2018 Summer of Anime – Armed Girl’s Machiavellism

14) Armed Girl's Machiavellianism

Is this…is this the anime version of “The Prince”?

Private Aichi Symbiosis Academy was once an all-girls’ school.  When boys were finally allowed to join the school, the female student body requested that they be allowed to carry weapons to protect themselves from the dangerous males.  The Supreme Five Swords–a group of the most powerful student warriors–was then formed to maintain the peace and present every male student with an ultimatum: Either drop out or become a girl to coexist.  This status quo has been maintained for generations…until Nomura Fudou–a delinquent who beat over 40 opponents in one brawl–transfers in and chooses neither option, preferring peace and quiet instead.  The Supreme Five Swords do not accept Nomura’s answer, so now Nomura must fend off increasingly strong opponents while striving for the freedom he desires so much.

Man, I was really feeling a harem show.  There’s another one I almost watched, but it’s a sequel and I don’t know if I’m ready to dive back into that world.  In trying to find a substitute, I happened upon Armed Girl’s Machiavellism.  The harem shenanigans are not too terribly present here.  Honestly, that’s probably a good thing.  Helps it stand out a bit.  Only two (or three) of the female leads wind up blatantly in love with the main guy.  It surprised me in a positive way.  Actually, that’s how the whole series is.

So, I really like the combat in AGM.  I am wholeheartedly aware how phoned-in and cheap the animation is in between the first and final fights of the series, but I still liked all the fights.  This may sound like absurdly high praise, but the encounters reminded me of comedic takes on Hunter x Hunter and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  Sure, a couple do come down to who’s just straight up the stronger fighter, but most victors in the series are determined by their knowledge of their opponent’s fighting style or some singular tactic that would only work in that fight.  The best example of the latter is present in Nomura’s fight against Satori Tamaba, who decides to fight him while completely nude.  I won’t spoil how Nomura turns the tables on this Best Girl; just know it’s both surprising and humorous.

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Knowing is half the battle.

The comedic aspect of the show is mostly just there.  Like, I was always charmed by the outlandish characters and their actions coupled with their relatively grounded fighting styles.  A lot of the other jokes I’ve either just seen done better elsewhere or didn’t react to.  I know all the dudes being forced to wear makeup is supposed to be funny, but I found it pretty shruggable.  Some of the humor derived from that clash of styles was okay, like when a couple of the guys thought the shower was haunted.  For the most part, though, it just didn’t do it for me.  I know it’s supposed to demonstrate how the female students became the monsters they feared the boys would be, but it came off halfhearted.

The characters are all mostly easily likable (mmm, delicious adverbs).  I mentioned Satori being Best Girl, but that comes with a bit of an asterisk.  ‘Cuz, I also really love Kirukiru Amou.  Yes, they’re probably the two most inhuman characters, but…I don’t have a defense.  I do wish Rin Onigawara and Mary Kikakujou were more different since they’re the first two to fall for Nomura.  Their personalities kinda become their crushes, and it feels like they get nerfed because of it.  They are different–don’t get me wrong.  Some cooler things could’ve probably been done with Rin’s mask and Mary not being entirely fluent in Japanese.  Warabi Hanasaka is hella cool, and it would’ve been great to see more of Tsukuyo Inaba (she just wants friends!).  I also appreciate Nomura’s brashness and mischievous streak.  Makes him stand out as more of a character than a self-insert protagonist.

I’m genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Armed Girl’s Machiavellism.  I really do think it’s a 7.5 show for me.  There’s a lot keeping it from breaking into that upper echelon, but if it can get a bigger budget for a second season while ironing out the problems with its humor and fleshing out the main characters more, then I’d be down for that in a heartbeat.

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2018 Summer of Anime – Shuten Doji

12) Shuten Douji

Oh, I thought you said, “My Little Oni.”

In a battle that crossed time and space, a large blue oni named Senki fought off his own kind to deliver a baby boy to the young couple of Ryuichiro and Kyoko Shiba.  Although hesitant at first, they accept the child and receive Senki’s warning that he’ll return in 15 years to reclaim the child.  They give him the name Jiro Shutendo and raise him as their own.  He grows into a strangely eyebrowed, handsome young man plagued by visions of demons coming after him at all times.  He believes them to be just bad dreams at first, but his parents realize the awful truth:  The world of the oni is soon to re-enter their lives, and they’ll have to do everything they can if they want to keep their family together.

I do believe I mentioned I wasn’t through with Go Nagai this summer.  Yes, I’m talking about the one and only with another OVA adaptation of one of his works I happen to own.  The 4-episode Shuten Doji, or Shutendoji, or Shoe Ten Dough G (no, not that last one–not that last one at all), is an odd duck.  On one hand, it reminds me a lot of Devilman with our young hero’s fate being tied to demonic forces while innocent people all around him get absolutely effing wrecked, but on the other hand, it’s a relatively more upbeat tale which includes more than a few aspects of science fiction–like time travel and cyborgs.  Yeah…it’s weird.

I don’t want to say the sudden genre blending and shifts is a negative, but it’s certainly jarring.  Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Senki is fighting some oni in the very beginning of the show in what I believe is the Heian period.  At one point they slam each other into the mountain, but then they wind up bursting out of the wing of some spaceship.  Yeah.  It blows up and sets off a chain reaction among the other ships, but by this time, Senki and his opponent have wound up in modern day Japan.  I legit had to rewind a few times because I thought I missed something.  So, consider this a heads up.  The third episode is the biggest step away from the supernatural stuff as we get an episode that feels like Alien but starring the Terminator.  Once again, this isn’t a detraction.  If anything, it keeps the show a bit more fresh.

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“I love you…”  “We barely know each other.”  “So much.”

Other than the demons and sci-fi stuff, you have your other Go Nagai staples.  Demons and humans alike are massacred with blood spewing everywhere.  Almost every named female character gets naked at some point with special shout-out to love interest Miyuki Shiratori who somehow manages to get naked and be put in distress every episode.  The manly men who are here to save the day get manly men sideburns.  Such glorious sideburns.  And there are some weird eyebrows here, y’all.  Like, Jiro’s don’t look especially strange until you notice they keep going and hang off his face.  I know suspending disbelief for hairstyles is first day stuff in Anime 101, but I constantly found myself just staring at them.

The characters are…characters.  You got your noble demons Goki and Senki, your troubled hero Jiro, your girl Miyuki, etc.  It irks me that there aren’t that many notable characters here.  This is Go Nagai!  I’m supposed to remember these people!  I sadly feel like most will fade from memory in short order, though.  Well, the redshirts might stick with me a smidge.  Oh, I did like Jiro’s parents.  They actually stuck around and were more pivotal to the plot than I expected.  Good on you, Go Nagai.

Hmm.  I think I’ve exhausted all my talking points for Shuten Doji (this is what my DVD says, so that’s what I’m going with).  It just doesn’t stand out that much from the countless other Go Nagai adaptations out there, and I’ve only seen a handful (okay, it’s definitely more memorable than Black Lion).  The characters fulfill their roles, the demons look like demons, there’s a lot of blood, there are many boobies, and stuff happens.  I know I sound pretty down right now–and I kinda am–but I did enjoy this.  There are some genuinely unique things that surprised me here, the sci-fi elements help more than hinder, and the soundtrack is actually pretty neat.  I’m pretty fine with giving this a 6 out of 10.  It’s not the first Go Nagai show you should check out, but don’t make it your last either.

2018 Summer of Anime – Re:Creators

11) ReCreators

The League of Weebstraordinary Gentlemen

Selesia Upitiria is a skilled knight tasked with protecting her kingdom from the villainous Avalon Brigade…she’s also Sota Mizushino’s favorite character in the series Eternal Symphony of Vogelchevalier.  Sota’s just a 16-year-old nerd who goes to school and likes to draw.  Imagine his surprise, then, when he turns on the newest episode of Eternal Symphony and winds up in the middle of a fight between Selesia and a completely new over-powered character clad in a strange military uniform who seems to know him.  This isn’t his isekai story, though, as the three quickly return to Sota’s plain ol’ world and run into yet another fictional character, Meteora Osterreich, from the video game Avalken of Reminisce.  Popular characters from manga, anime, video games, and light novels have begun appearing in our world, and for some reason, the Military Uniform Princess has dragged Sota into the thick of it.  Fictional worlds are colliding with the real one, so now, heroes and villains alike will have to come together to create a solution.

There are so many reasons why Re:Creators sounds like such a “me” anime.  I have a degree in English, I’m a huge fan of all the nerdy stuff that comes out of Japan, and I dabble in writing and drawing my own worlds and characters.  Obviously, a show that’s all about relations between creators and their creations and what exactly stories mean to the world has some expectations to live up to.  It succeeds…for the most part.

I kinda wanna go ahead and get the negatives of Re:Creators out of the way.  The most evident one is easily all the exposition.  There is an abundance of talking in this action anime.  Even as someone who was fascinated by this story and its rules, it got a little much.  The pacing was even affected as characters would discuss or find out certain things the audience has already guessed at, thus drawing the plot out even further.  It feels like kinda a lot went in to pad this to 22 episodes.

Second, for as drawn out as it felt sometimes, quite a few characters feel pretty underutilized.  There were some really cool additions in the late-game, but they seemed haphazardly thrown in just for the hell of it.  Don’t wanna spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.  Some opportunities were definitely missed, though.

Now that that’s out of the way–I love Re:Creators!  The premise is extremely fascinating to me.  I know there are other works out there where fictional characters wind up visiting the “real” world, but this anime really explores what something like that would mean.  Why would Alicetaria February’s creator put her world through such horrors?  Why does Selesia have to constantly fight to protect her kingdom?  Why did Blitz Talker have to make an impossible choice?  The creators are both gods and parents to these creations showing up before them, and it’s genuinely cool seeing those interactions play out.  I mean, just think about it: Would your OCs actually like to know what kind of person you are?  Weird thinking about that, isn’t it?

Speaking of characters….

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A lie about a lie…turns inside-out on itself.

Favorite character is easily Magane Chikujouin.  Yeah, she’s a monster who kills people for fun and looks legitimately terrifying, but…I love her.  Really cool (if confusing) power, striking character design, an uncanny charisma unseen in the rest of the cast, and a genuine wildcard.  She’s so awesome.  She’s so evil, too.  But, she’s so awesome!

And yes, I do like most of the rest of the cast.  I really appreciated Selesia and Meteora working as sort of the co-leads on the protagonists’ side as I expected Meteora to be just a side character.  Actually, Meteora might be my second favorite character.  She’s the definition of deadpan, but she’s easily one of the more complex creations once she’s released from the constraints of her story.  Were it not for her, I would’ve straight up skipped the recap episode.  I like the other creations and creators, as well, and I was surprised by how much the creators are involved in the conflict.  And, in fact, became interesting characters themselves.

I mentioned earlier that one of the themes of Re:Creators is the meaning of stories to the world.  But, it’s not just stories.  It’s art as a whole.  It’s about what writing means to the novelists and script-writers; the drawing to the artists.  “We read to know we are not alone,” is a CS Lewis quote one of my favorite English professors often brought up, and even though everyone will tell you people don’t read as much nowadays as they used to, we are connected more now by the media we consume than we ever have been.  In Re:Creators, it’s not just any character from any story who can enter the real world.  Only those characters who have resonated with the audience from popular works can manifest.  The stories become new worlds thanks to the love put into them and the love they receive.  We give birth to these worlds both as creators and consumers because of what they mean to us.  It’s a strong message urging hopeful writers and artists to get back to their respective crafts and create.

One example from the show I love is when two of the creators–both artists–meet, and the one we’ve spent more time with gushes about the other’s strong linework and uncanny speed.  But we see that inferiority complex when she runs out of the room one time as the other zones out and starts belting out a magnificent picture.  She feels so much less than she is because she’s let another artist influence her mindset.  Which can be either good or bad.  It’s good when we allow it to motivate us, but it can be poisonous when we allow it to make us feel weak.  She uses it to re-motivate herself, thankfully.  The scene is given even more weight when–near the end of the show–the other artist mentions to another character how she could only buckle down and knock out drawings so fast because she was so impressed by the former artist’s work.

Another legitimately cool aspect of the show is the relative standing of those we consider heroes and villains.  Both sides of the conflict in Re:Creators are made up of good guys and bad guys.  Some traditionally heroic characters aid Altair, the Military Uniform Princess, in her quest because they resent what their respective creators have done to their worlds while some more villainous individuals defend the real world feeling that fate is more powerful than those who gave them birth with pen and paper.  Think about it now–really think about it.  Would our favorite characters try to change their worlds if given the chance by meeting their creators, or would they allow things to stay the course?  Would Batman try to undo the tragedy in his life, and would Spider-Man have to stop him?  What about vice-versa?

Well, this has gone on much longer than I expected it to (name of your sextape), so let’s bring it to a close.  I’m feeling like giving Re:Creators an 8.5 leaning toward a 9.  It’s not a definite 9 because I do feel the show has some noticeable padding and info-dumps, but I absolutely love it because of its premise, characters, themes, and questions it’s raised that will have me boggled for a long time to come.

2018 Summer of Anime – Aggretsuko

10) Aggretsuko

She puts the “furry” in “furrious”.

At the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed age of 20, Retsuko lands an accounting job at a  Japanese trading firm.  The young red panda is full of hope as she begins her new job and can’t wait to see what joys it brings…. Five years pass; however, and Retsuko no longer feels hope.  She’s tired, jaded, single, and longs for a new job.  This is all due to her nature as a pushover and being the target of a couple of extremely sh*tty bosses.  The poor woman can barely even find solace in her work-friends Fenneko and Haida.  Retsuko does have one outlet, though.  When her rage gets too great–when the crushing reality of her cruel life becomes too much–she runs off so her inner-self can emerge and sing her true feelings to death metal.  At the count of ten, she will rock your world.

Well, figured it was about to time to mozy on back to Netflix for a spell, and I really wasn’t feeling watching something as nihilistic as Devilman Crybaby after watching the heavy Serial Experiments Lain.  Thankfully, Aggretsuko was right there to save the day.  Plus, it’s a short series, and I haven’t done one of those for the Summer of Anime yet.  Only ten 15-minute episodes!  Hell yeah.

Obviously, the first thing people are gonna notice about Aggretsuko is its visual style.  It’s got a very Hello Kitty look to it, and the contrast between the look and the content of the show works so gosh darn well.  Retsuko switching from adorable, overworked red panda to screaming metal demon in this cutesy style is a sight to behold.  I think the other character utilized most strongly by this style is Tsunoda–Retsuko’s gazelle co-worker who’s a massive suck-up.  The way she moves and talks coupled with her character design all works disturbingly well for her.  The aesthetic also helps to bring out the quirks in the other characters like Fenneko’s lifeless laugh, Gori and Washimi’s walks, Kabae’s floating gossip, and Ton being an actual damn chauvinist pig among others.  And, it’s great seeing these lovable anthropomorphic animals getting drunk.

I brought up Ton, though, and therein lies the realness of Aggretsuko.

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Some people get really into “Carry on Wayward Son.”

You could definitely let kids watch Aggretsuko, and I think they’d like it just fine.  It’s colorful and funny and often loud.  But, you could also show it to them as a precautionary tale because adulthood…is sorta terrifying.  This is a kids’ show for adults.  Retsuko’s main boss she deals with is the old-school Ton.  Ton is a sexist bully who often forces Retsuko to do his and others’ work because he knows she won’t say anything about it.  One of her friends even points out that if she did bring it up to someone higher than him, Ton could just lie and get off scot-free while knowing Retsuko tried to rat him out, thus making her life worse (which does actually happen).  That’s some real crap right there.  It’s funny, sure, but it’s also kinda dark.  And that’s not the only time this short show gets real.

Retsuko has spent years of her life at a job where–with her submissive personality–she will probably never move up in the world.  She even considers finding a rich man to marry so she can quit and be a full-time housewife.  That’s how defeated she feels.  One of her old high school buddies just works part-time jobs to save up money so she can travel overseas for a few months, come back, and do it again.  She dangles the carrot of a possible out for Retsuko, and it genuinely hurts when it falls through.  It’s…sobering.  And again, I feel like Tsunoda benefits most from this show’s realness.

Tsunoda is very much a character you start off actively disliking.  By the time everything’s said and done, you have something resembling a respect for her now that you understand who she is (not unlike IRL co-workers sometimes).  Tsunoda knows who she is and what she’s doing, but she doesn’t feel any shame for it because it’s her way of winning.  You ain’t gotta like her, but you kinda have to respect her.

Aggretsuko is a solid 8 for me.  It’s not that it did anything particular wrong to keep it from a 10; I just don’t think it’s 9 or 10 material.  I thoroughly enjoyed my two-and-a-half hours spent watching it.  Might actually check out those minute-long episodes at some point.

2018 Summer of Anime – Serial Experiments Lain

9) Serial Experiments Lain

AKA Puella Magi Madoka Matrix.

Chisa Yomoda is an average teenage girl who one day goes onto the roof of a building in a neighborhood she probably shouldn’t have been in and jumps off it.  The poor girl’s life abruptly ends, but what happens to her friends after Chisa’s suicide won’t allow them to mourn in peace.  They all receive emails from the deceased girl telling them she’s not dead; she’s actually online in the Wired now.  This is where the socially awkward Lain Iwakura’s story starts.  She, too, receives an email from Chisa despite having only walked home with the girl once.  Chisa’s death is soon followed by a bizarre string of incidents seemingly connected to the Wired and the organization the Knights of the Eastern Calculus with each occurrence drawing Lain deeper and deeper into the Wired and making her begin to question just who she–and the world around her–is.

Serial Experiments Lain is an anime released in the late ’90s that I’ve been meaning to watch almost since I became an anime fan.  I remember seeing the DVDs in FYE, Sam Goody, MovieStop, and the like, but I just never got around to picking any of them up.  So, since I decided to watch something that was on my actual MAL “Plan to Watch” list, Lain seemed like a decent enough choice (even though I really wanted to watch Moryo no Hako, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it anywhere legally).  Glad I finally sat down and watched it, but I don’t know how I feel about it.

First things first, I love how the show looks.  It very much falls into my visual jam, and I really didn’t mind some of the show’s slower moments when I just got to take in the scenery.  I don’t delve into cyberpunk often, but I do like the aesthetic.  Seeing Lain’s custom rig at home go from a decent little futuristic-ish computer in one episode to some all-encompassing technological nightmare in another was really neat.

Lain herself is another positive aspect of the show.  She is often infuriatingly set to the pace of Eeyore, but the kid grew on me.  I love the bear onesie she’d wear at home, and it was a pretty cool bit of symbolism when she stopped wearing it as she began to really delve in the world of the Wired.  I’ve read the creator was against the whole bear thing (including the hat she wears on her first outing with friends), but I’m glad they went with it.  Also couldn’t help but to feel sorry for her as…well, getting into all that would be spoilers.  I know this show is almost old enough to legally drink in the States, but I still want to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t checked it out yet.  Let’s just say the poor girl goes through some sh*t.

Lain’s closest friend Alice is about the only other character worth noting.  She’s great, but everyone else is just kinda there.  Distant parents, uncaring sister, background friends, shady government guys, shady hacker guys, etc.  There really isn’t anyone to care about outside of Lain and Alice.  Okay, Lain’s dad is kinda sorta cool, but that’s it.

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The future is now.

The soundtrack and sound-editing also help establishing the show as a unique bit of art.  The OP sounds like something you would’ve heard on an American show in the early aughts, and the ED is in that same area.  The sound-editing is what really caught my ear, though.  I’m mainly referring to the electrical hum Lain would always hear, and the shifts in it were a fairly neat way of setting the tone.

All that said, much of the show is lost on me.  Look, I enjoy a navel gazing as much as the next sci-fi fan, but a lot of it didn’t work for me here.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen the themes of identity and reality discussed and played with so much by now that I need more than one nigh-emotionless character and a lot of computer history to keep me interested.  There is a lot of philosophy and theory that drives the show, as well, but again, even though it’s kinda neat, I wasn’t all that invested.

The show was solid at executing its few psychological horror scenes, though.  I’ll give it that.

It really is hard to put into words what is about Serial Experiments Lain that keeps me from loving it, but I’ll give it a 7.  Maybe if I’d checked it out all those years ago, I’d like it more.  Who knows?

2018 Summer of Anime – Blood Blockade Battlefront

7) Blood Blockade Battlefront

Hello, hi there, here I am.

Three years ago, a giant portal to the alterworld–or “Beyond”–opened up in New York City and it was forever changed.  Now called “Hellsalem’s Lot”, the city is home to normal humans, super humans, demons, vampires (Blood Breeds), demi-gods, giants, and everything else one could possibly imagine.  True, the city is unbelievably dangerous, but there exists an organization known as Libra which works to maintain the balance of the city.  Their newest member is Leonardo Watch–a young man who’s moved to the city to find out more about the All-seeing Eyes of the Gods thrust upon him when his sister’s eyesight was taken by a mysterious entity.  His eyes allow him to see through illusions, takeover the sight of others, and even see the true names of the ancient Blood Breeds.  But, when he’s partnered up with the likes of a regenerating butler, a womanizing pyromancer swordsman, a one-eyed master sniper with two children and power over lightning, an impeccable gentleman who can almost go toe-to-toe with Blood Breeds, and many other strange individuals, Leo doesn’t exactly seem all that out of place.

I love Trigun (the anime, at least) and Gungrave (the anime, at least), so checking out Yasuhiro Nightow’s wonderfully alliterative Blood Blockade Battlefront (the anime, at least) was inevitable.  The streak of me enjoying his works has thankfully continued, but I’m not entirely sure where to start when talking about BBB.  I guess I’ll just start with one word and work from there: Cool.

This show oozes cool.  The characters’ actions, designs, powers, and personalities are cool.  The world is cool.  The story (when it’s there) is cool.  The music is cool.  Everything is cool.  I’m actually gonna start with the music this time around because I love the entire soundtrack.  I bobbed my head with every insert song, and I never once skipped the OP or ED for either season.  The first season’s OP has a very hopeful feel to it, while the ED is ridiculously fun.  I’m a well-established sucker for dancing OPs and EDs, and “Sugar Song to Bitter Step” hits that sweet spot (no pun intended?) for me.

The other big main draw is certainly the cast.  I honestly can’t think of a character I disliked.  White and Black felt a little out of place since their story is so serious when compared to the absurdity of everything else in Hellsalem’s Lot, but since they drive the actual arc of the first season, that’s okay.  But yeah, my big complaint with season one is how little we see of BBB‘s amazing cast.  I mean, you’ve got a vampire hunter named Lucky Abrams who’s hated enough by the Blood Breeds they’ve put countless curses on him, but his luck is so damned strong that he’s never actually hurt by any curse.  Instead, everyone around him gets hit with him none the wiser.  I love this guy, and I think he’s in, like, four episodes and only a focus in part of one.  And then, Chain Sumeragi.  When you’ve got Yuu Kobayashi’s goddess-like vocals voicing a beautiful, badass werewolf, then you should give the audience more of that character.  Aside from Leo, Klaus, and Zapp, everyone kinda gets sidelined.

Another thing I love is the way everything’s treated.  I know that’s vague, but stick with me.  People from the regular and alter worlds get annihilated every single episode, but the carnage in this series is treated with such irreverence you can’t help but laugh.  Leo and Zapp often get so brutalized in even the most minor fights, they have to be hospitalized.  And it’s just so comical.  A lot of times when we get these world-blending works, the danger is amped up and treated as being the most serious thing ever, but BBB‘s approach of, “Yeah, this sh*t is terrifying and insane…look at how awesome it is!” is endearing as hell (pun intended).

I think I’ll give the first season of Blood Blockade Battlefront a 7.5 or 8.  As much as I love pretty much everything about it, it falls short in highlighting its colorful cast of characters and the plot arc sometimes feels out of place in this world.  Thank goodness for season two.

8) Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond

Give me sight beyond sight!

The second season, Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond, sees Leo continuing his work with Libra as they try and maintain whatever passes for balance in Hellsalem’s Lot.  Whether it be combating an evil doctor who’s also a germ, dealing with the Kings of Depravity and Hypersensitivity, trying to find a decent place to have lunch, or attending parents’ day while controlling drones on another mission, Libra has the best men and women for the job.  For the most part.

Oddly enough, the one drawback I have for Beyond is its lack of an overreaching arc.  I wish it had one, but I don’t miss it too terribly much.  Because Beyond does what the first season failed to do, and it does so in spades: The zany cast is on full display.

I loved seeing Chain work alongside her fellow werewolf sistren in order to defeat an evil general in one episode, and then the episode where she completely misses helping to fight against a possible world-ending threat because she was out getting plastered during a girls’ night out was beautiful.  And, her appearance in the episode that also follows Starphase hosting a party, Zapp looking for a cat in order to save his penis, and Leo trying to get his wallet back is also great.  Chain is probably my favorite of the bunch, but K.K. gets an episode near the end that catapulted her into a very close second.  Seeing her try to balance out her life as a wife and mother with her duties as Libra’s foremost marksman is incredibly funny and heartwarming.  K.K.’s a good mom, dammit!

Gilbert, Zed, Dog Hummer, and the aforementioned Starphase also get some time to shine, but the ladies definitely take the cake this time around.  I also really liked finally getting to see more of Leo’s sister, Michella.  Gives us a chance to understand better why Leo holds her in such high regard and why he feels so incredibly guilty about her losing her sight so long ago.  Again, it’s a testament to this cast that my only complaint is we don’t get to see her interact with the weirdos in Libra.

Also, I needed more Luciana Estevez and Lucky Abrams.

The soundtrack is once again killer.   I didn’t expect to like Beyond‘s OP and ED as much as the first season’s, but here we are.  Heck, I might’ve liked them even more.  The OP, while it doesn’t have that hopeful tinge to it, succeeded in getting me hype for every episode.  And while the first season ED will probably always be one of my favorites just for the visuals of the characters dancing around like the bunch of goofballs they are, the second season ED is a genuine work of art.  That music is bumpin’ (as the children say), and the sheer insanity of all the stuff that flashes by on screen is pure eye candy.

Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond is a 9 out of 10 for me.  I do wish there had been something resembling a plot, but I felt such elation at just getting to see these eccentric characters more that I almost didn’t care about the lack of a story.  It’s been a while since I’ve been so in love with an entire cast of characters.  Great times.

2018 Summer of Anime – Prison School

6) Prison School

Truly, this is higher education.

Hachimitsu Private Academy isn’t a normal all-girls boarding school.  For starters, rules are strictly enforced by the powerful Underground Student Council.  Committing harsh enough violations can get a student thrown into the the school’s prison where they must serve at least one month.  One breakout attempt adds a month, a second adds three months, and the third means expulsion.  This prison school has become little more than a rumor by the time the school goes co-ed and admits its first five male students–Kiyoshi, Gakuto, Shingo, Joe, and Andre.  These five quickly learn the prison is all too real as the three members of the USC–President Mari Kuihara, Vice President Meiko Shiraki, and Secretary Hana Midorikawa–catch the boys in the act of peeping on the girls during their bath.  Little more than allies of convenience at first, the brave young, perverted men must now become fast friends and work together if they want to prove their innoc–no, wait, they’re guilty as hell.  Well, they have to work together to survive and not f*ck up.  Which is a lot harder than it may seem.

After the emotional beatdown that was Made in Abyss, I decided I needed to watch something funny.  Also, since I seemed to be making the rounds in terms of viewing platforms–Mazinkaiser on DVD, Magi seasons one and two on Crunchyroll, Sinbad on Netflix, and Abyss on Amazon–I figured I’d check out something on the Funimation app.  Lo and behold, uncensored Prison School.  The world is a beautiful thing sometimes.

Prison School has two major strengths that it nails consecutively in excellent fashion–comedy and fan-service.  It’s rare that I didn’t have a smile on my face during its 12-episode run.  A good many of the jokes got me to laugh, and I laughed myself to wheezing tears at least twice.  Seriously.  I’m not that big a fan of toilet humor, but this anime proves that–with the right set-up–pee and poop jokes can absolutely hilarious.  And the bizarre personalities of the characters mixed with their very realistic–if sometimes exaggerated (i.e. Meiko)–designs just adds so much to each punchline.  Now that I’ve mentioned the characters, let’s talk about Prison School’s other selling point.

The T&A in Prison School is…well, it’s amazing.  It’s so nonchalant about being in the audience’s collective face at all times.  The VP Meiko gets a special shoutout just for having an absurdly sexy character design coupled with some outrageous proportions and general lack of care for what’s on display.  Every other female character is attractive as well, but I have a sneaking suspicion the design for Meiko came first and the series was then built around her.  As much praise as I’m giving the titillation of Prison School, it really would just be lifeless if it weren’t for how memorable and likable the characters are.

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Billy Gunn, is that you?

To continue with Meiko, she’s an athletic sadomasochistic perfectionist who goes so far as to hunt down and fry grasshoppers when one of the students–in a delirium–requests it as his last meal.  I love how earnest she is.  Mari is the USC member who doesn’t get too much screen-time, but she’s quite memorable in her own right proving to be both spiteful of the male students while extremely caring toward the rest of the student body.  As for Hana, she’s the most entertaining member of the USC.  I don’t want to spoil much concerning her, so I’ll just say I actually pumped my fist in the air when she returned after being gone for a few episodes.  Well, I will say she’s a yandere.  Or just plain psychotic.  Definitely one of those.  Despite being the antagonists, the USC are genuinely likable while still being fairly unrepentant villains.

And despite being the protagonists, it can be hard to cheer for the male characters sometimes.  They are perverts, one and all.  No question.  But, I honestly think most people are, so there’s that.  The main character Kiyoshi is especially frustrating because he’s a legitimately altruistic person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but he’s such a compulsive liar that his entire relationship with the girl he likes, Chiyo, is built on one lie after another.  Gakuto is the true blue homie of the group.  Everyone needs a ride or die best friend like him.  Joe is just amusing since he’s so damn weak but looks badass with his hood always and having a deep voice.  Andre…is Andre.  What an odd and funny character.  Shingo’s just kinda there.  He didn’t stand out much here at all.

And while he’s not a student, I gotta give a shoutout to Chairman Kurihara.  Along with Hana, his scenes were the most consistently funny.  God, I love that idiot.

While I heaped on praise after praise, I do have to admit it won’t be getting a 10.  Really feeling an 8.5.  It needed more Hana, and I feel like the two main story arcs went just a little too long.  Maybe shave an episode off each.  Then again, I’ve read the anime actually upped the pacing from the manga.  So, I really hope we get a second season at some point, and I now want to read the source material so I can meet all the other weirdos who join the cast.