What I Watched This Week – 10/11-10/17

Title image for Given. Four members of a rock band lounging in a practice studio with their instruments.

Given – After watching the mediocre yaoi Dakaichi last week, I decided it was time to re-watch some BL I really enjoyed as a palate cleanser. Judge me if you need to, but this was my favorite anime of 2019 by a comfortable margin. The way it steadily builds up to the band’s performance in episode 9 and sticks the landing 100% with a great sounding song and that kiss just slayed me in the best way. There were a few patches of rough animation, but the warm colors and lightning felt so cozy to me. I really hope we’ll get the movie here soon, because I need more. 10/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. Profile of a pale man dressed in black.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – It’s hard for me to rate this because there’s so much nostalgia tied up in it for me. It wasn’t the first anime I ever watched, but it was the first I saw in a theater, and I’ll never forget that feeling of “Whoa, I didn’t know cartoons could do that!” 19 years later, it looks its age, but still looks like the moving painting I remember. I don’t dislike modern anime’s mix of 2D and 3D, hand-drawn and computer-aided, but sometimes it’s amazing to watch older stuff knowing how much analog effort went into it. 9/10 YouTube

Title image for the Eccentric Family. Various characters gathered together

The Eccentric Family – The main character has a crush on a woman who ate his father in a hot pot, his older brother lives as a frog in a well, his mother is a cross-dressing pool shark, and nobody knows how to act right in this fun comedy about the tanuki and tengu living in modern day Kyoto. There’s a thread of a mystery that runs through the show about how their powerful tanuki father ended up in a hot pot, but it’s mostly a comedy about youkai being youkai, even though they may look human. I loved the four brothers’ loyalty to each other, and the art and animation were really colorful and fun. 8/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Suzuka. A girl in a high school uniform looks out a window.

Suzuka – This two-cour sports romance drama frustrated the hell out of me. When the show is named for one of the girls the main character is involved with, the outcome of the love triangle is kinda obvious, and maybe that might have been fine if our insensitive and self-absorbed main character learned anything while messing around with other girls. But he was constantly doing dumb, thoughtless things that hurt people’s feelings then wondering why he got slapped or yelled at. He gets some growth in the last couple episodes, but it was a slog to get there. Steer clear of this if you don’t like angry tsundere girls, because the title character has a terminal case of it. 6/10 Funimation

Title image for Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun. A high school soccer team in white uniforms with boy in center wearing rubber gloves and holding a scrub brush.

Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun – If you go into this expecting a soccer-themed sports anime, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you want a gag comedy with a little soccer, as a treat, this works just fine. The plot doesn’t really go anywhere and the soccer scenes are slideshows, but the boys are very pretty and the dumb jokes kept me laughing, so I’m satisfied. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for the Night Is Short, Walk on Girl. A girl in a red dress and yellow cardigan with a pink flower background.

Night Is Short, Walk on Girl – I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the Tatami Galaxy because it sagged a little in the middle for me, but this movie about a long night of drinking was still an awful lot of fun. The art was whimsical and imaginative and the animation was fluid and full of life. The romance was a little stalker-y if you think about it too much, but the characters were a lot of fun. I watched it with my husband who hasn’t seen the Tatami Galaxy, and he said it worked just fine for him as a standalone. 8/10 Rent via Amazon Prime 

What I Watched This Week – 10/4-10/10

Title image for Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit. The profiles of the show's characters with the heroine wielding her spear.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – After languishing on my PTW for a long time, this reappeared for streaming and I finally got to watch this fantasy about a spear wielding woman charged with protecting a young prince from palace assassins and otherworldly predators. It’s remarkable how the antagonists are a deadly threat to our heroes, yet nobody is a moustache-twirling villain, or even particularly bad. There were just multiple options reasonable people could disagree on that were in opposition to each other, and that made the conflict so much more interesting and emotional. The fight scenes were excitingly well choreographed and animated, but I think I enjoyed the slow paced slice of life episodes the most. I’m a little tempted to seek out the novels it’s based on, because I want to know if our heroine and her herbalist friend ever get together. 8/10 HIDIVE

Title image for World End. A blue haired girl with a group of various young girls.

WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? – It’s probably my fault for looking at the title image and thinking I was getting into a fluffy fantasy, but I didn’t really enjoy this tragedy about the last human alive and the child soldiers who keep the world safe from rampaging kaiju. The world was super interesting and I loved the characters, but the tragic ending didn’t really do anything for me. It didn’t feel sad, or make me tear up, it just felt like a waste. 6/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation

Title image for Dakaichi. A man holding the number 2 reaches towards a man holding the number 1.

DAKAICHI: I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year – While I mostly enjoyed watching this yaoi romcom, I noticed so many problems after I finished it that the 6 I gave this show might be a little generous. It’s basically half (TV friendly) sex scene, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it got a little repetitive over 13 full episodes when the scenes didn’t change much. My biggest complaint, though, is how it had a rival sexually assault one of the main characters when he was passed out drunk, then acts like it’s his fault for drinking so much, then keeps the rival around as a new friend. No thanks on that mess. 6/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation

Title image for Crest of the Stars.

Crest of the Stars – I was really impressed by this space opera where the protagonists were the superhuman empire rolling through the galaxy and conquering everyone, and I loved how it blended huge, action packed battle scenes with long scenes of dialog. The main characters had great chemistry as they worked together to survive and I hope that’s going to turn romantic in the following seasons, because I ship it. 8/10 Funimation

What I Watched This Week – 9/27-10/3

Title image for Soul Eater. Main characters gathered together in a mix of uniforms and street clothes.

Soul Eater – I’ve been meaning to watch this for ages now, and I really enjoyed it for the most part. The characters all had distinct personalities and motivations that made their team interactions interesting, and the art style was a lot of fun, although I did feel a bit like I was watching something a goth teenager would build their identity around. I loved most of the fights, especially the Black Star and Mifune ones, which were really well animated. Unfortunately, it had a bunch of dumb tits and nosebleed fanservice comedy that didn’t add any value for me, the final boss fight was pretty anticlimactic, and I just could not deal with how Death the Kid held his guns. 7/10 Funimation, Hulu, Netflix

Title image for Yotsuiro Biyori. Four handsome men in blue yukatas surrounded by tree blossoms.

Yotsuiro Biyori – When I looked this up on MAL and saw it was a seinen, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I felt so catered to by a slice of life about four hot guys cooking food, making desserts, and doting on the customers in their cafe that I was sure it was a josei. I mean, in one episode, they’re all sitting around reading shoujo manga. Nothing really happened plot-wise, but the characters are charming af, especially the himbo barista, and the low key story was super relaxing. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Pretear. Pink haired heroine with her seven knights behind her.

Pretear – One part Cinderella, one part Snow White, and one part magical girl, this 20 year old shoujo series was… fine, I guess. Our heroine has gained a stepmother and two stepsisters after her widower father marries a rich widow, and is moping around feeling alienated by them until she meets the seven dwarves Leafe Knights, who claim she’s their savior. It was entertaining enough with your genre standard transformation scenes and fighting evil with the power of love, but the villain had the pettiest motivation for destroying the world and the animation was basically a slideshow. 6/10 Funimation

Summer 2020 Anime Roundup

Somehow it’s already October and the summer anime season is in the books. This definitely wasn’t a great season for me with coronavirus delaying a number of shows to fall or beyond and not leaving a whole lot to choose from. Fruits Basket was unsurprisingly my favorite this season, but the anime original Deca-Dence wasn’t too far behind it. Third place is The Millionaire Detective, which grew on me over time, and an honorable mention goes to The Misfit of Demon King Academy for being shameless over the top fun. Biggest disappointment goes to My Teen Romantic Comedy, which I expected to love but nearly dropped.

I originally put this list together in July and ordered it by where I thought they’d rank sorted by favorite to least favorite. I’ve left them in that order so you can see who surprised me and who flubbed the landing.

Title image for Fruits Basket 2nd Season. Tohru and the Soma family at the beach running after a straw hat blowing in the wind.

Fruits Basket S2 – Ah, Fruits Basket. The show with the odd premise – 12 members of a family are cursed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac and turn into their animal if hugged by the opposite sex – that looks like a fluffy romcom but is actually a drama about recognizing how adults aren’t always acting in your best interest and finding the people outside your messed up family who you can lean on. I do wish Tohru was just a little less perfect and self-sacrificing, but, man, the feels this show delivered each week. Can’t wait for season three next year, when all the ships set sail. 9/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Title image for God of high school.

God of High School – I went into this one expecting a fun, brain-turned-off orgy of fight scenes, and that’s mostly what I got, until the plot decided to do all the drugs and kill God around episode 10. All of the action was well animated, if you don’t mind a lot of 3D CGI, and I liked the three main characters and their friendship, but it was more like a physics engine demo than a story by the end of it. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Deca-Dence. A girl with a prosthetic arm and a middle age man float in the air while fighting a giant monster.

Deca-Dence – This show gave me a good chuckle with how many anime fans panned it before it aired for looking like an Attack on Titan clone, only to then freak out after the twist in episode two because they thought the character designs were too weird. So, please be different, but also the same, lol. Anyways, this post-apocalyptic thriller was a delight to watch each week with no source readers to spoil you as you wonder what’s next for gruff, cynical Kaburagi and the young, idealistic Natsume as they battle the giant monsters that threaten their home. I don’t normally like flashy CGI, but it makes sense in context this time, and the regular animation is above average, with exciting fight scenes and expressive faces in conversations. The ending was a little anticlimactic, but it was an exciting ride with a great pair of protagonists. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for The Misfit of Demon King Academy. Main character in white uniform surrounded by his accomplices.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – On paper, this sounds like generic power fantasy trash, but it knows what it is and leans into it so shamelessly that I had no choice but to join Anos’ fan union. After sacrificing himself 2,000 years ago to end the war between humans and demons, Demon King Anos reincarnates himself and enrolls in high school, as one does, and plans his way back to the top. Along the way, he uses his heartbeat to beat a guy senseless, picks up a castle and throws it, says things like “Did you think killing me was enough to make me die?”, and gets himself a fan club whose singing gives him power. It’s never heard of subtlety and isn’t exactly deep, but it is an awful lot of fun. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Appare-Ranman.

Appare-Ranman! – Despite the vibrant color palette, the unusual setting of 19th century America, and some of my favorite voice actors, this story about a car race from California to New York never really got going for me. The American Indian kid and the Black driver were uncomfortable stereotypes, the villain was so bad for the sake of being bad that he wasn’t very interesting, and the 3D animation for the racing scenes looked lifeless and out of place. The slice of life buildup to the race in the first half was enjoyable, and I liked most of the characters, but once the race starts, it can’t keep the excitement going. 6/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!. Kids in high school uniforms sitting around a table goofing off.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU S3 – I thoroughly enjoyed seasons one and two and went into this fully expecting to love it, but I really struggled to get through it. The whole prom planning thing was such an annoying and unsatisfying way to work through the conflict in his relationships with the two girls. What was the point of that whole scene in season two where he tearfully declares he wants something genuine with them if you’re just going to have him play 4D chess again while spouting nonsense pop psychology? His whole character arc is supposed to be finding satisfying relationships with people and leaving his misanthropic cynical self behind, but he never manages a real, honest conversation with the girl he chooses. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted. 6/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE

Title image for Mr Love Queen's Choice. Four handsome men in dark clothing.

Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice – Honestly, the best thing about this visual novel adaptation was the unnamed heroine’s dress collection. Our aspiring media executive had a fabulous array of classic shirt dresses and always looked super cute. Everything else about this reverse harem mystery/thriller set in a world where people have superpowers was just kinda so-so. The four main guys were inexplicably devoted to the heroine, the plot with the big bad shadowy organization stopped making sense two thirds of the way in, the names in the dialog didn’t match the names in the subtitles, and the art made people look so similar that it was hard to tell people apart. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited.

The Millionaire Detective – This is so not the year anyone needed a buddy cop show where one of the cops is a billionaire, but the trailer was so stylish that I decided to give it a shot. While the first four or five episodes are perfectly entertaining, self-contained stories, they’re really just introductions for the characters, and the show doesn’t really take off until the halfway point when the big mystery plot gets started. It’s at that point that it stops being about rich boy Daisuke and working class detective Haru humorously failing to understand each other, and becomes a high-tech thriller as they race to solve an old murder case before it kills them. The art and animation were surprisingly good, with lots of fluid movement during the action scenes. I found Haru really interesting as an American, as I can’t imagine one of our cops struggling with guilt from shooting someone on the job. 8/10 Funimation

Title image for Fire Force season 2.

Fire Force S2 ep. 1-12  – I think a lot of people dropped this series early in season one after a particularly gross scene of sexualized violence, but I kept watching for some reason and started to enjoy in the second half. Season two still has the ill-timed, lazy fanservice I disliked in the first season, but mercifully there’s a lot less of it and the focus has been on unraveling the secrets behind their post-apocalyptic world. The fight scenes are as pretty as ever and the sound rattles my speakers in a really satisfying way. Despite its flaws, I’m still enjoying the characters and the world. 7/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation

Title image for Ahiru no Sora. Five high school boys in basketball uniforms.

Ahiru no Sora – This basketball series really could’ve become one of my favorites if another studio handled it. I loved the realistic treatment of the sport – nobody shoots lasers from their eyes and the ragtag group of reformed delinquents doesn’t magically dominate their way to nationals – and the slice of life drama about the characters’ lives outside of basketball really made them come alive. It’s unfortunate that this great story of troubled kids finding a positive way forward was weighed down by absolutely abysmal animation quality. Not only were the basketball action scenes slideshows of static images, one of the effects they layered on them to give the impression of motion was a blurry filter that just made it feel like someone smeared mayonnaise on the camera lens. The story deserved better. 7/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE

Title image for Bungou and Alchemist.

Bungou to Alchemist – I’m not entirely sure why I watched this when I know game adaptations are rarely good and I know basically nothing about Japanese literature, but the boys were awful pretty and the action scenes were kinda fun sometimes. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t make a ton of sense and I just never stopped snickering at the bad guys being named “taints.” 5/10 Funimation

What I Watched This Week – 9/20-9/26

Title image for Working season 3. The staff of family restaurant Wagnaria at work.

Working!!! S3 + finale special – When the jokes land, this show is hilarious, but when they don’t, it’s because they’re punching down, which is what keeps this good show from being great. I still love every single weirdo in the cast and had a ton of fun watching them tease each other for 40 episodes. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for BNA. A tanuki girl runs in sneakers and a red hoodie.

BNA – I love the look of everything Trigger puts out, but they don’t always have the best story. BNA is full of beautiful, colorful art and kinetic action scenes, but the plot is a bit of a mess that didn’t need to be as complicated as it was. There’s plenty of drama you can get from a city full of beastmen surrounded by humans who despise them. It didn’t also need a big evil corporation with an executive that seemed so obviously like a villain that I kept waiting for the twist where he’d be revealed as a secret hero. Also, like most stories about make-believe oppressed minorities, it doesn’t really have anything insightful to say about oppression and even engages in some “both sides do it” logic. Pretty, but underwhelming. 7/10 Netflix

Title image for Laughing Under the Clouds. Three brothers in kimonos and wooden sandals.

Laughing Under the Clouds – This Meiji era set fantasy about three brothers who guard a shrine started so rough that I almost dropped it a couple episodes in. Thankfully it switches gears about a third of the way in and stops being about the middle brother recklessly inserting himself into dangerous situations because he wants to get stronger than his older brother, and focuses instead on the brothers’ struggle against a destructive monster their family has fought against for centuries. The animation for the action scenes wasn’t very fluid, but the story had some great twists and turns by the end. Nothing I’d ever rewatch, but a nice story about brothers taking care of each other. 7/10 Funimation 

Title image for Kyou Kara Maou season 3. Yuri in a black school uniform and red cape surrounded by other characters.

Kyo Kara Maoh S3 – After 122 episodes, I bid a fond farewell to Demon King Yuuri and his harem of handsome men. While it has its flaws, like Yuuri’s overprotective brocon older brother being way too involved in this season, the group and all their adventures were just good fun to watch. I did wish it didn’t tease same sex attraction for laughs quite so much, but I ended up really liking Wolfram and Yuuri and their relationship, despite whatever the author was trying to do. They’re two fundamentally good guys who clearly care a lot about each other, and that’s always something I’m looking for in my entertainment while the real world burns around me. 8/10 Crunchyroll