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Dated 24 March 2020: Four thoughts about Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia; the third one will shock you

Ana
Ana is a good girl.

Firstly, I fully expected to find Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia) mostly incomprehensible, since I was basically ignorant about its lore aside from what I managed to glean via the Twitter and from the copious amounts of fan art devoted to the franchise. This did, indeed, turn out to be the case. It certainly does not help that Fate/Baby was episode seven within its underlying Fate GO game's narrative.

Leonardo and Romani
Leonardo never pulled up a chair of her own.

Secondly, none of that mattered, since the animation in Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia was frickin' amazing. It was literally so good that the story was inconsequential. It's worth watching just because it looks so good. I know in a post-Shirobako world we're not supposed to mention the B-word, but the anime adaptation of a franchise that prints money clearly had resources available to it, that, say, Cop Craft did not. The animation in Cop Craft gave me the impression people were doing the best they could in the face of adversity they did not control. The animation in Babylonia made me think animators were showing off and trying to outdo each other week after week.

Ishtar
Believe it, baby.

Thirdly, these conditions serendipitously produced the best variant of Tohsaka Rin (Toosaka, whatever) of all time. Even better than Kaleido Ruby. I don't actually know why Ishtar looks like Rin from Fate/stay night. I literally could not break it down for you even though the show explicitly addressed it, and I've read the various summaries found in wikis for the game and whatnot. I find these explanations unsatisfactory. In any event, it doesn't matter. All you need to know is that Ishtar is a game-breaking home run. Oh, and Ereshkigal is okay, too.

Gilgamesh
It turns out Gilgamesh was a lot more chill back in the day.

Finally, Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia was a really loud show. I don't think the show streamed with a discrete LFE channel (I didn't check), but it was at least mixed in such a way that every episode got considerable use out of my subwoofer. Planet With was sort of like this too, but it was sort of unpleasant during Planet With. On the other hand the deep impacts and 'splosions in Fate/Baby were really satisfying. I keep telling people not to skimp on the audio portion when setting up their preferred viewing space, whether it be a television or a computer. Hopefully, fans of Babylonia followed this practice as well. Totally worth it.

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 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.