Roving Thoughts

2019-07-27

Brief impressions of the Summer 2019 anime season so far

As before it's time for my relatively early views of how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. At this point I've seen three episodes of everything I'm watching, so it feels like things are starting to stabilize (although maybe not).

A great Symphogear experience:

  • Symphogear XV: This season builds on everything that's come before (and is in many ways the second half of AXZ), so it's not a good place to start, but after three episodes it's a pretty great season of Symphogear. Everyone is being themselves and we're getting sustained epic things, melodramatic twists, ancient secrets, and so on.

Good:

  • Granbelm: I'm a minority that finds the giant robot fights to be not so impressive, but fortunately the characters and their interactions more than make up for that. This is really a character piece hiding inside what is nominally an action show, and it's pretty good at that.

  • Astra Lost in Space: The show is more or less written for kids and it shows, but I've wound up sucked into its charms despite that. I like watching it, even though bits of writing and other twists irritate me from time to time.

  • Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: So far, this is basically a series of fun romps that use the Fate/* world as a background setting. People snark at each other, interesting things happen, a problem gets solved, and it all wraps up neatly by the end of the episode. That makes it an enjoyable watch for me, one that I'm willing to continue for as long as the charm and novelty holds up.

    (I refuse to use the show's gigantic full official name.)

Cannot evaluation fairly:

  • Fire Force: This had a very impressive first two episodes and then the horrifying Kyoto Animation tragedy happened. While I can still watch the show, I don't know if I really want to and the KyoAnime tragedy has unquestionably changed my reaction to it. I was much less taken with the third episode and its flaws and irritations stood out much more. Some of those flaws and irritations were present even in the first two episodes; did they get worse in the third episode, or have I become more sensitive because I'm now less enthused about something involving fire? I don't know.

    I will probably keep watching Fire Force, but it's now very much on the edge in a way that it wasn't before and probably wouldn't have been without the KyoAnime tragedy.

Okay:

  • Cop Craft: I really liked the first episode, although even then its limited animation was noticeable, but I'm afraid that the wheels have started coming off by the third episode. There is the core of a compelling story and show in here, but it is not being realized so far; things are too rushed and abbreviated, and the great characters are not being given enough of a chance to interact with each other naturally. That it cannot really animate what should be exciting fight scenes is just the unsatisfying icing on the cake.

    However, there is still enough good stuff here that I'm willing to keep watching, partly in the hopes that everything will improve again. There are flashes of excellence in the show, even in the third episode.

Popcorn:

  • Isekai Cheat Magician: I have no excuses; this is a terribly bland show that somehow makes what should be an exciting, enthusiastic situation into a boring one. There have been far better shows with the same fundamental premise. But so far apparently I want to watch a popcorn isekai show with vastly overpowered protagonists.

    I expect to drop this sooner or later.

Dropped:

  • To the abandoned Sacred Beasts: The second episode opened with a charming orphanage, and nothing good ever happens to those in a show like this so I decided that I didn't want to watch any more.

I've also dropped last season's Demon Slayer, which basically wore out its charm. Zenitsu very strongly pushed me to drop it, but even without his presence I probably would have given up. I'm just not very interested in watching a long parade of shonen fights any more, and that was what Demon Slayer has transitioned into.

anime/Summer2019Brief written at 15:53:00; Add Comment

2019-07-19

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Summer 2019 anime season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts episode 1: That was a whole lot of setup and backstory, but it was okay overall and has some flashes of interest. We're not getting anything stunning but it might be competent and watchable, which is sadly rare.

  • Astra Lost in Space episode #1: That wasn't bad for what it was, and it had a decent amount of subtlety (not huge amounts, but). But it had some irritating things, and it doesn't have enough characterization to entirely cover for them.

  • Fire Force episode 1: Wow. What a feat of visuals and direction, and the story itself wasn't bad either. I'm pretty stunned with just how good this was & how much I enjoyed it. It gets points for being subtle, and many points for making me really want to see more.

  • Granbelm episode 1: That was certainly trying, but it doesn't feel like any of what it could manage lived up to what it aimed for. The result was a bit underwhelming, although still okay. It really needs better writing, though. Please.

  • Symphogear XV episode 1: Symphogear is back in all its glory and it is very Symphogear, in a good way. I can't have asked for more from this first episode (okay, better songs, I know that I'm a heathen here). We even got some good stuff with Miku. (They are so married.)

  • Cop Craft episode #1: Pretty much everything here was spot on for me, especially the writing, and the show's doing all sorts of things I like (including being subtle and having good characters). And then that final scene.

  • Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files episode 1: This was an okay re-introduction to how Waver got here, but it probably doesn't say anything about what the show is actually going to be like. I have enough lingering affection to give it another episode so I can find out.

  • Isekai Cheat Magician episode 1: This is a trifling confection of nothing much, partly because it was all setup; we'll get to interesting things next episode. But I'm okay with another run at a popcorn show like this while my interest lasts.

  • Dr Stone episode 1: That was essentially okay and it certainly has a mood, but the mood is one that involves a lot of shouting and dumbass energy, which is not really my thing in shows. And I'm sure there's going to be fighting sooner or later.

There's a number of other shows that I've been on the edge of trying out, but this season is already busy enough. If my gut thinks that a show's premise, setup, and early reviews are too marginal, I should probably listen to it.

(O Maidens in Your Savage Season is getting very good reviews, but it's almost certainly not a show that's going to work for me. Vinland Saga, while getting quite good reviews, but I think it falls into the same category as Golden Kamuy, which didn't work for me. I may try the manga instead.)

anime/Summer2019FirstEpisodes written at 00:18:49; Add Comment

2019-07-01

Looking back on the Spring 2019 anime season

It's time for my traditional look back at what I watched this past Spring season, to follow up on my earlier impressions. This was a decidedly small season for me, since I only finished two shows.

Good:

  • Fairy Gone: This cour of the show wasn't flawless but it was interesting and generally well done, and it's certainly enough to get me to watch the next cour (which will air in the Fall season, starting in October). Marlya basically carried the show for me, and in general it was at its best when she and her compatriots in Dorothea were on the screen and doing things. As always, I enjoyed it partly because it was doing something different from the run of the mill shows that we usually get.

Decent except for Zenitsu:

  • Demon Slayer: The show is generally pretty good as a shonen action show (although it sometimes stumbles) and I continue to like Nezuko and her interactions with Tanjiro. Unfortunately it is less successful elsewhere, such as in its non-fight writing, and in particular Zenitsu is extremely terrible; he embodies a great deal of shonen character cliches that I hate and find extremely grating. It also looks like it's about to settle down into basically a series of 'monster of the time interval' fights, now that the initial setup has been done. Due to both of these factors (but primarily Zenitsu), I expect to drop the show soon.

    (I read spoilers for Zenitsu's future developments and he does not improve the things that irritate me. If anything, he gets worse.)

Dropped (unless I get very bored):

  • Wise Man's Grandchild (#9): It slowed down so that it was basically leaning on reaction faces to keep my interest, and that wasn't enough. I skimmed episode 10 very briefly, and apparently a lot of it was trying to give the main villain a vaguely sympathetic background and, well, I'll pass; Wise Man's Grandchild does not have writing that is anywhere near good enough to succeed at that. Probably further episodes pick up with some fighting, which would be popcorn entertainment if I decided I wanted that and can't get it from new shows in the Summer season.

I did not continue Sarazanmai. Various reactions from people with opinions that generally agree with mine make me feel that I made the right decision, however much I feel like I should watch an Ikuhara show.

Although this was a slow season, I feel satisfied with what I watched. I enjoyed Fairy Gone and Demon Slayer was entertaining and well done for what it was.

anime/Spring2019Retrospective written at 16:34:11; Add Comment

2019-05-30

Brief impressions of the Spring 2019 anime season so far

As before it's well past time for my views on how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. A good part of why I'm only writing this basically half way through the season is that there has been something that I didn't really want to admit about my watching this season, and I kept hoping that I would get up the energy to change it before I wrote this entry.

Good:

  • Fairy Gone: This is the most interesting show I'm watching this season, although perhaps not the best made one. Part of why I like it quite a lot is that it's simply different from the usual run of the mill stuff we get every season, and since it's decently put together it automatically gets positive points from me. It also gets positive points for a competent female protagonist.

    (The character names are amusingly terrible, but at least they're trying.)

Perfectly decent:

  • Demon Slayer: This is a quite well made and somewhat atypical shonen action vehicle, with pretty much all of the things that you would expect from the genre and only a few surprises. We had our training episodes, we had our 'prove yourself in this killer test' episodes, and so on, although we recently had what could be a major deviation from schedule (but probably isn't, because this is an adaptation of an ongoing Shonen Jump manga). I find it nice to watch but not compelling, and Nezuko remains tragically underused.

Popcorn entertainment:

  • Wise Man's Grandchild: This is mindless and not particularly great entertainment. I am enjoying the hijinks so far because I am easily amused and right now, I'm willing to spend some time watching this (often over actual popcorn). There is no real tension in the show; the only real question and most of the amusement is how deep a hole Shin is going to dig for himself this time around, and what crazy things are going to ensue. I do appreciate that all of the other significant characters are getting to power up too; this is not just the 'Shin is awesome and everyone else sits around' show.

On hold:

  • Sarazanmai (#2): I have a somewhat rocky relationship with Ikuhara shows; I stalled out on Penguindrum and ended up with divided opinions on Yurikuma Arashi where it didn't really connect with me. Watching Sarazanmai feels like something I should do and portions of it are perfectly entertaining, but after two episodes I haven't really connected with it and it has my Penguindrum problem (cf) where at least some of the people we are supposed to follow and like are actually currently kind of terrible people, which is hard for me to get behind. Perhaps I will like it more if I watch more, but so far I am many episodes behind and that keeps not changing.

In my current slow and relaxed level of anime watching, I'm thinking of this as a decently good season. I have one show that is outright interesting and two that are okay at different levels, and in theory there is some good stuff that I'm just not watching (right now).

anime/Spring2019Brief written at 00:48:39; Add Comment

2019-05-22

Looking back on the Winter 2019 anime season

It's time (and well past time) for my traditional look back at what I watched this past Winter season, to follow up on my earlier impressions. I've been lazy about doing this entry, partly because there is not a lot to talk about.

Good:

  • Kemurikusa: In the end, Tatsuki and his crew came through with a worthy follow on to Kemono Friends. The show started slow and had some early speed bumps, but it picked up as it went along and even ended up giving us a decent bunch of explanations for things and fully sold the love story that orbited through the show. This isn't flawless but it was unquestionably good.

Decently okay:

  • The Magnificent Kotobuki: The show remained perfectly entertaining on an episode by episode basis and the last two episodes were really something; they were compulsive and genuinely tense in a way that I hadn't expected at all. But the show's problems also remained, which is that it didn't really have a compelling long-term thread running through, although it did develop a plot for the climax. We did get a bunch of nice character moments, though, and maybe even a few things that could be called character development.

In shows that didn't start this season, I enjoyed That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime all the way through; it retained all of its good virtues as fine popcorn entertainment. However, it wound up ending with quite weird pacing, where it rushed through portions of the final storyline (dropping or significantly altering a number of plot elements in the process), then abruptly slowed down to a very leisurely pace and outright did a final recap episode. A show that both drops elements of the original story to save time and then does a recap episode is a rather odd thing, and I can't avoid some obvious speculations (although these speculations are often wrong; 'production problems' is an all-purpose idea that the fandom has and is usually not right).

anime/Winter2019Retrospective written at 17:43:43; Add Comment

2019-04-26

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Spring 2019 anime season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • Fairy Gone episode 1: That was a solid introduction and first episode. It had a certain amount of exposition, but it didn't explain everything, it had a bunch of action and progression, and it did some nice work. I'll watch the next episode.

  • Apparently I was not in the mood for One-Punch Man S2's first episode's story this night. I will probably take another run at it another time, since I skimmed the rest of the episode to see where it was going.

    Spoiler: I did not try to watch the episode again, partly because in reading the ANN preview reports for it I discovered that there had been major staff changes (and a decided drop in the amount of interesting animation, which matches my vague feelings from what I did see of the episode).

  • Wise Man's Grandchild episode 1: This was perfectly okay, but it is no Slime or Knight's & Magic and this episode was all setup. I'll watch another episode to see if it gets more interesting once it's actually doing something.

  • Demon Slayer episode 1: That was a strong, well done start that makes me want to watch more even though I can pretty much predict it's going to get mired down in the usual slow-paced way sooner or later. For now, it's exciting and appealing, and that's enough.

  • Sarazanmai episode 1: That simultaneously made perfect sense and very little sense, which is probably more than I expected. I have no other coherent short term reactions except that I'm definitely going to watch the next episode.

  • [...] In theory I could watch Fruits Basket, but in practice I saw the first version years ago and I don't remember loving it so much that I want to basically watch it again (although it was a decently nice show).

By this point it seems unlikely that I'll watch any other first episodes. Carole & Tuesday has been getting some good reports, but it doesn't seem like my kind of show and my results with Shinichirō Watanabe's past shows have been decidedly mixed, with me bouncing off Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance.

anime/Spring2019FirstEpisodes written at 21:40:28; Add Comment

2019-03-09

Looking back on the Fall 2018 anime season

It's well past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Fall season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. This past fall season was unusual because I passed on Bloom Into You during the season and then became very taken with it when I watched it all just after the end of the year. Since I watched it so close to the season (and before I started the Winter 2019 season), I'm declaring it a Fall 2018 show for the purpose of this retrospective (and my eventual 'best N in 2018' entry).

(This entry has been delayed mostly because of laziness.)

Somewhere between excellent and amazing:

  • SSSS.Gridman: The show started out being decently good and only got better from there, climaxing as an excellent if not amazing show. I had things to say in the aftermath of the last episode. Although Gridman starts out looking like a giant robot/kaiju show, it almost immediately becomes really an increasingly good character drama (interspersed with kaiju fights, which become necessary for the character drama). And as a character drama, it's excellent and affecting all through. The presentation is top-notch, with great directing and very interesting sound design.

    SSSS.Gridman is not flawless, but despite its flaws it's quite a lot my thing.

Excellent but effectively unfinished:

  • Bloom Into You: This is a great show, beautiful, dramatic, full of small touches, and many other things that drew me into it. It's that rare thing, a high school romance that wholeheartedly works for me; it's almost become my new gold standard for that (taking over from Toradora). It only has one unfortunate flaw, which is that the story is in no way finished and the show has to just stop abruptly. Bloom is adopting an ongoing manga and apparently there is just no good pause point so far; the show picks an okay one, one that shows off character growth and so on, but it is forced to leave all of its big plot threads just dangling. I finished the show very much wanting a a second season (or perhaps to read the manga).

    That Bloom Into You has to stop so abruptly means that it really isn't a standalone work in the way that SSSS.Gridman is. In my opinion Bloom is better and less flawed than Gridman, but Gridman tells a whole story and Bloom does not, and it turns out that I care about that too.

Good fun entertainment:

  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Above all, Slime is a cheerful, good-hearted show that is out to make us smile. If you want conflict and challenged characters and so on, this is not for you; it's all about Rimuru solving a succession of problems and running over a succession of obstacles as they build a home and make friends with people and various great character interactions go on. The show fundamentally likes pretty much everyone, and almost every enemy gets a chance at redemption. In an ocean of grim shows where terrible things happen to people and certain sorts of characters are walking cliches that are used only as the butt of jokes, Slime is a breath of fresh air.

    Slime is not flawless, and in a certain way it's boring. But I always enjoyed it and it reliably brought a smile to my face when I watched a new episode.

Not as good as the first season:

  • Thunderbolt Fantasy S2: This was a good wuxia puppet show with various sorts of interesting things going on (and one stinger in the ending), but I'm not entirely taken with some of the things that Urobuchi wrote into the story (cf) and it can't (and doesn't) measure up to the first season. The original Thunderbolt Fantasy was amazing; this is merely a good adventure show with fun dialog and some amusing things going on.

    Looking back at the story structure in retrospect, I can't say that I'm entirely surprised by this; it would be very hard to duplicate the things that made the first season so special. We're unlikely to get that sort of revelations and twists and character developments again, because we've already had them once.

I feel satisfied with this season as a whole. Two shows were basically amazing (counting Bloom and ignoring the non-ending), one was solidly pleasant, and one was at least reasonably entertaining.

anime/Fall2018Retrospective written at 17:49:39; Add Comment

2019-02-18

Brief impressions of the Winter 2019 anime season so far

As before it's time (and well past time) for my views of how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. The short version is that it is not a good season for me so far (for various reasons) and as a result of that I am a week or two behind on the two shows from this season that I'm still watching.

Decently okay:

  • The Magnificent Kotobuki: This is a perfectly entertaining show on an episode by episode basis; every episode is generally funny and well crafted, with various subtle touches. However I have realized that one of my problems with the show overall is that there is nothing there to pull me from one episode to the next other than the pure entertainment value. After the four episodes I've watched so far, there is no real ongoing plot or continuing developments, just episodic shenanigans.

    If I want to feel entertained, watching Kotobuki is a decent option. But it turns out that I have a lot of ways of entertaining myself and Kotobuki has often not been the most compelling one.

Uncertain:

  • Kemurikusa: On the one hand, there is some good stuff here (it's quite atmospheric, for example). On the other hand, after four episodes I continue to find the show to be slow moving overall and Wakaba remains irritating as the genki idiot (cf), and some apparent subplots involving him annoy me by their very existence.

I have dropped everything else from my first episode reactions for an assortment of reasons, including Boogiepop and Others (cf), which makes me a bit sad. I have decided not to write those reasons up because they'll just consist of me being grumpy.

(I have been watching people watch Endro! on Twitter and it seems like a pretty entertaining show on the whole, even if it didn't work for me.)

I continue to fully enjoy That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime as fine popcorn entertainment. The goings-on of Rimuru and friends never fail to bring a smile to my face and it's the only show I'm current on this season.

anime/Winter2019Brief written at 17:51:06; Add Comment

Link: Color Spaces

Bartosz Ciechanowski's Color Spaces (via) is a nice exploration of the issues involved with computer RGB colour spaces. I found it especially interesting and clear because it has some interactive illustrations of various concepts involved.

(In theory I knew all of this, but in practice it's nice to have a clear refresher every so often.)

links/ColorSpaces written at 16:51:56; Add Comment

2019-01-14

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Winter 2019 anime season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • Boogiepop and Others episode 1: That was okay, I guess; it certainly wasn't actively bad, but I don't feel terribly inspired by what I saw. Stuff happened. Some things made sense; other things might be deliberately obtuse. There's a lot of mystery and little reason to care.

  • Kemurikusa episode 1: That was a pretty decent start with a bunch of solid stuff, but I would be much less worried about where it's going if it had not added a boy. It's also pretty much all setup and lacks the propulsive push forward that really compelling shows have here.

  • Girly Air Force episode 1: That was generally decently fun and I especially liked the research boss; he's an enjoyable character. It's no Sky Girls, but I like the genre in general and I'm willing to watch more to see what happens next.

  • Dororo episode 1: That was perfectly well done and it definitely believed in 'show don't tell', although maybe it went a bit overboard on it; I would have been a bit lost if I hadn't known the premise. But it may not be distinct enough to keep me; it feels pretty generic action.

  • Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka episode 1: This could have been interesting, but it has middle of the road aesthetics and mostly came off as kind of ridiculous and over the top (not in a good way). There were some decent bits but on the whole it felt entirely too lazily calculated.

  • Endro! episode 1: That was reasonably decent and reasonably funny, as people have said, but unsurprisingly it wasn't funny enough to keep me watching the next episode. (Anime comedy almost never works for me, so I expected this result.)

  • The Magnificent Kotobuki episode 1: Now that's how you do a first episode that nails me to my seat. Not just fun and thrilling along with subtle storytelling that showed instead of told, but also decent introductions to a bunch of fun characters.

I won't be looking at Kemono Friends 2, not after what Kadokawa did to the scrappy little team that completely unexpectedly turned dross into gold. Anyway, early reports are not positive, which doesn't surprise me at all under the circumstances (I'm sort of surprised that Kadokawa found anyone who was willing to work on KF2 for them). The creative team behind Kemono Friends (the original and only real version) is doing Kemurikusa this season, so watch that instead.

anime/Winter2019FirstEpisodes written at 20:37:09; Add Comment

(Previous 10 or go back to January 2019 at 2019/01/13)

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