The Book of Sawce, Chapter 23 -A Book More Than 100 Years Old

23 the phantom of the opera

“No, no, keep the mask on.”

Previously on The Book of Sawce:  “Kinda considering getting halfway through that first reading challenge before I call it quits and try a different one next year since this was supposed to be done in 2015.  Or maybe I’ll just try and soldier through to finally finish this one before 2019 rolls around.”

That was in 2017!  And this is for a reading list I was supposed to finish in 2015!  Yikes!

Some of you may find this hard to believe, but the main thing that got me to start reading the “classics” of my own free will back in high school was the 2003 hit film (Editor’s note:  No one tell him) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  It blew my mind seeing all those fictional characters together fighting alongside and against each other.  No joke, that movie’s the reason I not only know who Allan Quatermain and Dorian Gray are, but it’s also the reason I’ve read their books…along with DraculaThe Invisible Man, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  So, it’s kinda also the reason I got into the Universal Monsters.  Weird, right?  I’ve said all this just so I can say that next up on the classics/Universal Monsters train is Gaston Leroux’s detective novel The Phantom of the Opera.

In 1880s Paris, France, there is no more happening place for the rich than the Palais Garnier opera house.  The acting and singing are top-notch, but there’s also a macabre element that draws in the citizens.  A rumor exists that a ghost haunts the Palais Garnier.  A rumor which is given more credence when a stagehand is found having hanged himself, but the rope goes missing.  The new owners believe the Opera Ghost to be no more than an elaborate prank, but the young up-and-coming singer Christine Daae and her childhood friend and suitor Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny find themselves becoming too familiar with said specter as he becomes more and more obsessed with the beautiful Christine.  What ensues is a series of tragic events which one detective strives to find out whether or not they were the actions of a man or something more.

I made sure to mention “detective” in the last sentences of both paragraphs because that’s the framing device.  The entire story is told from the perspective of a detective who’s investigating the Opera Ghost long after the events have transpired.  But, there’s not much reason for it.  I don’t even know if he has a name.  Maybe Leroux was trying to push this as a detective novel instead of a tragic romance, or maybe this was the thing to do back in the day.  It’s weird to me that the in-universe narrator feels like such an afterthought.  But that’s just one problem I have with the novel.

Another problem I have with The Phantom of the Opera is how…dull it is.  I suppose I can see how this book became such a gothic, constantly adapted darling, but man, this book is dry.  It took me a year to read this because I kept dreading struggling through another chapter.  It’s a constant string of nothing happening until we get to the Persian’s POV chapters, and thank goodness they recount previous scenes of the novel because I did not remember most of it by the time I sat down and powered through the last hundred pages or so.  I’m not sure I can even pin down what exactly made it dry.  A part of me believes because I was already so familiar with the story I hated being treated like I didn’t know what was going on.  Another part of me thinks it’s because a large chunk of the book follows the formula of people not believing the Opera Ghost is real, they’re told otherwise, the Opera Ghost does something, and they still don’t want to believe.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Speaking of those people, most of the characters are insufferable.  I mean, I rooted for Raoul and Christine because they’re the protagonists, but Raoul whines all the time and Christine acts way too stupid a lot.  To her credit, she sets her foot down and stands her ground sometimes, but those moments are few and far between.  Can’t even back the titular Phantom either since he’s a psychopath.  I know folks love their masked tortured boys (I get it; I’m a huge Batman fan), but the Phantom kills too many people with too much glee for me to like him.  The side characters are all either ignorant, jerks, or ignorant jerks.  The Persian is by far and away the best character, but he doesn’t really even show up until the last part of the book, and even then he’s the designated exposition machine.  Well, it’s him and the narrator.

Yeah, I, uh…I was pretty unimpressed.  I can sorta see where all the love comes from, and I did find a few parts of the book enjoyable, but most of it’s a drab, dry slog of a novel.  But hey, if you’re not familiar with the story at all, you might like the book more than I did.  As it stands, though, I was really let down by The Phantom of the Opera.

Truth be told, I don’t know if I’m continuing with the Book of Sawce.  I started this four years ago, and I have a lot of other books lying around the room I’ve been neglecting.  I might switch in and out.  Haven’t decided yet.  If I do, though, the next book will be one based entirely on its cover.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

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Seasonal Sawce: Fall Back Into Anime, Part 2

Hey, this is running late!

Only five of the 11 shows I started last season finished (yikes), so here they are from my least favorite to my most favorite.

Let’s get cracking!

Iroduku: The World in Colors

iroduku the world in colors 2

Lindsay Ellis, is that you?

Iroduku: The World in Colors is actually really good.  The likability of the main cast feels a bit forced to me (all the drama literally comes from how nice they are to each other), and the ending isn’t as…emotionally satisfactory as I was hoping, but everything else is solid.  The character designs, the story, the simple world, and yes, even though I criticized both, the show does have a good cast and hits some emotional beats fairly well.  The true highlight of Iroduku, though, is definitely its art.

I looked forward to watching this anime every week just so I could look at it.  It all just looks so dazzling!  And that’s probably the first time I’ve ever typed that word in my life, so you know I mean business.  Seriously, all you need to see is any scene where a painting comes to life, and you’ll be all like, “Dang…I need to see more of this.”  And heck, the normal world is gorgeous, too.  PA Works knows how to make Japanese scenery look appealing.

I think a 7.5 suits this pretty well.  Aside from the amazing art, everything else is more or less just decent.  Which isn’t a knock against it at all.

Zombie Land Saga

zombie land saga 2

Weird flex, but okay.

I cannot believe I watched an anime about zombie idols.  I cannot believe I love an anime about zombie idols.  I cannot believe I want a second season to the anime about zombie idols.

But here we are.

Zombie Land Saga just sounds like it shouldn’t have worked.  And really, if you just show someone one of the slow episodes or ugly CG performances, they’d certainly think it doesn’t work.  But dammit, it does!  I love each and every main character–even that bastard Koutarou.  They are each so different from one another and provide pretty good commentary on not only what fame means in Japan, but also on expectations and tropes of femininity (maybe not the latter as much as the former, but still).

This show is pretty funny.  It’s certainly not Hinamatsuri levels of comedy, but I had to pause the show while I was laughing quite a few times.  There’s also a surprising amount of heart here, too.  I didn’t expect to get the feels from ZLS, but the episode focusing on Lily definitely got me.  And man, oh man, I need the soundtrack.  This anime has some absolute bangers.

I’m giving it an 8 or 8.5 (I think I love being indecisive).  Yes, there’s a lot here to love, but the quality drop for the CG performances is jarring, and the slow episodes are really slow.

Boarding School Juliet

boarding school juliet 2

There is no image more pure in all of anime than this.

The greatest thing Shakespeare has ever given us…aside from the hit Jet Li film Romeo Must Die.  Gotta admit, I was worried Boarding School Juliet was going to go down the angst-fueled path of the original play, but thankfully the show stuck to its school-action/adventure-romcom ways.  At no point can you really accuse the show of being beautifully animated, but it always looks good to me.  Probably because I love the cast so much.

Persia and Inuzuka are one of my favorite anime couples now.  It starts off pretty one-sided with Inuzuka acting on a crush he’s had for years, while it feels like Persia is just giving it a shot for the heck of it.  But by the end of this (first?) season, Persia is noticeably as into Inuzuka as he is into her.  They’re such a great pair, and it’s equal fun watching the two help each other and compete against each other.  I just…I just love these goobers so much.

Same score as Zombie Land Saga.  It’s a genuinely fun re-imagining of a classic (blegh) play with an fun cast led by the most adorable couple.  Soundtrack’s kinda neat, too.  Could definitely use a higher budget if it gets another season, though.  Make them fight scenes pop a bit more.

SSSS.Gridman

ssss.gridman 2

SERVO!

Look at you, Trigger!  Redeeming yourself!  So proud.

So yeah, even though I’ll defend parts of Darling in the Franxx, there’s no denying Trigger kinda pooped the bed with the last fourth of the show.  SSSS.Gridman, on the other hand, just got better and better as it went.  The twists got twistier, the thicc got thiccer, the robots got robotier, the kaiju got kaiju-er, etc.  This is such a solid 12-episode series, I’m beginning to think Trigger needs to stick to one-cour shows from now on.

One aspect of the show that surprised me is how central Rikka and Akane’s relationship is to the whole show.  I guess I’ve been conditioned to see characters in Akane’s role as just the likable (by the audience) antagonist while the Rikkas do little more than support the protagonist as an ally and love interest.  But Rikka’s genuine heart and desire to be Akane’s friend is the driving force behind Akane begrudgingly opening herself up to the people and world around her.  I won’t spoil much here (other than the picture of OG Gridman/Servo saving the day), but Akane and Rikka are arguably more compelling a duo here than Yuuta and Gridman.

Definitely giving it a 9 out of 10.  Trigger got so much right with this show it’s ridiculous.  Please watch it so it will be successful, thus leading to action figures of Gridman and the kaiju.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

rascal does not dream of bunny girl senpai 2

In which we are Sakuta, and Sakuta is us.

Surprise, surprise.  No movement on the board.  My halfway impressions held steadfast throughout the entire season.  Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is just a ridiculously good show with a deceptive title.  I actually have a couple friends who saw the name and poster for this show and thought it was some weeb wank material, so they laughed at it.  I then had the pleasure of telling them that this is actually one of the most emotionally driven and satisfying shows I’ve seen in a long while.  I said Persia and Inuzuka are now one of my favorite anime couples.  Well, Mai and Sakuta are right up there with them, if not ahead.

The way the show deals with and plays with the expected tropes and stereotypes of the romcom genre is consistently well done.  Tired of seeing the basic imouto character in everything?  We got Kaede here, but her odd behavior not only has a reason, but it also has legitmate emotional weight.  The anime also constantly teases being a harem show, but there’s never any doubt that Mai is the only one for Sakuta, and vice versa.  And the great writing is only helped by the wonderful cast, damn fine visuals, and catchy soundtrack.

I love everything about this show.  My only complaint is that it’s just 13 episodes.  I guess you know what that means.

TEN

Let ’em know, Tye.  Let ’em know.

And that’ll do it for 2018 Seasonal Sawce!  (Pay no heed to us being halfway through January.)  I actually have a couple other posts I’m working on, so my next one actually won’t be the winter Seasonal Sawce.  Wild, right?

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

Rock the Dragon

I’m not entirely sure what the Venn diagram looks like of those who read my blog and those who are on my social media sites, so I’ll state this here:  I love collecting action figures.  I’m no expert on the lines I collect; I just like acquiring physical replications of characters I love.  So, I want to take a crack at writing about some of my acquisitions last year.

My figure itch was scratched quite a bit in 2018 as I started following more toy channels on YouTube, and I kept track of every toy I got last year on my Instagram.  The franchise I inadvertently focused on more than the others was Dragon Ball.

Dragon Ball Collection 2018 1

I took this picture sometime in late March.  Definitely got the year started off right.  A couple of my friends went to Japan and got me the BWFC Super Saiyan Goku and WFC Gine as souvenirs.  That Goku looks badass, and I’d been wanting a Gine figure since I read Jaco the Galactic Patrolman.  I do feel like the WFC line is a bit pricey, but each one I own looks really good, so maybe they’re worth it.

The Dragon Stars figures from Bandai will be a constant in these four pics.  I collected DBZ figures as a kid, so I was ecstatic when a new line of American action figures got announced.  I’d prefer if they were to scale with the old ones, but I fully understand the call to make them in the six-inch scale.  Base Goku was actually the first figure I bought in 2018.  Even though I have some problems with their articulation, I gotta admit they can take some great poses.  Hit was a must-get for me since he’s a new character (I really should watch Dragon Ball Super at some point).  Not much to say about the SS Goku.  I do find it hilarious the GameStop exclusives wind up being easier to find than the regular line.

One of my favorite things about collecting Dragon Ball figures is you can find a toy of just about anyone–like Star Wars.  I ran across that HG Collection Salza for a low price and realized my giant Cooler figure needs a servant!  Speaking of good prices, the SH Figuarts Golden Frieza went on sale at one point, and I had to nab him.  He was my second Figuarts (yeah, I got more) and definitely the best Golden Frieza figure I have (yeah, I have three).  If you collect toys and don’t have any Figuarts, I suggest you grab one.  The articulation and extras are worth the price.

Now, the last three are the Crown Jewels of this pic.  Well, the Megahouse Launch might not be.  She might be a bootleg, but I honestly don’t know.  If you think that Eis Shenron looks weird as hell, well, then, you’re right.  He’s a Mexican bootleg figure, but I implore you to look at him again!  That’s an original mould!  And it’s to scale with the old Super Battle Collection figures!  I love it.  The main event is the Great Saiyawoman/Saiyaman II Videl from AB Groupe.  I dropped…a lot on it even though it’s loose and definitely used, but it’s a figure I’d wanted for years.  I love/hate that there were AB Groupe figures that never got re-released by Irwin during DBZ’s heyday, so I have a lot of work to do if I want to get more of them.  Great start as far as I’m concerned.

Dragon Ball Collection 2018 2

Got these between late March-late July.  Like I said, the Dragon Stars rear their ugly heads all throughout 2018.  I think I got all three at either GameStop or Walgreens.  It also dawns on me I acquired more HG Collection pieces than I initially thought.  Fairly certain that’s where the dead Majin Vegeta is from, and that’s definitely where King Piccolo and Piccolo are from.  They’re such neat little figurines.  Wee baby Piccolo is from the Super Adverge Dragon Child line, and he is absolutely adorable.

Got my second (of two) Mexican bootlegs with that Oozaru.  Again, the sculpt is actually pretty cool and original.  He’s also a hefty little mofo.  I kinda want to get more of the weird pain variations I’ve seen floating around on the nets.  Tapion is an intersting one since he’s one of the few Dragon Ball figures I wanted as a kid that I never got hold of back then.  Couldn’t tell you why.  He wasn’t particularly rare, and even now, he’s one of the cheaper ones you can get from the Irwin re-releases.  Decided it was finally time to get him.

WFC Videl is one I got in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend, so that one will always hold a special place in my toy heart.  So will the other two WFCs, too!  My dad and cousin got them as souvenirs for me when they went to South Korea.  The Figure Rise Standard SS4 Goku and SS4 Vegeta models are also souvenirs from said trip.  I’ve always enjoyed building model kits, and I really wanted to get into this line since they look so cool.  And let me tell ya, the stickers to put on ’em are annoying as hell, but they are so much fun to build!

Dragon Ball Collection 2018 3

This update came about in late September.  I, uh, kinda…accidentally won a lot of Vegito and Gogeta figures on eBay.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have all these since I only had two of the Vegitos already from my childhood.  But I did straight up win that auction unintentionally.  I think some of those are even from the original SBC line and not the Irwin re-releases.

More Dragon Stars!  I actually pre-ordered that base Vegeta since the initial release sold out, and well, I guess I’m trying to get every Dragon Stars.  Which, thank God for Anime Weekend Atlanta, or I probably still wouldn’t have Super Saiyan Rose Goku Black.  Some dude had every Dragon Stars figure, and he was selling them for really cheap.  Great guy.

The Piccolo in the back is another FRS model and another AWA pick-up.  He’s actually one of the main things I went to the convention looking for.  Piccolo is also the beginning of my Keshi-Gomu collection.  I don’t know how many of these things I’m gonna wind up getting, but there are a few characters who have only been released as Keshi, so there are at least a few more in my future.  But yeah, I got that Piccolo, so I had to get that Nail…and that Kami.  Nappa (with hair!) was an impulse buy.  So was the Broly.  I think he’s from Bandai, though.

The Shodo Ultra Instinct Goku is the second Shodo I’ve gotten.  Lucked out in finding him for pretty cheap at Barnes and Noble.  I don’t think I’m gonna get too many from this line, but they are pretty neat and well-articulated for such a small scale.  I dunno.  Maybe I will get more.

Representin’ Videl twice with the adorable Chara Puchi and the Italian DeAgostini figurine.  As with many lines last year, I didn’t own any DeAgostini before 2018.  I bought the Android 18 as a test to see if I’d like them, and I fell in love, so I knew I had to get Videl as soon as I found her for a good price.  And yes, if you couldn’t tell by now, Videl is one of my favorite Dragon Ball characters.  As much as I love Videl, though, number one Dragon Ball bae is Android 21.  The moment the Super Skills figurine was made available, I bought it.  I am so ready to buy the Figuarts this year.

Dragon Ball Collection 2018 4

And thus we come to the end.  More Dragon Stars!  So many Dragon Stars!  But hey, I finally completed one of the BAFs.  Sure, it’s first series Shenron, but I’m only missing one each for the other two.  Actually got that Trunks and Goku from Walmart.  Surprise, surprise.

As promised, I got two more Figuarts busting up in here with Saiyan Saga Vegeta and Nappa.  Both were essentially birthday presents since I used gift cards to get them.  Vegeta comes with so much great extra stuff and Nappa does, too, but the real draw of the Nappa Figuarts is the heft.  Just a solid figure.  WCF, Keshi-Gomu, DeAgostini, and HG Collection all being represented once again, as well, with Zarbon, SS Kid Goku(?), Piccolo, and Videl, resepctively.

New lines to the collection here come courtesy of Videl and Piccolo (my favorite Dragon Ball character, bar none).  I was super stoked to finally get that Real Works Videl since she has the short hair and is basically to-scale with the old 5″ figures.  I never thought I’d start getting the Coca-Cola Bottle Cap figures, but the Piccolo was so cheap I had to do it.  Not gonna get any others, though.  (Yes, I will.)

Saving FRS Broly for last since he was a Christmas present.  Now, I did get mad building him since the stickers for his earrings are actual evil incarnate, but oh my God, I had so much fun building him.  I love how they use the muscle panels to aid with the articulation, and the size of the damn thing is just impressive.  I cannot wait to get the new one and build it.

So yeah, that’s every Dragon Ball figure I got in 2018.  I doubt toys will be something I talk about much on this blog (unless people want to hear my toy rambles), but I had a ton of fun getting these pieces in particualr.  I was dying to talk about them.

Seasonal Sawce: Fall Back Into Anime 2018, Part 1

Running a smidgen late here since one anime started a week later than everything else I’m watching, and boy howdy!  I’m watching a lot!

So, let’s rank the eleven anime I’m following this season from my least favorite to my most favorite now that all of them are at least six episodes in.

11) Radiant

Radiant

Je suis Japonais.

Giant monsters called Nemesis fall from the sky and wreak havoc upon the world.  The only beings capable of fighting them are humans who have survived Nemesis attacks before–Sorcerers.  Sadly, Sorcerers are persecuted by humankind as a whole just for being different.  Seth is a young Sorcerer who wants nothing more than for everyone to be safe, happy, and accepted.  Thus, he dreams of finding Radiant, the mythical home of the Nemesis, so he can destroy it.  Joined by his new friends Melie and Doc, Seth sets out on his long and impossible journey to save a world that hates and fears him.

This is actually based on a French comic.  Wild, right?  I mean, it’s not unheard of for there to be an anime adaptation of a foreign work (ex. My Hero Academia adapting the hit film Sky High), but said foreign work is so heavily inspired by Japanese manga, you almost can’t tell.  I’m having a lot of fun with the show so far.  It’s the very bottom because it hasn’t done anything to really wow me or break from its shounen-inspired mold yet.  Got some cool character and monster designs, though.  And hey, it’s a two-cour show.  It’s got some breathing room.

10) Iroduku: The World in Colors

Iroduku The World in Colors

A picture’s worth a thousand colors or something.

Hitomi Tsukishiro is a 17-year-old girl living in the year 2078.  She comes from a family of witches, but she holds no love for magic herself since she lost the ability to see colors when she was a child.  Her grandmother, Kohaku, then comes up with the brilliant idea to send Hitomi back to 2018 in order to meet Kohaku as a teenager and to see if there’s someway for Hitomi to move out of her stale world.  Certainly a bold strategy, but it just might pay off as one of the first people Hitomi meets is an artist, Yuito Aoi.  And somehow, inexplicably, she can see the colors of his drawings.

My goodness, this is a beautiful show.  Each episode of Iroduku is just PA Works taking another opportunity to show off their mastery of creating eyeporn.  Also, Toshiya Shinohara is the director of this series, and he directed A Lull in the Sea, which I love to pieces.  Basically, this anime has some pedigree behind it, and it shows.  I love the characters and the world, and the budding romantic tension is the kind of stuff I live for.  Hard to believe it’s this low on the list, but that’s how stacked this season is.

9) Run with the Wind

Run with the Wind

Kageyama?  Is…is that you?

Kakeru Kurahara is a former high school running ace who finds himself on the run one night after he steals some food.  As luck would have it, one of the few people who saw him, Haiji Kiyose, chases him down on a bike and offers him a place to live at Chikuseisou–a student dorm for Kansei University.  Being a student at Kansei himself, Kakeru chooses to accept the offer.  The other residents at Chikuseisou include a pair of girl-crazed twins, a chain smoker, a foreign exchange student, and an otaku among others.  Which means it’s insane when Haiji reveals that Chikuseisou is techinically the dorm for the college’s track and field team, and by living there, they’ve all agreed to become members.  Haiji’s not looking for anything casual either–he’s aiming to enter the team into the Hakone Ekiden, one of the most difficult races in the country.  This is certainly not what any of them were expecting.

As with the aforementioned IrodukuRun with the Wind has some pedigree to it.  Not only is it from the awesome studio Production IG, but the original story is also by Shion Miura, the author of The Great Passage.  And again, the show doesn’t disappoint.  Strong character work each episode makes each Chikuseisou resident feel more and more real, while I find myself proud of them each time their respective times get better (mainly Prince).  It’s also a ridiculously good-looking show, and I mean, come on, y’all, it’s a sports anime.  Really solid stuff.

8) Karkuri Circus

Karakuri Circus

Welcome to the Cirque des Marionettes!… Lot of French jokes this post.

The young boy Masaru Saiga has recently lost his father and inherited a vast fortune, but he’s given no time to mourn as nefarious individuals are at work trying to steal his inheritance.  One faction wants to kill him, the other wants to kidnap him.  Both sides, however, have hired mercenaries of a particular clan trained to control giant lethal puppets.  Masaru has no hope against such odds, but his grandfather told him long ago to find Shirogane if he ever found himself in trouble.  With the help of genuinely decent human being and kenpo master Narumi Katou, Masaru does just that, and it turns out Shirogane is a puppet master, too.  This is just the beginning for the trio, though, as the dangers of the world are much more numerous and seem to be drawing ever closer.

Ushio and Tora is one of the most underrated shounen anime, and you should all go watch it.  That’s relevant since Karakuri Circus hails from the same creator, Kazuhiro Fujita.  There are some similar themes and motifs (similar protagonist dynamic, ancient power used to fight a great evil, etc.), but they are very few.  Anyway, I don’t think I’m liking Karakuri as much at this stage as I did Ushio and Tora.  The first arc has been wild and messy (Giggity).  Certain aspects of the characters are grating at first, too, but I’m still having a helluva time watching it.  For the most part, the pacing has been breakneck, but in a good way.  There are things that happen in the first six episodes that I would expect to happen much later in an anime’s run.  I’m loving it.

7) Hinomaru Sumo

Hinomaru Sumo

How Rodney Anoa’i got to the WWF.

Odachi High School’s sumo club is struggling, to say the least.  It’s one and only member is president Shinya Ozeki, and he’s been forced to construct his own dirt ring outside as a gang has kicked him out of the sumo club room.  Things change when the diminutive Hinomaru Ushio visits and utterly destroys the leader of the gang.  The following school year, Ushio officially joins the Odachi High sumo club, and his charisma draws in enough people for them to have an official team.  It’s astonishing to think such a small man can aspire to greatness in a sport dominated by larger than life individuals, but Ushio is one of the respected few in the sumo world to hold the title of a national treasure–Onimaru.  Now they seek to become the high school champions so that Ushio can become the high school Yokozuna.

Will Run with the Wind go down as the better sports show of this season?  Probably, but I’ll be damned if I don’t have a lot more fun watching Hinomaru Sumo.  It’s just so manly!  Just look at them!  Look at the muscles and the fire and the determined glares!  And the music!  The OP and ED get you so hype!  Get pumped!  Manly!  But yeah, this is a fun show.  It’s not re-inventing the shounen sports wheel, but it’s playing so expertly into each of the tropes for maximum enjoyment.  Now that we’ve gotten to the first real competition, I’m even more excited.

6) That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Now airing on Nickelodeon!

Satoru Mikami is stabbed to death while protecting his co-worker.  In his dying moments, he laments never losing his virginity, not experiencing more of the world, wishes for the pain to stop, and begs to never feel this hot or cold ever again.  Well, someone was listening because Satoru is reborn in a fantasy world almost impervious to harm or temperature with an ability to devour anything and learn all about it while acquiring any traits from it he may need.  Pretty great, right?  Well, yeah, except he came back as a slime.  He’s somehow able to use these new abilities to befriend the legendary dragon Veldora, and the two become brothers of sorts taking the last name Tempest.  Now named Rimuru, the reborn slime monster and his dragon companion travel out into the vast world to see the sights and win the fights.

It seems like every season there’s a new take on the isekai genre that pulls me back in.  This time around it’s That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.  I know the premise sounds stupid as hell, but the show is actually really good.  Especially if you like goblins.  Since it’s the best anime airing this season featuring goblins.  Rimuru is a great–if overpowered–lead with whom to experience this world, and most of the other characters have been fantastical yet fun and believable.  I know I’ve been using “fun” a lot this post, but man, that’s what this anime season is.  Just a lot of good, fun shows.  I can’t wait to see more of Slime‘s wonderful world.

5) Zombie Land Saga

Zombie Land Saga

Shoulda called it Love School-Live!, am i right?  (I tried.)

Sakura Minamoto is your average high school girl who dreams of becoming an idol.  One morning before school, she gets together an audition packet and runs outside beaming with optimism…and then she gets run over by a truck.  Somehow, though, Sakura wakes up in an unfamiliar house infested with the undead!  She runs out into the rain and begs a police officer for help.  He shoots her, and that’s when Sakura realizes she, too, is one of the undead.  The mysterious and boisterous Koutarou Tatsumi brings her back to the house and reveals that she and the other six zombies there have been brought together as an idol group so that they can save the declining Saga Prefecture.  It’s an obviously stupid and outlandish plan, but with the devil’s luck, they might pull something off.

Best OP of the season, and it’s not even close.  Just wanted to get that out there.

So, if you’ve read any of my blog, then you’ll notice that even though I’ve watched a lot of anime, there’s been no mention of any idol shows.  Well, that’s because I’ve never seen one.  With this set-up, Zombie Land Saga got me to check it out, and it’s been a great surprise so far.  I love most of the characters.  Each of the girls is different and brings a lot of personality and joy to the dynamic.  And Koutarou, y’all.  Mamoru Miyano has got to be having the time of his life voicing that idiot.  I don’t much care for the big CG performances, but damn near everything else in this show is pulled off so well.  Also, the legendary Yamada Tae is best girl.

4) Boarding School Juliet

Boarding School Juliet

Here, Juliet is the west.

The nations of the East and the West have been warring for generations.  The two countries now exist in a ceasefire, and there’s even a school erected on the border between them–Dahlia Academy.  Old hate is rarely so easily forgotten, though, as the students at Dahlia continue the war-in-miniature on an almost daily basis with the East “Black Dogs” and the West “White Cats” constantly fighting.  Romio Inuzuka, leader of the Black Dog Dorms and fiercest fighter among the first years, often goes easy on his White Cat counterpart, the petite Juliet Persia, whenever they face each other on the battlefield.  This pity infuriates her to no end, but Inuzuka doesn’t pity her in the least.  In fact, Inuzuka wants to end the fighting because he’s so in love with Persia.  Which he finally tells her one night during a secret duel.  Impressed with his impassioned actions and words, Persia reciprocates his feelings and the two begin dating in secret while they someday hope to change the world.

At first, I wasn’t going to give this show the time of day.  I kinda hate Romeo and Juliet, and since I have a degree in English, I’m right.  But, I heard this isn’t actually some melodramatic retelling, so I checked it out.  Boarding School Juliet is one of the most adorable, funny romcoms I’ve watched in a while with an absurdly endearing, wholesome romantic leading pair.  I can’t even begin to tell you how fuzzy my heart feels when the two are on screen together.  It’s great seeing two people in an anime actually work at their relationship.  It’s such a sweet anime.  Not saying it’s all lovey-dovey.  It’s got your fan-service, genuine laughs, great supporiting cast, drama, and action scenes.  This is a legimately good show, which almost makes up for all the times in school I had to read/watch that god-awful play.

Almost.

3) SSSS.Gridman

SSSS.Gridman

All hail our lord and savior, Servo.

Waking up in the apartment of a cute girl from your class sounds like the dream for any high school boy, but it’s a little different for Yuuta Hibiki.  Mainly because he can’t remember anything.  At all.  Rikka Takarada thinks he’s full of crap, but she still tells him to contact his best friend Shou Utsumi just in case.  They finally believe his odd story, and Yuuta attends school like he normally would.  Akane Shinjou, another girl from their class, even thinks his amnesia sounds cool.  It all gets much stranger later that day when an actual kaiju attacks the city and Yuuta somehow joins with the computer-being Gridman in order to become a giant robot and fight off the monster.  The battle is forgotten by everyone else the next day, but Yuuta, Rikka, and Utsumi all remember.  Just what the hell is going on?

This animated remake of the critically acclaimed ’90s classic Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad has been awesome from the get-go.  Trigger may have burned me with Darling in the Franxx, but they’ve been doing a fantastic job on SSSS.Gridman.  The twists have been surprising, and the atmosphere is equal amounts tense and light-hearted.  It does have standard anime tropes like amnesia and thicc, but I feel like they’re being used correctly and for optimum effect.  I really love the monster designs, too.  I kinda need a kaiju Anti figure.  Now I’m just waiting for Matt Lawrence and Tim Curry to be cast for the English dub.

2) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind

JJBA Golden Wind

BEEN SPENDING MOST OUR LIVES LIVING IN THIS GANGSTAR’S PARADISE

Josuke’s buddy Koichi Hirose is sent to Naples by Jotaro to find Haruno Shiobana since Jotaro fears he’s the bastard son of DIO and may have inherited his father’s wickedness.  As it turns out, Haruno now goes by the name Giorno Giovanna, and even though he does have Stand powers and swindles Koichi immediately upon meeting him, he’s a mostly good kid.  So much so that he convinces mafia enforcer Bruno Bucciarati to join him in his climb up the ladder of the Passione organization so he can take down the mysterious leader and rid the country of his evil.  This is the beginning of Giorno’s dream to become a “Gangstar,” but this is JoJo’s, so we know there’re plenty of weird, difficult obstacles standing in his way.

Look, I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  You know it, I know it, anyone who speaks to me for 30 seconds knows it.  Of course I’m watching Golden Wind.  Of course I’m loving it.  Each part of this epic saga is vastly different, and here we have Hirohiko Araki’s rendition of The Godfather.  I hate that “Gangsta’s Pardise” isn’t the ED, but that’s my one complaint.

Now, shoo!  Go watch it.

1) Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Solid plot.

“Adolescence Syndrome” is the name attributed to the phenomena experienced by teenagers where unbelievable things happen to them for no discernible reason.  This is the prognosis Sakuta Azusagawa gives when he’s in the library one day and sees his celebrity senpai Mai Sakurajima walking around in a bunny girl costume being completely ignored by those around her.  She’s surprised to find someone who can see her, and she’s even more surprised to find out Sakuta understands her situation since his sister experienced something similar in the past couple years.  Mai’s conundrum isn’t the end of it, though, as Sakuta seems almost drawn to others plagued by Adolescence Syndrome.  What’s a rascal to do?

Hey, I’m as astonished as you are that JoJo’s isn’t number one.  But, if I’m being honest with myself, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is easily the show I look forward to the most every week.  It draws on themes from other popular light novel series like Monogatari and Oregairu, but…I won’t say it pulls them off better.  It’s more like they’re done in a different enough fashion with enough heart to feel fresh and new.  And since this comes from the creator of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, I guess that’s to be expected.  These characters are all excellent and likable, the soundtrack is great, and the stories have enough weight to them to make even the expected emotional.  If you’re not watching it, you should be.

WHEW!  That’s gonna do it for this Seasonal Sawce post.  Eleven shows with a good chunk of them carrying on to next season.  Too much anime.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

 

 

Seasonal Sawce: This 2018 Summer Animain’t no Bummer, Part 2

Running extremely late on this one, but it’s time to close out the 2018 Summer of Anime.  It’s been real, it’s been fun, and it’s even been real fun.

Time to rank what I watched this season from my least favorite to my most favorite.

Holmes of Kyoto

46) Holmes of Kyoto

Send for the Nicolas Cage.

Man, I really wanted to like this more.  They put “Holmes” in the title, they gave me some offbeat mysteries, they gave me an adorable leading pair, and they even gave me an evil forging monk.  One would think this anime were destined for greatness, but alas, it was not meant to be.  Holmes of Kyoto settled firmly into the pace of not doing much often and stuck to it.

I won’t even hold the sometimes cheap animation against it (well, maybe a little).  It’s fine that the show didn’t want to go big on the mystery aspect.  The budding romance between Aoi and Holmes being the focus of the show could have worked.  They just didn’t do much with it.  Aoi fought with her feelings throughout the show’s run while Holmes continued to hint and tease he wanted something more in their relationship.  Nothing even remotely significant came of it, though.

I’ll give it a 6.  Maybe it should be less, but I did like the cast.

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs

49) Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs

That’s it.  That’s the show.

Ah, it’s been a while since I’ve watched a good old-fashioned ecchi harem show.  Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs tells you right up front what it is and never deviates.  I kinda respect that about the show, too.  It did do one thing I don’t remember other harem shows doing:  Some episodes are divided into 11-minute stories in order to give more of the female characters more time to shine.  This prevented any of the antics from overstaying their welcome, and it also gave more development to more of the cast within a much smaller timeframe.  That was actually a well done move.

The cast is also, thankfully, likable.  Kogarashi is an odd sort of meta character in that he’s already been inhabited by a number of spirits, so he’s almost tailor-made for being a self-insert protagonist.  Was that the joke?  Probably not, but I like it.  The ladies are also great.  Obviously, the designs are good, but they also have their own unique personalities and don’t always adhere to their designated character tropes.

It’s nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering.  Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs is just a delightful harem show.  I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Chio’s School Road

43) Chio's School Road

I’m afraid I’ve got some bag news.

For a good while, I thought Chio’s School Road was going to be my favorite comedy of the season.  The cast is absurdly fun and quirky, and the segments’ jokes tended to land more often than not.  Something about it, though, kept me from liking it more than Asobi Asobase.  Maybe the show was hindered by having to adhere to the trip to school for every episode?  Possibly.  It would’ve been nice seeing Chio, Manana, and Yuki hanging out on the weekend.

I do like the cast a whole lot.  The dynamic between seasoned best friends Chio and Manana is often the funniest part of whenever the two are in a segment together, and throwing Yuki into their freindship with both blatantly liking Yuki more than each other was great.  Also, Andou constantly trying to impress Chio with how much of a delinquent he isn’t always brought a smile to my face.

Chio’s School Road is a 7 or 7.5 for me.  Funny cast, but the show kinda handicapped itself with its narrow premise.

Harukana Receive

42) Harukana Receive

No matter what, let the game begin.  No matter what, may the best women win.  No matter what, we’re in this together.  No matter what, we’ll be friends forever.

Okay, so, I initially thought Harukana Receive was going to be a “sports” anime, and it sorta is.  But, I think a decent bit of this show falls more into the category of “cute girls doing cute things” anime.  Which is perfectly fine.  The character designs are top-notch, and the camera-work/animation is often pretty good.  I just expected more of an emphasis on the sports aspect.  I did get that near the end, though.

The last game of Harukana Receive‘s first(?) season has the titular pair face off against their teammates, best friends, and trainers–the sister duo of Claire and Emily Thomas.  I don’t think that’s a spoiler since that’s pretty much what the show had been obviously building to.  And it’s a hell of a match.  The creators really showed they could pull off the sports part of the show in wonderful fashion with it.

It’s a 7.5 for me.  Yes, I like the cute girls doing cute things aspects, but I wish the show would’ve focused more on the volleyball part.  Props to never showing a single male character.

Asobi Asobase

45) Asobi Asobase

Is this School Days?

Asobi Asobase is rife with some of the worst individuals you’ll see in a school comedy, and they are down right hilarious.  This show made me consistently laugh harder than I ever expected it to.  The absolutely insane facial expressions the animators came up with certianly contributed, but the jokes themselves were often pulled off with great timing.  As much as I like the cast of Chio’s School Road, the set-ups and punchlines for the jokes just don’t hold much of a candle to Asobi Asobase.

The cast has great chemistry, but like I said, they are the worst.  Olivia is fine once she realizes how out of hand her initial foreigner joke got, and Kasumi’s awkwardness is somewhat endearing after a while.  Hanako, though…well, she’s just terrible.  Actually the worst person ever.  Bar none.

The other side characters are a lot fun and add to the jokes really well.  It’s an 8 for me.

Hanebado!

50) Hanebado

The saltiest of runbacks.

Goodness me, this show is melodramatic.  That’s the one aspect of the show that will either ruin it or make it for everybody.  At first, I hated Hanebado!‘s focus on how dour these characters can be, but as the show went on I realized that’s because of how much they love badminton.  Sure, it can be a bit much, but I now appreciate the depiction of how such a strong love and desire for something can quickly turn to depression or resentment.  It’s a neat take.

Another interesting thing the show did has to do with Ayano’s character.  She is, arguably, the main character, but as Hanebado! progresses, she’s written more and more as the antagonist.  She mocks her opponents before, during, and after games.  She removes herself from the team dynamic of her club.  She spurns her adoptive sister’s attempts at connecting with her.  It genuinely fascinated me how quickly they turned the main character into the bad guy.  But, thank God for Nagisa–the Amazon Goddess of Badminton (that’s my title for her, not the anime’s).  I pegged her as my favorite from episode one, and I was so happy when more and more she became the hero we want to root for.

Hanebado! is an 8.5 for sure.  Some odd choices were made, but they mostly worked out.  Also, easily the best OP of the season.

Planet With

44) Planet With

MESSAGE

Planet With is one of the wildest rides I’ve been on in an anime, and I am astonished more people aren’t talking about this show.  I love the characters, the unconventional mech designs, the themes, the story, the everything.  This show had three or four times where I went, “Wait, that’s not the end?”  It’s a super robot show dealing with real issues like you’d see in a Gundam series, but it’s condensed into a one cour show and somehow doesn’t lose anything.  Planet With is one of the leanest mech shows out there.

I could never tell where the show was going, and that just added to the fun.  I think a lot of that had to do with the character writing.  There’s a part in the show where Souya thinks he’s avenged his people even thuogh the antagonists aren’t gone yet.  But, he’s done.  Souya just doesn’t want to fight anymore, and his friends don’t force him into it.  He doesn’t just fight the good fight because he’s a good guy; he goes through real growth before coming to a decision that will forever alter his future.  And he’s not the only one written with such care.

I really, really, really love Planet With.  Legit, the only complaint I have is I wish the soundtrack was better, but that’s it.  As for the score…

TEN

Let ’em know, Tye.  Let ’em know.

And that’s gonna do it for the Summer of Anime this time around.  If you’ve read any or all of these posts, thank you.  It really does mean a lot to me.

Don’t know what my next post will be, but that’s half the fun.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

 

2018 Summer of Anime – My Hero Academia 3

48) My Hero Academia 3

“Next, it’s your turn.”

Bakugo has been kidnapped by the League of Villains, and Deku–against the wishes of almost everyone–plans to aid in his rescue somehow.  Everyone’s planning goes out the window, though, when All Might’s greatest adversary All For One finally makes his move.  And then the UA first years also have to worry about the Pronvisional Hero License Exam.  Life out here’s hard for a hero.

“The Next Big Thing” now has three seasons and a movie under its belt.  (But I haven’t seen the movie because Funimation apparently hates where I live.)  I said last year that My Hero Academia‘s second season surpassed its first in every fashion, and I think the third season is somehow better than the second.

I’ll admit that one of my complaints for season two is that Ochako started taking a backseat, and that trend continues here.  I’m still hoping for a comeback for her, but it’s nice to see that Yaoyorozu and Froppy seem to be stepping up a bit.  So, the female characters are getting a bit more screentime now.  It’s not just the lady heroes either; we’ve also got a lady villain making waves.  One of the new members of the League of Villains, Himiko Toga, is shaping up to be another of MHA‘s patented fascinating villains.  Which brings me to one of my biggest positives of season three.

The villains.  The first season introduced Shigaraki and Kurogiri in charge of a Nomu and a bunch of flunkies.  Season two brought us Stain–quite possibly my favorite villain of the series so far.  My Hero Academia 3 is positively stacked with bad guys.  A few were teased at the end of the second season, but season three prominently shows off the new guys like Dabi, Twice, the aforementioned Himiko, et al.  All For One in all of his dastardly brilliance is a sight to behold, and he siginicantly alters the course of the franchise.  Plus, we got to see a bit of the next Big Bad, Overhaul.  So many new baddies just made my day.

We didn’t only get new villains, though.

tumblr_pftethpydi1xyes22o2_1280

Look at him and his stupid, beautiful face.

Okay. UA’s Big Three are only present at the end of the season, but I love these goobers.  Nejire Hado is a bubbly ray of light I look forward to seeing more of, and Tamaki Amajiki is a delightful, morose dude.  The true standout is–unsurprisingly–the number one student, Mirio Togata.  A big, goofy guy with a dumb face and a damn near useless Quirk who took said power and made it extraordinary.  He is MHA‘s poster-boy for hard work trumping talent.  Yes, I’m up to date on the manga in America, so I’ve spent a little more time with each of these three, but I do think their debuts are done extremely well in season three.

Really, season three introduced so many great characters.  This entire post could almost be me talking about how much I love said characters.  Ms. Joke, Yo Shindo, the group from Shiketsu High, Gang Orca, the Wild, Wild Pussycats, etc.  One of the most genuinely fun things about big shounen series is when the world starts expanding and the cast starts growing exponetially.  Well, it’s fun when it’s done right, and My Hero Academia does it right.

As for the story of My Hero Academia 3–it’s great.  It kicks thing off with the Forest Training Camp Arc which ends abruptly and transitions into the Bakugo Retrieval Arc…The Hideout Raid Arc.  I love how the League of Villains keeps interrupting the first years’ attempts at training as a big group, and MHA continues to do a fantastic job of one arc leading into another while they build on each other very well.  Like, the last arc in season three is the Provisional Hero License Exam Arc.  First year students don’t get to normally take this exam, but everything that’s happened in the series so far has forced UA’s hand.  I love it.

Honestly, my only complaints about My Hero Academia 3 are Ochako slowly becoming just “love interest” and the filler isn’t as great as it could’ve been.  Everything else continues to be better than ever–almost like it’s going beyond.  What’s my score?

TEN

Let ’em know, Tye.  Let ’em know.

Plus Ultra, baby.

2018 Summer of Anime – Steins;Gate 0

47) Steins;Gate 0

SQUAD GOALS

Rintarou Okabe has made it clear he’s given up.  He wears all black, he prevents his friends from working on their old time travel projects, and he’s actually trying to get out of Akihabara.  He still can’t leave well enough alone, however.  When Mayuri’s adopted daughter from the future needs help, Okabe’s there to hunt down information.  When shadowy organizations start closing in, Okabe strikes up deals for protection.  When his friends need someone to guide them, Okabe reluctantly steps up.  But push has finally come to shove, and Okabe seemingly can’t get the job done.  The world’s only hope may just be one smart kid from Japan putting on a white coat to once more become a mad scientist.

Didn’t plan on giving a big intro paragraph since this one started last season, but I freaking love Steins;Gate, yo.  The cast and plot are both great and memorable, and I do loves me some time travel stories.  So, yeah, I was all sorts of pumped for Steins;Gate 0 even knowing it would probably be much darker than the original.  And boy howdy, is it.

I do have some other complaints, but first and foremost, this show is remarkably dour for the vast majority of its runtime.  There are bits of hope and sunshine throughout and the show does actually end on a positive note, so I don’t want people to think it’s doom and gloom 100% throughout.  But the often slow pacing–which is another issue–unfortunately lends itself to making the show drag out its depressing moments.  It has been a hot minute since I’ve watched the original Steins;Gate, but I remember being enthralled by Okabe trying to find some way to save Mayuri from what seemed like an inevitable gruesome death.  Here, as he’s trying to save two more people; however, it sometimes felt like a chore to sit through.  Actually, it was trying to get to that point because everything before it was Okabe moping and whining.  And yes, that’s completely understandable knowing what he’s been through and what lies ahead of him, but it’s just so drawn out.

I already brought up the show’s sometimes poor pacing, but Steins;Gate 0 also has some moments of surprisingly bad animation.  Again, I can’t remember how smooth or not the original show looked, but there are moments in 0 that actually made me cringe.  Genuinely caught me off guard.

But that’s enough discussing the villainous machinations of SERN, DURPA, and StratFor!  Let’s talk about the wonders of the Future Gadget Lab!  (Editor’s note:  He means he’s done talking about the bad stuff; now it’s time for the good stuff.)

tumblr_pfvtop5pdh1tteivco4_540

YOU GOSHDARNED RIGHT I WILL

I do actually love the plot of 0.  Okabe fails to save Makise, and Mayuri doesn’t give him the literal slap-in-the-face he needs to try one more time.  It’s a really cool premise to revisit in an established and well-loved time travel story.  What really impressed me is how this isn’t just a spin-off cash-grab.  I won’t say is necessary to understand the plot of the original–that stands on its own.  Steins;Gate 0 is intersting in that it works as a companion piece while also being a canon installment.  Yeah.  It’s canon.  Wild, right?

Of course, it was great seeing the cast again.  The Lab Members are an endearing bunch, and some of their enemies from the original series return as allies here.  Do you know how great it felt not booing Mr. Braun and Kiryuu Moeka?  To actually see them get roped into the Lab Members’ shenanigans?  Great fun.  It does kinda suck that the outlying Members like Rumiho and Ruka didn’t get to do much, but we did get quite a few new characters who needed time to shine.

Maho Hiyajou is easily the most prominent new addition as an old friend of Makise’s, co-creator of Amadeus, and newest Lab Member.  She’s so great because her existence allows 0 to give us a glimpse into who Makise was before the events of the original Steins;Gate.  She was Makise’s senpai, rival, and dear friend.  Maho always felt like she was chasing Makise’s genius, and even now, after the Dr. Pepper-loving redhead has passed on, Maho feels overshadowed by her ghost.  Probably doesn’t help that Amadeus has been programmed with Makise’s personality and memories, so in a way, Makise is still with Maho.  Maho also works as an excellent foil to both Okabe and Daru.  I love her.  And Amadeus.

The two additions to the cast that don’t work too well are Kagari Shiina–Mayuri’s adopted daughter from the future–and card-carrying villain Professor Leskinen.  I do like Kagari, but a lot of the scenes dealing with her past just felt muddled and mishandled.  It’s kinda hard to put my finger on why.  At first, I was excited to find out more about her.  After a while, I was eager for 0 to put a pin it and be done.  As for Leskinen…I don’t mind blatantly evil characters.  But, I expect more from Steins;Gate.  The moment he shows up, you can’t help but go, “Yeah, he’s a bad guy.”  I kept hoping he was a massive red herring and he’d wind up being some goofy old dude, but alas, he is exactly what you’d think.

Before I head into the closing paragraph, I do want to mention that Steins;Gate 0 has a couple of ridiculously hype and cathartic moments.  So many chills.

I’m a little conflicted on Steins;Gate 0.  On one hand, the oppresively grim atmosphere surrounding the series, dragged-out pacing, occasional spotty animation, and fumbling of a couple of new characters are actual problems I can’t really ignore.  On the other hand, the sheer joy of seeing this cast again, the fascinating plot which builds on and adds to the original in great fashion, and fantastic additions to the cast made me fall in love with the franchise all over again.  It’s an 8.5 out of 10 for me.  If you like the original, then you should definitely check this one out.