Seasonal Sawce: This 2017 Summer Animain’t No Bummer, Part 2

This is the second of three posts that will close out the 2017 Summer of Anime.  Don’t worry; I’m not cheating.  All of these have been finished.  I’m just slow when it comes to writing stuff.  *Looks at the Drafts tab and apologizes to Digi-Ramblings again.*

This time around we have seven anime to talk about.  No Elegant Yokai Apartment Life since it’s still going, though.  Without further ado, let’s get to the anime I watched during the summer season of anime and rank ’em from worst to best.

Knight’s and Magic

30 Knight's and Magic

If only we’d gotten more D…wait.

This was a consistently underwhelming show.  I hate to say that because I normally really enjoy isekai and mech series.  Knight’s and Magic was just…there.  I guess the only thing that struck me as neat was depicting the two weapons engineers as the driving forces of the war.  Even then, there’s something a bit wrong with that, right?  Like, our main character, Ernesti, never bats an eye when he kills people.  He’s smiling and laughing and reveling at piloting a mech better than the soldiers he’s massacring.  And he’s a kid.  Everything rang dissonant in this anime.

Hell, the most fascinating character arc was relegated way into the background.  Dietrich “D” Cunitz ran like the coward he was in the first big fight of the series.  Thought he was just a spineless creep, but by the time the series ends he’s become one of the finest knights in his order.  Fleeing that fight haunts and drives him to become better and never abandon his allies again.  But he was the least important protagonist of the, like, ten or so.  The most interesting part about the show was a sidenote.

I dunno, y’all.  There’s nothing glaringly bad here, but it’s all mostly just been done before and better.  I’ll give it a 5.5.

My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

25 My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

That’s the show.

Did I expect better?  Oh, heavens no.  Did I want better?  Well, yeah.  My First Girlfriend Is a Gal just didn’t succeed as the sex comedy it wanted to be.  Much like with Knight’s and Magic, pretty much everything the show has had been done much better elsewhere.  But, this anime actually entertained me.  I wouldn’t call it good, but I did look forward to it every week.  Sure, the girls are mostly great, but the main draw for me was the main couple.

Junichi is established early as a sh*tty dude who only asked out Yukana because she’s hot and his friends pranked him into it.  So, it was a little off-putting to see her being genuinely interested in him while he remained kinda sh*tty.  But, credit where credit’s due–he grows as a character and comes to love Yukana for the actual person she is on the inside.  Not the best start to a relationship, but I like where it’s heading.  Just wish it was in a better anime.

And, honestly, most of my disdain for this anime stems from Junichi’s friends.  Especially the fat one.  He’s a pedophile, and it’s played as a joke consistently throughout the show’s ten-episode run.  It’s not funny.  It’s gross.

It’s a 6.  Objectively, it’s worse than Knight’s and Magic, but subjectively, it had more than one character I cared about.

A Centaur’s Life

29 A Centaur's Life

This is not the snake girl Monster Musume promised me.

The previous two anime on this list are ones I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.  Yeah, I gave them positive-ish scores, but I’m usually pretty nice when it comes to that stuff.  I would suggest checking out A Centaur’s Life, though.  Probably to very specific people, but still.  For such an easy-going slice-of-life show, it has some really cool world-building.  Everything looks like nice and pristine, and there’s so much put in there to accommodate the various body types of the world’s denizens.  But, it’s continually hinted that such order is only maintained through strict laws about racism and prejudice.  There’s even an episode that follows a young boy in World War 2 to see how it played out there, and another that follows a frog-man visiting his home country after he’d been raised abroad.  Legitimately solid world-building.  For reals.

That’s easily the biggest draw for A Centaur’s Life.  I do mostly like the characters.  They’re a fun cast of teenagers who happen to have tails, wings, horns, etc.  There’s just something missing, though.  I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s just not as funny or as feels-y as I like my slice-of-life shows to get.  I guess they just put all their efforts into building the world and forgot to give the characters the heart they’d need to carry the show.

I think I’ll go with a 6.5 leaning toward a 7 here.  I love the world-building a lot, but it doesn’t have that special something to make it fully click with people.

Restaurant to Another World

26 Restaurant to Another World

Amen.

When the isekai genre meets the food porn genre, you get Restaurant to Another World.  I never necessarily looked that forward to it every week, but I enjoyed every episode.  The world-building isn’t as in-depth as A Centaur’s Life.  Restaurant succeeds with its characters, though.  They have the heart, stories, and lives that the former anime was missing.  I appreciate the history and culture in Centaur, but Restaurant always knew to give enough to get me interested in pretty much everything in the other world.  That’s unfortunately a double-edged sword here.

The little snippets of the characters’ lives and homes are good.  But, you always want more.  Not enough happens.  Everyone has a little story of how they find the door to Nekoya, they eat some food, they love it, and then they leave.  That’s pretty much every episode.  Each of the cultures the beings come from are neat from what we’re given.  It’s just never enough.  I desperately wanted to see more than two of the legendary dragons and to explore more of their world.  This isn’t that kind of anime, though.

I’m giving Restaurant to Another World a 7 because I really like what it did right, but I can’t get over how much I wish it would’ve done.

Fastest Finger First

27 Fastest Finger First

Nerding is serious business.

First sports anime I’ve ever watched where I actually competed in said sport…even if it’s just quiz bowl.  It’s still real to me, dammit!  Yes, obviously Fastest Finger First struck a chord with me, which might explain why I loved it much more than I assume most people did.  It made me remember the days of memorizing questions from year to year, trying to predict how certain questions will go, and practicing every week with my school’s academic team.  Fun times, y’all.  Fun times.

I thoroughly appreciated the unique rules of the tournament in the show’s second half.  The written exam, the two-person teams, the semi-free-for-all where you could subtract another competitor’s points, and then finally, the classic fastest finger first showdown.  Loved it.  Loved the characters, too.  Pidge (I’m just calling him Pidge) is a solid lead whose background makes him both well-suited and a little handicapped when it comes to competing in quiz bowls.  I’m glad Mari is more than just the romantic interest in that she can more than hold her own in competitions, but I wish her voice actress had more experience.  Too often her line delivery felt stiff.  I also love all the rivals that are set up in a dominating yet reachable fashion.

Since I lived the life of a high school quiz bowler, this one’s an easy 8 out of 10 for me.  I love the subject matter and characters, but I wish it’d been longer and had more time to develop its whole cast.

Classroom of the Elite

31 Classroom of the Elite

He’s not exactly a people person.

You could accuse Classroom of the Elite of being up its own butt.  I, however, had a lot of fun watching it.  I don’t think Kiyotaka is the best “better than everyone else at everything secret badass” main protagonist out there, but I do think he holds his own.  He’s not really out to help people (or he believes he isn’t), and he’s not looking to make friends.  He’s here to win.  However he was raised, he seems to have this compulsion to succeed at any challenge presented to him.  I’m genuinely curious to see how his story–and those of his classmates–plays out in a second season I really hope happens.  Given his tactic of remaining in the background while allowing others to take credit for his victories, you can’t help but compare him to Hachiman of Oregairu.  Actually, the two main-ish female characters seem to be subversions of Yukino and Yui’s character types.  Probably wasn’t intentional, but they are strikingly similar.

As much I love the characters, it’s the miniature battlefields they compete on that really sucked me in.  There’s so much politicking and strategizing going on, it’s fun to figure out what exactly all the students are up to.  Hell, it looks like even the teachers are playing a larger game.  The second half’s big story sees the four first year classes left on an island to survive for a week, and it was great wondering how each of the leaders were trying to out-maneuver the others.

I’m actually gonna leave this one at an 8.  I enjoyed it and Fastest Finger First about the same amount, so I had to struggle deciding which one to put ahead of the other.  Classroom just edged it out because of best girl Airi Sakura.

Gamers!

33 Gamers!

Where is the lie, though?

And to think I wasn’t gonna watch Gamers!.  Yeah, it stayed my favorite show from beginning to end.  I love rom-coms, but the tropes can get tired after a while.  Keeping true to its name, Gamers! plays with all the cliches and ups them as far as they can go.  And the misunderstandings that would normally make a drama instead make this a genuinely funny comedy.  Different characters think there’s a love pentagon when there’s only a love triangle…or love square, really.  Like I said last timeGamers! is Shakespearean.

I love the main characters and want the best for them.  Even while I’m rooting for Keita and Karen in their odd relationship where they clearly like each other but they’re both convinced the other’s just going through the motions, I can’t help but hope Chiaki can somehow win over the impossibly desirable Keita.  And Aguri and Tasuku’s budding love (even though they’ve been dating for some time before the show begins) is delightful fun to watch.  Chiaki’s little sister Konoha showing up as her wingman was also a welcome addition.

Although a lot is taken to extremes for comedy, Gamers! remains one of the more realistic shows I’ve seen since teenagers do always misread each other and try to figure out what everyone’s up to.  Gamers! also has my favorite soundtrack and art style of all the shows featured in this post.  It gets a 9.  Everything just clicked for me here.

That’s it for all the shows I started and finished this season.  There are still a few short series I plan on checking out now that they’re over, and I’ve got one more post on the way to wrap up this year’s Summer of Anime.

Plus ultra, y’all.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

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2017 Summer of Anime – Sakura Quest

28 Sakura Quest

It’s hard trying to run a tourist trap.

Talked about the first bit here, so I’ll just give a basic gist.  Yoshino Koharu was unable to land a job for the longest time, but after a mistake with one agency, she winds up being the “queen” of the slowly dying town of Manoyama for one year.  With the aid of her four new friends and ministers, she tries constantly to find ways to revitalize Manoyama and ensure its culture lives on in the future.  It’s pretty hard to do when most of the townsfolk have accepted the way things are.  These five won’t give up, though, as they try to throw festivals, invite film crews, and even set up a vacation for singles!

Right quick:  This is the first of three posts that will close out the 2017 Summer of Anime.  The other two will be Seasonal Sawce and My Hero Academia 2.  These are so late because I was at Anime Weekend Atlanta, and had a wonderful time.  But, let’s continue talking about Sakura Quest.

It’s hard not to compare this show to Shirobako.  They’re pretty much companion shows.  Both deal with a group of young adult women trying to find their respective ways in the world while maintaining hope for the future.  And they’re really good-looking shows.  Sakura Quest is a feast for the eyes with its cute, pleasing character designs and small town scenery.  It’s theme of embracing outsiders and their ideas and cultures and adapting them to ensure the future of your own ways is also a very important message today.  I feel like it pales in comparison to Shirobako in pretty much every other aspect, though.

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Except for for best girls.  Sakura Quest wins there.

As much as I like the five main heroines, it felt like two of them never got the attention the other three did.  Even though she is the most physically appealing of the five and, thus, top contender for best girl, Sanae didn’t get to do much.  She was hot, she was there, she did computer stuff, she was scared of bugs…and I think that’s it.  True native Shiori was also similarly under utilized.  She often spoke of her love for her hometown and stepped up once or twice, but she never felt too necessary.  Again, I still really like both of them, but when you see Yoshino become the leader she never knew she could be, Maki realizing she could live out her dream anywhere as long as she’s willing to give it her all, and Ririko coming to terms with her weirdness and desire to see more of the world, you can’t help but feel like Sanae and Shiori fell a bit to the wayside.

The story and its messages also seemed to get bogged down once in a while.  I’m from a ridiculously small town myself, so I get the lackadaisical lifestyle and desire to return something to its former glory (even though I genuinely hate my hometown), but it got tiresome once or twice.  Nothing wrong with it.  Just wasn’t feeling it sometimes.  The whole accepting outsiders thing is legit, though.  That always struck a chord with me.

Other positives of note are the rest of the villagers themselves (especially Sandal-san), and the soundtrack (especially the first ED).  Even though the story felt lacking and some of the main characters felt almost unnecessary, I’d still call this a good slice-of-life show.  The main five are a great group to follow, the show looks really good, and there’s one very important theme running throughout.  It may not be on Shirobako‘s level, but I’m giving Sakura Quest a 7 out of 10.

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A Lonely Place of Tomorrow

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Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

This is the cover to Teen Titans #17, but more importantly, it’s the cover to the fourth TPB of that series–“The Future Is Now.”  I post this now because that’s the trade that got me into comics.  Sure, I’d read a bit as a kid and got what I could from antique stores.  But this book caught my eye with its cover, got me really interested with its synopsis, and then reading it got me hooked into comics.  It was the first of what would become hundreds of graphic novels and thousands of issues stashed in my lair as my treasure, and I its dragon.

Tim Drake is the Batman in the picture by Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza.  In this future, he has taken up the Bat-mantle and started using the gun which killed Batman’s parents to dispense of Gotham’s rogues.  It’s not my favorite outcome for my favorite Robin, but I love this story to death.  It’s one of the very few graphic novels I’ve read multiple times, and it’s the only one I’ve read so much the pages are falling out.  I used to take it to school and pore over the pages learning everyone’s names, jotting them down so I could look them up on the very frightening dial-up internet available to me at the time.  Never really thought about it showing up in the New 52/Rebirth world we now live in.

Until now.  Until Detective Comics #965, “A Lonely Place of Living, Part One.”

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The title and cover are obviously meant to evoke the legendary Batman story “A Lonely Place of Dying” which saw a young Tim Drake deduce the identities of the Dynamic Duo and begin and his journey to becoming the third (and best) Robin.  Given Tim’s recent long absence from comics thanks to everyone thinking he’d been killed while Mr. Oz locked him up in some other-dimensional prison, I was quite hype for this issue.  Hype to see Tim break out, out-maneuver Mr. Oz, and re-join the Bat-Family.  And for a while, that seemed to be how it would go.

Tim retold his origin–which I think slaps the New 52 continuity in the face, if I’m not too terribly mistaken–to his jailer before executing his escape plan.  He gets out a message to Batman…and Batman responds.  He’s in the prison looking for the lost Red Robin!  Tim opens the cells and meets up with his mentor only to find it’s not his Batman.  No, it’s the Batman of Tomorrow.

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Don’t call it a comeback.

I lost my damn mind.  Not one of those wild mind-losings with flailing limbs and Ric Flair “WOO”s.  This was the complete opposite.  I calmly finished the book, returned it to its bag and board, and turned on my laptop to write.  I had to write something.  I haven’t done just a pure rambling post in a long while, but here it is.  The Teen Titans series that began in 2003 means the world to me.  I’m sure a book would’ve gotten me into comics eventually, but that fourth TPB was the perfect one.  Those anti-hero Titans of Tomorrow may be some unscrupulous folk, but they’re my unscrupulous folk, dammit!

I doubt this means the full return of that team from the Geoff Johns run.  As righteously screwed up as DC’s continuity is, I’m just surprised and elated to see the gun-toting Tim Drake Batman back.  Even if it is for only a little while.

So, thank you, James Tynion IV.  Thank you, Eddy Barrows.  Thank you, everyone who works on Detective Comics.  You’ve made one fan ridiculously, absurdly, stupendously happy.

2017 Summer of Anime – Tiger and Bunny

24 Tiger and Bunny

The long-awaited Cool Cat and Bugs Bunny anime.

Stern Bild City is home to the hottest television show around–Hero TV.  It’s a reality game show of sorts that follows different sponsored superheroes as they capture bad guys and save citizens.  Each of these heroes are NEXT–Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents.  Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is the NEXT known as Wild Tiger on the show, and his power allows him to increase his physical capabilities by a hundredfold for five minutes every hour.  Despite being a hero for over ten years, he’s no longer that popular and performs poorly each season.  He’s a very old-school kind of guy who doesn’t mesh well with the new ways of doing things.  Which is one reason why Tiger is appalled when his new employer Apollon Media forces him to team up with Barnaby Brooks, Jr.–a brand new hero who has revealed his identity to the public and has the same exact power as Tiger.  Now the world gets to see how these two polar opposites fight through their differences and save the day…or destroy everything as they fail to get along.

Tiger and Bunny caught my interest back when it first aired because (obviously) I love superheroes and it sounds like Booster Gold’s dream world.  Never got around to it because, man, CG in anime is still pretty wonky.  I just could not look past the super-suits (shout out to my boy, Frozone) sticking out like the sorest of thumbs.  Decided to finally check it out since I’m still riding high on My Hero Academia and One Punch Man.  It’s cool seeing Western superheroes depicted in the East.  Even if Tiger and Bunny looks to have a good bit of Kamen Rider in it.  (Note: I have never watched a Kamen Rider.  Just judging off what I see.)  I don’t think ol’ T&B is as good as MHA or OPM, but there’s still a lot of really good stuff here.

To go ahead and discuss the CG elephant in the room–it wasn’t that bad.  I grew to be fine with the suits sticking out because…well, they’re supposed to.  They’re superheroes!  They stand out from the ordinary world around them.  It did look real floaty, however.  The blows between characters rarely felt like they connected, and the characters just seemed to too light to be in the world they’re in.  I’ve heard the CG looks better in the sequel movie, but in the series it’s just not as good as it should’ve been.

One of my problems with Tiger and Bunny is the sorta dropped plot threads.  Some minor spoilers here, but the heroes never find out the scope of Ouroboros.  I’m sure they were planning on going into this in another season or a movie (I don’t know if the sequel follows up on it or not), but basing just off this season, the Ouroboros stuff is a bit of a let-down.  As is the thread with Lunatic.  Again, another minor spoiler, but nothing is done about the vigilante Lunatic.  He’s killing criminals, and that’s obviously a problem.  Nothing’s done with him outside of driving a couple episodes and showing up once in a red moon.  Which might be indicative of another gripe I have with the series.

Characters feel really under-utilized.  Along with the titular protagonists, there are six other main heroes on Hero TV.  Blue Rose–the scantily-clad hot chick–gets more screen time and development than the rest of them, but most only got about an episode in which to shine.  Origami Cyclone has serious self-esteem problems, which could’ve been really compelling for a superhero on a prominent television show.  Sky High is a driven man who wants to be the best at whatever he does be it being a hero, throwing a surprise party, or being a friend.  Dragon Kid believes she has to shun the ideas of traditional femininity in order to be successful and bring honor to her family.  Fire Emblem is a black trans superhero who runs his own company and thus, sponsors himself!  (I’m using male pronouns since it’s easier than using plural neutral.  We should really get a gender neutral set of pronouns already.)  We’re given morsels of really cool character with most of them, but there’s so much more that could’ve been done with them.  Especially Rock Bison who is Wild Tiger’s best friend…and that’s about it.

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Ah, yes.  I see he, too, studied under the great master, Joseph Joestar.

Wild Tiger is by far and away the highlight of the show for me.  The first half of the season can probably be considered Barnaby’s show with his past as the main force driving the plot arc, and it does pick up when the show starts exploring that.  Tiger is what keeps all that interesting since he’s the real main character, and the second half of the show is better to me since his story and character are the main driving forces.  Probably my biggest problems with the first half are that Tiger’s status as not only a veteran hero but also as a father don’t feel like they play big roles in who he is.  The latter half fixes that, though.

No spoilers this time, but some stuff goes down later on in the show where Tiger’s wily instincts and drive for justice really come into play.  This is also when he begins to come into his own as a dad.  I was disappointed when I believed Tiger’s daughter Kaede was just going to be background info for him, so I was positively delighted when she became a more prominent character in the second half.  Parenthood isn’t something to take lightly and seeing Wild Tiger come to the realization he needs to be a better father did my heart good.  Also, his biggest dream is his daughter thinking he’s cool.  That’s one of the best, dorkiest things ever.

I know I listed more negatives than positives, but I actually had a great time watching Tiger and Bunny.  Yes, some plot threads are dangled, most of the cast doesn’t get anywhere near as much development as they should have, and the CG isn’t great, but to contrast those, the main plot is pretty satisfying, every character gets enough to be memorable and likable, and the CG doesn’t detract from the rest of the really cool art style.  Throw in an amazingly great main character in Wild Tiger, and you’ve got an anime I’ll give a solid 8.  It’s not as good as the big two superhero anime, but if you’re looking for a number three, check out Tiger and Bunny.

2017 Summer of Anime – One Punch Man

23 One Punch Man

And his sidekick, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy.

In Z-City, there is an abandoned district with only one resident.  For a few years now, monsters have been appearing and attacking all of the cities, but Z-City has always been hit the worst–with the mysterious beings seemingly originating from the abandoned area.  The one man who lives there doesn’t mind it, though.  In fact, he finds it rather uninteresting.  He is Saitama, and he’s a hero for fun.  Normally, a hero would be tirelessly busy in such a wild city, but Saitama’s a bit different.  After three years of training, he’s become too strong.  Every opponent–no matter the size, skill, or power–falls from just one punch.  Never before has a hero looked so genuinely bored.

I’m only slightly surprised it took me this long to watch One Punch Man.  See, it didn’t air on Crunchyroll, took forever to get decent subs on a streaming service (ya flubbed up, Hulu), and the blu-ray costs more than I was willing to pay for a series I’ve never seen.  I assumed I would like it since I love superheroes, ONE’s other major anime adaptation Mob Psycho 100, and Yusuke Murata’s art, but it was never that big a priority for me since I knew it would mainly be a comedy.  But, after the cry-fest that was Your Lie in April, I figured it was time to put a smile on my face.  And a smile on my face was certainly put.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, the one punch gag surprisingly didn’t get old.  I was expecting to get very tired it, but the build-up was usually pretty funny in itself.  The build-ups could drag a little every now and then, though.  Also, had they not added another recurring joke in that Saitama rarely gets the credit he deserves for his heroic actions, the first running joke definitely would’ve gotten old.  Actually, one of my favorite moments of the series is when Saitama plays up his lazy reputation to preserve the integrity of the heroes who failed where he succeeded.  Good man.

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Be the person Mumen Rider believes you can be.

And man, Saitama is a great lead.  You can really sympathize with his borderline depression.  I mean, nothing in life excites him anymore.  He doesn’t feel anything.  He decided to start saving people, but even that doesn’t help him much.  It’s not until he meets Genos, Mumen Rider, and other heroes that Saitama starts to get out of his funk.  I wish more of the heroes we meet had gotten better characterization, but with so many showing up at once, I understand some things had to be sacrificed.  They did a great job with Mumen Rider.  Love that guy.  I do wish the powers were more creative, though.  Every hero seems to be a regular Joe, a martial artist, a cyborg, an ESPer, or just really strong.  That might be part of the parody in that those seem to be the defaults for a lot of heroes in both the East and West, but after so much of My Hero Academia, you kinda want a little more.

The villains were mostly great, too, with each being a parody as well.  Couldn’t tell you what all of them are making fun of, but Boros looks like he came straight out of Dragon Ball Z to fight Saitama.  Also, the wonderful Miyuki Sawashiro lent her talents as the voice of Mosquito Girl.  I wish she had been named “Mosqueeno,” but any time I get to hear Sawashiro’s voice is a great time.

What allows these characters and the gags to come off so wonderfully is by far the animation.  Madhouse absolutely killed it here.  I’ve been a huge fan of Yusuke Murata’s art since I read Eyeshield 21.  It’s like it’s the purest art style for shonen manga.  I don’t really know how to explain it better than that.  I am so glad he drew a remake for this series.  Yes, Bones did an amazing job adapting ONE’s extremely simplistic art for the Mob Psycho anime, but Murata’s style just fits One Punch so beautifully.  Plus, the anime knows when to revert to ONE’s style for comedic purposes.

I’ve done almost nothing but praise this anime, but I am giving it an 8.5.  Obviously, that’s a darn good score.  I guess I was expecting to be wowed more.  Something just didn’t fully click with me and One Punch Man.  I love the art and animation, most of the characters, and most of the gags.  Maybe it was too short, or maybe I wish it had more character development and plot.  I get it’s a parody series, but that only goes so far.  It could also be I’m comparing it to Mob Psycho 100, and I feel that’s the legitimately superior show.  Who knows?

Still loved the hell out of it, though.

2017 Summer of Anime – Your Lie in April

22 Your Lie in April

I think those are tears they’re lying in.

At age 11, Kousei Arima was the best pianist of his generation.  He could play each score perfectly in every competition.  So much so, he was even referred to as the Human Metronome by most everyone in the music world.  The reason he was so good, though, was due to the rigorous and often inhumane training his physically and emotionally abusive mother put him through.  Despite this, after her death, Kousei was traumatized.  He could no longer hear his own music and abandoned the piano.  Two years have passed since his mother’s death, and the world around him still seems dull and grey to his eyes.  Things change for him when his childhood friend Tsubaki Suwabe invites him out with her, his best friend Ryouta Watari, and one of her friends who has a crush on Watari one Saturday.  Said friend is a vibrant violinist named Kaori Miyazono, and for the first time in a long time, Kousei thinks the world is a little colorful after all.

I have been actively avoiding Your Lie in April since it aired back in 2014-2015.  Not because I thought I wouldn’t like it or anything.  I was always pretty sure I’d like it.  Just knew that it would be a sad anime.  I looked at the set-up and the hype, and I went, “This one’s gonna be a feels-train.”  Then I read some spoilers and knew my heartstrings would surely be played like a violin (how about that simile).  After getting tired of it staring at me from my Crunchyroll queue, I decided to bite the bullet and finally watch this sequel to March Comes in Like a Lion (that’s a joke there, son).  And I’m here to say I loved it.  And, yep.  I cried.

So, one thing I can see being a problem for someone watching this is Kousei’s backstory as an abuse victim.  That’s not necessarily a no-no in fiction, but when said character is subject to a lot of slapstick gags and getting hit by his friends for often mundane reasons, it can get a little uncomfortable when you start to think about it.  It didn’t really occur to me way later that it was a questionable choice, but I can’t deny a lot of the slapstick was pretty funny.  In fact, the the heavy drama could’ve been crushing without the comedy in the show.  I did not expect to laugh as much as I did.

A definite problem I had with the series is the aforementioned drama.  Again, nothing wrong with drama.  It did sometimes feel like sad things just happened because sad things needed to happen.  The story didn’t really call for some of those events to take place, but they still did.  I’m all for something pulling my heartstrings.  The coincidences here took me out of the story once or twice, though.  Sorry for the vagueness, but I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t already spoiled this series from themselves (like I did).

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Just duet already.

I think that’s it for my complaints.  Well, I would’ve liked to have seen Kousei’s old rivals, Emi Igawa and Takeshi Aiza, a bit more, but that’s about it.  I didn’t even know there would be pianist rivals in this show.  That was a genuinely welcome surprise.  I love those characters.  Then again, I love all the characters in this show.  The anime does a really good job of showing you where they all come from and why they do what they do and feel what they feel.  I think Watari is the only one who gets left behind in that department, but even he had his moments.  Also, I have to respect this anime for getting me to understand a child abuser.  Not like or agree with them.  But understand them.  That’s…impressive.

As you would expect from a show about musicians, the soundtrack is fabulous.  Both OPs and EDs, the insert music, and the pieces the characters play are the best.  I didn’t expect the show to look as damn pretty as it does, though.  I mean, I didn’t know it was from A-1 when I first started it.  In fact, going back to my earlier joke, I thought it shared some staff with March Comes in Like a Lion.  Just similar themes and imagery like depression and overcoming trauma through art/competition…while also following a bespectacled protagonist as an exuberant girl pulls him out of his listless life.  You know, maybe I’m onto something with the two being related.

The story is one where you can’t help but to root for everyone involved in their musical and romantic endeavors, the soundtrack is one of the best out there, it’s beautiful to look at, the cast is wonderful, there’re some legitimately funny moments throughout, and tears are almost guaranteed to be shed (sometimes when you least expect it).  Your Lie in April is a great show, but some of the forced drama and physical jokes can go a bit far.  Gonna give this one a 9.  Check it out if you want to watch an anime that’ll make you want to be a better person.  Or, ya know…cry.

So, Batman and Harley Quinn Walk Into a Bar…

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Glad Batman’s getting that Harley Quinn push.

Poison Ivy has teamed up with the nefarious Floronic Man to enact some nasty plant plot that will naturally put humanity at risk.  Batman and Nightwing are obviously on their trail, but the two green villains aren’t easy to find.  Even though they have ARGUS’s resources available to help stop Ivy and her new friend’s evil scheme, the two heroes will need help to find them.  They need someone who knows Ivy like the back of their hand.  They need Ivy’s nearest and dearest friend.  They need a woman who looks good in red and black.  They need Harley Quinn.

This is a movie I was cautiously optimistic about.  I am no different from damn near every other Bat-fan out there:  I love Batman The Animated Series with all my Bat-heart.  Obviously, the prospect of another movie that’s kinda in that DC Animated Universe continuity sounded too good to be true.  And, after the massive fumbling of The Killing Joke, it keeps me wary of these non-New 52 movies now.  So, how is this new kinda sorta maybe DCAU movie?

A mixed bag.

The Bad

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Yes, Nightwing, you have to be here for this.

Oh, jeez, where to even start with the bad stuff in this one.  The sex stuff?  Yeah, sure I’ll start with the sex stuff.  Okay, so some people who work on these movies seem to have it in their mind that in order for a movie to be more mature or adult it has to have sex jokes, innuendos, and just actual sex.  Now, I’m a man who loves fan-service and women in general, so I don’t have a problem with sexy stuff, but you gotta do it right.  There’s a reason the Batman/Batgirl scene from The Killing Joke is so maligned.  It’s just…wrong.  And that trend continues here as Nightwing and Harley Quinn bump uglies.  Again, not much wrong with that except for what I imagine is a decent age difference, but hey, they’re both adults.  (Sidenote: This is the second film in this series to feature Harley as a major character, and the second time she’s had sex in one of these.  Just throwing that out there.)  It’s the lead-in to it and just everything that happened before that makes it a wee bit uncomfortable.  There are also a number of sexual jokes throughout the movie that are just plain juvenile and unfunny.

And that’s really how a lot of the humor is in this.  I never thought I’d be watching an honest-to-goodness Batman film and there’d be a fart joke.  Yeah.  An extended fart joke.  From now on, I want to use the phrase, “That joke went over like a fart in the Batmobile.”  Some of the gags go on too long, and you start to wonder why they were even there in the first place.

The big detractor for me here, though, is Harley’s voice.  Look, I’m all for casting young up-and-comers and/or taking chances by giving new people legitimate roles, but Melissa Rauch just was not a good fit here at all.  Maybe if she’d had more time with the character in a smaller capacity, but you put her there with the Batman Kevin Conroy and she’s going to sound downright amateurish.  I dunno if Arleen Sorkin officially retired from voicing Harley, but surely Hynden Walch or Tara Strong could’ve come in for this.  I have nothing against whatever else Rauch has done.  I just don’t want her to voice Harley again.  Everything sounded so forced, and that’s about the worst thing to hear in an animated feature.

The tone of the movie is also a little off-putting.  I’m fine with a comedic Batman film.  We’ve had a string of pretty dark DC animated films, and I quite love both The Lego Batman Movie and Batman: The Movie.  So, this was a welcome change of pace.  People die in this movie, though, and it isn’t played for laughs.  One in particular was heavily played for drama, and it just came out of nowhere.

A’ight.  That’s enough of being a sourpuss.  Let’s get to some positives!

The Good

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The Nuclear Option.

Movie looks great.  Obviously.  It’s done in the DCAU style, so what else would you expect?  Seeing Kevin Conroy once again voice the version of Batman he cemented in the consciousness of Bat-fans around the world is the best.  Having Loren Lester voice his Nightwing was pretty cool, too, but Lester sounded like he had a bit of voice-rust in re-visiting Dick Grayson.  The opening credits sequence is also really cool and cute.  Props to the people who made that.

For as many jokes that miss, there are also quite a few that hit.  Even if the voice wasn’t right, Harley’s interactions with Ivy are some of the highlights of the movie.  There’s also a great scene that includes a good many shout-outs and callbacks to BTAS and the 1966 Batman show.  Don’t want to spoil that one (even though it, too, has its drawbacks), but it is delightful.

The story is fine.  I hesitated to put it under “The Good” part, but I enjoyed it.  It’s your basic road trip movie with Batman, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn.  And again, some of the plot points you can’t help but smile at in this lighthearted tale.  It really is great seeing a fun Batman.

The Word

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Squad goals.

There are some things I haven’t brought up yet that I’m still not sure are positives, negatives, or neutrals:  The Superbabes restaurant where the waitresses dress up in skimpy versions of super heroine and villainess costumes (or just regular New 52 costumes for Starfire and Harley); Swamp Thing; Poison Ivy seemingly getting high on The Green…. Like I said earlier–this movie is a mixed bag.  It is a fun movie without a doubt.  Getting these characters in these designs again in an adventure we haven’t seen before alone is worth watching the movie.  But some very questionable over-sexualization here and there, a lot of failed jokes and gags, and a genuinely underwhelming performance on Melissa Rauch’s part (I’m trying so hard not to pick on her) make this movie an uneasy recommendation.

If you have a friend who has it, then definitely check it out.  I’d caution you against buying it at full price, though.  It is by far not the best Batman movie out there, but it is also definitely not the worst.

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