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Dated 6 October 2020: Autumn 2020 first impressions

Setsuna
2D & 3DCG integration during the all-signing, all-dancing parts finally look right.

A new anime season is upon us again. Every quarter, I assess which shows I expect to watch during the upcoming season and add them to my animetrics table. However what actually seems to happen is that I just watch whatever comes out first, providing it's not shounen jive or something that looks super bad. In the past, I would write up a comprehensive post that summarizes every show that I sampled, but those days are long gone now.

Kasumi
Are you Best Girl? You sort of seem like you might be Best Girl.

What I can do, though, is draw your attention to a few of the bright spots from this first batch. Unexpectedly, the launch of a new Love Live installment caught me by surprise. I knew one was in the works, but somehow missed that it was starting in October. I don't actually regard myself as a Love Live fan, but I have seen all of it and I guess I'm going to watch Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai (Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club) too. The first episode was about what I would have expected from a new Love Live spinoff, but I can at least identify three highlights: (1) The somen joke was genuinely amusing. (2) The character who I expected to suffer from debilitating shyness seems to merely be kuudere. (3) The aggravated red-eyed girl at the end made faces I enjoyed.

Elaina
Flan has a better hat, but she's been a witch longer than Elaina.

Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) had the best first episode of the shows I sampled. [Update: I wrote this before I watched Munou na Nana (Talentless Nana), the new champ. It's worth checking out, but I suggest going in blind to avoid spoilers.] The visuals look fantastic, and the episode itself did not go the way I expected, so I'm hopeful that the rest of the show will continue to remain interesting. I also like witches and big hats, and this show had witches AND big hats, so that's a bonus.

Claudia
I don't think it's actually Claudia's fault everyone keeps dying.

Finally (for now), I'm going to mention that Senyoku no Sigrdrifa (Warlords of Sigrdrifa) has airplanes and tolerable lore. The dogfights are nice (albeit with handwaved physics), but they are not as spectacular as in The Magnificient KOTOBUKI. (Admittedly, that's a really high bar.) One serious potential problem is they're basically fighting the Neuroi from Strike Witches. Those types of adversaries are basically never interesting, so this could be a liability for Sigrdrifa too. One thing I am curious about, though, is why the anime appeared to cast Kayano Ai and Horie Yui in what seemed like unimportant bit parts. I can't tell if there's no meaning to it, or if it reveals these characters will actually take on much greater importance as the show develops. I guess I'm going to have to stick around to find out.

Dated 22 September 2020: We're gonna need more Fruits Basket

Kyo and Tohru
Should you be drinking out of the carton?

As I expected, there was an announcement following episode 25 of Fruits Basket 2nd Season confirming a third season will air in 2021. It will apparently be entitled Fruits Basket the Final, so I'm a little sad to learn the anime is ending. I sort of expected that, but I'm at least hoping it means there will be twenty-something more episodes and not just a single cours finale.

Akito
Akito is not a nice person.

In general, Fruits Basket isn't exactly the sort of show I typically watch. I've never read any of the manga, and I only watched the first anime adaptation because I heard it was good and because I like Horie Yui. It turns out the anime is good, and I even bought the DVDs, but I never re-watched it. Enough time passed between when I finished the first anime and when the 2019 one began that much of it still seemed new despite starting over.

Yuki and Machi
Machi is not the most stable girl.

Most of it might have, in fact, been new, since my hazy memory leaves me uncertain how much material the current anime has now covered that was omitted entirely from the Hocchan version. At a minimum, there are more episodes of the 2019 adaptation, and I'm fairly certain the manga still had a long ways to go when the 2001 anime finished. I know the original manga is finished now, but I'm aware spin-offs and a sequel exist, so there's at least more material to potentially adapt. In any case, I'm prepared to continue watching Fruits Basket basically indefinitely. There's something captivating about the sweetest girl in creation trying to make her way in a world filled with assholes and seeing the impact she has on the lives of people who just needed someone to give a shit about them once in a damn while.

Dated 28 July 2020: Major 2nd S2 is back

Tao, Sakura, Yayoi, and Anita
This is not an enthusiasm comparison chart.

The second season of Major 2nd went on hiatus after episode seven in the spring, but has resumed production for the summer anime season. It's not clear to me how long the show will run, but I'm hoping the Major franchise remains popular enough that we'll get at least a few more cours out of it. Having a mostly female cast and (so far) no sudden tragedies are departure from the norm, but not ones that have hurt the series at all.

Daigo and Sakura
This is a baseball thing, not a Covid thing.

The first season of Major 2nd already established that Daigo's story was going to be significantly different from Goro's in that Daigo's talent for the sport has been entirely unremarkable, and certainly so compared to Goro's freakish abilities. However, through 10 episodes of the second season, Daigo has effectively applied the lessons he's learned as he finesses the new leadership role that was thrust upon him.

Yamaguchi
The teacher isn't giving signs. She got bonked on the head by a foul ball while napping.

Daigo's middle school team of mostly girls is doing well, but they're by no means assured of victory in these contests. All of them are talented to some degree, but there a few areas that could use significant improvement. Even some fundamentals are shaky at times. I'm hoping Major 2nd Season 2 continues running long enough for the team to come together, because it's not going to happen overnight. I am optimistic for an extended run, though. A new OP is scheduled to drop 22 August, coinciding with the return of Horie Yui's character from the first season. Hell yeah.

Dated 27 May 2019: I probably would have stopped watching Fruits Basket by now if it weren't Fruits Basket

Tohru
Death to those who make Honda Tohru cry.

I am enjoying the new Fruits Basket anime mostly as a matter of general principle. It's well done, and hits all the right marks that I think it ought to, but I'm frankly not especially into it. Somewhat appropriately, this is how I felt about the first Fruits Basket anime as well. I don't even remember exactly when I watched it, but I do know it was several years after it aired and already regarded as a classic. Despite going in without knowing anything about the story, I did enjoy the 2001 Fruits Basket, no small part due to being a Horie Yui fan. In fact, I even bought the DVDs in 2009 (although I haven't re-watched the show). Still, even though I thought the show was quite good, it still wasn't the sort of show I typically watch, so I wasn't quite as invested in it as its more ardent fans tend to be.

Tohru
Not counting her mom, who is already dead.

This is pretty much how I feel about the 2019 Fruits Basket anime. Iwami Manaka is also very convincing as Honda Tohru, which is pretty important because Tohru is basically one of the all-time sweetest and nicest girls in the world. Nevertheless, I'm not particularly into the show itself, even though I intend to watch both cours (assuming it also runs 20-something episodes like the 2001 anime). Notably, there's a lot I don't remember about Fruits Basket now, so these 2019 episodes feel quite new to me. Since I haven't read the manga, I have no idea if this phenomenon is because one or both of the anime deviated from the original story, or if they're both faithful adaptations and I've simply forgotten nearly everything from the first anime. I mean, I have, but I'd expect some recollections to return by seeing newly adapted scenes of the same thing again now. In any case, both the 2001 and the 2019 Fruits Basket adaptations occupy that curious position where I'm willing to recommend them, despite being neither deeply enthusiastic about either anime nor knowledgeable in any capacity when it comes to the source material.

Dated 14 February 2018: iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA is a classic story about a teenage girl and her giant robot finding true love together

Haruka and Imber
Shameless flirting.

I was a stranger to the iDOLM@STER franchise the first time I watched iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. I mentioned this before, but perhaps I should have noted I was also mystified by the amount of hostility displayed by some fans of the original games (arcade and Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive) toward Xenoglossia when the anime came out in 2007. Although I understood in principle the objections fans would have concerning the different character designs and replaced voices, I was not personally invested in any of the characters, so some of the more venomous attacks seemed excessive. Moreover, the character designs looked fine to me, at least relative to other anime of the period and Sunrise shows in particular. I finally watched my DVDs over the past few months, and actually enjoyed Xenoglossia a lot more on re-watch than I did during its initial broadcast, despite having a better understanding now of THE iDOLM@STER as a whole. Or maybe I like Xenoglossia more because I've watched several cours of bona fide iDOLM@STER anime now, not "despite" watching them.

Iori
Yukarin Iori with purple hair is good too.

Still, I'm not quite sure how I would characterize iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. It's not really much of a giant robot show for a show about giant robots, and it's not an idol anime despite having (regular-type) idols and iDOLs in it. It's not a "cute girls doing cute things" show, nor is it an early example of the more recent phenomenon where anime girls band together to be really excited about some typically male-dominated activity, like Bakuon!! or Two Car or GIRLS und PANZER. Honestly, it really is a love story about a teenage girl and her much older robot boyfriend. Notably, the affection Haruka develops for Imber is not at all unusual, as all of the other pilots also develop complex feelings toward their robots as well. In fact, jealousy plays a huge role in the plot, as do the inevitable love triangles.

Azusa
Also, Xenoglossia Azusa > regular Azusa.

IDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA does not take itself too seriously, but does not devolve into camp either. I buy into the HARUKA X IMBER pairing enough to believe there should be real questions raised about the ED once its setting becomes clear. I also enjoy the romance enough that I think I like the Xenoglossia Haruka more than I like the regular Haruka. Not that there's anything wrong with the regular Haruka necessarily, but I like the Xenoglossia Haruka's attitude better. Perhaps it's because she comes across as more of a main character in her own show, while the "real" Haruka necessarily seems more like a token default protagonist in a franchise with an ensemble cast, must the way I regard Miyafuji in Strike Witches or ol' Bucky in the Kantai Collection anime. I don't know if true fans of THE iDOLM@STER will ever regard Xenoglossia as positively as I do—the different voices must be especially jarring for them—but perhaps they'll come to appreciate the series if they think of it as one of those in-universe television programs the iM@S characters themselves occasionally feature in as actresses.

Dated 24 April 2017: I've already dropped 10 shows from Spring 2017

Nono and Fudou
This is not Re:Zero.

There are a lot more shows each season these days than there used to be. I'm willing to give a lot of them a try, but I'm not quite as willing to slog through something in hopes it gets more interesting later. Lest you think I'm being too negative because I dropped 10 shows before the fourth week, bear in mind I'm still watching 17. Cripes, that is a lot. No wonder I never make any progress through my sizable backlog of anime I'd like to re-watch someday.

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Dated 16 December 2015: I'd probably like Hidan no Aria AA more if I had watched the original series first

Urara
That stock is just for looks.

Pretty much as a matter of general principle I won't watch a sequel without watching the original first. However, I do make exceptions when I don't expect to enjoy a show, or if I'm fairly confident I wouldn't like the original. In these situations, it's likely the new series has some hook or meaningful changes that distinguish it from the earlier series. This was the case with Futakoi Alternative, a fantastic series which took the basic framework of (I'm told) a dreadful harem comedy and turned it into something interesting. I was hoping this would also be the case with Hidan no Aria AA, but my impressions of the show through 11 episodes are mixed at best.

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Dated 27 January 2015: Cross Ange second cour: Let's Get This Rondo Started

Salamandinay and Ange
Oh, Sunrise.

I'm not sure precisely when Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo (Cross Ange: Rondo of Angels and Dragons) went off the rails, but it's pretty much just headed straight towards where the fuck ever now. There's a post-apocalyptic parallel universe populated with randy dragon girls, for crying out loud. P.S. Spoilers.

Ange and Tusk
I'm starting to think Ange and Tusk are both bar magnets.

I've seen some viewers claim that it's worse than Kakumeiki Valvrave now in terms of making sense, but that's honestly an unfair and misleading characterization. Whereas Valvrave suffered from lots of annoying bullshit that didn't make any sense, Cross Ange is packed with amusing bullshit that doesn't make any sense. It's an important distinction, okay. Blessed Haruhi, this is a great show.