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Iaboo, Youaboo, Weallaboo for Anime!

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
I will add my voice to the praise for Ranking of King. The feeling I get from watching it is similar to the anime that used to air on Nick Jr. when I was really small, but with a bit more bite to it. I was not expecting Bojji’s stepmom, The Queen, to be the one who helps him start his journey.

It’s a lot more interesting than the current season of Demon Slayer. In the past three episodes, there have been so many asspull power ups and transormations over the course of a single battle. It’s the 1920’s, somebody show up with a tommy gun or a flamethrower!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
It’s the 1920’s, somebody show up with a tommy gun or a flamethrower!
Do I have a show for you...


But yeah, Ranking of Kings was quick to become GOAT and one of the things I love is taking some archetypes and expectations and turning them on their head. Assuming you are not caught up, there's lots more surprises to come that will fit with that. The only non-surprise? Bojji and Kage are the bestest of boys.

Also, the season 2 OP is already making me tear up.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
And we are back and… I didn’t HATE any of these shows. No “The Detective is Already Dead” here. But very few, even the ones I’m sticking with, inspire much beyond “huh. OK” So with that in mind, I’ll try to curb my indifference as much as possible to get us hyped for ANIME SEASON WINTER 2022! Part 1

My Dress-Up Darling



Premise (from memory)


A guy obsessed with making clothes for Hina dolls befriends a young woman who loves cosplay but needs help making clothes.

What gud about it?

This is one of the stronger series this season. It definitely has a thirsty eye, often in scene were it doesn’t really need it. Yes, I do get one of the characters wants to cosplay in one of her favourite smutty light novel series so it makes sense that there’s a to-do about showing cleavage but the eye of the show is definitely searching at times when it isn’t about sex and is it making about that. Like when the co-lead realizes her friend can do clothes and we get a close up of her mouth breathing heavily and practically drooling with excitement. But despite these problems, it is a show about characters who are passionate about what they love and sells it pretty well. The characters do lack a certain something that makes me invested in their story, an issue with a lot of the series going forward (both the ones I discarded and the ones I am sticking with). But it’s pretty and it is making me interested in the process of making clothes, if not the world of cosplay (yet). I’m sure it will get into the joy of inhabiting a character, which is fun.

My suspicion, and I hope I am wrong, is that the characters in the shows/games/manga within the show are not going to have much depth and I actually think that could be a loss, as I feel like the best strategy is to convince viewers that you would want to be these characters, that there’s a richness to them that makes you want to become unto them, both their beauty and their faults. Based on the intro, there will certainly be people dressing up as types, at least and it is very pretty animation. Here’s hoping it can properly grow it’s world of both clothes and cosplay in a way that keeps me interested.

Sasaki and Miyano



Premise

A tough kid and a sweet little otaku begin bonding over BL manga.

What gud about it?

Another thing that came up more than once for shows I have no interest in returning to… “that was pleasant.” And it is, the title characters and their little intimate world are all quite pleasant to be in. I just wish I was more invested in this couple and being more happy when they get to geek out about gay romance. I also don’t think the show needs to have one of the characters trying to go “Hmm, but he’s not a girl though.” At it goes to this gay denial well a few too many times. I get that he’s a guy who is just starting to realize what he feels about himself but I feel there are ways to do that which aren’t so basic in their heteronormative presumption or at least can find some variation in it. I will also say that the show isn’t high concept at all yet I got lost as to where we were in the flashbacks at one point.

But nonetheless, it is a sweet little show. If you are looking for a good BL show, this one lacks a lot of the hang-ups I have with a lot of the other ones. So far, there is no issue with consent, which I’ve found to be a big problem in shows I would have wanted to like. I think the idea that one character has something to share with another that he’s a bit embarrassed about is sweet and it does add some charm to the show. It lacks a reason to keep going for me, a hook to draw me in. I know not every show needs one, particularly a slice of life show but once the episode was done, I was fine just putting it down and saying “that was nice”.

Sabikui Bisco



Premise

In a post-apocalyptic Earth, society tries to rebuild but the lower classes live in squalor and disease as a mysterious rust moves through the world and infects people. A lone doctor protects his community, including a mysterious young woman while word of a terrorist spreads. A terrorist who fights against the government… with mushrooms.

What Gud about it?

OK, so another problem in this season is a lot of episodes basically left us a little untethered by the end. Usually you want if not a clear sense of direction, a particular focus or aspect to draw you in. There’s nothing “wrong” with the characters or setting or ideas and it’s clear that it’s still in the middle of world building and putting it’s ducks in a row. I don’t even have a problem with not really getting to the main character until the last act. My problem is a lack of grounding force. That’s not for a lack of trying as “Dr. Panda”, is a good person trying to help in a hard world and they are setting up he does a lot. But for whatever reason, the throughline for the show is a little slack. Maybe once things come into focus, I’ll be more invested but for now, I’m more curious than excited.

Still, the world itself is interesting, one that is slowly dissolving as people fight to stay alive. Animation isn’t bad and the scene where the title character causes chaos with giant mushrooms is fairly neat. It’s promising that it wants to do a lot, as it has started spinning a lot of character plates and the end implies most of them we meet will be, if not leads, very key to the season. Also, the show is going to have a giant crab. WHO GETS THEIR OWN TITLE CARD! So I’ll be giving it a chance to see if things pan out.



Orient



Premise

In an alternate history Japan, Sasaki Kojiro and Miyamoto Musashi aren’t swordsmen who kill each other in a famous duel but are two of the most shonen-y boy heroes in a world were the oni have taken control of society. Musashi is training as a swordsman under the guise of training as a miner for the oni while Kojiro considers battling alone. But they come together to battle the totalitarian regime of the oni with cool sword (and pickaxe) techniques.

What Gud about it?

Orient might be the most shounen-y shounen that ever shounen. I don’t mean this in some hyper-maximalist way, which I would be super down with but instead it’s more in terms of feel and structure, it is the least ambitious thing I’ve seen in a while. It even ends like it was a pitch pilot for a series and almost pleads with the network execs pick up 12 more episodes for excitement each and every week. I suspect, it’s more that this was the plea to the editors of the magazine that Orient was published in. So, yeah, it’s pretty standard fair. Which is weird because I actually feel like a lot of the individual parts are kind of interesting. Plus, it’s a show bold enough to put these monsters on TV.



Yep, those are people being eaten by giant kitties with star faces and asshole mouths. And there’s a lot I think is more theoretically interesting than it is in practice. The idea that the shounen hero actually has to realize despite the fact that they want to rage against the machine, a fear of prejudice gave him cold feet and he’s never actually had to be brave. Having to fight evil in a society where people assume the evil is good (which isn’t a new idea by any means but is an instant recipe for drama). And I will keep watching it, because the season is that dry and if the show is more asscats and the fear that comes with taking a stand, it might begin to find its individuality. Maybe.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform



Premise

Akebi is going to a new school and gets to wear a sailor uniform. But it turns out she’s the only one. So it’s not really a uniform, is it.

It Gud?

This is definitely a season for small stakes slice of life show’s and this is probably the smallest. The entire episode is about how a girl always wanted to wear a sailor uniform. The entire episode is dedicated to the making of the uniform by her mother. I feel like a lot of shows would START with her having the uniform before discovering it’s not really the school uniform anymore and that sailor suits are out and blazers are IN BABY! And then she has to deal with it and the show can go from there about her choice to… wear different clothes. Which probably hits harder for a Japanese youth and/or a style conscious person than for me.

But I will definitely say the show puts a lot of energy into making sure that the passion for the sailor suit comes first and foremost, with its beautiful animation and time to the loving creation of a piece of clothing. A show about getting a girl into an outfit sounds like a recipe for fetishization but it really isn’t. Though it is definitely drooling over fabrics that they gush over and I look at and say “oh… grey.” It isn’t “I’m going to look sexy/stylish in these clothes”, it’s “I love this style of clothes and I want to be able to wear it.” I’m guessing the show itself is about not getting too hung up over differences as she catches her first friend sniffing her own feet scent, much to her embarrassment. Again, a plot point that feels like it could be played for kink but feels much more like “oh, this is worse than getting caught picking my nose”. It’s a sweet, pleasant, modest, beautifully animated slice of life show. I didn’t dislike it. But I didn’t have a strong reason to continue.
 
It’s the 1920’s, somebody show up with a tommy gun or a flamethrower!
It's more 1910's than 20's. Demon Slayer imo does a really rotten job of taking full advantage of its setting. But tbf:

1) The experience of 1910's Japan was worlds apart different from 1910's America or elsewhere in the world. Doesn't make a lot of sense to whip tommy guns out in a country where guns are basically outlawed.
2) Tanjiro is also from the styx, and most of the show takes place on the fringes of modern society. It's like expecting a show about roaring 20s NYC, when the setting is rural Alabama. People living in the cities and with money might have had more access to modern amenities, but most of the population at this point still lived in rural communities, practicing a way of life that was by and large very similar to what they'd been doing 100 years prior.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
The current arc is in Tokyo‘s red light district, with Tanjiro and friends having a One Piece-level battle in the streets with multiple demons and no authorities have shown up. Wasn’t Japan a rapidly modernizing superpower at this point?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
In the Land of Leadale



Premise

A woman dies and is reborn in another world. IN THE FUTURE. Which is pretty much like the past with different maps. And also she has adopted kids.

What Gud about it?

I haven’t had good luck with the isekai genre but I decided to try a couple for reasons. The reason for this one was I was hoping this was going to be a fantasy about motherhood. It… might get there but I really don’t know what this was about. This is another show that seemed built on an uncertain foundation and lacking direction. It looks like it could be about a woman getting a second chance. After all, unlike most isekai protagonists, she doesn’t have a sudden death, she has a slow one. That’s pretty rough and it seems like she was out of commission for a long time. So to make her powerful in all facets of life should be joyous. And… she’s just sort of mildly interested. Even in the low stakes world of slice of life fantasy, it feels like there should be an emotional grounding and I just don’t feel anything for this character. She’s not “unlikable” but she’s sort of a cipher and is more shocked that time past in her MMORPG which is actually a hard conceit to sell because its not like we had any idea what it looked like before and it seems no different than any other generic Western European fantasy setting.

We are also told she has three adopted kids and it feels like that’s were the emotion and/or fun should lie but… we don’t even get to them in this episode. What does she actually accomplish? I don’t even remember. I remember she gets hammered and the episode ends. This thing slid out of my brain like it was greased. It can’t even quite go with the “well, that was pleasant.” Oh, it wasn’t unpleasant but I don’t feel like I’m enjoying this world through her eyes. At this point, I’m not sure if even the writer is invested in the story being told.

OK, but I’m trying to be positive about this weak season. I don’t dislike anyone or anything in it. And the potential is there. It could follow the idea of a second chance at life or the joy and frustration of motherhood or seeing a world you were once part of grow up without you. I don’t have enough faith to stick with it to see it through but if they give this lead some proper direction, it could make for an enjoyable diversion.

Tokyo 24th Ward



Premise

In an alternate history Japan, Tokyo has a 24th Ward. In high school, three friends decide to be a hero team RGB and save the day but when one of their friends dies in an arson (where they famously saved lives), they go their separate ways. One joins the government with his father, hoping to create justice from within by steering policy in a just direction. The other takes the opposite tact, an activist protesting the government through social media, street art and a mobilized team. And the third… isn’t sure what to do with his life after high school. After meeting one year later, they all get a phone call from their dead best friend. It gives them a vision of a future tragedy that must be stopped… and an upgrade to all of their natural skills. Now all three of them must use their abilities to save the day as a team again.

What Gud about it?

I… liked the show. Didn’t love it. But it also felt both kind of basic and kind of weird.

When I say basic, it feels like a pretty standard case of the week show. In terms of structure, it could easily be an 80s/90s adventure drama. Presumably, every week the trio use their abilities to solve a new crisis. Tonally, it’s not out there and is fairly even toned. The characters have some quirks but they are mostly fairly standard leads. In terms of formula, it actually feels like a mix of Early Edition and Person of Interest.

But it also has aspects that make it feel like it should be more ambitious. It’s an alternate reality for reasons unknown. It barely enters into the plot, so far, except their some made up government stuff, like the organization SARG. Their friend might be a ghost or secretly alive and gives them super powers and warns them of danger. There’s the topic of trying to effect change and doing it within the rules and outside of it (albeit in an inoffensive, somewhat facile way).

It’s a show that could go in a good direction. Despite the surface similarities or a new made up city in Japan with some new precedents, it won’t be the monstrous dump that was Babylon. But even as it is, it’s a pleasant direction if you just want a turn your brain off adventure thriller. Weird to say because it really frontloads itself with information that feels like it should be more important. Maybe it will be. For now, it’s simply looks like a crisis of the week and I think I can watch that.

Slow Loop



Premise

A girl likes fishing. And then so does her step-sister.

What Gud about it?

I always feel that every season I feel like I’m done with slice of life, as if what the creators want to focus on isn’t what I want. Oh, I like fluff but some of the fluff this season just isn’t hitting the buttons I need. Slow Loop does. It’s a low key and mildly silly fishing show where two girls bond over fishing. One is the expert and the other is figuring it out.

I can’t articulate the advantage this one has except through unhelpful adjectives. It has room to breathe, to be sure, but somehow it also feels, in its way, zippy, moving along at a fun pace. The comedy isn’t the strongest but it gives off an amiable appeal that pulls me through with ease. I get to watch the character explain their passions and go through a process. And there’s some food porn. So it is teed up for me to like it and guess what? I do. There’s not a lot going on except I get to relax and hang out and see people exploring their passions. And that’s precisely what I want from slice fluff.

Life With an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated Into a Total Fantasy Knockout



Premise

Two friends/co-workers are struck by a cosmic entity who whisks them off to a fantasy land, where they turn into their ideal selves; one a cute girl and the other himself. They are also cursed for pissing her off… but what is the nature of the curse. And is it the reason they are quickly falling in love?

What Gud about it?

I decided to give this isekai a try because I thought a broad comedy could swing one way or the other. Imagine my surprise it’s…. somewhere in the middle? The premise is fraught as the old gender transformation trope really opens itself up to gay panic or one insisting “I don’t wanna be a woman”, which kind of feels a little more distasteful. Thankfully that’s not really an issue at all. It’s strongly implied that one had a crush on the other and the other is simply living at they want to be. Rather than gay panic, the structure is more akin to Kaguya-Sama; two people who have a crush on each other who are a bit to pigheaded/taken aback/afraid the rock the boat to admit it. Even the implication that they are “cursed” to fall in love is… not dismissed, but is implied to be incorrect.

In the end I didn’t hate this show as much as I feared… but I also didn’t like the show as much as I hoped. I feel like most of the episode was dedicated to the one joke of them not wanting to admit they find each other cute. Kaguya-sama made a game of it and then mostly expanded beyond it. Perhaps this show will do the same. But it kind of repeatedly hits the same notes in a way I didn’t really find very funny. I definitely can see a bit of chemistry between the leads but I’m much more interested in the best friend than the “fantasy knock out”. And I like that neither of the characters are “the best person ever”, a problem I have with a lot of these series (last season’s Faraway Paladin ended with it’s main character lamenting “maybe I’m TOO awesome” and I feel like this has happened so often. It’s like the wish fulfillment aspect is clearly getting away from properly building empathy for a huge number of these series.

The title could have been a red flag but I didn’t mind it too much. But I didn’t care or it either and don’t have faith continued viewings will change it. Still the premise that potentially could fall on a “uh, no homo” knife edge or some questionable takes (which the gender transformation genre certainly has), I didn’t find anything offensive about it, even if the potential lies in wait. Of course, I’ll also admit while I try, I am not keyed into certain elements of these things as others much be. But to end on a positive note… GREAT BEAR!





Police in a Pod



Premise

A woman is about to quite the police force until the joining of another woman in her precinct inspires her to stay.

What Gud about it?

We live in weird times, where we have to contend with the mountain of cop-centered media is now under scrutiny. Oh, I still love Hot Fuzz and Brooklyn Nine-Nine but a lot of it reads different. But what reads weirder is cop media made during/after 2020. I feel like writers either need to contend with it because saying nothing also says a shocking amount, whether it be wanting to pretend times aren’t changing or taking a side that looks ill-considered at best.

It also occurs to me that I don’t know how this cultural shift looks in other countries. I will say that I was surprised that the cheeky Akudama Drive from a couple of years ago ends with a refreshing ACAB take when even the “good cop” on the show realizes too late she’s the baddie, ruining the lives of the people she’s supposedly protecting. Police in a Pod, on the otherhand, is not that. It’s a humanizing, slice of life comedy about two cops and their day to day lives.

But I still gave this a chance because there’s definitely some problematic media I can enjoy. Heck, Jojo spends a long time teamed up with the Nazi’s in Battle Tendency. Fucking weird, right? Remember when that happened and one of Joseph’s friends was a wacky fascist cyborg? So, if I can get through that, I guess I can watch another damned cop show.

And the fact is, Police in a Pod is kind of a snore. It’s supposed to be about two women trying to succeed in a thankless job where they are constantly being insulted. And this aspect makes me wonder if this is a general cultural thing or if it is tied to the public debate on cops. The fact that they find an excuse to double ticket some guy who smart-mouths them is a decision. But as a comedy, it’s kind of low key and when low key jokes don’t work, it takes you a while to realize it is trying to be more comedy than slice of life. But as either, I’m not that interested. Sorry, trying to be positive so… I guess these leads might work if it was in a show where they had a career that elicited more sympathy, maybe.

Tribe Nine



Premise

In future Japan, baseball!

What Gud about it?

Weird, sci-fi fight baseball seems like a slam dunk, which I believe is the highest scoring baseball technique in the National Baseball Association, but Tribe Nine neither lands on Hypnosis Mic level of sincere stupidity or some wild giddy fun. It’s purely a mid-tier show, one that is certainly watchable and looks OK but is fairly predictable.

I will stick with it though. I enjoyed it well enough and while I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, I have no shame in having a Happy Meal quality show in TV form. Sure, it’s not exquisite but I do like the salted fries. I will also say I like the designs for three of the show’s more minor characters and wish the rest of the cast looked that cartoony and less generic spikey hair look.



Futsal Boys



Premise

Some boys play futsal.

What Gud about it?

I’ve made no secret that I’m a big sucker for sports anime despite ambivalent to real life sports. Every so often I run into a mediocre one where I’m surprise how disappointed I am, like Hinamaru Sumo or 2.43. Then every so often, you get to something as unbelievable incompetent as Try Knights. And somewhere between those extremes is something where I realize I will completely forget about this in a couple weeks. I will not remember this show about football but less people in a few weeks.

If you are a fan of futsal, you might find my description of the game reductive but… this show never explains what futsal is. When characters are given positions, they are never explained. The show gives us a match against some shitty cheaters but the stakes aren’t clear. You’re opponents are clearly cheating and playing rough and whining about each loss and we are given no logical reason to continue their match, as it’s a match against complete unaffiliated randos. Despite being plague by problems, it’s never “bad”, but simply a D. And I believe the AV Club refers to that as the “gentleman’s F”, as if it doesn’t even have the gall to go all out and is just kind of dull.

On the plus side… I’d play futsal if someone asked me.

Fantasia Sango: Realm of Legends



Premise

Uhh… I barely remember. There’s some Chinese fantasy world where a divine being assembles some hero to fight evil spirits, and a girl can eat them but goes berserk. I think that’s the size of it. Oh, and there’s a talking tea cup or something.

What Gud about it?

By far the most forgettable episode of the season. Usually we try things based on the trailers but this didn’t even have one. I don’t even think the creators want you to know it exists. It’s completely dispassionately mediocre and don’t believe a single person had artistic intentions and were just cashing paychecks to get them to the next gig. It might even be a The Producers-style attempt to bilk investors out of money.

I feel safe in saying, it was the worst first episode I’ve seen this year. I doubt it will hold because I always stumble into something that pisses me off but this is a show with no “there” there. It’s an empty vessel hidden in a Chinese fantasy. It’s a list of characters getting recruited and none of them are interesting. I feel like there’s so little love that it’s amazing that this thing managed to materialize in the world.

Um… something good, something good. I guess the talking drinking cup isn’t in every scene.
 
I'm three episodes deep into In the Land of Leadale and I'm still waiting for things to happen. We do get to meet the kids, and all three love their mother, but that's about it. No dealing with the fact that she's dead but somehow in the game and time is 200 years in the future from what she remembers.

And I have to agree, none of the shows are really popping out as being great. None are really bad either, just meh.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
No dealing with the fact that she's dead
I feel like there are very few that do. I don't need "I NEED TO GO BACK." But it's like, why introduce such a huge life change if you are so deeply uninterested in contending with the inherently most dramatic aspect. And in this show especially, since it can be joyful, since this character seemed to be robbed of so much in life.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Isekai is a check-box. And everyone checks it these days, even when it adds nothing, or when it actively detracts, because it's increasingly what people (who are not me) want, or at least what studios think that they want.

 
Anime/Manga/LNs are just like any other industry where they chase fads. Right now the fad that's being chased is Isekai nonsense. IMO there's already signs of that waining. Before that, the fad was moe cute girls doing cute things. Before that it was Eva clones. Before that there was robot shows. And about a hundred different ones in between. In another few years, some other show will blow up huge, and everyone and their moms will trip over themselves to copy that.

Honestly, most media is exactly the same. Video games might be worse. It's just a little more obvious with anime.
 
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