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Dated 9 July 2019: TO THE ABANDONED SACRED BEASTS AND THEIR ATTORNEYS OF RECORD: PLEASE TAKE NOTICE

Schall
Have gun. Will travel.

The Summer 2019 anime season is upon us. First out the gate is Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e (To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts), an adaptation of an ongoing manga by the author/artist duo known as Maybe. Unlike the manga, the entire first episode and nearly all of the second episode provide background information for the primary characters first. The tail end of the second episode picks up where the first chapter of the manga actually begins, and the preview for episode three at least suggests the show will now be more straightforward about adapting the manga. I generally prefer when an anime isn't bound to its source material scene-for-scene. Being too rigid can be counterproductive from a storytelling perspective simply because anime, manga, and text have different advantages and limitations. You'd think this would be painfully obvious, but anime adaptations fail often enough that I'm genuinely relieved the MAPPA production seems to have put at least a little thought into this.

Hime and Sato
Also a childhood-friend romance.

To be honest, the Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e manga itself is merely all right. I have purchased all eight volumes currently available from Vertical, and I do enjoy it, but I'm also predisposed to like most of Maybe's work. The mix of seriousness and humor work for me, although the anime probably won't necessarily reproduce the more comic expressions that I enjoy from the manga. Incidentally, I also enjoy Maybe's other ongoing manga, Kekkon Yubiwa Monogatari (Tales of Wedding Rings), a double-isekai harem comedy with plenty of cheesecake and blue balls. The manga has been available via the Crunchyroll's manga jobbie for some time now, but hard copies published by Yen Press are also in print.

Dated 24 June 2019: Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! takes us behind the lines of the War on Pants

Mio
Sakamoto is more of a nutjob than I remember.

It's been more than 12 years since the first Strike Witches OVA. Since that time, we've gotten a proper television series, a sequel series, a spinoff series, a movie, more OVAs, and this season's Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! (Strike Witches: 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off!) comedy series with half-length episodes. Additionally, I understand there are more sequels and spinoffs in the works, so it seems we'll continue to wage the War on Pants for some time to come. The weakest aspect of the Strike Witches universe (now actually the World Witches universe) has always been the Neuroi—the boring, vaguely threatening opponents with no personalities that our stalwart witches must fight. Fortunately, Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! is entirely Neuroi-free, as the show is strictly about the 501st Joint Fighter Wing fucking around in garrison.

Barkhorn and Hartmann
Go on, Barkhorn, curse the bitch out.

Surprisingly, this setting worked quite favorably for Erica Hartmann and Miyafuji Yoshika as characters. I wasn't fans of either of them going in, but I like them both a lot better now. I'm glad Hartmann in particular got more to do than merely be a lazy slob. I wasn't expecting her to be the focus of so many of the show's best gags. In Miyafuji's case, I think being free of her Main Character baggage made her scenes a lot better. Miyafuji stopped being on my shitlist after the Strike Witches movie, but she's still better off in a supporting role.

Yoshika
This style probably takes less time to draw, I'd imagine.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the character design changes. I'm not a huge fan of this style. I can understand why they're different for this sort of show, but the effect isn't as successful as, say, the changes for Isekai Quartet. Also, I do wish Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin-shimasu! had brought back casual nudity, which used to be a staple of the franchise. Sure, these character designs are not quite as...aerodynamic as the normal ones, but I think it would have made for some amusing gags. Casual nudity has been missing from the World Witches universe for quite some time now, so bringing it back unexpectedly in this guise would have been quite the bombshell in the War on Pants.

Dated 25 February 2019: Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is an interesting show in theory

Kurumi and Asuka
Airborne mahou shoujo, airborne mahou shoujo, where have you been?

Unfortunately, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka) is not a great anime, and quite a bit less interesting than it probably ought to be. Part of the problem is "magikal girls except adult and/or dark!" is by no means a novel idea anymore. However, I think a substantial part of the issues affecting Spec-Ops Asuka are probably intrinsic to its core concept to begin with. The anime (which I'm only assuming is at least reasonably faithful to its source manga—I've not read it) makes an effort to imagine how armed forces might integrate mahou shoujo (and dour, sadistic mages, for that matter) into their combined arms doctrine and what sorts of missions they might perform. It sort of works, but it also sort of invites more questions. When the core concept is not especially grounded in reality, maybe it's best to simply handwave away practical problems and adopt the approach used by mecha anime.

War Nurse
War Nurse is a great codename, though.

My other issue with Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka is that I don't find it especially engaging. There hasn't been any particular hook to the show that grabs me, and I'm sort of simply watching it perfunctorily. It doesn't help that the animation has a somewhat unenthusiastic look to it, and I'm not a fan of the character designs either. I'm not even sure what the issue is. Perhaps everything looks too normal? I'm glad the show at least does not have a "grimdark" visual appearance, but I wonder if making it look more like an actual mahou shoujo anime might have been better. The music works at least. Digressing a bit, I don't have a good place to mention this, but Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does have more actual torture in the show than I'm used to seeing in anime. For comparison, the torture in Overlord occurs off-screen. I'm not suggesting you should count that as a positive necessarily, but it is noteworthy, at least. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 28 January 2019: Egao no Daika teaches a 12-year-old girl that smilewar is all Hell

Yuuki
This queen's bed looks smaller than queen-sized.

Egao no Daika (The Price of Smiles) caught my attention because it is an original anime featuring mecha. But then the initial responses to the first episode suggested it was more about a silly country's 12-year-old monarch trying her best with the assistance of her loyal childhood friend, Potato-kun. Based on those reports alone, I wrote the show off. But then I heard about what happens in episode two and decided to give it a try out of curiosity. Yeah, I am totally on board. Yes, the show still stars a naïve awkward-age girl, but it's actually about a war that Smilestan's Deep State kept hidden from her. Moreover, it's clear from the OP and the ED that Egao no Daika also stars a soldier fighting for the opposing side. Indeed, Ittōheisō Shining has had a more prominent role in the show through its first four episodes than Queen Princess Yuuki.

Stella
I like Hayami Saori in this role, but I'd rather have Dark Mamiko.

Thankfully, Egao no Daika is also not one of those shows where Potato-kun spends half the series wiping out enemy mecha on easy mode before suddenly realizing people die when they are killed. I can at least guarantee this is not going to happen in The Price of Smiles. Rather, soldiers in this show display no hesitation killing their opponents even when they can see the whites of their eyes. There is still some question as to how Yuuki is going to react to the war now that she's getting a crash course in reality. It's more likely than not that she'll continue to oppose it, but other possibilities remain on the table since this is an original anime. Personally, I'm hoping for at least two cours of gripping war melodrama, but we're probably only going to get the 12 episodes scheduled thus far, alas.

Dated 14 January 2019: There are two Girls with Planes shows in the Winter 2019 anime season

Gripen and Kei
No, this is not a Meet Cute.

Technically, I guess there's only one show about girls with planes: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI), since Girly Air Force seems to be about girls who are planes. Both shows have only one episode out so far, but Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai seems to be far and away the better show. For one thing, the planes in Girly Air Force are strictly 3DCG sentient artificial intelligence jobbies based on contemporary jet fighters. For other, Potato-kun is in Girly Air Force. He's not too bad, actually, but the cranky Chinese girl he's partnered with is going to get annoying if she doesn't get any actual character development. Probably the real weakness of the show will be the so-called "Xi" menace which is responsible for war in China and all the refugees from the mainland fleeing to Japan. Bogus opponents hurt Strike Witches and Sky Girls and will probably hurt Girly Air Force for all the same reasons.

Kirie
The googles do nothing.

Thankfully, enemy aircraft in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai appear to have human pilots (although none were clearly shown in the first episode). At a minimum, they certainly have more personality than the Xi or the Neuroi or WORMs, even if it's only revealed in little displays such as the dipped wings at the conclusion of an air battle. Kotobuki also benefits from direction by Mizushima Tsutomu who looks ready to combine ideas from his work on GIRLS und PANZER and The Third Girls Aerial Squad of Shirobako fame. Curiously, the female characters are all 3DCG (but look good for basically the same reason 3DCG characters worked in Bubuki Buranki, as opposed to Ajin). I don't know how realistic the air battles are in Kotobuki, but they look and sound great, and the anime goes out of its way to show details of the controls. Overall, the dogfighting depicted with The Magnificient KOTOBUKI's propeller-driven planes is much more compelling than the super high-G BFM (read: bullshit fighter maneuvers) demonstrated by the AI jets of Girly Air Force.

Zero
He probably also has a video about the Hayabusa.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the practical elements of World War II fighter aircraft and the associated engineering aspects that influence performance and combat effectiveness, "Greg's Airplanes and Automobiles" on the YouTube is fascinating.

Dated 10 December 2018: I guess I'm going to be watching GeGeGe no Kitarou indefinitely now

Kitarou and Medama Oyaji
Neither of these two have binocular vision.

I saw an announcement about the next GeGeGe no Kitarou ED planned for January. I guess this means the show will be continuing through at least the Winter 2019 anime season, giving it a yearlong run. More, if it continues after that uninterrupted. I'm mostly content to continue watching it as long as there are new episodes. It's been a reliably good family show through the 35 episodes I've seen, and I can appreciate it for its decades-spanning impact.

NekoMusume and Agnès
Hey, she's wearing a different outfit.

For a show with so much history, it's unexpectedly eager to challenge certain subjects I'm not accustomed to encountering in anime. Notably, there was an episode concerning World War II that spoke directly to an apparent failure in the current education system to adequately cover Japan's roles in the war. Then there's the current major arc involving foreign yokai (some of whom were outright refugees) and the different receptions they face, from sympathy to outright hostility as both xenophobia as well as some understandably unwelcome foreign yokai behavior created flashpoints not unlike contemporary real-world events and concerns. Or perhaps it's because GeGeGe no Kitarou has so much history and is such an established part of the anime landscape that it has greater latitude to address these topics.

Dated 16 July 2018: Hataraku Saibou is informative, whimsical, and gloriously violent

AE3803
AE3803 doesn't quite know her way around yet.

One of the more pleasant surprises of the Summer 2018 anime season is Hataraku Saibou (Cells at Work!) which anthropomorphizes a human body's blood cells and depicts them as industrious workers carrying out tasks such as ferrying oxygen to different parts of the body and fighting germs.

U1146 and AE3803
You get used to it, newbie.

It's maybe about what you might expect if you're familiar with these sorts of gimmick shows, but the execution is quite good. The setup is suitably clever, and the various characters are endearing. In particular, Hanazawa Kana is excellent as the newbie red blood cell, AE3803. I enjoy her panicky shrieks. They contrast nicely with her white blood cell friend's somewhat staid approach to executing bacteria.

U1146 and Platelet
Platelet is also a fan favorite already.

I'm not sure how long this will stay amusing, but there's certainly no shortage of different stories the show could explore. There are at least five volumes of the still running manga, and three spinoffs, so I'm fairly confident there will be enough source material to keep the show entertaining throughout the season. In fact, Hataraku Saibou briefly held the top stop in my Summer 2018 ranking (until the incredible first episode of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight raised the barre). I'm not expecting Cells at Work! to remain quite this high for the rest of the quarter, but it is off to a strong start.

Dated 7 May 2018: There's more to Golden Kamuy than 3DCG bears

Asirpa and Sugimoto
At least the smaller animals are 2D, even when they're delicious.

Golden Kamuy was one of the Spring 2018 shows I was looking forward to the most. It stumbled a bit out the gate when the first episode's infamously out-of-place looking 3DCG animals dominated most of the show's initial discussion. That this got the most attention is a bit of a shame, because Golden Kamuy has a lot going for it. Notably, the manga is good enough that a few misses in the anime adaptation are not going to be enough to ruin it. I didn't watch the all-3DCG Berserk, but the problems facing Golden Kamuy here are by no means as severe. It's not as if the entire show is 3DCG—just the larger animals when they appear.

Asirpa
Golden Kamuy is also about Asirpa looking displeased.

Seeing as how the show isn't actually about bears, 3DCG or otherwise, it's pretty good most of the time. Well, that's assuming you have an appetite for the horrors of war, collecting the skins of dead convicts, brutal violence, Japanese history, Ainu cultural lessons, and delicious meals made with freshly killed game. I suppose I'm not fully prepared to resist arguments that anyone interested should just read the manga instead, but I do believe the anime adds bits worth appreciating separately. I suggest watching the anime first before turning to the start of the manga. The way I see it, the anime will inevitably finish far short of the still ongoing manga's current position, and you'll probably want to read it anyway.