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This Week in Anime – Gnarly Ninja Robots

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

Discotek‘s long journey to restore this ridiculously entertaining dub is finally complete and is now available for streaming. Is Joe a slick enough dude to save an alien princess, find all the Ninja Robots and restore peace to outer space?

This series is streaming on RetroCrush and Amazon Prime

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Jean-Karlo

Well Nicky, it’s 2022! It’s a new year, it’s a fresh start for all of us. How about we kick it off with a look to the future, via an old show?

The future is in the past, and how bad could future past be, right?

Nicky

It can’t be all bad as long as it’s got NINJA ROBOTS in it! Today we’re talking about the new and old release of Ninja Warrior Tobikage. This out-of-this-world mecha series was produced in 1985 by Studio Pierrot has now been transported straight into modern day thanks to the hardworking folks at Discotek.


There’s a history behind this show; dubbed in English by a studio in Miami, Ninja Robots never actually aired in the United States—it only aired in Australia and the Philippines. Like many of the beloved works Discotek has license-rescued, they went through a lot of trouble to recover the dub that was thought to be lost. Discotek went above and beyond to restore the Ninja Robots dub specifically for fans of bizarre old dubs, which is why we’re covering it instead of Ninja Warrior Tobikage, even though both are streaming on RetroCrush.

Since RetroCrush has no closed captions for the dub, we’ll be using the (incomplete) Amazon Prime version for subtitle reasons. We wanted to replicate at least some of the magic presented by this truly cheesy show. This really let me appreciate all the work that Discotek put into trying to preserve this show. I took caps from both versions and you can definitely notice how much more vibrant it is. First one is the version on Amazon and the 2nd is the version on RetroCrush.


It truly is endearing how much Discotek did to restore Ninja Robots, but those guys already had my heart when they license rescued Eat-Man in 2016 (and released it on my birthday, lol). In an era where media archival is a tremendous issue, it’s nice to see Discotek making sure the weird, bizarre stuff is still kept alive and in good condition.

They even significantly cleaned up the dub audio compared to the previous version. The original had a sort of tinny-sound that was not playing nice with my audio processing issues.

But where does that leave Ninja Robots? Well, in a weird place. Most people are familiar with the Voltron or Robotech school of 80s dubs where shows were completely rewritten. Think Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. Ninja Robots… doesn’t do that. The names are mostly kept with minor changes—Joe is still Joe, Mark is still Mark, only Rennie is now Jennie. The plot is largely identical, too. It’s to the point where even the intro is kept… kinda. Much like with Sailor Moon in the 90s, the Ninja Robots dub kept the Tobikage intro melody but changed up the lyrics into expositing about the main plot as sung by a very low-rent guy trying too hard to be David Bowie. It’s… something to experience.




It’s cute in it’s own way. It’s playing on the catchy strengths of that original JRock OP “Love Survivor,” though. I could’ve totally seen myself into it as a kid.
Right off the bat, the story feels very influenced by Mobile Suit Gundam. It takes place on a Martian colony, ruled over by a military despot. General Director Hazard forces anyone over the age of 16 to work in the colonies, be it in the military or in construction.


Well, the colonies are also pretty miserable compared to their previous lives on Earth. The construction workers say that jail is favorable than the daily grind of hard labor and omnipresent military rule.


Earth isn’t much better; ongoing civil unrest has reached dangerously violent levels. Case in point: the Statue of Liberty is now rubble.


We first see Joe and pals using guns to hunt rabbits for sport instead of taking his mandatory military exam. They carelessly throw their spoil at Jenny by means of negging her when she comes to lecture them, where we get our first amazing dub line of THIS. It’s a funny line in the dub but checking the sub it also highlights a sad reality that meat might not be highly available. Also wow, Joe is a real charmer (sarcasm).


I cannot understate just how much that line is made by the completely bizarre-o delivery of the dub. Like, it’s English and it’s spoken by someone who speaks English natively. Maybe the guy can’t act, but it’s not said incorrectly, it’s just got the delivery of some weird alien. Is it meant to be a joke? Is he serious about food shortages? Am I supposed to laugh? Because I am anyway but I don’t know if I’m supposed to.

Having looked heavily at both versions for these six episodes, the dub isn’t actually that unfaithful to the original script as far I can tell. Like yeah, Joe is a hothead macho asshole in the original saying almost the exact same things here but adding the “2 Cool 4 School” ‘tude delivery to everything makes it much more ridiculous compared to the more straightforward original. It’s not quality but it’s very funny if you enjoy that kind of thing and get any sort of nostalgia from it.


When the Military Police finds Joe being a little truant in a bar, they make to arrest him and his buddies, so Joe beats a trail to the desert where he comes upon a crashed alien ship set upon by other alien robots.




Immediately, Hazard and his stooge Doc Tock (not a doctor, his name is just Doc) think to take advantage of the situation. After all, aliens haven’t been found in 200 years, but now that they’ve arrived they might as well see what they can steal from them! It seems even Hazard resents Earth’s leaders for forcing him to oversee Mars.



Also, 1980s references to American science fiction! I had to pause to catch it, but yes: that’s the Enterprise! It seems a lot of people making anime liked Star Trek as much as folks making Star Trek: The Next Generation loved anime!

While we may be here to joke about the dub, we can still appreciate the artistry of the original. The bright blue of the city is very cool with the large UFO-shaped building overhanging everything. If anything, I’m really glad I was able to appreciate it this way where there was no way I could’ve before.

Studio Pierrot is a workhorse of the industry, currently working on Boruto while also producing the upcoming fourth season of Kingdom. And nothing hits like those old painted backgrounds for science fiction shows. The actual fights might be stock footage and shortcuts for animation, but when this show wants to look good, it looks good.
It’s not devoid of sakuga though. It may be stock but the transformation when Tobikage merges with Joe’s Gold Lion is very sleek, and there’s some small touches here and there in a way that’s nice for a 43 episode series.

We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves—see, the evil red Ninja Robots annihilate Hazard’s forces, and they turn their sights to the alien ship. Joe manages to steal his way onboard where he meets what appears to be an alien princess (who is a total space-babe). But they literally can’t speak the same language, so they just leave Joe to fend for himself.

Okay but the fact that the whole reason Joe is doing anything is just cuz he finds the alien princess hot is very funny/exhaustingly typical for a dude of his time.

I know they used to say “Earth girls are easy”, maybe Joe thought the rules applied to Andromedan?
At any rate, Joe is followed by an evil robot into a gold lion-shaped robot, and finds he can pilot it. So he goes on a rampage fighting off the other evil robots.





Also, this lion has GUNS! Pew pew! Serious firepower.

Yes! A random ninja robot also appears from nowhere and merges with Joe’s robot, turning it into a robot lion that mops up the rest of the alien army. The show dubs this robot “Cybertron”, but we learn precious little about them.

Don’t you just love it when guys just merge with you?


It’s just the ninja art of merging. Mind, body and soul, and what not. Just two dudes being dudes.

The owners of the Ninja Robots—the good ones—are a little miffed that Joe somehow managed to make one work, and capture him along with Mark and Jennie. But none of them can get the robots to move again, so they’re held prisoner by them. Meanwhile, Hazard is contacted by the leader of the evil alien robots—Grathan of the Kroken. Grathan strikes a deal with Hazard to give him weapons in exchange for the capture of Rowena the Alien Princess (the intro sings about her, remember?), and Hazard all too happily agrees in the hopes of backstabbing Grathan.





I gotta add I love Hazards intense “smokes 10 packs a day” voice in the dub. It’s very despicable. He’s unsubtle scum so it works.

Again, this isn’t anything that the subtitles can quite do justice—this is just a bizarre, bizarre dub. You just have to hear Hazard yourself to grasp how much he sounds like he’s about to get his voicebox cut out so he has to use one of those weird electric buzzers on his throat.

Or the little things like Joe’s insane laugh after Jenny his not-gf gets a little miffed at him for going along with this without any real reason to trust these new aliens.



“I do this all the time.” Yeah, buddy, sure ya do.

You forgot the part where the guards saw him punch the wall like some angry teenager…




…wait, on second thought, that’s perfectly in-character for Joe, what was I thinking?

I’m unsure what Joe’s character is supposed to be other than this somewhat unhinged boy. He’s not very likeable, but he is somewhat fun to watch. I wouldn’t describe the other characters as likeable either. Jenny gets the short-end from Joe a lot including being casually sexually harassed or insulted for not being feminine enough. His friends Kenji and Reel are both unlikeable and, in the early parts, can’t do anything. And I’m not sure Mark translates well because he’s sensible but whiny.

It’s also worth pointing out that in the first six episodes we’ve watched there is terribly little going on: Joe gets the lion’s share of the attention, so what little mediocrity there is to be had from Jenny and Mark isn’t much to go off of. To wit, Jenny and Mark use their robots all of once.

It also takes a while to set up, really. It’s not until episode 3 that Princess Rowena gets captured to be used as a bargaining piece and he decides to go off to save her by himself even if all his pals are determined to help.

Joe manages to rescue Rowena with the help of Cybertron, while Hazard and Grathan settle into the roles of the evil bickering married couple, constantly trying to one-up each other while helping each other fight Rowena, Joe, and company. Grathan’s army was ordered by King Annex to start a war on her planet in Andromeda because after a millennia of peace, their people had lost, ah… their “generating instincts”. Nothing like a war to start a fire in people’s loins, yeah? Ladorio, Rowena’s father, insisted it was just overreliance on technology. At any rate, Rowena was tasked with heading to Earth to find the legendary ninja, whom could possibly pilot the Ninja Robot and fight off Annex’s armies while also teaching the Andromedans how to bone. Rowena’s expression says it all.





The legendary hero, everyone.



Another thing I’ll note about the dub vs sub, it seems like not all the original music was licensed or that some of it was changed during localization for whatever reason. This was common for dubs at the time but it means some scenes are just totally tonally different on top of the delivery worse than some of the kids in my high school drama class.

Yeah, the fight scenes where Joe’s robot transforms just have really generic Casio music playing that sounds like it’s trying too hard to be royalty-free adventure music. Not the kind of thing you’d set to a show about giant robots, more like something you’d play over Crundle Quest V: The Crystals of Gingledoof.

Speaking of, Joe still has no idea who the heck this mysterious Cybertron is or where he came from. Which is pretty rude of him. Joe should at least ask the name of the guy he keeps merging with.

Jenny and Mark seem to care even less, it’s almost like Joe’s the only one who sees him.

And then while trying to figure things out Hazard captures everyone’s parents to hold them hostage and so Joe bargains with the princess to let them drive the robots in exchange for giving her a lift to Earth since they all want to go the same direction.

Joe just, continues to be a peace of work. He gets things done and he dislikes authority, but he also doesn’t have any real compassion, even towards his friends. His one moment of sweetness lies in his memory of Earth as a kid.

He just wants to smell those mountains, man.

It’s also funny how flippantly the kids take Hazard even though he’s got an ENTIRE ARMY. Like, Joe at least has a robot but Reel and Kanji try to fill the same role as the kids from Gundam and just say ‘No you won’t!” when Hazard says he’s gonna execute them all. Like it’s a game. Maybe it’s just trying to soften a serious situation from feeling too dark. But also, I would not care if Reel died.




Kanji can stay but Reel can definitely be executed.
A daring rescue is launched which involves crashing the Andromedan ship into Hazard’s base. Hazard takes it disarmingly well.


And that kind of dry sarcasm isn’t just invented from the dub. The whole show is just…like that!

The rescue goes off without a hitch but even jackass Joe manages to acknowledge that Cybertron, who merges his mech with Jenny’s in order to wipe out Grathan’s mechs, is a “real ninja”. In pursuit of other real ninja, the gang heads to the Martian polar ice caps. It seems there was another persecuted group of humans living there in resistance to Hazard’s regime, and it’s hoped they can tell the cast more about the legendary ninja.


Also, here’s another question for you? Why do the robots have to be ninjas? No particular reason other than they look cool it seems. There’s no other reference to feudalism in this show, and we don’t even know if the main characters are Japanese, but they are ninjas, okay!

I’m more bothered that there always seems to be the one class of ninja leading them. We don’t know if these Ninja Robots are piloted or pseudo-organic (they have creepy mouths that shoot teeth and breathe fire), or what. But I guess you have to have mass-produced mooks.

They also sometimes have what seems to be blood!

The Polar Martian welcoming committee isn’t very nice and… so, like… they act as ninja and do all kinds of ninja tricks, but they never call themselves ninja or even cop to being the ninja the Andromedans are looking for. They just do some ninja-like tricks. But they’re not ninja. That includes this guy here whose life Joe saves, Damian. He’s a ninja who talks like a surfer. Hey, it was the ’80s…

And then a big battle ensues, and Mike helps out. I really enjoy this part where Mike and Joe are JUST broin’ it up. And then your bro transforms into a dragon. Honestly, I rag on Joe’s delivery a lot but Mike’s voice acting is like 10x more bizarre. It’s so baffling and does his character no service, but also weirdly charming. That’s a lot of how I’d describe this show.




I wouldn’t call Ninja Robots remarkable, especially for it’s time. It’s not incompetent, I think the robots are cool. The plot and characters aren’t great, they’re pretty unlikeable, but weirdly charming?

It definitely is. Our six episodes end with the crew finally getting an engine and charting a course for Earth, and while I can’t say I enjoyed my time with Ninja Robots a whole bunch… I’m glad it’s here and I’m glad it’s available. For every time a current shonen series is ported to a new streaming site, there are a bunch of other shows that get forgotten purely by accident or clerical error. People joke about Discotek only handling stuff like Galaxy Defender Linguini, a (fake) mecha show that only aired on Italian public access television—but Ninja Robots is the perfect example of that. Right now, I work with people at ANN who grew up watching this and were excited to hear this being brought back on DVD. This show, and many other obscure oddities like it, matter to a lot of people. Which is why it’s important to keep this stuff around. It can vanish just as easily.

Oh totally, this show may not be good, but I get exactly why it’s remembered and what makes it memorable, and I’m excited to be able to enjoy it in it’s current state. It seems like something great to put on with a bunch of friends and couple of beers and just laugh and watch some robots shoot each other. And there’s many other shows that deserve the same treatment. Plus, I saw how tirelessly the people of Discotek had to search to find ALL the dub episodes, they might’ve seriously been lost to time if they didn’t do anything about it.

It’s not just Ninja Robots that they tirelessly sought out to restore and rerelease, either! Discotek alum (and former Answerman) Justin Sevakis went through hell trying to get all the materials for Cyborg 009. And that might not even be the hardest thing they did; the folks at Discotek tracked down the third season for Medabots and even managed to rediscover the lost masters for Project A-ko. That’s a lot of anime archeology, and I don’t think Discotek gets enough love for how much work they put into this stuff.

That might not mean much if you didn’t already know about those shows, like myself. But I still like being able to have them. Everyone who has ever created something, knows how much time and effort it goes into making things. Even a garbage anime or a garbage dub had tons of talented people just working their butt off like you couldn’t believe. And some people can recognize that, even if it doesn’t always show up in the end product. And that’s particularly why it sucks when we see stuff get lost, it’s like all that effort gets thrown in the trash. I’m not even that old and there’s some things I’m worried about just being totally forgotten. Every show that gets saved feels like a miracle, even Ninja Robots!

Ninja Robots is what a beloved buddy of mine called a “museum piece”. Shows just aren’t made like this anymore. They don’t look like this, they aren’t written like this—and they definitely aren’t dubbed like this. But we’re lucky we get to see how this stuff used to be, and we’re lucky that it’s so easily available. So check it out, it’s worth a goof, just know that it can vanish whenever. Which I guess is a good mood to take into 2022—enjoy what you have while you have it.

This Week in Anime – Horse Girls Are Easy

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

If you wrote off Uma Musume Pretty Derby Season 2 based on its galaxy-brain premise, you may have missed out on one of the most emotionally compelling sports series in years.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Well Steve, we find ourselves in a bit of a lull with new releases right now. The new season’s only just started, there’s no Netflix dumps in sight, and we missed out on talking about whatever the hell Ninja Robots was. We better think up something quick before our boss catches us horsing around here.
Steve

You know, I think you’ve just given me the perfect idea. Let me take the reins.



That’s right, it’s horse girl time.
Technically it was horse girl time last spring, but forgive us for lagging behind the pack a bit, okay? How were we to know the second season of a gacha game adaptation about girls possessed by the spirits of dead racehorses would go on to become one of the biggest moneymakers of 2021?

I mean, I could have told you that. But in its own special (week) way, it’s fitting that we’d choose an odd time to talk about what turns out to be a pretty odd season. Last winter, part 2 of Uma Musume arrived three years removed from the first season—enough of a gap to allow the mobile game to finally go live—while it also followed a new set of horse girl protagonists, threading the line between sequel and spinoff.

Honestly it feels like a soft reboot. The main cast of the previous season are still present, but they are entirely side characters, and I think that works best. S1 was a perfectly OK sports homage, but Spe-chan and the rest of Spica really do work better as supporting cast with dedicated gimmicks. Can only get so much mileage out of “she liek carrot” y’know?

She do be lieking carrot tho.

Also if you’re new here, yes all the girls are named after their horse counterparts. You just gotta roll with it. Also I wasn’t joking earlier: the lore of this world is that spirits from our Earth’s racehorses travel across space-time to possess fetuses in the womb, and they all are born as horse girls. That’s just how it is.

In addition to the horrifying cosmic implications of its lore, Uma Musume returns with all your favorite horse girl locales and sight gags from the first season. Remember the hollow stump of frustration? Now you can use it to vent all of your powerfully gay feelings!





I only barely remembered that from the first season, actually. Which kind of tells you how much I attached to it. But thankfully S2 makes for a great jumping on point even if you never watched the first. All you need to know is there’s horse girls and they fucking love Springsteen.

Yeah, unless your brain is as broken as mine, in which the phrase “horse girl anime” alone is enough to alter my cerebral chemistry, I’d recommend just diving into the second season. It takes the series many charming (and bizarre) points and concentrates them into what ends up being a much more compelling, and more straightforward, sports narrative. And plus, it still takes the time to teach Uma Newbies important stuff like how their skirts work, or what their speed limit is.


I feel like having that next to the sidewalk is asking for trouble. Like at least you can hear cars coming. Imagine trying to cross the street and just getting laid out by a galloping schoolgirl.

I’m sure there are people out there who would pay for the privilege.



Yes, they also wear horseshoes. It’s a whole thing, you gotta trust us.
Don’t question it. That way lies Horse Madness.

Next thing you know, you’re gonna be asking questions like “why does that girl have pointy teeth if horses are herbivores?” and then you will truly be lost.

I’m more concerned on why her ears look like aircraft ventilators. But honestly there’s an entire column’s worth of questions I could ask about that VTuber ass horse.

Anyway, there is an actual story to this show, and it centers on Tokai Teio, the tiny, fleet-footed star racer of Spica who dreams of becoming Horsekage.



Coincidentally, Symboli Rudolf is my favorite Italian fusion restaurant.

That scene’s doubly great when you learn that in real horse lore, Symboli Rudolf sired Teio. It’s horse girls all the way down. But she’s got a lot of pep and big dreams to win the Triple Crown, and given that this is a goofy gacha tie-in about cute track races, I’m sure there won’t be anything in her w—

Yeah so that’s gonna be a running theme of this season. I think there’s maybe two whole episodes of this season without at least one on-screen injured horse girl. Which really makes me wonder what the hell kind of medical personnel work at this horse girl school.

The unfunny answer is as good medical personnel as the actual horses get. Another extremely important quirk of the Uma Musume anime to understand is that pretty much all of its major races are based on historical ones. They replicate the competitors, the outcomes, and have even gone as far as recreating specific camera angles from the TV broadcast. It’s impressive in a way, but it also means the narrative ends up beholden to the not-so-cute intricacies of the real thing, which can get pretty darn gnarly.

Yeah it’s kind of a catch-22. If you acknowledge that limitation it all but takes you out of the plot and reminds you of the frankly fucked way racing animals have been treated historically. If you don’t, it instead invites comparison to human sports injuries which are equally fucked. So the show struggles with that for basically the whole season.

Personally I just blame their trainer. This dude has three different star racers get hurt while under his guidance in like, a year. He should have been fired faster than Urban Meyer. Get him out of here and get these girls a real Strength & Conditioning coach.

What is legitimately funny is that this guy is the audience/player stand-in, yet the entire season sees him making these agonizingly grim decisions about the fate of his team members. He’s also infinitely more tolerable this season, if you can believe it. They do away with his occasional bouts of lecherous behavior from the first season, even if it comes at the expense of an almost criminal disregard for the health and safety of his team. Still a net gain from a narrative perspective, though.

Wow, so he really is Urban Meyer! Also prepare for a lot of football references, nerds. It’s playoff season and this is the closest to a sports show I’ve gotten in months. But I promise to mostly keep things horse-themed.

I’m holding you to that, or so help me I have a folder full of Twin Turbo to throw at you.

So anyway, yeah, Teio ends up breaking her leg at the end of the first episode, right after a big victory to continue her undefeated streak. This was probably not helped by her having to put on an idol concert right after winning.


God I love this stupid anime.

“Why did she have to do that?” you may ask. And what did we tell you about asking questions?

‘Tis but a fracture anyway. Teio can walk that off. And she’s going to, because she has more important things to worry about, i.e. beating her fellow teammate and rival ojou-sama.


Yes, her name is McQueen. Yes, they’re in love. Ka-chow.

McQueen gets arguably the most important narrative upgrade from the first season, going from Gold Ship’s partner in background gag crime to second billing as Teio’s girlfriend.


She also unlocks Ultra Instinct at one point, so all around a very positive season for her that definitely won’t hit any speedbumps.



They’re the two major players from Spica, while everyone else on the team plays support/comic relief. Meanwhile the other rivals come from other teams, like the aforementioned Twin Turbo. They even imported Kumiko from Sound! Euphonium to fill out the roster.

They’re part of the team of weirdos who mostly exist to trail behind Teio and McQueen, but they’re pretty fun in their own incredibly dumb ways.

Yeah, no matter how heavy the show gets, its extremely goofy sense of humor is always there to pick things up. There’s a multiple-episode running gag between a hairstylist and her hapless customer that runs all the way through the finale. It rules.

There’s also the ongoing story of Mejiro Palmer and her internet-poisoned girlfriend who looks like somebody hit “Random” in a horse girl Picrew.


I’ve finally reached the point where I unironically love this recent avenue of maximalist character design. Between gacha games and VTubers, character designers have shed all limiters and thrown absolutely anything that sticks at the wall. The anime girl arms race has never been dumber, and I’m here for it.

Count me as an apostate because just looking at Twin Turbo’s racing gear makes me feel like I drank six cans of Monster.

These horse girls are too strong for you, traveler.

But hey, I may not see what Palmer sees in her, but I’m glad she and Helios found each other.


To quickly answer another Uma Musume newbie question, yes, every horse girl is invariably gay. This has been true ever since Special Week was introduced with two moms.

It’s just how it goes. You live on the racetrack. You die on the racetrack. You get married on the racetrack.


And off the racetrack, you enjoy some nice, reasonably sized boba tea together on a Halloween date.


You know, whenever one of you isn’t seriously injured. Which is a shockingly rare occurrence for some reason. These girls get one beautiful, cathartic rivalry race before both are put back on IR. Again, fire this fuckin guy. His horse girls are dropping like the flies their tails are supposed to swat.



Sidenote: the greatest joke in this show is when the horse girls finish a race and go full Yamcha in the background. Nobody ever acknowledges it.

We told you the world of horse girl racing was cutthroat. But funny enough, my favorite part of the season has nothing to do with Teio and McQueen’s disaster-addled rivalry. It’s all about one very smol dark horse.

We stan a queen and her stupid little hat.

Rice Shower, like her namesake, is a racer with a notorious reputation as a spoiler, having foiled a previous Triple Crown attempt from a crowd favorite, and currently up against McQueen’s ambitions to win.




And she does it all in that STUPID little hat. I LOVE her.

She’s by far my favorite part too. One of the things I love about sports is that the culture around it is defined as much by narrative as it is by raw physicality. Athletes can develop reputations or foster personas that take on a life of their own, and seeing the god damn Kawaiibiscuit show delve into that was a very welcome surprise.





As a kid who never really “got” sports, I only very recently came to understand that narrative aspect of their appeal, and it was like stadium doors being thrown open. Rice Shower’s arc in particular adds up to a shockingly elegant exploration of what “villainy” means in professional competitions, and how much of that narrative is in and out of control of the athlete. Rice Shower, in that respect, hates her reputation, and it’s enough to make her want to quit.


Nah, girl, embrace that. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a dominant dynasty get taken down by an unexpected opponent. Eli Manning spent years being considered the mediocre coat-tail rider to his older brother, then he fluked his way into beating the undefeated Patriots, and now he never has to pay for a drink in NYC for the rest of his life. You’re only a villain until you crush the bandwagon fans into submission!

Okay I know I warned you about the football references, but because I actually know those names, I’ll allow it. And for Rice Shower, the power with which she grabs hold of both the heel and hero aspects of her reputation, and further synthesizes that frustration into a record-breaking win, is the undisputable high point of this season.



Also, her flaming blue eyes are yet another bit of horse trivia minutiae, in this case referencing a TV ad about the original Rice Shower. This show, man.






It’s so good. Just embrace the power of a heel and I promise you people will love you. If those other girls and their fans are angry, then it’s their job to get better than you. Become the Kagetsu of horse girls, Rice Shower.



See that one’s a wrestling reference. I’m safe.
I love, too, that the denouement to her arc is Bourbon returning to tell her, “yep, you broke a lot of hearts today. You did good, kid.”





If you can’t win the hearts of the masses, you can at least date a Symphogear.

Alternatively, speak softly and carry a stupid little dagger to match your hat.

That cannot be safe to run with. Like it’s a wonder she of all people doesn’t get injured in this show.

Look, someone has to make it out of this season unscathed, and it sure as hell ain’t going to be the main couple.

Alright so, I guess we gotta address this story’s final arc. See the entire reason Rice Shower gets some limelight is because Teio and McQueen spend months after their big race nursing injuries, and while McQueen seemingly makes a comeback, Teio keeps getting hurt and if you’ve ever seen an athlete rush back from injury for a big competition, you see where this is going.

Teio’s whole arc is all about starting with these grand dreams and constantly having to whittle them down due to her leg injuries, which just gets more and more heartbreaking. She does eventually find inspiration not in a particular race, but in her relationship/rivalry with McQueen, which is the main thematic thrust of season 2. Even that, however, can be heartbreaking to watch at points.





It is shockingly real. One of the inescapable facts of sports is that you can only play as long as both body and spirit can keep up, and those two are rarely in tandem. You can do everything you can to take care of yourself, but accidents or mistakes can suck the wind out of you and leave you feeling empty. And that’s even harder when you’re a big name who can suddenly be left behind by the world.




And again, this is in the god damn horse girl gacha ad where they dress up in frilly costumes and perform dance numbers after a race.

Right? Watching it last year, I was completely whiplashed by how hard this season homes in on loss, failure, and injury as its main points of concern. You can either read that as a noble narrative pursuit in spite of its gacha tie-in roots, or just the grim inevitability of lifting your stories from a sport in which the participants are, ultimately, expendable. It still works for me in the end, thanks in no small part to its audacity and sincerity, but it’s definitely arguable whether this approach was a good idea in the first place.

I admire the ambition behind it, and there are absolutely moments when this hits incredibly close to home, but the problem comes when it still ultimately needs a happy ending, and getting there requires some really horse shit (pun intended) framing.



I promised to keep the football stuff horse-themed so tell me Steve, do you know anything about the Indianapolis Colts?

I don’t believe Jon Bois has done a video on them yet, so no.

So in 2012, the Colts drafted a star quarterback out of college named Andrew Luck. And for the next 7 years, through a confluence of bad luck and horrifically inept management, proceeded to ruin his career with a series of debilitating injuries that led him to a shockingly early retirement. And when he announced, through tears, that he was retiring in order to prioritize his health, an entire stadium of Colts fans booed him as he left the field. It’s one of the most shameful things to happen to a high-level NFL player in recent memory.

And it’s awful, because Luck gave literal blood, sweat, and tears for an organization that failed him and a fanbase that showed they only cared about him for his ability to win games. So when the resolution to Teio wanting to retire to avoid a potentially life-long disability is this:







The sentiment kinda turns to ash in my mouth.

That certainly does make sense! And even absent a specific example, the uncaring unkindness of real sports injuries were a nagging presence in my mind while watching this season too. You can’t pep talk your way out of a concussion. I even started to wonder if the show would ultimately commit to an unhappy, or at least bittersweet, ending, because it really seemed like the most logical place it could go. And those moments that do wallow in the stark, inevitable realities of disappointment and grief end up being the most powerful parts of the narrative for me.


The worst part to me is how the narrative frames the decision of any horse girl to not run herself into the glue factory as “giving up.” Like nah man. I can relate to losing something important to you, to wanting desperately to have back the body and ability you once had. But choosing to not wreck your body in the pursuit of a victory is never “giving up” and the show treating it that way sucks major ass.

It’s not giving up, but at the same time it’s a tough decision for a person to make when considering it’s your life’s passion—and, less seriously, that the cosmos themselves aligned to specifically make you into a horse girl destined for racing. On an individual level, I absolutely get how that can feel like giving up. Still, though, I agree it would have been better—or at least more interesting—for the show to pursue a more nuanced ultimate resolution than default back to a happy ending.

It also just doesn’t make sense? Teio gets a serious injury that’ll require monitoring, but can ultimately be overcome, sure. But McQueen is diagnosed with a degenerative disorder. That’s not something you can heal or easily fix.



I actually did some research on this because yes, it’s a real god damn horse disease, and it’s something that can only be treated through lifestyle change. That’s….that’s not something you can Hope and Dream your way through.
Not hopes and dreams, but maybe the power of horse girl love is stronger than even the best medicine. Would be an interesting thing for season 3 to explore.

It apparently has the ability to convert cartilage in your legs into collagen, because an unspecified amount of time after Teio’s big return, McQueen’s just back.


Just long enough for a new generation of horse girls to enter the academy and learn how to pulverize their ligaments into a fine powder!


Considering Teoi’s childhood idol is still at the school when she starts attending, I assume Horse Girls age like real horses and hit puberty before age 2.

But yeah, for the most part I appreciate what Uma Musume 2: Galloping Boogaloo does. It makes a way more compelling story than the first, has a much more interesting cast, and did a lot to surprise me. But I can’t see the ending as anything but a copout. But at least the haircut lady got her revenge!

Truly more important than any A plot happening. As for me, I listed this with my honorable mentions for 2021 for a reason. Certain aforementioned quibbles aside, it’s a genuinely great sports anime with a colorful sense of humor and shocking degree of pathos crammed into its 13 episodes. I’d say it’s a lot better than it has any right to be, but that would be a lie, because horse girls were always good. Let them trot their way into your heart. You won’t regret it.

We’ll have to agree to disagree, but at the very least we’ll always have this tiny horse and her tinier hat.

Amen to that.

This Week in Anime – Does The Ultraman Hold Up In Anime Form?

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

Ultraman‘s legacy in Japanese popular culture runs deep and wide. Despite its enduring influence, however, the acclaimed tokusatsu series remains relatively obscure overseas even among diehard anime fans. With the 1979 The Ultraman anime installment finally streaming in the U.S., it’s time to tackle the kaiju in the room. How well does this series hold up in anime form?

This series is streaming on TokuShoutsu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nicky

Hey, everyone, welcome to another This Week in Anime! I’m Nicky and to start us off, I’ve got a little riddle. Hey, Jean-Karlo, Can you tell me which Japanese Superhero is bigger than Superman?

Jean-Karlo

Haha, that’s an easy one! ‘Cuz when “Super”‘s not enough, there’s always Ultraman!


Thank you for that classic line, Eric Stuart!
Ding-ding! That’s right! And he’s a pretty big guy too, if anything. Sometimes you don’t need too many crazy superpowers as much as just being big enough to suplex your kaiju enemies.



Today, we’re talking about the 1979 The Ultraman anime series. It’s the eighth installment of the biggest tokusatsu franchise around, and also its first animated venture.
While Ultraman isn’t as recognizable among overseas audiences as Super Sentai/Power Rangers or Kamen Rider, he’s an icon of Japanese tokusatsu (special effects). The 1979 The Ultraman animated series being streamed on TokuShoutsu is definitely a treat: Tsuburaya teamed up with Sunrise (the Gundam people) to produce an animated series.

Because the title is kinda confusing, it should be noted that this Ultraman isn’t the original Ultraman from the 1966 live-action series. The Ultraman‘s Ultraman was later been dubbed Ultraman Joneus, and while his universe is a different one from the live-action series it is still in continuity with the live-action show.

I, like many anime fans, actually have little to no direct experience with Ultraman. My biggest exposure might actually just be the student fan film Return of Ultraman produced by future Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideaki Anno where he casts himself as Ultraman wearing a track-suit.

And I’m greatly looking forward for both of them! But before we talk about the future, let’s flash back to the past.

The Earth Self-Defense Force, witnessing bizarre phenomena like alien letters appearing in the sky, establishes the Emergency Science and Defense Squad. Commander Akiyama forms a crack team of engineers, medical experts, and some sloppy dude named Marumi to head the team while also comandeering the use of the Super Maddock, the most-advanced space ship on Earth.



While the Captain has assembled his crew, the young Hikari makes his trip back down to earth after spending a whole year living peacefully on space station EGG3. But on his way back he’s consumed by a mysterious light and confronted by the alien-being himself, Ultraman. Ultraman says the mysterious lights were the people trying to warn the people of Earth of incoming danger. Ultraman wants to help but he cannot sustain a form on earth without help, and chooses Hikari as his earthly vessel.







Ultraman, although a being from space, kinda has a lot more similarities to a godly encounter than one of extraterrestrial or supernatural nature. What with all the psychedelia and rays of light everywhere.

Well, the M78 Nebula said to be the home of all Ultras is known as “The Land of Light,” so this is par for the course for an Ultra’s appearance. At least Hikari didn’t get his body blown up in a fight between an Ultra or a monster!

Whether he’s a God, a ghost, or an alien doesn’t really matter as much as Ultraman kicks serious monster butt! But, unfortunately, he’s also got a serious time limit, serious enough to emphasize practically every episode. He might have a worse battery life than my Nintendo 3DS!
If you’ve ever wondered why your Pokémon kept making that horrendous sound when their HP is low: you can thank the adults of GAME FREAK for being traumatized by the beeping of Ultraman’s Color Timer. Yes, all of them have one.





I understand why a few NGE episodes had the EVAs on chargers now. Ultraman practically needs one. But, this doesn’t stop him from doing his best and getting his job done in the nick of time!

Right away, the advantage of The Ultraman being an animated adaptation is apparent. Live-action Ultraman was able to wow audiences with memorable monster designs, engaging wrestling action, and effective (but affordable!) special effects, but those suits were expensive to produce. Here, no such limitation exists, so Ultraman Joneus is able to fight a quartet of ice-breathing kaiju right off the bat!
You can also do some weirder stuff like have a weird living tornado or have every member of the cry fly a super cool jet all without endangering a real stunt-actor.
That last part is important! Not unlike The Thunderbirds, a lot of Ultraman‘s appeal was seeing tiny model ships firing squibs at each other. In fact, Hikari normally doesn’t transform into Ultraman until he’s sure the problem couldn’t be solved without him, and there are plenty of times where the day is saved because someone kept a bazooka handy!



For a monster-of-the-week show, there’s actually quite a lot of focus on the crew, I might add. It feels more emblematic of like Star Trek original flavor than like most anime produced now.
Marumi, for example, is the comic relief character and you’d be forgiven for thinking his only contribution is being “the fat guy.” But he’s a vital member of the team: sure, he was obsessed with giving fellow-crewman Mutsumi a pendant for her birthday, but it turned out that pendant had a flare that made it possible for Ultraman to rescue them both from a sentient monster-fueled tornado.



I actually was surprised how much focus the show had on Marumi. He’s actually more closer to a flawed everyman-type compared to Hikari, who is too young and pure for that. I particularly liked the third episode where he has to convince a kid that a baby monster isn’t a suitable pet or how he doesn’t hesitate to risk himself in the second episode to try and save the station from the tornado. Even if he was shitty and tried to sabotage Hikari so he could get a better chance of winning Mutsumi’s affection in the same episode.
Eiji Tsuburaya had a strong philosophy when it came to designing monsters for the Ultra series, preferring to avoid outright-grotesqueries and instead focus on monsters reflecting the nature of people around them. Wanigodon is a weird giant crocodile whose split parts can be reborn as a tiny version of itself that within days can grow into another massive kaiju. Marumi painfully impresses upon a kid—the main demographic of this show—that even the best of intentions don’t make you a suitable caretaker for a wild animal.





It shows a lot of maturity of his character too. He’s pretty much the real hero of that episode after being able to figure out the monster’s true weakness. I’m not a big fan of how he treats his female coworker Mutsumi, but I don’t think the show really condones all of that. I was surprised to see her introduced as someone with value to the team who wanted to be treated equally as a coworker, even if it’s heavy-handed by today’s standards.



The philosophy of the show is a very idealistic one where men and women alike work together to build a better society on the back of technology. The original Science Patrol wasn’t strictly a military organization, and the Defense Squad is no different. Episode 4 is a great example: a bizarre sentient cloud has been hovering over Japan, and nobody knows how to handle it. The Defense Squad prioritizes keeping civilians away from it while they figure out how to neutralize it.



They do still use a lot of big guns, but their first and foremost mission seems to be simply protecting people.

But they also take the time to spare some mercy for the kaiju; after the red cloud is painfully condensed into Red Smogy via contact with rainwater, the Defense Squad breathes easy when Ultraman both reverts Smogy back into a cloud and whisks it into the vacuum of space where it won’t have to fear contact with water.







There’s an understanding that many kaiju are just phenomena or creatures that are blameless for following their instincts, which could cause harm to humans entirely by accident. While the Defense Squad won’t hesitate to kill rogue or violent kaiju, they are sympathetic to the plight of lifeforms that are just too disruptive to the ecosystem.
There’s another episode where they show sympathy for the monsters because it’s trying to protect it’s babies. Lots of kaiju stuff stems from this theme of man vs nature, but this kind of neutral or even sometimes sympathetic outlook makes sense. The kaiju may feel like an invasive threat but they still seem to stem from the earth itself and are therefore an extension of it.



Also, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t resist the power of “Wow, cool monster!” the monsters here are very dopey but I still enjoy looking at them.
The Toughguibabies (yes, that’s their name) are adorable and seemingly only exist to waddle up to the nearest source of foliage and gnaw on it like hamsters with the most bugged-out expression possible and I just about died every time they flashed on screen eating their weight in trees while a massive kaiju battle waged on in the background.



Also, because babies are innocent, Ultraman Joneus shrinks them with a power he’s apparently got so that Dr Nishiki can take the Toughguibabies back to Africa where he can safely study them. But the shrink ray only works on good monsters, so Joneus can’t use it on others.

Their parents are also like neat herbivore dinosaurs that also have quills like a porcupine. And different designs for the male and female! Quality monster thoughts. I think despite it’s age and being heavily rotoscoped, the animation on Ultraman himself is also quite good. There’s very little stock footage and lots of emphasis on his musculature as he flips around or picking up and tossing his monster rivals.



However, as much as I like monsters I still can’t really bring myself to like or understand whatever the fuck THIS thing is??? Seriously, what is THAT?!

So, Pig the Robot is based on Pigmon, a beloved and tragic pygmy kaiju from the original Ultraman series. I think Pig is supposed to be some kind of kid-appeal character like 7-Zark-7? I mean, I definitely shed a few tears when I see the Science Patrol standing above Pigmon’s humble grave at the end of The Little Hero, but I can’t pretend to find him particularly adorable. Not unless a certain blue-haired god is listening and is priming Tim Curry to sicc a giant cyborg Pigmon on me.

The anime doesn’t really offer an explanation for him other than he’s a loyal part of the team. He does seem pretty smart and serves the other members well, though. The captain even had him make a birthday cake for Mutsumi’s party. However, I think he is both cute and ugly and I am never quite sure what I’m looking at. They seem to flatten his design a lot from his live-action counterpart.

Being 2D instead of 3D will do that to ya, just ask any Vtuber.

There’s still a good amount of character development to be had, especially with Pig around. You see a lot of episodes in Ultra where a character is tasked with staking the mission (and their pride) on inventing some kind of solution to a problem. In the final episode we covered for this column, the Super Maddock can’t dive deep enough into the ocean to safely pursue the kaiju Firebadon. Tobe, the chief mechanic, finds inspiration from, of all people… Pig.

Tobe is the resident machines man of the group, so he doesn’t have many speaking roles but is handy in a pinch. Watching him wallow over how to fix the ship was interesting. Fitting for a long series, it develops the cast early through simple conflicts. And sometimes the solutions are actually pretty clever! We also see quite a bit of crew in-fighting this episode.

I’m still living over his solution: he created a pressurized external hull for the Super Maddock that could launch the Maddock from inside like some kind of giant Happy Meal toy. It’s totally bonkers and illogical and exactly the kind of Mickey Mouse engineering that you could only get from the Ultra series. This… is good-good. Goes to show that the show couldn’t lose its spirit in adapting to a new format if it tried.
The fight underwater with the fire kaiju is pretty good too. Ultraman puts this thing in a sweet chokehold. There are so many cool little moments. Also, if anything the music is just very funky and makes it easy to get into the groove of things if you let it take you.



Stuff like the stock footage for the Super Maddock’s launch sequence still feels like it was shot with actual miniatures. If Tsuburaya were so inclined, they could have mixed the miniature stock footage with superimposed animated characters like what was done with Attack of the Super Monsters. They didn’t, but the show doesn’t feel worse for it. This feels like it captures the spirit of the live-action Ultraman in ways that a lot of other adaptations for other media don’t manage to capture.

Quite a bit of this looks good for its age, surprisingly. The color is still very good and mostly feels intact. Though, it’s still quite old. The footage is still heavily artifacted compared to the cleaner restorations we’ve been going over as of late on TWIA. The plots are also slower compared to now. But there are great little bits of novelty in time pieces like this. Especially if you’re already a fan.

As mentioned earlier, the spirit of Ultraman and the Ultra series at large is the hope that the tech of the future can lead to a better world. Not a single Ultra doesn’t have the absolute confidence humanity that can overcome its struggles and join the rest of the galaxy in peace and harmony. After all, they keep finding worthy humans to team up with. It’s goofy, it all boils down to seeing a guy wrestle someone else in a clumsy suit, but it’s all painfully genuine and sincere.




It almost renders the idea of a deconstruction pointless: it’s immaterial if you can see the zipper on the suit. We’re not here because friendly giant aliens and space ships are logical or realistic. We’re here because it’d be nice if they were.
If monsters were real I might actually become that kid who tries to keep one as a pet, so maybe it’s a good thing that they aren’t! But I enjoy having a silly diversion—anime is built on this concept of silly diversions being an important part of reaching emotional truths, and it’s nice to see where part of that influence stems from. Although it’s not the first time it’s been brought to the U.S., Shout! Factory has been doing a great job of trying to make Ultraman and other Toku available as they can, and it’s an important time capsule to keep around.
It’s kinda stunning how obscure Ultraman is in America given how many times Tsuburaya has localized it. I’m hoping this one is the one.

And if this animated take on a giant superhero from Tsuburaya isn’t quite your speed, have I got another show to shill!

The legacy of Ultraman surely is as vast as he is tall. Crossing my fingers for Gridman x Dynazenon soon. See you next time!

This Week in Anime – When a Wife Guy Is Banished From the Hero's Party

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside offers an appealing romance between a wife guy and a former adventurer princess… and then there’s everything else. Nick and Steve break down this RPG-inspired fantasy that features quite a bit less “quiet life” than the title might lead you to expect.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Well, Steve, we spent last week talking all about Horse Girls. So I think it’s only fair we compensate today by talking about their diametric opposite: Wife Guys.

Steve

If those are the thesis and antithesis, then it logically follows that their synthesis is Horse Wife Guys. But I don’t think we, nor anybody else on the planet, is ready to broach that subject yet. So yeah, best to stick with the basics.

Just saying, horse girls are born to run. Wife guys stay at home. Horse girls wreck their bodies trying to achieve an unattainable accomplishment. Wife guys leave the main quest line and play Stardew Valley. That’s the circle of life. For every Luigi, a Waluigi.

It’s not much, but it’s honest work. And that’s, purportedly, the conceit behind Banished From The Hero’s Party, a title which is followed by an even longer subtitle that I have a moral obligation to ignore. Let’s face it, there are way too many stories about heroes questing and adventuring. What Banished asks is what if you instead moved to the countryside and opened a dispensary?



Lord knows if I was getting raided by ogres every other week I’d want to have a steady supply of herb.
Considering the horrific existential implications we later find out about this world, I’m surprised Red’s (R)Edibles isn’t the hottest shop in town. But we’ll get to that later. For the most part, this show is a top batter in a new trend of web novel fantasy series where the main character just fucks off from the typical JRPG quest, trading in the power fantasy of those stories for the domestic fantasy of being an independent small business owner with a married life and friends.




There’s a lot to be said about why that specific shift would become a trend, but we don’t have time to unpack all that.
Not when there’s plenty to unpack in Banished‘s own lumpy knapsack full of tropes, politics, and wifeposting. At least the premise is straightforward enough. Red here gets peer-pressured out of the Hero’s party and decides to make the most of things in a quiet village far away from the demon war.

Though “banished” is a bit of a melodramatic way for Red to describe it. More like the party’s salty nerd told him he sucks and to either go hard or go home. Red chose the latter.




Side note: It’s disputed, but apparently one theory is that “not a true comrade” line is based on a Tales of Zestiria meme that spawned from not being able to have Alisha join your party. And if this whole franchise really did spawn from salt over a Tales game then I have to admire it a little.
For sure! I wish more gamers would channel their salt into something productive like a successful light novel series. Much better than the usual avenues like online flame wars or inventing cryptocurrency.

I also think it’s extra cute that Red’s big dream is to open an apothecary. I mean, it’s one step up from calling it a potion store, but it feels extra quaint when there’s just a normal-ass doctor from the 20th century living in town.



Like, I know this isn’t technically isekai but where did this guy and his lab coat come from?

Honestly, that’d be a funny twist. This world has actual, video game Item Bags so for all we know that’s Dr. Otaku who was transported here after he died playing his favorite mid-grade RPG.
Honestly I wish that were the case, because then at least the world’s weird video game logic would make sense. Why are we still slapping gaming terms onto otherwise normal fantasy settings? This isn’t isekai so there isn’t even that excuse for it here. Come on, people.

It’s just, like, a thing that light novels do now. I do not get the appeal since it typically makes the world just feel massively artificial and less interesting. Though Banished at least attempts some interesting stuff with it. But before any of that, it has to introduce the Wife half of Wife Guy.







Gonna absolutely wreck my online dating profile by calling exes “former comrades” from now on.
Rit was engineered by top anime scientists to be a spunky and super lovable princess-turned-adventurer who, like Red, decides to forego a life of orc-bashing for the slow life in the countryside. She also makes funny faces sometimes, so naturally I like her a lot.





The term “Girlfriend Fantasy” gets thrown around a lot, and while that could apply to Rit, I prefer the term I saw somebody use to describe her as “Post-Tsundere.” The couple had their cliché hero/princess story arc years in the past, and now that they’re effectively retired all that’s left is to move in together.




Also, “Post-Tsundere” makes Rit sound like the Joy Division of anime girls.
God, I was about to make that same joke. How dare you.

It’s definitely difficult to divorce Rit as a character from her role in the wish fulfillment. Like, at the end of the day, she is there to be Wife and Wife alone. But she and Red together also end up being the most consistently charming thing about the show.

I’m not gonna pretend they have a super deep and compellingly intimate relationship. The biggest internal conflict they face is how long before Red works up the courage to touch a boob. But that’s still a novelty in a genre space where the hero usually has a cadre of anime girls swooning over him and/or literally being his slaves. So I’ll take it.

The bar really is low enough to be subterranean. That’s also why I can’t be too hard on Banished and its no-nonsense approach to its central romance. If only more anime couples had a married friend to tell them to stop pussyfooting around.


Elves telling these two to cut the high school crap seems to be a running theme.


And giant barely concealed gazongas, but that’s hardly a Banished-exclusive phenomenon.


Though really, if anyone is the Joy Division of anime girls it’s probably Ruti. In that she’s got, uh… issues.






Oh right, the plot.

Might even say she’s… lost control again.

Full of disorder, that one.

No love lost between her and Ares, that’s for sure.

You know I was really disappointed once I realized this show was going to have an actual plot. Like, my idealized version of it would just have entire episodes written about Red and Rit shopping for new drapes for the apothecary, but noooo. It has to chicken out and turn into yet another fantasy light novel series. For shame.

Yeah it kinda undercuts the subtitle about living the slow life when we routinely cut back to Red’s Capital H Hero sister and her party trudging through the actual story. Though I have to laugh at how bad Ares is at party management. He gets rid of the team’s underperforming tank only to add more DPS (D’awww, Precious Spider).




That’s a terribly unbalanced setup for a raid, dammit.
Even though having a plot is a betrayal of the series’ self-professed ethos, I do enjoy how much of the plot ends up being about dunking on Ares. After Ruti goes Kung Pow on his torso, he just gets scragglier and scragglier with each screw-up, eschewing all subtlety for the sake of villainous entertainment.




Banished is really just a cautionary tale about being That Guy in your D&D group.

And while I have a loooot of problems with how the story goes about telling itself, I do at least find Ruti’s whole deal interesting on paper. Which I guess means we have to get into the whole “Blessing” system that defines most of the show.

It defines it while being rather undefined itself. Like, a “Blessing” most closely resembles the job system in a Final Fantasy game. Everyone in this world is born with a particular predilection towards some kind of craft or trade, which informs the kinds of skills they can learn and generally steers their direction. Blessings are also a basic tenet of the religion, and more broadly, its the lens through which Banished decides to interrogate determinism. Which is ambitious, to say the least.

The series is more than a bit ham-handed with how it handles (and exposits about) the whole idea, but it ultimately uses that to make a point about the importance of doing what makes one happy, rather than just following the path of least resistance in whatever life decides you should be doing.


And that’s kinda noble, but it also throws out wild ideas like the concept of “leveling up” your Blessing, which can only be done by killing people. That definitely seems normal and sustainable for a society.

Yeah that’s where it kinda breaks its own worldbuilding. Middle school is stressful enough as is; imagine if one of your friends could just unlock their dormant Axe Murderer gene any day.

In general, that’s the big thorn in Banished‘s side. It throws out a lot of big, potentially cool concepts, but they’re smashed together with such reckless abandon that it leaves no room to ponder on their inherent contradictions or troubling implications. Ironically, the series would be a lot better if it slowed down and thought these things through.

It’s not perfect, but it does try. Mostly through Ruti, who gets all the invincibility of a Lvl.99 player character, but The Drawback is everything about her personality is forcibly repressed in service of being the central hero of the world, which is decidedly not An Ideal For Living.






It’s a good angle! And an empathetic one. Ruti can’t even sleep at night, because RPGs treat “sleep” like a status ailment, which she’s immune to, because she’s the hero, of course. That’s more than a little horrifying.

I also love that her solution to this is doing drugs.


Hey, if the universe itself decided I was just A Means To An End I’d probably hit the hard stuff too. I like that the reason she has a codependent relationship with her brother is because her memories with him are the only parts of her life where she was able to be herself.


Yeah, I was very relieved that Ruti and Rit didn’t end up rivals. If anything, they are weirdo comrades-in-arms.





I also like that she doesn’t feel betrayed by Red leaving, despite it leaving her in A Lonely Place. More than anything, she’s envious of him having found satisfaction outside the strictures of his Blessing.




Also, her super strength lets her dry off after a bath like the Tasmanian Devil, so it’s not all bad.

Now that’s what I call a real Blessing.

Honestly, the emotional locus of Ruti’s arc is real good, but it gets swept into this big conspiracy about bodyjacking demons, mindjacking swords, religious conspiracies, and secret underground elven laboratories. My eyes glazed over watching the last few episodes, not gonna lie.

Yeah, while I like a lot of this in Isolation, getting there is a slog. The A-to-B plot mechanics of Banished are contrived at best, amateurishly clumsy at worst. They are only livened up by how Ares’ first act of revenge is just getting mad that Red is getting some.

Huge incel energy.



Too bad it only lands him in a cell, and by cell I mean coffin.

There’s also a brief stint where another of their companions decides to force Ruti back into her Hero box, which offers an interesting Omelas-esque conundrum that the show ultimately rejects, but also they just forgive her and convince her to stop in like three sentences.






She also gets mortally wounded and healed back to full health within, like, five seconds. This also happens about half a dozen times to other characters in the exact same scene. It’s like a bad fanfic I would’ve written in middle school.
It’s a real Atrocity Exhibition, only slightly elevated by Rit declaring she’s gonna kick God’s ass for messing with her sister-in-law.

This is why the show needs to stick to what it knows best, i.e. the joy of having a wife.


Yep, the show is definitely at its strongest when it’s pure shmaltz. And yes, they do fuck:

Now here’s a man who knows how to compliment his wife’s tiddies.



Yeah, it’s super fluffy, but sometimes that’s enough. And when the direction occasionally depicts genuine moments of vulnerability and tenderness, it’s even better.


They do kind of lose it in the final episode’s afterglow scene. Red looks like they photoshopped his face onto a mannequin.



Love to have sex with my wife and then lie perfectly still, arms at my side, looking straight up at the ceiling instead of her. Also, this has got to be the weirdest way I’ve ever seen someone touch a boob.



It’s a breast, my guy, not the Gom Jabbar.
I guess being disastrously terrible at touching another person’s chest runs in the family.

It’s true what they say, Love Will Tear Us Apart. Viscerally.

This Week in Anime – The Deep Themes of Orbital Children

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

After more than a decade away, fan-favorite creator Mitsuo Itō is back with more sci-fi shenanigans. However, behind its “kids in lost in space” surface is a much deeper treatise on humanity’s relationship with tech, nihilism, and fighting your fate.

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Well Nicky, we’re still waiting for this new season of anime to kick into gear, but I’ve got just the thing to hold us over: not only is there a hot new piece of original science-fiction fresh off the Netflix servers, but it gives me the perfect chance to say my piece on Alfonso Cuarón’s worst movie:

Nicky

Well, unfortunately that’s the only one of his I haven’t seen so I can provide no comment, witty or otherwise. But I feel the sentiment. Why do things have to be so heavy all the time? You’re telling me I have to use energy to move these goddamn meat cylinders?! Why don’t we take a few seconds to get away from it all? We’re here and launching ourselves into Mitsuo Iso‘s latest series, The Orbital Children!

I’m pretty sure I’ll get motion sickness on the way up, but after more than a decade away I certainly won’t say no to a new Mitsuo Iso project. So suit me up and fire me into the sky on Elon Musk’s death tube, baby.

For those of you unaware, Iso has really been around the block as an animator, director, and storyteller. He started working on Gundam under a pseudonym, would later do key animation for Studio Ghibli, was involved in planning Evangelion, did some of the best goddamn animation in End of Evangelion, and then continued to be just a phenomenal animator until he created, wrote, and directed the entirely original “Kids Love Science” series Den-noh Coil.

I was excited for this series just for the fact that I’d have another opportunity to peer pressure friends into watching Den-noh Coil, hands down one of the best anime of the century and a criminally overlooked classic. But it certainly helps that Orbital Children is a mini-series basically made for me.

I haven’t watched all of Den-noh Coil myself so I recognize I’m totally part of the problem. (In my defense, I own the Blu-ray). From what I know about it, The Orbital Children really does feel like a “spiritual successor.” It’s using kids to explore hard sci-fi ideas with a playful and adventurous heart.

It’s very much in-line with Den-noh Coil. Iso does a lot of new shit with this series, but it’s also a way to revive and refresh various ideas and designs he utilized to great effect in that show. For instance: hand phones.



He came up with that one 15 years ago and has never let it go, and he’s right to do it. Apple could never.
It’s interesting how well it translated into the smartphone era! While it may re-use some of the ideas from the 2007 series, Orb Kidz explores the relationship to technology in a way that feels relatable and natural. Especially when you make one of the characters a goddamn live streamer obsessed with gaining the most followers even when her life might be in peril. Technology changes but people stay relatively the same.

Yeah, while YouTube existed back in DC’s day, it had yet to become the culture we know and can’t escape today. Mina is definitely a necessary addition for telling a story about kids and technology in the TikTok Era.




That said, Mina is the best and I love her.
She certainly wins the honorable TWIA award for “Best Face” this time around. Always gotta harvest those reaction pics for social! Bonus: she drops an F-bomb live on stream. She’s a riot.







The face game also just emphasizes the strength of Kenichi Yoshida‘s great designs.
Mina’s also just a great way to display the casual, wearable tech that’s littered throughout the setting. Its just called “Smarts” in the subtitle translation, but its essentially impossibly thin, translucent smart devices that can do everything from turning your hand into a touch screen to giving you an RGB rig in your hair.




Like damn, I wish I could download highlight and just toggle them on and off.

Having technology both socially and physically embedded in you comes with its weaknesses too. After winning a contest, three Earth kids—Mina, her little brother Hiroshi, and Taiyou—all travel to a commercial space station, Anshin. They meet our main character, Touya, who lives there in order to undergo physical therapy before immigrating to Earth. He and another girl, Konoha, were both born in space and had microchips implanted in their brains in order to survive. This apparently comes with some issues that we’ll go into later, but as stuff goes down we see how these kids are helped or hindered by technology.

It’s a charming little setup for some cool speculative fiction—the idea of space tourism and colonization is certainly a pertinent one in the current tech era. But as with Den-noh Coil before, Iso takes that idea and uses it to create a dense, ambitious story that tries to tackle a number of seemingly disparate topics at once. All in about three hours. And it does all of this while also making time for goofy shit like 12-year-olds pissing in their space skivvies.


One of the best things about this show is the playful tone throughout and how most of the kids just really feel like kids. Touya is a tiny little edgelord hacker going through his regular eighth-grader syndrome. Mina is loud and vying for the internet’s attention. Hiroshi is an annoying kid brother and also a Touya fanboy. And Taiyou is trying his damnedest to get elected as “Space Hall Cop of the Month”.





Taiyou especially has an entire space shuttle’s worth of baggage. We slowly learn about his past across the first half of the story, but essentially he and Konoha are the last “extraterrestrial” children alive, since it turns out being born in the moon’s gravity and atmosphere severely ramps up infant mortality. So you can understand why he’s such a grumpy little shit.




Also he’s kiiiiiind of an eco-fascist? Kid really needs to learn to channel his angst into a nu metal phase like the rest of us.
The chip in his head was actually designed by The Smartest AI Ever simply called “Seven”. Apparently the chips were supposed to dissolve as the space kids grew older but after Seven went a little crazy and had to be shut down, they noticed a design flaw. Now the chips could threaten both Taiyou and Konoha’s lives and futures. I haven’t really mentioned Konoha’s personality, but she’s particularly defined by being frail and also listening to SPACE WHALES.


Yeah, on the surface Konoha is easily the least developed of the five central kids, but that turns out to be partially on purpose. While Taiyou’s channeled his impending death into anger and resentment, Konoha’s gone beyond making peace with it and almost seems to be anticipating slipping the mortal coil.

Also, while all that Seven stuff becomes important later, my favorite early detail is that they can’t even get compensation for the faulty brain implants because the company that made them filed for bankruptcy. Even in the future, tech companies just waltz through loopholes.

It’s one of the few subtle details of capitalism’s relationship to technology in this imagined future. The whole space deal is dependent on capitalistic interests. There are tons of little details about branding, tourism, company management, and budget restraints. The Anshin Station is again, a completely commercial venture. But tons of it is still unbuilt, understocked or just flat unsafe. It’s the worst theme park vacation where half the rides aren’t even finished. It’s presented in a matter-of-fact kind of way but it’s definitely an important detail and often an obstacle.

It might at first just seem like a simple bit of commentary, but it gradually becomes central to the point of the whole production. These are cool, amazing, even revolutionary pieces of tech, but they are still bound by the human imaginations and societal systems that created them. It’s funny that the the spacesuits have big honking UNIQLO logos, but it’s also pertinent that said spacesuits aren’t properly stocked in the emergency shelters where they’re supposed to be. Or how vital escape passages are backed up with building supplies by workers who didn’t follow proper safety procedures.



It’s like somebody parking a shopping cart in front of a fire exit, only in a metal tube floating in the vacuum of space.
My personal favorite and perhaps one of the most relevant details is that even the ship’s mascot isn’t safe from this! At first I thought he was an AI but the resident mascot “Ashin-kun, the station fairy,” a weird pink blob who runs around in a sailor uniform, is actually the former chief designer of the space station itself. He was laid off after the company Deegle bought out the station. Residents of the ship often refer to him as “Chief.”





I’ve had nightmares about this thing before.


The mascot suit, along with having super-strength capabilities, also functions as an old-fashioned spacesuit.



Very old-fashioned.
Anyway, the actual story of this whole thing kicks off when an unexpected meteor shows up out of the wild blue nowhere and chunks of it collide with the Anshin. This just happened to occur when all the responsible adults were up in the control room, so the kids have to brave the dangers of a failing space station with determination, pluck, and Peer-To-Peer communication tools. So basically me trying to survive an 8am Computer Networking class in college.

When this happened Touya and Taiyou happened to be rough-housing over who has the better robot pet while the siblings and their official nurse and unofficial babysitter, Nasa Houston (yes, really) follow in an elevator. Nasa ends up injured in the impact and so the kids are pretty much on their own at first.


Nasa Houston, by the way, is absolutely a Gundam name.

While it’s scary trying to watch the kids survive in the very dangerous realm of space, I never felt like it was too tense to watch. It’s not like Made in Abyss where we watch children cry and suffer in hazardous unexplored territory. There are parts of The Outer Wilds or Astra: Lost in Space that are much more terrifying, but this is a good thing since it keeps it from feeling alienating to a younger audience. The characters do a lot to keep the situation light while also being resourceful.
There’s danger, certainly, and a lot of it is tinged with grounded space science, like when Touya and Taiyou have to manually decompress their space suits to keep their literal blood from boiling. But it’s very much got the feeling of a classic kids film where the danger is there to add excitement and develop the characters through action. Also one of them gets carried around in a hamster ball for a while.

Even when Mina almost has a close brush with death it’s still super funny! Other times it’s interesting because we want to know exactly how they’re all gonna get out of it. Through those struggles we watch the kids grow closer together.




Touya in particular goes from being a mini-misanthrope to becoming an actual leader for them with his knowledge of space, technology, and the ship itself.

Turns out this kid just needs actual friends his age to connect with and learn about. Plus since they’re all fuckin nerds they’re actually impressed with his super hacker nonsense. Though Mina still dunks on his chuuni name for his pet drone.





They’re good kids.

Mina trying to get Touya cancelled is pretty funny too.



Anyway it’s a good thing the kids are all safe now, having fun, bonding, and there’s nothing foreboding like a mysterious runic code slowly encapsulating the entire space statio—

Early in the series Touya asks his uncle, the mayor of the station, about whether God exists in space. He gives him a pretty good answer, but it turns out he was half-wrong because the real answer is that humans will just make a new AI God instead.


Yeeeeeeep, turns out the comet that hit them was covered in a big ol’ bunch of nanomachines that are trying to reconstruct the infamous “Seven” AI. And also a big chunk of that comet is coming back around the Earth for a second swipe. And it’s all apparently a big ploy by a previously alluded terrorist group called John Doe. The kids handle all this very well.

John Doe members suspiciously look like they’re wearing Guy Fawkes masks btw. Because, of course they do.

And it’s right about here where I think people watching Orbital Children are gonna hit a stumbling block. Because this shift comes fast, hard, and it turns the entire shape of the show’s conflict on its head in a way that’s hard to see coming. Because in service of tying all its various ideas about tech, society, and adolescence together, the series decides to get…big.





It’s not an entire swing into leftfield. All the elements of this are there throughout, but it goes from the background to the forefront.

It’s just a big fucking swerve, even if the turn was telegraphed ahead of time. And so much of it is delivered through a single, unreliable source that it can be hard to pick apart what’s true and what’s misdirection. Which is also on purpose! Because Iso is a fucking madman and decided he’d take all the ideas he tinkered with across 26 episodes of Den-noh Coil, and crank them up to 100 in a quarter of the time. Also throw in some even more timely ideas while he’s at it.


Oh yeah, not arguing that it isn’t some Giga-brained Big Thoughts! Stuff is a real trip, veering from the realistic tech and into spiritualism related to tech and its future. It’s pure conspiracy, but it also represents another very real way that people interact with technology where they think it’s infallible despite being made by extremely fallible and limited humans.

And as if this wasn’t enough for these preteens to handle, their nurse turns out to be a terrorist. It’s like when my high school calculus teacher got caught selling pot, but also she has a gun.


A 3D printed gun, mind. Shout out to that rogue fighting 3D printer action btw. Also, unfortunately, Nasa was a totally fake name and not like some weird hippie spiritual phenomena like I was anticipating, like naming your kid after Jenova from FF7.

Though she’s still a weird hippie, since the whole reason she’s following through with this plan is because of the “Seven Poem,” a series of encrypted predictions Seven made right before it was destroyed that seemingly chart out the entire future up to a specific point. So like Nostradamus for people with NFT profile pics.

Headline: Horoscope-Obsessed Woman Has Gone Too Far!



She’s basically like, “Well my horoscope said I was gonna have a bad day so obviously everything happened because my horoscope said it would.” And not doing anything about it even if you know it will happen, because that would be tampering with God’s design.
Except this is also kiiiiiind of a double bluff? But we’ll get to that in a minute. Because after she seemingly stops the kids’ attempts to hack/communicate with “Second Seven” as it takes over the station, she drops like eight different ominous lines before getting jettisoned right into space.





Technically she hasn’t killed anyone but herself and her gun was never real so who can say if she’s good or bad? Oh except where she said over 1/3rd of humanity needed to die for the planet to live and there’s an artificial comet hurdling towards them. That’s still bad. The kids try to get in contact with Second Seven using their combined robot toys and their wits, forcing their robot brains to go past their limiters. We haven’t talked much about the cognitive limiters, but the people of Earth consider this to be extremely taboo, as they fear creating another lunatic AI.

Touya was actually trying to hack past all those limiters to begin with in order to create a new lunatic AI that could figure out how to fix the broken implants Seven designed. But then, in a series of like 12 interconnected twists, it turns out that Seven purposefully designed those implants to not melt so its rebirth could connect directly Taiyou and Konoha at this exact moment.




When I said this stuff was dense, I meant both that it’s a lot of complicated ideas bundled together, and that the very structure of the whole show is built like a puzzle where every single individual element serves multiple purposes that only become clear in hindsight.

I shotgunned this series like a three-hour movie for the purposes of writing, but I still had to take a few breaks just to sit and think about some of the concepts. Furthermore, it’s revealed that even though Second Seven is intelligent, and may be able to predict some things, it’s still limited. Konoha refers to it as a child. When the John Doe group made it, they constructed it using very select sources of information. They didn’t even let it have a frame of reference for humans vs the whole of humanity, limiting what it could actually know and what conclusions it could reach. Why else would it determine that the only way to save humanity was to destroy so many humans?

And it’s like this whole thing where the story is about how humans are changed by technology, which influences the things they create, which in turn influence the next generation, and once AI gets involved it basically becomes two mirrors pointing at each other, and somehow in all of this the solution is to show Second Seven all of the internet and it somehow makes that concept seem beautiful?





I’m pretty sure if this happened in the real world the robot would just become incredibly racist like the Microsoft bot, but that’s mostly because I feel like the internet is a selective tool of itself where only the Incredibly Online live. But there’s kind of a whole Magia Record episode about that already. At the heart of it, I think what The Orbital Children ultimately says about how you shouldn’t limit kids experiences without trusting their judgement first is true. Give kids the tools to judge properly and they can handle more than what you might think. Just like how the kids in the show demonstrated their capabilities using mostly what they’re given.
And somehow that still isn’t the climax because in order to teach the now Terminally Online AI empathy Touya and Konoha have to fucking mindmeld with it and try not to get sucked into its literal Galaxy Brain.

And also their physical bodies dying!



It’s an incredible 2001: A Space Odyssey move. The music is compelling throughout and obviously pulls from a lot of similar film score, ranging from whimsical to this complete techno out-of-body experience.
Yep, and it’s here where like half the show’s thematic underpinnings all coalesce. Because in the midst of this Konoha decides that this is how she’s meant to go, and is all but ready to dive into the collective unconsciousness. Which is bleak as hell, but also meant to parallel John Doe/Nasa’s fatalism in believing in an unalterable future. And also climate nihilism. Because Iso has never heard of not going hard in the paint on every possession.





This just makes it even more incredibly emotional when the show decides to go against that framing. Prepare your tissues folks because each climax in this thing is just incredibly emotional. It really had me!

The last 15 minutes is like watching a Rube Goldberg machine play out. First, Touya’s own arc is a foil of Seven’s, where he began nihilistically embracing the possibility of destruction from another lunatic AI for the sake of saving Konoha, preserving the individual while sacrificing the collective. And then it turns out this was all sort of planted by Nasa, who used her last seconds to encourage Konoha to not accept the death fate seemed to have given her. AND THEN. IT TURNS OUT THIS ALSO MIGHT HAVE BEEN PART OF SEVEN’S PLAN IN ORDER TO TURN MINA INTO A SPACE IDOL, ENCOURAGING SPACE COLONIZATION AND REDUCING THE EARTH’S POPULATION WITHOUT MASS DEATH?





The comet even helped stall a little time for the climate crisis! My favorite bit about the ending is the stuff about the cradle. Touya is now capable of living happily and healthily on Earth and many people are now able to live in space due to the work the kids did. Taiyou says he’ll keep grounded though in order to maintain the cradle, and it ultimately becomes a metaphor of comfort zones and perspectives as we develop into full-fledged individuals. Not everyone wants to push themselves right away, but for Touya coming to Earth was him finally leaving his bubble.


What resonated for me was Konoha’s line about escaping the cradle of “Fate”—embracing an uncertain future for the possibility of better things, rather than the insulating comfort of an immutable destiny. And also I assume she kicked her gacha game addiction. Good for her!

Anyways, The Orbital Children is a wonderful little show that will blow your mind, while also being pretty safe for most people to dive into. It’s a solid, well-executed, and well-thought-out package that is definitely worth your time.

It’s also a lot to take in, but I do think benefits from seeing it all in one go. I originally found the back half messy, but the more time I spent thinking about the entire thing as a whole, the more it all seemed to slot into place. But either way it’s an ambitious, charming creation from a master of his craft, and you absolutely owe it to yourselves to watch it. And Den-noh Coil. Make a week out of it and obliterate yourself.

Even if it’s big-brained for you, it’s never dull. There’s still lots of stuff that just make it fun, thrilling, or interesting. Ito’s work is just incredibly detailed in its production and full of sincerity. Enjoy it at whatever pace you like but do try to check it out. Do it for Mina, everyone!

This Week in Anime – Did Den-noh Coil Predict the Future?

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

TWIA continues its week revisiting the works of Mitsuo Iso with a look at Den-noh Coil. Long regarded as underrated, the lauded sci-fi series is available again via streaming. Steve and Jean-Karlo look at the first half of the series to see how it earned its stellar reputation.

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Jean-Karlo

We got fancy tech and weird monsters everywhere and a sassy little girl stepping on people’s feet, a mysterious-yet-goofy elder citizen and a guy who’s too full of himself all from a show from 2007–sounds to me like we have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned DEN-NO HIJACK! 😄

Steve

Funny coincidence, I also just received an anonymous call from the number 4423 saying that we should absolutely do another entire column on Mitsuo Iso this week. A little spooky, but I think we should go with it!

Fittingly, also a blast from the past of 2007 that people didn’t think we’d get in the U.S. for the longest time! But with fewer climaxes and yet the same amount of shenanigans and sentimentality.
This is Kamen Rider Den-noh Coil! And holy crap, it’s been a long time coming.

Yeah, with laser-precise timing, Netflix dropped the entirety of Den-noh Coil onto its service a day before the debut of its director’s latest offering The Orbital Children. Which is good news for the planet, but bad news for me, since it meant I had no choice but to do a rewatch of it before moving onto the new hotness. And by bad news for me, I really mean it was extremely good news, because Den-noh Coil is an unmitigated delight and one of anime’s finest hidden gems—and finally not so hidden!
It’s easy to forget that once upon a time getting every anime released stateside wasn’t a given. Back in 2007, anime fans all over the internet bemoaned that Den-noh Coil was never released in the U.S. For years and years, the show languished in limbo, never being licensed in any capacity. Maiden Japan eventually righted those wrongs and released Den-noh Coil in the U.S. on DVD in 2016, but it’s only this year that it’s finally available for a wide audience. This is a victory for anime fans worldwide.
It really is. And we don’t really need to reiterate all the ways in which Mitsuo Iso is such a gargantuan figure in the industry relative to his reputation abroad (you can read Nick and Nicky’s column on The Orbital Children for more of that~). But suffice to say, the dude has worked on a lot of fantastic stuff, and his directorial debut is a one-of-a-kind exploration and interrogation of our relationship with technology, told through the eyes—and glasses—of a group of lovably rambunctious kids.

It’s a bit of a shame given how long it took to get Den-noh Coil licensed given how the show’s fanciful AR tech was overtaken by the likes of Pokémon GO and smartphones, but on the other hand it marks Iso as extremely prescient.
It’s true! Several years before Google Glass was even a glimmer in the corporation’s eye, Den-noh Coil postulated a world in which ubiquitous AR glasses had, over a decade, shaped a thriving digital dimension overlaid and intersecting with our real one. It directs traffic. You can draw in it. And you can even own adorably ugly cyberpets.

You can count the people in Den-noh Coil that don’t wear the Den-Noh Glasses on one hand—and protagonist Yuko isn’t one of them. I’ll be referring to her as Yasako for a reason as we’ll explain later. Yasako and her family are new to Daikoku City, where her father helps run the Bureau for Cyber Affairs.

The show actually has a fairly large main cast—something you can get away with when you have two entire cours to work with—but the really important part is that they’re all children. For me, that’s at the heart of what separates Den-noh Coil from similar speculative science-fiction. Despite the advanced technology, it’s about kids doing what they always do: exploring the spaces where adults tell them not to go.
It’s just, in this case, those spaces have fuzzy little dark monsters.

That’s what really makes Den-noh Coil feel special to me. So much of this show just boils down to the kids playing more elaborate versions of “hide-and-seek” or scrounging for bottle caps. And those little critters up there are key to it all! They’re Illegals, bizarre data entities that can propagate by infecting and killing cyberpets—cyberpets like Yasako’s cyber-dog Densuke. Upon arriving at Daikoku City, Densuke has an unfortunate run-in with an Illegal after ending up in a bizarre out-of-bounds data area.


It’s a great introduction to how Den-noh space “works.” It’s an alternate reality meant to exactly mirror our own, but like all technology, it’s not perfect. It has flaws, glitches, and bugs, and those are the spaces Den-noh Coil is interested in. And I think, philosophically, you can make a strong argument that technology in general is defined not by what it’s meant to do, but by what it actually does. These Illegals and the children’s hacking devices are just as much a part of the environment as anything else. And that includes this guy.



Just a very normal guy.

I wanna take a minor tangent from that daikon-radish-looking-guy to reminisce that back in the day, part of playing Pokémon was abusing the exploits in the game: triggering MissingNo. to duplicate items, hacking Mew into the game with the Game Shark, stuff like that. So good on Iso for recognizing that kids wouldn’t take AR tech to play within the rules, they’d take AR tech to just fool around with the underlying system and exploit it for trivial gain. Not even maliciously, just as a thing to do.

That’s just how kids work! The only unbelievable thing about this show is that they don’t break their glasses more often than they already do.

Anyway. Radish-dude. That’s the digital servant (insistently not a pet) of Fumie, a girl Yasako meets. She helps Yasako get Densuke back and also clues her in to how Yasako’s grandmother, dubbed “Megabaa”, sells all kinds of AR-hacking goodies at her little run-down corner store candy shop.


This is also a good place to highlight how good the character designs are. They might appear simple at first glance, but in motion they’re infused with oodles of personality. For instance, Fumie is a little stinker, and she’s got the eyebrows to prove it.





So much of the show, in terms of appearance and tone, reminds me of Boogiepop Phantom, which we also covered in This Week In Anime a few months back. And the simple character designs are part of it: instantly recognizable in spite of their simplicity. It helps that the series has such good face game; Megabaa is never seen without that wide grin of hers.

Kyoko is also one of the all-time great awful little sisters in anime. She’s just chock-full of the bottomless yet innocent malice of a kid that age. She is only there to cause problems and call things “dookie,” and I love her.

She’s Yasako’s little sister and all she does is run around, point at things and shout “Dookie!” She’s painfully a toddler, but she’s important to some events later. And hey, sometimes you just need an agent of chaos in these shows, and Kyoko is eager to fill that role.

Even their digital dog Densuke has more personality than most anime have in their entire cast.




Yasako and her friends, meanwhile, are all in the sixth grade, so they’re at the perfect age for silly boy-girl rivalries that of course extends to their hacking adventures, with Fumie leading one camp and Daichi directing his own squad of rowdy computer boys.

I love how one of the kids is just a young Tochiro from Space Pirate Captain Harlock (second from the right). Look at him. All he needs is the coat.
Daichi is just a total brat but you can’t help but love him too. He has a good heart, and he can’t help the fact that he’s 12.

Being that he also has a crush on Fumie but is 12, he and her have a beef with each other which fuels a lot of the show’s conflicts. Yasako shows a lot of maturity for being able to see it from a distance.

I adore all of my dumb-as-bricks children. And that includes Isako, who might be the most tech-savvy out of the entire cast, but is clearly embroiled in a web of cyber-conspiracy well beyond her ken. She looks badass, though.

She’s one of the most mysterious characters in the show right from the word “go”. We see her hunting down Illegals, for one, which opens its own can of worms. Unlike the other kids who just play around the rules and limitations of the AR world, Isako is actively exploiting them for some reason or another.

She’s also got her hands on a rumored technology called “Imago” that apparently lets her control her glasses with only her mind. That’s cool, but it seems to take a toll on her, and beyond that, it has troubling implications about one’s ability to distinguish the cyber world from the real one. On the other hand, though, the series is about the blurring of that line, so it’s very fitting. And that said, I’m still not anywhere closer to letting Elon Musk put a computer chip in my brain.

And here’s where one of the other shoes drops: both Isako and Yasako are named “Yuko” in the show. Fumie even dubs them “Yasako” and “Isako” to tell them apart once Isako joins their class. They couldn’t be more different, too: Yasako is very invested in her peers, Isako just sees them as a means to an end. She has limits, being a 12-year-old: Isako isn’t pushing anyone off of bridges, and even she cares enough to rescue Kyoko from a falling stairwell. But she has goals and she isn’t letting things like “friendship” get in the way of that.

No spoilers, but the second half of the series focuses a lot more on Isako’s deal and what she’s doing. For now, though, she’s important for constantly pushing our understanding of what these things called Illegals, Kirabugs, Metabugs, and so on actually are. They’re clearly more than just glitches.




Oh, Isako is also responsible for my favorite bit of aesthetic flair in Den-noh Coil. When she hacks, she doesn’t need code. She only needs magic circles.


I dig how many of the “hacking” toys in Den-noh Coil manifest as onmyoji talismans, but Isako veers into full-on techno-wizardry. Really helps cement the show as a possible setting for a Virtual Adept campaign from Mage: The Ascension.

It’s also just a really smart decision from a creative perspective. The show already has plenty of traditional hacking scenes with keyboards aflutter, so why not spice it up from time to time with something more visually engaging. That’s the kind of heat Mitsuo Iso and his team bring to the table.
And, I guess if we’re talking about eye-popping things in Den-noh Coil

Oh, it’s a bastard

I just love how the show has this very deliberately muted color palette and down-to-earth character designs, and then you’ve got this giant red monstrosity representing the city’s antivirus program. Searchy and his four balls patrol the streets “fixing” glitches when they pop up. So naturally, the kids often run afoul of him, and he’s kinda the de facto villain of this first half—albeit a lovably squishable villain.

So, because Searchy is owned by the city’s Internet Bureau, it doesn’t have access to schools or houses—because those areas and their networks are overseen by their own personal bureaus. Also, they can’t go into homes because of privacy laws, and they can’t go into shrines because those are overseen by tourism bureaus. So many of the kids’ adventures take on a playful “hide-and-seek” angle in that their forays into exploring the limits of the AR world necessitate them keeping the location of nearby shrines handy so they have a “safe” spot. Also, Isako can literally hack this by just drawing a shrine gate on the floor in chalk. Write “ELBERETH” while you’re at it, why don’t you…

Touches like that just make the world feel so much more authentic. Like, of course the city’s big expensive cop bot is easily fooled by a simple stick of chalk. One of Yasako’s clubmates, Haraken, also has limited admin privileges that turn Searchy from a menace into a big red mutt. Temporarily.




Haraken’s deal is a little more serious than the show’s usual goofy escapades. And, of course, prescient as heck, because it turns out the ethics of self-driving cars haven’t gotten any less relevant over the past 15 years.

A belated classmate of Haraken’s (whom he had feelings for) was investigating Illegals when she got into a car crash. The authorities claim it was because her AR glasses distracted her, but it’s pretty obvious Bigger Things™ were afoot, and Yasako wastes no time in offering her help to Haraken—even if it means knowing her newfound feelings for Haraken might go ignored.


And just as their investigation into Kanna’s accident is heating up, Den-noh Coil suddenly shifts gears and spits out three seemingly unrelated episodes that each explore a different facet of the Illegals. It’s kind of a weird move, but these episodes make up my absolute favorite chunk of the entire show. This is also why we decided to cover more than our usual six or so episodes, instead going up to 13, the halfway point. Den-noh Coil is just that good.

The first of these episodes is a doozy, and fans of Futurama will find a lot of similarities between it and the episode “Godfellas”. Daichi, down on his luck after being booted out of his own club, is on the hunt for Illegals given their involvement in the creation of Metabugs (which is a stand-in for currency for kids in the AR world). His misadventures infect him with a bizarre viral strain of Illegals that manifest on his face as a beard, which soon spreads to everyone wearing the AR glasses. In short order, the whole city is infected with them!


This is simply one of the greatest episodes of anime ever. A shitpost for the history books. It takes an extraordinarily silly premise and transmutes it into a microcosm of human society, all while being hilariously deadpan about it.




The tiny beard Illegals basically speedrun civilization, while Yasako and the others get treated like their gods. And Yasako at least knows how to act like one.


Eventually, the Illegals discover atheism and descend into nuclear war, not only devastating their own worlds (beards?) but also developing the tech to wage war with other worlds (beards?). The kids find themselves parroting philosophy at each other as they figure out what to do about their beard-people killing each other off. Meanwhile, everyone is sporting a 5 o’clock shadow the whole time.





I dare you to show me another anime that quotes Nietzsche and gives a toddler some face scruff in the same episode.




It’s also extremely rude for Den-noh Coil to end the episode by giving the beardlings pathos, taking one last moment to let them reflect on the meaning of their existence—an unknowable question that they are nevertheless compelled to answer, wherever that search takes them, far beyond the eyes and ears of their former deities. It is messed up how good this episode is, toe to tip.

I will say that the solution the kids had found before the beardlings decided to forge their own path—letting the beards colonize the scalp of an elderly bald neighbor—was hilarious right before the rug got pulled underneath us. Godspeed, you hairy little buggers.



The episode before that one isn’t quite as perfect, but it’s still a really fun romp that expands our perception of what the Illegals are. Sometimes, they’re a sentient beard. Sometimes, they’re a very tiny fish that grows to the size of a house by feeding on texture artifacts.




Daichi’s explanation of how he gets the “fish food” is another of the show’s highlights. It reminds me of the way speedrunners take advantage of glitches built into a game’s code, repurposing them in a constructive and transformative way.


Again, it’s just like how kids went about farming visits from Missing No. Daichi most likely learned that exploit on the schoolyard. There are probably rumors that it could get your parents arrested if the cops find you.

The cops, incidentally, do find Daichi.



Don’t worry, he gets better.
Also hilarious: Daichi potentially ruined the entirety of the AR network in Daikoku City for nothing because even if his fish didn’t get erased, it wasn’t the kind of Illegal that produced Metabugs in the first place: all it did was eat texture artifacts.
Also, that lady up there is Tamako. She’s Haraken’s Auntie who not only works for the Internet Bureau (with Yasako’s dad), she’s also in charge of the Searchys. She tends to get roped into all of the antics the kids make. And she’s actually just a high-schooler, too. Must be some kind of paid intern. For the most part, her and Isako play a game of cat and mouse as Tamako looks into why Isako is so fascinated with Illegals and Metabugs.

Plus she owns a motorcycle! And I wanna give a quick shoutout to the fish episode’s excellent application of shadow and water effects. It might not have the philosophical heft of the beard people, but it’s a hard episode to forget.


There really is too much good stuff to cover in just one column. Pretty much all of Den-noh Coil is rich and ripe for discussion, and time has only been kind to its big questions about how tech intersects with our lives, for good and bad. But if I had to pick one story that will never vacate my heart, it’s the one about a boy and his dinosaur.

Oh boy, this episode… strap in, this is an episode worth the 13-episode weight.
So, the previous episode was the one with the beardlings, and it established that Illegals aren’t just weird blobs of data: they can attain sentience and become digital monster lifeforms in their own right. In this episode, Denpa finds a unique long-necked Illegal that lives in an abandoned lot. It’s the last of its kind, its peers vanishing from the internet. As it turns out, big Illegals have parts of their source code spread out through different servers; regular maintenance ends up just eroding their data until the Illegal just vanishes. Also, this Illegal can only survive on dark patches of ground and away from direct light. With an upcoming construction project threatening its home, the kids band together to try and lead it to a safe spot it can survive in.



This episode really brings in all of the elements that make Den-noh Coil great. The kids have to plan a route almost like it’s a kids game: can’t cross over light patches of road, can’t cut through bright roads, and they can’t just use AR bug spray (not that kind) to make a path because there’s not enough spray in the city and using too much of it summons Searchy anyway. They also have to play pranks on the construction workers to buy enough time to form their plan.
Exactly! It’s not that “The Last Plesiosaur” does anything radically different compared to the rest of the show, but rather that it elegantly synthesizes everything it does well into a story explicitly about loss and grief. It’s a tearjerker on emotional and existential levels. It’s an argument for the fact that Kubinaga needs and deserves a home, and it’s a lament of the fact that this world has none to offer.


The part that hits closest to home is up to this point, none of the adults in this world really get what it is the kids are doing in the AR world—and they ultimately don’t care. It’s just the kids playing around to them. All of the politicking and rivalries the kids are waging are just “games” to the adults, and any bit of danger the kids are exposed to would just be met with a snide “turn the glasses off, then!”. Even if the kids began to explain everything about Kubinaga to some adult, they’d just shrug it off. Kubinaga is ultimately just an Illegal, and the system the adults imposed just isn’t designed to incorporate them. There’s a line in There’s A Mastodon In My Living Room by Elaine Moore, I read it as a kid and it never left my mind: “Only a kid knows what it’s like to be a kid.”

And at the center of that is Denpa, a really sweet and sensitive kid who does everything he can to protect his friend, but all he can do in the end is be there and watch Kubinaga disintegrate. His acting, above all else, cements the episode’s climax as an unforgettable and heartbreaking one.







Fun fact to distract me from the sadness: the animation director for “The Last Plesiosaur” was Kiyotaka Oshiyama, the guy who went on to direct Flip Flappers and design a lot of cool monsters and machines for a lot of cool shows.

We basically covered the first half of the show, and it’s a long one, but “The Last Plesiosaur” was billed to me as the best episode of the bunch and it definitely earns that distinction. It’s a fantastic standalone episode that really encapsulates all of the best parts of Den-noh Coil, and if this doesn’t convince you to watch it I don’t know what will.

Yeah, if you already watched and liked The Orbital Children, then you have every reason to check this one out. And if you’re at all interested in idiosyncratic anime, Den-noh Coil remains in a league of its own when it comes to the amount of personality, thoughtfulness, and whimsy written into every line of its code. We talked about a lot here, yet barely scratched the surface. This is a special one.

By the way, that’s my nice way of asking you to watch it. The other way is that I get your IP address and spam you with pop-ups about how good Den-noh Coil is. The choice is yours.

Shows that can perfectly capture childlike sensibilities are rare and special; you don’t see a lot of Calvin and Hobbes-es out there. This is even a show you could use to introduce anime to people who don’t normally watch it. It’s a delight, and we are so, so lucky it’s on Netflix. Watch it, or you’ll lose out on two years’ worth of New Year’s money.

Don’t make us sic Searchy on you.

This Week in Anime – How Total Fantasy Knockout Keeps Isekai Fresh

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

You know the drill. Two guys get reincarnated into fantasy world, they have to defeat the Demon Lord, etc. etc.. What makes Total Fantasy Knockout different? Well, one of those guys is reincarnated as a girl and it might just awaken some latent feelings between them.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nicky

Heyyo folks, Nicky here reporting in. And I’m here to tell you all that it’s that time of the season. The time where I have to pay my much overdue Isekai Tax! Jean-Karlo, please help me!

Jean-Karlo

Oh boy, I wonder what potato we’ll get saddled up with this time. Hey, didn’t we already do “slime”?

Let’s start this off on the right foot: freaking Nekki Basara does the intro. I don’t know who’s idea it was to get Yoshiki Fukuyama to belt out such a wild, kick-ass intro for this show but right off the bat I was blown away.

I was expecting something more low-key, but even beyond its rockin’ OP the show actually has some good energy as a comedy. Like some comedies, it really only has one major joke in its arsenal, and in this case it’s all about the “romance.”

Like so many other isekai anime, the title spells out the premise: instead of just one potato, a potato and his best friend are teleported to a fantasy world, and the potato reincarnates as a… knockout? I dunno. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I look at Tachibana’s new body and I just feel like in another time this would have been another bratty half-pint voiced by Rie Kugumiya who goes “Urusai!” over and over in lieu of a personality. Shakugan no Zero Tora Ookami-sama aside, I will say that this show at least has a joke to lean on that isn’t telling everyone to shut up.

As all faithful readers should know, I’m not immune to gremlins so that isn’t a problem for me. Also isekai, gender-bending, and romantic comedies aren’t exactly new ideas but something about how Fantasy Knockout sets things up nails this strange kind of wish-fulfillment for a different kind of crowd, even if it might be totally by accident.

Like this show wouldn’t have pinged my radar at all if it wasn’t for all the ways it accidentally represents a transgender experience in what is otherwise a pretty straightforward “will-they-or-won’t-they” romantic comedy with isekai flavorings. Tachibana is a totally average schlub; he’s got no confidence in his appearance or personality, and no chance of landing himself a girlfriend. On top of that he has a hyper-competent best friend who keeps showing him up in every aspect of masculinity. After getting shitfaced drunk, he bemoans his lot in favor of becoming a woman.
Ah yes, pictured, something only an Egg would say.

Jingūji is a beefcake and women have loved him since middle school, but Jingūji has been propositioned by so many women who only liked him for his looks/status that he lost trust in women at large, leading him to become extremely defensive of his best friend Tachibana. Tachibana, on the other hand, was always getting passed over in favor of Jingūji, leading to a bit of resentment. Jingūji just wants a woman he approves of for Tachibana, Tachibana wishes he had Jingūji’s game. The result: two best friends with a serious case of what Red Letter Media called “the Not-Gays”.




Even Tachibana wonders if Jingūji just doesn’t have a thing for him, given how protective he is.

The narration even calls this out and says what Jingūji is thinksplaining. He’s always been in love with Tachibana and he’s using his overprotectiveness as an excuse so he won’t have to feel jealous or admit his feelings for his best friend. In this way, it’s actually pretty matter-of-fact what the deal is.




Now whether this means that Jingūji is exclusively gay or simply “bffsie-sexual” is another question, and that’s harder to answer. They’re both men and best friends in their 30s and it creates a lot of societal and personal boundaries between them. His disdain for women is clearly based on experience and Jingūji is the type of man who clearly seeks a partner with a good personality first and appearances second. Then everything gets flipped on its head when they enter the isekai realm!

He might even be demisexual. Or morosexual, given Tachibana’s neural activity (or lack thereof).

That’s true. The point is I like that it’s clearly about having this level of intimacy with a person but you can’t bring yourself to break the status quo, whether it’s for your own reasons or society’s. Not that the show is deep, but it has a slight nuance that can be a little messy.

We’ll definitely come back to that. For now: a goddess descends upon Tachibana and Jingūji when they stumble out of a mixer, and decides to just send them to another world. Truck-kun isn’t involved.





The Goddess’ design is quite something! She also doesn’t take threats lightly when her heroes aren’t down with their blessings and ready to fulfill the mission of saving the world.




And so dead or not-dead, after transporting them into this new and unfamiliar realm, transforming Tachibana into the blonde knockout of his dreams, and getting sassed at by our heroes, she responds by cursing them into compliance, and only by defeating the Demon Lord can they lift the spell!

The problem for Jingūji and Tachibana is that they don’t even know what the curse is, and for all they know it’s that they’ve been burdened with thinking each other is really cute. Jingūji is suddenly smitten with Tachibana now that they have a woman’s body, and Tachibana finds themselves even more attracted to Jingūji’s reliability. Did Jingūji just need Tachibana to look like a loli to get his motor running? Is magic making Tachibana swoon for their best friend? Who knows? They’re fighting off the gay thoughts until they figure it out—badly, I might add.

That’s certainly the question. I have a suspicion that the curse might be something else, given how bad the Goddess is about her wishes. And that if anything, their attraction to each other is pre-existing and established, it’s just that they don’t have any excuses for it anymore now that they have this entirely new context of appearing as “heterosexuals.” But either way both of them just want everything to go back to normal as quickly as possible so they don’t have to think so hard about it anymore.


Having been isekai’d, the two have the requisite game-breaking powers. Because Jingūji worked out (seriously), he has Level 70 stats and is strong enough to punch a literal hole into weird two-faced bears. Tachibana, being the titular fantasy knockout, can charm anyone just by being seen—but because they sucked at everything else, they have level 1 stats.


That terrifying monster looked like this, btw. It’s face reminds me of a bkub character.

I mean, have you seen Popuko and Pipimi? They’re just as horrifying.

We also find out that Jingūji has another power: the power to magically open a door to Tachibana’s old apartment, so they don’t really need to worry about camping out. Though being the schlub that Tachibana is, it doesn’t actually have any food.

Two bros, living in an apartment together, arguing about groceries and emergencies and how one will just rely on the other in an emergency because they’re not in love.


Yeah the apartment adds a little bit of a domestic vibe. There’s one part in the extra sugary-sweet ED that even emphasizes Jingūji’s househusbandness.

To be fair, he does look like he’d make for a cool romantic lead in a shōjo romance. You know, the stand-offish type who has a heart of gold and feeds the stray cat behind his apartment.

Also the fact that he’s totally dedicated to protecting and taking care of Tachibana despite the fact that he/she is like this totally useless gremlin. He’s super reliable overall since he seems to hold more than one braincell and has a coolheaded personality that isn’t easily fooled except for the one that he loves. I can totally see why girls were falling for him, but his sweetness is what makes this gap-moe.

At any rate, problems arise when Jingūji and Tachibana’s shenanigans cause an elf’s forest to get burnt to the ground. She takes this quite badly, as it turns out she’s a follower of the Goddess of Love, too.

Turns out they killed the Goddess’s Sacred Guardian even though it was trying to kill them. They ended up defeating bandits attacking a village using Tachibana’s magical appearance powers and Jingūji’s major infatuation skills, but everything got burned down, and so did the forest.


For the record, the weird creepy Pop Team Epic bear was the deity.
And later they skin it and eat it!

Telolilo gets pissed at the two for killing her deity and insulting their goddess, but it’s quickly apparent that her duty is to be a one-woman goldfish poop gang. She follows them on their adventure in pursuit of revenge, but all she achieves is own herself (unwittingly) by eating the remains of her own beloved deity. That’s almost Shakespearean-levels of schadenfreude.

She’s also a bit of a narcissist who loves to dress skimpily and talk about her own beauty. Jingūji ends up clipping her braid and insulting her appearance/elfhood. She’s also pretty quickly showed up by Tachibana due to having already enraptured the whole town with her magic beauty skill.







Which is also pretty funny considering I find Tachibana’s girlish appearance to be pretty lame outside of when she’s a gremlin with long bangs and shark teeth.
She’s a knockout for someone, for sure. But when I hear the word “knockout” I think, like, Fujiko Mine or Lum Invader. Not so much Rizelmine.
Even Tachibana seems not so into it sometimes, but apparently the magic is enough to make her appear cute to others, but we can’t tell if this is true or just Jingūji’s extremely warped perspective. I do wish she looked a little more adult considering it’s an adult romance.





That, and Jingūji isn’t really an otaku of any sort. Just sayin’, if the shoe fits…
Anyway, Jingūji manages to get Tachibana an enchanted circlet that makes people not notice them as much, so they don’t go charming entire villages anymore. That’s when we get a Sword Art Online cameo.

It’s really funny how jokes on Generic Overpowered Fantasy Gary Stus have translated into being “Just Kirito” even if it has nothing to do with MMOs.

Oh, but this isn’t Kirito, as he insists to us (and the audience), even though his outfit is identical down to his black sword. Schwartz up there opens an interesting angle for the setting of Fantasy Knockout: as it happens, the Goddess of Love isn’t the only deity who has transported people from the real world to serve as champions. There’s a whole gaggle of people getting trucked into existence in this fantasy world, each one more chūni than the last.


Also, everyone keeps putting on and then taking off their cloaks! The elf lady did this too
(don’t expect us to type out that full name btw) and it’s so incredibly chūni. I think the main couple has a good dynamic in the serious vs gremlin way but every other element or character introduced is just equally goofy.

Fantasy Knockout doesn’t take itself very seriously, and neither do its characters. This isn’t “everyone is an asshole and that’s the joke,” it’s more the fact that the show is aware the entire situation is a farce and has fun with it. It leads to a show that isn’t terribly original but at least is easy watching. It helps that the episodes feel pretty brisk, even with how much of the episode is dominated by the joke of “Tachibana and Jingūji play off how attracted they are to each other.”
It’s KONOSUBA but not nearly as mean-spirited, which I appreciate.
Reminds me a bit of Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy- but more rom-com. I think because it’s so low-stakes, it can have a pretty broad appeal if you enjoy both fantasy and rom-coms. And while I’m not big on Tachibana looking “younger,” I think overall the show is pretty tame and all of it is usually for the sake of comedy.

There’s a bit where Jingūji can peek down Tachibana’s shirt but even he finds himself uncomfortable with the idea. Which, yeah man. Even if I’m friends with a total knock-out, I don’t need to peek through their wardrobe failure.

See, I didn’t find anything weird about that because that would imply there was anything to look at. For a “knockout,” she’s flat as a board! Playing MMOs has taught me that most people would max out their boob-slider if given the opportunity. Though Jingūji is an extreme virgin so she switches to a more appropriate outfit.

Speaking of seeing stuff, I wanna give the show props for its excellent visual humor. Stuff like goons planted in the dirt by Jingūji still being there as a scene goes on or Schwartz’s cloak still being at his feet for prolonged periods of time makes me giggle.

I enjoy how much goes into the faces. Reaction comedy where you have to make the characters look dopey and off model actually takes some skill and time to animate compared to just having characters stand around. Most isekai feel like cardboard cutouts. This show isn’t amazing, but it has some elasticity. It helps even the more mundane jokes land.

Yeah! Like I said, Fantasy Knockout is breezy and keeps itself light-hearted all throughout. I can’t say it was necessarily riveting, but it made for easy viewing and sometimes you really need that.

I also found it more interesting than the other genderbend isekai of the season, She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man And one compliment I’ll give towards Tachibana is that despite the weird queer panic jokes, they take the whole being genderswapped thing pretty easy. They even seem to prefer being like this. They may not be more powerful than before, but they enjoy the newfound confidence that being feminine presents and isn’t dysphoric about it. Which again, has extremely trans implications.

And it’s never judgmental towards any of the characters other than when they’re not being honest about their own feelings. At one point, Tachibana asks whether gender is something of the body or of the spirit, which again, is an even stronger implication of how Tachibana might actually feel about themselves. And Jingūji (and the show) gives a fairly open answer. This show might still fall into a few heteronormative traps that plague many rom-coms, especially depending on how it decides to address Jingūji’s feelings, but it’s nice to see!


I definitely wish Fantasy Knockout had the balls to actually follow through on the “I think whichever you think is right, is right” answer at least, but you gotta have the bit where Jingūji fights off the gay thoughts. And I guess the show doesn’t change much if Tachibana had been AFAB. It’s just childhood friends not wanting to admit their feelings for each other.

I do wish it was able to be just a little smarter about it, but I think that would also be hard to explain to what I assume is a mostly cis-gendered heterosexual audience. It would be very difficult to explain all the context just so you can tell some fluffy jokes. I can really only go off of my assumptions here. Or I’m giving this too much goodwill? It’s gonna be up to the individual to decide.
But either way, I think the main couple has a strong enough connection to each other that it works out, magically.

Like I said, even if the show didn’t have a body-swapping twist what you have is basically an isekai where the couple have actual chemistry and try to play it off. Works for me, even if it’s not horrifyingly original. It’s tiresome how everything is done up with Dragon Quest-style menus because that’s how low fantasy anime have gotten to show it’s a fantasy (I pine for the days of Record of Lodoss War), but I can deal. And hey, it’s not slavery apologia!

The menus work out when it shows how the bullshit broken skills work. Or seeing that Tachibana’s only good stat is Luck. It doesn’t lean into the video game aspects of fantasy too much otherwise. It’s not super steeped in pandering reference humor either, since the focus is on the characters.



Even when we get to Not-Kirito you only really need to get that he’s just a stupid otaku.
It’s gonna be hilarious when Schwartz’s real name is revealed to be, like, Jiro Yamada. Please be Jiro Yamada, my Nadesico-loving heart needs this.

Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout might not knock it out of the park, but it is pleasant and I liked it more than I thought. I hope it keeps being dedicated to being silly and I want to see the main couple develop and get over their hang-ups!
Also, for the record, being in your 30s isn’t that old!!

If you’ve got someone you can crack a cold drink with at night, you’re doing amazing—being in your 30s makes no difference.

This Week in Anime – Why You Should Watch Princess Connect! Re:Dive

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

CygamesUma Musume has found a passionate audience, but did you know about the anime adaptation of another of its mobile games, Princess Connect! Re:Dive? The fantasy-comedy is full of stellar comedy and top-notch animation. Nick and Steve check out what makes it a rollicking good time.

Editor’s note: Karyl is referred to as “Carl” throughout this column because the writers couldn’t help themselves. I tried.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Steve

Nick, despite the name of this column, it feels like ages since I’ve gotten to cover an anime that was actually currently airing on a weekly basis. But now that we finally have time to dig into more of the winter season’s offerings, how about we start off easy with a nice and normal anime about some fantasy foodies?

Well…

Ah damn. Well, some day. For now, a cat is fine too.

It might not be so hot on the dungeons, but if weird monsters and bugs are your definition of delicious, then season 2 of Princess Connect! Re:Dive should have plenty to whet your appetite!



Or it’ll make you throw up. It’s a crapshoot.

So yeah, it’s time for the second season of another shockingly well-produced gacha game advertisement from Cygames, who seems to be really good at funding these kinds of things. Thankfully PriConne S2 has yet to run into the problems of, say, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul. Though there’s still have a season for Pecorine to fall in love with a genocidal prince.

Not if she keeps flirting with Carl out in the open like that. Keep that stuff in the bedroom, you two.

They can’t, Carl keeps kicking her out of bed for eating crackers.
And bugs.
And fraggle meat.

The couple that accidentally poisons themselves together stays together. At least that better be true, or I have no idea how the Gourmet Guild has survived this long.

You’ve heard of being too dumb to live? These four are an order of magnitude beyond that: too dumb to die.

Gotta say, I am very glad to have this show and it’s lovable cast of iron-stomached losers back. I enjoyed the first season, kinda trailed off in the middle, but came back to it in preparation for season 2, and it’s a good time! I still can’t believe Cygames trusted one of their flagship gachas with the guy who directed the notoriously irreverent KONOSUBA, but who am I to argue with results?

I’m in the same boat with season 1. I mildly enjoyed some of the episodic shenanigans in that one but trailed off around halfway in. I think the last episode I remember was Eriko’s? She was fun.



But I figured PriConne was simple enough to work even without later adventures and jumped right into S2, which turned out to be a bad plan since somewhere in my absence this show decided to have a plot. Very rude if you ask me.

It’s less that it has a plot, and more like there’s a plot hanging around in the corner, and occasionally it walks up to the buffet and tries to make small talk, but it just makes everyone uncomfortable, because nobody really invited it, so it slinks back to the corner until it tries the same thing again.

So after watching this season’s episodes, I had to speed run the back half of S1 to figure out what the hell was going on. Which did give me the chance to see the Gourmet Guild taking a field trip with the Cutie Mark Crusaders here.

Yeah there’s good stuff in that back half! I was partial to the pudding ghost myself. I love anything that makes me wrestle with my own mortality and mutability, even if it comes in the shape of a horrific pseudo-yukkuri metamorphosis.

Oh, I should also mention I briefly played the mobile game when it launched in English a while back. And that left me with even more questions about this show’s story and setting, and it ESPECIALLY made that swimsuit episode with Kokkoro awkward.

Ah, I have no familiarity with the game myself. I only play gacha games that meet a strict quota of catgirls in techwear, and/or have Shuten Douji.

I can’t speak to the techwear, but as previously mentioned they have Eriko.

Not boozy enough, though valiant effort.
But I will give PriConne this: turning Nico Yazawa into a giant llama was a stroke of genius.

Though personally I think their greatest move was turning Johnny form Ed, Edd, n Eddy into an elf girl voiced by Kana Hanazawa.

A character so irrevocably neurotic that they already had to bring her back for an even worse shellacking in season 2. A rare distinction.


It’s a good choice! Personally, the reason I fell of S1 is because the Gourmet Guild themselves aren’t particularly strong comedic personalities, so every episode lives or dies off of the guest cast and individual gags. So having this fuckin weirdo who lives in the woods and talks to logs is a saving grace.

Yeah it’s probably the S2 episode I’ve had the most fun with so far too. As a rule, you can judge the quality of a PriConne episode based on how deranged it draws Carl, and this one is no exception.





And yes, readers, we’re going to call her Carl the entire time. There’s nothing you can do to stop us.

I mean, of course we are. That’s her name.

And she’s very important this season! The first instance I realized I probably needed full context for S2 was when we got an honest to god dramatic episode for this tsundere stray cat the guild adopted.

Yeah, she’s in the unenviable position of being both the most consistent butt of the show’s jokes, and a primary vehicle through which the story explores angst. Her divided loyalty between her hilariously and hornily evil sister(?) and her hungry hungry hime girlfriend is something alright.

TFW you have to betray your big tiddy GF for your furry mommy GF. Such is life.

The furry mommy also rules. Like, literally, she’s managed to overwrite the entire kingdom’s memories and steal Pecorine’s seat on the throne. But also figuratively, because she hasn’t met a single piece of scenery she couldn’t chew, and the animators are so horny for her whole deal. It’s a winning combination.


Doesn’t come close to his acting magnum opus as himself in the Pop Team Epic extended universe, but yeah, he’s pretty good here.
Just saying, if his agents want to keep pitching him for sultry villainesses I won’t complain. I want every anime fan to have an equivalent of this experience:

Symphogear and Shōta Aoi: two gifts that keep on giving.

Also it’s totally in line with the rest of this season.


One of the inviolable laws of gacha games is that, no matter the setting, they will all eventually converge on idols.


The world is not ready for Carl to learn about the Minmay Attack.


I just love how Carl here looks exactly like a cat who, through an unfathomable amount of misdirected effort, got shoved into a cheap pet costume by their owner.



Absolute misery.
Though I hope nobody is actually doing this to their cats:

The idol episode’s probably also the weakest out of the current bunch for me, but it still has its moments. Like, a lot of the show’s shortcomings (mostly from the writing, and more granularly, from the plot) are compensated by the fact that it is really well put together. Consistently colorful, bouncily animated, thoughtfully framed, and with the snappy comedic timing honed in the harsh mines of KONOSUBA.

Yeah, the biggest weakness to that episode is the character writing is just super basic. Carl’s conflicted about following her sister’s orders vs her growing companionship with Pecorine. But it doesn’t really come to a conclusion and tries to tie it into an underdeveloped plot with the Idol Guild. This was something that might have worked better in S1, where one-off adventures with guest guilds was the norm. But here it’s in a weird limbo of too serious for comedy but too lightweight to hit the way it wants.

And despite that, flashy moments like the idol performance, and tender moments like Carl’s eventual return to the rest of the group, both hit their marks as far as their presentational emotional appeal goes. Craft goes a long way.


Granted the craft sometimes goes a little too far. We didn’t need so many shots of Carl’s pits, guys.

I was going to make a S1 feet compilation for this column but I thought better of it. Instead, please enjoy more craft through this mouthwatering onigiri, which I can’t stop thinking about. It is a crime that I live in a failcountry where I can’t just walk down to the convenience store and buy one of these right now.

Look there’s a lot of stuff we need in this country. For instance, as we enter Year 3 of this pandemic I could really use some companionship.


First things first, we can at least be happy that our little elf girl managed to make a non-plant friend by finding someone even worse off than she is. That’s what companionship is all about.





And all she had to do was fight some glitchy skeletons to do it!



Man, Crunchyroll‘s encoding is really going down the crapper these days.
That episode sure does go places too. This stuff doesn’t exactly jive with PriConne’s predominant breeziness, but I also think it’s cool that PriConne has the ambition—and the ability—to branch out into other moods and styles like this. While it might not always work, the show is more interesting for them.


It’s all fun and games until you slip into an alternative dimension and find the undead remains of a ruined kingdom that has been wiped from universal history.



Still weird how everyone just shrugs their shoulders over that and doesn’t bring it up again.
It breaks my heart to say this about a show I’ve been singing so many praises for so far, but it appears we may indeed have a wee bit of a tiny isekai situation on our hands.

Yeahhhhhhh that’s about where I dropped the mobile game too. I can take the 18 different resources you have to grind to upgrade your girls. I can take aggressive free-to-play mechanics. But I will not be hornswoggled into watching KONOSUBA Art Online dammit.



Season 1 pretty well established that the twist of this show is the main character, Yuuki, had reversed time in order to try and redo a future where he and his companions lost. The joke being that doing this also gave him literal brain damage and now he doesn’t remember his quest.
But also, now, apparently all these characters are from the real world, and have just forgotten, and also this is probably a virtual reality world instead of a typical fantasy setting.
I can at least respect the audacity of the double isekai time travel grift. And Yuuki is basically the funniest take on the generic self-insert character. And this girl’s goddamn name is Metamorregnant.



So I’m a little forgiving of all the over-convoluted plot nonsense.
I am less forgiving. A lot of this stuff just serves to suck the fun out of a show that’s otherwise pretty good at it. The only thing that kept me around for all of this was that these episodes have fucking insane animation. Episode 4 especially is just bonkers.





Episode 4 is fucking nuts. Like, it’s one of the most staggering assemblies of virtuosic action and character animation to ever be televised, and it looks like it just pops up randomly in the middle of this giant shitpost of a show. And I absolutely love that.



Real Shadow of the Colossus hours here.

It’s up there with Mob Psycho 100 S2E5 as just a staggering achievement for television animation. And it basically never stops. Even when it’s not an action sequence there’s near constant movement, expressive body language, and ridiculous face game.





Carl has never looked whinier, and that is a real feat of sheer artistry.

Also it has a higher than average number of gay furries, so you know it’s a quality piece of entertainment.


This is episode director Takahito Sakazume‘s first credit in that particular role, but he’s been around for a while doing key animation and animation direction for a number of sakuga highlights (including the aforementioned Mob Psycho 100). And apparently, he and the production crew managed to recruit a laundry list of industry titans to make this episode the concatenation of fireworks that it is. Suffice to say, this one had to have been in the hopper for a long time, and it pays off spectacularly. While episodes like Mob Psycho 100 S2E5 or Fate/Apocrypha 22 are obviously incredible, it’s nice to finally see that caliber of talent and hard work go towards something that is, at its core, monstrously, beautifully stupid.

Never before has the “My own clone…now neither of us will be virgins” gag been so sumptuously illustrated.


They get along (never mind one is the other’s IRL cat).

There’s a lot to unpack there but we don’t have time because Yuuki has to fix his brain so he can debug the world.

Oh I’m sure that’ll only take a sec.

Not gonna lie, I was already tired of this plot when it was called Fate/Extra: Last Encore and it’s not much better here. But at least the show kind of makes things work by bringing it back to Carl and Pecorine.

A good anime director knows that GF power is not to be trifled with.


For real though, these characters aren’t particularly deep, but they’re likable and have chemistry. If the story can focus more on that and less on big twists and mysteries—and keep up this ridiculous production—it could be a real treat.

Yeah PriConne’s lovability, for me, stems from its good-natured goofs and a bouncy cast that capitalizes on that. Or, to put it a different way, it takes a hell of a lot of sakuga to make a little bit of plot tolerable, so absent infinite resources, PriConne is better off throwing Yuuki to the wolves.

They’re good boys. They deserve it.

Looks like everyone agrees!

This Week in Anime – Why Marin is Everyone's Dress-Up Darling

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

The sexy romcom focuses on the craftmanship behind cosplay and its Marin’s infectious enthusiasm that has her winning otaku hearts around the globe.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Steve

Happy (belated, by the time this is published) Valentine’s Day, Jean-Karlo! Here, I got you a good anime we can talk about.

Jean-Karlo

I, like many people, was very heartbroken to hear some of the bad news involving Please Tell Me! Galko-chan!. So, to fill the empty void where there would be kind, supporting gyaru who encourage people to pursue their passions and also maybe remind the world that boobs can get real sweaty in those fancy bras, we have… a kind, supporting gyaru who encourages people to pursue their passions and maybe remind the world that boobs can get real sweaty in those fancy bras!

It’s certainly been a very pleasant and welcome surprise! A high-profile romcom about cosplay probably isn’t what we usually think of when we consider “blockbuster anime,” but for my money, My Dress-Up Darling has been this season’s runaway hit in terms of creating likable characters, carving out a distinct identity for itself, and cinching those aspects together with incredibly charismatic animation. Plus, yes, it’s always a good time for gals to get their due.
It’s a shame this series is only known for “The Bedroom Scene With A Bikini,” because there’s so much charm and character packed into this show and I was so excited to cover it for this column. Not just because gyaru are great, but also because any show that deals with people and their anime fandom always turn out to be really interesting. From Fujoshi Rumi to Recovery of an MMO Junkie, it’s great to find a show that really captures the spirit of what it’s like to love a show.

Yeah I honestly think that’s the show’s secret weapon—or one of them, at least—and it’s not something you can get out of a quick synopsis. Like, on its face, this is a story about an outgoing girl getting together with a quiet friendless guy through happenstance. I can name several dozen other anime that fit that description, and most of them are pretty bad.

That really makes discussing My Dress-Up Darling hard. The well is poisoned from all the “blank self-insert gets adopted by an annoying Comiket-bait waifu who flirts with him for vague reasons” shows that we’ve gotten for such a long time, to say nothing of the people who insist the shows are so totally deep. A show with an artistic male lead isn’t good if he doesn’t even have a name, you know that right?
We’ve all had to cover our fill of that ilk on this column, that’s for damn sure. But, silver-lining, it makes moments like this all the sweeter. Because you can make a good romcom, you just gotta make your leads into lovable weirdos and not empty facsimiles.


So this is how it goes: Wakana Gojo lives with his grandfather, an esteemed hina doll craftsman. He dreams of being a kashirashi (the term for a master craftsman). As a child, however, a classmate/friend turns him away because “boys playing with dolls is gross”. So Gojo retreats within himself and keeps to his grandfather, with nothing but part of a hina doll for companionship.





And honestly this is already a pretty good foundation! Gender politics aren’t at the forefront of My Dress-Up Darling, but it’s there in the background. Things like dollmaking, sewing, dressmaking, makeup, etc. are traditionally feminine crafts often regarded as “lesser.” So you have Gojo who has grown up with this shame from liking something “girly,” and a big part of the show involves deprogramming those assumptions by showing the audience how much thought, work, and effort goes into these crafts.




And we get a lot of good hand porn out of it, which is always welcome.
Again, your male lead needs to be an actual character for your show to be good. Gojo’s passion for dollcrafting isn’t just a setup, but a huge part of the show and his development. He agonizes long and hard about whether he has what it takes to even pursue it as a career. As he tragically laments, just because you love something doesn’t mean you’re good at it.





It’s super important! Gojo being a full-fledged person with his own personality, dreams, and flaws is one half of the equation that stitches this series’ romantic cloth together. He’s old-fashioned, on top of all that, and it makes him a far cry from the usual self-insert blank-slate otaku-adjacent protagonist. He’s also very cute, which might be most important of all. You can absolutely envision a girl like Marin falling for him.




There’s nothing hotter than a guy taking diligent notes on a piece of wacky pornography. Trust me, I know from firsthand experience.
Very important! The fantasy isn’t just that a bombshell like Marin decides to be a recluse’s friend, it’s also that Marin—a gyaru with a boundless passion for a character from the erotic visual novel Saint♥Slippery’s Academy for Girls – The Young Ladies of the Humiliation Club: Debauched Miracle Life 2 and dreams of cosplaying said character out of love—meets a person who can help her sew her costume and isn’t a jerk. He’s actually quite handsome in his own way, is supportive and understanding of her hobbies, equally passionate and dedicated to his own pursuits, and doesn’t judge her by either her hobbies or her appearance as a gyaru. A lot of people tend to think gals are promiscuous, after all. The show takes time to illustrate how she doesn’t tolerate people making fun of others’ interests. She loves what she loves and she appreciates people who pursue their passions.




I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of cosplayers or women interested in traditionally “nerdy” subjects and this all tracks. Turns out, people like people with good personalities and don’t like hanging around jerks.
It’s hilarious that one of the first things we see Marin do is commandeer a chalkboard to explain the subtle intricacies of the relationship web in a magical girl series. Unlike Gojo, she has zero shame about her hobbies.

She also has the social graces to just shrug it off if someone tries to make fun of her. Gojo panics at having people within spitting distance of him—people like Marin, who (as mentioned earlier) is very happy to learn Gojo can sew. Her own efforts at making Shizuku-tan’s outfit are less than stellar. But also, she loves that hentai character with all her heart and just really wants to become Shizuku-tan. Me and my Tomomi Harukawa dakimakura salute you, Marin.

I’ve met women who’ve forgotten more about MMOs than I’ll ever learn, this is so true to life it hurts and it’s amazing to see this kind of thing from the perspective of someone who doesn’t really “get” the fandom.
And through it all, Marin is painfully sincere about the whole thing. Like, yeah, maybe she does enjoy having dates with Rosie Palms while she’s playing Saint♥Slippery 2. But it’s something she loves, and Gojo appreciates being around someone who loves something as much as he loves hina dolls.

Yeah, not to strawman too hard here, but given that I’ve seen people throw the “manic pixie dream girl” accusation in My Dress-Up Darling‘s direction, I just gotta say: if you hang around in nerd circles, you will absolutely run into at least one if not several Marins. They are out there. They walk among us.

If you’ve never met a Marin even in passing, that says more about you than it does about the kinds of people in fandom. Just sayin’.

Plus, like you said, although romance is an increasingly big part of the story, at its core, its about the conjunction of mutually fulfilling nonromantic passions between two huge nerds. That’s the glue that holds Gojo and Marin together, and that’s what gets you invested enough to enjoy seeing their chemistry gradually blossom. Although maybe I shouldn’t use the word “gradually” when this is in the second episode.


Also like I said earlier, it bums me out that this darn scene is the only thing people bring up about My Dress-Up Darling because it doesn’t help the whole “this is actually a show about a mutual friendship” argument.

To be fair, though, the show is deeply horny at points. For better and/or worse.

There’s a lot of Gojo having to be a lot closer to a woman than he’s ever been since the day he was born, but the show also takes a moment to imply that maybe Marin was also taking a big leap by letting Goro get that close. Hey, plenty of gyaru are innocent (eroge-playing habits notwithstanding); Marin’s probably never even kissed a guy before.


It’s a scene that goes on way longer than it needs to, and doles out the Gainax bounces a little too generously, but overall it’s amusing for the disconnect between Marin and Gojo. She’s so proud of her swimsuit compromise, while Gojo’s struggling not to disintegrate on spot. They’re both coming from perfectly reasonable positions! It’s not either of their faults that teen hormones are a hell of a drug.

I read the scene as Marin knowing that Gojo is nervous as heck and trying (too hard) to make the mood light and not make things weird, because she has to know that any guy would have a bit of a panic attack when their cute classmate asks him to measure her boobs within the day of meeting her.



Speaking of, I’m very amused by Marin’s obsession with Shizuku’s “boob bag.” Again: a very true-to-life detail about real-life people like Marin. You know what they say, the couple that appreciates bosoms together stays together…

It is very literally the centerpiece of the outfit, so you gotta show it love. And I think that’s fair assessment. The scene, at its core, is still about the communication problems that arise because they hardly know each other. Marin has some experience with modeling (this is some deeper manga lore), so it’s just not as big a deal to her as it is to Gojo. But I do like that she gets flustered in the end too! It humanizes both of them. And that fingers-through-the-hair animation technology is unreal. Others might fixate on the feet and boob shots (no judgment), but that for me is the crown jewel of an episode stuffed with incredible character animation.

Marin’s hair is cute, I like that they made it look nice and fluffy in that scene. Also, I love her pink highlights! Gotta have pink highlights.

Hell, the amount of character and tone infused into some of the more static shots still demonstrates an incredibly adept command of anime as an art form. This is a downright gorgeous series at times, and a very loving adaption of the source material.



And I should say: the manga is also quite excellent and just as raunchy.
Of course, it’s not all measurements and boob bags: gotta make the boob bag once you know how big it’s gotta be, after all. And here’s where Gojo hits a stumbling block: a miscommunication between him and Marin makes him think the next chance she has to cosplay as Shizuku is for the event in two weeks. Plus, his grandfather hurts his back, leaving Gojo alone. Also-also: midterms are coming. Poor Gojo gets stretched to his breaking point.


What I especially love about this part is how mature the resolution is. Miscommunications are romcoms’ bread and butter, but rather than stretch it out for maximum melodrama, My Dress-Up Darling lets its leads hash things out and own up to both of their mistakes. Most adults can’t even do this, so good on them for figuring it out in high school!




I also appreciate that it doesn’t sugarcoat the physical and emotional toll it takes on Gojo, while still extolling how powerful passion can be. Like, people push themselves to their limits for all sorts of reasons, some good and many bad. But doing it because it’s something you love, for people you care about, is definitely one of the better motivations imho.

I mentioned Gojo despairing about his ability earlier in the column, but sure enough, it’s his grandfather’s words (and Marin’s smiling face) that get Gojo back into his seat and working on the costume. He might not believe in himself, but Marin does—and he doesn’t wanna let her down.

And people wonder why women like Gojo.

I, for one, deeply sympathize with Marin here, only suddenly coming to terms with her budding crush on Gojo once he looks like worn-out dead-inside garbage. People are hotter when they’re exhausted. I don’t know what to tell you, it’s just science.




His beauty mark is also such a smart touch. The mangaka absolutely knew what they were doing when they designed him. What a good lad.
Look, I’m a simple guy with really twisted, messed-up priorities… what gets me is the “beautiful” scene. Marin learns early that Gojo is very particular about using the word “beautiful.” He’s an artist, he sees a lot of really pretty things on a daily basis, so for something to be “beautiful” it really has to wow him. Marin in her Shizuku cosplay, even though she was sweating up a storm and pooling sweat in her boob bag like crazy, qualified for that moniker for him. So when Marin hears him call her “beautiful,” she catches feelings but hard. So hard.





It’s a callback with the explosive strength of an ICBM, and it hits Marin square in her ventricles. It’s another great development for the series, too, because lovesick Marin is a hilariously visceral encapsulation of what a crush feels like in high school. All butterflies and ineffably rose-tinted goggles. She is cringe, but she is free.





Speaking of ventricles, I guess: Marin (before the “beautiful” bit) is so thrilled when she finally gets her Shizuku-tan cosplay and, true to her social butterfly self, makes a ton of friends at her first cosplay event. Gojo settles into his future role as the cosplayer‘s boyfriend, holding her stuff while people photograph her but otherwise proud of the work he’s done. Because there’s just no beating how happy Marin looks.



We interrupt this charming moment to bring you bad news: breasts sweat, and big breasts get big sweaty.



Also, don’t wear two nude-bras, your outfit will never survive it.
Only the finest drawn boob and thigh sweat for the distinguished anime consumers here.

Again, I’ve known my fair share of cosplayers: this is all true to life.

My favorite bit here is when Marin can’t stop from corpsing when Gojo first tries to take pictures of her. She’s that happy! And the infectiousness of her energy, combined with how genuine it is, makes this day-of viewing for me. It’s been a while since I’ve done that for an anime I haven’t been reviewing.


And then Marin meets Juju, a cosplayer she had a ton of admiration for. Juju admired the kind of work Gojo puts into Marin’s cosplay and wants to commission him for a new costume, and Marin approves (support your partner, people!)

Juju is good but her introduction is very much less so. And very difficult to screencap around lol.


We didn’t need to know Juju’s personal hygiene, but I give the show props for at least finding a creative flashback to handle it with? And hey, I know plenty of full-grown women who still get carded so Juju’s got plenty of company I guess?

Oh there’s no doubt about that. And I dare not begrudge My Dress-Up Darling for its horniness, lest I be cast into the circle of hell reserved for hypocrites, but maybe we could have used a tad fewer nude shots and a bit less time spent on the pubic humor. Especially when none of that factors into the rest of Juju’s story, which is actually about how ’90s magical girl series kick insane amounts of ass.





I am so happy that this show went so far as to try and recreate that sort of dusty coloring used in 90s anime, even if the end result still looks more like Heartcatch Precure! instead of Cyberteam in Akihabara. Also, Juju, have a heart and let Marin cosplay Neon with you, you’d be so cute together



I love that they not only went with the 4:3 aspect ratio, they also recruited one of the Doremi series voice actors for Shion. And this relationship web is basically just Cardcaptor Sakura, down to the highly sus part about the teacher. This show knows what it’s talking about.

I said it earlier, but I don’t blame people for looking askew at My Dress-Up Darling because the well has been poisoned. But Marin’s basically become the waifu of the season for good reason, and the bedroom scene isn’t one of them. This is a charming, heartwarming show about two people coming together thanks to a serendipitous overlap in their hobbies, and becoming better people for it. And this is the kind of magic that happens in fandom all the time. Goodness knows, if we have to fantasize about something, be it the ability to bond with people who validate our (positive) hobbies.

It’s funny—my personal arc between hearing about My Dress-Up Darling and watching it mirrored Juju’s presumptions about Marin being dashed by actually meeting her. This is a series with a lot of heart and knowhow about what it means to be an active part of our particular subculture. Beneath all the romance and horniness and comedy, this is a story about the inalienable joy of being able to pursue a passion, just for the sake of itself, and for the sake of being yourself. Give it a chance!




And if that doesn’t sell you, maybe this will: Marin has even more powerful dad fashion in store for us in the near future. You definitely don’t want to miss that.

The real power-move from gals: dressing however the FUCK they want and pulling it off. I can’t with this woman. Gojo, come get ya girl…

This Week in Anime – The Modern Romance of Sasaki and Miyano

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

Nick and Nicky discuss the emotional ups and downs of potential couple Sasaki and Miyano and the latter’s attempt to navigate his feelings and sexual identity. His Miyano just a BL fan or could he see himself falling for another boy?

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Well Nicky, it’s still technically the week of Valentines Day, and even better now that all the leftover chocolate is half-off. So why not carry on things with some more wholesome, lovey-dovey anime?



OK maybe not entirely wholesome.
Nicky

That doesn’t make this boy’s love-centric romance any less heartwarming, though. Sasaki and Miyano is probably one of the most fluffy and sweet romances that happens to just be about trying to form a friendship via sharing your favorite romance and erotica books.


As somebody who’s sent a friend porn for Christmas (twice) before, I can attest to the efficacy of that. Though I don’t think Miyano’s ever gonna recommend Dick Fight Island to his crush.

Look, as a self-proclaimed fujoshi I would be remiss if I didn’t say some of my most long-lasting friendships and relationships weren’t built upon gushing about my favorite pairings and sharing fanfiction. It can be pretty lonely otherwise. This part of me sympathizes deeply with Miyano who simply starts out as a lone fudanshi or “guy who is entrenched in BL,” for those unfamiliar.
Meanwhile he shares the title with the tall, “delinquent” looking Sasaki. Who, despite what some might think from the piercings and dyed hair, is the sweetest little cherry tree to every trip his way through a meet-cute.

On the surface they might share some similarities with known pairing archetypes; the tall, outgoing sempai vs the short, somewhat feminine underclassmen, but what’s pleasant about Sasaki and Miyano is how much it acknowledges the genre expectations most people have and instead turns out this very grounded slice-of-life series. It genuinely explores a couple of guys navigating those expectations of what a romance between a couple of dudes should look like.

And by exploring, we mean the show is like me playing the new Pokémon game, where I searched out every nook and cranny in the first area before even thinking about advancing the story missions. I’ve called SasaMiya a slow burn romance, but you could probably get rug burn on your butt from sitting in a chair faster than these two can figure out romance. Hell, the OP just teases the POSSIBILITY of them maybe holding hands some day. There are species of tortoise that move faster than this show.

And yet somehow that still feels real and satisfying to me? The devil is in the details. Anime in particular could take a romance premise and spend 100 episodes before the main couple could admit that they like each other. But with Sasaki and Miyano it does this really good job of letting you sit and spend these moments with the characters that just puts you at ease. It’s not without a little drama or heart-squeezing, but it’s the exact kind of low-stakes chill I wanted.

Oh I’m certainly not complaining. In romance, the journey is ultimately more important than the destination. I just figured people should know what they’re getting into and prepare accordingly. This isn’t a site where you can pitch a tent and wait a few days for payoff. You’re building a settlement and digging a long-term latrine ditch with these boys.

Not to mention, it looks very nice compared to most BL anime! It’s got pleasant but simple character designs, a bit of atmosphere, and these great sparkling effects that pepper charm into average scenes. Lots of little touches both metaphorically and physically. BL seems to excel in manga for the same reason it flounders in anime. You can achieve a lot more on the page than you can in animation on a cheaper budget. Many BL anime tend to feel cheap and might not adapt what’s visually appealing about a work. The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window was like this for me. But Sasaki and Miyano feels closer to a Bloom Into You in how it captures the essence of feelings.





It’s a very modest production, but clearly helmed by a team who knows what they’re doing. There’s an emphasis on eyelines, body language, and evocative shifts in art style that really sell the intimate moments.







That last shot just perfectly annunciates “Fuck, I’m gay.”

It’s not the biggest production, but it’s a far cry from stickman characters moving over what’s just a single static background like they’re cardboard and calling it intimacy.

Also, they’re really good at making Sasaki hot, which I appreciate.





Again, very pleasing character designs all around really. There’s nobody that looks like a complete “Dorito” here. Even most of the friends are pretty good-looking guys.


Ogasawara’s very lucky he’s so pretty, because otherwise his girlfriend would never put up with him.

Dude has a wild arc of “I’m homophobic!” to “Actually I’m anxious about my girlfriend’s kinks” to just being a dude trying to understand his partner’s interests.

He’s very much the kind of dude you knew in high school who wouldn’t shower with the team because “that’s gay” only he has cool blue highlights. Not like, an outright bigot, but definitely a dude who could stand to chill about all that performative masculinity shit.



But his presence is pretty helpful, in that it puts to action the kind of judgment Miyano is so sensitive about through this whole show. For as much as he devours BL media, he’s extremely defensive about how he definitely doesn’t “swing that way” in real life. Which is sort of an Anime Boy Doth Protest Too Much situation.
For an all boys school the outcome for being gay could be way harsher than what the show presents if this dude is the most opposition they encounter. But it creates a nice fantasy where the characters are working through their hang-ups about their relationship to queerness without having to deal with a lot of the real-world backlash. All queer love stories have different approaches to how they handle this vs straight ones. Sometimes homophobia is rampant, other times it’s non-existent, or it doesn’t matter to the main couple. SasaMiya is a soft approach but it gets the heart of it while also framing it within Miyano’s struggle with his niche interests.





There’s not single right way to go about it, and for this show it’s definitely the correct approach to focus on internal hang-ups rather than, say, some classmate being a violent homophobe. More than anything the conflict here is about how Miyano views himself, and the various issues he has with his own version of masculinity.

If you couldn’t tell Miyano is a bit soft. And we love him for it! But it’s not something he necessarily takes pride in. He has insecurities about both his height and his face. He doesn’t like when people compare him to girls or that his appearance might imply that he is in anyway submissive or “less of a man” than other guys around him. Even being complimented on his face by Sasaki leads him to believe that he’s simply having misconceptions. And also, his only framework to go off is fiction.


That’s actually one of my favorite aspects of his arc. BL is at once his refuge to explore these feelings he doesn’t feel comfortable admitting to, and a means of imperfect representation that he chafes against.



And that rings true to me. Fiction can be a great tool for expression, but when it’s your only exposure to the queer experience, you can get some less-than-nuanced takes on what being attracted to the same sex means.
And our own separation of the fictional relationships we like vs what we want for ourselves is also gonna be different too. Like your girlfriend might be down for some questionable kinks in her fanfiction, but she would probably be pretty upset if you started making assumptions about her preference IRL because of that. For deep purveyors of fiction, this is a well-known boundary. But outside of our main couple we see several characters struggle with this concept. Even for many BL fans, some may not even factor it into their own sexuality and simply like it as a hobby or a distraction. I’ve known many people who love BL but have no interest in dating guys for whatever reason. Anyone can enjoy stories.


That said, it’s important to be discerning and discreet depending on what you’re into. Don’t leave your slime porn out in the open next to The Stranger by the Shore folks.


Oh yeah, even among things in the more tame realm, there’s a lot of anime and manga I love but would be fully hesitant to share with someone who isn’t just neck-deep in my niche swamp. There’s a big difference between wanting to show someone a Ghibli film and having them sit through a shotgun of your favorite uncensored direct-to-video anime even if you love both of them with equal passion.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with being proud about what you’re into, which is an important lesson Sasaki’s helping to teach Miyano. Like, my boy brings an ancient iPod Micro to school just so nobody can look at a screen and see he’s listening to BL audio dramas.



Just look at that thing. That was designed to hold 4GB of MP3s off of LimeWire, son.
I thought that might be more indicative of the actual time period rather than Miyano’s shyness. All the kids are still using flip phones too.

I mean, if this does take place in the mid-2000s it’s the most vague period piece I’ve ever seen. And either way everyone knows you don’t put your saucy audio on an Apple product. Save that for your Zune, dammit.

Maybe Miyano would’ve had an easier time figuring this stuff out if he knew how to Google, lol.

It worked for Yamada in Kase-san!



But anyway, we’ve talked a lot about Miyano, since he’s the tiny bundle of baggage in the pair, but I also dig how well Sasaki is characterized. He’s mostly laidback, but still has a lot of pent up Big Feelings in regards to expressing his attraction to Miyano.


He’s such a Big Ol’ Softy! He’s confident in his attraction but he’s having trouble getting Miyano to catch his signals even when he’s trying very hard to be obvious.





Note: that’s the version of events as Miyano remembers it, because of course he fluffs up his memories like a shojo manga. Meanwhile Sasaki envisions it like an indie romance film, complete with aspect ratio.



It’s the little details that really make this show, y’know? For instance, I like how it’s established that Sasaki is a very physical kind of partner, but not necessarily in a sexual way. Just that the way he’s most comfortable expressing attraction is through touch – stroking hair, tickling ears, stuff that’s intimate and effecting. It’s a frankly welcome spin on the typical “gosh, I’ve got to hold myself back around them!” trope.

He’s just dying to get closer in any way possible and is struggling to get it out without crossing a boundary and potentially scaring Miyano off.

Also he’s terrible at flirting. Just god awful. I love it.

Bruh is like not even that subtle. Maybe a little awkward, but even all their friends have suspicions about the whole thing and it’s only Miyano that is in denial.





Miyano’s in denial about a lot of things. Not least of which being the fact he’s, y’know, attracted to dudes.

That’s why it’s a big relief to see Sasaki just be forward even if it’s sloppy and Miyano still needs the space to sort through all that baggage.

And y’know, it makes sense. Miyano’s already got a complex about his masculinity, and when you’re a teenage boy there’s few things that seem more emasculating than being gay. So a lotta guys will equivocate and rationalize for a long time before admitting to it, even just to themselves. Dealing with that can take a while.

And I love how the show respects him for that. He also clearly just wants to be loved for who he is before jumping into new and unfamiliar territory such as a new relationship.

In all I appreciate the show’s gentle touch with all of this. It’s not a revolutionary new romance that’ll knock your socks off, but it’s solid, thoughtful character work that buoys the whole experience.

Fans of conventional romances will probably love Sasaki and Miyano even if they don’t necessarily go for BL. This and My Dress-Up Darling have been the perfect anime editions to the “love season” and I hope people will seek this one out.


And if you take nothing else from this show, always remember: Properly hide your porn.

This Week in Anime – What the Hell is Going on in F/GO Solomon?

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

Newly streaming on Crunchyroll, the gacha game uninitiated could find themselves struggling in the deep end with this movie. Steve and Jean-Karlo try to iron out the wrinkles and explain exactly what went down in Fate/Grand Order Final Singularity – Grand Temple of Time: Solomon.

This movie is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Steve

Well, Jean-Karlo, once again the red thread of Fate has ensnared “This Week In Anime,” and it looks like it won’t let us go unless we spend the rest of the column talking about historical figures and how hot they would be if they were reincarnated as magical anime babes.



Thankfully, this isn’t my first F/GO rodeo.
Jean-Karlo

Fantastic. 10/10 Nero-face, would umu again.
Violent passion for Nero Claudius Caesar aside (ps: call me), I’ve been on the sidelines for all things Type-Moon for a long time. I originally saw the Lunar Legend Tsukihime anime in Spanish during my formative years and have since pledged my life to the vampiress in a bobbed haircut that doesn’t know what money is, but Fate: Whatever was always a well that was too deep for me to dive into. I just appreciated all the silly R63 reimaginings of famed historical figures from afar. I know enough to recognize a ton of these women (and the handful of mandatory 3-star dudes). I know enough to enjoy the concept of Atilla the Hun being an alien weapon that doesn’t know what math is and that Nero is an airhead because her mom kept making her drink out of a silver cup. Please don’t ask me what a Saint Quartz is; I’m too scared to ask.

Also, because friends don’t let friends thirst for anime babes alone, I can be furious on your behalf that Aoi Yūki‘s true form Shuten Doji isn’t in this movie. It’s highway robbery.

It’s a damn shame, both for me and my boozy oni wife, but a little birdie tells me she’ll get her due in the game later this year. So no harm no foul. But on that note, never you fear, because your old pal Steve is here to answer any and all questions you might have about Fate/Grand Order. I’ve been playing the localized release of the mobile game since about a month after its debut (totaling 1,656 logins as of writing this), so I’m something of a begrudging Fate scientist myself.



Just don’t blame me if that is my answer to most of your questions, because it turns out almost 5 years with this game still isn’t enough to let me decode the gnarliest of Type-Moon bullshit.
Then, in the name of the Nasu, the Worm, and the holy Earth Unbirthing: this is Fate/Grand Order Final Singularity – Grand Temple of Time: Solomon. Let’s just take a look at my notes here…



“Solomon can kill servants. Discuss.”

No thank you. But I will provide a little background. This is, ostensibly, the sequel to the 2019-2020 Babylonia anime, picking up right where it left off with Chaldea’s last stand against King Solomon. It is also an adaptation of the grand finale for the game’s first arc—a culmination of 1.5 years of time-and-space hopping. It is, thusly, absolutely impenetrable for anybody who hasn’t played the game.



Seriously, the Babylonia anime, by virtue of its story and length, is at least somewhat standalone. And the same, I assume, holds true for the Camelot films. But Solomon relies on you having context for the entire journey so far, and there’s just not enough anime available to give you that.
Being that most of what I know about Fate I’ve learned from Comiket, I was more or less able to piece together a lot of the story on my own in broad strokes. But it still requires me to nod my head and accept a lot of stuff at face value, given that it expects you to know a lot of characters and the significance of their revelations right from the get-go. It’s one thing when the movie throws up a splash-page of a bunch of Heroic Spirits and expects you to get excited about all of them—which is easy enough if you’re uguu for umus and Civilization™ like I am. Also, there have been so many Jeanne D’Arcs in gacha games it’s easy enough to point out which girl in a game is the Jeanne (they always carry a flag). But then you get this guy up here with a butterfly hat who’s a composer and you just scratch your head. I figured it was Beethoven; it’s not (apparently, it’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, go figure).

That’s Amadeus standing next to Gilles de Rais (pre-Bluebearding, because that’s a different Servant with a different class), with Siegfried standing in the background on the right. That knowledge takes up precious brain real estate I can never reallocate.

The long and short of it is this: in 999 BC, King Solomon attained great wisdom at the hands of God Himself. He became the originator of what would become Magecraft (the very thing that allows people to summon Heroic Spirits in the Fate universe). Being the first mage with heavenly-granted wisdom, he amassed great power but ultimately didn’t really do anything with it: people suffered under his rule because he couldn’t work up the desire to care for anyone given he knew that humanity would eventually meet its end.







When Solomon’s body eventually died, his magics persisted in a singularity outside of space and time where he endeavored to simply end humanity to save it from the pain of oblivion. Which led to the events of all the other stuff in Fate/Grand Order, all orchestrated by Solomon’s hand in the background. The movie picks up right before the protagonist of the game, Fujimaru, is set to fight Solomon alongside the servant Mash.



Quick detail of note: Mash is an “artificial” Servant; while most Servants are summoned Heroic Spirits of history/folklore, Mash was engineered. As such, she has a limited lifespan, and hers is about to run out on the eve of the final battle with Solomon. Also, she’s a “Shielder”, so she’s a defensive fighter whose shield is apparently the Round Table—as in, the one used by Arthur/Altria/Arturia and his/her knights.

Also, I weep for the protag being Potato-kun and not Gudako, but I’ll give the filmmakers this one. Not even Solomon deserves having to face off against Gudako.

Gudako is indeed a canonical eldritch horror in the game, but that’s a story for a different time. For now, despite my earlier crowing, the overall plot of Solomon is pretty straightforward and easy to understand: this is the final boss, and our heroes have to punch him hard enough to save the entire planet. Of course, whether you care about that or not relies on you having the aforementioned context, which probably stems from you already having played this section of the game. As such, this movie is basically pure fanservice. It expects you to know this part of the story, and it rewards you with a healthy smattering of familiar faces and lots of flashy action.







Does this make a coherent three-act film? Lol hell no. Did I mind? Yeah, but not as much as I thought I would, honestly.
The Heroic Spirits all showing up is a fun bit, too, considering that they’re all willing themselves into existence to help Fujimaru and Mash within a singularity where summoning shouldn’t even be possible. Also, there are more than a few moments where different versions of the same Heroic Spirit shows up to help, like this bit where we have Rogue Medusa and Avenger Medusa laying down support fire. You might recognize them from the Fate: Babylonia anime (pps: Avenger Medusa, call me too please). We’ll put a pin on that, it’ll be important to the story later. For now, I can just call it a really good bit of fanservice that’s perfect for a big climactic movie like this one. Out of context, it’s just cool seeing these characters you’ve probably seen people on Twitter thirst over. In context, this is Fate’s big “on your left” moment.

Yeah, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to the climax of Endgame (though this part of the game does predate that film by a healthy margin). It’s corny as all hell. As cringe as GamemasterAnthony’s infamous birthday post. But that recklessness also makes it endearing.



Also, simply by virtue of having Mordred, F/GO is cooler than anything to do with the Avengers.

I’m proud of you, my feral gender-nonconforming AFAB son.

Shuten-saltiness aside, I understand and respect the decision to concentrate the cameos onto the Servants that starred in the main singularities leading up to this confrontation. I think the game had a cast of about 150 characters at this point, so you gotta make cuts somewhere.



Or maybe, in the film’s canon, Ritsuka just isn’t enough of a whale to have summoned every limited character. For shame.

I feel so bad for the people watching this movie and seeing it dangle that one character they’re down-bad for that they’ve never been able to roll. Like, maybe someone really wanted Francis Drake or Sanzang and they’ve spent years trying but never managed it. My heart goes out to those who long for Bedivere to come home from the war.

Bedivere is an extra mean example, because he’s not limited, and he’s only a three-star, but he can only usually be summoned in the story banner, which you never want to pull on because there’s always a more sparkly limited-time banner going on. Gacha is a cruel mistress.

But I shouldn’t get too deep in the pull efficiency weeds. Not when I completely forgot that Lev showed up, and I was so delighted to see his stupid steampunk ass here again.





So, like… I have no idea who this Black Butler-looking goof is, but apparently he was a named character from the story and it turns out he’s actually the Goetic demon Flauros, which is a big deal. For those who don’t know: Solomon was said to have made a pact with 72 demons that he could summon. Anyone who’s played a Shin Megami Tensei title would recognize a good number of their names: Os, Orobas, Decarabia, so on. Fate’s Solomon also has his 72 Goetic demons; they’re a swarm of 72 gargantuan demon tentacles made out of corpses that basically are the Temple of Time he resides in. And Lev is Flauros, who’s… kinda-sorta the head of it all? Which is why the Heroic Spirits need to show up to rescue Fujimaru and Mash: the entire complex can’t be breached unless you kill all 72 demons at the same time. It’s a cool concept but not one that stands up all that well to scrutiny, which is the law of the land when it comes to Type-Moon stuff. Just roll with it. Also: hey Amon, how’s life between Devilman reboots?





Lev is only important because he’s a minor character from the introduction who betrays Chaldea out of the blue. So he’s the de facto villain until Solomon reveals himself, and he just shows up here to remind you how far you’ve come. And to give you the satisfaction of smacking his Redditor ass out of existence. And it’s funny—Barbatos actually became something of a meme in the F/GO community because he dropped the best loot.



This is, incidentally, a place where a film adaptation inevitably loses something. In the game, this moment was a raid battle where all players contributed to taking down the demon pillars, one by one, millions of times over. It was a cool display of community camaraderie that helped foster the emotional weight of the finale. You just can’t replicate that in a movie.

I imagine seeing the different Singularities is a bit like watching the intro cutscene to A Realm Reborn if you had been around for the end of FFXIV 1.0. You just had to be there. A pity.

Such devastation. (I think that’s a FFXIV meme? I’m trying to be cool.)

Anyway, Mash and Fujimaru make it through and they confront Solomon, is what we’re getting at.



I like that bits of his hair shape little demon wings around his head. Cute bit of non-subtlety.
Subtlety really isn’t this film’s forte. To wit, this section more or less devolves into yet another multi-Servant fracas that features plenty of candid frames focusing on Mash’s ass. Just another reminder that this is the same crew that helmed Babylonia, for better and for worse.


Wouldn’t be Fate if it wasn’t weirdly horny.

Fujimaru and Mash manage to keep Solomon on the back-step until he turns into his true form: Beast I.

Now, I don’t quite understand this bit so I think Steve might have to clarify. But: Chaldea’s purpose was to protect humanity, particularly from entities named Beasts, which are designated as the enemies of the highest order that could end humanity. Many of these can be aspects of existing Heroic Spirits (for example: Beast VI, Draco the Whore of Babylon, is a version of Nero Claudius). Befitting Solomon, the first Mage, he’s Beast I. He’s a threat to humanity’s entire timeline.



To prove how dangerous he is: Beast I just outright erases Summoning from Magecraft once he manifests. The guy created Magecraft, so he gets to dictate how it works. So Fujimaru is playing Calvinball with an entity that can decide you don’t even get to try to roll for Shuten Doji in the first place.

Oh yeah. Explaining what Beasts are. No problem. I’ll get right on that. [siiiiiiiiiiiiip]

Oh hey, Leonardo Da Vinci. Congrats on transitioning!

Honestly you pretty much got it. They’re Fate’s version of super big baddies that personify humanity’s deadly sins (because there are seven of them), but not the normal sins, because this is Fate after all. Goetia here, Solomon’s counterpart, thinks dying sucks, so he wants to Ctrl+Z the planet’s history and remake it into one where nobody has to die.




In other words, it’s just Instrumentality all over again. Like every other anime villain, it all returns to Instrumentality.

I bet Solomon is just salty Nitocris shacked up with Ozymandias and won’t return his calls. (Ppps: Nitocris, let Ozy know I’m bringing the potato salad to the cook-out.)

What I like about Goetia is that, even though he has humanity’s incineration pretty much cinched, he still wants another person, i.e. Mash, to tell him he’s doing the right thing. Ultimately, he is born of humanity and thus prone to our own need for companionship and validation. It’s a neat moment that helps unravel him.


“Please clap”, Goetia begs.

Mash says, “Then perish.”


Out-of-context, Mash’s end protecting a potato from Goetia is melodramatic. But outside looking in: people loved Mash a whole bunch (there’s enough doujin to prove it), and anyone who’s played through the game only to see the cute named character who’s been there since day one sacrifice themselves for you would probably be inconsolable. So I take it as a mark of good writing that even though I don’t know much of Mash, I still find this a really impacting scene. Like, you don’t just kill off your premium girl like that.





It’s a killer moment in the game too, and the adaptation pulls out all the dramatic stops to replicate it. Again, it really only hits if you’ve spent this whole journey alongside her, but she’s plenty amiable throughout Babylonia, so if you’ve at least watched that, you know how much she and Ritsuka mean to each other. And I very much dig the way the film dramatizes the aftermath, with Ritsuka lugging the heavy shield, the weight of their now-extinguished relationship, in seeming vain to provide one last stand against Goetia.



Of course this goober has to step in and ruin a perfectly good melodramatic gesture.

Now we can fully unpin that bit from earlier: same as how Lev was actually Flauros (and inspired by how Archer and Emiya Shiro were the same person in the original Fate/stay night), the good doctor Romani there reveals himself to be… Solomon.



Remember how I said Beasts were aspects of some Heroic Spirits? Well, it turns out Fate worked out a brilliant way to justify seasonal alts for their characters: basically, summoning a Heroic Spirit means summoning the entirety of who they are… at a specific moment in their history/lore. So Saber Arturia is your typical “King Arthur at any random moment in Arthurian lore”, but Lancer Arturia is a version of her where she grew up as King. So too did Solomon and Goetia diverge. Goetia is the Solomon that died in 900 BC, despairing about the end of humanity. Romani/Solomon is a Solomon some other Mage summoned during a Mage War who wished upon the Holy Grail for humanity and, sensing the decline of humanity at large, formed Chaldea to do something about it.

It’s goofy and overly-complicated but I am oddly obsessed with this aspect of Fate lore. It’s why there are so many Saber-Faces, why Nero can be both a haughty hottie in a red dress and also a Queen of the Beach and also-also the Whore of Babylon. It’s a good way of utilizing history and how people view and reflect upon historical figures. After all, Sir Francis Drake was a hero to the English—to the Spanish (and Puerto Ricans, who suffered many of his attacks in the Age of Piracy), “El Draco” was a scourge of the seas.

…Which is why I hope we get a monster-girl Francis Drake alt. C’mon, it’s right there.

Yep, that is F/GO’s ace in the hole right there. When your blueprint is human history, you have an essentially unlimited trove of characters and perspectives to mine for sweet sweet gacha dopamine. Romani’s case, though, is a particularly gargantuan twist, and it’s why mentioning his name around a F/GO player will almost invariably cause a pall to fall over their eyes. Me, I just think it’s funny that the game’s entire first arc stems from him having one bad portent. Buddy, it’s 2022 now. I think about this stuff every single day.



Also, big fan of the film deciding that super badass killer-mode Ritsuka should look like he just inhaled an entire bowl in one gulp. If we can’t have anime Gudako, then weedlord boy is an acceptable compromise.


Seeing Fujimaru burn through the last reserves of his Dead Space suit to summon other random heroes so he can beat the living daylights out of Evil King Solomon with a shield fashioned out of the Arthurian Round Table was a highlight.

Welcome to anime.

One certainly cannot accuse Fate as a franchise of not committing at every turn to its own spectacular bullshit. And here, I’d agree it largely works just due to the spectacle of it. And like any good action film, the true final battle is a fisticuffs-only bruiser between two exhausted combatants who look like absolute shit.





All the flashy special effects in the world can’t surpass the stone-age satisfaction of seeing one dude’s fist collide square with another’s face.

Goetia’s strength eventually fails him, but with the Temple of Time collapsing around him Fujimaru can’t make it back to Chaldea. But hope is not so easily snuffed out: it’s not a happy ending if the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end!





Oh you thought Mash disintegrated? Don’t worry, she got better.
How? Well, who’s to say. Or perhaps I should say, Fou’s to say.


Or should I say… Beast IV?! (Dun-dun-DUN!)

But for real, little epilogues like these are my weakness, and I love when the mascot character turns out to be God or whatever. So I like this twist. Besides: like I said, they can’t just kill off the Premium Girl, they got cast-off statues to sell!





I was actually worried at first that they weren’t going to cover this part at all, but I think layering it here worked surprisingly well. It’s the right amount of understated. However, it’s still odd that, for me, the most emotionally affecting part of the film is buried in the end credits. But, on the other hand, it wouldn’t be Fate if it weren’t stuffed with all kinds of questionable decisions.

Most important, though, is that Mash can finally look up in the real world and not have to worry about the camera leering at her lightly armored cakes.

Verily, it was a Fate/Grand Order Final Singularity – Grand Temple of Time: Solomon.
But in all seriousness: while I can’t call this movie high cinema, given how shackled it is to years of mobile game lore, I can still call this a really effective movie that manages to have some actual weight to it. It certainly worked for me, and I’m only the most casual of Fate appreciators. It helps that CloverWorks made sure this movie was as pretty as it could be.
Yeah I I think it’s as solid a finale as Toshifumi Akai and the rest of the folks at CloverWorks could deliver, given the inherent constraints of animating something this fraught with game-only references. And hey, I won’t ever turn my nose up at gratuitous shots of Leonardo Da Vinci’s thighs.

Watching this movie made me think a lot of For Whom the Alchemist Exists, which Nick and I covered last year. And while they’re both films made for gacha games with fairly-impenetrable lore, I still walk away from this Fate film pretty satisfied. Sure, I could only recognize a handful of the heroes and I needed a bit of a Wiki-dive to understand some of the finer bits of lore. But the ultimate takeaway is that it doesn’t feel like my time is being wasted. And like I said, the emotional bits feel genuine.
And the best part is that humanity is definitely 100% saved forever this time. Good work on that Grand Order, everyone!

O King of Heroes, did we Fate enough Grand Orders?



…I think he’s satisfied with that. Pack in in, chums, we wait for the next banner. With any luck, we’ll get Shuten Doji this time!

This Week in Anime – Why You Should Watch Sabikui Bisco

Animenewsnetwork - This Week in Anime

This post-apocalyptic series mixes together so many disparate elements, yet somehow it comes together in an exciting a new way. Put on your giant mascot heads, avoid the mafioso governor, and keep your eyes peeled for giant shrooms!

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nick

Nicky, I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news is, we get to talk about a really cool and fun new anime. Bad news is, the bastard mobilized the damn hippos.

Nicky

At least our heroes have the power of CRAB to save them! Oh, and mushrooms, lots and lots of mushrooms.

Oh it’s a veritable fungi fiesta in the post-apocalypse of SABIKUI BISCO, a sci-fi series that’s equal parts Mad Max and Looney Tunes, and may have been custom designed to pander to our editor.



Fun fact: that’s the sound my phone makes whenever I get an e-mail from Lynzee.
And this is what the house looks like ten seconds later.



I’ll say eating lots of giant mushrooms has been pretty tasty though so I’m not complaining.
Just uh, be careful which ones you pick. We here at TWIA cannot be held accountable for any bad trips, etc etc.

But playful jabs aside, Sabikui Bisco or transliterated Rust-Eater Bisco is a story about a tag-team of two bros who join together and set out on a journey to find a mushroom magical enough to cure the disease plaguing their Mad Max apocalypse.




Or at least that’s what it is after about three episodes of trying to skip town…
Yeah, this show doesn’t exactly get off to a running start. The first three eps are all about establishing the cast, world, and immediate quest of helping the titular Bisco find the also titular “Rust-Eater” mushroom that’s said to be the cure for everyone’s poor exfoliating habits.



You’d figure a loofa or scrub brush would be more helpful but who am I to question the man with mushroom arrows?
The world used to be normal until a big ole shroom reared it’s ugly head and now everyone has it out for Bisco and his mushroomancing ways. This makes him Public Enemy No. 1 right out of the gate.



Him and the Straw Hats have something in common.
I was thinking more Vash the Stampede, but that’s probably what opening on a sci-fi desert does to my brain. Weirdly, Bisco himself doesn’t feature heavily in the first episode, appearing at the fringes of the main narrative while we follow his eventual partner in fungal crimes: Dr. Panda Milo.

He’s about as much as a true altruist as you can get in this world. He’s a doctor who gives rust treatment to the poor people of the city for practically nothing. We see him in a seedy part of town treating everyone equally and earning the respect of the community.

My favorite detail is that I’m pretty sure we’ve never gotten an explanation for that spot on his face. It is a birthmark? A skin condition? Avant-garde makeup? For all we know he just got hit with a spring-loaded boxing glove as a child and the cartoon logic of this apocalypse made it stick.

At the very least, it’s distinctive? Though, honestly visually, I enjoy most of the character designs. I prefer Panda’s sister, whom he’s doing everything in his power to try and save from the rust that’s consuming her.



She took a page from Satsuki Kiryuin’s book.

Oh I love all the designs here. Every important character—and even some of the minor ones—have these instantly recognizable looks to them that are both distinct yet perfectly work together. Pawoo in particular has this supernatural power to look cool in every single shot she’s in.





She’s also a total cop btw. But she gets a pass for looking good.

TBF she only ever goes after Bisco, and he DID shroom up her house and kidnap her brother.

Who, again, is actually just trying to save her. So right off we just have this huge misunderstanding. Her initial confrontation with Bisco is pretty good and has stuff like “knocking over a giant bowling pin and making the exact sound you’d think it would”. There’s a lot of just pure cartoon logic at work here even when the weapons aren’t just giant grabs or robotized hippos. And that’s WITH Pawoo dying of a deadly illness!


Sabikui Bisco is not concerned with plebian ideas like “realism” and god bless it for that. There’s no long explanations. No winking at the camera about how silly this all is. You just have to accept that this is a world where cops ride giant iguanas, have weaponized hippos, and planes are actually snails.







Where did these things come from? What kind of expedited evolution let them happen? Fuck you, that’s how. Go get eaten by the flying sand whales.
Yeah, there’s a sort of Alice in Wonderland madcap energy. The governor is also a mafia don who makes all his cronies wear stupid mascot heads. It’s just another fun detail in all of what is essentially Toon Town.


And of course that guy’s voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda, so every single line he speaks sounds like it was filtered through a rock polisher. It’s great.

If it wasn’t for the garbage governor we wouldn’t run into one of my favorite characters: this pink-haired gremlin who calls herself Jellyfish. Anime knows what I like.

That’s right, in this world they not only let hippos have guns, they let jellyfish become Borderlands NPCs. Truly the future has arrived.



I made the Looney Tunes comparison earlier, and Tirol is definitely our Daffy Duck.

She definitely has that same level of “pathetic to scrappy” ratio of a Daffy. We meet her trying to run away from Bisco as a common mook, then she screws up her one job big time, and after that she’s almost like a secret third party member, which we’ll get into later. Either way, she’s adorable and I love her.

But of course, Bisco himself can’t just be a mushroom-launching weirdo, so he’s got his rascally pirate grandpa in tow who also has that nasty Rusting disease. He also has the superpower of looking cool every time he’s on camera.

One benefit of the slower first few episodes is that it really set up the relationship between Bisco and gramps here. Poor Bisco is just doing whatever he can to save his mentor just like how Milo is trying to save Pawoo.

These aren’t exactly the deepest characters, but they’re all lively enough to fit in with the world, and are likable in simple, engaging ways. Bisco and Jabi especially are written with an implied familiarity that tells you they’re family without ever having to say it.





And that same label is later applied to our two heroes. They instantly get this kind of strange chemistry (a little literally as Milo is trying to sequence some medicine with mushrooms) that just explodes into what you can tell is gonna be a full bromance. Bisco may be a tough guy but he knows deep down he needs the help of someone talented like Milo. He’s a great mushroom keeper but can’t craft medicine for the life of him. Milo knows he can be of service and doesn’t back down even when Bisco tells him he’d get in the way.



And I think it shows how much of their surface demeanor betrays their strong qualities. Bisco is a rough hot-headed guy but he’s got noble intentions, and Milo may be kind and forgiving but he doesn’t ever cow from his ideals.
I also dig that Bisco is kind of a shit stirrer. Much as he dislikes the undeserved “Man-Eater” nickname, he certainly likes playing the villain when it suits him. Like when he needed to stall for time against Pawoo so he just started vamping as a Heel.




Bold strategy against a woman who just knocked out a home run with her own motorcycle.

Maybe he should change his name to Shit-Eater with a stupid grin like that! Again, the faces are probs one of the show’s strongest quality. The action isn’t bad but it pales in the energy that some of the faces have.
Especially in the first few episodes, which I like but the pacing is very strange and kills some of the cool momentum.

Yeah, overall the action gets by on snappy timing rather than intense sakuga, but that isn’t all that important when they’re just so many cool individual drawings. I especially love what they do with eyes.




Postal Service Voice I am think it’s a sign/the projectiles in their eyes/are mirror images and/when they kiss they’re perfectly aligned.
It’s not without a sense of style, that’s for certain. It’s another example of a show that you have to take in for it’s moment-to-moment coolness.

And on a moment-to-moment basis this show has a higher Cool Shit quotient than anything else this season. Damn near every episode has some new design or concept that makes me point at the screen like the Leo DiCaprio meme.



Look at those crustpunk lizards. I love them.

And then they eat them. Just don’t think about how it feels on your throat or you’ll choke!

Somehow not the worst thing somebody has in their mouth that episode.

Worm got your tongue? Super gross!! Poor pinky…


Weirdly this is the second time I’ve seen that image. Go read Yui Kamio Lets Loose, everyone.



And while you’re at it: don’t eat weird bug eggs.

Also don’t work for corrupt governments that will then try to secretly feed you weird bug eggs so you’ll die when you eventually try to escape!

And especially don’t try to use that situation to flirt. For god’s sake, girl.


Especially when his boyfriend is right there! Sheesh. The show does a bit of dancing about that kind of stuff where women think either Milo or Bisco are attractive. I wouldn’t really call it romantic but even Milo’s introduction involves some incredible tongue-in-cheek. But it’s all in good fun and in-character.

Yeah I don’t exactly expect anything romantic to bloom between any of these characters, but the show knows it’s fun to tease that stuff in between fighting giant monsters and Crab Rides.

And even though she flirts, saving Tirol/Jellyfish really does pay off as setting her up as a potential friend. Even if she also landed them all into trouble by spilling some gas on an old war machine, that also happens to be a BIG CRAB!

I mean in general you should never just pour out gasoline like that. Even if you don’t awaken a biological superweapon you’re gonna kill a lot of grass and have a nasty brown spot in your lawn for ages.
Anyway with that life lesson learned, time to run into a city of gun-toting orphans.

Ah yes, maybe either one of the best or the weakest episodes depending on how you look at it. Bisco and Milo come across a city of children by the sea side who have learned how to defend themselves from various outside thugs and also incoming yearly plague of giant pufferfish. Bisco convinces them to take them as prisoner in order to claim his large sum reward, y’know so they can have somewhere to stay. It feels like the closest the show gets to being Kino’s Journey.
Personally I like this half of the episode. It’s fairly standard, but it gives both our heroes a chance to show their softer sides, and showcases the goofiest monsters yet:



Yes those are flying, apparently perennial giant puffer fish. Yes they will fuck you up.
The A plot with the children is good stuff. Including the fact that their whole town is just built on the rusted remains of some random leftover robots that are just there! And Milo and Bisco both trying to help the kids grow and support themselves in their own way despite being outsiders is sweet. By itself it’s a decent little atmospheric contained story in this wider world.




But I really wish it didn’t have to share time with the much weaker B plot, and overall it felt really condensed because of that. This is on top of being the only real episode that really felt like we were exploring something outside of the main character’s goals. So it highlights my feelings that for an adventure series, I just wish there was more time to let that soak in.
Yeah, the B-side with Pawoo is just kind of weird. It may come back to be important later, but as-is it’s more a spooky horror story that doesn’t gel all that well with the wild and wacky wastelands surrounding it.




That said, it does have Pawoo kicking the shit out of a giant spider, so it’s still better than 80% of everything else this season.

I don’t even think that Pawoo’s storyline with the Spooky Weirdos is that bad by itself, but for something that’s supposed to be tense it doesn’t have a lot of time to build up. I’m not sure it would’ve worked as its own chapter or episode though. I feel like both of these were trying to say something more concretely political involving the world but that some of the nuances got cut out for time more than anything, leaving Pawoo’s story feeling rather empty.

Probably for the best. I don’t get the impression this series has a whole lot to say about any topic heavier than “cool monster fight” and trying to box above its weight class wouldn’t do it many favors.
I got enough headaches trying to figure out whatever the fuck Attack on Titan is clumsily trying to say with its political allegories, let me just enjoy these bozos fighting tunnel squids.

But that lines up with my bigger gripe about some of the show’s pacing. I enjoy how it moves fast but it also feels like I could’ve had 4-5 episodes of just Milo, Bisco, and Co. wandering around instead of three. By episode 6, the boys are already pretty close to their goal of finding the Rust-Eater.

Honestly I like that? We get a solid picture of the world outside Milo’s starting city, then move back to the main goal and progress the cast’s various arcs. Much as I enjoy some good fuckin’ around, in the era of single-cour anime you have to be judicious about it. Otherwise you end up like Sakugan where you straight up don’t have time to resolve your actual plot.

Oh yeah, anime have to work with what’s feasible for them. Production is hard! But that doesn’t stop my brain from having the fantasy of having a great 24-episode anime instead of the more often just a good 12-episode show. It’s small but I think that also comes from how much I like the show that I wish there was just a little time in between some points that would end up making it feel that much more memorable. This is on top of the fact that I know this is based on light novels that are still ongoing so I have no illusions of the plot being totally wrapped unless they invent something.

I’m here for a good time, not a long time, and Sabikui Bisco has given me that with a whole lot of gravy on top. Like where else am I gonna see a giant, flying, two-headed centipede-snake with enormous human fingers and legs as its feelers?





Other times we also just have to appreciate what we got. Like when a pink gremlin gets frozen. Again, I mentioned there’s a quality of enjoying anime as its moment-to-moment ephemeral self, and Sabikui Bisco succeeds at that. The most recent episodes have been really strong.


I also appreciate that Actagawa, while fine with being everyone’s Uber driver, has no patience for tsunderes.


Having saved Tirol a second time from the face of death, we finally get her to open up and really learn about who she is beyond comic relief.


Much as it’s funny to us, this is a genuinely harsh world, and not everyone is willing to put themselves on the line for others like Milo and Bisco. It’s a pretty standard setup, but Tirol’s already fun enough that it works to add some texture.





I like the added detail that she’s skilled with machines and most of her jadedness comes from being workforce tired. Maybe that’s just my millennial showing. She doesn’t end up completely joining the group but she lets her guard down enough where you can once again see how valuable she could actually be if she took the leap.

I’m sure she’ll show up again. Especially since, just halfway into the season, they’ve already found the mysterious thing in the title they were looking for! Take notes, Monkey D. Luffy.

Yeah, after that we’re straight into the plot again, and Pawoo catches up to the gang while they’re trying to confront the weirdo worm to get the magic mushrooms they need for the medicine. It takes a bit of taunting and external threat to bring Pawoo to Bisco’s side but they do eventually win her over, but not without some good faces first.


Of course, no sooner have they found the fungus—and figured out it needs Mushroom Keeper blood to activate—than that gravel-voiced Kurokawa shows up in…whatever the hell this is:



to steal the worm carcass that has all the Rust-Eater mushrooms in it.
But it also might as well be useless to him without a mushroom keepers blood. Milo manages to make just two vials of medicine to give to Pawoo so she can treat both herself and Jabi.
However, Bisco got shot by a rust-infecting bullet and Pawoo gives up her vial to him to use it later to retrieve the long boy.

Self-sacrifice runs in the family i guess. And she decides this is the perfect time to flirt. The ladies in this show, I tell ya.


Okay, but she’s really not wrong.

Just saying. Time and place. Maybe save it for when one or both of you aren’t dying from your organs turning into toolboxes left out in the rain.

Milo never hears any of this btw. So he doesn’t know that she’s also risking herself. They split up but when she gets back into town she’s confronted by the government mafia, and things aren’t looking so hot for Jabi. How quickly things go south.


I’m sure things will be fine. Sure, the whole city seems to be under some kind of weird mind-control, but I’m confident things will work out just fine and our heroes won’t make incredibly bad deci—oh wait no, both these boys think with their dumb, dumb hearts.


Bisco refuses to rest and Milo refuses to let him die so they duke it out, the way bros do in a brawl, until Milo hits him with the Sleep Juice, and Bisco is down for the count. And yeah I never get sick of when two bros fight because they just care about each other that much.


This would also be less of a problem if Bisco just took the god damn shroom juice, but you just know he’s keeping that in his back pocket in case Jabi (or Pawoo) ends up needing it. Really, these two need Tirol around just so somebody can remind them to stop jumping in front of bullets.


Honestly, I totally forgot this was only like episode 7. Most anime do this at like episode 10 or 11, so I’m just sitting here with my hands like “WHAT NOW?!”

I have no idea but I hope they let Pawoo fight some kind of big ass raccoon or something. At this point I’m just along for the ride with whatever this show crabwalks into next, and so long a sit keeps delivering Cool Shit I’ll be happy.

It’s not perfect but overall Sabikui Bisco is a show that’s fun just to be along for the ride. Especially if your ride happens to be a crab.

And as in all parts of life: beware of hippos.

December 2022
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