Thoughts on Sekine-kun no Koi (Spoilers)

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Sekine, according to most synopses for this manga, is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. This is not even close to the truth. He is an ace-of-all-trades. Every opportunity to embellish the fact that Sekine is an incredibly talented, yet flawed human being is taken all the way to the bank. He’s amazing at ping pong, amazing at knitting, amazing at his job, amazing at unintentionally luring women to his side, and amazing in his own density. What the synopsis may imply is that Sekine cannot find love due to his mid-tier ability at everything, while in reality, his ability to do everything without much practice is what allows the story to further develop his empty inner shell.

What may be obvious from other stories that have received a lot of praise from me, Sekine-kun does a good job of creating an atmosphere of self-conflict and relating to what drives that inner turmoil. It’d be easy to make this series just another romcom about a good-looking guy who’s perfect at everything meet a girl who’s resistant to his charms. Instead, Sekine-kun takes a somewhat rare approach to the perfect male lead. While in, say, a harem fantasy, a male lead who is essentially perfect uses that for the sake of being all and pure and loving towards everyone, Sekine is a much different case. Without sounding entirely biased, his character is fairly relatable on an emotional level, one who dislikes uncomfortable atmospheres and does the bidding of others on the basis of simply avoiding that tension. This “eagerness” to allow people to do what they want with him has given him a history of intertwining events that make up how little he feels for anything in general.

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If this seems a little too extravagant, look at it this way: Sekine has been sucked dry of any passion. His constant willingness to suit the mood has left his own self unwilling. Almost like Pavlov’s dog in the sense that he’s learned to lie down and wait for things to be over with whenever someone pushes him.

Sekine is the sole reason this manga differs from most others and he is essentially the only thing that makes this story interesting. His behavior and inability to break through his shallow self-loathing makes for a refreshing lead character, one who actually feels like a human being as opposed to a walking harem machine. Unfortunately, he is not a perfect lead by any stretch of the imagination.

While introspective, depressing, and justifiably lost, his inability to function like a normal person when confronting pressure is quite amazing. Many times throughout the manga, a lot of the common tropes that come with the struggling budding of a romantic relationship is taken advantage of by his stuttering mindset. His character is perfect for emotional filibusters. As time grew on and later chapters began becoming shorter and shorter, one can feel the effects of a slowly-staling character quirk come to pass. There’s only so much one can do to with such an oddball introvert, who secludes himself from the public and can count his friends on one hand, when it comes to pursuing romance. Criticize himself for past mistakes, bury himself in the only hobby he has, dream and fantasize about the woman he adores; none of this becomes as interesting when he’s spent the last twelve chapters or so doing it. And without any true supporting characters to take the weight off of his spotlight, his once-intriguing persona becomes as monotonous as this story’s ending.

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Note I said “true” supporting characters. Supporting characters definitely exist, and a lot of them receive some attention throughout. The only issue with this is that they’re all pieces of a much larger puzzle. Sekine is obviously a developed character. The female lead? Not quite on his level, but well enough to remain consistently likable. Anyone else is what makes the manga somewhat harder to defend upon further reflection. Sekine has a friend from work and his wife, whom he never even realized he had feelings for (Okay…). There’s another character who’s introduced to serve as a sort of rival lover for Sekine, but is only a scapegoat as his intentions were only vaguely pointed in that direction. Even he doesn’t seem to serve any real point in the end, despite some segments dedicated to his fascination with a kinda-sorta-but-not-really family member. Then there’s the female lead’s grandfather, who acts as the catalyst for Sekine’s eventual pursuit of his granddaughter and in confronting his own feelings of contempt. One would think that would mean he would play a role in unlocking Sekine’s future happiness… but disappears off-and-on for a good portion of the story and serves little real impact.

What may be the biggest punch to the gut is the aspect of romance. Almost on the level of my thoughts on the main couple of Yuri!!! On Ice, Sekine and Sara, the female lead, don’t really feel like a couple. Sekine obviously loves her, as his devotion to her is borderline stalker-levels. It’s Sara that becomes so perplexing as the chapters roll by. She never really has a reason to develop feelings for Sekine, aside from obvious comments about how good-looking and gentlemanly he is. I always pictured her looking at Sekine like a pet project, and as heartless as that sounds, he’s proven how broken he really is. Perhaps it was due to that desire to help him that she began to feel closer to him in the long run, as it’s even stated in dialogue from others that Sekine triggers women’s “maternal instincts.” Still, I can’t help but question whether Sara truly had a reason to look at him as a life partner or if the story bribed her with some teddy bears to go along with it.

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While I have no stake in the matter as a heterosexual, what exactly makes Sekine so attractive? His appearance isn’t too bishie-fied and while he’s tall, slender, and has sharp eyes, he simply looks plain to me. The art style of Sekine-kun did little to showcase what exactly made him so physically attractive. What is noteworthy is how Shoujo-ish Sara looks, along with most other female characters. Big, perfectly-symmetrical eyes and chubby cheeks. It makes me wonder if the mangaka is accustomed to writing Shoujo (or even BL) manga. I liked the random little symbolic showing of inner feelings and the like, but there were far too few! A constant showing of threads and unwinding is the only thing that always sticks out, and by the time it actually makes sense, it feels overdone. A dream sequence could’ve been really neat. No overall complaints, though I wish the mangaka incorporated more elaborate psychological imagery.

I blazed through this manga due to Sekine and his gloomy nature. By series’s end, it almost seemed like a facade, due in part by how standard the resolution to it all ensued. Sekine-kun is both cliché and non-cliché, it only depends on what aspect of the manga one holds with more importance. Characters feel real and interesting (notably the leads), though the story could’ve been handled with a little more creative finesse (and provided more of an impactful ending). In the first ten chapters, I was ready to give the series a gold star and recommend it to everyone. Now, it feels almost wasted in its own darkened drivel.

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

Thoughts on Shinsekai yori (Spoilers)

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(All images were obtained via Google search.)

I had heard many good things about this series, but the full impact of just how good it was didn’t hit until I actually looked into my friends’ ratings for it. Three people, whose opinions I respect tremendously, gave this a 9, 10, and 10, with two placing it among their favorites. Some time after I started the series, the one who gave it a 9 confided in me and admitted that she didn’t know why she doesn’t just bump it up to a 10 and put it on her favorites. With that in mind, all three essentially gave the series a perfect score. As a curious critic, this is something I cannot ignore. So, after finishing my recent rewatch of Ano Natsu de Matteru, I placed this series as a first-priority watch.

It’s really quite ironic that I viewed this so soon after posting a piece on the phrase “It gets better,” because Shinsekai yori is a perfect specimen of its concept. Along with the vague “good things” I had heard about the series, I had also heard that it doesn’t “get good” until about episode 12 or so. Conveniently enough, this is true, as the first half of this series is muddled in inconsistent handling of both matters of intrigue and emotional empathy. Truth be told, I almost dropped this series around the ninth episode, as I felt all that they had shown felt forced and immensely abrasive, with little to show any sort of reasoning behind it. It’s a series that remains fairly intriguing throughout, but all the technical talk and fantastic mumbo-jumbo makes it a chore to take all of it in if there’s nothing worth truly listening for.

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One of the things argued in the linked piece above is that the payoff to spending so much time building up to something has to be worth it, or else one would feel let down by the time wasted. Shinsekai yori not only makes up for the time wasted, but by series’ end, it completely envelops any and all expectations it had set up for itself and unveils the portrait of a cunning and beautiful mosaic of creativity. Indeed, the first half of the series can be a difficult hurdle to jump across, as the foreshadowing and intricate lacing of seemingly meaningless ideas come up empty for long periods. Should one do that and persevere, they’ll manage to find that not only is the payoff wonderful, but the realization that every minute detail from before was absolutely, 100% necessary for the impending emotional climax of the series. Again, as said in the linked article, a series worth the wait needs to show that the wait isn’t something they set up to provide filler; Shinsekai yori is a powerful series because of the wait, and not in spite of it.

Oh, how captivating this series truly is! Ambitious isn’t even close to the type of praise this series deserves. Not only does it shy away from 99% of the clichés that make up modern anime, but it feels as though it creates every facet of its world and characters, leaving no detail untouched, no history underdeveloped. Almost similarly to A Monster Calls, its almost mechanical ability to control every twist and turn of the story and its characters reaction to them is like that of watching a mathematician write complex calculations in front of a whole country with speed and precision. Unlike the former, Shinsekai yori manages to remain almost entirely human (in the second half) due to an established understanding of how to sculpt the characters to appear predominantly genuine.

Characters are, however, one of the tricky aspects of the series. It was because of these characters that I almost dropped the series in the first place. One of the things I typically criticize of Gen Urobuchi’s writing (who wasn’t involved with this series) is that his characters better serve the plot than distinguish their independence through their personality. Series such as Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero are anime with near-universal praise, but are series I find severely flawed due to a lack of organic characters. Shinsekai yori faces this issue as well, especially within the episodes where they’re shown as teenagers. The prevalence of homosexual relations in the series is a topic that’s been debated to death ever since the series first aired, but it’s something I feel should be taken seriously. Not because it’s homosexual, but because it feels incredibly out of nowhere. The pairing of Satoru and Shun specifically is one I find to be incredibly random. Saki and Maria, fine. They seemed to be fairly close from the beginning, but Satoru seemed a much closer match for Saki, seeing as he went through the first queerat campaign with her and makes a good opposite of her serious hesitation. Seeing this all play out upon the eighth episode almost gave me an excuse to save myself the effort of going any further. The few episodes afterwards gave even more opportunity, as as controversial as this may seem, I was never a huge fan of Shun’s character.

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Shun is not a bad character, though he is the probably the worst character among the five in “Group 1.” His only purpose throughout the series seemed to serve as Saki’s main love interest. And when he eventually disappears from the group, his only appearances return via nightmares and psychotic visions, only to go full Jedi Master and is able to speak to Saki near the end. While I praise a good portion of the actions that are taken from a psychological viewpoint, Shun’s sudden appearance near the end is among the most illogical aspects of the anime. The one thing in my mind that could be considered a cheap deus ex machina. It is also my one true criticism of the series’s story, as while the subjective monotony felt during the build-up scenes is calculated into my overall impressions, it is ultimately justified.

One of the most enjoyable spans in this series was simply the first few episodes. Seeing the cast as children—playing, laughing, interacting, showing off their quirks—was great in establishing who they were and where their place was in the story. They felt like real kids and real people. Once the queerats became involved around episode six or so, it adjusted to this tense, darkened view that typically accompanies grittier popular Netflix shows. To see the characters react so readily prepared, hardly scared, and so stiffly wooden made it boring to watch. Satoru in particular felt he went from 12 to 24 in an instant, despite his laid-back, adventurous nature. This continued through until episode eleven or so, as characters simply filled in the blanks of what characters in their situation would do in general. It lacked so much dramatic tension outside of what the story was kneading in wait that I watched with the idea that betters things were to come, even if I had to suffer within the present. It wasn’t until the appearance of Tomiko, Satoru’s grandmother, that I began to see the series as something of a pleasant viewing.

And then I became horribly addicted around episode sixteen.

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It may be naive to even suggest this comparison, seeing as the series are so fundamentally different, but Shinsekai yori almost reminds me of Suzanne Collin’s Gregor the Overlander series. Both deal with political structure within a certain society, one dealing with more than just humankind. Both portray the humans to be absurdly cautious in their customs, and vain in their outlook of superiority to other species. Both teeter the lines between portraying humankind as a symbol of purity and a symbol of selfish hostility. Both have different species refer to humans as murderers (“Killers” in Gregor; “Death Gods” in Shinsekai). Both (at some point) deal with an opposing force combating humankind with a sort of “Messiah-like” instrument of destruction (“The Fiend” in Shinsekai; “The Bane” in Gregor). Death is a prevalent part of both series. And both deal with prophecies or visions of an untimely future. The Underland Chronicles is technically (I wonder sometimes) for kids, so it doesn’t have the same privilege of pushing the boundaries as far as Shinsekai yori does. Still, there’s a lot of intriguing similarities between the two, and whether that’s more of an insult to Shinsekai yori or a compliment to Gregor the Overlander, I’m unsure. I enjoy both immensely.

Looking at Shinsekai yori through the lens of a cautionary tale, the presence of the queerats and humanity’s treatment of them is so excellently handled that, despite everything that happened, I ended up siding with the queerats. Squealer is among my favorite characters in the series simply for being so astute and forthcoming in his ideals. He makes for a very intriguing antagonist, and a very convincing protagonist. His ability to command and speak his way through trouble is one of the most powerful aspects of the series, as it highlights the irony of where it implies he gathers most of his knowledge from and how strongly humanity ignores it. Even more so, it’s implied from his first meeting with Satoru and Saki that he had his own agenda, betraying them for the sake of his people, only to quickly apologize later and get back on their good side to give himself more chances in the future. The social commentary involved with his high intellect speaks volumes for the comparison between him and all of humanity, as many different people would be willing to side with either one, giving meaning to queerats and humans being one in the same.

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In a short note, animation was incredibly appealing and artistically fascinating, with a wide array of different psychological sequences and elaborate interpretations to keep the series more intriguingly compact. Fluidity, however, was somewhat of an issue. I saw a number of different scenes where characters’ movements were rushed and static, along with some overall bizarre physical manipulation. These were in normal scenes, mind you, not when the series can get away with being absurd within the context of the series’s fantasy genre. It made the opening episodes feel a little more off-brand, and that the crusade of creativity was only in terms of writing than visual splendor.

In conclusion… watch the series. Much in the way that I would actively and immediately recommend anime such as Katanagatari, Toradora!, Dennou Coil, and Spice & Wolf, Shinsekai yori has become a must-watch placement in my carefully structured and 100% objectively accurate chart of great anime. It beautifully blends both mental fascination and emotional stimulation in a way many others could only dream of doing, with every finer detail being used to pursue the conquest of complete quality. Shinsekai yori is as gripping an investment for me since Dennou Coil, a series I watched nearly a year ago. There is no reason not to watch it, so do yourself a favor and watch what may become your next favorite anime.

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

Ruining Denpa teki na Kanojo

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(Note, as always, that “ruining” is akin to “spoiling in a mocking way.”)

(Disclaimer: All images were obtained via Google.)

Do you enjoy Kara no Kyoukai but hate the fact that the main characters aren’t in high school? Did you find the gratuitous nature of Another’s dramatic atmosphere almost too fitting for a bunch of middle schoolers? Don’t you adore the method of placing two polar opposites together that eventually become an inseparable pair (Sexual tension included!)? Denpa teki na Kanojo is a series built around your tastes, young one! Be thrilled that this was created specifically for you and only you!

Take heart, for trouble is afoot! A crazed psycho-maniac is killing people of the small town of Whogivesadamn! But before that, it flashes a number of images and words that are meaningless… for now. OoOoOoOoOoOoOo! A young man with blonde hair and an affinity for yankees is approached by a kawaii little sucker whose eyes are covered to make her stand out. She claims he was a king in his past life, and that she was his royal servant. Blondie, because he has a brain, promptly tells her to GTFO and tries to stay far away from her. But then, the next night, someone who was being pissy with Blondie is murdered! Could the psycho-maniac be… the strange girl he met before?

Nope. It’s some random fuck.

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What does matter is that the random fuck is related to a cutie in Blondie’s class who he’d like to give a good thumping. Turns out, the cutie’s actually a bigger psycho-maniac than her psycho-maniac brother. One can tell because she goes on a giant spiel about her tragic past and her angsty motivations, a la Kara no Kyoukai, while trying to murder Blondie. Fortunately, Strange Girl has magic sensing powers and comes in at just the right time to sav—ACTUALLY Blondie gets stabbed and then the psycho-cutie starts going crazy all over again because she didn’t actually want to kill him because Blondie held her for six seconds before he collapsed from the stab wound. The moral of the story is that people who have traumatic pasts just want to be held by delinquent anime boys and be told that their existence matters and they’re okey-dokey. Blondie survives and everything goes back to normal. WAIT, WAIT! DON’T LEAVE! WE HAVE ANOTHER EPISODE!

Our journey continues with the two becoming closer than ever, with sprinkles of lust ever present between the two. Sound interesting? I hope not, because it’s only hinted at and made into humor about twice. Fuck off, romanticists. Blondie is accused of digging for booty on an express train when Strange Girl’s sister comes and saves him by pretending they’re dating, leading for a very forced kiss between the two. The incident becomes a thing at Blondie’s school and he almost gets in trouble with the student council, but the president tells the vice president to STFU because it was never proven. Strange little incidents start happening all around, like people getting tripped, pies in the face, and bombs going off in libraries. Do any of these actually happen in the show? Maybe! How much do you trust me?

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The events start becoming more and more dangerous, prompting Strange Girl to investigate into the matter personally. She discovers a club dedicated to acquiring “Happiness points” or some shit and deduces that the events are happening due to the head of the club, who runs under a pen name. This doesn’t mean anything because she’s found almost immediately. Blondie, Strange Girl, and the president go to a run-down building where the vice president ends up being the bitch behind the pranks. An incredibly long and convoluted explanation reveals that the vice president is retarded and believes in karma to an absurd degree. She’s causing people misery because she thinks that’ll make her happy, such that if no one is happy, she may become happier in relation. Remember that line in The Incredibles where Syndrome says something like, “When everyone’s super, no one is”? Kind of like that. That’s a damn good movie.

Anyway, they go back to the vice president’s house before all that is explained and find out she lived a horrible life just like the psycho-cutie in the last episode. It also turns out her brother was dating the president at one point, but she broke up with him, so he killed himself in front of her. Those crazy kids and their fragile hearts! Ever since then, the vice president’s life began to progressively get worse, so she wants the president to make up for it by being mutilated or something. This weirdo also keeps the corpse of her mother in her house. As it turns out, Strange Girl was watching a lot of Naruto that day and exhibited—

THE POWER OF TALKING!!!

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—and told the vice president that she’s dumb and her brother took the happiness away from the family and not the president. She promptly goes (more) insane and starts crying like a bitch baby. Everything then goes back to normal. Zippity-doo-dah. Wait. Wait, hold on. Something else happened. Oh! That’s right! Blondie is standing next to a street and the president walks up behind him and looks super dirty and starts talking crazy. She laments how horrible of a person she is that she broke up with the brother for her own gain (Because breaking up with someone is always for the other person), so she decides to follow the vice president’s same mindset and pushes Blondie out into the street while a truck zooms by. He dies! JK! She dies! Indeed, at the last moment (Which is not shown), the truck swerves away from Blondie and straight into the president! Because the driver CLEARLY HAD AN AGENDA AGAINST PRESIDENTS OF STUDENT COUNCILS. Strange Girl shows up because she can still sense Blondie for some reason and cries because he almost died and promptly starts undressing him in the middle of the road. JK! She just cries, but man, wouldn’t that be hilarious? Blondie already got her sister to strip down to her panties in this episode… Oh, did I not mention that part? Well, y’see—

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

Thoughts on Demi-chan wa Kataritai

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First of all, I would like to sincerely thank Cauthan for convincing me to watch this series with his fantastic post about why this series isn’t garbage. I may have missed the point a tad with his post, but nevertheless. If not for him, I may have never gotten around to watching this for the foreseeable future, which would’ve been a crying shame. Because I like this more than Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon.

In an event that will go down in infamy, Kobayashi has been dethroned as seasonal MVP by a series that follows along the same lines. Demi-chan wa Kataritai does what Kobayashi does without the need for moe or constant colorful barrages of cuteness. Some people prefer this, while others see it as a transparent attempt to cover up the artificial reality that has been established. Part of the appeal to Demi-chan was being the opposite of that; it felt real. More real than anything I’ve seen in a long while.

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Of course, it’s not completely real. Not in the pragmatic sense that everything is an anime and fictional and I will never be able to interact with darling Hikari, but the way the narrative is structured. What Kobayashi overindulges in moe, it makes up for by having a relaxed tone undeterred by heavy bouts of drama (until the final episode). Demi-chan seems to believe that a constant stream of good vibes is evil and should be blocked by a dam, rock, or bridge every once in a while. Its core structure is lovely, though it falls victim to setting up conflict for the sake of setting up conflict, which hurts the overall genuineness by riling up evil, one-off characters only to have them do 180s by the end. While the standard formula is noticeable, it’s at times like these that make it hard to swallow.

But what makes the anime so great is its cast of characters (not including the male lead). It’s rare to have me like one or two characters from any particular series, even rarer to have me like most. To like most of the characters and love one? Not since Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge had I felt such a rush going in to each episode, looking forward to the amount of screentime a particular character could get and how they interact with others. This character is Hikari, the fun-loving vampire, whose personality is very similar to one Kyoko from Yuru Yuri!. Her energy and enthusiasm is adorable, with her penchant for driving most of the humor and zany situations to be a nice touch to the pedantic nature of the anime. What’s more is that she’s not just a ball of enthusiasm, as her reserved side comes out around topics of romance or intimate details. Her well-rounded character effectively makes Demi-chan much brighter, growing stronger as she interacts with the rest of the cast.

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Thankfully, the rest of the cast are no pushovers. Despite some varying degrees of importance, each character gets enough attention to feel as though they matter to the series. Their development is predicated on whether or not they really feel they need to be developed, with Machi, the dullahan, receiving less genuine development due to her already mature and calm demeanor. Yuki, the snow woman (whatever that is), actually changes based on her first appearance and the end of the show. Her development is a little more “triumphant” in tone, with a lot of screentime dedicated to making her a welcomed member of the group of Demis. Finally, Sakie, who is not a student, but a teacher, is among the more one-dimensional of the Demi-humans. Her humor is predicated on her timid approach to romance, contrasting the stereotypical nature of a succubus, and development with her comes with a more reserved force. Her general behavior doesn’t change much, and her importance to the plot is only slightly higher than sexual fan service bait. I still found her cute.

So we come now to the male lead. Personally, I thought he was tolerable, and did more to deserve the affection he received from the Demi-humans than others in a more Harem-like setting. His blandness is alleviated only by his fascination with Demi-humans, something he’s prone to droning on and on about. I feel his distance and lack of a personality is somewhat justified by his position amongst the cast, in which he serves as a superior and, in a sense, “father figure” to the teenage girls (despite the romantic attentions). Almost like he were a guidance counselor, in which he feels close to them and wishes to help them, but can’t bring himself to relax around them, as the difference in age is a slight disconnect. Again, he’s tolerable, though that doesn’t excuse that blank, dot-pupil stare of his from populating the screen at every turn with hardly a twitch of anything different. This being said, I liked his inner fights against Sakie’s sexual pheromones.

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Many have criticized this series’s approach to “monster girls,” normalizing them to the point where they basically have nothing special about them (aside from Machi). With this mindset, there’s nothing really all that special about Demi-chan, which is a valid perspective to have. The essence of Demi-chan is to look at it from the viewpoint of the male lead, intrigued with the prospect of learning about these new creatures and figuring out their kinks and quirks. But aside from that, these characters are more than test subjects, showing the same sort of insecurities as normal folk, with an added layer of discrepancies. This stigma of “Being different” is lightly addressed, and, as stated above, feels more like conflict for the sake of conflict the way it’s handled. The true beauty of the anime is simply getting to know what these different people think and feel, depending on their nature, their differences, and their perspectives. It’s a shame they shy away from that later on.

I suppose in a more objective sense, Kobayashi-san is a better series due to the lack of obstructions in its flow and narrative. However, Demi-chan turned out to be a lot more emotionally resonant experience. It appealed tremendously to my own preferences for how a slice-of-life should play out, adding a more “scientific” vibe that I really felt was unique. My only regret is that it could’ve been more. More controlled, more bold in its direction, and less perturbed by having to place unnecessary drama to liven up the circumstances. Imagine what it would be like if they made it an actual drama! I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

Thoughts on Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

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Initially, I wasn’t captivated with the idea of a silly slice-of-life/comedy involving humanoids with dragon features. It seemed to be a contrived way of following a recent trend of “monster girl” success cases. Also noteworthy is the studio, Kyoto Animation, who have a tendency to express moe to new heights. Look at the cover photo for this anime and tell me it doesn’t look like it’ll be nothing but moe fluff.

The Winter season moved along and I ended up dropping one of the seasonal anime I watched weekly, leaving space for it to be filled. After juggling between this and Demi-chan wa Kataritai, I ended up going with Dragon Maid. That was a great decision.

In an unprecedented turn of events, the one I never even considered became my seasonal MVP. Almost like Kurt Warner leading the Rams to the Super Bowl after going undrafted. Any normal reader of mine will not get that reference at all.

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Irony is heavily involved within the first paragraph, as despite its appearance, Dragon Maid has a lot more going for it than moe characters and situations. It reminds me somewhat of K-On!, another work from KyoAni that features a heavy dose of moe with semblances of a deeper emotional bond between characters, effectively giving them more than their base personalities. Dragon Maid is very similar in that regard, with characters being subject to tense or tender moments within the rambunctiousness for the effect of deepening bonds. By series’s end, the closeness between Kobayashi and Tohru, her dragon maid, is more than noticeable.

With that box checked, is there anything else this series does generally well aside from animation and moe?

Not really.

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The Warner comparison is a tad hyperbole, because if this anime were the equivalent to the Super Bowl, the two teams involved would be 9-7 and find difficulty in making the entire game interesting. Dragon Maid‘s dominance over the rest of the choices I made this season wasn’t so much that it was amazing, but it didn’t have a lot of competition. What this anime manages to accomplish in its time frame includes a base amount of entertainment and whimsy with each episode, supported by strong character interaction and cutesy expressions/behavior. The animation is fairly impressive for its genre and one can notice the detail with each movement. Almost like a pre-established hindrance, the genre disallows a lot of further development outside of basic love and understanding.

Oftentimes when two species with little interaction are brought together under one roof, it becomes a battleground of expectations and misconceptions. This is brought to light a number of times, with the issue of a dragon and a human interacting to be a threat to the “balance between worlds.” Obviously, the viewer, assuming they are aware of basic principles of empathy and clichés, knows that there’s no harm in Kobayashi interacting with Tohru and other dragons. Only the stigma of species hierarchy stands in the way of complete tranquility, something this series wishes to be true so frankly. Whenever the issue is brought up, it slowly foreshadows an upcoming dramatic event that could change everything. This is the one thing that prevents Dragon Maid from being Lucky Star with dragon ladies. And as is predictable with something so lopsidedly moral, when push comes to shove, happiness triumphs and everyone is comfortable. Woooo.

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The praise that should be given to Dragon Maid is that the effort is there, and on a consistent(ly small) basis. Heartfelt conversations, moments of clarity and appreciation, fond moments of genuine care. It appeals to the inner workings of the audience without preaching it. Its timing appears too blatant at times, though it makes up for it with the soft atmosphere. Better yet, many of the characters receive this attention for affection. Even minor characters that appear as time goes on both give and receive some lovely development. Uneven between the cast as it may be, again, the effort is there.

Otherwise, Dragon Maid is a fairly simple series that doesn’t try to do too much. The heart of the matter is showcasing the simple pleasures of adult life (not that way) with a fantasy tinge. Some manners of cliché sneak in, both through excerpts of comedy and drama (Girl has big boobs, let’s point it out; All good things must come to an end), as is almost typical of a slice-of-life. The amount of moe is also heavily present, but somewhat controlled. It picks its moments well, though at times it can’t help itself (any scene involving Saikawa and Kanna). While for the most part consistent in showing the entertaining sides of normal life through character charm, there are moments of weakness, particularly around the mid-point. The final episode is also not my cup of tea, as I feel it ruins the mood of the series. These segments feel a little too moe for the sake of being moe.

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Heart and character charm are enough to boost this series to the top of the slice-of-life charts, lighting a significant fire for series to follow suit. Establishing a bridge between pure slice-of-life relaxation and the goofy charm of comedies, I predict to see a number of future stories try to do what Dragon Maid does tremendously well, albeit at the cost of anything more. Whether or not these stories continue the trend of human-mythical creature hybrids depends on the times. Of course, with the huge success of Kemono Friends in Japan, it’s more likely than unlikely.

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

Thoughts on Bungou Stray Dogs (Season One)

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I watched this while it was airing, only to put it on-hold for nearly half a year, then finally putting it out of its misery by adding it to the “Dropped” column. Some time later, a friend of mine on MAL expressed interest in discussing the second season with me, and personally requested that I give the series another shot. I’m halfway to the destination, as I need to find the courage strength time to get through the second season. If it’s anything like the first season (I’ve heard mixed things on the topic), I’m in for one mediocre time.

One admission I’d like to make is that the series is not as bad as I remembered it to be. I can only assume I simply found no motivation to continue after putting it on-hold, as there was little about the show that really pulled me back in. Coming back to it, it wound up becoming entertaining to the most simplistic degree by being mildly energetic with its characters’ enthusiasm and development. At its base foundations, BSD has enough to assume an identity of a harmless viewing—something that neither frustrates with overexaggeration or captivates with dramatic flair.

There is but a single issue that immediately limits the quality of the anime from the first few episodes: it’s cliché.

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Anyone who has seen any Shounen ever will pick up on the tropes that BSD seems to abide by as if by law. Weak character with limitless potential, a buddy character met that changes their life (and is pretty OP), a cast of characters that interact with a playfully blunt camaraderie, and a somewhat episodic structure that gradually introduces more and more powerful danger as time moves forward. Little is done to combat the comfortable void within the anime’s soul of “ripping off” bigger and better Shounen titles, except by randomly shoe-horning classic figures. Jay Gatsby is in this anime. Not really sure why that’s a thing.

With this said, it’s really the only thing that drags the anime down. Of course, that only thing encompasses a large portion of the anime’s body. Characters, plot, animation, and more suffer from simply treading a line that’s become weary from traffic. Still, one can enjoy some of the basic things that accompany BSD, including the effort dedicated to developing characters and the energy behind the wacky faces. Wacky faces are surprisingly charming here. The constant jabber of committing suicide is stupid, but at least the way the character in question expresses it is spirited.

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An important part of Shounen is action, and yet again, it plays it by the books rather well. So much so that it’s irritatingly predictable. Very often I loathe in battles when characters snark and sneer at their opponent, relishing in their own superiority and don’t bother to finish them off from the start. It gives away too many loopholes within their strategy to the heroes so that they can “appropriately” counter-attack. An exaggerated number of times the enemies could’ve won by simply chopping off the heroes’ heads with their overwhelming strength spans in the hundreds. A less exaggerated number is about ten.

There’s also too often a time when the male lead is strong because he is. Because he relies on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Because he has the most OP power in existence, but can’t always control it because that would make him too OP, but everyone and their dead goldfish know it’ll come out at just the right moment. Predictable is one thing, boring is another. It’s not exclusive to the male lead, either. There’s a random female character introduced later on that goes into a warehouse full of antagonistic soldiers. She goes in guns blazing, and no joke, is fired at by about four or five armored men with machine guns for a full two seconds, and is hit once. She doesn’t move or anything, standing perfectly still, being showered with bullets from four or five different sources for extended periods of time, and is hit once. I couldn’t stop laughing.

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With as spirited as the characters and their expressions are, animation is the anime’s strong suit. Plenty of times the characters are given a number of high-quality spell sequences and kooky faces to suit the mood of the narrative (which I forgot to mention is very uneven). Animation is, for the most part, smooth and responsive, though not exactly the bee’s knees. At worst, it’s serviceable, but it’s a consistent serviceable that doesn’t lead to any strange disturbances. The powers look cool and the action is, on occasion, cruelly bloody. What more could one ask for if all else fails?

It turned out not to be the dreadful experience I figured it would be going back to it, though it could’ve certainly done better. It stands as a testament to being within a certain demographic for certain people, I assume people who love ignoring awful action sequences and pacing issues for the sake of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Mediocre is a suitable moniker, though I admit it’s not necessarily “bad.” Just bereft of any and all potential to be anything “good.”

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

Thoughts on ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka

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Why, yes, bartender. I would like my drink only slightly shaken, with far more stirring than necessary. Also, I request a fair amount of bread. Not any bread, but bread that would look so nice that it distracts from the rest of the scenery. No, this is not for a bake sale I just need really nice-looking bread. Don’t look at me as if my priorities are obscene! I’m simply following orders. Do not waste my time any further.

Here we have an example of “slow, but steady.” An anime that takes its time saying what it wants to say and, in the end, not saying much. Never once does it inspire with the length of passion as one Martin Luther King, or, on a more negative perspective, Adolf Hitler. Though intriguing as it may be intrinsically to the mature or level-headed mind, it lacks the emotional triumph that many within the same field incorporate to make the experience more worthwhile. In the most simplest of phrases, ACCA is political drama (a term used loosely) for the sake of political drama. Because anime really needs more political dramas, yes?

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First real issue throughout its run is the incorporation of its episodic approach, featuring one or two normally recurring characters traveling around various parts of their country. A number of different perspectives and characters are shown, though the one of most dire importance is Jean Otus, a cool, quiet man in his thirties (a rarity in anime). His travels initiated by the peace-bringing corporation he works for are a very valid excuse reasoning for the world-building present within the anime. His job requires him to audit the neighboring countries and peek into their worldviews and daily lives. Should people care to take this at face value, the show should appeal to a much broader audience, but only in that circumstance. I, for one, could hardly bother to remember the drivel by the next episode.

Characters themselves vary in importance, but manage to make the most out of an important prospect of the genre by remaining consistently tolerable. Jean, and perhaps his friend Nino, are cause for most of the entertainment. Despite his aloof nature, he makes for a relatable “knows more than he shows” persona, one that has him stand out without showing off. Though different as it may be, he’s not one that will enthrall all, as he’s fairly one-dimensional, saying hardly a thing without being directly spoken to. His gazes and quick actions are what bring his character to life, always suspecting and investigating the things most wouldn’t think to notice. Nino brings out a tad more of his human side, complete with fuzzy emotions and friendly banter. His presence within the show is distilled in mystery, which may prove more fascinating than his character, but there’s more to him than meets the eye.

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That’s all that can be said, however, as most other characters serve their point within the narrative and nothing more. Should they happen to fall within the audience’s preferred model of personality, they’re watchable, and only such. Most are simply used as plot devices, or foreshadowing, or to further cement an established theme. Notable examples are Jean’s younger sister, high-ranking members of ACCA, and the “fool” prince. The prince wishes to disband ACCA, because reasons. High-ranking members of ACCA obviously don’t want this because it puts them out of a job and may cause an uproar within the country. Jean’s little sister has no importance to anything. Even someone who eventually reveals themselves as an antagonist is handled with such a relaxed pace that it can’t help but feel like a mere nuisance.

Remember Kill la Kill? Remember Kyousou Giga? Shows that tell stories, but also prioritize the “oomph” of the characters to carry the viewer along and never give an opportunity for boredom? ACCA is the complete opposite of this. It tells a story, one that is paced and developed well enough, without having the characters provide any sort of spectacle to keep the viewer thoroughly entertained. This is why, despite my own positive impressions, I find ACCA to be rather dull in its entirety. This isn’t to say non-dull things transpire, only the way they’re followed up or built-up to carries the same moderate temperament as damn near everything else.

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To some extent, the art and animation of ACCA is a mixed bag. It features a gracefully simplistic style of drawing that makes the show feel correct for its tone and genre. It also allows for food to look splendid. The opening paragraph was not some random gibberish; ACCA adores showing food in a more heavenly light than its characters. As an overweight individual trying to attain a certain skinniness, this didn’t help me much. Unfortunately, ACCA seems to take simplicity to the bank, as I found a number of shortcuts that relished a sort of lazy atmosphere that could only be found in such gems as Lamune. Characters no longer having faces from far away, backgrounds having no distinct detail, and characters’ extremities appearing out of nowhere into a frame. These are but some of the animated issues that plague the anime, particularly within its second-half. A strange correlation with the decreased amount of orgasmic-looking food.

Points received for trying something relatively new and going through with the plan of slow and steady winning the race. ACCA has potential as a riveting political drama with an emphasis on world building and a dry sense of perspective. It feels real in the sense that not a lot of blatant outrage or unrest results from those only harboring small ounces of resistance from the monarchy. Thing is, with characters being about as charming as paper and not a lot of distinguishing characteristics compared to, dare I say, live-action political dramas, the anime finds itself within a deep hole of its own device. Plenty of ore and valuable treasures lie within, just without the means of escaping with anything in-hand.

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