It’s been an exciting week. From lesbian tomato innuendo to choreographed maid slaughter, truly this season has something to offer no matter one’s preferences and proclivities. Now that everything I’m interested in has aired, let’s explore how they made me feel, because I have feelings too, god damn it.
Suisei no Majo – What makes yuri good? Well, everything, of course. But one facet of yuri I appreciate in particular is how it eschews the imbalanced protagonist/heroine dynamic endemic to otaku fiction. Anthy does not exist merely to be rescued by Utena; the series ends with her reclaiming her agency and escaping О̄tori Academy. In the second episode of Suisei no Majo, Miorineーthe “heroine”ーreceives substantially more screentime than Suletta, the “protagonist.” While Suletta is the X factor necessary to revolutionize Miorine’s world, Miorine herself is no damsel in distress; she is feisty and assertive, aware that she is no one’s trophy, even if the world may tell her otherwise. Shifting the focus to her perspective in episode 2 helps reinforce this idea to the viewers, with the anime itself affording her room to process her feelings toward Suletta and choose her path moving forward. Princess Principal managed to avoid reducing the titular Princess to a damsel or figurehead, so I’m glad to see Ookouchi continuing the trend here. Again, this “escape from heroine-ism” is only one facet of yuri, and stories don’t need to give equal weight to every perspective, but it’s an approach that resonates with me, and Suisei no Majo provided a good opportunity to talk about it. (By the way, if you’re interested in a work that goes all in on this idea, I cannot recommend Labyrinth of Galleria highly enough. The localization and PC port are coming out in February. Just avoid looking at any of NISA’s promotional material, as it contains spoilers. It also contains the dub, which is arguably worse.)
Yama no Susume Next Summit – I speak without hyperbole when I say that Yama no Susume has given me a newfound appreciation for animation as a storytelling device. I say device here, not medium, because I am referring to the specifics of how characters move; I have a history in theater, so I tend to focus more on the blocking and overall shot composition in visual mediums. Indeed, I would say that the aspect of anime I appreciate the most is its unreality, the ability to construct and colorize scenes in fantastic ways, unconstrained by the shackles of physics. On some level, I always viewed the animation itself as secondary to that. Watching Yamasusu, though, rocked my soul. All the freedom afforded by anime, put to work depicting the mundaneーin the sense of the corporeal, somaticーact of hiking. Hardly a novel endeavor for anime, but the execution was what intrigued me. Yamasusu leans heavily on the character animation to sell the physicality of hikingーput simply, it’s very good at depicting girls walking. This splash of the utterly real amid the unreal serves to showcase the act of hiking, to emphasize it in a way live action never can. Once I understood this, everything clicked; Yamasusu’s animation is so effective because it is utilized fully as a method of expression, effected by artists who leverage it to depict characters the way an author wields prose, maintaining a deft balance of exaggeration and verisimilitude. And as I’ve learned since, you need talented animators to realize ambitious storyboarding and layouts in the first placeーin addition to being a wonderful show in its own right, Yamasusu encouraged me to develop a greater understanding of anime as a commercial artform, which is admittedly a bit of a double-edged sword… Anyway, all of this is to say: Sorry, mecha bros. Aerial going beast mode with an array of funnels is certainly hypeーperhaps even “based” or “goated”ーbut the sakuga this season that got me hooting and hollering was Aoi crouching down to pick up a book in the library. That’s the real human experience, right there.
Do It Yourself – Meanwhile, Do It Yourself demonstrates that you really do need more than just animation. In Yamasusu, the animation helps to realize a heartfelt narrative; in Do It Yourself, it helps to realize… well, I don’t know what, really. While I can understand the show as a showcase of craftsmanshipーin that sense, the jaw-dropping production values are very much in line with its premiseーI found precious little to latch onto, to ground myself in the world with. And quite frankly, I find myself at odds with the theme it’s angling for. The whole “working with your hands in a world where 3D printing has become the norm” idea seems like it could veer into some decidedly boomer territory, though admittedly this might be reading a bit too much into it. I’ll watch another episode to see what the dynamic is like between the full “party” and if it’s interested in marrying modern technology with traditional craftsmanship, but for now, I’m really not feeling it. As Hikaru would say, its vibes are wrong.
Shinmai Renkinjutsu-shi(ry – I’ll fucking say it. This was more entertaining than Do It Yourself. It had a liveliness to it that that show simply lacked. No, I will not step down from the podium. They booed Jesus because he was right too, you know. Though I will say that devoting the entire A part to depicting the protagonist’s backstory damaged the pacing. I would have fit her backstory and the initial setup into the A part, so the B part could actually show off the principal cast. Oh dear, look at meーI’ve become one of those unqualified Youtubers who sees fit to tell professionals how to do their jobs. None of this would have happened if the companies would just hire fans.
Reiwa no DiGi Charat – Well, it’s DiGi Charat, and it’s made in Reiwa. I think we can award this one a 10/10 for honesty in advertising. That’ll ensure a good Metacritic score; the staff need their bonus, after all. A nice time portal to the turn of the century, but I can’t say I find it very noteworthy on its own. I watched the original nearly 20 years ago, and any memories of it have long since faded; perhaps it’s more enjoyable if you’re still invested in DiGi Charat, but honestly I doubt you are.
Akiba Maid Sensou – My inner cynicーlet’s pretend I’m not simply a miserable contrarian, and there is some pernicious aspect of my subconscious compelling me to provide hot takesーtells me that this is just Zombie Land Saga in reverse. Whereas ZLS began with a ridiculous premise and morphed into a straightforward idol story (and was all the better for it, to be clear), Akiba Maid Sensou advertises itself with an innocuous premise before pulling the rug out from under the viewer and sending them tumbling straight into a yakuza movie directed by Tarantino. And you know what? It ain’t half bad in the process. The episode itself is refreshingly straightforward about its approach, it actually weaves in some jokes instead of trying to lean entirely on the plot, and it all culminates in a truly incredible comedy-guro-idol-action sequence. Still, I’m skeptical about the show moving forward. Will it be able to maintain its momentum and sense of humor? Simply playing out as a yakuza movie with anime girls wouldn’t be the worst thing in the worldーRyuu ga Gotoku would be greatly improved if everyone were an anime girl, after allーbut the prospect of Akiba Maid Sensou as a yakuza movie makes me feel vaguely disappointed in a way that the reality of ZLS as an idol series did not. Perhaps this opener was simply too indulgent for its own good. I’m more than willing to be proven wrong by subsequent episodes, of course.
Bocchi the Rock – I had high expectations for this as an adaptation, and honestly? It surpassed them. If an adaptation wants to make an argument for watching it over simply reading the source material, it needs to be more than merely competent. As much as I love Machikado Mazokuーto use another Kirara seriesーand as competent as its anime adaptation is, are you really losing out on anything if you just read the manga? I would say no. Bocchi’s anime, on the other hand, is what the kids might call a “glow up” (though this is not to imply the source material is inadequate; I enjoy the manga well enough). The comedy is snappier, the emotional moments carry more weight, and the production as a whole sells the world the characters inhabit. So far, Bocchi is doing an admirable job demonstrating that an adaptation doesn’t need to be radically transformative to carve out its own place in the world.
Chainsaw Man – LMFAO😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂MAPPA🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐TURNEd ON THE RTX🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥DENJI🐕WAS SO EPIC😭😭😭😭😭😭WHEN THE CHAINSAW WENT VROOM IT WAS A TOP 10 MOMENT🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥PEAK FICTION😂😂😭😭😂😂😭😭
(Disclaimer: Chainsaw Man is not yet available to general audiences. The above review was constructed by analyzing reviews available from commercial publications and amalgamating what were determined to be their most salient features.)