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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 20 April 2021: Koikimo is better than Higehiro even though both are missing the same thing

Ichika and Ryo
Stalker distancing.

News that the Spring 2021 anime season would feature TWO shows about adult men paired with high school girls created ripples across the Twitter, but even this mild outrage waned after viewers discovered neither show was as torrid as anticipated. Descriptions of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love, A.K.A. Koikimo) in particular concentrated on elements that ranged from misleading (characterizing its male lead as "a womanizer") to outright untruthful (e.g., calling him "sex-crazed...with a wandering eye for women"). At the risk of stereotyping too much, I suspect more attention should have been paid to the fact that the Koikimo manga is described as josei (i.e., for adult women) instead of seinen (i.e., for adult men who miss fucking teenage girls).

Sayu and Yoshida
I was too bothered by Sayu's lack of luggage to make a Fate/stay night joke.

Curiously, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway) seemed to attract less pre-season attention than Koikimo, but perhaps its original novels and manga adaption were already known well enough to deflect unwarranted speculation that it was going to be a smutty romp. This, despite its synopsis outright stating that its characters meet when the titular teenage girl, Sayu, offers sex in exchange for a place to stay. Instead, Higehiro is about a man, Yoshida, who insists he is not attracted to the JK crashing at his place. The series begins with Yoshida being rejected by his long-term crush (his boss at work, no less) who claims she is already seeing someone. He is so devastated that he seemingly does not even notice she was CLEARLY LYING.

Gotou
Dude, you're staring.

Higehiro also draws attention to Yoshida's insistence that he is not a "nice guy" for letting Sayu live with him without strings attached (unlike everyone else she has stayed with during her previous six months as a runaway), but rather that the other men she has known are despicable people. Yoshida also repeatedly insists he is not attracted to Sayu because he only likes women with large breasts, but then the show promptly undercuts him by immediately alerting (and repeatedly reminding) the viewer that Sayu's boobs are also comfortably big.

Sayu
Higehiro even quantifies the comparison.

This is where I lose the ability to predict the path Higehiro will take. There is enough fan service and "male gaze" to the anime that we are obviously supposed to see Sayu as a legitimate love interest of Yoshida's, despite (or perhaps because of) his loud denials. But the show also retains the harem elements by keeping the CLEARLY LYING boss lady and deliberately slapdash co-worker near as potential romantic rivals. If I had to guess how this story ends, I would expect Yoshida's support to put Sayu on a path to success before re-uniting the two after a multi-year timeskip apart that has given Sayu time to become a self-sufficient adult with even bigger boobs than ever. Alternatively, we'll get a cop-out non-ending ending, potentially with all four of them living together for contrived reasons.

Ryo
You can tell he's sincere because of the sparkles.

While Higehiro is about a man who denies being attracted to the teenage girl living with him, Koikimo is about a man openly and aggressively wooing a high school girl 10 years his junior. At this point, I think it is necessary to acknowledge the tropes that govern this story's boundaries. Ryo and Ichika meet by chance and a suspension bridge moment sparks his sudden obsession with Ichika, who is coincidentally classmates with Ryo's kid sister, Rio. Fortunately for Ryo, his sister not only approves of his infatuation with her friend, but even volunteers as his wingman to provide opportunities for him to get closer with Ichika.

Ruri, Rio, Ichika, and Satsuki
Rio's anime bed is made of concrete.

Moreover, Ichika's own mother approves of Ryo's courtship, despite Ichika's clear displeasure. It is probably worth pointing out that Ryo has apparently never had to pursue a love interest before. He is not a pick-up artist chasing after fresh prey. Instead, girls and women have thrown themselves at him his entire life (Ichika's and Rio's classmates all unanimously agree Ryo is exceptionally handsome), so this is an entirely new experience for him.

Sayu and Yoshida
Dude, you're staring.

So what are Koikimo and Higehiro both missing? Lust. In the case of Koikimo, Ryo is clearly, genuinely smitten with Ichika, but he is arguably more drawn to her disinterest in him than he is to her physical appearance. Ichika is presented as being fairly unremarkable among her peers, and her own best friend describes her as "normal" (although at least one boy at her school has taken a liking to her). In the case of Higehiro, it takes three episodes of the show loudly signalling that Sayu is comely and sexually available before Yoshida finally admit he finds her attractive. However, his refusal to sleep with her is predicated on a critical, foundational cornerstone to the narrative's integrity, so I don't expect the story can too easily reverse this stance even if the audience comes to think he protests too much.

Ichika and Rio
She is upset because she is pleased.

After four episodes of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui and three episodes of Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou., I enjoy Koikimo more than Higehiro. Neither series is especially realistic (although I could believe Higehiro, despite the melodrama, were it not for the CLEARLY LYING Christmas-cake boss lady and the co-worker who deliberately fucks up her work for Yoshida's attention), but I find Koikimo more amusing. I can't rule out the possibility that I'm simply more enamored of Ichika's seemingly endless barrage of disgusted faces than I am with Sayu's "pretty big for a high school girl" bosom, though.

Dated 26 January 2021: I could tell you about all the good anime I'm watching this season, or I could tell you about IDOLY PRIDE instead

Kotono
We can tell you're the kid sister because you look the same except for having darker hair.

Actually, wait, IDOLY PRIDE is pretty good too, or at least it is for sufficiently generous definitions of good. I started watching IDOLY PRIDE because it was described as an original anime and the PV made the show seem oddly sincere. Meaning, I was expecting a brand new entry into the idol wars to lean more on a gimmick of some sort. (See, for example, this season's Gekidol and its gimmick.) However, it looked as if IDOLY PRIDE would simply be a straightforward show about idols trying their best. [Spoilers: It is not.]

Kouhei and Mana
She is sort of distracting.

So yeah, there is a gimmick. (Spoilers from here on out.) One of the idols is a ghost. Well, not one of the idols in the troupe, but there is a ghost. Specifically, it's the older sister of the dour idol who has main-character hair. However, the only one who can see or hear her is her old manager (a former classmate from high school) who is now in charge of a lot of rookie idols. I'll need to go back and re-watch some scenes to be sure, but I suspect it's also entirely possible that there is no ghost and Manager Guy (Kouhei) is just cracking up. I mean, he does do that thing where he'll look in her direction and respond aloud to her while everyone else around him is deeply confused by his constant non sequiturs. I have to say that's probably a worrying trait to see in someone who is responsible for your career.

Kouhei and Mana
Mana doesn't cast reflections or shadows, but Kouhei appeared to feel her leaning on him.

Whether Mana actually is a ghost or just a constant hallucination that Kouhei can't shake, I'm enjoying the dynamic. I get the feeling a single-cours anime is not going to be long enough to get me invested in what the other idols have going on, but I am enjoying IDOLY PRIDE so far. In fact, I'm probably enjoying it somewhat disproportionately, since I'm not sure I can really characterize the show as being anything more than merely okay. Still, I'm eager to see where this is going, even though I suspect it would probably be better as a ghost-girlfriend romance than as an idol show about rookies doing their best.

Dated 3 November 2020: Something Senyoku no Sigrdrifa and Assault Lily: BOUQUET have in common (no, not that)

Azuzu
That hair is bad, though.

Since I only update on a weekly basis now, the Autumn 2020 anime season hit its midpoint before I got around to commenting on all the shows I've followed this cours. I've already dropped Assault Lily: BOUQUET, for example. Additionally, I've probably also dropped Senyoku no Sigrdrifa (Warlords of Sigrdrifa). Both shows did things I liked, too. But in the case of Sigrdrifa, I still have not made time to watch the second episode, and I'm not sure when I actually will. It didn't seem bad, so I guess my excuse for dropping it will be how that one pilot's bangs hang in front of her right eye.

Yuyu and Riri
I can't believe y'all adopted the Sœur System.

In the case of Assault Lily: BOUQUET, it took me weeks to get around to watching the second episode, and I just wasn't very interested. I did find it amusing that this was Lillian Girls Academy from Marimite except with wild anime fights. Also, I was genuinely impressed by the animation. I would very likely be watching it still had this come out during a normal season, but there are just too many other shows to watch right now.

Dated 29 September 2020: The End of Oregairu ~Air/My Purest Yahallo for Thee~

Iroha
BEST GIRL.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!, among other localized names) completed the three-season run of a harem comedy that fared surprisingly well despite my initial misgivings. Generally speaking, the term "harem comedy" itself feels anachronistic now and less appropriate even when applied to shows such as Gotoubun no Hanayome (The Quintessential Quintuplets) compared to the label's Love Hina-era association (at least in my mind). I suppose it's probably still applicable for shows such as Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend). But I digress.

Yui
Oregairu might have been a better series if told from Yui's point of view.

These types of shows invoke a competitive element that pits various female protagonists against each other to vie for the male lead's affection, ultimately "winning" by becoming the romantic interest he selects at the conclusion of the series. Longtime readers of this blog may remember I'm not a fan of this construct when the male lead is so frequently a dull sap, to say nothing of the ones who are legitimately terrible cretins. I'm did not watch Kanojo, Okarishimasu, but I did watch it get shredded on the Twitter, and Potato-kun appears to be a colossal douche in addition to the show's numerous other problems. Does the girl who ultimately ends up with such a character really win? [Spoilers: No.]

Hachiman and Yukino
Kids and their selfies.

Oregairu does not suffer from this particular problem, at least by its conclusion. Hachiman in the third season is no longer the same person he was in the first season. Unfortunately, the girl who ultimately "wins" has her own issues. [Spoilers henceforth, obviously, if you haven't already either seen this coming or learned about it via some other way, such as discussions about the light novels' ending.]

Komachi and Iroha
It's about the future, Madam Chancellor.

Yukino is not interesting. She is supposed to be the most complex of the various love interests, and has some significant hang-ups that admittedly align well with Hachiman's character, but I never found her problems or growth compelling. As far as "winning" the harem comedy contest goes, she is the most sensible one to pair with Hachiman, but my lack of investment in their relationship makes the show's resolution somewhat hollow. Ultimately, it was still a good journey, and I can appreciate why Oregairu accumulated so much praise during its run, but I can't quite point to it as a much-watch show by any means.

Dated 22 September 2020: We're gonna need more Fruits Basket

Kyo and Tohru
Should you be drinking out of the carton?

As I expected, there was an announcement following episode 25 of Fruits Basket 2nd Season confirming a third season will air in 2021. It will apparently be entitled Fruits Basket the Final, so I'm a little sad to learn the anime is ending. I sort of expected that, but I'm at least hoping it means there will be twenty-something more episodes and not just a single cours finale.

Akito
Akito is not a nice person.

In general, Fruits Basket isn't exactly the sort of show I typically watch. I've never read any of the manga, and I only watched the first anime adaptation because I heard it was good and because I like Horie Yui. It turns out the anime is good, and I even bought the DVDs, but I never re-watched it. Enough time passed between when I finished the first anime and when the 2019 one began that much of it still seemed new despite starting over.

Yuki and Machi
Machi is not the most stable girl.

Most of it might have, in fact, been new, since my hazy memory leaves me uncertain how much material the current anime has now covered that was omitted entirely from the Hocchan version. At a minimum, there are more episodes of the 2019 adaptation, and I'm fairly certain the manga still had a long ways to go when the 2001 anime finished. I know the original manga is finished now, but I'm aware spin-offs and a sequel exist, so there's at least more material to potentially adapt. In any case, I'm prepared to continue watching Fruits Basket basically indefinitely. There's something captivating about the sweetest girl in creation trying to make her way in a world filled with assholes and seeing the impact she has on the lives of people who just needed someone to give a shit about them once in a damn while.

Dated 1 September 2020: Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy) is okay

Anos and Sasha
If you keep making eye contact like that, she's gonna do the thing.

I started watching Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha (The Misfit of Demon King Academy) because I like the way its character designer draws eyes. True story. (This is also why I watched Toji no Miko (Katana Maidens. But I digress.) As it turns out, the Maou Academy anime has stayed reasonably entertaining through its first nine episodes, and about in line with what I hoped for after the first two episodes.

Eleanor
It took nine episodes to introduces this twin-braided character from the promo art.

One key to its success is having enough lore to keep the viewer guessing as to what's happened in the world during the two thousands years Anos was busy staying dead. Or rather, enough lore to make it interesting, but not so much lore that it becomes oppressingly sonorous. (Fate/stay night, I am looking in your direction.) I don't think anyone is going into Maou-kun Goes to Maou-kun School expecting the best thing ever, but anyone in the mood for casually lopsided fights and a fair amount of tsundere yammering has come to the right place.

Momoka
I don't know why they censored this. She's wearing panties.

Since I first introduced Maou Gakuin together with Dokyuu Hentai HxEros (SUPER HXEROS), I guess I should also include that I dropped HXEROS after five episodes. It is what it is, but there were other things I preferred to spend my time on instead.