What I Watched This Week – 4/11-4/17

Title Image for Patlabor the Mobile Police (TV). A woman in a police uniform stands in front of a giant white mecha.

Patlabor the Mobile Police (TV) – Shows about police are not generally my thing as it’s a little tough to picture them as the good guys, but having them be in another country and mixing in giant robots changes the flavor enough for me. I wouldn’t call this show straight up comedy, but it wasn’t a super-serious mecha action series either. It follows a lovable band of borderline incompetent police in a near-future Tokyo’s mechanized division as they fight everything from drunks to criminal masterminds, destroying copious amounts of property along the way. I thought it looked really good for a show that aired in the 80’s, and I really enjoyed the characters’ personalities and interactions. 7/10

Title Image for The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi. A boy reading a volume of boys' love manga.

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi – At only three minutes an episode, this twelve-episode series goes by pretty quickly, but it does an admirable job of setting up the story and firing off the jokes with the short time it has. The animation is pretty lackluster, bordering on puppet show at times, and the humor does kind of boil down to “I like gay things but I’m not gay, I swear”, but as a filthy fujoshi myself I couldn’t help but laugh at the self-deprecating humor. 6/10

Title Image for Hourou Musuko Wandering Son. A middle-school boy and girl standing on a sidewalk wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender.

Hourou Musuko: Wandering Son – I’ve held off on watching this for a long time because I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch a story about middle school students struggling with gender identity written by someone who, if I’m not mistaken, is a cis man. When Crunchyroll announced it would be leaving their catalog on April 21st, I figured I might as well watch it and see what I thought of it. I didn’t exactly dislike it, and it didn’t feel particularly fetishistic or disrespectful, but there was a lot I didn’t really enjoy. Much of the story was centered around putting on and acting in plays, which seemed to be making a connection between gender identity and playing a role that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. Additionally, a number of the supporting characters made casually transphobic or otherwise unsupportive comments that weren’t really pushed back on by the narrative, which didn’t make a lot of sense for a story that wants to treat gender nonconformity sympathetically. 6/10

What I Watched This Week – 4/4-4/10

Title image for Princess Nine. The team members all doing the sports or activities they did before joining the baseball team

Princess Nine – I had really hoped to enjoy this late-90s series about a girls’ baseball team aiming to take on the boys at Koshien, but I found it kind of disrespectful of female athletes, and the second half of the story was overpowered by a romantic side plot that was, quite frankly, super annoying. I didn’t have a problem with the idea of a girls’ team competing against boys, but I had a hard time with the idea of girls who were new to baseball being able to compete against boys who’d been given every opportunity to play their entire lives. The main character had a martyr streak that really grated on my nerves, and she didn’t ever seem to learn from it and curb her urge to put everyone else’s feelings before her own, making the drama pretty repetitive. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Princess Mononoke. Girl with blood smeared on her face stands with a giant white wolf behind her

Princess Mononoke – The last time I watched this movie, I think Clinton was still president, so I figured it was time to give it another viewing. Thematically it has a lot in common with Nausicaä, with a conflict between a small clan living in harmony with the natural world and a larger community intent on subjugating it, and it’s pretty clear who the good guys are here. It’s as pretty as Ghibli movies usually are, although not quite as mind-blowing as I remember it feeling when I watched it 20 years ago. 9/10 HBO Max, Netflix

Title image for Humanity Has Declined. Pink-haired main character sits in front of a country cottage

Humanity Has Declined – Every once in a while I watch a show and I enjoy it, but I couldn’t explain it to anyone or say exactly why I liked it. In this case I could point to the delightfully cheery art and coloring, or the wry observational humor, or the unusual non-linear storytelling, or the cute little faeries and their well-meaning mischief, or that Miyuki Sawashiro does one of the voices, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose what specifically made the show so great.  8/10 HIDIVE

Title image for Shirobako. The show's characters standing in a grassy field below a blue sky

Shirobako – I was a little worried about watching an original anime about a studio making an original anime in that it might either get a little too explain-y or too inside baseball, but it manages to strike an almost perfect balance between giving insight into the industry and staying entertaining. While the show follows five friends who were in the anime club together in high school, the story centers on one woman who is an entry-level production assistant at a medium-sized animation studio. Her specific duties and the company processes are unique to anime production, but the various employees and interpersonal conflicts, friendships, and drama are completely relatable to anyone who’s ever worked in an office. When the show ended, I was sad to say goodbye to the characters, and I totally want a spinoff series of Goth Lolita Koshien. 8/10 HIDIVE

What I Watched This Week – 3/28-4/3

Title image for Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam – I’ve wanted to watch this for a while now, and with it finally available for streaming, I decided to make the plunge, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I honestly love the look of old anime, and enjoy how everything looks like it’s made out of the same material and belongs together. The colors are dated, and the art doesn’t look as crisp as stuff designed for HD, but it all seems more coherent somehow. The soundtrack was excellent, and I’m pretty sure the opening theme and the fight music is now permanently stuck in my head. My only complaint about this series was the lack of downtime. From episode 1 straight through to the end, the crew is chased and attacked relentlessly without a single cool-down episode where the poor kids or the viewer could relax and catch their breath. I’m looking forward to watching the eleventy-million sequels and spin-offs.  9/10

Title image for The Ancient Magus' Bride

The Ancient Magus’ Bride – I’ve held off on watching this for years because I wasn’t sure if I could get past the idea of a suicidally depressed 15-year-old girl selling herself in an underground auction, and being bought by a centuries-old non-human mage. I was able to watch around the initial setup and enjoy the fantasy story set in a contemporary English countryside full of fairies and other magical creatures because their relationship was basically that of master and apprentice, rather than owner and chattel, which makes me wonder why the author even decided to go with human trafficking as a meet cute. Elias wasn’t a saint by any means – when Chise becomes friends with a local girl, he becomes violently jealous, which I didn’t care for – but he was written as though he were an over-sized child rather than someone knowingly exploiting a 15-year-old girl, which made the premise easier to swallow. 7/10

Title image for The Place Promised In Our Early Days

The Place Promised In Our Early Days – I liked but didn’t love this movie that mixed sci-fi and romance into a coming-of-age story about two boys and a girl who dream of flying in a homemade airplane towards a mysterious and enormous tower in the distance. I liked the dreamlike atmosphere of the three kids working towards their dream during a school summer break, and the contrast with the colder reality after the time skip where the two boys are working independently towards solving the mystery of the tower and what happened to the girl. The suspense and action wrapped up well with a happy, but not too-neat ending. 7/10

Title image for 5 Centimeters Per Second

5 Centimeters Per Second – I decided to watch all the Shinkai movies on Crunchyroll before they left the catalog at the end of March, but that might have been a mistake as they’re all kind of similar to each other, and this one was basically like a longer and more fleshed out version of Voices From A Distant Star. I know this is a well-loved and rather popular weepy romance, but it left me pretty cold to be honest. I don’t know if an astronaut stole Shinkai’s girlfriend in middle school or something, but all of his movies that I’ve seen so far seem to have the message that young love is pain and suffering, and it doesn’t do much for me. I didn’t understand the main character’s decisions or feelings, so I didn’t find the ending particularly cathartic, just kind of sad and pathetic. 6/10

Title image for Porco Rosso

 

Porco Rosso – I knew basically nothing about this before going in, and honestly I had never even heard of it until a year or two ago, but it might actually be the most fun I have had watching a Ghibli movie so far. It had everything you could want in a movie: a stylish 1930s setting, pirates, biplanes, the Adriatic Sea, big antifa energy, and a spunky girl mechanic. I really enjoyed the blend of action and comedy and I’m pretty sure I never stopped smiling while I was watching it. 9/10

 

 

What I Watched This Week – 3/21-3/27

Title image for Blend-S. A girl in pink waitress uniform holds a dessert dish with miniature versions of her coworkers on it

Blend-S – An otherwise sweet and innocent girl with something like a case of resting bitch face literally bumps into the manager of a character cafe and falls into a new job as the sadist waitress and hilarity ensues. If you like other adaptations of 4-koma comedy manga like Working!, you’ll probably like this one as well. All of the characters were some sort of otaku, whether it’s video games, yuri, doujinshi, or magical girl figures, none of them really knew how to behave, and it was entertaining to watch them interact with each other and the customers. I didn’t care for the romance being teased between the grown-ass manager and a sixteen-year-old girl, and the cross-dressing character wasn’t handled terribly respectfully, but what can you do. 7/10 Crunchyroll 

Title image for Marudase Kintarou. Profile of a pink haired high school boy carefully placed to censor the view of a half naked guys crotch

Marudase Kintarou – This is only nine minutes long, so maybe I shouldn’t even bother to write about it, but it’s so incredibly off-the-wall, and made me laugh so hard, that I want other people who occasionally watch the so-bad-it’s-good shows to know this is out there. The plot, such as it was, was I guess that a boy inherits an academy and various men attempt to capture, kidnap, and/or seduce our main character to gain control of the school, but basically it’s nine minutes of over-the-top yaoi shenanigans where hardly anyone was wearing pants. It’s a 1 in terms of plot coherence, and animation, but a 10 for laughs, so we’ll split the difference. 5/10 Crunchyroll 

Title image for Voices of a Distant Star. A girl in a spaceship clutching a cell phone

Voices of a Distant Star – As far as I know, this short movie is Makoto Shinkai’s first work, and it shows, as it was both fairly entertaining and felt a lot like a student project. It’s set in the near future, where humanity is in a fight against alien invaders and a middle school girl leaves the boy she likes behind and joins the space fleet to explore the solar system. Shinkai really seems to like to torture young lovers, as the story is told via the boy and the girl narrating their respective text messages to each other as she drifts further into space and the time between messages stretches longer and longer. It’s an interesting enough story, but it looks like an early independent work with inconsistent animation quality and mediocre voice acting. 6/10 Crunchyroll (until 3/31)

Title image for Bleach. Orange haired high school boy wearing black robes and holding a sword

Bleach Ep. 311-366 – I’ve been watching this show in roughly 36-episode batches, but this close to the end I just felt like powering through to finish it. I won’t say that the series should have ended at 310, but it was a weird choice to have another 2-cour filler arc before ending the series with a shortish canon arc. I didn’t care much for the filler as I thought the villain was overacting terribly, and I didn’t like the canon arc very much either until the last five or six episodes, when the usual crew showed back up. It just felt like everyone was acting counter to their established personalities and doubting people they should trust, while trusting people they had no reason to trust. In the end, I’d say I enjoyed watching this. I enjoyed pretty much every single character, it’s a veritable buffet of top-quality husbandos, and the Soul Society arc was really good, but all the filler, and it is half filler, weighs the score down a bit. 7/10 Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix

What I Watched This Week – 3/14-3/20

Title image for Umibe no Etranger. A group of young adult friends gathered on the veranda of an older Japanese style house surrounded by tropical plants

Umibe no Étranger – Despite this movie having one my least favorite romantic conflicts, the “I’m a distasteful aberration and I’m going to push away your affections because I want you to be normal and happy“, something about the setting and the characters made me love the story. I was really looking forward to watching this as I’ve enjoyed this manga and its sequel, and the movie surpassed my expectations with absolutely gorgeous background art that made the beautiful scenery of Okinawa come alive. The romance skips pretty quickly from the initial meeting to the “I love you”, and most of the story is working through Shun’s internalized homophobia, but I loved how they worked out their problems with help from their supportive friend circle, and that the group included lesbians. I also really enjoyed how the sex scene felt like two individuals working through their unique situation, rather than your usual BL/yaoi sex scenes that can feel a bit like a checklist. 8/10 No Legal Streams 

Title image for Burn the Witch. Two girls flying above London on the backs of small dragons

Burn the Witch – There isn’t a lot of world-building you can accomplish in only three episodes, but this short story about the agency tasked with keeping London safe from rampaging dragons did a pretty good job of hitting the ground running. I enjoyed the two main girls and their opposite personalities, as well as the charming little himbo and his pet dragon. I don’t know if we’ll get more in the future, but I’d certainly watch it if we did. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Nagi no Asukara. Kids in middle school uniforms jump off a boat into the ocean

Nagi no Asukara: A Lull in the Sea – This was, hands down, the most exhausting romantic drama I’ve ever seen. Set in a seaside town with a neighboring village on the floor of the ocean populated by humans who can breathe and walk underwater as though they were on land, a group of kids from the ocean village attend the junior high on the surface amid a whirlwind of interpersonal drama and pending ecological collapse. If you like close-up shots of characters crying, characters on the verge of tears, characters moping over their unrequited love, characters literally running away from their problems, and romantic entanglements too complex to be called a triangle, then this is the show for you. I did enjoy the mystery involving the sea god and the kids trying to save the world, but most of the kids just annoyed me with their weepy martyr complexes. 6/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix

Title image for Bleach. Orange haired high school boy wearing black robes and holding a sword

Bleach Ep.266-310 – This group of episodes finally brings the canon Arrancar arc to a close. Because it started 150 episodes ago, and was interrupted a couple times by long filler arcs, a few of these episodes were padded out with recap footage that stalled some of the dramatic tension a bit. On the whole, though, I enjoyed watching all of the captains’ fights against the Arrancar, especially seeing how normally laid-back Captain Kyoraku turned out to be a fun little badass when he gets serious. Up next is the final filler arc and then the last canon arc to end the series. Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix