Roving Thoughts

2020-03-07

The flaw in In/Spectre's conversations

Over on Twitter, I said:

I've realized that In/Spectre's fatal flaw is that these characters are explaining things to each other, rather than arguing back and forth, yelling past each other, or trying to pull fast ones. There's no conflict or drama in their conversations.

In/Spectre is by the same writer as Blast of Tempest, a show which I quite enjoyed (see my Winter 2013 retrospective). Both shows are full of talking and clever dialog (it's one of the writer's signature traits), but I'm not enjoying In/Spectre half as much as I did Tempest; in fact I'm increasingly finding In/Spectre kind of boring.

What I realized is that the two shows have different types of conversations. In Tempest, there was a conflict at the heart of most conversations; people were arguing with each other, trying to persuade each other or do deals, or at least trying to hoodwink and fool each other or hide information. In/Spectre is great when it's doing that sort of thing, when people are arguing or bickering or sniping at each other, but its most recent run of episodes has mostly involved people explaining things to each other or coming up with plans. There's no conflict, just talk.

(The few conversations that were not like this still have the spark to them, both in dialog and how they're staged.)

anime/InSpectreTalkingFlaw written at 15:16:10; Add Comment

2020-02-23

Brief impressions of the Winter 2020 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. This entry has been delayed partly because I'm lazy but largely for the traditional reason, which is that I haven't wanted to admit something about one of the shows airing this season.

Great:

  • Magia Record: This has completely blindsided me with how good it is and how much I've been enjoying it. The entire show is very well presented, with excellent staging, scenes, direction, and so on, the characters and their interactions are appealing, and the overall story interesting, with a solid balance of mystery and slow revelations.

    (The show's staging is very deliberately unnatural, but that fits its mood and setup, and it's doing very good things with that staging.)

Good:

  • BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense: This is my kind of thing so I'm biased, but even then I think it's solidly entertaining and above all simply fun. The show has an infectious joy of people playing this game and having fun at it, and it communicates that well along with the inherent comedy of Maple and her friends quietly breaking the game by doing things that the developers didn't expect.

  • In/Spectre: I like this style of show (it's from the same author as Blast of Tempest) but sometimes it has a little more talking with a little less compelling things than I'm entirely happy with. People making clever plans is all well and good, but sometimes I want a bit more. However, the show routinely does excellent character interactions, with the core cast interacting with each other in nice and often funny ways. Seeing Kotoko being taken down a peg is never not amusing, and everyone has believable chemistry with each other.

Tacitly suspended:

  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken (#3): This is an excellently made show about animation, with some appealing characters and all of that. But it hasn't really clicked with me and watching it often makes me feel that I'm sort of being lectured at (with a lot of love, but still). Some of the little things the show does with the characters don't appeal, either.

    Many people really love this and I'll probably watch episode four (which is apparently very good). But episode five is apparently all about giant robots and the various issues around the genre, which sounds exactly like what I'm not interested in at several levels.

That Eizouken hasn't clicked with me makes me feel both sad and guilty, because this is theoretically just the sort of thing that I should really enjoy and watch as an anime fan. It's even made by one of the best directors working in anime, someone whose previous shows I've generally quite enjoyed or at least appreciated. But my gut is just not interested and these days I listen to it.

(My gut actively looks forward to Magia Record, enjoys BOFURI a lot, and is okay with In/Spectre.)

anime/Winter2020Brief written at 16:20:14; Add Comment

2020-01-22

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Winter 2020 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).

  • BOFURI #1: I rather liked this, but I was biased towards it because I've enjoyed what of the manga I've seen. I'm scoring it solidly entertaining in a deliberately silly way; Maple is gleefully (but unknowingly) breaking the world in her own fun way.

  • Eizouken episode #1: That was a bunch of fun and a paean to animation, and I like these kids. I definitely hope that this show is going to go interesting places; I'll find out next episode.

  • In/Spectre episode #1: This is my kind of stuff in general so I'm biased, but this was sharp, interesting, nicely done, and with all sorts of lovely touches in dialog and action. And I like these two (I can't call them 'kids', all things considered). They bicker well.

  • Magia Record episode #1: That was a decidedly interesting start, often told in an interesting way that I liked. Iroha is an intriguing person with undercurrents, the whole show looks good (and had some decent action), and I want to watch more.

This pretty much covers anything that I feel likely to watch. I've heard good things about the story of Infinite Dendrogram, but from all reports the implementation in animated form is not particularly impressive. There's also Heya Camp, but two large parts of what I loved about Laid-Back Camp were Rin and the actual camping and I understand that neither of them are in these shorts, which doesn't make me very enthused.

(There's also sort of Dorohedoro, but it's apparently so mired in what is sometimes called the 'Netflix jail' that it wasn't even covered in the ANN review of this season's first episodes.)

anime/Winter2020FirstEpisodes written at 20:53:09; Add Comment

2020-01-03

I ended up abandoning the Fall 2019 anime season

It's time (and past time) to officially note this. In the end, after my first episode reactions, I wound up effectively entirely abandoning the Fall season, eventually watching no shows. I explicitly dropped everything except Fairy Gone, and while I didn't officially drop it I haven't watched more than the first two episodes. I may finish it (or watch more) at some point, because I was reasonably enthused after episode 14, but somehow that never translated to spending 24 minutes to watch episode 15.

This marks a low point in my anime watching; I haven't been this inactive for a very long time. I think that Winter 2020 will be better (there are certainly more promising shows in it), but I'll have to see. I don't think I'm burned out, but I'm definitely distracted by various things.

anime/Fall2019Abandoned written at 15:48:20; Add Comment

2019-10-28

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Fall 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). There aren't many this time around, and I haven't been watching them very fast.

  • Make My Abilities Average episode 1: This was one part ordinary overpowered isekai and one part interesting in a meta way because of where it starts the story. It has potential as popcorn entertainment for me, so I'll watch it until I get bored.

  • Assassin's Pride episode 1: This was rather melodramatic and over the top, but at least it was conscious of it. Probably the tone fits the material. But this was setup and we don't know much about what the rest of the show will be like.

  • Fairy Gone episode 13: I question re-starting this with an episode full of relatively slow flashbacks, but at least we have a bit more context now. And Suna turns out to have been about as superstition-ridden as you'd expect in its situation (ie, a lot).

At this point it doesn't seem likely that I'm going to watch any more series this fall (as you can tell from how delayed this entry is; some shows are airing their fourth episode). There are a number of quite good series (as reported by people), but they're all in settings or genres that almost never work for me, so I've not felt the energy to check them out just in case lightning strikes this time around.

anime/Fall2019FirstEpisodes written at 21:34:33; Add Comment

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

(Previous 10 or go back to April 2019 at 2019/04/26)

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