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Dated 14 January 2020: 22/7, In/Spectre, and Fate/Baby are my top three shows of the Winter 2020 anime season

Ishtar
Ishtar is a game-breaking home run.

If you believe in my B.S. episode ratings, Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia) is my highest-ranked show so far this season. Fate/Baby sure sounds great and looks fuckin' fantastic, but I can't exactly call it a good show. It's one of those anime where I can't quite care about what happens, and it probably only genuinely makes sense to people who are enthusiastic about the Fate/Grand Order game. But none of that presents much of an obstacle to my ability to enjoy the series. I mentioned that it sounds great, and that's not just because it features Ueda Kana yammering back and forth on a regular basis. The audio mix for the sound effects during the frequent battles makes for an entertaining experience if you've bothered with an audio setup that can take advantage of it. Visually, the animation also remains impeccable.

Sakura, Miu, and Reika
Welcome to to idol mines, suckers.

Thankfully, 22/7 (Nanabun no Nijyuuni) also looks good. I'm expecting some janky 3DCG bits once we get to the all-singing, all-dancing portions of this idol show, but the anime looks pretty good so far, at least. I've been medium-hyped for 22/7 for some time now, thanks to Sally Amaki being a bilingual goofball on the Twitter. I'm hoping her character gets some English lines that aren't complete non sequiturs, though. Each of the idols had a different character designer, but the styles got evened out so they look more uniform when they're together. (Like in the Pretty Cure team-up movies.) This is the sensible thing to do, but I sort of wish they could have remained unique for reasons not at all explained in the show.

Kotoko
Nice hat.

I wasn't sure what to expect from In/Spectre (Kyokou Suiri), but I knew fans of the manga were looking forward to the anime adaptation, and the trailer looked okay. The first episode was good, and I like Kotoko so far, even though she doesn't have any depth perception. She also seems to move pretty well, despite her prosthetic leg. It sort of seems as if her cane is mostly for show. Frankly, it's a little early yet to judge In/Spectre (or 22/7, for that matter), but my top three anime of Winter 2020 at the moment all have / in their titles, and this was a serendipitous bloggering opportunity I didn't want to pass up. I'm sure y'all understand.

Dated 24 December 2019: I didn't plan to write back-to-back Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld entries

Yui
Go on, Yui, curse the bitches out.

Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld has a mind of its own. Or at least, Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is about AIs having minds of their own. Specifically, Alice Synthesis Thirty MacGuffin is the prize AI the bad men are trying to seize because she is a real girl. Never mind that Sword Art Online has had a Real Girl AI almost from the start in the form of Yui, Kirito's and Asuna's adopted daughter. Yui isn't even a secret!

Pope
It's not easy being pope.

For that matter, I'm not sure there's any meaningful distinction between the Underworld AI yahoos and the "real world" regular-ass people. I certainly regard Alice as being every bit as much as a real character as I do, say, Asuna, even though Alice is very yellow. I definitely regarded the pope as being more of a real person than nearly every other Sword Art Online villain (including the current ones). Ultimately, this has a lot less to do with Alice and the pope being AIs than it does with Sword Art Online having lots of terribly written characters—especially when it comes to its villains.

Alice
This reminds me I need to get a new video card.

I'm inclined to believe Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld theoretically could actually have something intelligent to say about artificial intelligence and what makes someone a real person, but any chance it had got undermined by the really awful writing that has plagued the franchise from the beginning. I still find it entertaining, even though Alice is very yellow, but I do wish the franchise would move past its more egregious tropes. The Ordinal Scale movie accomplished this with some success, but it seems to be the exception, not the norm.

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 3 December 2019: Still enjoying Kono Oto Tomare! despite (or because of) all the drama

Hozuki
Hozuki is still Best Girl even though she's nice to people now.

The second cours of Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life continues to satisfy with its steady stream of people being judgmental assholes. That bit from the first cours where smug douches jump to conclusions based on false accusations and totally unfair assumptions reappears here, but still manages to avoid crossing into irritating territory. It's a fine line, but I like how the show doles out the inevitable comeuppance and vindicates the accused.

Akira
You're okay. Try not to drive into a hedge.

I don't know how the source material is paced, but a bunch of characters are piling into the show as of the most recent episode, presumably in a rush to work in all the bits related to the upcoming competition before the season ends. This does work to its detriment, but it's the sort of thing I'm willing to excuse since the sum of the parts totals favorably. I'm not expecting further episodes of Kono Oto Tomare! after this season ends, but I'd watch more.

Dated 12 November 2019: Assassin's Pride sort of disappoints me, but I mean that as a compliment

Elise and Melida
Melida is still not as yellow as Alice Synthesis XXX

I had low expectations for Assassin's Pride because of its synopsis: "Kufa is a noble born to a duke's family who is sent to tutor a young woman named Merida. If it turns out that Merida has no talent with mana, Kufa is secretly instructed to assassinate her." It also looked to be super-chuuni, but I gave it a chance anyway, though, because sometimes I'm just in the mood for super-chuuni bullshit. It turns out the first episode at least had visually neat aspects suggesting the people making the anime were not just phoning it in despite the show's light novel origins.

Kufa and Melida
Assassin's Pride sure likes its angles.

Since I'm not familiar with the source material, I wasn't actually expecting Assassin's Pride to be a magic-battle high school show of the sort we used to see all the damn time before the current wall-to-wall isekai trend. I legitimately assumed this was going to be some high-chuuni "I must protect her" nonsense with the lead characters constantly on the run or something, perhaps a la Innocent Venus. On the plus side, the various battle tournaments shown thus far have advanced quickly. Still, I hope there's going to be more to the story than this, even though the show is surely destined for a non-ending ending after a single cours. Ordinarily, I would have just stopped watching a show like this, but the start showed enough of a spark that I'm optimistically hopeful there will be more of that sort of thing, thereby making its remaining episodes worth watching.

Dated 8 October 2019: Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was the best show of the Summer 2019 anime season

Sugawara
Lewd.

I suppose I need to set aside my anti-Okada bias now that I've enjoyed one of her melodramas so much. As far as sex disasters go, Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 was honestly a little light on the sex and not as traumatic in the disaster department as I would have liked, but O Maidens in Your Savage Season did have the courage to do a lot of things that I don't think an Okada-free show would have attempted. Framed in the sense that tragedies end in murder while comedies end in marriage. I was optimistically hoping Araoto would turn out to be a tragedy, but I still liked it quite a bit even though it turned out to be a comedy.

Sonezaki
Relax, it's only lust.

Not that there wasn't tragic stuff in it, but we're talking emotional-trauma tragic, not murder-suicide tragic. I do wish Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo。 had not gone quite so easy on the arcs that had the best opportunities for going really poorly for everyone involved, but I acknowledge this is a sadistic perspective. Besides, fully exploring some of the paths that its characters could have taken would have changed the tone of the show dramatically. Probably I still would have been entertained, but I appreciate that many viewers would not have been as accepting. Still, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to hope an Okada Mari sex disaster would end with a murder instead of a marriage. I'm just sayin'.

Dated 1 October 2019: I wish Cop Craft looked as good as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Tilarna
Literally a still frame with a voice over.

Cop Craft and Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) didn't really have much in common aside from airing during the same season. As far as their respective stories went, I was more interested in Cop Craft than in Kimetsu no Yaiba, but there is no question the latter was a better show. This despite the fact that Zenitsu (that panicky orange-haired fucker who shouted all his lines) was annoying as all Hell. Frankly, overcoming that is a testament to how good ufotable can be. Kimetsu no Yaiba looked amazing. It's hard to believe some of its sequences were even possible in a TV anime. Conversely, Cop Craft very much looked like television anime, and one that was constantly pressured to meet timelines. Nearly all of its action sequences had an unfinished quality to them pretty much all season long, and there was a recap episode inserted between episodes nine and 10. Based on how these scenes actually played out—with various shortcuts to substitute for missing animation—you get the sense that Millepensee at least had high ambitions, initially. (See also Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter.)

Nezuko
Pretty much anything I tell you about this would be a spoiler.

Would Cop Craft be better than Kimetsu no Yaiba if its animation looked as good? I don't think I can claim that, but I suppose potentially in the eyes of viewers who enjoy police stories with odd-couple crimefighters forced to work together. As far as the Demon Slayer story goes, I'm certainly not intrigued enough to seek out the manga now that the series has ended (although there will be a movie to cover the next arc). The fact I enjoyed it as much as I did is another testament to ufotable's anime adaptation which remained consistently good during its 26-episode run. At a minimum, episode 20 contained probably the best sequence I've seen all year. (I'm referring to the scene that basically everyone else who was watching the show went nuts about.) Unfortunately, the following episode did diminish the impact a bit with what I like to call "bullshit shounen jive," but I'm blaming the source material for that one. ufotable at least kept us astounded for the week.

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.