Seasonal Sawce: This 2019 Summer Animain’t no Bummer, Part 1

Running a tad late here, but the five new shows I’m following this season have all hit six episodes each, so it’s time to talk about ’em from my least favorite to my most favorite.  (Editor’s note: Actually ahead of schedule because dumb-dumb forgot his number four had aired five episodes and a recap–not six actual episodes)  Should do some housekeeping before that, though.

This Summer of Anime hasn’t been as big as last year’s because, well…I just haven’t been bitten by the anime bug this summer.  I have a lot of other stuff I’ve been watching, and my reading backlog is genuinely out of control, so I’ve been trying to work on that more.  Also, there are quite a few others this season I plan on watching when they’re through.  I just wanted to keep the numbers small this time around.

A’ight.  Here we go.

5) Magical Sempai

Magical Sempai

Silly rabbit, magic’s for tricks!

On his first day of high school, an antisocial kid’s plans to go home after school every day are ruined because the school requires every student be a member of a club.  He winds up getting roped into the magic club by the hot sempai who runs it.  Now known simply as Assistant, he spends his days with Sempai as she hones her magic skills and tries to conquer her crippling stage fright.  Too bad she sucks at both.

This is another of those half-episode length series, and yet they wind up cramming in four or five seperate segments in each one.  It gives everything a real breakneck feel, and the jokes rarely have time to settle in before the show moves on (and the punchline is often fan-service provided by the titular Sempai).  It’s an amusing show even if most of the characters have garbage personalities.  Do wish Madara-san (the chemistry club member) would show up more.  I feel like she’d be a fun character for the other weirdos to play off of.  Also, Sempai has a single fang, which isn’t uncommon for anime characters, but it’s flesh-colored in the show.  It’s kinda distracting/unnerving.

4) Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

Arifureta From Commonplace to World's Strongest

AKA “That Time I Got Reincarnated as an Edgelord”

Hajime Nagumo and his entire class are transported to a magical world where they are heralded as its saviors.  Normally, this would be a pretty cool development for an otaku like Hajime, but while his classmites get awesome powers, he gets transmutation…and then he’s betrayed by one of his classmates during a training exercise and left for dead in an extremely dangerous dugeon.  Hajime’s drive to survive kicks in, though, and the meek nerd is reborn as a one-armed badass wielding a magic gun.  He’s soon joined by the ancient vampire queen Yue after releasing her from her prison, and now the two have vowed to return to Hajime’s world no matter what they have to do or who they have to go through.

This is the kind of try-hard isekai trash I would’ve loved years ago.  As it stands now, though, I am simply entertained by its “super cool” edginess.  I started it because I like stories of a character being betrayed and returning much later as a wholly different individual (ex. The Count of Monte Cristo and Arrow).  It’s not a great-looking show, and it’s not as cool as it wants to be.  But, I’m all here for it because of one single scene: Hajime finally goes after the monster that ate his arm, and Hajime eats its arm while staring it in the eyes.  A show that can give me a scene that wonderfully stupid is one that’s earned my attention.

3) How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift

Do you even lift, sis?

In order to lose weight, high-schooler Hibiki Sakura decides to join a gym.  The young girl finds herself accompanied by the school’s idol Akemi Souryuuin at the newly opened Silverman Gym.  Hibiki is lured in by the handsome trainer Machio, but she’s horrified when she realizes just how buff he is and that he aims to make all his charges as macho as possible.  Akemi is turned on by being surrounded by all that musculature, though, and Hibiki eventually decides to stick around so she can lose weight.  Might be hard to stick with that goal since she seems to be a combat sports and bodybuilding prodigy…and she never stops eating.

So, I started this one because the premise sounded amusing, and I assumed the fan-service would be well-done.  As for the fan-service–it’s there and it’s nice, but it’s more restrained than I expected, and I really appreciate that.  As for the amusing part–this is a genuinely funny show.  I did not expect to laugh anywhere near as much as I have so far.  The characters are all likable, and the art style shifts are always spot-on.  Plus, the show gives us detailed workouts during each episode so you can get those gains along with the characters!  And that OP is catchy as all get-out.  Honestly, I’m enjoying every aspect of this show.  Except for maybe the exercise asides can take a little too much time.  That’s the only drawback, though.

2) Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II

DanMachi 2nd Season

HE’S GOTTA BE STRONG AND HE’S GOTTA BE FAST AND HE’S GOTTA BE FRESH FROM THE FIGHT

Bell Cranel, Hestia, and their friends are living pretty well nowadays.  That is until Bell overhears members of the Apollo Familia badmouthing Hestia and gets into a barfight with them.  Apollo uses this incident to lure Hestia into a War Game where the losing Familia will be forced to disband and follow the orders of the winning deity.  Apollo’s Familia numbers in the hundreds while Hestia has only Bell by her side, but Bell’s pulled off miracles before, so why would he falter now?

Boy, this second season has taken its sweet time getting here.  DanMachi is one of those anime that actually makes me want to read the original light novels.  The world and its rules are really cool, and it doesn’t have the isekai stink all over it.  The first arc is a fun underdog tale with a satisfying ending.  Show’s only two episodes into the second arc of the season, and it’s introduced the Ishtar Familia–a Familia comprised almost solely of Amazonesses and you bet I’m all here for that.  The cast is just as wonderful as always, so if you liked the first season, check it out.

1) Fire Force

Fire Force

They’re all named Dylan.

Death is almost as old as life.  What’s relatively recent is the phenomenon spontaneous human combustion.  In Year 198 of the Solar Era, squads in the Special Fire Force lay to rest those indivudals who fall victim to the phenomenon and become constantly burning beings called Infernals.  Shinra Kusakabe is a third generation pyrokinetic who joins Special Fire Force Company 8 in order to become a hero and to ensure no one else must face the same trauma he did as a child when a strange Infernal killed his entire family.  Suffering from a nervous tic that forces him to smile when he’s nervous, Shinra’s earned the moniker “Devil,” which makes the whole hero image a little hard to attain.

Ah, good ol’ shounen action-adventure nonsense.  This is my poison.  The world has a cool enough hook that I was there from the word “go,” and there’s been more thought put into the world-building than I expected.  The way it all looks, the way it operates, the institutions and beliefs that have formed…all really neat stuff.  Plus, I thought people having only fire powers would wind up being restrictive, but so far, each person’s powers have been distinctly different from the rest.  And cool.  Honestly, I’m just gonna call everything here neat and cool and awesome.  And there’s enough heart and humor here to make it all even better!

That’ll do it for this time around.  I’m really loving the top three, while the bottom two are entertaining enough to keep me tuning back in.  Also, I’m still watching Demon Slayer and Mix which are delightful as always.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

Advertisements

2019 Summer of Anime – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind

13 JJBA Golden Wind

I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD, ON A BOAT LIKE LEO; IF YOU’RE ON THE SHORE, THEN YOU’RE NAME IS FUGO

The fifth entry in Hirohiko Araki’s long-running epic has finally come to an end.  Well, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind ended over 20 years ago, but the anime adaptation finally took its bow.  Gonna say now that it’s not my favorite part.  Diamond Is Unbreakable still holds that honor, but Giorno and the gang(stars) gave a good showing.  Let’s talk about it.

Probably my two biggest problems with Part 5 are the beginning and the end.  In the previous four parts, the JoBros came together through various arcs that felt like they were carrying the story.  Here, almost the entire crew is introduced at the same time, and it felt like each was given an introductory fight.  Yes, those episodes did carry the plot along, but each being two episodes felt more plodding.  After that, the story really picks up.  And then there’s the ending.

One of the criticisms that can sometimes rightfully be thrown at JoJo’s is that it can be quite confusing–especially when it comes to the power(s) of the Big Bad.  In Part 3, DIO could stop time for a bit.  That’s pretty simple.  Then we get to Kira in Part 4 who can initially blow stuff up in various fashions, but then he gets another power which allows him to loop time and blow up people if a certain condition is met.  So, we get an increase in weird and somewhat confusing powers.  Here, Diavolo takes the cake (so far) by being able to erase/skip time while also being able to see what would’ve happened during that time…or being able to see what happens after the erased time.  I’m not sure.  Anyway, Giorno has to get a helluva power upgrade to be able to deal with him, and I can’t really even explain what that upgrade is.  It basically does whatever it needs to at that point.  I love JJBA, but Araki does sometimes write himself into some nasty corners.

There’s also an odd side-story/prequel that happens during the climax of the story, and it is incredibly jarring.  Enough of this negativity, though!

It’s the hypnotoad!

I love literally everything else about Golden Wind.  As far as the JoBros go, this might be the strongest group in terms of believing how ride or die they are.  All of them (except for Fugo) are ready to follow Bruno into hell, and Bruno himself is ready to walk straight into hell in order to save his people.  He is very much a father to his men.  Even Giorno–who begins this journey as arguably Bruno’s equal–starts to see him as his leader.  They are all heavily indebted to him and feel like a genuine family.  It’s legitimately sad when Fugo decides to walk away instead of joining in their turn against Diavolo and Passione.  But I feel that’s another great example of Araki’s willingness to ignore normal storytelling conventions.  How often do you watch a show where one of the heroes just walks away for good?  Granted, you could argue Araki did that and replaced him with Trish because Fugo’s power was too much for him to write, but still.

On the antagonists side of things we get the Assassination Squad, Diavolo loyalists, and Diavolo himself.  Diavolo is a great final antagonist with his time-skipping powers, sheer ruthlessness, and being able to hide in a body that looks nothing like him (he’s, like, two people, but kinda not really…it’s JoJo’s), and those remaining Passione members loyal to Diavolo are truly diabolical–with special dirtbag shout-outs to duo Cioccolata and Secco.  The villains who carry the bulk of the show and make Part 5 really stand out, though, are the Assassination Squad.

What makes the Assassination Squad so great is they didn’t have to fight the JoBros.  In the end, the two groups actually want the same thing.  Before the story begins, Diavolo has a member of the Assassination Squad killed because he caught wind they were trying to find out who he is.  So, with the JoBros being tasked to protect and escort Trish–Diavolo’s daughter–this puts the two groups at odds.  But, both groups want to kill Diavolo!  The two groups never come to an understanding because they never see a reason to even discuss the issue.  The A-Squad is an even more eccentric group of weirdos than the JoBros with an even stranger range of powers.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the two groups could’ve ever gotten along since the A-Squad is pretty amoral, but it’s tragic how they’re played against each other in order to suit Diavolo’s goal of anonymity.  And hey, one of the series best fights is Risotto (leader of the A-Squad) vs Doppio (Diavolo’s other self)–a fight that doesn’t include any of the main heroes.

One of the true hallmarks of JoJo’s anime is the music.  And even though it has some fantastic pieces on the soundtrack, I do think it has the weakest OP of any JoJo’s so far.  Yes, “Traitor’s Requiem” grew on me, but it’s still definitely the weakest of the bunch.  “Fighting Gold” is amazing, though.

I’m giving Golden Wind a 9.  Sure, I went on and on about how slow the beginning is and how baffling the ending is, but, I mean…it’s JoJo’s.  It’s gonna take a lot for me to give a JJBA anime anything lower than great.  I didn’t even get to the cameos and how they really help Part 5 feel like an integral part of the saga.

I love it.

 

2019 Summer of Anime – A Silent Voice

12 A Silent Voice

Love is deaf.

Shouya Ishida is planning to kill himself.  Not even yet finished with high school, he quits his job and sells off all of his belongings in order to leave some money for his mom.  His journey to this point began in the last year of elementary school when Shouko Nishimiya transferred in.  Shouko is deaf and wanted nothing more than to make friends, but Shouya picked up on the feeling of otherness his classmates felt toward Shouko and he began bullying the poor girl.  The severity of it led Shouko to go to another school while Shouya became a bullying target and lost all of his friends.  Years later, Shouya plans to return Shouko’s notebook to her as a final act of repentance, but the genuine kindness she shows him convinces Shouya there’s always another way.  Choosing to live, Shouya and Shouko join each other as they navigate the struggles of youth and their respective deep-seated insecurities.

Yes, I chose to watch this because of the recent tragedy at Kyoto Animation.  Watching one of their works is the way I chose to sort of…honor them, I suppose.  I’ve rarely talked about KyoAni on this blog, but I got nothing but love for them.  Sure, not all of their shows and movies have hit home for me, but I’ve seen more than a few I’d count as classics: Clannad: After StoryNichijou, HyoukaMiss Kobayashi’s Dragon MaidFull Metal Panic? Fumoffu, etc.  Decided it was finally time to watch my copy of A Silent Voice.  So, here’s to you, KyoAni!  Just wished I’d picked something a little easier to watch.

It’s the good kind of difficult watching, though.  I took so many emotional gut-punches throughout this movie I lost count how many times I had to pause it.  I’ll admit, it’s because some of the stuff with Shouya’s bullying reminded me of my own childhood.  I, too, bullied a girl in my class–I was nowhere near as cruel as Shouya was to Shouko, though–and years later, I found her on MySpace (yeah, I’m old) so I could apologize.  Watching Shouya go down that path was…sickening.  They did a great job of portraying how disgusting bullying is and how quickly it can change targets as Shouya winds up being the only one blamed when most of his class joined in, and even the teacher ignored him.

Which makes his teenage years and redemption so powerful.

Smell no evil.

Shouya’s arc in the movie is extremely well done.  Flashbacks give us excruciating details of the torment he put Shouko through, while then giving us glimpses of literally everyone turning on him to satisfy their own guilty consciences.  This causes Shouya to grow up with pretty bad depression and anxiety issues.  I’m no mental health expert, but the depression is obvious and he seems to experience anxiety attacks once or twice.  So, to see someone like this spend his own time to learn sign language and earn money to pay back his mother for a massive mistake he made as a child (seriously, I love his mom) is very moving.  I actually fist-pumped when he helped out and befreinded Nagatsuka–a guy in his class–when he normally would’ve ignored him.  I also love the images of him closing his ears to cut himself off from the rest of the world, almost condeming himself to and wishing for the deafness he used to mock.  That’s all thanks to Shouko.

As great as Shouya’s arc is, it wouldn’t be much without Shouko.  I felt pity for Shouko from prank one, and I wanted nothing more than to see her make friends and have a wonderful childhood even though I knew heartbreakingly well how terrible that was going to go.  Most of the times I had to pause the movie and not cry was when Shouko was reacting to something someone did to her.  I wish we’d gotten to see more of her own school life as a teenager instead of just her family and eventually Shouya and the crew, but I have a feeling hers wouldn’t be too different from Shouya’s.  It’s hinted at but not shown ’til the end that Shouko herself suffers from pretty severe depression, and it’s only then do you fully realize how much the reconcilliation and blossoming romance between the two leads really did for them.  I’m kinda getting choked up thinking about it.

It’s a Kyoto Animation movie, so you know it looks gorgeous.  I don’t think I even need to go into detail there.  You know the drill.  The supporting cast ranges from great to kinda just there.  I know this movie adapts an entire seven-volume manga, and I have to commend them for how well they pulled it off.  I haven’t read the original, but they did a good job knowing they obviously had to make some cuts.  Some are noticeable–such as Shouko and Yuzuru’s mom suddenly being okay with Shouya and Shouya’s childhood friends seemingly showing up out of the blue during a very important scene, so I wish those parts had been handled better.

I’m thinking this one’s a 9.5 for me.  Almost a perfect 10, but I can’t quite get over how much I think some of the cut stuff would’ve benefited the movie.  Everything else about it is phenomenal, though, and it is one hell of an emotional trip.

Seasonal Sawce – Spring into Summer of Anime 2019, Part 2

The spring season of anime has ended, so let’s talk about some one-cour anime I watched!

As always, these are my least favorite to my most favorite.

Why the Hell Are You Here, Sensei!?

10 Why the Hell Are You Here Sensei

She knows when you are peeping.

This series began as a sex comedy highlighting the time-honored (fictional) tradition of hot teachers, and it ended as a sex comedy highlighting the time-honored (fictional) tradition of hot teachers.  It is exactly what it says on the tin all the way through.  And I’m not holding that against it.  There will always be a place for raunchy shows, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The teacher-student hook is a little troublesome, but it’s really only glaringly weird in the third couple (tan teacher and really small guy).  The age difference is a bit much to get around in that particular one even if those two have the most history of the four pairings.

When it’s all said and done, this is is just an amusing lewd show.  The comedy mainly derives from the Rube Goldberg-ian machinations that involve the teachers getting into various states of undress, so if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, it’s an easy pass.  I’ll give it a 6.  It’s fine.

Like all those teachers are!  Hey-yo!

Ao-chan Can’t Study!

9 Ao-chan Can't Study

Same.

I actually grew to enjoy Ao-chan Can’t Study! more than I expected to.  I went in expecting a bit of a raunchy comedy not dissimilar to this post’s previous entry, but the show wound up having more heart to it.  Ao and Kijima’s budding relationship has some genuine sweet moments.  Now, that’s not to say the show is raunchless.  In fact, the raunch gets to poor Ao.

Probably my favorite thing that happens is that Ao is the one who becomes blatantly thirsty.  For so long she believes Kijima is just out to get her body because she’s so familiar with her father’s books, so when Kijima constantly restrains himself and proves to like her for more than just her looks she gets kinda…well, she gets blue-balled.  It’s pretty funny.

It’s a 6.5 or 7 for me.  I had a lot of fun watching it, and it has one of the best OPs of the year.

Senryu Girl

8 Senryu Girl

New theory: Nanako is a Mothra twin.

I gave props to Ao-chan for having some sweet moments between the main couple, but it’s got nothing on Senryu Girl, which is almost nothing but sweet moments between Nanako and Eiji.  The amusement park, the festival, the pool, the arcade…it was a delight seeing these two interact.  It’s a bit annoying that they never officially hook up, especially considering the finale.

I try not to spoil too much in these small reviews, but I’ve gotta talk about the Senryu Girl season one(?) finale.  The last episode shows us how Nanako and Eiji met.  We find out earlier in the series that Nanako used to be bullied due to her communication issues, and it was actually Eiji who kinda helped her out.  Here, we find out Eiji legitimately helped pull Nanko out of her depression, while Nanako became a source of joy and support for Eiji’s efforts in learning senryu.  They didn’t even know each other’s names, but they kept leaving poems for each other every day outside the building where they met!  It’s too damn sweet!

I’m giving Senryu Girl a 7.5.  If the suger content were any higher, it’d send us all into diabetic shock.

We Never Learn: Bokuben

11 Bokuben We Never Learn

We (Never) Learn

We Never Learn is this high based almost solely on Uruka and her chemistry with Nariyuki.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Fumino and Rizu, Asumi (a graduate trying to get into college) is a welcome gadfly addition, and Kirisu is pretty great in her own right, but Uruka’s earnest naivete in all things romantic as she kinda sorta pursues equally awkward Nariyuki is a delight.  Her segments were always my favorites.

That “segments” comment is the biggest problem with this first season (confirmed) of Bokuben.  It’s hard to tell there’s an on-going story here since each episode often feels like standalone segments.  There is definitely some character and relationship progression, but it doesn’t feel like the story’s moved along much until Asumi is introduced.

I’m feeling a 7.5 for We Never Learn.  It edges out over Senryu Girl mainly because it has 23-minute episodes.  And a guaranteed second season.

Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

7 Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

No, no.  Thanks you, my dude.

Believe you me, I’m more surprised than you are that the harem series isn’t my favorite of the season (ignoring Demon Slayer).  I can’t deny that I looked forward to Hitoribocchi more than the rest of these shows, though.  Bocchi’s quest to make friends hindered by her incredible, cringingly hilarious shyness is consistently adorable and entertaining.  Hell, the show caught me off-guard and even pulled a tear or two out of me once!  It blindsided me!  Wasn’t fair!

I suppose to those who suffer from severe social anxiety, there might be too much realness in this show to watch.  And even for me, I could feel the pain because yeah, that’s how I would think in that particular situation.  Probably a big reason why I want nothing but the best for Bocchi and her crew.  Another fun thing to think about in terms of this show is Bocchi might actually be becoming the most popular/well-liked person in her class.  What a twist.

It’s a solid 8.  Go watch the adorableness.

That’s gonna do it for this Seasonal Sawce.  Not a particularly strong season, but nothing I disliked.  I am watching and loving both Demon Slayer and Mix, but they’re not ending for a while.  Next season should be pretty awesome with Dr. Stone starting.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

2019 Summer of Anime – Lord Marksman and Vanadis

6 Lord Marksman and Vanadis

“You have failed this country.”

In an alternate Europe (allegedly), the country of Brune is on the brink of war–both civil and with other countries.  After a brutal fight with the neighboring country Zhcted, Tigrevurmud Vorn–count of the Brunish fiefdom Alsace–is left all alone, but he notices a Zhcted force pursuing an escaping band of his fellow countrymen.  Tigre steels his resolve and uses his uncanny archery skill to slow down the pursuers as best he can.  Unfortunately for him, the leader of this particular regiment is Eleonora Viltaria, one of Zhcted’s seven Vanadis–War Maidens equipped with powerful weapons known as Dragon Gears.  Tigre’s luck takes another turn, though, as Elen is taken with both Tigre’s archery and his character.  Elen declares he now belongs to her, and she’ll brook no argument.

I decided to finally check out Lord Marksman and Vanadis for two reasons: One, I needed to scratch the fantasy harem itch.  Two, I wanted to watch an anime I could only watch on Hulu (I don’t have access to Funimation right now).  I’m a simple man with simple standards, and this mostly scratched that itch.  The character designs are attractive, and the fantastical elements are abound.  You can tell that from all the weird names!  I legitimately think Tsukasa Kawaguchi was out to parody light novel names.  At least, I hope he was.  This show was an easy watch for me.  Knocked it out in a couple days.

And now it’s time to kinda bury it.

My God, the pacing in this show is awful.  If ever a staff needed to be taught the valuable lesson of “show, don’t tell,” it was this one.  I can understand budgetary limitations and wanting to adapt five (five?!) volumes in only 13 episodes (okay, maybe I can’t understand that), but this is just rough.  Almost every time a big battle is about to start–and there are a lot of big battles–there will be a little bit of action, then the narrator kicks in with a little CG Risk board and tells the audience how the bulk of the battle goes, and then we get the last minute or two of the fight.  This propels the story at breakneck speed so that it feels like every major event just…happens.  New characters arrive, characters die, battles are won, battles are lost, people fall in love, identities are just assumed, and none of it feels like it has any weight!  This production team bit off way more than they could chew by trying to cram so much into a one-cour season.

lord-marksman-and-vanadis-02

…This is exactly what it looks like.

The narrated battles and bad pacing also cause the show to mostly fail at being a harem show as well.  The female characters don’t get much time to meaningfully interact with Tigre, and thus, the audience is expected to like them just because they’re hot.  Which, okay, yeah, that can work in a harem if the harem show properly pulls off a harem story.  But this one doesn’t.  No time is given to any character aside from Tigre to make them likable.  It’s like the scenes where Tigre walks in on the various girls during their respective baths is supposed to be enough fan-service to do the trick, but each one was pretty tame.  If you want to be a duck, and you tell people you’re a duck, then don’t be a stork.

The show mishandles both the epic warfare and romance shenanigans that are supposed to make the anime shine.  Normally, when I watch a show with supremely fast pacing, it’s because the creators are trying to get to a certain point in the story.  That doesn’t happen here.  They went through the motions just to knock out 13 episodes.

Even after all that, I’m giving the show a 5.5 or 6 out of 10.  The character designs (both male and female) are cool (if impractical), there’s enough of the world shown to get me intrigued in the whole thing, it was a surprisingly easy watch, and it has a catchy OP.  Everything else is fumbled in spectacular fashion, though.

2019 Summer of Anime – Welcome to the Ballroom

5 Welcome to the Ballroom

Here come the Men in Black!

Now in his third year of middle school, Tatara Fujita hasn’t found anything in his life he can say he loves.  After being reprimanded for his aimlessness by his teacher, Tatara thinks he’s found a kindred spirit in classmate Shizuku Hanaoka as she, too, seems to have no plans for her future.  He’s proven quite wrong, though, when he follows the girl to the Ogasawara Dance Studio and finds out she’s not only a great dancer, but she also intends to go pro as soon as possible.  Tatara’s at first overwhelmed by her drive, but he discovers the allure of competitive dancing once he watches a tape of Kaname Sengoku–the world-class dancer who saved him from some bullies–performing.  The meek young boy is taken by an urge to change himself and, armed with an uncanny ability to read and mimic another person’s movements, begs Sengoku to take him on as a student.  Welcome to the ballroom, Tatara.  Hope you survive the experience.

This is a sports anime about dancing.  Yeah.  I now realize–at this point–I’ll watch just about anything that can be considered sports anime.  I’ve seen badminton, cycling, dancing, and so many others.  And, thankfully, I’ve rarely been disappointed.  Same holds true with Welcome to the Ballroom.  Granted, that might have something to do with a lot of characters being almost one-to-one comparisons with Hajime no Ippo characters.  Maybe.

The first thing that stands out about Ballroom is definitely the character designs.  Being about dancers, most of the characters are long, lithe leggy folk.  That art style could be off-putting for a few people, but it worked for me.  These almost stretched-out designs really work when it comes to the big dance scenes.  And hey, the men are handsome and the women are gorgeous, and those are the people you want to see swinging each other around on a dance floor.  I do wish the anime had done a better job of explaining all the differences between the main dances we see.  They pay some lip service to it, but I don’t think there’s enough.

Since I made the comparison to Ippo characters and that’s my favorite anime, it should come as no surprise that I aboslutely love the cast.  Tatara starts off as your standard shounen sports lead:  A shy, awkward kid with a hidden talent and drive that will eventually allow him to take his chosen sport by storm.  The thing with Tatara’s hidden talent, though, is it makes a lot of sense.  It’s revealed early his parents are divorced, and there’s a quick shot later on of his mother walking out of the house.  Without ever being overt, the anime gives us enough to infer Tatara’s personality and craving to be seen by other people come from his inability to get his mom to stay.  His ability to read the movements of others and predict their next action stems from the same event.  In order to avoid anyone else leaving him, he’s subconsciously tried to figure out how to complement their subsequent moves.  So yeah, he’s got a big heart.  He’s also a massive pushover.  Well…at first.

Related image

Say it with ya chest!

Being a competition of pairs, coupling with a good partner is a must for dancers.  Early on we think Tatara will partner with the first female character introduced, Shizuku.  But, she’s already paired with prodigy Kiyoharu Hyoudou.  Then, we meet the sibling duo Gaju and Mako Akagi, and Tatara and Mako pair together for a competition.  That was just a one-shot, though.  Finally, about halfway through the first season (please let there be more!), Chinatsu Hiyama enters the story, and that’s when the series really picks up to me.

Chinatsu is an aggressive experienced dancer and does not take kindly to Tatara’s weak little man bulls**t.  Tatara has to grow up and adapt real fast in order to successfully pair up with the fiery Chinatsu.  The best drama and comedy in the series come from the two interacting.  It’s never overtly romantic (often hinted, though), so it’s mostly always played off as two rival athletes butting heads and trying to gel together in order to win.  And Chinatsu arrives with her own history, goals, and character, so she comes flying in as the other main protagonist instead of just being Tatara’s partner.  Which I’m thankful for, as I was afraid the female characters were going to wind up just being window dressing.

My fears stemmed from the beginning with Shizuku quickly being pushed aside as Kiyoharu’s partner and object of Gaju’s affection (Tatara’s two main rivals/friends).  Again, though, through subtle writing, Shizuku is doing her own manipulating in the first half, and the second half firmly establishes both her and Mako as two more rivals/goals for Tatara and Chinatsu to aspire to.  It’s kinda an interesting meta move, too, since in competitions the performances are judged on the male leaders until the final round where both the leads and partners are scored as a unit.  Wibbly wobbly dancey wancey.

The rest of the cast is amazing, too (special shout-out to prerequisite hot mom Marisa Hyoudou), and the story is your usual awesome sports stuff.  Rivals with heartbreaking enough backstories you question rooting for the protagonists and heated competitions that get your blood pumping while you’re sitting on the edge.  Speaking of the competitions, that’s another thing I really enjoyed about Ballroom.  I’ve seen anime with pairs competing before, like Harukana Receive.  But this is the first where there are so many pairs on a field at once all competing against each other for attention.  Added some pretty cool dynamics to the matches I wasn’t familiar with.

Yeah, I love Welcome to the Ballroom.  So much of it just vibes with me.  Really my only complaints are the differences in the dances aren’t ever really detailed, the first half isn’t as strong as the second, and it’s only 24 episodes.  Give me more!  I’ll give it a 9 out of 10.  If it sounds like your thing, check it out on Amazon.

tumblr_ov9hv10wp21s307p6o1_500

Prerequisite hot mom.

2019 Summer of Anime – Godzilla: The Planet Eater

4 Godzilla The Planet Eater

A tale as old as time.

Haruo’s decision to hold onto his humanity instead of assimilating into the monstrous Mechagodzilla City has left the allied forces of the humans, Bilusaludo, and Exif in an awful spot.  Their forces are supremely depleted and tension is rising among the different factions.  The Houtua twins hide Haruo since the Bilusaludo want him punished, and the Exif seem set on using him as a religous figure of some sort.  The Exif’s machinations are coming to fruition, too, as their god is making his way to Earth: Ghidorah.

So, right off the bat, I don’t like The Planet Eater as much as City on the Edge of Battle.  I still like it, but the faults of the first two films are still very present here.  Way too much of the not-kaiju stuff, Haruo is a painfully reactionary protagonist, and the Houtua get a whole lot of nothing.  I still like Planet Eater, but there’s a lot of stuff here that frustrates me.  In fact, let me talk about the biggest frustration–the titular planet eater himself–Ghidorah.

Here, Ghidorah is a being from another universe which exists solely to consume…well, planets.  Or just Godzillas.  Yeah, apparently all planets eventually give rise to their own Godzilla (or something) and the Exif always guide Ghidorah to those planets so that he can eat them.  On one hand, it’s a neat reimagining of King Ghidorah.  He’s some otherworldly being who can’t even be affected by our own universe while the Exif are aiding him, and his arrival is a genuinely unnerving scene as the rules of time and space are thrown out the window.  On the other hand, his showdown with Godzilla is the definition of disappointing.  I have rarely been so underwhelmed.

And poor Mothra only gets to show up in a dream.  She’s the Queen of the Monsters!  Come on!

Suprise, surprise.

The human characters are…there.  The Exif finally make their move, so now we get to try religion in fighting Godzilla Earth where human ingenuity and Bilusaludo technology failed.  That’s kinda neat in that all three races try their own ways in each movie, but you could also call that trite.  I tend to lend more toward neat.  I really wish the Houtua had more than two character designs, though.  Their philosophy of peaceful living is a nice contrast to the theme of the movies (progression means inevitable war), but the twins get relegated to snoo snoo-bait and damsels in distress for the most part.

I, uh, think I’m giving this one a 5.5.  There’s enough here I don’t wanna call it bad, but the bad’s still egregiously bad.

Go see Godzilla: King of the Monsters instead of watching this.  It’s got proper representations of some of the bigger named kaiju from Toho’s stable.