Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 4 August 2020: The End of Oregairu ~Air/My Purest Heart for Thee~

Yukino
I wonder if sales of blue-blocking computer glasses are down
now that you can just enable night mode on basically any OS.

I gave Oregairu a second chance in anticipation of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!) completing the series this season. I'm glad this worked out a lot better this time than when I watched Shakugan no Shana II so I could watch Shakugan no Shana III. (Shana II is not great.) Through four episodes, the conclusion of Oregairu III contains the sort of emotional resonance you ought to expect by now if you've been following the previous seasons.

Yui and Hikigaya
Kids and their selfies.

It's a difficult balancing act, to be sure, capturing the stakes in a way that makes us care about the outcome without swinging too far into melodrama. Still, I'm only about 80-percent sure that this season will cover the source material's conclusion. I mean, I have at least heard that this is the case. But not having read the light novels, I'm a little unsure how the series will manage to wrap things up within the remaining episodes. My guess is that some characters just won't get covered to the satisfaction of their more ardent fans.

Dated 16 June 2020: If you fell behind watching Railgun Tango episodes, this is your chance to catch up

Dolly
Someone is going to have to clean that, Dolly.

There has not been a new episode of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T (A Certain Scientific Railgun T) since the seventh week of the Spring 2020 anime season. Moreover, the next episode is not scheduled to air until the 24th of July. Through 15 episodes, my perspective on the Index/Railgun franchise has not changed. It's heavily flawed, but there have been a few things I've liked.

SATEN and Kuroko
I want cake.

Ito Kanae's setup and SATEN's subsequent pratfall in episode 14 is basically the highlight of Railgun season three thus far. Misaka x Touma 'shippers (y'all exist, right?) probably enjoyed the scene for other reasons. I liked it because SATEN amuses me and because I enjoy Ito Kanae's voice work.

Misaki and Mitori
This tightly controlled facility allows kids to run in the halls.

On a sort of related note, Shokuhou Misaki also amuses me, but I'd prefer if she talked more like a normal person and less like an anime weirdo. There has been a lot of Misaki this season, but not enough for me to understand what the Hell was going on sometimes without looking up background information (like why she acted the way she did around Touma). Possibly that information was provided in episodes from different installments of the Raildex Animatic Universe, but someone who only watches the Railgun episodes will find a significant part of it perplexing.

Touma
Touma isn't dim, it's your screen.

With regard to the animation itself, the quality has remained high, no doubt thanks to the numerous Covid-19 delays and breaks between episodes to accommodate production requirements. This presumably accounts for the current hiatus as well. Nevertheless, I think it's worth pointing out that precautionary measures (contrast dimming) meant to reduce the risk of flashing-light-induced seizures among susceptible viewers means that the screen dims significantly anytime Misaka does anything, because all of her powers involve flashing lights. I don't know if there is a better solution for addressing these concerns, but I hope the industry develops one someday.

Dated 26 May 2020: My Bakarina 'ship is a harem

Catarina
It's not easy being rich.

While a significant number of shows from the Spring 2020 anime season are delayed, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) marches on. Hamehura (alternatively Hamefura, but really now: Bakarina) is a solid adaptation of the popular web novel turned light novel. I've enjoyed the manga adaptation as well, thanks to some great character designs and relentless mugging which the anime sensibly adopts as well.

Mary and Maria
Relax, ladies, it's fine.

As for the show itself, the Bakarina anime features our clueless antagonist's ongoing efforts at avoiding either exile or a grisly demise, all while entirely ignorant that she's actually the protagonist now and entirely too successful at currying favor among her peers and erstwhile rivals. Clueless love interests in harem anime are nothing new (see, for example, Ichika in IS <:Infinite Stratos>), but I find Bakarina herself an amusing character and sort of endearing. At a minimum, that differentiates her from Potato-kun from such-and-such series quite a bit.

Catarina
Fruits Basket face.

If I had to identify why this distinction exists, I want to say it's because those typical harem comedy protagonists who remain oblivious to all the potential love interests hurling their undergarments at them tend to be in that position solely because the story says that's just the way it is, and not as a result of any qualities or efforts on their parts—at least not in any reasonable capacity. Catarina Claes, on the other hand, is fully committed to making sure all of these other characters like her as much as possible and get along with each other as well. That she doesn't realize she has already long accomplished this and is on the verge of collapsing her world into a harem comedy singularity sort of makes me like her too.

Dated 19 May 2020: I'm reading the In/Spectre manga

In/Spectre volumes 01, 02, and 03
Iwanaga is not a chuuni. She's probably just re-adjusting her eye.

Although I really enjoyed the In/Spectre (Kyokō Suiri, or Invented Inference) anime, I was surprised at long the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc lasted. (Specifically, it takes up the entire rest of the cours once it starts.) I'm reading the manga now, and these volumes include afterwords by the original author that shed light on the situation.

In/Spectre volumes 04, 05, and 06
Despite appearance, Kuro is also not a chuuni. He is tsundere for his own girlfriend, though.

Kyokou Suiri was originally one book. This received a manga adaptation which spanned six volumes. The author claims he gave the mangaka essentially full control over the visuals and a lot of latitude to apply appropriate changes while adapting the book to manga form. This hands-off approach seems to have worked, as the manga proved popular enough to inspire the original author to write more stories (while lamenting the Invented Inference title no longer really fit the subject matter of the later material).

In/Spectre volumes 07, 08, and 09
Iwanaga is wearing a school uniform because one of the stories takes place while she was in high school.

Notably, the original author (Shirodaira Kyo) wrote the subsequent material as short stories, rather than collaborating with the mangaka (Katase Chasiba) to produce scripts for the manga, reasoning that doing things differently at this point could inadvertently disrupt the chemistry of whatever it was that made the manga adaptation of the original book turn out so well. Well, he wasn't wrong. The five volumes following the "Steel Lady Nanase" arc are at least as good, if not better.

In/Spectre volumes 10 and 11
Rikka's not dead, she just looks like that.

As you may have guessed, the In/Spectre anime is itself an adaptation of the manga, and not a separate adaptation of the original book (which I've not had an opportunity to read). As adaptations go, it's very close, really only moving the arc with the giant snake so that it takes place before the Steel Lady Nanase arc instead of after it. I don't know if there are any plans to produce a sequel to the anime, but there is certainly enough source material to support one. All of the subsequent stories in the volumes I've read are shorter than the Steel Lady Nanase one, but at least three of them are long enough to span multiple episodes. Thankfully, the longest of these concluded at the end of volume 11, instead of with a cliffhanger leaving the reader waiting until the release of volume 12—that one won't be out until the end of August.

Dated 12 May 2020: Log Horizon isn't funny

Minori and Akatsuki
Minori and Akatsuki realize they are rivals.

I finished my re-watch of Log Horizon. It did not go as well as I was expecting. I remembered liking the series more in the past. Objectively, this is still true. I know this because I keep track of my ratings for individual anime episodes on a spreadsheet. (This was originally a joke, but then I kept doing it. See this, for example.) So I can technically quantify numerically specifically how much liked the series more in the past, even though I didn't score the second season very high to begin with. In any case, I liked the series less overall the second time around. That's not doing the upcoming third season any favors. There are two basic problems I have with the anime.

Lenessia and Crusty
You know you like it.

First, none of the jokes work for me. This includes the recurring gags involving Naotsugu and Akatsuki. There wasn't a reason to repeat them beyond the first episode. Then Tetora shows up in the second season. And fuuuck, Tetora is not amusing. None of those jokes work either. The other problem is the inverse relationship between the characters' reported ages and the maturity levels of their behavior. Well, at least that's the way it seems for the girls.

Nyanta and Serara
I seriously thought Serara was 12.

The worst offenders are Marielle (28), Henrietta (28), and Serara (16). Marielle is whiny and petulant, constantly throwing literal tantrums about the work she has to do. (She's sort of in charge.) Henrietta is obsessed with molesting Akatsuki and does so at every opportunity. Serara is the nekosexual girl who really, really, really likes Nyanta. All of these characters and their behavior are played for laughs. None of it is funny. On the other hand, Minori is only 14, and the princess who ends up saving her kingdom when the men in charge couldn't get their shit together is only 15. Presumably they'll be older during season three, though. Maybe they'll become less mature in keeping with the rest of the show.

Dated 31 March 2020: I watched GeGeGe no Kitarou for two years

Kitarou
I liked the way Sawashiro Miyuki voiced Kitarou.

I knew basically nothing about GeGeGe no Kitarou before I started watching it two years ago. From the promotional material and initial surge of fan art, I at least determined that it was originally a manga from the 1960s that had five previous anime adaptions. It already had hundreds of episodes and numerous updates to its character designs. I decided to give it a chance based solely on this information, even though the NekoMusume character now had legs that went up to her neck. What I found was a modern family show with traditional ties in an anime that frequently featured thoughtful—yet entertaining—episodes.

Monroe, Pii, and NekoMusume
You would not believe how sick NekoMusume is of your shit.

I can't claim the show taught me a lot about yokai and their associated myths, but I'm at least a lot more familiar with them now. This is a sharp contrast to my first encounter with yokai, in Azumanga Daioh. They seemed perplexing and bizarre back then. I suspect this sort of familiarization was also intended for the younger viewers of GeGeGe no Kitarou. I don't know how often yokai feature in children's stories told to contemporary Japanese kids, but watching cartoons about them probably at least reinforces their understanding about old-timey lore. For little kids, it was sort of a violent and grisly show by American standards, though—about on par with what they'd see in Detective Conan.

Agnes
At least the first Backbeard arc gave us Agnes.
P.S. EINS, ZWEI, GUTEN MORGEN.

Ultimately, was it really worth watching 97 episodes of GeGeGe no Kitarou just to say I've seen it? It's not the sort of show I'd recommend for people to plow through if it doesn't immediately capture their attention (to say nothing of the hundreds of episodes that ran prior to the latest iteration), but watching it week-to-week was all right. There wasn't much of a cohesive narrative, discounting some of the longer arcs. Thankfully, the second "Backbeard" arc turned out to be much shorter than the first one, as Backbeard was not much of an antagonist. It turns out the true villains are the evils we bring forth from within ourselves. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 10 February 2020: Adding Slave Hero to Isekai Quartet hasn't ruined it yet

Naofumi and Raphtalia
"Naofumi, what are we going to do inside the Shield Prison?"

Finding out that the cast of Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero) was joining Isekai Quartet did not exactly fill me with a lot of confidence about its second season (which inexplicably isn't called Isekai Quintet), but it's been okay so far. Then again, the Shield Hero cast hasn't been in the first four episodes very much. Most of my trepidation derives from my fairly negative impressions of Shield Hero as a show (I watched 13 episodes), my lack of interest in the characters, and the rather defensive attitude the franchise's more vocal supporters seem to adopt on the Twitter. These did not seem to be ideal additions to a comedy about characters being portrayed as dipshits.

Ainz and Aqua
Aqua is sort of racist, to tell you the truth.

Naturally, the Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! cast fits right in, because they're dipshits to begin with. Aqua is a delight—so much so that I want retcons of other Tenchan roles except portrayed as basically Aqua analogs. (For example, Asseylum Vers Allusia from Aldnoah.Zero except with Aqua's personality and intelligence. You can't tell me Slaine's tragic loyalty to Aqua Vers Allusia wouldn't have improved the second season.) Given a choice, I'll definitely take idiots like Aqua over sourpusses like Naofumi when it comes to wacky comedy crossovers.

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.