut food.

I like that Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu rejects most of the typical vampire lore. Irina is also not physically superior to the human candidates by some unreachable degree. She is better, since she can nearly keep up—despite an utter lack of any prior training—with the human candidate who had been working for some time toward becoming the first cosmonaut before becoming her trainer.

Anya, Irina, and Lev
Anya measured Irina's blood pressure, and she can bleed, so I guess she's not undead.

I originally assumed the NotSoviets wanted a vampire cosmonaut because of their inherent survivability or reduced need for life-support systems, but it turns out it has more to do with how vampires are regarded in that world as a sub-human race. Therefore, they are test subjects treated as expendable and useful to a nascent space program sort of the way dogs and monkeys are.

Irina and Anya
She's wearing the muzzle because of racism.

There are some light-novel elements in the series that hold it back to some degree (minor tsundere dishonesty, some jerkface assholes, stuff like that), but nothing that significantly detracts from my overall enjoyment of the show so far. I'm hoping we can avoid a vampires-are-people-too arc, but that's probably inevitable considering our vampire cosmonaut is a 43-kilogram girl who hides vulnerable emotions and not, y'know, Alucard from Hellsing.

Dated 7 September 2021: Kanojo mo Kanojo is a great show because it is preposterous

Nagisa, Naoya, and Saki
It's a pragmatic solution. Don't just dismiss it out of hand.

Not having a whole lot else to watch from the Summer 2021 anime season, I decided to give Kanojo mo Kanojo (Girlfriend, Girlfriend) a try on a goof. It turns out it's sort of fantastic. I initially assumed it was going to another one of those dreary harem comedies with a loathsome male protagonist surrounded by multiple girls who are entirely out of his league and yet inexplicably attracted to him. Or that it was going to be on of those dreary harem comedies where Potato-kun is actually sort of an all right dude, but is inexplicably incapable of noticing that every girl he comes into contact with keeps throwing her panties at him. It turns out Kanojo mo Kanojo is neither of those things. Rather, it's got some manner of Möbius strip horseshoe theory thing going on where all the environmental factors and character decisions that should be working to the show's detriment end up making it better.

Naoya and Nagisa
Busted.

It's no accident Kanojo mo Kanojo is working out this way. The recurring focus of the show's various dilemmas is on an unending series of incorruptibly honest decisions to pursue uncompromising choices that should result in self-destructive consequences by any reasonable objective standard. And yet it all continues to work out. I can't vouch for the manga source material, but the anime embraces the absurdity of its premise and absolutely succeeds in its execution.

Naoya and Saki
Never gonna happen.

Significantly, there is no hint of melodrama. That is something Girlfriend, Girlfriend really cannot afford. If Kanojo mo Kanojo ever decides to examine the consequences and societal frictions associated with polyamorous relationships, or attempts to position the various love interests against each other from hostile postures of envy or jealousy, it will do so at its peril. There had also better not be any of that typical harem comedy bullshit where a series gets its viewers to root for one of the girls to "win." (If it does, the erstwhile winner will probably be First Girl Childhood Friend, even though she has nothing in her favor compared to her rivals except for her hair.)

Rika, Naoya, Nagisa, and Saki
Busted.

Even though I only started watching Girlfriend, Girlfriend a short while ago, it did not take long before I caught up. There are currently 10 episodes out so far and only two to go. Since the source manga still seems to be running (I think eight volumes are out), a non-ending ending to the anime is probably basically guaranteed. I don't know how far Kanojo mo Kanojo can take its premise without getting derailed, but I would be in favor of additional seasons if it can keep up the show's high-intensity, relentless pace episode after episode without running out of steam.

Dated 24 August 2021: My hopes for Fena: Pirate Princess (Kaizoku Oujo) sank

Fena
I can tell she's a pirate because of how she's dressed.

Fena: Pirate Princess (Kaizoku Oujo) is a Crunchyroll and Adult Swim co-production that did not begin until mid-August. It's a simulcast with the subtitled episodes releasing on the Crunchyroll while the English dub airs on Adult Swim. I don't know if this late start (relative to other Summer 2021 anime) is to align its schedule with the rest of the Adult Swim lineup, but it seems the Japanese broadcast will not begin until October.

Yukimaru
Ain't this guy, like, 16?

It's not a bad show, even though I'm dropping it after three episodes during a season when I'm already not watching nearly as much as I typically do. I wouldn't call it a good show, either, though. I genuinely can't tell if Fena: Pirate Princess actually does seem more like a Western cartoon instead of a Japanese anime, or if I'm just biased into feeling that way because I know it's a co-production between the Crunchyroll and Adult Swim. After all, I haven't even bothered to investigate who is working on the show. It's just an impression I can't shake.

Karin and Fena
These ninja pirates could use a better barber.

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter if the reason why I'm less into Kaizoku Oujo is because it is "not anime enough" or some other reason, since I just don't find the show engaging enough to keep watching either way. I'm not at all invested in Fena, or the ninja pirates (ninja pirates!) she's hanging out with now, nor am I interested in the antagonists pursuing her, even though some of them clearly benefit from character-design-based plot armor. I guess I do like the ninja pirate voiced by Yuuki Aoi okay, but that's possibly only because of her fucked-up bangs.

Hanna
Hanna could probably benefit from a rear sight or two on that gun.

The show's tone is also unusually light, despite (mostly obscured) violence and bloodletting. I wouldn't call it tonal whiplash, because there haven't been any moments in the first three episodes that I would characterize as deeply dramatic. The bigger problem is the jokes and whimsy aren't working for me. Some of the visual gags might work in a full-on wacky ninja-pirate adventure show. In any case, I'm out, but it's probably still worth investigating for yourself to see if it's your sort of thing.

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.