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Dated 5 February 2018: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen releases us from the Time card's pernicious grasp

Sakura
Just your average preteen and her WMD.

Has it really been 18 years already? Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen basically picks up where the last series left off, and the transition is practically seamless. Various electronic gadgets get upgraded to the modern standard without comment, but the show itself is just the way I remember it. The cast remains intact, and while some voices have changed a bit over the years, the characters still remain true to form. Sadly, Kawakami Tomoko passed away in 2011, but Clear Card-hen did not write her character out of the show. Well, Rika did transfer to a different school, but she's acknowledged as still being part of the circle of friends and shares a phone conversation with Sakura in the fourth episode. It's not clear how large a role she will play in the current series, but this is also the case for much of the Cardcaptor Sakura cast. After all, the original ran for 70 episodes, while Clear Card is projected for only 22. I think we can expect a lot of characters to only get cameos this time around.

Touya and Sakura
Some things don't ever change.

For now, these episodes fit the "card of the week" stereotype, but that was true of the initial episodes in the original series as well. I'm fairly certain we can expect Clear Card to grow into a much larger story with complex narratives as it progresses. For the time being, I don't have much to say about Clear Card itself except that I'm constantly amazed we got a sequel to one of the best shows of all time almost 20 years after it ended, and the sequel manages to hit all the right beats so far. Moreover, this is true from both a thematic and a production standpoint. I don't know if Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen has all the people who were responsible for the first anime, but they at least understand what made the original great and appear intent on bringing that magic back. As for whether or not you should watch Clear Card, the answer to this seems obvious: If you watched the original series, then you can absolutely let your feelings about that show influence your decision about this one. If you have not watched the original, then you should absolutely watch that one first instead of skipping ahead to this one. The fact that this last point ever needs to be said is itself somewhat dismaying, to tell you the truth.

Dated 29 January 2018: DARLING in the FRANXX is more than a one-way reflection

Delphinium
The robots are named after flowers, but I don't know if there is any meaning to it.

Studio Trigger's Gainax heritage basically guarantees I'll give any of its shows a try. They haven't all been hits, but I'll generally find at least something to enjoy. DARLING in the FRANXX is Studio Trigger's two-cours science fiction partnership with A-1 Pictures featuring giant robots and lots of sexual allegories. The show is not at all subtle, with wall-to-wall metaphors about marriage, intercourse, orgasm, infidelity, and polyandry. And that's just the first three episodes. Unfortunately, it also stars an exceptionally dull teenage boy (because of course it does). At least he isn't a whiny brat, I guess. (That role was already taken by one of the supporting cast.)

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Dated 22 January 2018: Yuru Camp△ takes an early lead as Winter 2018's best show

Rin
Make a left at the fork and keep going straight. If you pass Mount Fuji, you've gone too far.

Yuru Camp△ is a blatant attempt at promoting camping and campsites. The show provides accessible instructions and guidelines to make camping attractive to neophytes and gorgeously depicts obviously real-life locations in transparent efforts to transform viewers into visitors.

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Dated 15 January 2018: Everybody relax, it's not as if they're tearing each other's clothes off in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni

Masami
Masami does not come across quite as lame in the anime as he does in the manga.

Right up front, you should know Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (Love Is Like After the Rain) is about a teenage girl who falls in love with her 45-year-old manager at the family restaurant where she works part-time. Nevertheless, it is not as—as the kids say—"problematic" as you might think, maybe because it is seinen instead of shoujo. (This last part is not a joke. If you've read a lot of shoujo, you know the genre revels in "problematic" developments.) Assuming the anime basically follows the manga, I think we can expect something much closer to Sweetness and Lightning than, uh...actually, I can't think of a show off the top of my head that follows through with this sort of pairing. (This assumes Tsumugi and her teacher did not started tearing each other's clothes off at some point in the Amaama to Inazuma manga.)

Akira
There is a lot of glaring in this show.

Rather, Koi wa Ameagari no You ni offers beautiful animation (assuming you're fine with the elongated character designs) with solid WIT STUDIO production values and the potential for the noitaminA block to potentially mean something again. That is, you don't necessarily need to dodge the show if the premise makes you uncomfortable. (Likewise, if you find the premise titillating, expect to be disappointed.) In a season chock full of so many good shows already, I can't claim After the Rain qualifies as a "must see" by any means, but it is at least worthy of more consideration by potential viewers who may have prematurely dismissed it based on preconceptions.

Dated 8 January 2018: I don't know what to write about Mahō Tsukai no Yome, so here is Chise bathing

Chise
Chise in the bath in episode one.

The first anime season of Mahō Tsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride) was visually stunning from start to finish. I had some doubts the show would be able to maintain the same high standard all the way through, but I've got no complaints about the first cours. The second cours has also started in fine form, but I'm still somewhat at a loss as to whether this is a show I would recommend or not. At a minimum, Mahoutsukai no Yome offers a different sort of anime that we rarely get. Even though Chise is Japanese, she practically could have come from anywhere, since the ethnic and cultural parts of her background don't matter so much as her early personal life and hardships. The setting is ostensibly British, but it's "Magical Cotswolds as a launching point to other realms" British and not, like, "chip shops on High Street" British.

Chise
Chise in the bath in episode 12.

However, The Ancient Magus' Bride might be a little too consistent for its own good, in that there aren't a lot of dramatic highs or lows in the first half of the anime. I frankly have a difficult time imagining what the series must be like for someone who isn't already familiar with the manga. Would someone coming to the anime first be as impressed with it as I was with the manga? Rather than pursuing some objective which Chise strives toward each week, the series consists of seemingly unrelated stories that improve Chise's understanding of the magic world around her. There are occasional reminders that she'll face serious challenges ahead, but there's no corresponding sense of urgency. I have to admit it would be reasonable for viewers to simply dismiss Mahō Tsukai no Yome by saying, "It's fine, but not my sort of thing." Reasonable, but unfortunate.

Dated 15 May 2017: If you give a Pretty Cure a cookie

Ichika
Fruits Basket Face.

I think it's reasonable to expect a few changes to Pretty Cure now that it's been running for more than 13 years. Its current iteration, Kirakira☆Pretty Cure à la Mode, deviates a bit from typical Precure norms, but not too drastically. For one thing, this is a "furry" Precure in that the transformed forms incorporate a few animal-based cues. We're still talking about the sort of thing children play at, and not lifestyle choices. We also have a couple of high school students as Cures again. There's precedent for this, but they're pretty rare. Nearly all Cures (and there are a shitload of them now) are 14-year-old middle school students.

Cure Custard
That tail is too big.

The biggest change, however, is that they are no longer "legendary warriors," but are "legendary pâtissières" instead. Yes, those of you who remember this entry, baking is back. It works, though. The war has got to end at some point, right? Magikal girls might embody Peace Through Strength, but maybe its okay for them struggle against something other than chaos and destruction. Cure Whip does suck at baking, though. Considering that Peace Through Baking is supposed to be the underlying theme of Kirakira☆Pretty Cure à la Mode, it's a bit sad that she's so terrible at it. Cure Bloom and Cure Rhythm must feel so bad for her. Saki and Kanade can't ever appear in a crossover bake sale with Ichika. They'd stand there baffled by her ruined batch of chocolate chip cookies (some of which are still on fire) and have to pretend people will still buy them.