Oigakkosan’s Summer 2019 Anime Season Wrap-up

Arifureta began as a grim, visually unremarkable dungeon crawler, hinting at global conflicts and structures of political and social control… before devolving into guy-shoots-monsters-gets-harem-rinse-repeat. Pitting guns, missiles and motorcycles against orcs and wolves is tricky to make compelling, and Arifureta’s mediocre animation, slow plot, and constant battles doesn’t help.

Worse shows aired this season but few featured dragons being anally raped by the protagonist with a giant metal spike, nor said dragon joining said protagonist’s harem afterwards. However, and I’m going out on a limb here, even if this is up your personal kink, Arifureta’s PG-13 sensibilities probably wont go far enough for you. Niche at best, Barely Watchable for the rest of us.

Dr Stone is delightfully consistent with it’s focus on science process, over the top characters, and methodical plot to rebuild society from the stone age up. While its medium term objective (defeat super-strong/ super evil antagonist with science) has taken a back seat to gaining support of the villagers Senko discovered mid-season, its not forgotten.

We’ve learned about electricity, food chemistry, and glass as much as human nature, motivation and weakness. Hand in hand with lovable characters and charming visual style, Dr Stone is probably my most recommended show of the season.

Given’s relationship story is lovely, thoughtful, and matured with deeper issues of loss. The wow is in the details. From taking a dozen buses just to stand by the ocean, just to stand where you once stood with a close friend, to walking off stage after only one song, Given doesn’t over explain itself with dialog.  It’s solid but, like real romance, the best parts come from getting to know the characters. So I called it quits after episode six. Still, highly recommended

Granbelm finally developed an emotional core: Mangetsu is a magic puppet created by Ernesta’s subconscious desire to have a friend who isn’t an effed up mess. Also, despite earlier signs that losing wasn’t that big a deal, it has been revealed that girls die all the time in magic fights but no one remembers because… magic amnesia.

These are solid reveals and Mangetsu’s heart filled good bye to the cast (almost all of which immediately forget she ever existed) was strongly delivered. It just took way too long to develop. Combined with a dull pure evil villain, power levels that swing at the whim of the story, and Granbelm’s misunderstanding of what a mystery is (as opposed to just being confusing) and the show is only watchable.

Maou-sama, Retry! started off so absurdly bad, so generically Demon Lord/Isekai, that it had a certain charm. As it strolled forward, it took no greater objective than to introduce new characters to Maou’s harem, and forget about previous characters and potential destinations for the story. Aku hasn’t even been in the previous two episodes. The result is powerfully without purpose. It doesn’t care. You shouldn’t either. Barely watchable.

UchiMusume also suffers from a lack of purpose and follow through. For a show that features a central character who’s past is a mystery, and a hero who occasionally kills people for political gain, there’s an awful lot of wandering around aimlessly and eating food!

The result is harmlessly cute but smidgens of world building do not make up for a four episode long trip to and from a village to buy a new trench coat. It’s Barely watchable.

Granbelm – 06 – Okayish

Nene isn’t dead. Anna Fugo’s rage is finally explained and resolved. Dark Blue goes off on her own. Kuon has a cold. Mangetsu makes lots of soup.

Granbelm did a lot right this week but, like a super model striding down the catwalk in a pretty dress and gigantic clown shoes, it contradicts itself and cannot help trip over its feet in the process.

Anna’s confidence stems from mastering a fire-to-ice combo spell her mother and grandmother couldn’t master… except Anna didn’t actually master it. Ernesta did. This is a nice twist and shutting Anna down by replicating Anna’s inability, backed by Anna’s own mother’s words, and showing this like came from a place of love in Ernesta, tied a nice little bow around the conflict.

…but… this returns us to the clown shows problem. If Anna has never had meaningful power, showing her casting powerful magic during the tourney for 3/6 of the episodes doesn’t make any sense. Honestly, none of the relative magic power levels make a lick of sense but Anna’s all-is-nothing story hinges on something we have seen constantly contradicted in battle.

I’m happy Nene isn’t dead and it’s charming to see her invested in Mangetsu and/or Ernesta becoming the witch. I’m not sure I buy that her life long ambition can turn on an emotional dime like that but it’s pleasant and it moves the narrative onward.

Onward to what? Anna seems to be out, which means Dark Blue Is the only villain left. This week was a decent episode and there’s obviously more going on in the world than we know… but how that’s going to fill 7 more episodes? I’m not sure I’m looking forward to.

Granbelm – 05 – Dejavu’ish

This week opens with Nene’s sisters commenting on Nene’s choice to reveal her identity to the alliance last week… and then skips ahead to the next full moon, effectively picking up where the last battle left off. What follows is an episode long battle between Nene and the alliance, then smaller one on one fights between each protagonist and her matching antagonist.

Anna traps Ernesta in a magic circle, only for that to fail for some reason. Dark Blue ambushes Kuon and implies that she knows who cursed Kuon’s sister. This leaves a powered-up Mangestsu to face a powered-up Nene. While Nene has the upper hand for most of the fight, Mangetsu appears to have the ability to capture her opponent’s feelings and memories. Since magic in Granbelm is entirely based on the mage’s ability to envision an outcome, and the strength of the mage’s feelings, things do not go well for Nene. What sharing these feelings will do to Mangetsu in the long run is left unsaid but it is doubtlessly going to weigh heavily on Nene. After all, Nene is essentially defeated by the strength of her own powerful feelings.

While the abrupt jump forward in time was awkward, fleshing out Mangetsu’s power makes for a substantially more interesting story than we’ve seen in the previous four episodes. Vamp’ing her opponent’s feelings also gives us a way of figuring out those same opponent’s motivations, without the heavy hand of exposition — and it gives Mangetsu a way to humanize her opponents in the process.

It was also helpful to see Nene’s memory of her mother not recognizing her, as that implies there are consequences for the mages who lose Granbelm. Stakes have been seriously lacking up to now.

The trouble is, Granbelm lacks focus. I enjoyed Nene’s arc, but the amount of screen time it took and the emotional investment it was given, rivaled that of a main character. Kuon and Ernesta have received similar treatment and it just dominates Mangetsu’s position… even though she is clearly the point of view character and who the viewer is supposed to most identify with.

Granbelm isn’t helped by its antagonists either. Anna Fugo is bland as they come and Dark Blue is a mustash twirling villain in every way short of having a lovely flavor savor on her face. Both will receive tragic back stories that motivate their actions, no doubt, but it is hard to care about them in the mean time.

In closing, this week expanded our understanding of the magic, rules, and characters battling each other, and it did so with visual flair and quality writing. Will it continue to improve or go back to being an unfocused mess with too many characters? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Granbelm – 04 – All them Choices

Nene’s attack is a remote energy-ball-turret, which fires green beams that can be bent to chase targets. It knocks all the mages off guard, at least for a while, but Dark Blue eventually locates Nene’s hiding space and the battle ends in a draw, with the setting of the moon.

Surprisingly, Grandblam’s social landscape quickly changes from that point forward. Kuon confonts Mangetsu and Ernesta, and an alliance of sorts is formed. Meanwhile, Nene discovers the alliance, and avoids being discovered as a mage herself (because talisman)… but later decides to reveal herself (because backstory). Depending on how that cliff hanger shakes out, it could be 4 against Team Fugo next time arround…

Another Granblam, another episode that has all the elements of greatness (flashy style, diverse characters and motivations) that just doesn’t connect at all. Character power seems to rise and fall for the purpose of making a battle exciting for a while. Social alliances seem abrupt and wildly thrown together. Half-explained issues (like Nene’s mother) come off as annoying more than mysterious. In short, the drama and tension do not feel earned.

Granbelm – 03 – 満月に鐘は鳴る

Bloodline adoption, missing moms and cursed sisters, lead Granbelm into stronger, more interesting storytelling waters this week. Unfortunately, Mangetsu is still the main character, and remains so utterly uninteresting that no one even cares that her having magic COMPLETELY BREAKS THE RULES OF THEIR WORLD.

Granbelm isn’t incompetent and it isn’t boring or frustrating to watch. Granbelm is just completely ineffective, at everything, on every level.

For example, the opening scene that carries over from the previous week ends with a confrontation between Anna and Ernesta. In it, Ernesta catches Anna’s hand mid-slap as she repeats the fact that Anna can not win. However, Anna’s leaving (and the non-resolve of Mangetsu’s mega flower magic/Anna’s accusation of being a demon) transitions unseen while the viewer watches the opening credit sequence…

Bizarrely, Anna and Ernesta’s confrontation scene semi-repeats later in the episode. The sky is again red but this time Ernesta gets slapped! The visual link of the red sky and the fight is baffling as it makes the sequences between the open and this show down feel unnecessary.

Last week should have ended addressing Mangetsu’s WORLD BREAKING USE OF MAGIC and Anna should not have been given a confrontation scene until this week’s mid point.

Don’t even get me started on Mangetsu’s elementary school age sister, who is in some sort of flirty relationship with Nene, an adult who only looks like a child. I’m not even going to try making sense of the duality of Mangetsu feeding Ernesta and Mangetsu’s sister liking Nene because she shares food with her…

There are now fourteen interlocking characters to follow, each with moderate characterization, motivations and magic powers. After three viewings, I do not know half of their names.

The action is hard to follow as well. It took a second viewing for me to catch Mangetsu’s mech somehow getting in Anna’s puppets’ way. After three viewings I don’t even know what Nene is doing. Something about floating gems with magic power? For the length of time the Granbelm shows us, it doesn’t actually explain what is going on…

In conclusion, Granbelm is a highly polished collection of incorrect choices. That polish makes it easy to watch but it’s choices make it very difficult to care about. Meh?

Mr. OldSchool’s Summer Season Quick-Fire Reviews

Granbelm – A kind girl stumbles into a magic girl battle royale with super deformed style Gundam. The art style is visually striking and the action is top shelf’ish. Too bad Granbleh’s kitchen sink of tropes is delivered in such a loveless and generic way. 7

Maou-sama, Retry! – A game developer is sucked into the fantasy MMO he created in the moments before the servers go dark! Now he is a super powerful demon lord and looks like a yakuza! Zap! Loli! Art with zero style and story without originality or substance! 5

Kanata no Astra – Space High schoolers get lost in space; must show grit (and team work) to overcome crisis. Crisp animation and competent narrative construction save it from an underwhelming cast and middle shelf art style. If a kid dies next week, my opinion will move higher. 8

UchiMusume – A young adventurer adopts an orphaned demon girl he finds in the woods. There’s a potty joke! It’s charming but very safe and gives all the hints that it wont go anywhere by the end of the season. 8

Joshikousei no Mudazukai – A girl realizes she picked an all girls high school and she just. can’t. even. The comedic timing is on the money… but humor kinda whiffs? Mid shelf artwork makes it watchable but not remarkable. 7

Araburu Kisetsu no Otome – The literature club tackles sex in literature… AND LIFE! Reading train schedules and draping penises on girls’ heads play out in this earnest, bashful, slow burn. Looks to be Summer’s sleeper hit. 9!

Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? – A high school girl gains weight for comedy. Goes to gym for comedy. I got bored and stopped watching. 6

Sounan Desu ka? – Girls wash up on a beech. Panty shots. ¯\_()_/¯

Tejina-senpai – A boy must choose a school club and meets a girl into magic. 12 minutes of humorless antics ensue. #Skippable 5

Enen no Shouboutai – A boy with a tragic past starts his first day as a Magic Firemen fighting demoney fire people. There’s a churchy vibe and Soul Eater art style. The animated fire is fantastic but the production costs must have been too much for the studio. (scenes linger) Worth a watch though. 8

Katsute Kami Datta Kemono – A squad of super human monsters turn evil shortly after winning an alt US civil war. Bad guys laugh like evil bad guys and tragic love interests die for motivational purposes. It’s lower shelf animation and writing with some blood to tide viewers over. 5 #shitshow

Dr. Stone – Suddenly everyone turns to stone. 3,700 years later, two teens break out and start to figure out the stone-age world around them. With style so jarringly OTT my brain can’t tell if I love it or hate it, and a narrative construction so bat shit crazy I have to keep watching. 8 #WTFFTW