- Listed under "H": Masou Gakuen HxH, aka. Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia
- Listed under "L": Mayoiga, aka. The Lost Village
- Listed under "N": Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls, aka. Naria Girls
- It's a film: MX4D Kagerou Daze
- It's just one episode and it's Gundam anyway: Mobile Suit Gundam Build Fighters Try Island Wars
- Macross Delta
- 4th Macross series
- Episodes: 26 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no, but I was tempted
- One-line summary: space opera with mecha battles and, um, idols
The premise is so mental that thinking about it gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. I nearly kept watching. Unfortunately, though, it's a combination of two things I have a mild tendency to avoid: (a) mecha space battles, and (b) singing idols. Putting them together like this is insane, but unfortunately not quite insane enough to make me watch lots of mecha and idols.
The Macross franchise started in 1982 and it's a pretty big deal. It was one of the series that became Robotech. It's big and old enough to have ongoing legal issues about international distribution rights, so you can't buy this series on DVD in the West (although the Japanese Blu-rays have sneakily added English subtitles). This latest series is set in 2067, eight years after Macross Frontier, which is nearer into the future than I'd have guessed since Earthlings seem to have travelled all over the galaxy, colonised remote chunks of it and started fights with aliens. Right now, there's an infection called the Var Syndrome that turns people berserk. This means space combat!
Fortunately we have a defence! The Var can be defeated by making pop stars sing at them! It's like an idol anime that's also a magical girl show, complete with nude (but modesty-preserving) transformation sequences. They fly around and sing. Their singing defeats the aliens. I'm not joking.
As for the characters, we have a boy who doesn't like hard work but seems nice (Hayate) and a slightly manic girl who's determined to audition for the magical girl idol group and hasn't realised she's on the wrong planet (Freyja). Not the universe's deepest thinker, that one.
I quite enjoyed it, even though someone says "it's showtime" before a fight. (Technically the comment's accurate, but she deserves to die anyway.) One of the songs is good (and has filthy lyrics). I'd probably enjoy it. It's just... space battles. It's got mecha and space battles. I love the insanity of an idol singer space battle squadron that blows up enemy fighters and cures green warty alien infection, but then again on the downside they're idols. For what it's worth, I've heard that the season's first half is excellent and its second half is mediocre, partly due to executive meddling. Shoji Kawamori (also the original creator of Macross back in 1982) wasn't allowed to follow through on his original plans. I admire it. I came closer to watching it than I normally do with Gundam. I'd be quite interested in talking about this show with someone who'd seen it all and was a fan of the franchise.
- Magi: Adventures of Sinbad
- Adventures of Sinbad
- Sinbad no Bouken
- Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
- Season 3, except that it's a prequel/spin-off
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: not sure
- One-line summary: Sinbad as a boy
- I've since finished it and... it's not really for me. I'd have enjoyed it if I'd been ten, though.
Magi (2012-14) is The Arabian Nights, retold as a fifty-episode anime. I've heard good things about it, but I've never seen it. The Adventures of Sinbad is a thirteen-episode prequel from 2016 about Sinbad as a boy, so am I watching these in the right or wrong order?
That said, though, I'm in two minds about whether to continue. This first episode seems fairly good, but worryingly a bit stupid.
We start when Sinbad's three years old. His dad (Badr) is a mild-mannered, one-legged war veteran who doesn't let soldiers give him huge bags of money because he disapproves of their Empire. It's his own country, but he doesn't like its warmongering ways. "This country and its people are heading down the wrong path."
Two years later, Badr's much less popular. Everyone else in their village is a gung-ho war cheerleader, all calling Badr a traitor and being horrible to him for not "doing his bit". Presumably they think he should go off to war. WITH ONE LEG. That's Stupid Bit #1. Later Sinbad finds a foreigner and the family takes him in, only to discover that the chap was a spy for the enemy. Badr is a nice chap, but here we discover that he'll kill you if you hold a knife to his son's throat. This causes the government to have Badr arrested, tortured and sentenced for the crime of harbouring a spy. I think a certain bloody corpse might disagree with their definition of "harbouring". That's Stupid Bit #2. Admittedly it's not unreasonable to portray low intellectual standards from flag-waving bigots and warmongering regimes, but there's a point beyond which it gets a bit silly. For me, that's this episode.
The government sends one-legged Badr off to war. (Personally, I'd find this more plausible if that were just the cover story. Maybe they were just getting a troublemaker out of the way? Tell everyone he's going to the front lines, but then slit his throat as soon as his family are out of sight.) Before that, though, Badr gets a big, dramatic "THIS IS WHAT WAR IS!" moment of defiant pacifism... and then in the same breath tells Sinbad, "As a man, you must fight!" Sinbad later says he understands. I'm not sure I do.
The episode ends nine years later, with Sinbad now fourteen years old. (In the Japanese dub, though, he's not Sinbad. He's Sindbad... but apparently that's a more accurate transliteration of the Arabic. I never knew.) I've been rude about this episodes, but it's basically good. I like Badr's philosophy. It looks fun. There's no reason why that stupidity should leak into the rest of the show. In addition, a subtler objection might be to the fundamental tension between Badr's principles and what's allowed for a heroic character in this kind of juvenile action-adventure. Badr may be a pacifist, but the episode feels the need to prove he's manly by having him kill someone! (Unarguable reasons, etc. but I'd have still been happier if the scriptwriters hadn't cheated like that.) In fairness, though, the dichotomy gets voiced by Little Sinbad.
I think I need to see ep.2. I haven't decided yet. The show's still on probation.
I'll stay with it.
Sinbad seems like a good lad, looking after his sick mother and holding down a job at the harbour. Also, apparently, he's fated to become king. If he's Arthur-in-waiting, then he has a Merlin. (Imagine a man with Rapunzel hair in a ludicrous hat and an elf outfit that appears to be designed to show off his non-existent cleavage. His name's Yunan.)
The only regrettable thing is that no-one's brown, despite this being about a Middle Eastern hero. I don't think it's racism. Lots of Japanese people are very dark-skinned and the nation genuinely doesn't have a problem about skin colour. I think they just didn't think about it.
The show seems okay, though.
- Magic-kyun! Renaissance
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: reverse harem at genre mash school
The first sixty seconds will tell you if this show's for you. One girl is backstage with six pretty boys before a stage show. She's nervous. One by one, they all look intensely and deeply into camera (i.e. her eyes) and say nearly romantic one-liners. "My little flower, believe in yourself."
It's the latest reverse-harem show, with one heroine (Kohana) and lots of dreamy boys who'll flock around her. (There are also other girls, but so far they mostly exist to squeal over the handsome boys.) Everyone's attending Hoshinomori School of Magical Arts, so does that make this a "magical school" anime? Answer: yes and no. "Arts" means Shakespeare, Mozart, etc. It's basically art college, for every possible kind of arts. Boy #1 plays the cello, Boy #2 is a painter, Boy #3 is a sculptor, Boy #4 is a dancer, Boy #5 is a singer and Boy #6 is a calligrapher. Kohana does flower arranging. However it's also magical, so this episode has one of the boys encouraging Kohana to believe in herself and hence make magic sparkly lights come out of her flowers.
The moral of the episode: believing in yourself will overcome any lack of talent! Keep aiming for your goal, no matter how unrealistic! "As long as you work hard, you can do anything." "Your hard work will never betray you."
On the upside, there's a second named female character. Kohana bumps into a complete stranger, Juri, who explains that they're roommates without knowing Kohana's name, who she is or what she's doing there. This might either be magic or bad writing. That said, though, it would be mean-spirited to get too literal, since the show's clearly aiming (on various levels) for fantasy, not realism. Check out the surreal spiral staircase.
Would I watch this if it were gender-flipped? Erm... well. That's a trick question. It's not just that the reverse-harem boys are male, but that so far they're stereotyped male fantasy figures with sometimes eye-rolling dialogue. There's the ladykiller flirt who's always surrounded by girls, the obnoxious one whose curt shell will be melted by the heroine, etc. It's like they animated a thirteen-year-old girl's private fantasies. You couldn't gender-flip this show without unpicking all its cliches (which is basically the whole show) and replacing them with regular-harem ones. Anyway, it's not for me. The show might easily be nice and maybe even heartwarming if you can live with the boys' characterisation, though.
- Magic of Stella
- Stella no Mahou
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes (but I had to think about it)
- One-line summary: schoolgirl game-making club
- I've since finished it and... first half forgettable but likeable, second half worth watching
I liked the show immediately. Tamaki Honda is a slightly dozy schoolgirl with a charming accent. (Her friend keeps telling her not to talk like a country bumpkin, but I disagree with this advice.) They're about to start high school. They're wondering what school club to join. All this was enjoyable and I was happy to spend time with them...
...and then the episode introduces us to a club that makes video games.
This put me off, which is a sufficiently odd reaction that I started wondering why. I don't dislike video games! I also like all the characters in this episode. I'm sure their exploits will be harmless fun. On reflection, I think I might have been burned by the anti-charm of Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.
Leaving aside my personal issues, though, the episode seems gentle and good-natured. Tamaki is a really good artist, capable of drawing far better than she'll modestly admit to. There's a deadpan club president (programmer) and two other girls (writer, music/effects). To be honest, there's nothing unmissable about this one. You could drop it and not even remember five minutes later. I liked it, though.
- Magical Girl Raising Project
- Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: magical girls are about to get dark (again)
- I've since finished it and... it's actually entertaining rather than depressing, despite the body count.
I was disadvantaged with this episode. I already knew what's going to happen in the show later, or at least the basic idea. It's yet another magical girl anime that's going dark, but this first episode is fairly light and heartwarming. You'd never guess that it's going to get nasty if it weren't for the very start and the very end.
START: the floor is covered with the bloody corpses of lots of magical girls. Only one's still standing.
END: the cute mascot character, Fav, announces that they'll be halving the number of magical girls. Collect sugar candies!
In between, everyone seems nice. The heroine is Koyuki Himekawa, a girl who's always loved magical girl manga and anime. She plays a mobile phone game where you pretend to be one. She used to hang out with someone in elementary school who was also a fan of the genre but had to keep it secret from all his friends. Then, one day... SURPRISE! (I'll let you guess what it is.) Koyuki's so happy. Everyone seems nice, including Souta. All she wants is to help people and be a beautiful, kind, caring person.
I'm not sure about this. Obviously I'm going to watch it, but I'm hoping the show won't just feel like gratuitous sadism. Let's crush innocence! Kill lots of schoolgirls! In some ways, doing a dark subversion of the magical girl genre is easier than doing it straight. Well, I'll see.
- Mahou Shoujo Nante Mouiidesukara.
- I've Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl
- Seasons: 1 and 2
- Episodes: 12 per season x 4 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: magical girl parody
- I've since finished it and... it's fun and likeable. One of the better short-form anime out there.
It's set in a generic anime land of pastel colours and nice people. Yuzuka's dad goes to work. Yuzuka meets friends and goes to school. Then, after school, she meets a magical monster called Milton in a garbage pile and learns that she's a magical girl!
Like I said, generic anime land. I believe this happens to ninety per cent of Japanese schoolgirls.
As you'll have guessed from the title, Yuzuka isn't thrilled about becoming a magical girl. Her main objection so far is to her swimsuit costume... and that's the end, since this is only a four-minute episode. Looks fine so far. Let's see where this goes.
- Maho Girls PreCure!
- Mahoutsukai PreCure!
- Witchy Pretty Cure
- Season 13
- Episodes: 50 x 24 minutes, plus movies
- Keep watching: obviously
- One-line summary: old-fashioned magical girl anime
- I've since finished it and... it's warm and nice, but there's less meat on it than the 2015 PreCure series
It's basically the only old-school magical girl anime that's still going. I suppose there's the Sailor Moon revival, although there's a conversation to be had about who that's for, but I don't think Lyrical Nanoha really counts. That's not because it's unwatchable (although it is), but because these days it's become a shounen-style tournament fighting series that happens to have girl protagonists. Furthermore, importantly, little girls aren't its target audience (which is also the reason why I wouldn't count Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya).
Of all those shows, PreCure is the only one that's not ashamed to be going for the traditional demographic. It's for little girls. It's pink. It's light and happy. This episode is all excited and enthusiastic about witches, as indeed is its protagonist, Mirai Asahina. She's thirteen, but she carries her teddy bear everywhere and she's clearly the heroine of a children's show. She's full of energy. She's happy and she smiles a lot.
She sees a witch (Riko Izayoi). It's in the show's title, after all. "Mahoutsukai" means "magic-user". Riko is riding a broomstick, wearing a witch's hat and flying in the open with no apparent concern about being seen. Does she think she has invisibility magic, perhaps? If so, it's on the blink.
There's a villain, although he's a bit bland. He's called Batty and you can think of him as the most generic, anonymous vampire in the world. He's looking for Linkle Stones, which is a slightly bathetic name. He creates a Silly Transformed Monster of the Week, as usual for a PreCure episode, which as it happens an evil transformation truck. This is a bit daft... but then eventually it turns out to be oddly awesome to have our girls being threatened by a GIGANTIC FLYING TRUCK. You'd fill your trousers if you saw a truck flying through the air towards you. I particularly liked the scene where the girls are defying Batty even though they're hanging in mid-air high above the city.
Downside: the mascot character who says "mofu". That's the only PreCure tradition I could live without.
I love PreCure. I think it's a charming franchise, albeit one that usually gets ignored by Western otaku because: (a) we're not six years old, and (b) the show's been churning out fifty episodes a year for thirteen years now. It's iconic. This episode has two girls together punching out a flying magical trunk. PreCure can admittedly be cartoonish and repetitive, as you're liable to get from almost any show for an audience of this age, but I think it's capable of finding unexpected power in its innocence.
One last anecdote. Tomoko has a friend in Japan with a daughter slightly younger than Natsuki. One day, this daughter (aged about two or three) was being particularly stroppy. "If you don't do as I say, you can't be a PreCure!" said the mother. The daughter went silent and immediately did as she was told.
PreCure is awesome.
- Majestic Prince
- Majestic Hour
- Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince
- Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince
- Season 1
- Episodes: 25 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: invading aliens vs. mecha in space
It looks quite good, actually. I like the cast. However it's also a mecha show and I don't feel like watching 25 episodes of giant robot space battles. I'd cheerfully recommend it to anyone who does, though.
It's actually a 2013 anime, rebroadcast with a new 25th episode and a sequel movie. It's the late 21st century and the solar system is under alien attack!
The episode opens with a space battle. Aliens are attacking an asteroid base. The humans have mecha, ships and ground installations, all of which are being stomped. We lose our transmission satellites.
Next, we meet our heroes! There are five of them and they're called Team Rabbits (officially) and the Fail Five (by everyone, even at times by themselves). They're the worst trainees in their year. Their idea of teamwork is to have Toshikazu Asagi saying "I can do it all by myself" and charging off to be the hero. Refreshingly, he'll get called out on this, both by his instructors and his teammates. Other characters include Izuru Hitachi (manga artist who's startled to be chosen as team leader) and Tamaki Irie (idiot who keeps confessing her love to boys she barely knows).
Team Rabbits are fun. I had trouble telling apart Izuru and Toshikazu, which was a problem because making Toshikazu the leader would have made me run away fast. (I have no problem with Izuru. That was a laugh.) However there are also space battles, animated so breathlessly that it's not always clear what you're looking at. I don't hate space battles. I don't even hate mecha. However I can see there's going to be ever more of both of those in later episodes, so... no. The show looks pretty entertaining, if you like that kind of thing, but no. I was tempted, though, since at least it looks as if it's going to be comedic and character-based. I was wavering, whereas I tend to run away a bit faster from the dry Gundam formula.
- March Comes in like a Lion
- 3-gatsu no Lion
- Sangatsu no Lion
- Season 1 (but split across 2016 and 2017)
- Episodes: 25 x 25 minutes
- Keep watching: I should, so I will
- One-line summary: seventeen-year-old professional shogi player
- I've since finished it and... it's a bit tough going sometimes, but also excellent.
I like shougi (or shogi, which is apparently the standard transliteration). I'm a pathetically bad player, though, partly because almost no English-speakers have heard of the game and so I've only ever played a few times. It's also called Japanese chess. There's a family of chess-like games, of which this is just one. What makes it different is that:
(a) almost all the pieces are slow and rubbish, so you can get checkmated on one side of the board while all your forces are stuck over on the other side and simply can't get across in time
(b) if you capture one of your opponent's pieces, you can later return it to the board as a piece of your own.
This anime is about a professional shogi player. He's called Rei Kiriyama and so far he's really boring. He doesn't show emotion and hardly reacts to anything. He doesn't normally bother going to school, because he's already earning more than his teachers.
That said, though, there are also some sisters who invite him to dinner. I'm not sure if they're his sisters or someone else's. The eldest of them might be pregnant, but that could be just my imagination. It's hard to tell when she's wearing that apron. Anyway, they're lively and lots of fun, but they're not the main character.
I've heard good things about this one. The original manga has won the 4th Annual Manga Taishou, the Kodansha Manga Award in the general category (shared with Space Brothers) and the 18th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Grand Prize. It's also animated by Studio Shaft, who aren't going apeshit since it's a completely real-world show but are still doing some beautiful backgrounds. See when Rei's outside at sunset. Presumably the series is going to be in part about Rei's emotional growth, so he stops being a tree stump. I can't pretend I loved this episode and I don't know if I'd have continued if I hadn't known its reputation, but I do and so I will.
- Matoi the Sacred Slayer
- Soushin Shoujo Matoi
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: ...I suppose so
- One-line summary: semi-comedic magical girl
- I've since finished it and... it improves. It's pretty good, actually.
It starts with battles. There are soldiers, a demon and a girl. It looks violent. The soldiers are English-speaking and don't last long.
Then, though, the episode shifts both genre and art style. Suddenly we're watching two schoolgirls (ages 13 and 14) helping out at a shrine. The show now looks a bit more cartoonish, but also funnier and more engaging. One of the girls is called Matoi, so she's presumably the protagonist. Her dad's a policeman. The other girl's Yuma and the daughter of the local Shinto priest, who as it happens is also a goofball and skirt-chaser.
A mysterious investigator appears, with big boobs. There are some vaguely annoying "comedic" reactions to this.
Nothing here suggests a noteworthy quality level. It's pretty standard, light-hearted fare. There's a magical girl battle against a demon, with Matoi discovering some surprising things about herself. There's also a bit where her father feels her boobs because he's mistaken Transformed Matoi for her departed mother. Not a good mistake to make.
I'd have probably skipped this if I'd had a bigger pile of anime on the go right now, but I'll give it a whirl. Matoi and Yuma are likeable. The demon battles aren't very interesting and Buxom Investigator doesn't improve the show, but let's see where this goes.
- Miss Bernard said.
- Bernard-jou Iwaku.
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 3 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: comedy about book snobs
- I've since finished it and... it's okay. The subject matter makes it a bit different, at least.
"Miss Bernard" isn't actually called "Miss Bernard", although she aspires to be. She's the kind of person who wants to be an avid reader, but without actually reading any books. That's too much like hard work. Instead she just hangs out in the school library, holding books as if they're fashion accessories and trying to hold highbrow conversations.
There's also another girl who may or may not actually read books. We don't know yet. It's only ep1, so it's too early to say. However she's a monomaniac who burns with scary intensity when discussing them.
It seems amusing. It also seems like hard work to watch, mind you, because the literary conversations require heavy footnotes that the subtitles helpfully provide... but this means a wall of on-screen text that's unreadable unless you hit "pause". Furthermore (if unsurprisingly) they're mostly about Japanese literature, so being well-read in English won't help you very much. I still quite liked the episode, though. It's a nice idea for a comedy and it won't be outstaying its welcome at three minutes long. I'll keep watching.
- Mob Psycho 100
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: I didn't even last five minutes
- One-line summary: psychics and con-men
The title's off-putting, the art's crude and I disliked what little I saw of the story. It's based on a web comic by the creator of One-Punch Man, but I'm not the world's biggest fan of that either.
We begin with monsters. After that's settled down, we meet an exorcist con man (Arataka Reigen). He's scamming two potential clients while supposedly taking a job to exorcise a ghost. He's unconvincing enough to make everyone in the scene look like an idiot, but I got the impression that this was supposed to be funny.
Nope, sorry. It pressed the wrong buttons for me. I fast-forwarded through the rest of the episode. Wikipedia informs me that the show's main character is actually Arataka's sidekick, Mob, and in fairness he sounds less unsympathetic than his boss/mentor. I'm also being shallow in rejecting the show for deliberately resembling the web comic's childish art style... but what the hell.
FOOTNOTE: a friend's told me that it's great and that I should reconsider. That might easily be true, actually. I hardly gave it a fair shake...
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Kidou Senshi Gandamu: Tekketsu no Orphans
- Episode 14 of quite a few by now... and that's just Iron-Blooded Orphans, not all Gundam
- 24 minutes
- Keep watching: not for now
- One-line summary: Gundam
It's supposedly a better-than-average Gundam show. It's the first one in seven years to get broadcast on U.S. TV. It seems okay, with big political events and a meaty-looking plot, but it still hasn't grabbed me yet. If I watched this, at present I'd be doing so for lack of anything else to watch or because I was thinking in some sense that I probably should, not due to any urge to do so.
We begin with Stupid Hair Girl. (She has a real name... um, Kudelia Aina Bernstein.) She's a princess (?) and she still has amazingly stupid hair in what's otherwise a gritty show. It really is distracting. I couldn't stop looking at it. Here she's all a-flutter about having been kissed and wondering if she should be planning a wedding.
Meanwhile the male characters are taking a job transporting cargo in their space freighter. There's a lot of this. It's quite realistically portrayed, giving a far more grounded feel than your average space operas, but it's also dull. We hear about the unhappy lives and working conditions of the poor, who are being exploited by the rich. Even though the freighter has moved into Earth's sphere of influence, this is apparently just the same as it was out in the sticks, i.e. the outer planet colonies.
Meanwhile Stupid Hair Girl asks permission to go shopping. I'm probably making her sound like a bimbo, but actually she seems quite sensible and practical.
The plot's big. To be precise, it's big in a way that's threatening to be bigger than the characters. Big political stuff is going on. Someone's going to get framed and arrested for gun-running, which sets irreversible balls rolling. There are orders for someone else's assassination. However I don't really care about the characters (except maybe Kudelia and she's got that hair problem) and so far the plot doesn't feel as if it's been built around them anyway. I'm sure that might change in later episodes, but hey. There's no law that says I have to go watching Gundam just because it's there. I like little hard SF details like the low gravity even during a gunfight, but the impression I got from this episode was "ambitious but drab".
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
- Kidou Senshi Gundam: The Origin
- OVA series
- Episodes: 4 x 1 hour
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: as per the title
It's a 2015 anime adaptation of a 2001-2011 manga adapation of the very first 1979 Gundam anime. (Yoshikazu Yasuhiko was the chief director of these 2015 OVAs, wrote and drew the manga and was the original character designer back in 1979.) It's not even the only manga version of that story, by the way. There was another one by Kazuhisa Kondo, which was apparently quite good too but no one talks about it these days.
Anyway, it looks pretty good. I might well have kept watching if it hadn't been called Gundam. Its only problem (apart from the inevitable Gundam-related prospect of mecha space battles) is a debatable one with aesthetics and tone.
It's the year U.C. 0068. A politician I didn't much like is angsting because he can't find the words to stir everyone to war! Wheeee. However he also predicts that he'll be executed the day after tomorrow. He's right. When the big day comes, he doesn't even manage to deliver his big independence-declaring speech because he's dropped dead in front of the cameras. The news says it was a heart attack. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't, but the result is angry people rising up against an oppressive regime. Before long there's been a more unambiguous political assassination (by car bomb), which might perhaps have been organised by the victim's own allies to create an excuse for a clampdown.
It's all good, juicy stuff. This is a story that knows how to make things happen.
1. I don't really like any of the characters. Dead Politician's wife and daughter are nice, I suppose, but his son's going to grow up to be Char Aznable, who's super-famous and important in Gundam. Here, though, he's the kind of slightly chilling eleven-year-old who talks down to people and makes you want to hold his head underwater until he's stopped twitching. Admittedly I approve of the fact that even in such an unambiguous-looking situation where an oppressive regime is in need of overthrowing, the story's showing us that both political sides have both proud, upstanding people and disagreeable idiots. However the upshot was that I didn't really care about any of them, even the children trying to escape at the end.
2. I got the impression that the show was being faithful to a dated art style. It's well drawn and well animated, but something about the character designs (especially the faces) felt a bit off to me. There's a slightly cartoonish whiff about it.
3. The humour. It doesn't have many comedic moments, but the few it does have are unfunny and don't fit.
It didn't really work for me, but my reasons for saying so are weak and subjective. In most respects it's solid. The storytelling's ambitious, portraying revolutionary political events in a way that feels believable. The show's confident in what it's doing, even when I disagree with it. Good art, good animation. It doesn't even have much mecha action, which is another plus. If you're curious at all about Gundam, this would seem like almost the definitive place to start.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
- Kidou Senshi Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
- Season 1
- Episodes: 22 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: it looks perfectly okay and I nearly continued, but no
- One-line summary: more Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is a novel set in Gundam's Universal Century timeline. Don't ask me about the different Gundam continuities. I don't have a clue. This was adapted into an OVA series of seven double-length episodes (2010-2014), which two years later got expanded into 22 standard-length episodes for TV broadcast.
This episode starts as if it's Season 2 of something. The episode's first half is a bunch of disconnected dramatic bits that feel like a recap of a previous season finale. Only halfway through do we meet the show's characters. It feels like it, too. Until then we had a man seeing the dramatic death of his father, the end of an era being announced, a space station being blown up and a bearded bloke in bed saying that "as it stands, the Earth Sphere is reaching a dead end".
I woke up at that halfway point. There are some students. They talk and interact with each other. This felt like a novelty. A boy sees a Gundam in space and stops listening to a girl, which could be a metaphor for otaku. There's some English dialogue that's being delivered by a native English speaker, which is nice. After that, something happens! There's a girl in purple robes hurtling along in zero-G. She appears to be in trouble. That boy steals a tiny robot suit in order to fly off and save her, which he successfully does. (It's the kind of suit you'd use to fight an Alien rather than Godzilla. Imagine a fork-lift truck with a cockpit.) Purple Girl says she needs to speak to someone to prevent war.
And that's the end.
It looks fine, to be honest. I wavered. I need to get over my Gundam avoidance and start watching some of it. I even skipped ahead to flick through bits of future episodes and again they looked okay. Otaku Boy and Purple Girl both seem nice and I'd be happy to keep watching them. However... it's Gundam. At the end of the day, it's about giant robot battles. The world won't end if I give it a miss.
- 26 half-episodes
- In practice, 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: lovable stalkers are okay (if they're girls)
- I've since finished it and... I was impressed. Recommendable, although also a bit controversial in some quarters.
A girl (Kurihara) asks out a boy (Momotsuki) and he says yes. Little does he know that she's been spying on him, secretly taking photos and collecting his used straws and drink cans. She's a stalker. If this were gender-flipped, you'd want her arrested. What's more, her best friend keeps telling her so. However Kuri's in love with Momo, but also so bad at approaching him that it's a miracle that she's managed to confess at all.
It's the kind of lightweight, fluffy anime that you'd assume was based on a four-panel gag manga. There's not much plot, although there is some relationship development as Kuri and Momo learn to talk to each other. (This is hard for both of them at first.) They both have friends whose job is mostly to hang around like a Greek chorus and pass comment on what's going on. Kuri's friend is the voice of sanity. Momo's friend is a voice saying "punch me in the face", since he refuses to believe that Momo could have a girlfriend on the grounds that Momo's inferior to him.
What kind of show will this be? Will it be Momo-focused, making it yet another wish-fulfilment anime about a girl who appears out of nowhere and fixates on an unremarkable male protagonist who's done nothing to earn it? Alternatively, will it be Kuri-focused, making it a comparatively rare example of an anime about female desire from a female point of view? So far, it's looking more like the latter. I'll keep watching, anyway. It seems harmless enough, despite the stalker thing. The main couple are likeable, despite Kuri's kinks. (Oh, and "kuri" means "chestnut" while "momo" means "peach", but someone who's determined to be dirty-minded could suggest undertones.)
"Do you think it's okay if I sniff it?"
- Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On
- Season 1
- Episodes: 48 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: computer game spin-off for small children
I know about Monster Hunter, because I've seen Tomoko playing it. It's a massive computer game franchise in Japan (slightly less so abroad) where you're a fantasy warrior who goes around perpetrating the monster equivalent of ethnic cleansing. I always feel sorry for the monsters. Tomoko says I'm being silly and that the monsters are very dangerous. That's true, but has anyone tried talking to them? Offering them a biscuit, though?
This is a kiddie anime based on that, which seems weird to me. It's not a children's game, is it? Hey, kids! Let's go exterminate lesser life forms! Fortunately this show doesn't do that, because there's no killing at all... or indeed anything, really. It's slightly worse than I'd been expecting, which is saying a lot.
We have a kiddie shounen hero and his friends, all looking about eight years old. There's a girl, two boys and a cat. They're looking for eggs. They have the kind of dialogue that doesn't even qualify as "lame", because the show's not aiming high enough for that to be a meaningful criticism. The writers are gently sleeping in the Kiddie Show Comfort Zone. "It's behind you!" "WHAT?!!?" "Nothing; Luuto was just teasing you." The nearest it gets to character work is a scene where Lilia's trying to persuade the others to drink her new energy drink.
They go through the forest. Sometimes they see dirty great monsters, which actually look quite impressive but only chase them briefly and harmlessly. (If you're a Monster Hunter spin-off, then the one mandatory element is proper franchise monsters. This makes them way scarier and cooler than you'd expect in a show like this.) They enter the Forbidden Land and find an egg! How do they hatch it? Why, they need a Kinship Stone! "I sense that this egg wants to be hatched," says Luuto. Eventually they do hatch it and a little CGI fire dragon comes out, looking adorable in an unexpected way. It's not some kind of Disneyfied Muppet Baby fluffball, you see, but a realistically rendered baby monster from the grown-up franchise. I wanted one.)
"It's okay for me to take him home, right?"
"I doubt he'd leave you."
Quite right too, I was thinking. The little dragon knows a walking food source when he sees one. Unfortunately, though, that won't happen. No one's going to eat anyone. It's going to be another merchandising children's anime franchise that will keep going for ever, with the minimum of content.
- The Morose Mononokean
- Fukigen no Mononokean
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: obnoxious yokai helper
- I've since finished it and... it's nice. Slice-of-life yokai exorcism with heartwarming stories, but also a rude main character.
I didn't like the title character. As promised by the title, he's grumpy and unpleasant. However he's benevolent underneath (towards yokai) and I liked the story being told, so I'll be continuing.
The show's protagonist is an ordinary boy, though. Hanae Ashiya is walking home with some shopping when he treads on a one-eyed, three-tailed fuzzball. (This is wrong and it actually has two eyes, but it's also nearly spherical and there's usually only one eye visible in any shot.) Fuzzball jumps on Ashiya's back and won't get off. He walks home, complains to his flower-loving mother and discovers that no one else can see his new chum.
The next day is Ashiya's first day at high school. He's keen to make a good impression and make lots of friends. Unfortunately he's still stuck with Fuzzball and it seems to be sucking his energy. He collapses and wakes up in the school infirmary.
Ashiya suffers with Fuzzball for a while, but eventually he finds a lead to an exorcist who promises to be able to dispel yokai. This is Haruitsuki Abeno, the morose mononokean. I didn't like him. Everything he tells you to do is a peremptory order. However he's very knowledgeable about yokai and eventually it turns out that this one has feelings and problems that our hero had never even thought to imagine. It's rather sweet. It's a nice fuzzbug story. If the whole series is like this, then I think I'll approve of it.
- Myriad Colors Phantom World
- Musaigen no Phantom World
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes + a 14th OVA
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: high school phantom-fighting club
- I've since finished it and... I was disappointed. Undercooked, despite the ideas and design.
I really liked it. It's fluffy high school nonsense (with mild fanservice) and the anime industry churns out more series like it all the time, but I think it also happens to be very well done.
It starts by making me wonder if this was going to be set in virtual reality. Our hero (Haruhiko Ichijo) wakes up in a world made of pixels and has to hit things to make them take form. He doesn't see anything odd about this. It's just what his bedroom looks like. The episode then immediately forgets about this, but whether or not that's a direction the series will be exploring, it still feels like a cool realisation of the concept.
We then meet phantoms (i.e. ghosts, monsters, yokai or whatever), which can be genuinely intriguing. The first one's just a giant horned fire demon with a mane, but after that we have weirder, more abstract entities meeting a phantom-swallowing girl. Later still, we'll meet limbo-dancing electricity poles that are playing the drums. They don't speak, but they have yearnings. You compete with them via limbo dancing. Our heroes' job is to send phantoms back to their home dimension, but the ones we meet here often seem to be fun, surreal and sympathetic. If you've ever wanted to know the pathos of electricity poles, this is the show for you.
Our heroes are going to a private school (presumably expensive) and mostly don't have any money, so they depend on the non-income they get from their phantom-defeating school club activities. Harujiko can suck phantoms into his sketchbook by drawing them. Ruru is a doll-sized fairy who flies around his head. Mai has big boobs, is strong and can control elemental powers. The new girl, Reina, sucks her enemies into a whirling vortex and eats them, although she's also cute and nice when not impersonating a lamprey attached to a vacuum.
They made me laugh, e.g. Harujiko's electrocuted hair. They're funny. The show's yet another light novel adaptation with one boy and lots of girls (and eye candy), but this episode was putting twists on the cliches. I'm looking forward to this one.
- My Hero Academia
- Boku no Hero Akademia
- Season 1
- Episodes: 13 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: hurm.
- One-line summary: shounen superheroes
- I've since finished this first season and... it's excellent. Definitely watching Season 2.
How odd. It hadn't occurred to me that I wouldn't be watching this. It's famous. It's based on Shounen Jump's new big headline manga and everyone says it's very good, although admittedly I've also heard it said that Season 2 is better than Season 1. It's a shounen action series, mind you, but that's hardly a shock. That's what Shounen Jump do. The only difference is that this one happens to be about superheroes, rather than ninja (Naruto), pirates (One Piece) or death gods (Bleach). Its world is one where 80% of the population have superpowers, which the subtitles call "quirks". (This is a dubious translation choice, but apparently it came originally from a fan translation of the manga and then fossilised in fandom.)
My immediate reaction was to want to watch a member of the powerless 20%. I got my wish! The protagonist is Izuku Midoriya, who's normal. Sounds good so far... but unfortunately Izuku all but worships superheroes. He's obsessed. "Can I be a hero too?" He grows big wobbly eyes when thinking about them. In other words, then, just accepting yourself for what you are is to be inferior and the only important thing is to be STRONG!!!!
I didn't react well to this.
It's believable, mind you. Izuku's a small boy. Of course he'll be like that. I would be too if I were ten years old and the only person in my class who couldn't breathe fire, juggle cars or make myself Godzilla-sized. However I'm not ten any more and I found Izuku a bit annoying.
There's an old-school blond American-looking muscleman called All Might, with a punching superpower called Texas Smash. There's an arrogant boy in Izuku's class with enough attitude for a continent. There's a superheroine called Mount Lady who enjoys drawing attention to her rear, although I'd guess that Japanese creators never spotted the innuendo in her name. (She's called "Mount" because she can grow to be mountain-sized.) There are subtle differences from Western superhero stories, e.g. all the heroes are paid by the government, but basically it's pure, unreconstructed superhero fare.
I'm not sure. I'm sure this episode's atypical. It's basically set-up. There's absolutely no way on Earth that Izuku won't acquire superpowers, so eventually we'll get to straightforward hero action stuff and the show will settle down. I'll try another episode and see. On the other hand, though, it's basically another Naruto/Bleach/etc. (albeit with a more mild-mannered protagonist) and I don't think I'm the natural audience for most of those. I'm watching Tiger and Bunny right now and being less impressed than many with that show too. Hmmmmm.
That was much better. I've been won over. I'll continue.
Ep.1 played the superhero cliches straight and shallow. All Might was a blonde colossus and as interesting as a blank sheet of paper. Here, though, we actually start digging into the characters and I liked that a lot more.
All Might isn't what he seemed to be, for a start. He's not Mr Perfect. He's Mr Trying To Look Perfect, because he sustained near-mortal wounds three years ago and is now really an emaciated scarecrow with bad hair. Even his superpowers aren't what everyone thinks.
Meanwhile Izuku's motivations turn out to be more nuanced than "STRONG STRONG!!!" He thinks saving people is cool and we discover that he's prone to feeling responsible for things.
I even liked Katsuki Bakugou. He's still scum, of course. What I enjoyed though is that after having his life saved, he runs after Izuku for what would normally be an "I've Learned My Moral Lesson" speech... but no. He shows absolutely no gratitude and instead has a rant about how Izuku's still inferior. Now there's a character who knows what he believes in.
That was actually good.
- Mysterious Joker
- Kaitou Joker
- Season 3
- Episode 27
- 24 minutes
- Keep watching: you must be joking
- One-line summary: a children's show where the heroes are thieves
I dislike this show a lot. Kaitou Joker is a thief. He and his friends steal things. That's all he does, pretty much. ("Mysterious Joker
" is a whitewashed translation of the title, since "kaitou" means "mysterious thief" or "phantom thief".) His rivals steal things too! "Tonight, I will be stealing the ancient treasure, the Crystal Skull Key, from the Golden Museum!"
What do you think, kids? Which of your heroes is going to win the race to loot the museum?
It's a children's version of Lupin III, basically. I don't like Lupin either. This week a sniper shoots at our hero, but unfortunately misses. We meet some police officers, who are of course silly billies and nowhere near as cool as a professional criminal! We then meet this week's deeply annoying antagonist, who broadcasts a bragging message, challenging all phantom thieves to steal his treasure! His name translates as Mr "I've Got Money" and he's the kind of character who'd fit in just fine as a Saturday morning cartoon villain, but in any other context would be so ridiculous that he'd make the entire show unwatchable.
The phantom thieves have a race to see who can be the first to rob Mr "I've Got Money". This proves surprisingly challenging. Our villain is playing a good deal nastier than I'd expected, with sharks, razor wire and blood. I was impressed.
I almost never hate an anime. Even when something's rubbish, it would be silly to start hating it. Why bother? This, though, I dislike to a level that comes pretty close.
- My Wife is the Student Council President Plus!
- My Wife is the Student Council President+!
- Okusama ga Seitokaichou! +!
- Season 2
- Episodes: 12 x 8 minutes
- Keep watching: yes, but with reservations
- One-line summary: teenage sex comedy, heavy on the sex
- I've since finished it and... I sort of disliked it. The show's going downhill.
I probably wouldn't be continuing with this if I hadn't watched Season 1. It's not very nice, to be honest. Izumi Hayato seems neither plausible nor likeable. He's being weird and unpleasant to his "wife", aka. the student council president of the title. She's all over him. She gives him groinal stimulation with her foot (albeit through clothes) until he takes fright and flees because he's getting an erection, after which she basically masturbates with his bedclothes.
He still doesn't respond. He's a teenager, yet he seems alarmed by the idea of sex with Wakana. He keeps behaving obnoxiously, until towards the end of the episode he snaps, pulls down her top and starts sucking her nipples. (Why, yes, this series exists in censored and uncensored versions. Why do you ask?) Goodness knows how far our heroes would have gone if the doorbell hadn't rung and... why, it's the end of the episode!
However Season 1 struck me as quite sweet, though, even if it had a few episodes I disliked. I liked its silly/serious message about sex. I hated its occasional harem stuff. Well, they're only eight-minute episodes. I'll keep watching.