Entry #14: Michiko to Hatchin (SoA 2016)

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It’s almost like Pixar meets Cowboy Bebop. Two girls who don’t have much in common meet up to succeed towards a certain goal, meeting people and growing closer all the while. The goal is a man; a man named Hiroshi, who is supposedly the father of Hana, the blonde-haired heroine, and the ex-lover of Michiko, the tanned Latina(?) hot-shot.

<Moderate spoilers ahead>

Upon the first episode, this anime makes one thing perfectly clear: Hana is a poor, poor girl. In a classic Cinderella tale, Hana lives in an estranged home with eeeeeeeeevil parents and eeeeeeeeeeevil siblings. Of course, they aren’t her real siblings, but they’re more accustomed to using her as a slave. Something bad happens, they blame her. If they’re bored, they bind her with rope and use her as a horse. She’s constantly the scapegoat and the wicked use it to their full advantage. Pity her, you empathetic fools. Pity her and let the rage boil over so that you may embrace the dark side! This lifestyle doesn’t last more than an episode when Michiko comes flying through the window like a steampunk angel and takes her with her on a journey to find the man that will bring them all together.

If you’re perceptive enough, you can probably tell that I did not care for the first episode. It does not set a good precedent for the rest of the show and grossly overexaggerates the family torture Hana has to go through on a daily basis. All in the name of pity… or perhaps showing how patient she is by nature. In any case, based on the first episode alone, this show wouldn’t be anywhere near my Completed list. Thankfully, the show goes off on a tangent that only slightly gets pretentious with its narrative ambitions.

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The story pans out similar to that of Cowboy Bebop. It continues with the couple’s journey with all sorts of rampant action scenes and wild goose chases, but only after sometimes dramatic, sometimes humorous character interaction between the main couple or the characters around them. Michiko to Hatchin does a good job of explaining character motivation through character actions and key dialogue, and allows a story to branch off with feuds between characters and/or (convenient) character arrivals with information about Hiroshi. It’s not a start to finish, straight line sort of story. Characters break off from one another and experience the world through their own eyes, and meet the people who inhabit it with all sorts of different perspectives… kind of like Cowboy Bebop. It makes the story a little more enriching when the characters try to find themselves through their individual thoughts, as opposed to relying on the closeness of others. The best thing is, the show does it both ways, so fans of either type can have something to sip on.

Stepping back to the action scenes and goose chases comes the first genuine issue with this anime. Guns don’t mean shit in this world. Characters are constantly running up into enemy fire and knocking them out of their hands and having “close-calls” with gunshot fire raining down on them. The characters in this show are afflicted with the, ahem, “Stormtrooper-Aim Syndrome.” No one in this anime is a good shot. At all. Despite being near point blank range, cops will miss a moving target ten out of ten times. This completely dulls the tension that gunfights could have, because what does it matter? They won’t get hit. Okay, these guys have guns. I better move fast so they won’t hit me! It’s horribly unrealistic and makes the scenes feel recycled and unnecessary. A gun fight for the sake of a gun fight. Plot armor abound because we can’t have Michiko die on us this quickly, can we?

Putting realistic action scenes aside, I think the character development is poignant enough to justify all the ridiculous “Danger moments.” Despite being almost certain no one will die (or even get hit), the viewer will likely care enough to not want them to be hit/killed. There’s a lot of parallelism between Michiko and Hana in terms of their personalities. Despite the fact that she’s around thirty, Michiko acts more childish than Hana does. Despite the fact that she’s ten, Hana is typically more level-headed and thoughtful of the present situation. But they aren’t completely different. They both share the same passion for justice and seeing things through, only their interpretation of the term “justice” varies from their experience in the real world. There’s also a nice emphasis on the symbolic nature of the quest itself. Is Michiko’s intention to find Hiroshi a means of letting go or never letting go? Questions like this pop up every so often during the narrative of Michiko to Hatchin.

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However, many of the more substantial questions are better served for the more major characters. Also like Cowboy Bebop, characters come and go throughout the story. Some episodes focus on a single character and then cast them aside for the sake of continuing the plot. Others introduce a character and sporadically give them development throughout the series. For the most part, the latter portion succeeds in crafting a likable product, but the former feels incredibly disjointed. Hana makes a friend named Rita near the halfway point of the series. Rita complains about how she loves an adult who doesn’t love her back and then joins Hana as they’re almost sold off as child slaves by a circus organization. After that, never shown again. Never even mentioned again. She served her purpose and now she isn’t needed. It almost makes those episodes dedicated to random characters like filler, and cuts the pacing of an otherwise well-paced journey.

Looking at Michiko to Hatchin is a lot like looking at a kaleidoscope. All sorts of different patterns and designs and colors floating around in a compressed space, constantly changing shape in a uniform-like fashion. In layman’s terms, I mean that the anime is consistent in its inconsistency. The animation, at times, is super choppy, stiff, and amateurish. Other times, the animation is smooth, fluid, and concise enough to bring a tear to my eye. (Disclaimer: no tears were shed during the viewing of this anime.) It has an issue with flip-flopping between the best animation ever and the worst animation ever. Fluid animation tends to occur when characters are moving fast, choppy animation tends to occur when characters are moving idly. Action scenes are nice, walking around a bazaar is not nice. It could certainly be better, but the overall design is enough to make up for it. I like the look of this anime. It’s different. Lots of darker-skinned characters you don’t normally see in anime, with a Hispanic flavor to it. If I could compare it to anything, it almost looks like The Boondocks off of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. It has that same boldness to it, and I feel Michiko specifically looks like she could’ve come right from an episode of it.

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There’s a lot to like with this series, especially if you enjoy shows such as Cowboy Bebop (because let’s face it, these two series share a lot of similarities). It’s mostly indicative of whether you can enjoy a sometimes on, sometimes off journey of self-discovery and embracing THE POWER OF EMOTIONS. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it, fortunately. There’s a lot of moral codes and different forms of justice that impacts a lot of the characters in this series, and takes it on maturely and (moderately) realistically. I can say that I liked most characters in this show, even those who have a whopping one episode appearance. Whether or not I cared, frankly, is a different story. Some seemed insightful while others seemed evil to be evil, or good to be good. Or sob stories. Lots of those in here. Lots of those in Cowboy Bebop, too.

It’s a good show. I would certainly commend it for its effort in developing characters and creating an interesting story, but “originality” and “reality” aren’t two things you can give it credit for. It has its own charm both in stylistic appearance and passion for its craft. It’s a series that can be watched to introduce one into the anime genre without falling victim to many of the tropes that plague the industry today, and that alone influences me to rate the show higher.

Personal Score: B

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #13: Kenkou Zenrakei Suieibu Umishou (SoA 2016)

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Fun fact: I’ve read this anime in manga form. By that, I mean I’ve read the source material for this anime. It is also among my favorite manga. For those of you who may be scratching your head at this proclamation, I can only say: I don’t blame you.

Umishou, as I will now address it, is an anime based off a manga that was published in 2005. I read the manga over two years ago, and fell in love with its controlled insanity and carefree expression of female sexuality. The anime was announced before the manga was finished, so the ending for the anime will leave a lot to be desired. Even for someone who’s read the manga, the anime’s ending leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as it shows off what couldn’t be animated and essentially spoils a big portion of future chapters of the manga. I won’t drag it until the end: read the manga. The anime is basically an advertisement for it anyway.

There are two things that become apparent from the beginning of Umishou: it is dumb and it is naked. The name translates roughly to “Umisho High School Naked Swimming Club.” There will be a lot of focus on the female form. However, a single male character enjoys the thrill of nudity as well. In any case, whether you’re male or female, be prepared for tits, ass, and lots of in-between. The anime does everything in its power to exploit it at all possible moments, both for comedic and sexual purposes (mostly comedic). But it is also dumb. Laws of physics will be stretched. Human capabilities will be strengthened. Every cliché that could lead to sexual fan service or misunderstood pseudo-sexual situations will be displayed with pride. It is a series that is better suited when one doesn’t think about it. “Turn off your brain.”

As simplistic as I make the series seem, there are various moments where characters embrace in a heart-warming unity of fleeting youth and wanting to create a wonderful life. There is a very, very slight underlying message of wanting to make the best of the situation for everyone else’s sake. However, in the anime form, this becomes nearly invisible. The anime seems to want to focus on, well, tits, for about ten episodes. Then, the final three episodes become a tad more reflective and supported by the chemistry of the characters. Very predictable. The anime somewhat encapsulates the magic the manga had on me, but I don’t recall the manga being this… stupid. It’s been over two years. I don’t quite recall how bonkers the original story is.

I really should focus on the anime and stop comparing it to the manga. I apologize.

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One thing I will compliment is the anime’s style of drawing. I really enjoy the art of one Mitsuru Hattori, who is also responsible for Sankarea. The style is almost cat-like, with a heavy emphasis on the eyes and a variety of different-shaped heads for each character. Some are perfectly circular, some are square. Some look like a turnip, while others are as slim as green onions. There’s a lot of variety in character styles and types, though admittedly I believe they’re used to make them less desirable. It’s creative ugliness, ladies and gentlemen. Almost zero characters have noses, either. Only when turned at an angle can viewers see ’em, but facing forward, it’s just eyes and a mouth, which is usually open far and wide. The comedic stylizing of characters’ faces is also humorous. While the jokes aren’t typically funny, the expressions on characters’ faces are enough to leave one entertained. The title also looks fairly good for a title from 2007, I think. A little bland palette-wise, but it has a nice sheen to it.

However, what I can’t praise is animation. Lots of choppy movements and constant shortcuts being taken to lessen the workload. Some of this is attributed to the comedy, but even serious segments have a small tendency to recycle animation or feel stiff. For an anime about swimming, the actual swimming isn’t very impressive. I liked the underwater scenes, but it’s overshadowed by how convenient they are to make characters seem incomplete. The amount of effort taken to censor female (and male) anatomy is also distracting.

Characters are archetypes, at least they are on the surface. The only character I feel isn’t an archetype is Orizuka, the vice-captain of the swim team, but even she exhibits some qualities of a tsundere. They also get very little, if any, development throughout the series. The fun-loving Amuro will stay fun-loving for 95% of the series. Maaya will be the rich, famous bitch for 95% of the series. There are attempts at development during the second-half of its run, but whether they pay off is debatable. And by the end of it, does it even matter? As I stated previously, the anime is an adaptation of an incomplete manga. Therefore, there’s a lot to be desired from both the story and the characters by the end of episode thirteen.

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Humor is funny if you think cliché segments of suppressed sexual urges and misunderstandings are funny. If not, there’s a lot of slapstick, too. If you don’t find either of these funny, well, fuck you. Umishou will continue to use these two tactics until they become so tired that the mental image of a sheep will knock them out for a month. The characters’ archetypes have a lot to do with these two comedy styles (Orizuka likes hitting people and Amuro doesn’t have much shame), and the way they play off one another is charming, but only to the minimalist degree. The mindset of almost every female character is geared towards sexual humor, and supreme author Hattori takes advantage. This girl has big tits. These two girls have small tits. Those two girls with small tits wish they had big tits so they grope the girl with big tits because why not? It’s a god damn groping party.

Story… well, yeah. If you can call it one, a swim team wants to be the very best, that no one ever was. To swim fast is their real test, and victory’s their cause. However, approximately two members take swimming seriously, and usually just take advantage of looking at girls’ skin and/or slacking off. It continues along like this for a while, somewhat treading the slice-of-life terrain, but also incorporates sub-plots based on characters’ issues. They are serious enough to partake in tournaments and swim meets, so there’s that. Excuse me for sounding so lax about this, but the story’s so unimportant that the premise basically sums up everything. It’s somewhat episodic, with very little in terms of threading various incidents together. Sometimes they use them as a callback, sometimes they forget it even exists. It really depends on who’s trying to be developed and whether the author can exploit it for sex.

The manga was a great read for me back in the day. The anime pales in comparison. However, watching the anime gives me an innate desire to re-read the source material to see if it’s as stupid as the anime, because MY GOD the anime was stupid. The worst part is, the anime is pretty true to the source, which only makes me feel like the manga is just as—if not more—stupid. In any case, the result is enjoyable stupidity and uninhibited nudist freedom (aside from the censors). Those looking for anything deeper than that need not apply.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: D+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #12: Non Non Biyori (SoA 2016)

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As a critic, one must be willing to take on every conceivable genre or type of show in order to expand their horizons of experience. Along the way, there will inevitably be genres that critics will be more fond of—and alternatively less fond of. Slice-of-life seems to be a genre I don’t dig much.

The only thing is, I’ve enjoyed slice-of-life titles in the past. Lucky StarYuru Yuri, and GJ-bu are among my favorites of the genre… however, none of those titles have surpassed a 7 out of 10. It always seems to be an uphill climb for slice-of-life’s, as a lot of the fundamentals I’m looking for in a creation of entertainment tends not to mesh well with the “point” of said titles within that genre. I understand that the point is not always to develop the characters, to focus on deepening bonds between characters, or having the story be important whatsoever. I get that, I really do. But those are all flaws to me, and without them present (though, the lack of a story is a tolerable), it isn’t as impactful to me. That’s the way I see it. And that’s why you’ll likely see lower ratings on Tamako Market or Yuyushiki

And Non Non Biyori.

Season One:

It’s a show about cute girls doing cute things. However, there’s also a heavier focus on the environment, too. No, not like “Save the trees!” or anything like that. It only encourages the feeling of exploring a world so devoid of people, building structures, or man-made entertainment expos. Non Non Biyori takes place “out in the country.” Its lush greenery and wild atmosphere is somewhat of a spark that differentiates it from others of the genre. It also looks great. It’s one of the finer looking slice-of-life titles that I’ve seen in my lifetime. The characters aren’t exactly the most vibrant, but the detail in the background and the environment, the way everything sways together in beautiful symmetry, is enough to tempt me to use it as a desktop background.

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Not only with its appearance, but Non Non Biyori also has a little variety within its cast of characters. The ages of its main cast vary from seven to around fourteen. It also distinguishes the characters apart from one another due to those ages (and uses it for comedic purposes). This is yet another way the anime stands out from others; whereas the standard seems to have all characters roughly the same age, Non Non Biyori tries to allow a little creativity come from characters of a different age. The youngest acts the most random and blunt. The oldest tries to act most responsibly (and fails). The newcomer idolizes the oldest of the group (for absurd reasons). Each character has their own personality and the show rolls with it, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, that’s where the praise for this anime ends. I find it interesting to note that, score-wise, this is among the most popular slice-of-life titles to date (according to MyAnimeList). I don’t get it. Non Non Biyori, in my mind, is average slice-of-life fare at best. There are quite a few things about it that I feel others of the genre do much better. A friend once described to me that the show has actual comedy. I didn’t laugh once. Didn’t even smirk.

So, yes, the comedy. The comedy in this show seems to derive from two things (mostly): making fun of an individual character’s one-dimensional personality, or awkward silences after something strange has happened. Haha, the teacher’s always tired. Haha, the oldest acts like the youngest. Haha, this bitch is obsessed with her senpai. Haha, another character is reacting by blankly staring at the events that are currently transpiring. There are a few other forms of comedy that arise from time to time, but these two specific types seem to make up the bulk of it.

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The characters aren’t much different. They have their one trait and that’s how they behave. Teacher’s always tired. Oldest acts like the youngest. One is obsessed with her senpai. Highlight them for comedic effect. The amount of development is sporadic, with some attention being drawn to develop Renge, the youngest one of the group, more than the others, but only by a little. By the end, the only noticeable difference among the characters is the closeness they have to one another, which is only different because one character arrives at the beginning of the series as a newcomer, so she has to start at square one. I didn’t much care for any particular character, although “Candy Store” gets points for both personality type and her connection with Renge in her earlier years (despite how short the flashback is).

As for the most subjective quality to decipher for a show, Non Non Biyori was disappointing from an entertaining standpoint. I would assume from how high the ratings were for the show that I would get a little more crunch from the content of the series. However, it decides to go the slow-paced, ambiance route of displaying pleasant views of trees and forest and lakes and mountains, while allowing the characters to experience the magic of the outdoors along with the viewers. There’s nothing wrong with this, but with how little I felt for the characters and the comedy that attributes to them, the feeling of wonder can only last so long. This is, to some extent, a boring title to me, and that’s unfortunate. There are times when it shows that it can be more than just a one-type comedy show, but it tends to get lost in the wilderness.


The reason I highlight this as “Repeat” and not “Season Two” is because while it’s technically a second season, it’s not actually a continuation of the first. This threw me through a loop when I first started it, but the second season is actually just a re-imagining of the first, with completely new content starting after episode two. All the development and/or closeness the characters had with each other by the end of the first season is now kaput. Though, Repeat implies that the events that happened in the first season are still bound to happen. The viewer just won’t see them this time around.

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This season is very marginally better than the first in almost every regard. I say almost because it still isn’t that entertaining. The comedy is a little better. The personalities of the characters are a little more realistic. The visuals and emphasis on nature are a little more concrete. The development is better, too… for a specific character.

They may as well call this season Ren-Chon Biyori!

Renge seems to have been appointed the idol of this show, because the camera can’t get enough of her. While in the first season the characters were given a relatively equal amount of screentime, Repeat has Renge star in almost every scene possible. While I’m slightly exaggerating, I certainly remember seeing Renge in this season a lot more than I did in the first season. She gets more development than the others, more of a reason to be shown, more charm to her character, and more interaction with other characters.She has essentially become “the only character that matters,” and the other characters suffer because of it. Komari, the oldest, and Hotaru, the newcomer obsessed with Komari, are noticeably less vibrant is this season than the first season. Komari’s behavior is now like that of an actual older, concerning parent, like she wanted to be in the first season, and Hotaru is just… there. They hardly do anything with these characters aside from a few scenes with other characters, but they’re never really “the star” on their own anymore. It’s more realistic, sure, but it doesn’t do much for the entertainment side of things.

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The comedy feels better because it doesn’t seem to rely much on tropes anymore. The situations are a little zany and get a gentle push from characters’ archetypes, but they end up becoming a little more creative. I smiled more than I did in the first season by a long shot. Still, it’s not nearly enough to suddenly deem this series “funny,” or even “humorous.” Again, it takes the slow-paced, ambiance route in terms of pacing—and again, that’s fine—but it makes the series dull without the proper means of receiving the empathy of the audience. It’s unfortunate that it has to happen that way, but Repeat still hasn’t caught my attention enough to consider it better than others of its type.

If I were to hazard a guess, I think people really enjoy this title for the emphasis on a calm, everyday life out in the country. That, and they find Renge cute. I can understand this side of things, as I found this to be one of the better aspects of this anime. The only thing with me is, and it tends to be this way with many slice-of-life’s, is that I don’t care. I don’t care for the characters, the humor, the lack of any development, and the environment because of all previously mentioned. I can understand the effort put through from this series to make itself stand out from the crowd, but I just don’t think it delivers. I’m certainly in the minority here, but that’s how I feel. Non Non Biyori didn’t have the impact on me as it did for many others. I wouldn’t consider this show “bad” as much as I’d consider it a show “not for me.” That being said, I wouldn’t consider it “good” either. It’s an average slice-of-life with some diversity in its setting and age-range of characters. If this tickles your fancy, go for it, dude.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #11: Love Lab (SoA 2016)

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Love Lab is an interesting show. It’s interesting in the sense that there is absolutely nothing original or exaggerated about its premise or initial set-up, yet it manages to bring a smile to my face more often than most. That’s not to say this show is ordinary or doesn’t exaggerate, because it does, but looking at the show from its foundation upward, it’s essentially cute girls doing cute things + clubs. One could argue that it’s not technically a “club” and it’s the student council, but they don’t do anything important, so it’s basically a club.

The synopsis paints a pretty picture: a girl stumbles upon another girl kissing a body pillow in the student council room. Through unusual circumstances, they decide to work together to teach one another the ways of love, with the one of them lying about their experience with men in order to take on the role of “love guru” of sorts. Y’see the two girls in the middle of the picture up there? Those are the two main characters. The series will make sure you know that by putting them in almost every scene and making every conflict involve them in some way. It progresses in a way one would expect: a group of girls come together as part of a club to talk and help others about love. Only problem? The school they attend does not allow romantic relationships. So it’s a hush-hush club. Wow, this is overly-complicated.

That’s the biggest issue with this series. It’s incredibly over-complicated. It tries to create little snippets of drama and foreshadowing and character development and comedic interactions and serious themes and the toils of love and blah, blah, blah. It takes on so much that it ultimately falters on most accounts. By the end of the series, it takes on this lackluster, almost lukewarm sort of feeling of mediocrity that makes the viewer think “What if?” It is a series that has such limitless potential, especially due to its ability to entertain, that destroys itself by trying to do everything at once.

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Love Lab is very entertaining. I found myself enjoying this more than most of the series I’ve seen so far this Summer. The only issue is that it tends to drag when it becomes serious. This is one of the rare examples in anime that I feel a series would better serve as a slice-of-life without much conflict. When a scene focuses on a delusional Maki (black-haired girl) embellishing fantasies of the wonders of romance, the show is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not amazing, but certainly something that could serve to carry the series with Riko (red-haired girl) acting as the straight man/slapstick aid. However, there is also evidence that the series can develop characters well when it wants to be serious. Sayori (glasses-girl) is less of a joke character and more of a voice of reason/lover of manipulation… and money, I guess. That kinda gets swept under the rug later on. There is only one scene that shows Sayori’s past, as told by her boyfriend (who is never shown or heard from afterwards), and does a fantastic job of developing her as a person. And then Love Lab progresses with meaningless drama between Maki and Riko and random male characters that don’t matter. Thanks. Great. Really, I love it.

It just isn’t a show worth adding drama. Because the characters aren’t developed enough for the viewers to care, every threat to the girls’ club’s activities end up becoming their friends and/or doesn’t matter in the end, and the drama is prolonged and lacks impact after the third or fourth episode. Yet another component of the atmosphere of lost potential that this series exudes. It’s sad, really. I’m growing tired of writing about sad aspects. Let’s focus on the good.

The animation and overall look of the show is sublime. I love the amount of enthusiasm and spirit to almost every character’s primary characteristics. Each character is cute in their own way and is an overall joy just to look at. It’s vivid, hyper, bombastic, charming, and all other positive adjectives one could look up in a thesaurus. The animation is fluid and only rarely do I see some strange occurrences in characters’ faces or the background looks a little soggy. If I could have one complaint, and it’s a nitpicky one at best, Sayori’s glasses weird me out. I don’t like how the white frames combine with the shadowed whiteness of the lens that anime likes to use to hide their eyes. It makes her look like she’s wearing something out of a carnival.

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Characters are, for the most part, humorous. The chemistry between Riko and Maki is marvelous. Tanahashi can blend well with just about any character. The cuteness of the design makes almost every character more enjoyable, and the personalities chinks make the characters… dare I say, “shippable.” The beginning portions of this show really hit its stride when all five characters became established members of the club. Adding more characters after that only bogged everything down. Even Enomoto (RED-haired girl), who I thought was the weakest character overall, was fun to watch when everyone was together in one place.

I really wanted to like this series more, but the series wouldn’t let me. Constantly pushing and shoving different moods and genres and all sorts of needless drama that hinders the enjoyment of a fun-loving and innocent series about youth and love. There’s not much more to say, only that I wish this series would’ve stayed the course. To have one central focus would do Love Lab a lot of good. Oh well.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #10: Muteki Kanban Musume (SoA 2016)

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(Also known as Ramen Fighter Miki.)

Like with my entry on Yuyushiki, there isn’t a lot to say with this anime, as both series don’t have a lot going on within them. Where Yuyushiki is a calm, yet comedic slice-of-life flick, Ramen Fighter Miki is a parody-comedy slice-of-life flick. That entails that the series will be loud, obnoxious, full of ongoing jokes, have references to other popular media, and occasionally defy the laws of common sense. And boy, does it do all this and more.

I’ll be blunt: this series is really dumb. But it’s supposed to be dumb, it’s a parody. Situations are typically over-the-top, satirical, and blatantly overexaggerated for comedic effect. However, that also implies that characters will act one way, and only that one way, from beginning to end. Ramen Fighter Miki does not disappoint in that regard. The characters are archetypes, the situations are fantastical, and each and every episode is zany to the max. If you enjoy that kind of thing, this will be your perfect bowl of ramen. If not, it’ll be a long twelve episodes.

What do I think? I enjoyed it. I’ve learned that I tend to enjoy “comedy” in anime more when the characters are energetic and morph their faces appropriately to the situation. I like spirit and enthusiasm in my comedy anime! But I also like when things are creatively stupid. Any anime can be stupid, but it takes effort to be creatively stupid. I feel Ramen Fighter Miki does a nice job of balancing itself with both raw stupidity and creative stupidity to service fans of both things. Lots of slapstick, too, if you dig that sort of thing.

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However, the most prevalent flaw of parody anime are no different here. As I mentioned previously, the characters have zero development over the course of the series. A lot of jokes and character traits are recycled, leading to an inevitable feeling of repetition or laziness (I fucking hate the male rival). Constant use of yelling which can either ramp up the comedy or shatter the viewer’s eardrums (or both). It lacks that emotional impact that makes series more memorable. Sure, one can be memorable for being stupid, but it’s a fleeting feeling. “Oh! Remember that one series that had the ramen girl punching the dog in the face? That was weird, right?”

Animation is standard for its time. The color palette is fairly bland but present enough to distinguish characters. The animation is, obviously, over-the-top and littered with weird backdrops and fanciful feats of comedic gusto. It serves the comedy well and does what it can to service the viewer. Surprisingly little sexual fan service for a series with two cute teenage girls with decent-sized busts. For a parody anime, I would’ve expected at least one “boy walks into room unaware that a girl is inside half-naked” scene. Instead, the focus is on slapstick and funny faces. A neat change-up.

It’s a humorous, but ultimately absent-minded series that does the one thing it knows it can do well: comedy. Unfortunately, it’s only a certain kind of comedy that only some will appreciate. They hardly change it up whatsoever and the series struggles with trying to find that balance between stupid and normal. When I found myself paying more attention to Grey’s Anatomy than episode eleven of Ramen Fighter Miki, it was then that I knew I was done with the series. The fun had wore off and I was simply watching it to finish it. It’s not really a bad series, per se, but it’s one that perhaps could’ve been better suited as a three or four-part OVA special.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #9: Ristorante Paradiso (SoA 2016)

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This almost became more fourth drop of the Summer, but I thankfully pulled through. I don’t want to use up all of my drops before I’ve even reached ten anime!

However, there was a reason why I wanted to drop this, which is my ultimate complaint with the anime: it’s really boring… at first. I’ve watched quite a few anime during the Summer and a good number of them have been slow-paced. But this show? It may be the slowest of the bunch. By episode three, I was genuinely cursing the show mentally for being so unbelievably diluted and hollow. Nothing happened, or nothing I saw that was of any importance was happening. It wasn’t until episode nine that I started to appreciate this show’s sense of patience, but by that point, the giant scar of monotony had already made its mark, and I can’t simply disregard it because it all finally clicked for me.

Ristorante Paradiso is about a twenty-one-year-old girl named Nicoletta, who comes to Italy to find her mother and reveal to her husband that she is his wife’s daughter. After some pleading from her mother, she decides not to say anything, but stays within the boundary of a mysterious “ristorante” that her mother’s husband owns, where all the employees are older gentlemen with “spectacles.” And when I say “older,” I mean in their fifties. Points for uniqueness within the very premise: this anime is about an adult girl, surrounded by men in their fifties, and the setting is in Italy. What other anime can say that?

Now, this anime is classified as a “Josei,” which I have very little experience with. It seems to me that this classification is the result of a central female character being the subject of “attention” by many good-looking men. Only the entirety of the cast are well past the age of high-schoolers and can control their emotions and hormones. And aren’t stupid. Or sadistic. Or whatever male tropes anime and manga seem to think girls are into now-a-days. You would think that with all this in mind, I would eat this show up like a pepperoni pizza, right? Yes and no. As I said before, it took me a long time to really find myself fascinated with this show. By the way, this show has eleven episodes. I didn’t start getting into it until the third to last episode. What I feel Ristorante Paradiso has with an intriguing premise, it doesn’t do well within its execution. There is really no flash, no “spectacle” to this series that makes it immediately drawing to viewers. Maybe to women who are into hot guys, but I’m a heterosexual who isn’t into hot guys, so I found myself searching for anything to really latch onto, unsuccessfully. This anime is very dull to me, at least it is for a certain extent. Nothing really happens, one could say.

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What this anime is at its core is a character study. With each passing episode, one or more characters are presented as the main focus of said episode, making the series almost episodic. It highlights their past, their relationship with others, and their goals and whatever else may be significant to their character. There are quite a few characters, too, so the episodes have a lot to pave out. But this also provides an issue: once certain character’s episodes have passed, they’re regarded as existing by others, but don’t serve much point other than to provide their services in the ristorante. This anime tends to play favorites with its characters, with strong fascinations being shown to Nicoletta, the female lead, Claudio, Nicoletta’s love interest and server at the ristorante, and Nicoletta’s mother. All others have their fun in the sun, but ultimately serve as placeholders for certain personalities. Vito is playful and flirty. Teo is rough around the edges, but witty and caring. Gigi doesn’t talk. Etc., etc.

I like the series for at least doing a good job of developing the characters present, because they do to a satisfying extent. I just wish it did a better job of making them important for more than one episode, or tried to incorporate a story that gave each character an opportunity to present a problem simultaneously. Claudio’s desire for his ex-wife goes on for a good portion of the series, and is presented maturely and paced well. I only wish they would have, say, Vito have an argument with his wife or something happen during so, so that the viewer could process more than just “This is Claudio’s episode,” and so forth. It feels plastic and mechanical, the way it’s set up.

Mood is another thing that I believe made this series so hard to bear during its beginning portions. The viewer hardly knows the characters, hardly knows what makes them tick or makes them unique. Yet they continue the series in a light-hearted manner as if everyone’s an established family member and everything’s all good. There is a lot of flashbacks and backstory to this show, so beginning the series with (almost) everyone already developed from a personal standpoint leaves the viewer lost in translation. They simply need to wait for everyone’s personality to be broadcast. Episode after episode. So, they decide to focus more on Nicoletta during the first few episodes, which is smart… except I think she’s the most bland character of the bunch. It’s not that she’s unlikable, she’s just bland. There isn’t much to her other than that she’s “the kid” of the ristorante’s family. Using her as a template for the viewer to experience all of these phenomenons of each character with her is nice, but again, it feels almost mechanical and alienating. I think this anime would be better served for a visual novel. Not to mention, there’s very little conflict within this show. It’s smooth sailing, for the most part.

Once I did start to get into the show (because everyone had been showcased properly), I felt it had a lot of potential to continue onward. I would gladly welcome a second season to this show, but with seven years passing, I doubt it’ll ever come to be. The characters are decently developed and likable in their own merits. They feel like human beings and have a good amount of charm. Even Nicoletta has her moments. I only wished that this appreciation of its quirks would’ve come sooner than episode nine.

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The art is also something I suspect is very Josei-like. The mouths have very long lines, the bodies are slender, and the eyes, contrary to most, are more traditionally symmetrical with the face (mostly on the men), while others have eyes that are almost perfectly circle. Though, there are some characters (like Nicoletta) who don’t have pupils, which looks odd to me. It’s just the whiteness of the eye itself and the variously-colored corneas. The style itself is refreshing for someone not used to the Josei-style, but the animation was very lackluster. Very minimal overall movements, while basic actions looked clunky. For those of you who watch the show in the future, watch people drink wine. It’s really stiff. Really stiff. Speaking of wine, whenever wine was shown being poured into a wine glass (this happens a lot), it cuts to this 3D presentation style… which looks really bad. And pretentious. But mostly bad. This series has a strange fascination with wine. It’s like I’m watching Bartender all over again.

It’s good, but it’s hard to get into if you have no real reason to watch it. Admittedly, I watched this as a substitute after dropping Elfen Lied, but I had it marked as Plan to Watch beforehand. It’s a series that really takes its time, and is really into presenting the beauty of gentleness and exquisite cuisine. If it had been more upfront, I’m sure it would’ve showcased all sorts of Italian landmarks and traditions, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I feel the show is worth the watch by series’ end, and I’d definitely watch more if they were to decide to continue it. However, for those who can’t find anything to enjoy past the first couple of episodes, I’d entirely understand. Just know that this is a series that gets better as it progresses, much like wine gets better with age. But I wouldn’t know. I don’t drink it.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #8: Dennou Coil (SoA 2016)

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I realize as a cynic that I can be a really negative person. My expectations for any form of media are tremendously high and if they aren’t met, then I’m inclined to give that form of media a mediocre score. As a person with self-proclaimed higher-than-normal intelligence, it’s not that I don’t want to enjoy these series, it’s just that I grow accustomed to wanting a certain criteria of things to be met that anime, especially, doesn’t take the time or the effort to accomplish. It makes me come across as jaded, grumpy, or snobbish. Over time, I begin to feel that there are series that won’t be able to affect me in the same way as, say, Toradora! or Katanagatari, and it’s certainly frustrating to go through series after series that infringe upon the barriers of quality but don’t manage to have any lasting emotional effect on me. Sometimes I convince myself that I’ll never be pleased and I’ve officially become an unforgiving cyborg…

So when the last episode of Dennou Coil had me close to tears, it reminded me that I was human, and I did, indeed, have human emotions.

I’ll be frank, I could write a 2,000 word entry about how amazing, fantastic, life-changing, or wonderfully creative Dennou Coil is, but I don’t think anything I could put down would do it any justice. It’s a series I feel is better suited when given a blank slate so that new viewers can interpret the show for themselves. All I can really say is that the series is one that I highly recommend to everyone and is one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of why I watch anime in the first place, and what creative wonders of a different culture can do for a story and… I need not say more. I don’t want to set the bar too high, but it’s a series one has to ponder by the end of it. And if I could note one noticeable flaw with the series, it’s episodes eleven through fourteen, which are basically filler episodes that serve little purpose to the overall plot, but are still important enough to view. I paid half-attention as it is.

Just watch it. Please. That’s all I can really say as a critic.

Personal Score: A

Critical Score: A-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #7: Claymore (SoA 2016)

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Watching this series has really taken a toll on me, but probably not in the way you think. For those of you who are familiar with the show, Claymore is a series with a lot of heart. It’s emotionally stimulating in both dramatic and traumatic proportions. It deals with the concept of death in just about every episode. Emotions, retribution, atonement, strength, determination, empathy, humanity, courage, denial—

Gaaaaaaah! Make it stop! Enough already!

The central problem with Claymore is this. It’s so persistent with beating the viewer’s head with the emotional and philosophical messages of war and camaraderie and dealing with these issues. It’s not that it simply shows off these subjects either, it actually tells you. Over and over and over and over. This series has a gross tendency to tell fucking everything. It goes something like this:

The main character, Clare, is battling a giant monster. She swings and misses.

Another character: Oh. She doesn’t have the speed to catch up with that giant monster. I don’t think she’s going to live.

Clare starts glowing and gains a massive amount of speed.

Another character: Wow! How did she gain that amount of speed? Does she actually have a chance to win?

Clare hits the monster once. It screams.

Another character: I see. Hitting the monster with a sword with enough force causes damage to it. The tides of battle have turned.

The monster retorts and punches Clare in the face.

Another character: Ah, so it seems Clare isn’t made of diamond steel. If she gets hit like that, she will surely sustain damage. Hrmm.

Clare babbles on about her destiny or something and then strikes the monster with a massive blow.

Another character: It seems the proper way of defeating this creature is for Clare to access her inner emotions and strike with all of her power. This is an impressive display of power.

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Obviously I’m exaggerating (and the event is slightly fabricated), but this sort of battle commentary happens quite often. Not only with people watching from the outside, but people involved with the fight, too. Oh yes, Claymore is a lot like Dragon Ball Z in this regard. Enemies talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, instead of doing something to end the battle. Not only that, but the series, especially near the end, constantly shuffles powerful enemy after powerful enemy—all of them seemingly more powerful than the last. It feels so amateurish to prolong the battle with idle conversation or bully-like baiting. While the anime seems mature on the surface, the fights within scream “Teenage battle shounen.”

But that’s not to say the series is just a mindless fight fest. It has a variety of characters and introspective moments that do a good enough job developing the characters as likable people. Only problem is, while the development is there, and it develops a nice amount of characters, some get better treatment than others. I can say that by the end of the series, I genuinely liked a total of three characters. Thankfully, one is Clare, the main character, but the other two are characters that don’t get a lot of screentime. When the series isn’t constantly spouting THE POWER OF EMOTIONS, I think it does a good enough job of putting character motivations in a realistic light. It’s not always so insightful, but it’s basic enough to get the point across.

Except Raki. Fuck Raki. He’s a mindless, useless waste of screentime who doesn’t provide anything to anyone or anything other than this stupid obsession with strength via love. God damn it all. It ruins the mood of the series. I mean it, too. Raki single-handedly makes the series far, far worse just by being important.

Speaking of “mood of the series,” here’s something Claymore has in common with Shingeki no Kyojin: strength of world-building through atmosphere. I liked the constant tone of fear and helplessness that’s present all throughout the series’ run. The fear of Claymores in general is a little dumb, but a war-torn civilization on the brink of destruction from evil beings called “Yoma” is a nice way to reel in viewer interest. They also go a little overboard with the “helplessness” aspect with the “stronger villain every episode” angle, but that doesn’t become an issue until the last ten episodes or so. At least they have people die in this anime. Plot armor exists, certainly, but people die at least, and they reflect on it.

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But I cannot get over the amount of clichés that this series incorporates. I’ve already gone over a few with the prolonged battle discussions, stronger villain every week, stressed importance of showing mercy, and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS, but this series goes over so much that it’s hard to keep track of ’em all, and it really drags down the enjoyment for me. It makes the series plain, predictable, and uninspired, when it could really be something special. A friend of mine even mentioned that the series “didn’t seem so meh-ish.” And it doesn’t, based on the cover and synopsis. Unfortunately, exploring it further is a prolonged journey of things you’ve likely already seen in other shows like it.

Oh. I guess I should say something about the animation. It’s an acquired taste, as character designs aren’t exactly “kawaii.” They’re realistic and stylistically bland. These girls aren’t really “cute” as much as they are beautifully powerful (All Claymores are girls because why not?). The animation and fight scenes, when the combatants aren’t staring each other down and talking shit, are generally riveting and appealing to watch. It made the series more enjoyable as well, especially with all of the creativity put into making the monsters look as fucked up as possible. If only battle sequences didn’t last nearly a full episode, with flashbacks plastered in-between every couple of minutes.

It’s a series that could’ve been good, but isn’t. It’s meh. It doesn’t seem meh, but trust me, it’s meh.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #6: Hourou Musuko (SoA 2016)

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I learned something watching this series. It’s probably not what you think, either. Those who are “in-the-know” are aware that Hourou Musuko is a serious and realistic representation of transgender kids growing up in an environment that isn’t too accepting of that sort of thing. Though, keeping that in mind, one would think there’d be a little more to it, wouldn’t they?

I didn’t hate this series—just the opposite. I think it’s the best series I’ve watched thus far in the Summer. But there’s got to be something to say when the entire anime felt like one monotonous ride from beginning to end. Now, when I say “monotonous,” I’m insinuating that the mood or tone of the show is barely-ever changing. There are noticeably happy, sad, and uncomfortable moments, but they either last as long as a single scene or dissipate into the gradual horde of emotions that the series settles in for 80% of its run. That “horde” is one of peacefulness, with the inevitable twinge of shame, regret, and guilt most of these characters have building up inside of them. It stays like this for far longer than it should. I, for one, don’t care for a lot of drama when it comes to shows with a “controversial” subject as this one, but one must also pay attention to the other end of the spectrum. Too little drama can dull the impact a series could make either with its message or its atmosphere. That is my biggest complaint with this series: with as much as it could have induced drama to further prove a point, it decides to leave it to inner-character dialogue and an occasional argument between two characters to give it a more introspective and somber tone. Hourou Musuko is almost the very definition of “character-driven drama.”

That being said, the story should be seen as a secondary device to the will of the characters. It follows a core group of middle-schoolers, ones who haven’t quite hit puberty yet, and shows the progress of their development as well as their motivations in life and their desires from one another. There is a boy who enjoys dressing up as a girl. A girl who enjoys dressing up as a boy. With a coincidence as large as this, one would readily assume they’re interested in one another; and they are, to some extent. There is a lot of emphasis on the past and future specifically within this anime. The past is shown to give the impression of bad blood between certain characters and the tools for why the characters feel a certain away about others. The future is highlighted because these characters are only 12 to 13-years-old. They’re going through changes they don’t know how to deal with, and with a few of these characters wanting to jump the gender border, it becomes all the more confusing. There is a lot of meaning going on under the surface with almost every character that it’s wonderful to keep tabs on. I only wonder about the realistic qualities of these characters, as some are as (or more) insightful as young adults in other anime. 12 to 13-years-old? It’s pushing the boundaries a little to me.

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One word to use would be “subtle.” Hourou Musuko is very subtle with its storytelling and its characters. This may explain why the mood is always so viably stubborn, but it also works to create thought-provoking character behavior and a steady dose of curiosity and child-like whimsy. That’s another thing about this anime that can be thrown into the horde: curiosity. Hourou Musuko conditions you to become “comfortable,” in a way, with the prospect of boys dressing up as girls and vice versa. It instills that sense of questioning the social norms and the reasoning behind the way some people are so against that type of lifestyle. In a way, the anime is almost fantasy-like with its storytelling, with the way characters behave and become so supportive of one another, it’s almost like an ideal world where people can be whoever they want to be, despite the consequences (because they’re disturbingly minimal in Hourou Musuko, I feel).

I can’t say that each character within the story is lovable, or in some cases even developed, but they all come across as “interesting,” and you may interpret that word however you wish to. I think there are certain characters that get more attention than others, while some characters only act as the catalyst for evoking certain thoughts or moods of the scene or situation. For those who do receive a nice share of screentime, I found myself enamored with almost all of them. These are characters that strive within a realistic environment that has people tend to hide part of themselves out of fear of being shunned or otherwise. It’s a loving attempt at creating characters that can work within the environment and pull through being better than who they were at the start. It’s amazing how an anime about pre-teens can showcase characters growing older or gaining wisdom better than most anime with characters in their late teens. The intricacies of each person and their commitment to others is astounding. There is so much beneath the surface that one could do an in-depth study and talk for hours without pause.

There’s a certain type of animation that better suits the “fantasy” environment that I mentioned earlier, and Hourou Musuko conveniently has it! It’s almost dream-like in its presentation, with characters appearing bright and the colors of their person blending into a cream-like mixture of soothing serendipity. The environments are awe-inspiring and invoke calmness and even sleepiness after long gazes. I didn’t see any real hesitation with the characters’ movements or actions, while the facial appearances were also wonderfully-suited to the emotions present. It’s a beautiful anime, in a sense, but it only adds to that mood that never seems to want to change. I have no complaints about it animation-wise, but I always seem to come back to that overall tone.

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It’s frustrating to say, but I really want to like this anime more, but the lack of any stable conflict or pivotal climax almost provides a feeling of “That’s it?” by the end. There were bits and pieces, but again, nothing stable or pivotal enough to give the impression that the characters couldn’t go through with wanting to become the opposite gender. It’s already one thing to have people who found the thought disgusting, which there definitely were, but there were so many more people who supported the idea that I don’t see why it couldn’t have been done. It makes me wonder if the author had any idea of how to balance that sort of tension and fear within people wanting to jump genders, and those who decry it, into the story without making it completely melodramatic. Part of me wonders if they had originally planned to do so, but didn’t want to destroy the overall atmosphere Hourou Musuko conveys, which I tend to think makes it lacking in impact and resolve.

I was also somewhat impressed by story’s end, too. Hourou Musuko isn’t just about being transgender. It’s about growing up and realizing the things that are important to you and the courage it takes to keep or strive for those goals. It’s wonderfully-crafted and ultimately satisfying, but could’ve been so much more in hindsight. It’s an anime I would definitely recommend to everyone, but those who don’t care to see something slow-paced and without a lot of (surface) dramatic tension won’t find much to see with Hourou Musuko.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.