Hoshiai no Sora – 02 (Second Impressions)

A sport’a anime’s second episode typically has three goals: introduce each character on the team, demonstrate the protagonist’s value to that team, and explain how the sport works to the viewer. In this regard, Hoshiai no Sora sticks to the script by showing Maki dominate the twenty lap test and rapidly pick pick up the basic tennis swings. And those swings are demonstrated with delicate slow animation. It’s informative, engrossing, high quality fair.

But Stars Align earns another must watch rating because it tackles bullying, homosexuality, child abuse (and how everyone can be oblivious to the warning signs), and the desperate situation an abused spouse must deal with behind the scenes. It tackles each of these points without pretension or being over the top and just wow. This show does not disappoint!

Kandagawa Jet Girls – 02

Why not devote 12+ minutes of airtime to Rin and Misa’s first jet ski race? Why not break the fourth wall nearly as often as the commentator’s and exposition break the momentum of said race? Why not swap awkwardly between hand drawn and 3D rendered versions of the girls while they race? Why not follow the race with balloon-bewbs!, more exposition, and some fat shaming?

Because boring, boring, boring, awkward, boring, boring, awkward? (in that order)

Well… that didn’t take long did it? Where last week featured many puzzling design choices, which worked to elevate the material from slop to creepy psychodrama, this week couldn’t reach ‘slop.’ If you are earnestly excited by the made up rules to a water-gun shooting + jet ski racing sports anime, I guess you got something from it. Otherwise, not so much.

Kemono Michi: Rise Up – 03

Runaway Dragon-Girl and her attendant (vampire?) Carmilla join Rise Up!’s main cast this week. One of them gets a body slam and the other tries to eat Genzo’s dog Hiroyuki… before declaring she wants to spend the rest of her life with him. (the dog, not Genzo)

Beyond that, Genzo’s farm/petshop is coming along but he’s gonna run into money trouble sooner than later. (That dry petfood is expensive!) and there are only so many heroes that can call GenzoDemon Beast Killer” and get knocked out, so Shigure can ‘discover’ and pawn the equipment they leave behind. Yes that’s still happening and it’s still hilarious!

If you are familiar with Rabujoi, you know I run out of review-steam when I run out of new things to say about a show. Rise Up! is one of the first good shows to reach that mark this season — it exudes charm and it’s comedic timing is masterful and I love watching it. However, that masterful timing and formulaic comedy sensibility is the only thing I have to say about it?

To that end, I will probably wait until episode VI to give a mid season review, and maybe an end of season wrap up after that. It is absolutely worth watching each week, and looks on track for the top 15 of my Isekai Ranked list. No need to ramble on about it in the mean time.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 03

Bookworm Here! I’m just making nice baskets during the winter, failing at papyrus, inventing pancakes and crochet to make my older sister a pre-baptism hair ornament, and correcting math errors at the guard house! Everyone around me is starting to notice… how this is different from the Myne I was before but what evs? At least there was some character building around me this episode…

As generic Isekai go, Bookworm’s choice to show things being made, and explain process, elevates it from the mayonnaise-eaters at the bottom, but not by much? Coupled with Myne’s father’s miss-reading Myne’s feelings for Otto and the awkward conversation about marriage that followed, and the episode gets a pass. The framing and scene blocking were good too.

Better than Prodigies in a 6/10 sort of way.

High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World! – 02 and 03

In need of money, the prodigies deploy their merchant and ninja to the neighboring city. No surprise, the city happens to be squeezed by an evil merchant who’s monopoly does not provide $200 when you pass GO. No surprise, this presents no obstacle to Merchant, who’s use of mayonnaise and consignment-based trade deals quickly turns the tides in team genius’ favor. Though it takes an unnecessary cliffhanger and loli-cat-slave-girl purchase to complete!

Meanwhile, Elm village now has aluminum tools, plumbing, and even a public bath. BEWBES! Also the mayor and his hunting party are attacked by ‘the Chief,’ who looks something like a bear and a pile of rocks. Then evil knights show up and burn down the village. BUT NO ONE IS HURT!

If Choyoyu! were an office lunch, it would be 7 sandwiches from a corporate food service fulfillment center. Like each sandwich, the each cast member is different, theoretically adding variety. However, I have never witnessed anyone willingly eat the tuna-salad option, nor does anyone really enjoy soggy bread and from the factory meat slices. Samurai and Doctor-chan are like tuna-sandwiches, having no impact beyond ‘I am also soggy and sitting on this plate’ and the rest of the cast does not fare better.

While I was momentarily interested by the idea that all religion has been banned in this alternative world, by a survival of the fittest empire and possibly in response to the last time 7 heroes visited… that same empire is stocked with generically pure evil, shallow villains. Peasants commit treason simply by acquiring gold, for example, is just beyond silly as evil excuses go.

Also, liquid oxygen is typically-361.8°F. So yeah. Not a good idea to inject into an injured person’s body. Great job on the medical science side of things too.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 02 (Second Impressions)

Off to a rocky start, Mile settles on “It’s a family secret” as her default answer to Mavis, Reina and Pauline’s probing questions. This does not sit well with the other girls, nor does Mile’s attempt to lie about her backstory by telling them a tall tale… which turns out to be the narrative of the kingdom’s current best selling book. Fortunately, Mile is ‘saved by the bell’ and the quartet heads for their first orientation.

Mile continues to fail at her life goal of low-key living, while succeeding by every other measure. During armed evaluation, she one-hits her opponent for snarking on her flat chest. During magic evaluation, Mile intentionally mimics Reina’s fire spell, but at half-output… only for that to backfire too. Reina’s spell is a custom spell, and being able to cast it after only having seen it once, is beyond comprehension!

After an awkward tea-time interrogation, the girls choose to party-up for the first group assessment: kill 10 horny rabbits, the lowest level monster in the kingdom. To Mile’s consternation, this task proves difficult, as Reina and Mavis’ skills emphasize strength over speed and accuracy. Mile’s solution? Put on a turtle-house master beard, and go old skool dragon ball training montage on her team mates’ assess.

10 dead bunnies later (and a few surprise stone golems) and Mile’s team is the only party to clear hunter prep school’s challenge. What’s more, Mile’s fears that her secret re-life and genius skill rating would prevent her from making friends are proven unfounded. Mavis is inspired by Mile’s demonstration of human potential, Reina finds Mile’s practical examples quite helpful, and Pauline quietly takes note of magic x merchant-trade opportunities.

Little do they know, the B-Rank adventurers they beat last week have been sprung from prison and are will, no doubt, be looking for some payback later in the season…

As a specimen of the reborn in another world with great power (as a reward and not to defeat a global threat) Isekai sub-genre, WNwHdtIyn! further distinguishes itself by forcing Mile to face conflicts her broken power level cannot immediately resolve. Namely, making friends and overcoming her anxiety about being too good in the first place. It’s this anxiety, coupled with Mile’s slightly selfish touristy nature, makes her infinitely more interesting as a main character than other examples of the sub-genre.

Where Mile and Smartphone’s Touya both go out of her way to help and share her skills with strangers, Touya has no motivation beyond “being a good guy.” Toya literally jumps into a conflict between people in a dark alley without knowing what’s going on because… girls? At least Mile has met the inn keeper’s daughter, and formed a report, before being swept into the search for kidnappers.

TL;DR Mile’s character has faults, which grant her nuance. This makes her more of a person and less of an empty proxy for viewer escapism. Considering how played out Isekai escapism is at this point, WNwHdtIyn!’s choice is the right one.

Rifle Is Beautiful – 01 – (First Impression)

Kokura Hikari loves rifle shooting and aims to refine that love up to Olympic levels. However, her school’s Rifle Club Four girls is discontinued the day she tries to join it and blah blah blah a new club of four girls comes together before the mid point of the first episode.

Active Shooter on Campus is a shelter in place it’s so bad because it’s so generic Girl’s Club anime. It is visually competent, with crisp line work and broad color, but there is nothing else positive to say about it. The cast has no depth or interesting motivations. The humorless story telling and setting has no gimmick or novelty. At 22 minutes, this is absolutely not worth your time.

Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun – 02 (Second Impressions)

Iruma-kun’s next challenge is to summon a familiar or face expulsion. Since getting thrown-out of Magic/Demon School fits his ‘dont get eaten’ objective, he approaches this task with a casual air that completely pisses off his teacher, and further boosts his notoriety amongst the class.

Unfortunately, the ritual to summon a familiar is very similar to the ritual a human would use to summon a demon… which results in Kalego-sensai becoming Iruma-kun’s familiar and further boosting Iruma’s standing in the school…

Sprinkle on Grandpa’s wake the dead alarm clock silliness, tension with the student council, and Azz-kun’s aggressive application of force against anyone in Iruma’s way, AND introduce two love interests, and a lot happened this week.

In many ways, WtDS feels like several short-format animes strung together? Every 3-5 minutes contains related jokes, and the following 3-5 minutes may not have immediate connects to the block before it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the developments were interesting but all of it was adorable, easy watching fun.

Beastars – 01 (First Impressions)

Beginning where it ends, a frightened girl bunny is caught in the embrace of a savage red-eyed wolf. But for a blood red moon, a lit fountain, and school campus lights, there is nothing but darkness around them. Before the inevitable will he or wont he, another herbivore is running, also chased by a wolf this night, or perhaps a night earlier. He escapes into a dark lecture hall on campus, only for a presentation about the relation of predator and prey illuminates his figure.

Now between these two events, we meet the crest fallen drama club, now divided over the eating of its star member. The plant eaters accuse the meat eaters and the meat eaters yell back. A creeper wolf watches them argue from above. Creeper wolf works the lights.

This Netflix original features animals as humans on a school campus. That setting has a sincere university vibe, full of dorm mattresses being thrown from windows, and grande buildings full of self important twenty-something(likes). They squabble about love, class, and being the better than each other at drama. Apparently, some of them get eaten at night.

Where many CG-heavy shows can feel lazy, off-the-shelf or repetitive, Beastars sells me on its use. The show takes its characters and setting seriously, which means we have to find those characters believably grounded. The implied weight and ability to smoothly rotate 3D character models no doubt reinforces that point.

On the surface, Beastars’ purple myst of predator-making-madness hints at following the plot of Zootopida. Under the surface, Beastars hints at being a deeper animal. Where Zootopia takes a simplistic stance of gender, height and class discrimination… Beastars is a little more nuanced.

For example, the dwarf rabbit of the open isn’t a heroic girl held back from her dream of being a police by tall, dumb, muscled, toxically masculine predator after predator/male. Rather, she’s run up against another bunny who’s boyfriend went astray. The tools of the conflict are gossip and bullying. Simple. Grounded.

Over all, this is good viewing. You can draw your own conclusions on which groups could represent predator or prey, but Beastar doesn’t seem to have a specific downtrodden group in mind. Class and breeding distinctions cross the diet-line, as do concepts of power (though Herbivores seem to be in charge more often?), but our POV characters are just students. Students with animal bodies, but students all the same. Their troubles are smaller and more personal.

I’ve already reviewed 14 shows this season, refused to review 2 others, and will probably see more in the coming week. Between the twists and turns and the solid visual design, Beastars may join the small few of that number I continue to follow. Go on, give it a watch. It’s well worth your time.

Null Peta – 02 (Second Impressions)

Null is not a morning person. Her alarm clock is a brick of C4, followed by being mechanically dumped out of bed into a shoot, and dropped onto the floor by the breakfast table.

Peta is not a breakfast person. She is in fact a robot. After projecting a fake-out holographic breakfast, complete with color control sliders, Peta offers Null deep-dark-fried-rice. Also a bamboo shoot.

For the next 3 minutes, Peta tries to feed this clearly evil slop to Null and Null tries to DESTROY HER ROBOT SISTER. There are explosions, mecha, more bamboo shoots, and another missed day of school.

Null Peta may only be 5 minutes long, and more than a minute of that is taken up by opening credits! However, the script is packed with verbal timing humor, silly ideas, and good enough visuals to make those 5 minutes enjoyable.

Hoshiai no Sora – 01 (First Impressions)

After smacking him to the ground, Maki’s father delivers a rib-shattering kick to his teen son for good measure. Maki crawls to the corner of his apartment’s brightly lit living room and curls into a shivering ball. His father takes all the money, almost laughing, and walks away. Some time later, Maki silently finishes dinner for himself and his hard working single mother.

Hoshiai no Sora is a well drawn sports anime about a loser tennis club, a transfer student with epic reflexes, and a team captain who must win the summer tournament or lose his club funding. From garden gnomes in front lawns, to heavy-set female characters, its world is richly detailed and lived-in and the people living in it have much more going on than you may first suspect. This show is the true dark horse of Fall Season.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 02 (Second Chance)

This week Myne rides an older boy while pondering being ridden by his younger brother. Also, she’s thinking about parchment and how to get her dirty peasant hands on some. Also she invents shampoo from an avocado fruit. Also she faints while a pig gets slaughtered for her winter sausage. Also she gets a fever again and flirts with the solider who works for her father that is teaching her to write.

Bookworm’s slice of life where nothing of consequence happens format plays out like a run-on sentence. It’s almost watchable, if I’m honest, largely thanks to ongoing character introductions and world building, but Myne remains a barely likable character. We did not learn anything more about her past this week, nor has she recognized the impact of hollowing out her host vessel, nor does she entirely care about anyone around her. She just wants her god damn books and, even though we know she will eventually get them, each moment we wait until she does, will feel like an eternity.

Blade of the Immortal (2019) – 01 & 02 (First Impressions)

To me, producing an anime adaptation to Blade of the Immortal in 2019 is  like producing an anime adaptation of Jurassic Park or Schindler’s list. I enjoyed all three when they were originally released in 1993 but, and this is debatable, it feels like my taste has moved on a bit since 8th grade…

If you are not familiar with the source material, BotI is a beautiful manga about a swordsman who is held together by magic worms and a teenage girl who’s family was killed by some prick anti-samurais. The illustrations are mostly un-inked pencil. The anti-hero’s clothes are filled with an unreasonable number of knives and swords, and they are often spinning. It’s freakishly dark, violent, yet slow paced and often introspective. I stopped reading about 1,600 pages in.

These first two episodes faithfully adapt the source material, in a knock-off Afro Samurai sort of way. The story telling does not lend itself to animation, nor has the lovely pencil style been kept. Dear lord that processed video effect for the moving trees made me want to vomit and a few strobing effects may kill someone with epilepsy. It’s not terrible but it’s also intentionally unattractive, lacking color, and murkily hard to see.

TLDR? It’s a little pretentious.

If you are not familiar with the source material, you may enjoy the graphic violence and somber tones. Rin and her Yojimbo have a curious sister x brother relationship that develops over time, and a small number of the enemies reveal interesting motivations.

Don’t expect resolution or a coherent place for this story to end. Certainly not a happy one, unless eating peoples pets to get stronger, headless moms grafted onto peoples’ shoulders, and the short lives of prostitutes is your happy thing?

Personally, I’m happy for my Blade of the Immortal memories. I’m just gonna leave them where I made them, back in 1993.