Quick Updated Thoughts on Ano Natsu de Matteru

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A rather hard rewatch, this was for me. As a title that holds something of an emotional attachment to my younger self, I can’t help but think fondly of the time this anime almost made me cry. This, out of all anime I watched in late 2012, was the one that got me closest to actually shedding tears. Since then, only rewatching Katanagatari has gotten me to reach for a tissue. OCD in full effect, I figured I’d keep the rewatch train rolling and see if Ano Natsu de Matteru held up after nearly five years.

It didn’t.

One can almost feel how hard this anime tried to be its own AnoHana, from the interactions between characters to the love octagon that takes effect as time goes on. Both series also deal with an inevitable fact that the characters try to ignore, but are destined to face. The difference between the two is through execution, which Ano Natsu de Matteru does well only in very specific measures.

What is immediately apparent about halfway through the series is that the writing is very, very dumb. The entire purpose of a single character, Lemon, is to push the plot forward and manipulate the cast to her whim for the sake of fucking with them. And because she has a “more than she knows” background, she knows everything that’s going to happen and how to prepare for it. Don’t you love having a character that can destroy all the tension and seriousness of an otherwise tensile and serious plot by making everything feel a-ok through their Godly knowledge and dexterity? Even more so, she more often than not forces the characters to change, instead of the story giving them the opportunity to either do it themselves or slip into situations of genuine, awkward conflict. It’s a shame that she’s so hamfisted in, because the general character roster is… tolerable, with Mio, and to some extent Tetsurou, being the saving graces of the anime.

Without Lemon, the writing still deals with things that have already been done in plenty of other anime, to a lesser extent. Lots of angst, lots of surprised faces, lots of dramatic outbursts and emotional spurs. While not on the same level as a soap opera, some episodes give a little more heart than necessary. Some don’t even feel like normal characters, rather pieces set up to provide controversy.

Animation is pretty nice, which is one thing about this anime that’s fairly praiseworthy. Not always the most smooth of physical activity, but its bright and distinctive in its approach. I wish Ichika was more like an actual alien than a human being (a lot about her alien persona doesn’t make sense), though that’s more of a nitpick.

In the end, it’s not nearly the anime I used to see it as, with a lot of issues in its writing and how it incorporates its characters. Strange as it might seem, the final episode still left me with a good emotional impression, something that even surprised me considering how cynical I was of it up to that point. I really wish the audience was treated to more of Mio and her active and understandable change halfway through the series, something only a few characters get a snippet of. Lost potential and all that; Ano Natsu de Matteru leaves viewers waiting for the translation of AnoHana: Alien Edition.

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

Updated Thoughts on Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (1st Season)

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In a strange turn of events, instead of going by the usual style of rewatching something and then updating my thoughts on it via blog post, I decided to leave poor Haganai alone. I find this even more curious because this is the only case of it happening, at least within the years where I took my blog seriously enough to update it semi-often. Noting my penchant for waxing nostalgic, it’s an even more confusing sentiment that this anime, which was among the first five anime I ever watched in its entirety, didn’t receive any special treatment. To drive the point home, I even finished a knock-off manga version and read up until the second-to-last volume of the light novel before it was taken off Baka-Tsuki for copyright reasons. Why did I feel the need to let this rewatch wither and die within my MAL archives? Regardless, I’m correcting it here and now after a two-year wait.

“Wow,” you may be thinking. It took me two years to write this post? My only excuse is that it simply slipped my mind again and again, until finally realizing it about a year ago… and then forgetting again until a few days ago. The rewatch took place in early August of 2015, so another thing you may be thinking is, “Are you confident enough to remember what you liked and disliked about it after so long?” Fear not, as fate hath given me future perception, and I wrote myself a very detailed post explaining exactly that back in 2015, so for what I cannot recall now, I will simply resort back to my crude notes.

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The strongest argument I have toward this series’s good worth is the main duo of female leads: Sena and Yozora. Each character is blunt, stuck in their own ideals, and offer a helping of development as the series goes on. Not to mention, their chemistry with each other, and flaccid male lead Kodaka, makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch, especially within the first three episodes or so. Even while at each other’s throats, one can see the distance between the two supposed opposites begin to close with each passing day.

With this trait, Haganai becomes immediately recommendable; not just due to characters bickering with each other in a humorous way, but the set-up that justifies their behavior. Execution aside, this anime is fairly unique in its approach to popularity, hierarchy within the school system, and the concept of friendship. It’s almost like Oregairu before Oregairu, but without the cynical Hikigaya. Unfortunately, a lot of what could’ve been achieved with these themes and the characters that make up the cast are undermined as the series continues to bring in more characters. With these new characters comes more and more of what makes the high school rom-com setting so predictably bland (and popular): implied harem vibes, an aimless pursuit of having fun and nothing more, and one-dimensional personalities for the sake of humor.

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A sequence of bliss and charm surrounded the series as it began, introducing the slightly off-kilter characters and their motivations. The trio of Kodaka, Sena, and Yozora made a wonderful ensemble of fun as each played off of each other in a colorful manner, with Kodaka being the middle-man through it all. Once the series began to attract other specimens, that charm became buried under the weight of outside interference, muddying its core themes and underlying potential for the sake of appealing to the masses. There is a lot of moe present in Haganai, and much of that didn’t start until the trio became a quad, and then a quint, and so on. And these new characters, if not for some subtle growth in the following season, are completely useless. Maria and Kobato should be scrapped altogether or rewritten, while Rika and Yukimura need more than one quirk to move along with—so much so that they all nearly ruined the series for me, at least for this season.

With the mess that was made during the mid-section of this anime, I’m glad I can say that the final episodes make up for it… slightly. Again, the presence of heart and character growth are pursued with full enthusiasm, along with resolving a (horribly executed) secret that loomed in the background throughout the series. It allows some figment of closure before carrying on with the same shenanigans that the series spoils itself with time after time. Not only is it appreciated as a viewer, but the characters (or one of them) become a lot more than what her usual persona portrays.

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At one point, the art style for Haganai was a serious turn-off. Their eyes too vivid and large, with their lips protruding and their heads more like tomatoes than apples. Its expressiveness through character design is fairly strange compared to most, with even minor changes to the perspective of where things are, how they’re shaped, and what’s most highlighted making such an impact on the final product. It was weird, to say the least, but I eventually warmed up to it, and now find it one of the anime’s stronger points. With little twitches of movement better humanizing the characters on-screen and only occasional fidgets of inconsistency, it’s worth praising not just for its effectiveness, but its desire to stay true to the original light novel’s art. The only other anime I can think of with a similar style is Denpa Onna.

It’s a fascinating series to go over, seeing as it holds such nostalgic value to me, as well as having a lot of good underneath a mountain of bad. Cut the cast down to the main three, continue what they did for the first three episodes, and incorporate some more perspective on what they feel friendship should be and how they feel the general mass exploits it, and Haganai could’ve been a really fascinating piece of work. Dealing in “what if’s” does nothing here, as the way it stands, it needs to hold onto the crutch of popular exploits to steady itself in relevancy. With things such as lolis, incest, harems, cross-dressing, poop, and pre-teen angst being thrown around like it’s candy, I can only step back and ponder why I gave the series such high regard in the first place.

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

Updated Thoughts on Seitokai Yakuindomo (1st Season)

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Do you like sex jokes? No? Then what the hell are you doing here? Close the tab!

Seitokai Yakuindomo is a series I first viewed during the dawn of the first Summer of Anime back in 2012. It’s been a very, very long time coming, so I was looking forward to what I would think of it the second time around. Turns out, it holds up surprisingly well, considering the entire premise is all one will get out of it. While some sexual imagery in the form of unclothed women is presented from time to time, the most explicit content this anime presents is through dialogue and subtle visual manipulation. Censors block out a good chunk of what they’re saying, but if the subtitles are any indication, this is among the most raunchy anime I have ever seen.

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Be warned, Seitokai Yakuindomo very rarely holds back on being blunt, with things such as sex and any sort of variation of it, vibrators, chastity belts, vulgar terms (cock, blowjob, tits), and implications of pedophilia (through means of an older female teacher, so it’s not as bad…?) being fair game with its type of humor. The anime’s atmosphere never implicates anything being said should be taken seriously, which while is fine, still holds some pretty heavy subject matter. Thoughts of sterilizing sexual promiscuity and borderline illegal behavior never came to light while watching this series, but I could understand someone being “triggered” by the things being played with. I realize I make this series sound a little intimidating; rest assured that it’s only for the most sensitive types, as most of it is just blatantly hypersexual for the sake of being hypersexual.

To some degree, this manner of honest sexual prowess from Japan’s youth, coupled with the fact that the most sexual-minded characters are among the student council, responsible for keeping the youth in check, makes the series rather unique. As stated above, a lot of the vulgarity is through dialogue and subtle manipulation, not outright showing characters fuck each other with strap-ons. It’s a strange combination of the slice-of-life flicks that endear with the struggles of common youth and hardcore ecchi that only mean to serve the viewer’s hormones. Of course, in a realistic setting as an ordinary high school student council, the type of exaggerations of hardcore ecchi aren’t possible, so they compromise by making the dirtiness spew from the characters’ mouths, and occasionally their actions. High schools in Japan are fairly strict, so why not compensate the lack of panty shots with talk of finding split ends among their pubic hair?

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Aside from sex jokes, the basic foundation of comedy in Seitokai Yakuindomo is the “Straight Man” set-up. One characters makes a ridiculous statement, while another reacts in a realistic manner. The most immature student council members talk of masturbation, while the male lead reacts with aghast. I’ve seen various series where this set-up works, though here it leaves a lot to be desired, as it’s very rarely funny. Part of this lies on the one typically playing the straight man, Tsuda, the male lead. There’s very little enthusiasm in his responses, which only better implements how little personality he has. His presence among the cast isn’t by any means intolerable, just that he doesn’t liven up the show with his own brand of character. Times like this I wish there was a male lead similar to the type of one in Seitokai no Ichizon. Seeing as the anime is based off of a 4-koma, there are quite a few jokes packed into each episode, similarly to Nichijou, so the chances at humor are fairly high, even if most are crowded in misses.

Characters themselves fall within the type of depth predicated by their interest in sexual activities. There are characters who provide the sex jokes and those that react to them as straight men. And then there is Suzu, whose only defining trait is that she has a height complex and is constantly being treated like a kid, much to her chagrin. Despite this, she is best girl and anyone who disagrees can duke it out with me on the playground. There is an overwhelming superiority in the number of characters who provides sex jokes compared to those who don’t. There are characters who salivate over others in strange ways, prey upon the desires of younger men, take pictures of lewd material for profit, create vibrators, even SANTA CLAUS can’t escape his horny tendencies through this series! In a way, the more characters that are introduced, the more one-dimensional this series becomes, as the scenarios become more predictable as characters behave within their one joke.

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It’s a series better served if not taken seriously. It’s a parody of sorts, with occasional references and carpet-pulling of expectations playing a key part in its enthusiasm. Character development is a foreign concept. There is development between characters, though whether it’s well implemented or not isn’t really the focus the series wants to show. Much like Nichijou again, in fact, the series is quite subtle in any and all terms of character development, interaction, and purpose of inner conflict. The real “point” is decent fun and comedy. Fortunately, if one is tired of the squeaky-clean environment of anime comedy, Seitokai Yakuindomo is sure to blow your load.

While not an amazing show, I find it almost ironic that I once rated this lower than the likes of Hidan no Aria and Infinite Stratos. (God, was I young!) Hell, when I was implementing my scores from my disheveled notebooks into my MyAnimeList account for the first time, I looked at my score for Seitokai Yakuindomo and thought to myself, “Really? Why did I dislike it so much?” The nostalgia laced with this series (as with most series I viewed in 2012) allowed me to think fondly of it despite my grievances, and now in 2017, with three-hundred more anime under the lid, I can say that there was good reason for it. Not an immediate recommendation, but I can guarantee it’ll be a wild one night stand for those in the mood for it.

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

Updated Thoughts on Onidere

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For a more formal (and outdated) review of this manga, click here.

As the number of manga I’ve read grows, I’ve noticed a correlation of what I tend to enjoy within comedies, specifically. While I parade around the idea of realism being the key to success and an integral point in making a story impactful, sometimes a complete lack of that can have the same effect. The first time I read Onidere was back in January of 2014—nearly three years ago. At the time, I was almost strictly an anime connoisseur, not believing manga could give me the same sense of wonder that anime (sometimes) did. Even now, the amount of manga I’ve read in my lifetime compared to the number of anime I’ve watched is far outweighed in one’s favor. Onidere was something a little different for me, as the premise intrigued me and I was willing to have a go at something the lines of “Weak boy dates delinquent girl.” While I scoffed at its ridiculousness, I heralded it the position of “Favorite” among the (limited) manga I had read up to that point. Even more bizarrely, favorite it was, I only rated it a six out of a possible ten. I suppose my critical tendencies win out over sheer enjoyment, even back then.

It is now the first day of 2017, and I’ve given Onidere the honor of being the first manga among my list I’ve went back and re-read. With all the nostalgic attachment, one wouldn’t expect me to change my tune very drastically, right?

Onidere is a bit of a hard sell. When thinking of all the positives attributed to the story it tries to convey, a sense of numbing begins to override the basic functions of the brain. The most convenient moniker one could use to properly describe the story would include words such as “random, nonsensical,” or my personal favorite, “stupid.” Despite the premise’s promise of a young girl who’s willing to kill her boyfriend should word get out that they’re dating, she’s but a shy, ridiculously pure-hearted girl who just so happens to be the strongest delinquent in the prefecture and capable of destroying anything without effort. This ultimately destroys any sense of reality present in the story, as one wouldn’t possibly believe her willingness to kill someone she so earnestly cares for in spite of her own pride. When the foundation of a central focus becomes so unstable, it makes a story subject to wander off and do what it wants without reason, or undermine its own strength to pursue another plotline to leech off of.

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Almost as if it was fated to do so, Onidere changes face three times within the bulk of its 140 chapters. It begins as the premise describes, with the main couple, Tadashi and Saya, hiding their relationship from Saya’s cohorts and the school while also trying to maintain said relationship by doing “couple things.” This leads to some development between characters, wacky situations arising to pressure the main couple’s relationship, and a hopelessly repetitive three-act play that goes as follows: 1. Saya and Tadashi want to do something. 2. They try to do it unsuccesfully. 3. When they’re close to (or are) succeeding in said something, someone shows up to ruin the mood and supplant the illusion that Saya and Tadashi are sworn enemies. Once the author decides that’s boring, they move to a more slice-of-life atmosphere, where characters act weird for the sake of it and nothing really challenges the characters outside of their petty problems or desires. This is also the point where about three-hundred more characters are introduced, making the entire character roster bloat to blimp size, weighing down the already erratic focus. Finally, the ending sequences somewhat combine the first and second transitions, creating a constant revolving door of important and non-important events side-by-side to amuse both the gag enthusiasts and the drama enthusiasts (but also still focusing on comedy). This works for the sake of bringing a balance to the story and making it at least somewhat serious, but the pacing assumes the form of a straight path with road bumps every other minute. If one isn’t enamored with the characters at this point, it’s going to be a long stretch to the finish line.

Another aspect that makes Onidere hard to recommend is the artwork and overall design. I mention in my formal review that the series’ artwork improves as time goes by, and that still holds up three years later. However, what I neglected to really highlight is how ugly the characters look starting off. For the first volume or two, characters genuinely look as though they came right off the draft board. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency present, with character constantly changing shapes and body sizes without warning. Even if they do look normal, the characters simply look incomplete. A strange combination of professionally chibi and amateur shounen, the manga is a face only its mother could love. Again, the art improves over time, and character begin to look tolerable by the third volume or so, but the quality of the work within its first fifteen chapters or so by artwork alone makes it almost unbearable. As terrible as this seems, one positive that comes out of the zany, slice-of-life turn makes the art more justifiably absurd. Characters do things incapable of normal human beings and bring out a sort of bombastic nature that better suits the weird, almost child-like artwork. I found it infinitely charming back then, though now I find it almost required for me to continue to find anything about this work charming.

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With as little the story really provides and the artwork nearly in shambles, its become the duty of the characters to uphold any possible enjoyment one can have with Onidere. The result: hit and miss. With as enormous as the cast of Onidere is, it’s very apparent that only a handful of them matter. Some that are shown more prevalently early on become background characters, as well. The only characters that have any degree of safety surrounding their focus of the “plot” are Saya and Tadashi, their friends Mitsuki, Yuna, and (debatably) Momo, and perhaps student council members Tomeo and Saki. Those are seven of about thirty characters that become important at some point in the series. That is not an exaggerated number. The manner at which Onidere adds and throws away characters is almost alarming, constantly recycling a single joke out of new characters, dropping them for what seems like forever, then bringing them back to become a nuisance to the more major characters. While this seems as though the characters are expendable, their ties to the major cast are typically resolute. Only the events that arise out of these characters’ antics are the main source of irritation.

If I may, I’d like to describe something in stories I absolutely loathe: characters bending the rules of reality to their whim to force an “OTP” closer (but not completely) together. Onidere does this a few times in a few different ways, but they all carry the same smug, jingle-the-keys-in-your-face tone that makes me ponder the integrity of the author. While I feel arousing romantic chemistry between two characters isn’t bad in of itself, the execution of this by means of having a character who clearly knows of an attraction and serving as the “Cupid” feels horribly stunted. Of course, one could argue that if they never did this, the romantic inevitability would never come to fruition because Japanese writers hate writing bold characters. That I understand, though it does little to quell my disdain.

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Of all things, the chemistry between certain characters is what makes Onidere worthwhile to read. Mitsuki, as one-dimensional and childish as she is, is able to make a pun every so often that will have me chuckle. Tomeo is also endearing in his pursuit of “justice,” which becomes more flexible as he never elaborates on what, exactly, that is. While these characters alone are hardly developed, the one thing I enjoy about the slice-of-life turn is that the comedy was at its high point. It almost seemed like the mangaka was having fun with every chapter, drawing weird reaction faces and absurd situations. Above everything else, this level of craziness and strangely immersive chemistry that develops between certain characters and the events that unfold have a profound impact on a reader’s impressions. It’s what made me fall in love with the manga three years ago, and while I don’t care for Onidere nearly as much as I used to, I still reminisce fondly over the in-between periods of innocent romantic developments and stupid character gags. Y’know what the craziest thing of all is? Tadashi, the male lead, is actually decent.

As far as recommendations go, Onidere is something I would probably recommend to a younger, less cynical mindset. Or those who really, really enjoy gag comedy with a penchant for breaking its own rules. Everything else falters between the line of passable and downright embarrassing. Despite the hostility, I still view Onidere as an enjoyable read. Only in parts, though, as the beginning and end have a tendency to employ scenarios that are too cliché to even seriously follow. Despite the name, Onidere is mostly dere.

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