Roving Thoughts

2018-10-15

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Fall 2018 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).

  • Thunderbolt Fantasy S2 episode 1: I can't figure out if Shang was reasonably smart, rather stupid, or both at once. Also, this didn't quite start with the bang that I was expecting; this was more setup than anything else.

  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime episode 1: I enjoyed this as goofy, over the top fun in a genre I have a weakness for, but it's definitely made better by having inhaled the manga first. (Among other things, I liked spotting the changes from the manga.)

  • The Girl in Twilight episode 1: That was an interesting start but as usual it's all setup and doesn't say anything about where the show's going. Still, it's interesting enough to get me to watch the next episode.

  • Release the Spyce episode 1: That was a perfectly good and enjoyable experience. It didn't set me on fire, partly because it was a bit too goofy, but the end means they've clearly opted to go big with the show and I can respect that. I'll certainly watch the next episode.

  • SSS.Gridman episode #1: Okay, I'm a sucker for shows that start out this way (teasing some mysteries, offering some hints, having weird stuff happen), and the characters are pretty solid too. I actively enjoyed the quiet parts before the action; there was nice interplay there.

(I made a typo here; SSSS.Gridman has four S's, not three.)

This is all of the first episodes that I feel like looking at at the moment. Other things have gotten praise, but they're in genres that almost never work for me or don't seem appealing on a broad level. And as far as my enthusiasm for this season actually goes, well, I'll have to quote a recent tweet:

I'm backlogged on shows already, but that's because I'd apparently rather play around with Grafana+Prometheus rather than watch anything I have pending (which may say something about what I've got queued). Sorry, Slime show, but I already read the manga. Maybe later.

(This doesn't include either SSSS.Gridman or Thunderbolt Fantasy, both of which I'm enthusiastically watching so far.)

anime/Fall2018FirstEpisodes written at 22:58:18; Add Comment

2018-10-07

Looking back at the Summer 2018 anime season

Once again it's time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Spring season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. As in the spring, this is a pretty easy wrap-up since I only watched three shows all the way through this season.

Excellent:

  • Planet With: The show always wore its heart on its sleeve, and on the whole I think it worked, but I was left feeling that it went a bit too fast at the end. The show's breakneck pace was great when it was moving briskly over the standard robot show beats that we've all seen many times before and that carried no real emotional weight, but it felt less successful when it was speeding over things that would have built more emotional investment. But reactions here definitely differ (cf).

    (Unlike some shows, it doesn't feel like Planet With was forced to condense itself because of limited run time. All of its choices about speed seemed carefully designed and entirely deliberate, although they were obviously strongly influenced by its episode count.)

    On the whole I think Planet With was a great show, always enjoyable and exciting, with excellent characters and many little touches. It left any number of things not said explicitly but implied sufficiently much that we could get it if we paid attention, which is something I always enjoy. It also deliberately made it clear that we were not seeing everything important about the lives of these characters, just a small slice; this was most explicit in the last two episodes, where it made a point of alluding to various off-screen things.

  • Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight: In the end the show's strong focus on its message and the theatrical parts of its presentation left me with a lack of emotional investment in the characters and the show as a whole. I like and admire the show, I think it did some really impressive things on a technical level (with its directing, layouts, and so on), I'm glad that it exists, I enjoyed watching it, I believe that it's doing good work, but in the end I don't think I care very much emotionally or that the show will stick with me. My involvement in the show was mostly intellectual, apart from Daiba Nana (who needed a hug and got one in the end, good for Revue Starlight).

    Revue Starlight is very entangled in the Takarazuka Revue, so it will perhaps land with more impact on people who care about it and who are sufficiently familiar to clearly see the messages RS has to send without the guidance of something like Atelier Emily's essential writing on the show.

    (See also this review, which hits a lot more points. Also, my tweets in reaction to the last episode.)

Popcorn educational entertainment:

  • Cells at Work!: This slowed down in the last portions in the sense that they seemed to run a bit low on interesting educational things to show us and wound up leaning more on the characters to carry episodes. Since Cells doesn't really have characters that it's possible to become strongly invested in, this didn't entirely work for me. But the whole thing was still worth watching as popcorn entertainment.

I feel satisfied with this season as a whole, partly because I no longer feel compelled to fill up all of my spare time with anime.

(I also watched some of the first Overlord series and plan to get back to see more at some point. It's ridiculous and overpowered in a way that amuses me.)

anime/Summer2018Retrospective written at 17:04:38; Add Comment

The unusual theatricality of Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

On Twitter I've been periodically calling Revue Starlight 'theatrical'. Perhaps surprisingly, I'm not talking about its swordfight segments, where people duel each other on fantastical settings while also (perhaps) singing about it; that's actually one of the least theatrical elements of Revue Starlight, in the sense that I have in mind.

In most shows, even ones that are fantastical or aren't set in this world, the events and actions we see are intended to be real within the show's setting (or at least to the characters, since they may sometimes be hallucinating or imagining things and we see the world through their eyes). Thunderbolt Fantasy may be a highly stylized and arch fantasy, but all of those crazy fights and exchanges of dialog are real within the show; they are what actually happened. The same is true of Mushishi, Gun Gale Online, and even pretty much for Yurikuma Arashi.

This is also true for the sword fighting segments of Revue Starlight, as the second episode makes clear; we are told outright that they really happened. But as we are also shown no later than the fourth episode, it's not always the case for the rest of Revue Starlight. Some of what we are seeing in the anime is not real even within the show itself. In these segments we're seeing a shorthand, abstracted, excerpted version of the actual 'real in the show' events, something that is intended to evoke the real thing instead of being it. We are tacitly seeing a stage play of what happened, with the sets and scene changes and so on visible, instead of what happened. It is in this sense that I say that Revue Starlight is theatrical. Just as a theatre performance may be done so that we are aware that we are watching a theatre performance that depicts 'real' events, we are aware in Revue Starlight that we are watching a performance that has been chopped and diced and reformed for us, not the show's reality.

(Theatre performances can also be made with the intention of making it feel real to the audience, of course, and many are.)

This decision fits in with Revue Starlight's other decisions, of course; the show is not shy about what it is doing or why. But for me it adds an extra layer of distancing unreality between the show's characters and me. I'm not entirely seeing people doing things, I'm seeing a performance. It's a nice performance and I admire the artistry of many segments of it, but.

(And for me Revue Starlight was most successful where it was not so self-consciously a performance, when it was much more animating the show's reality.)

PS: As Yurikuma Arashi shows, you don't have to be theatrical in this way to have your show be mostly in service to metaphors and themes. To put it one way, that things happen because ultimately they are a big metaphor doesn't mean that things don't happen. The puppet strings show, of course, but they generally do if metaphor is the most important thing to the work.

(This elaborates on some tweets of mine and is something that's been revolving around my head since I started calling Revue Starlight 'theatrical' on Twitter.)

anime/RevueStarlightTheatrical written at 16:56:58; Add Comment

2018-09-01

Checking in on the Summer 2018 anime season 'midway' through

I seem to have settled on a pattern of first episode reactions, early impressions around the fourth episode mark, and these 'midway' views about two thirds of the way through the season (so around episode eight). This point is far enough into the season that most shows have settled into their course and I have pretty solid opinions on them, which makes it a good time to take stock (and sometimes to admit that I've dropped some of them, although not this season).

Excellent:

  • Planet With: This has remained a great show, one that's moving at a breakneck pace and with full awareness of what it's doing. The show's full of little touches, fine moments, and excellent characters, and I can't wait for each episode.

    One thing I like about Planet With is how quietly clever and sophisticated it is without rubbing our noses into certain things. Various of the characters and organizations in action in the show are being questionable, but the show is not going to tell us that; it's just going to have some characters say some things, and then show us some stuff, and we can draw our own conclusions. In this it favourably reminds me of UN-GO.

  • Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight: I've come around to the view that this is an explicitly theatrical show even in its normal side, which makes me accept certain things that I would otherwise consider overdone. It's a solid show in general, and episode 7 has made me even more interested in rewatching the early episodes at some point (although I have no idea if I'm ever going to get around to that, as I'm bad at rewatching things).

    If you're watching Revue Starlight, I'd strongly encourage you to read Atelier Emily's writing on it (but beware of spoilers, you should be completely current on the show before visiting, and @AJtheFourth often publishes new entries on Friday, the day the show comes out in Japan).

Popcorn educational entertainment:

  • Cells at Work!: This doesn't have any real characters that I can care about (although it has characterization) and it only sort of has action, but what's kept me watching is that it's both entertaining and educational. I got scraped up a bit recently and having watched Cells at Work! made it a different experience.

    (With that said, I'm not sure it's going to stay interesting as it goes on longer. There's already a feeling that it's reaching for more obscure and less interesting topics.)

Dropped:

  • Phantom in the Twilight (#4): I ran out of interest basically immediately after my early impressions, when the next episode seemed to be a 'supernatural creature of the week' episode instead of moving the plot forward and I decided I wasn't that enthused.

This feels like a good season, even though I'm only watching three shows, and I feel like I lived up to my resolution from last season's midway views. Two of the three shows I'm watching are very good, and the third makes for surprisingly compelling educational material with periodic funny bits.

anime/Summer2018Midway written at 23:30:04; Add Comment

2018-08-04

Brief impressions of the Summer 2018 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'm three or four episodes into everything I'm still watching, which is long enough for the shows to have shown their cards.

Excellent:

  • Planet With: This is a great show and very much one of the kinds of thing that I enjoy. All sorts of things are happening and the show's definitely not making us wait around to get revelations. The characters are pretty great, the events happening are weird and interesting, and the plot twists are one part surprises and one part predictable but not being drawn out. I can't wait for each new episode.

Enjoyable but I'm not sure I understand it:

  • Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight: There's a lot going on in the show and I'm pretty sure I don't understand it all, even though I find it very interesting to watch. This is the kind of show that feels like I'll get a bunch more out of it on a rewatch. Since the show is so relatively cryptic to me at the moment I don't have much more to say except that I'm enjoying watching, especially the wild spectacular bits.

    (The portions of the character beats that I can follow are interesting too.)

Popcorn entertainment:

  • Cells at Work!: I think I'm following this because it's hitting the right combination of entertaining and educational. Without the steady supply of interesting information about how bodies work I probably wouldn't care enough about what's going on; as it is, it's pretty entertaining even if it's a bit predictable.

  • Phantom in the Twilight: This is definitely popcorn entertainment (for me) but so far it's kept having enough action and plot twists to keep me watching. I'm not particularly close to any of the characters, but it does have them and they're reasonably interesting. I suspect that it may be about to get mired in more boring material so I'll drop it, but we'll see.

I decided that I wasn't interested enough in either Angolmois or Sirius the Jaeger to give either of them a second episode. Their first episodes were perfectly good action shows but they failed to engage me very much beyond watching the spectacle, and apparently just action spectacle is no longer enough to keep me around (which feels like a change from the past).

Two solid shows and two additional shows for entertainment is down on my past watching levels but it feels about right for me today, and if I wind up dropping the bottom two I don't feel like I'll regret it. Apparently I no longer feel the urge to fill up all of my spare time with anime watching.

anime/Summer2018Brief written at 19:09:54; Add Comment

2018-07-25

Looking back at the Spring 2018 anime season

Once again it's time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Spring season, to follow up on my early impressions and my 'midway' views. Even if I was lazy about it, this is an easy wrap-up because I only finished two shows, each excellent in their own way.

  • Sword Art Online Alternative - Gun Gale Online: This had many good aspects that I could rave about, but above all it was pure fun from start to end (they even managed to make the 'episode 5.5' recap great, although it helps to watch it after you've finished the show so you get the undertones). The characters were great and worked well with each other, everyone was enjoying themselves in the game, the twists of the action were great, and the actual comedy was funny. It even managed to pull off being serious every so often.

    Gun Gale Online is my new standard of excellence in popcorn fun action shows.

    (With that said, the show probably was about exactly the right length and I'm not sure you could make more that still was as good as this was.)

  • Hisone and Masotan: I don't fully understand what happened at the end there and I'm not sure how I feel about one aspect of the epilogue, but the show as a whole was a great ride and quietly took a point of view that I whole-heartedly agree with. It also had that rare thing, a romance and a romantic pairing that I could actually believe in (partly because the two people in question didn't start out that way at all).

    (This was deeper than GGO but not as purely and easily entertaining; this spring, that put GGO on top as my most anticipated and eagerly watched show.)

I dropped all three of the shows that I expected I'd probably dropped in my 'midway' views. There's nothing deeply wrong with any of them (with the possible exception of DarliFra), I just stopped being interested enough to watch more.

The two shows I finished were both great (in that I deeply enjoyed both of them), and that's enough to make the Spring season a pretty good one. My snap assessment is that it's better overall than the winter season, or at the very least it had more shows that I felt like throwing myself into watching every week when they came out.

anime/Spring2018Retrospective written at 21:38:39; Add Comment

2018-07-22

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Summer 2018 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). This is a sparse season for me.

  • Cells at Work! episode 1: That was reasonably fun and amusing, but the basic conceit feels like it's a one-episode show. I guess I'll see if next episode can do anything particularly novel and interesting.

  • Planet With episode 1: That was simultaneously quietly fun (and funny), deliberately confusing, and definitely interesting. I'm intrigued and I want to see more. A bunch of the show's look feels deliberately 90s or early 00s in a way we don't see any more.

  • I tried watching Chio's School Road and its humor didn't work well enough for me to keep me watching more than a few minutes. Part of it is that I don't like laughing at ostensible (and sympathetic) protagonists and it felt like it was heading that way.

  • Phantom in the Twilight episode 1: That was a pretty energetic and entertaining start. I like it. Our protagonist is not one of the ones that have to be prodded into motion; she's right out there cheerfully throwing herself into things.

  • Angolmois episode 1: That was pretty nicely done, with little flab or flailing and good directing and all that (I could have lived without that filter). I'm just not yet sold on the story itself or engaged with the characters themselves. Still, it was nice.

  • Revue Starlight episode 1: That was a pretty interesting presentation and the end of the episode was great, but I'm not sure I'm really interested in the apparent story here. We'll see; I'm certainly watching the next episode.

  • Sirius the Jaeger episode 1: This is stylish (or trying to be) and it had some good action, but there wasn't really anything else there and it certainly didn't try to tell us much of anything about the characters.

    (It feels kind of 80s in an odd way.) #

This covers everything that I seem likely to be enough interested in to watch the first episodes of. I've seen both Hanabado and Harukana Receive get praise as reasonably nice sports shows, but sports shows are almost always not my thing and neither seems strong enough to overcome that. None of the other comedies are appealing, and while Holmes of Kyoto seems okay, I think that niche is already filled this season with Phantom in the Twilight.

anime/Summer2018FirstEpisodes written at 15:55:56; Add Comment

2018-06-15

Checking in on the Spring 2018 anime season 'midway' through

Increasingly, these midway entries are where I'm put face to face with what I'm actually watching and what I'm enjoying, and I have to admit to it (either in public or to myself; the latter can be harder). If I was still happy with everything in my early impressions, this wouldn't amount to much, but as you might guess from me writing this, I'm not. In fact this season has been especially bad.

So it's time for me to face up to some awkward things and admit them, by talking about what I'm watching and not watching.

Fully enjoying:

  • Sword Art Online Alternative - Gun Gale Online: This has stayed a great entertainment watch all through, with plenty of twists and turns that have basically all been fun. LLENN is a great character, as is basically everyone around her, and the result is something that I look forward to each week.

  • Hisone and Masotan is a solid mix of genuine fun and interesting, sometimes touching developments. The overall plot has turned out to be an interesting mixture of genuinely interesting things and pure fun craziness, as have various additional characters who've been slowly accumulating.

Suspended and probably dropped if I'm being honest:

  • My Hero Academia (#46): The show is pretty much the same as it always has been; I've just basically run out of enthusiasm for its shonen jive (to borrow a term from Evirus).

  • Megalo Box (#9): The episodes are fine by themselves but the characters have been a bit too iconic to really engage me, and it is ultimately a sports drama, which usually doesn't work for me. I'm pretty sure there's a plot twist coming in the next episode that I'm not going to enjoy, so I'm just sitting on things.

  • Darling in the FranXX (#19): It's not that the show has done anything worse than usual, it's just that I've been feeling less and less enthused about its usual as episodes have piled up. FranXX has had some good stuff, but it's also had a lot of things that don't have the impact that the show's wanted. I agree with Evirus's view on the whole, but I don't think I appreciate what it's trying as much as he does.

    (I used to call DarliFra popcorn entertainment and it still is in a way, it's just that Gun Gale Online does it so much better and I don't really need to spend my time watching anime that I'm meh on.)

It's possible that I'll watch more of any of these three, but at the moment, having actually written this down, it feels unlikely. I'm not really on the edge about any of them; I just haven't been willing to admit it. And there's a bit of me that whispers that I've already watched so much of both MHA and FranXX so why not see them through.

Dropped:

  • Golden Kamuy (#5): As usual there's nothing wrong with the show, it's just that I wasn't particularly enjoying it and I didn't care about all of the plotting and machinations going on. I guess that I'm not that into bloody adventure stories, even if Asirpa had good faces and various characters had fun interactions in general.

  • Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory (#3): Oh, this one hurts. But somewhere in the decade or so since the last FMP and this one, the magic all leaked out for me, and after a while I became willing to admit it to myself. Plain and simply, I found I had no interest in watching the fourth episode and I didn't feel like I was missing anything by walking away.

Given my final comments in my early impressions, I apparently had the feeling that things were going to turn out this way basically from the start. Now that I've managed to admit that I'm only really watching two shows and I've probably dropped everything else, I find that I'm fine with the situation. If I really wanted to watch more anime, there are old shows I have waiting. In the mean time, there's plenty of other things to do.

(My resolution for next season is to drop things faster if I'm not genuinely enjoying them, no matter what I may feel. The sunk cost fallacy is dangerous, especially when it comes to something like Darling in the FranXX.)

anime/Spring2018Midway written at 22:14:00; Add Comment

2018-05-07

Brief impressions of the Spring 2018 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 anywhere from three to five episodes of the shows I'm following (or two for one special case), and that gap says a lot about how I seem to be feeling this season. There are a couple of shows that I enthusiastically follow, and then a big gap to a bunch of things that I'm watching without much drive. As a result, this season I'm using a different rating breakdown than before.

Eagerly watching immediately:

  • Sword Art Online Alternative - Gun Gale Online: If you'd told me before the start of the season that a SAO show would be one of the top shows I look forward to every week, I wouldn't have believed you. But GGO is almost nothing like regular SAO (for example, it's completely Kirito-free), and the result has been pretty sharp and definitely enjoyable. We're not getting deep or complex storytelling, but it's a fun ride and the show pulls off it straightforward story well.

    (In other words this is pretty much a popcorn show, but it's a great popcorn show so far.)

  • Hisone and Masotan: Unsurprisingly, the show didn't manage to stay quite as manic and stunning as the first episode, but what we've got since then is still quite good (although I wish the show would stomp on one particular thing). I'm not sure we need an overall plot, since what I'm really here for is all of the characters interacting with each other, but I suppose it gives the show an excuse for that to happen.

Backlogged on:

  • Golden Kamuy: This has all the ingredients to be a show that clicks with me but it hasn't so far. It's fun to watch, though, and genuinely tense and compelling on a moment to moment basis when it wants to be (as well as periodically funny). I just can't bring myself to care about all the maneuverings and goings on yet.

  • Megalo Box: This has done various things that I really like and it can be quite good on a moment to moment basis, but right now I'm an episode or two behind so it clearly hasn't grabbed and compelled me. I wish the artwork didn't look as blurred as it does.

  • Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory: It's been so long since the last Full Metal Panic! show that my feelings for these characters have grown distant, and unfortunately the show did basically nothing to rekindle them before throwing us into the press of various events. The result is something that feels not so much unnecessary as if its time has passed, and that makes me sort of sad. I feel that I should love this, but I don't.

  • My Hero Academia: I think I may be burning out on this long-running shonen show. Everyone says that the latest episodes are really great, and maybe they will be once I watch them, but at the moment (when I'm not watching) my reaction is muted. I've seen a lot of these characters already and I know that nothing big is going to happen, because that's the nature of long-running shonen works.

    (Possibly I'm wrong about the 'nothing big', because MHA has had character development for many characters, but still.)

I'm also backlogged on Darling in the FranXX, which continues to be very itself for both good and bad.

Suspended and pretty much dropped:

  • Hinamatsuri (#3): It's reasonably charming and funny but it's not Alice & Zoroku, and in practice I haven't been able to summon enough enthusiasm to watch more.

  • GeGeGe no Kitaro (#2): Sadly, that it's a kids show is a bit too apparent for me to get pulled into this. It's nice and I'm sure it's quite watchable, but apparently 'quite watchable' is not what I'm looking for this season.

Dropped:

  • Lupin III Part V (#2): I think that The Woman Called Mine Fujiko has basically spoiled me for most Lupin TV series. This was perfectly okay but it didn't leave me with any burning desire to see the next episode.

  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (#2): I would have to call this 'ponderous'. If you're already sold on the franchise and the characters, I imagine that this is a good version of it, but I'm not and I've read enough science fiction that does this sort of stuff better (or at least in ways that keep me reading it).

I'm really enjoying my two anticipated and watched as soon as I can shows, and otherwise I'm hoping that something will re-ignite my interest and enthusiasm about the other shows, even to the extent that I stop putting off watching them. Perhaps my gut is speaking to me here, but only watching two shows this season would be a really big change (and I do want to see where Darling in the FranXX goes, even if it winds up being a trainwreck).

anime/Spring2018Brief written at 23:00:17; Add Comment

Looking back at the Winter 2018 anime season

Once again it's time (and past time) for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Winter season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. In general this has been a reasonably good season, with some very nice high points.

Excellent:

  • Laid-Back Camp: This stayed the course all the way through and then gave us a great epilogue at the end of the last episode, one that showed how both our protagonists had developed. Rin was always the heart of the show and I'm glad that the show respected her and her independent ways, while still gently involving her in the Outclub's activities.

As it ever was:

  • March comes in like a Lion: As I pretty much expected, this didn't come to any particularly definite conclusion but instead just sort of found a good ending point in the last episode, one that emphasized how time had passed and characters had changed.

Good but could have been much more:

  • The Ancient Magus' Bride: Despite showing flashes of more in the ending couple of episodes, I can't get over my feelings that this doesn't measure up to the manga and was in the end a merely ordinary adaptation. As an ordinary adaptation it's not a bad thing, it's just what I wanted more.

Dropped:

  • Violet Evergarden: After writing up my midway views, I decided I was done. I don't regret my decision.

In ongoing shows, Darling in the FranXX is ongoing and remains essentially a popcorn show for me. It's a nice looking popcorn show with good production values, but I'm not really expecting anything from it any more. In Netflix shows, I have yet to finish A.I.C.O. - Incarnation but I probably will at some point.

Finishing only three shows this season (and with a fourth one continuing) feels like it's below par but probably isn't all that far out of line with my general trends in anime watching, where I've steadily become more selective and grumpy.

(Also, I actually finished five shows if I count Devilman Crybaby and B - The Beginning, which I really ought to, since they took up their own share of my anime watching time. When I put it that way this isn't such an unusual season any more.)

anime/Winter2018Retrospective written at 22:38:45; Add Comment

(Previous 10 or go back to April 2018 at 2018/04/19)

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