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Dated 14 July 2020: Sword Art Online is back and it's the SAO we know

Alice
I still don't actually know what "Alicization" means, unless it involves energy beams to the face.

The final cours of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld began on Saturday, picking up where it left off six months ago. First, a quick overview: Sword Art Online is the franchise. Alicization is its third major season (and once complete, will be four cours long—as long as the first two seasons combined). War of Underworld is the double-cours second half of Alicization.

Alice
I bet that sleep spell wouldn't have worked if Alice S. 30 had an N95 mask.

The original SAO cast was absent from most of the previous 12 episodes, which focused instead on Alice Sythesis Thirty, a UCLA Bruin introduced for the third season. Kirito has been present during War of Underworld, sort of, but relegated to mostly convalescing in a wheelchair while Alice S. Thirty pushed him around so he could be nearer to people who want him dead.

Kirito and Sinon
He's probably trying to figure out what's going on with your outfit.

Kirito has been showing signs that he's still awake somewhere behind his dead-fish eyes, so it's a cinch he's going to make his grand return at some point. Kirito's, uh, new best friend Eugeo also features prominently during the opening and closing credits of the new season, so maybe he's going to be back, too.

Asuna and Sinon
Somehow Asuna is the only one to recognize flying is a big deal.

Asuna and Sinon both joined the titular war at the end of the previous cours. Leafa and Klein logged in during the first episode of the current cours. So yeah, they're getting the old crew back together for the season's big finish. Fans of the original cast who have been dying for more Silica and Lisbeth deban presumably won't have to wait much longer. First-season characters are not the only thing that has returned, though. Sexual assault is also back.

Quinella
I'm including the time the pope Jedi mind fucked Eugeo.

Actually, sexual assault has never really left. Attempted rape, etc., is such a common occurrence in the Sword Art Online franchise that I'm not sure I could name all the times it appears without accidentally forgetting a scene or two. I don't even object to its inclusion on principle, necessarily—it's just always contrived and presented so poorly and obnoxiously, though.

Leafa
I can't rule out the possibility Suguha just enjoys suffering.

In the instant case, Leafa logs in, makes a new friend, and is instantly tentacle raped by an exaggerated over-the-top villain (the most common sort of villain in SAO). It goes beyond even the infamous first-season example involving Asuna. (That's specific enough to identify which one I mean, right?) Leafa suffers through it for entirely unconvincing reasons.

Gabriel Miller
You can identify SAO villains because they all make this face.

Maybe Sword Art Online includes these scenes and presents them in this way because possibly a significant majority of SAO fans enjoy and appreciate them, but I'm optimistic enough to hope it's done out of deference to Kawahara Reki's light novels. I don't know how much the SAO anime deviates from the source material, but I sort of get the feeling that it's not doing it enough.

Alice
I don't remember Alice S. XXX wearing this outfit before.

If you listen to the commentary track for Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, it's quite obvious the production team changed or rejected a significant number of Kawahara's ideas and scenes. I can only guess at what the movie's original script might have looked like, but I think all but the most puerile viewers can identify with certainty which elements of the television show desperately needed re-working.

Dated 14 April 2020: At least I'm not buying three copies of each disc—well, not deliberately, anyway

< Evirus> I remember hardsubbed signs on Nadesico DVDs which I still own.
< Evirus> Actually, still the last way I ever watched Nadesico. I've still never opened my Blu-rays.
<@Divine> It sounds like you have more unopened blurays than ones you've actually watched
< Evirus> This may, in fact, be the case.

With things the way they are now, you would think I'd be making some progress through my stack of unopened Blu-rays and DVDs, or my backlog of unwatched shows and planned re-watches. However, it turns out I already watch so much anime on a weekly basis that any additional free time get quickly consumed by all the other things that get displaced by anime watching and the pursuit of anime accessories.

Ayame and Yukina
Why are you wearing such a heavy jacket, Yukina?
Is it so you can dramatically strip it off later?

I do still see value in purchasing physical media, though. I think most people recognize that the oh-so-convenient streaming-based environment that we have presently is also somewhat capricious and occasionally prone to confounding moments of unavailability. The landscape itself is also less than ideal. For example, I was able to watch the Koutetsujou no Kabaneri compilation movies on the Crunchyroll, but I had to switch to the Netflix to watch the third movie.

Hopefully, all of these Blu-rays and DVDs will still be playable when I finally do get around to watching them. I have had CD-Rs die on me, but I haven't yet had an actual CD, DVD, or Blu-ray fail on me yet providing they've been properly handled and stored. (And not counting Manga Entertainment's End of Evangelion fiasco.)

Mumei
You know things are serious when bayonets are involved.

I plan to continue buying Blu-rays of shows I like, even if the odds I'll ever actually watch them seem sort of low. I guess I am at least less likely to buy Blu-rays on release now, unless I really like the show. Since there's a good chance I won't watch them for years, it makes more financial sense to wait until the price drops later. The exception to this, however, are my occasional imports of Japanese releases, since they typically pack in a bunch of cool extras—something I wish U.S. releases would include more often, even if the prices increase.

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 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.