Brief impressions of the Spring 2020 anime season so far
As before, it's time for my current views on how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. This is rather more delayed than usual, but I want to write down my impressions so far before these shows end (and how they end changes my impressions of them).
Surprisingly tense but sometimes flawed:
- Gleipnir: This is one part battle show and one part psychological horror and tension; the two parts go together surprisingly well and make it the most interesting show I'm watching this season. The show has a very good command of atmosphere, which helps, but then it also has various flaws (many of them revolving around fanservice), which hurt a bit.
- Princess Connect! Re:Dive: This is a fun goofy show where the male protagonist being a potato is actually a feature. Karyl is the clear star in our ensemble cast, with Pecorine as the second best character, and I don't think it's an accident that Karyl is the one person who is getting a real character arc. With that said, Re:Dive is not where you should look if you want realistic characters and a deep story. It is nicely put together, though, with good direction, art, animation, and so on.
Sadly on the edge:
- My Next Life as a Villainess: I like the concept and there are some good aspects to it, but by now the basic premise is starting to get a little threadbare and how the show treats Catarina is increasingly grating. If something different doesn't start happening soon, I may get bored with this and drop it.
I didn't continue Kakushigoto and I have tacitly suspended or dropped Listeners because I still haven't gotten the energy together to watch more of it. Things I've heard about Listeners writing have not been encouraging in that regard, and I'm not sure its overall apparent genre of 'teenagers being teenagers in a SF setup' is one that I'm very interested in any more.
Looking back at the Winter 2020 anime season
It's rather past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in the Winter 2020 anime season (after abandoning the fall 2019 season), to follow up on my earlier impressions. As seems to be typical these days, this wound up being a season where I didn't watch very many shows.
- Magia Record: This sustained its pace and impact pretty much
all through, although it didn't resolve anything; this is just
the first half of a split cour show that resumes at some point
(predictions of exactly when seem premature at the moment). It
was all sorts of good in its own right without trying to be a
re-telling of the story of Madoka Magica.
- BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense:
This stayed enjoyable in a fun, goofy way all through the show,
although some of the hijinks may have gotten repetitive after a
while. The show may be unrealistic, but it's definitely fun (and
sometimes the game developers deserved what Maple did to their game). In
fact, I'll repeat my Twitter summary of the show:
BOFURI as a whole was a fun romp with some nice depths of characterization, a solid grasp of its overall comedic tone, and good handling of action. The cunning plans were good ones and there were surprises (and yes, Sally is the ruthless planner behind the throne).
I probably wouldn't mind watching more BOFURI, but I don't feel there's any need for more of the show and it might get a little repetitive. The further adventures of Maple, Sally, and so on are probably best left to our imagination (or the other media you can get it in).
(Of course, reading the Wikipedia entry just told me that there's a second season coming, so someday I'll get to swallow these words.)
- In/Spectre: I would say that this show had too much of people talking
to each other, but that's not quite it; its fatal flaw was that there
was no conflict in those conversations. I got
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken: This stayed suspended and thus became dropped. I never got around to watching the fourth episode, but perhaps someday.
The Winter season was a pretty good one all told. Although I regret that Eizouken didn't click with me (and In/Spectre wasn't better), the two shows I did watch were both quite enjoyable in their own ways.
Looking back at the Summer 2019 anime season
This turns out to be so extensively delayed that I only just noticed that I'd never written it. So, it's very past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in the Summer 2019 anime season, to follow up on my earlier impressions. Since it's almost a year since I saw these, my impressions are a bit faded.
- Symphogear XV: This was basically everything I could have reasonably
asked for in a Symphogear show, especially one that basically
wraps up the entire project (it may not stay wrapped up, in the way
of these things, but it's definitely over for now). Symphogear
unfortunately faced some structural story-telling issues in this
but it still did good work, was quite enjoyable, and did
some things to make the Symphogears not the sole saviors.
- Granbelm: This was generally well made and well put together, it had a bunch of characters that I liked, and for much of its run it was quite good. Unfortunately, it took its story in a direction I'm no longer a fan of, and so I can't really judge the show fairly as a result of that. I think the show took its story where it wanted to go and probably succeeded on its own terms (or mostly succeeded, there were some awkward bits), and it was a good spectacle. But the end result left me a bit let down.
I eventually dropped everything else that I was watching in Summer 2019. Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files and Isekai Cheat Magician both failed to sustain my interest, Fire Force was too typically shonen (and there was the horrifying Kyoto Animation tragedy), Astra Lost in Space lost me for various reasons, and I stopped being able to put up with the flaws in Cop Craft, especially in its writing surrounding Tilarna.
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Spring 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).
- Listeners episode #1: That was interesting, atmospheric, nicely
directed, and had a good climax with some interesting action. The story
felt pretty standard and I'm not sure where the show will go next;
this was all setup and background.
- Kakushigoto episode #1: This is beautiful, well made, and reasonably
sharply written, but as usual its comedy doesn't work for me (and I'm
not sure I'm a fan of the fundamental joke at its heart). It's nice
and good, but not for me.
- My Next Life as a Villainess #1: That was fun and funny, and Catarina
makes a solid lead. It's nicely put together, too (beyond being my
kind of thing). I'm very much looking forward to what happens next
and what sort of absurd situations Catarina gets herself into.
- Princess Connect! Re:Dive episode #1: This was reasonably fun and
periodically funny. It's a bit hard to engage with these people as
people, instead of cutouts, but potato-kun is definitely improved by
mostly not speaking or doing anything.
- Gleipnir episode #1: That was awkward, uncomfortable, and rather adolescent (male) sexual gaze, all of which was entirely intended. It was also pretty good; intriguing and well put together (although not flawless), with a fine control of atmosphere and quiet hanging tension. →
Actually posting this entry has been delayed because I kept thinking I would watch a few more first episodes, but so far that's not happening. I will probably see some of Brand New Animal sometime but not right away, and I've decided that Sing "Yesterday" for Me is probably not my kind of thing in general and especially with the world and local mood as it is right now.
PS: As has become my habit, I've threaded my reactions to subsequent episodes for each series that I'm (still) watching on these first episode tweets.
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.)
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.
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.)
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.)
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.