The Book of Sawce, Chapter 21 – A Book Your Mom Loves

21 The Green Mile

Starring: Mr. Jingles

I was lucky enough to be born to two individuals who were pretty avid readers in their respective days.  My dad would often recite Shakespeare to me when I was just a baby, and it was his glowing praise of Watership Down that led me to picking it for a previous entry.  Even as a child I was aware of how much he’d read from different authors, but I only remember my mom devouring the books of a single author–Stephen King.  She is the sole reason I read the entirety of The Dark Tower series in high school.  So, when I saw “A book your mom loves” on the list, I knew Mr. King would be making his first appearance in the challenge.  When I asked her which one I should get, she didn’t think too long before she gave her answer.  It’s time, my friends, to walk down Stephen King’s The Green Mile.

Getting stuck in a nursing home by his grandkids has given Paul Edgecombe a lot of time to reflect back on his long life, and he decides to write about the strange things that happened to him in 1932.  As a younger man he was the “bull-goose screw” of E Block at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, nicknamed “the Green Mile” thanks to the color of the floor. Being the boss of a death-row wasn’t easy, but it was during the Great Depression and he worked with some genuinely good people, so Paul stuck with it.  That began to change when they received the largest inmate E Block would ever see–the 6’8″ black man covered in scars by the name of John Coffey.  He was convicted of raping and murdering two little white girls, but for some reason, Paul Edgecombe shook John’s hand when he arrived on the Mile.  That was weird in itself, but Paul really gets interested in the new inmate when John touches him and heals the urinary infection that had brought Paul to his knees one morning.  Boss Edgecombe soon comes to believe John Coffey is innocent and realizes the large man is far more than what he seems.  Still, no one could know what effect the mysterious, seemingly ever-crying man would have on the lives of everyone on the Green Mile.

I haven’t read too many of his books (I think I’m at ten now), but King is definitely one of my favorite authors.  Most of the fantasy I read is either set in another world or presents a hidden culture in a world much like our own.  King was sorta my introduction to certain fantastical things being there just because they’re there.  His are books are often very grounded compared to my normal fare.  Despite it being years since I last read one of his books, I was looking very forward to this.  And, y’all…Watership Down finally has a contender for my favorite book in this reading challenge.  What can I say?  My parents have good taste.

I only mentioned two characters in that set-up paragraph, but there are so many great characters in this book (le gasp).  Best mouse Mr. Jingles, best bro Brutus “Brutal” Howell, best warden Hal Moores, worst prisoner Wild Bill, worst guard Percy Wetmore, best lady at nursing home Elaine Connelly, best…you get the idea.  King is really good at giving you flawed heroes you find yourself cheering for, but he excels at making real bastards you want to see get their comeuppance.  And you get both here!  For the most part.  I still can’t believe I felt bad for Eduard Delacroix who found himself on the Mile for raping and murdering a girl and then killing six more people by accident when he set her body on fire to cover up the evidence which caused the building next to her to burn down.  King can play with your emotions with the best of them.  Giving Del a mouse arguably smarter than he was definitely helped, though.

Aside from the mystery of what Paul was doing in the shed on the nursing home grounds every day, there wasn’t much that kept me invested in the present day narrative.  That was compelling and Elaine is great, but the introductory chapters of all six parts sometimes felt like they were keeping me from John Coffey.  Which is fascinating now that I think about it.  Paul often mentions how Coffey had a hypnotic effect on people when he wanted to.  You couldn’t help but be drawn to him.  Looks like he got me, too.

As with most Stephen King novels, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.  There are deaths both peaceful and gruesome.  Also, I genuinely cried at one point.  I didn’t just tear up.  I didn’t just get a single tear from getting all feels-y.  I cried, and it took me a good while to pick the book back up.

Like I said earlier, The Green Mile is a top contender for my favorite book I’ve read during this challenge.  It’s by one of my favorite authors, it’s populated by a great cast, and that there story ain’t none too shabby either.  It’d make a pretty good movie!

We’re getting to that spoopy (as the youngsters say) time of year, so it’s appropriate the next book is a book that scares me.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

2017 Summer of Anime – Outlaw Star

20 Outlaw Star

You can’t take the sky from me…. Wait.

Gene Starwind and his little buddy Jim Hawking will take on just about any job if the price is right.  That’s why they didn’t think much about it when a beautiful woman comes to them on the backwater planet Sentinel III looking for a bodyguard.  They soon come to regret that when they’re attacked by the Kei Pirates and find out their client is the infamous outlaw “Hot Ice” Hilda.  Hilda has stolen something very important to both the pirates and the Space Forces–the key to the powerful grappler ship XGP 15A-II, which the two organizations built to find the Galactic Leyline.  And since getting involved with the outlaws, pirates, and Space Forces wasn’t quite enough, it turns out the key is a naked bio-android girl named Melfina.  Gene’s got no choice but to get over his space-phobia now as he’s forced to head out into the final frontier and find out just what the hell is so great about the Galactic Leyline.

Outlaw Star is something of an old shame of mine.  It’s probably the most noteworthy anime from the Toonami/Adult Swim days that I never really saw any of, and I don’t think I have a good excuse for that.  I pretty much just never had the urge to catch it even though I love Cowboy Bebop and count Trigun as one of my all-time favorite anime (I’ve always considered these the “Three Big Space Westerns” of anime).  Couldn’t tell you why.  I remember the ads on Toonami that were so well done.  They’d give me chills, but I’d never watch the show.  That is until a friend of mine who kinda worships the show handed me one of his DVD copies for the 2017 Summer of Anime.  It wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be, but it’s still a damn fun anime to watch.

I’d like to start this off with the crew of the titular ship.  Gene is a really interesting main character.  He’s a bit of a drunk and a womanizer, but he’s also a great hand to have in a fight and determined to finish whatever job he gets hired for.  He’s not as cynical as Spike nor as optimistic as Vash, but his loud brashness makes him the perfect lead for this show.  I wish more would’ve been done with the other four members.  I appreciate how Jim just kinda has that ride or die mentality, but I don’t think we ever find out what led him to Gene or why they’re so close.  Melfina has the typical robot stuff (“Am I really alive?” “Why was I made?” etc.), and that’s about it.  The super awesome badass bounty hunter babe “Twilight” Suzuka and the catgirl Ctarl-Ctarl officer Aisha Clanclan are similarly let down in the backstory and character growth departments.  They are a really fun cast, though.  Even if it takes them a while to get together.

The antagonists sorta fare better.  Gene’s main rivals in all things outlaw are the dreaded MacDougall brothers.  Ron is the older, more grizzled two and uses a caster gun and pilots a grappler ship like Gene.  Harry is the younger MacDougall who’s essentially the Melfina of his and his brother’s ship, but his character arc is actually one of the more fascinating in the series.  Genuinely surprised me.  The other main antagonists are some of the more powerful Kei Pirates, Lord Hazanko and the Anten Seven.  The encounters with the Seven can be extremely comedic, absolutely heartbreaking, or anything in between.  The first one the crew deals with–Shimi–is by far my favorite, and I really wish the others had gotten solid episodes like he did.  Hazanko’s just the big evil bad guy with all the magic stuff.  Cool main antagonist, but he felt more like a final boss in a video game than an actual character.

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Usually.

Okay, my two big complaints can kinda be summed up in one–pacing.  To flesh out those two, though…first, it takes too long for the crew to come together.  They don’t get their ship until episode four, I think Suzuka joins them in episode seven, and Aisha finally gets on the ship for good in the eleventh episode.  It takes almost half the show for the crew we’ve seen in the opening since the first episode to come together.  Secondly, some of the filler can be rough to sit through.  It took me longer to watch Outlaw Star than I expected just because I was never sure if I was gonna get pointless episode or not.  That tends to happen far too often throughout its 26-episode run.  So yeah, this anime can drag at times.

But, I basically love everything else.  The series just oozes everything cool about the ’90s.  The way it looks, moves, feels, and sounds embraces the time it was made.  And I love that stuff.  Making something timeless is often the goal of any creator, but there’s also something to be said for those time-capsule gems of their eras.  Outlaw Star is so gloriously 20 years old that it’s amazing.  It’s OP is a great earworm, the character designs are lovingly exaggerated, and the ships have that cool, sleek hand-drawn feel about them.

When all is said and done, Outlaw Star is an 8 or 8.5 for me.  Even though I love how well it represents the period of anime I grew up watching, the severe pacing issues prevent me from calling it truly great.  It’s barely just south of it, though.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 20 – A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List

20 The Master and Margarita

He’s a very talented cat.

Ho-ho-holy crap, it’s been almost a year since I last wrote a new Book of Sawce.  Man, oh, man, where does the time go?  Not toward reading books, apparently.  So…yeah.  To everyone who thought I only write about anime, here’s evidence to the contrary.  Welcome back to The Book of Sawce.  And now we pull from the bottom of the to-read list and journey to Russia in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

The corrupt, elite, pretentious, and general snobs of 1930s Moscow begin to experience some very strange things.  The first was a poet by the name of “Homeless” who witnessed the head of the literary bureaucracy…lose his head when a trolley ran over him.  Another finds himself teleported to a completely different town.  Yet another barely escapes a vampire!  This all culminates in a dark seance led by the foreigner Woland and his motley crew.  Again, those in attendance are struck with the occult and run out into the streets of Moscow.  No one knows how this is all being done, but a patient who’s checked himself into an asylum known only as the Master meets Homeless and has come to one conclusion–Woland is Satan.  With an entourage comprised of a loud-mouthed hog-sized cat, a tall checkered-suited fast-talking man, a fanged hitman, and a naked redheaded woman with a purple scar on her neck…the Master’s guess may not be too far off.  So, look out, Moscow!  The Devil has come to town.

So, why was this even on my to-read list?  Well, I took a class on Faust in college, and everything associated with the legend just fascinated me.  Still does, actually.  So, research for that class led me to what many consider one of the greatest Russian novels.  I haven’t read many (i.e. any) Russian novels, but I figured that it’d be a good place to start.  Took me so long to read it because there was just always something else to read, watch, or play.  Thanks to this reading list, though, I can finally say I’ve read The Master and Margarita.  And…it’s okay.

To get the really big complaint out of the way, I’m gonna talk about why I put this book down for a year.  There are chapters of the book that are supposed to be from the Master’s novel which he burned.  His novel is a re-interpretation (or I guess it’s legit in this novel) of Pilate executing Jesus Christ.  A neat idea, but those chapters dragged on for ages for me.  I couldn’t stand them.  I was much more interested in the dark and zany antics of Woland’s crew in Moscow.  Yes, the Pilate chapters are meant to parallel the then present-day story, and the two complement one another, but they just didn’t read that well.

Another problem I had was that the titular characters show up extremely late in the story.  I had assumed they’d be the main protagonists, and when Margarita shows up, she does kinda become the lead character.  Woland’s party are essentially the main characters, though.  In a way.  We rarely see things play out from their point-of-view, for it’s almost always from that of the human characters they’re terrorizing.  But, they tie the story together, and it’s their visit to Moscow that we follow.  I guess Bulgakov couldn’t really name the book Satan and Friends and expect it to sell well, though.

I pretty much enjoyed every other aspect of the book.  Margarita surprised me by how much of a fun and distinct character she was, and the Master was fine for his little page-time.  Seeing the snooty of Moscow get their comeuppance in so many odd and various ways was a delight.  I especially love the poor guy whose head was pulled off during the seance, but after it was reattached, he was never quite the same.  There’s also another random citizen who’s smart enough to believe the rumors and doesn’t get caught off-guard by Woland’s crew at all.  Speaking of Woland’s friends….

They are the true highlight of the novel.  Hella doesn’t do much, but I do love redheads and vampires/succubuses, so she’s great.  Azazello is somewhat the straight-man of the group since he doesn’t really care for Behemoth’s and Koroviev’s shenanigans.  His description of being walleyed, armed out the wazoo, and having only one fang easily sticks with you.  The two standouts are definitely the aforementioned Behemoth and Korviev.  Behemoth is giant talking cat with a penchant for drinking, smoking, wearing bow-ties, and destroying things.  Of course, I read his lines with John DiMaggio’s voice.  Koroviev almost always wears a checkered suit and a pince-nez with one cracked lens and the other missing.  He is so overly dramatic and lies just for the hell of it (pun intended).  Whenever those two show up, the book is at its most fun.  Woland himself was all right.  It’s a neat interpretation of the Devil.

Yeah, there’s  definitely a lot more to this book whether you want to look at what Bulgakov might have been saying about religion, the literary world, society at the time, or whatever else.  That does add to a book for me, but at the end of the day, I gotta look at how much I was entertained by what I’ve just read.  As much as I love this depiction of Satan and his Merry Monsters, a lack of real main characters and some pretty boring cutaway chapters made this book a bit of a chore to read.

Well, with The Book of Sawce finally back, hopefully it won’t take another year for the next post.  My new challenger is a book my mom loves.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

2017 Summer of Anime – Ouran High School Host Club

19 Ouran High School Host Club

The Bachelorette: The Anime

Ouran High School is an elite academy where only those of the highest pedigree may attend.  They’re the children of CEOs, politicians, and the like, which means they all have a lot of money and free time.  The popular spot for the female students to hang out is the Ouran High School Host Club–a club of the six most handsome and eligible male students who seek only to make their clients happy.  Well, actually the Host Club has seven members now.  Haruhi Fujioka is one of the few scholarship students at Ouran without any ties to money, so when she accidentally breaks a vase worth eight million yen, she gets roped into the club to pay off the debt.  To be fair, it takes a while for the entire Host Club to realize she’s a girl since she never dresses like one.  So begins the tale of this poor girl surrounded by a bunch of rich idiots.

I can probably count on one hand the number of shoujo anime I’ve watched all the way through.  (Side note: I was right.)  It’s just not one of the bodies of anime I tend to look to when searching for something to watch.  But, I like rom-coms, and I’ve heard for the longest time that Ouran High School Host Club is one of the better ones out there.  And since I like broadening my horizons during the Summer of Anime, I decided it was finally time to give it a shot.  Glad I did.

First off, Ouran is decently funny.  It’s not the funniest anime I’ve seen, but it often made me smile.  I do wish it had gotten me to actually laugh out loud more, though.  There were a lot of jokes that just didn’t hit as hard as they were meant to.  Especially the fourth wall-breaking ones.  I do think that type of humor can work–hell, it works 90% of the time in the Deadpool film.  But, I don’t think Ouran has the chops to pull it off that much.  There was one where Tamaki Suou declared he was the main protagonist and the rest of the Host Club his homosexual supporting cast.  That one got me to laugh and led to some good payoff later in the episode.  The rest, though, fell short.  Maybe if I was more familiar with shoujo series, then the rest of the jokes in the show would’ve gotten me.  At least I smiled most of the time.

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Best boy…. Best guy?  I don’t know what you say for these.

Other than the humor not getting me to laugh all that much, my biggest complaint with the show is the lack of an ending.  I’m an old hand at rom-coms and an even older one at manga adaptations, so I get that a lot of these anime don’t actually end.  Character arcs go nowhere, there’s no romantic resolution, ass-pull plots for the final two episodes, etc.  I get it, but that hurts Ouran a lot.  Sure, it’s obvious Tamaki and Haruhi will get together sometime in the future since they’re the main protagonists.  Show could’ve really helped their relationship along more, though.  Also, the twins don’t get anymore to their divergent paths, and Kyouya’s family issues just get dropped like someone who’s had one too many drinks.  I’m surprised Ouran has never gotten another season to give this show an ending it deserves.  Yeah, some of the emotional stuff here is built up well enough that it’s earned real closure.  Maybe the first season didn’t do all that great; maybe the creators feel like leaving it open-ended means more money.  I don’t know.

Those are my only real big complaints, though.  Being my introduction to the reverse harem genre, I quite enjoyed it.  I liked seeing that set-up from the other side.  It was fun thinking of character type equivalents in harem and reverse harem shows.  Again, I have to assume the Host Club here are making fun of established tropes in shoujo anime since I don’t know that much.  Haruhi was a pretty good protagonist.  Being raised by an extravagant transvestite father, the antics of others’ don’t phase her much, and she is hardheaded to a fault.  She’s actually not that much different than a shonen harem protagonist:  She’s the straight-man, she’s oblivious, she’s catnip to everyone around her, she’s got a burning desire to help people.  Yet again, it’s interesting seeing the character types that carry from one genre to the other.

Even though the ending’s weak and the comedy bunted more than it actually hit, the cast is genuinely fun, the emotional stuff is done pretty well, and the show is a really easy watch.  Like, I was surprised when I realized I watched all 26 episodes in three days.  Have I watched longer series in a shorter time?  Sure, but I didn’t think I was watching it that fast.  Ouran High School Host Club gets a 7.5.  Better than good, but not good enough to be really good.  You good?

2017 Summer of Anime – Tiger Mask W

18 Tiger Mask W

A tiger, a tiger.  You shall become a tiger!

Naoto Azuma’s life as a professional wrestler did not start off great.  He and his best friend Takuma Fujii were beaten and could only watch helplessly as their trainer, head of Zipangu Pro-Wrestling, and Takuma’s father Daisuke Fujii was thoroughly defeated and broken by Global Wrestling Monopoly’s Yellow Devil.  Zipangu was disbanded, and the two green-horns went their separate ways.  Takuma was recruited by the group secretly behind GWM, Tiger’s Den–an evil organization that was defeated over 40 years ago by the legendary wrestler Tiger Mask.  Naoto was approached by Kentarou Takaoka–the original Yellow Devil and an ally of Tiger Mask’s–with an offer to train him.  Both young men jump at the opportunities in hopes of someday getting revenge on GWM and Yellow Devil.  In order to do so, though, they must both become tigers!

But, not actual tigers.  Like, metaphorical tigers.  Ah, you know!  So yeah, obviously, this is another of those I started in a previous season, but it only finished this season.  Thus, I’m adding it to the Summer of Anime!  And I’ve been wanting to talk about Tiger Mask W for a hot minute.  It’s not just the fact that it’s a professional wrestling anime that drew me to it.  That was a big influence, but this series is also part of a fascinating legacy.

The original Tiger Mask manga ran from 1968 to 1971, and its anime adaptation ran from 1969 to 1971.  That followed the original Tiger Mask, Naoto Date, as a defector from Tiger’s Den since he couldn’t stand the thought of the children emulating his heel tactics.  The anime was actually followed by another in the ’80s called Tiger Mask II, but Tiger Mask W ignores that one and acts only as a sequel to the original.  This in itself is more than enough to get me interested since I love works of fiction with lengthy histories, continuities, legacies, etc., but real life imitating art was another big catch.  In New Japan Pro Wrestling, five men have taken up the mantle of Tiger Mask and brought the character to real world wrestling.  A manga that ended in the early ’70s inspired a wrestling company to adapt its titular protagonist into an actual wrestler in the ’80s, and that character is still going to this day.  That’s…brilliant.  Hell, you can even see Tiger Mask W wrestling alongside Tiger Mask V (the fifth) in New Japan today!  I love this stuff.

Enough about that interesting history I’ve been dying to talk about.  How’s the anime Tiger Mask W?  Objectively speaking, it’s probably not that good.  It’s obviously cheap, the plot can be formulaic as heck, and fill-in characters can feel a bit bland.  But, we ain’t here to talk about objectively.  I.  Love.  This.  Show.  Even just removing professional wrestling for a bit, the story is about a man taking up the mantle of a hero to combat a returned evil that was thought long dead.  Tiger Mask is a superhero!  You’ve got company, All-Might and One Punch Man!  Okay, maybe he’s not that super, but it’s there.

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Actually, screw that.  He’s a superhero!  Look at that cape!

Oh man, where to even begin?  The fact that despite the cheap animation the big matches feel like they always deliver?  Yeah, let’s start there.  The opponents that line up for Tiger Mask comprise one heck of a murderers’ row.  Black Python, Red Death Mask (“The Mask of Red Death”), Bigfoot, the Saboten, Mister Question, the Miracles, etc.  I love those guys.  Sure, not all of them are GWM wrestlers, but I loved their matches against Tiger Mask with special mention to Miracle IV’s aerial battle.  And y’all, that ain’t even mentioning the insane stuff with the other Tigers.

By the end of the series, we get seven Tigers:  Tiger Mask, Tiger the Dark (Takuma), Spring Tiger (Naoto’s love interest and Takaoka’s niece Haruna), King Tiger (a martial artist), Black Tiger (think Mark Henry in a mask), Big Tiger II (a man of average height whom you’d best not call short), and Tiger the Great the Third (the big bad of the series).  The latter four comprise Tiger’s Den’s Four Heavenly Kings, and I love that trope of the four strongest opponents (ex. Monster RancherPokemonDigimonG Gundam).  As for their matches…well, they’re the best in the series.  Tiger Mask versus Tiger the Dark in the Masked Tournament for the opportunity to fight Yellow Devil (or is it?), the two facing off again in the absolute wonderful batsh*t match that is War Games, and they cross paths again in a fashion I don’t want to spoil.  That’s just the matches involving the main protagonists.  Takuma’s trials in Hell in the Hole, his match against The Third, Tiger Mask’s fight against King Tiger, Big Tiger II and Black Tiger wrecking everyone…. So good!  And then there’s Spring Tiger.

Probably the best subplot throughout Tiger Mask W‘s 38-episode run is Haruna’s desire to become a professional wrestler.  Her family is steadfastly against it, but in managing Tiger Mask’s career and aiding in his training, the ring calls to her.  The moment she throws together her Spring Tiger costume to help out her friends Mint and Milk (Candy Pair) is kinda a mark out moment.  I genuinely wish they’d revisited Spring Tiger more often.  In fact, the final episode is all about Spring Tiger.  See, the main plot of W wraps up in the penultimate episode.  The final episode is all about Haruna being scouted as the ace for a new all-women’s wrestling organization and her big match against one of the greatest Japanese female wrestlers of all-time, Mother Devil.  This is legitimately one of the best episodes of the series.  I can’t even begin tell you how big the smile on my face was throughout the run-time.  I’m so hoping this was a set-up for a spin-off show following Spring Tiger.  I will pray to all the gods for that to happen.

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QUEEN OF THE WILD, WILD, WILD!

And there’s just so much other great stuff I didn’t get into.  The bumbling Fukuwara Mask’s true identity and desire to revitalize his dying town; Odin’s drive to become the good guy his hometown thinks he is; Kenny Omega and the Bullet Club buying up sweets just to piss off Togi Makabe; Kevin’s secret love for Takuma; Miss X doing her damnedest to move up in a male-dominated profession; the insanity that is Blackout; Miracle I being legitimately hurt when Tiger Mask didn’t want to be evil with him and the rest of the Miracles; GWM basically as a stand-in for WWE.  I think back to this stuff, and it makes me want to watch the series again.  This show could’ve phoned it in, and to be fair, it does a lot.  But I see a great deal of heart in this show, and it delivers with big characters and bigger matches.  Tiger Mask W gets a 9 out of 10!

Now, go forth, everyone, and become a tiger!

Seasonal Sawce: Spring into Summer of Anime 2017, Part 2

The fusion of Seasonal Sawce and Summer of Anime has returned!  Get excited, y’all!  Or not.  You do you.  I can’t tell you what to do.

Quick rundown as always before we begin:  These are the anime I watched that began and ended during the 2017 spring season ranked from my least favorite to my most favorite.  So, that means no My Hero Academia 2 or Sakura Quest here.  Those two will get their own entries when they end.

Okay.  Buckle up, you crazy kids!

Eromanga Sensei

16 Eromanga Sensei

They know what this is.

Oh, man.  I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret:  I was thoroughly entertained by this show every week.  Like, I almost justified putting it higher.  This is…this is a garbage show.  From the set-up to the characters to the story to the gags to the Imouto Cinematic Universe.  It’s just bad.  But Eromanga Sensei is so bad it’s entertaining.  Not so bad it’s good–oh, goodness no.  Nothing in my being will allow me to call this good.  It just relishes in being so shameless.  You can’t help but be entertained.

That being said, I wouldn’t suggest watching it.  It’s an anime only those who have delved too deep into anime and have morbid senses of humor can enjoy.  Or those who don’t know any better yet.  In fact, they may not be mutually exclusive.  But hey, I’ll give it some legitimate praise.  The show was made with love, and being a writer myself, it always got me motivated to write whenever the characters were talking shop.  I think that’s it.

I’ll give it a 5.5.  It’s not a good score.  It’s not a bad score.  It’s score.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor

10 Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor

Look at dem broad shoulders.

This season was full of surprises!  Eromanga Sensei was trashier than even I expected, and Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor made a magical school show feel fresh.  Not brand new…but definitely fresh.  Glenn Radars as the titular bastard is definitely not the average protagonist for these types of shows.  Yes, he does have a good heart, and yes, he is secretly a badass former government agent, but he really is a bastard.  He’s lazy, crude, and loves manipulating others.  He’s such a fun protagonist.  As for the others…eh.

His students, allies, and enemies tick off the cast checklist for this genre.  The tsundere, the rich girl, the adorable weapon, the hot witch, the evil organization hellbent on proving there’s a dark secret the kingdom doesn’t want getting out, etc.  Although Bastard pulls off these characters and arcs with a more adept hand than usual, it’s still what you’d expect from one of these.  Other than Glenn legitimately needing help to win a lot of his big fights.  He’s actually bad at magic, and the show keeps that in mind.  Good on them.

Gets a 7.5 from me.  Better than good, but not quite in that upper tier.

Love Tyrant

12 Love Tyrant

“Akane’s not the picture?!”

Is Love Tyrant funny?  Well, I sure did laugh lot.  Not like I laughed at Eromanga Sensei, but like legitimate laughter.  The jokes landed for me.  This show’s humor is my humor.  Plus, all they had to do was show Akane Hiyama on screen and all my worries went away!  Yes, Akane is best girl of spring 2017!  Shout it from the mountaintops!  All hail our yandere redhead assassin overlord!  Well…that was a mouthful.

So yeah, obviously the comedy and at least one character did it for me, but I also really like the rest of the cast.  Seiji makes a great straight-man, Guri’s quest to understand romantic love is always funny and heartwarming, Yuzu gets more than just her crush on her sister, Shikimi is always a delight when she shows up, and the demon penguin Stolas…well, I don’t know what to say about him.  Even in a show about an angel cosplaying as a shinigami putting herself in a polyamorous relationship via her Kiss Note…Stolas is random.  But it was great seeing all these characters every week.  Heck, Yuzu and her mom are responsible for one of my favorite jokes in all of anime.  It’s a terribly simple pun, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Akane and her funny friends earn an 8 out of 10!

Kado: The Right Answer

17 Kado the Right Answer

There are no strings on m…huh.

Okay, so, this is a bit tricky.  Kado: The Right Answer started off with a lot of promise.  Like, I was getting ready to tout it as a modern classic.  It’s a much slower-paced, thinking sort of science fiction anime you don’t see too much anymore.  The anisotropic alien Yaha-kui zaShunina’s relationship and conversations with the negotiator Koujirou Shindou, the devices zaShunina brought with him, and the world’s reactions to said devices were awesome to watch every week.  The ideas presented really got me thinking about other ways one could view the universe.  It wasn’t always terribly compelling, but it was so good.  And then, there was a bit of a tone shift.

I really, really don’t want to get into spoilers, so I apologize if this sounds maddeningly vague.  A character reveals something that seriously changes the game, and this action forces the hand of another.  That’s the moment Kado enters it’s second phase of sorts.  Truth be told, I loved the shift.  It caught me off guard, and I thought it added a lot to an anime I was already thoroughly enjoying.  This did all lead to an ending that has divided the fans of the show.  It is a true love it or hate it episode.  How do I feel?  I’ll admit it came off as rushed, and I wish they’d resolved something differently, but I mostly love it.  There’s a moment involving a message on a cellphone that’s one of my favorite anime scenes.  I legitimately marked out.

Had it not been for the fumbled ending, this would probably be my number one show for the spring 2017 season.  As it stands, I’ll give it an 8.5.

What could possibly be number one?  Well, if you read the last post, then I doubt you’re surprised.

Attack on Titan Season 2

9 Attack on Titan Season 2

This seems like a rather unfair game of “Pat-a-cake.”

Yes, my favorite anime that began and finished its run this season is Attack on Titan Season 2.  Trust me, I’m kinda tired of second seasons dominating these, too.  What can I say, though?  There’s a reason I watch season twos–I love those season ones so much.  Granted, had I watched the new season of Berserk it probably would’ve been near the bottom, but that’s just an awful adaptation of a magnificent series.

But yeah, Attack on Titan is great.  The anime does a wonderful job of presenting the art style in an awesome fashion, the soundtrack is killer, all hail Mikasa, and just when we think we have all the answers, they change the questions!  The second season isn’t as plagued with pacing problems as the first was, and that allows it to feel a little more lean instead of thin by having just one cour.  For the most part, at least.  The final stretch to the season finale felt drawn out a bit, but it didn’t bother me much.

Gonna give this one a 9.  I love Titan, but it’s never clicked with me enough for me to put it too close to 10.

That’ll do it for this round of Seasonal Sawce.  I’ve fallen behind on my Summer of Anime posts (as I’m sure you can tell), but there’s only one more to go until I’m caught up and ready to breathe a little easier.  And I can’t wait to talk about it.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

2017 Summer of Anime – Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation

16 Yowamushi Pedal New Generation

HIME FIST!

Since this is one of those I’ve talked about in a previous post (here it is!), I won’t go into too much depth with the intro paragraph.  I’ve also written about season two and the movie right here.  Okay, reigning Summer Inter High champion Sakamichi Onoda is in his second year of high school at Sohoku High.  His cycling team is already training for their next Inter High, but their rivals are working just as hard, and Sohoku is especially far behind because they’ve lost half their winning team.  Time to Hime Hime, y’all!

Jeez, I’ve been watching Yowamushi Pedal for almost four years now.  My, how time flies.  This anime sure don’t, though!  *Laugh track*  I praised New Generation when it was six episodes in for how much the pace had stepped up from previous seasons.  And it kept to that…for a while.  I’m an old hand at sports series, so I’m no stranger to sudden flashbacks, thinking/talking as free actions, and drawn out matches, but it really does feel like Yowapeda has mastered the art of padding.  Those whiplash-inducing flashbacks returned in a hurry, and this season ends before the first day of the Inter High is over.  The bit before the race felt like it took forever.  Getting to know everybody, getting to see their backstories, getting to hear everyone’s thoughts, etc.  Again, it’s a sports series.  I get it.  But three seasons in and most of the cast returning from the previous two…you don’t really need to spend too much time on this stuff by now.  Or at least do it better.  Eiichiro Oda is so unbelievably adept at making long flashbacks feel natural in One Piece.  Yowapeda is far from being that good at it.

My other big complaint about this season, and I’m sorry if this is a spoiler, but I gotta get this off my chest:  This feels exactly like the last Inter High so far.  Sohoku sent two sprinters for the sprint checkpoint against Hakone’s one, Onoda gets separated from the rest of his team by the pack and has to fight his way back, Midosouji messes with him as he does so, Sohoku has to make a desperate call for the mountain checkpoint.  I just described the first day of both Inter Highs.  It is unabashedly similar.  I genuinely hope things get changed up for the rest of the race, but it ain’t looking too good.

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Best timeline?  Worst timeline?  I…don’t really know.

I know it sounds like I’m being harsh on Yowapeda, but it comes from a place of love.  It is a true delight to see all these characters again, and the new additions are quite welcome.  The new kid on Sohoku’s team who’s somehow dumber and more hot-blooded than Naruko, Hakone’s monster Doubashi, Kyoto Fushimi’s…masseuse.  They bring familiar characteristics to the table, but they all feel different enough to not be redundant.  I also love how existing characters have to step up into roles like with Teshima and Izumida becoming the captains of Sohoku and Hakone, respectively.  It’s interesting to see how they approach the struggles and responsibilities as captains of two of the best teams in the country.  Teshima especially stands out in this season as he not only has to race to win his spot as captain, but he also has to man up in the mountain stage of the Inter High.  Dude has definitely become one of my favorites.

And yeah, the show can still get me hype when it wants to get me hype.  I wish it didn’t take so long to get from one hype to the next, but such is Yowapeda.  Also, it continues to have the best stingers in anime.  Bar none.  I can’t tell you how funny these things are.  My favorite has to be when Kyoto Fushimi’s former captain has a nightmare of catching grasshoppers as a kid and one of them turns into Midousuji.  I laughed so hard.  There’s also a really special one at the end of the last episode.  Again, the show can easily get me hype when it wants to.

Despite New Generation doing everything good that previous entries in the Yowapeda franchise have done with great characters, races, and humor, it also does everything bad that the others have done with ham-fisted flashbacks and woefully drawn out episodes.  I’ll give it a 7.5.  Probably my least favorite season, but I do still love it so.