Doctorkev’s Autumn 2022 Anime Postmortem: HIDIVE and Netflix
Last time, halfway through this ridiculously packed anime season, I covered some Netflix shows that I don’t have room to include again here — Tiger and Bunny Season 2 Part 2, and Romantic Killer. They’ve added a couple of more things since then, you know, in the way Netflix do that makes it difficult to include any of their shows in seasonal articles like this. I’ll do it anyway. Though I hear Netflix is pulling back somewhat on anime TV shows in future to focus more on original anime movies. I hope they’re better than Bubble. Also, the terminally cursed production of Uncle From Another World got delayed by COVID — again (though this time only the final, thirteenth episode is affected) — and Netflix haven’t yet scheduled anything after episode 7 outside of Japan. It’s almost enough to make one resort to piracy.
I would have loved to have also covered Disney+, but I wrote about Tatami Time Machine Blues last time, and Summertime Rendering remains inexplicably absent from streaming in English outside of Australia and New Zealand (where it started on June 1st), for reasons that escapes anyone with a brain. Come on guys, it finished its broadcast in Japan back on September 30th! What the hell is the delay? They simulcasted Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War for goodness sake, so they know it can be done! They’re also streaming Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall (only one episode left until it’s complete, with “only” a 7-month delay), but I’ve not had time to look at it yet. I picked up the original 8-episode Black Rock Shooter from 2012 (not streaming legally anywhere) on secondhand DVD recently so I’ll watch that first.
At least HIDIVE has been nice and consistent, with a really solid selection of shows this season. Let’s start with those I watched in order of best to worst:
Akiba Maid War: HIDIVE: all 12 episodes
Almost as much of a pleasant suprise as 2022’s earlier Birdie Wing (insane golf lesbians), this also sported an absurd premise (what if Yakuza but maid cafe?) that it committed to wholeheartedly. Turn-of-the-millennium Akihabara is a hotbed of organised crime, with frequent maid-on-maid gun violence and a culture dominated by terrifying (what’s the maid equivalent of Godfathers? Maid-fathers?) Maid-mothers.
17-year-old fresh-faced wide-eyed and innocent Nagomi has moved to Tokyo to fulfil her dream of becoming a maid cafe employee but finds her dreams shattered upon entering Akiba’s seedy criminal underbelly. It’s a maid-eat-maid world (not in the Birdie Wing sense) and she struggles to maintain her upbeat idealism when surrounded by death and corruption at every turn. Her friendship with “mature” 36-year old maid (just released from prison) Ranko is the show’s emotional centre, and Ranko herself might just be my favourite anime character of the entire year. At once adept yet vulnerable, capable of both stupendous violence and selfless tenderness, Ranko is the beautiful modern anime woman for whom it isn’t creepy for adult men to idolise.
Every crime story is tinged with tragedy, and mixed in with the goofy screwball humour, Akiba Maid War manages to tug on the heartstrings more than once, especially with a very final post-credit sequence that brought a tear to my eye. An unapologetically weird show, it’s also possibly one of the most anime anime of all time. I love it.
Urusei Yatsura: HIDIVE: episodes 1–11 of 23
I was already a fan of the original early 1980s anime, and I’ve been delighted so far with this successful modern interpretation. Neither a direct remake of the first anime, nor a slavish reproduction of the source manga, instead it’s a weird, streamlined “best of” selection, where earlier character introductions and stronger later chapters are often mushed together to make something new. We’ve also had an entire season without Lum’s annoying little cousin Ten, though unfortunately he looks likely to debut when the show continues in January.
Already a couple of my all-time favourite manga chapters have been adapted, and I’m expecting to see material eventually that the original version never got a chance to adapt. Nominal main character Ataru Moriboshi remains (mostly) an asshole, but the ever-expanding and eclectic cast is full of weirdos with bizarre character quirks that keep things interesting. Every now and then author Rumiko Takahashi knows to lay on the pathos, and so far David Production’s animation team have nailed the tone. It’s perhaps not quite got the madcap comic timing of the 1980s version, but much of that was directed by the legendary Mamoru Oshii, so I’m willing to give the new folks some time to get into their groove. Oshii’s version never looked as irresistably shiny as this, though.
Love Flops: HIDIVE: all 12 episodes
Well, this was a surprise. I was relentlessly bullied into watching this very strange show by fellow AniTAY podcasters Requiem and Kinksy. It’s just as well they were so insistent, because the first episode is awful. Poor hapless main character Asahi Kashiwagi seems cursed to be a harem protagonist, as on his way to school he (quite literally) bumps into five different female characters in incredibly cliched ways, usually getting slapped and somehow accused of sexual assault. Oh, and two characters are physically assaulted/anally raped by a dog. So there’s that. It’s not funny, it’s actually horrible.
Anyway, there’s clearly something wrong with Asahi because he can’t remember where he sits in class, nor can he remember the name of his “best friend”. His world is also weirdly empty of other people, plus his house randomly grows an extra extension with several extra bedrooms for the aforementioned female characters to move into his house. Yes, because they all now apparently love him, and his absentee father has arranged for them to live with Asahi so he can marry one of them. Oh, and one of the girls might actually be a guy.
From episode two onwards, it gets much better as each girl then receives an episode focused on them. One, who is also somewhat uncomfortably his teacher, is also an international spy/black-widow-esque superwoman. Another is a magical girl with bizarre contraceptive-themed superpowers (her weird-looking familiar is named for a Japanese condom brand and… well… has a very interesting theme to his design.) Her episode feature aliens who invade using a weapon that magically disintegrates mens’ genitalia. The male-presenting love interest has a hilarious episode featuring a big-nosed tengu mask used in ways it was definitely not designed for.
With the end of the seventh episode, Love Flops shows its hand, revealing it as something else, descending into existential horror. What started as a ridiculously bawdy comedy suddenly becomes serious and emotional, a tale of lost love and terminal illness, mixed with singularity-level artifical intelligence speculation. As much as I wanted to love this narrative twist, the show unfortunately becomes a lot less fun without the insane humour, the tonal whiplash never quite settles into something cohesive. I don’t regret watching it though, and the ending is really very affecting. Love Flops is much, much better than the horrendous first episode would make it seem, and its a shame that it likely alienated a huge segment of its potential audience with its misjudged offensiveness.
Reincarnated as a Sword: HIDIVE: all 12 episodes
This was pure dumb wish-fulfillment fantasy fun from beginning to end, featuring a cute cat-girl and her huge sentient sword. There really wasn’t too much else to it. The main plot was more or less the most basic of basic D&D campaigns, but cat-girl cuteness goes a very very long way. I’ll certainly watch the recently-confirmed season two whenever it’s released, but I don’t have a whole lot else to say about it for now.
Bibliophile Princess: HIDIVE: all 12 episodes
To begin with I really enjoyed this thoughtful, sedate show about Elianna, a book-loving noble girl who, despite her poor social skills, winds up as fiance to the prince, heir to the throne of her country. Unfortunately I began to get very bored in the second half as the show became repetitive. Usually some mean girl would say something nasty to Elianna, or contrive some kind of scheme to damage Elianna’s social standing, but then someone would ride to the rescue, miscommunication would be corrected, nothing bad would come of it, rinse and repeat. None of it felt dramatic, and Elianna’s agency as a character was minimised. She always seemed so very passive and I lost interest to the point I can barely even remember what the plot of the last few episodes even involved. Oh well, I await the Next Great Shojo adaptation, because this, unfortunately, was not it.
The Eminence in Shadow: HIDIVE: episodes 1–13 of 20
I would say I was disappointed in this show, but I had very few positive expectations going in. From reading the synopsis, I wanted to avoid what sounded like an insufferably smug overly-meta-humour-infected slog, but, again, I was hounded by fellow AniTAY writers to give it a try. Raitzeno, I blame you for this. Initially I thought it was kind of amusing, and of course the animation looked great. Unfortunately I hate the main character. I get that Cid Kagenou, edgelord extraordinaire, reincarnated into a fantasy world with incredible magic powers, is meant to be an idiot. I even like other shows where the protagonist is an idiot, such as with Ataru Moroboshi in Urusei Yatsura above.
However Cid is also obnoxious, deluded, and shows zero growth as a character. That’s part of the joke — he’s living his life LARPing as a “background character” while also “pretending” to be “The Eminence in Shadow”, the secret head of an underground vigilante organisation that battles against a demonic cult he doesn’t even believe exists. But of course it does, and Cid somehow fails to realise his affected delusions are true and thinks his compatriots are just LARPing along with him. Sorry, but this stretches credulity past breaking point and I just don’t find it funny.
At least some of the supporting characters are fun, but the “wink-wink, clever-clever” nature of the suffocating meta-humour really pulls me out of the moment whenever Cid does his insufferable monologuing. I’m seriously considering dropping this, and if the next season is as stacked as this one was, I’ll have a hard time justifying continuing this until its conclusion in February.
Exception: Netflix: all 8 episodes
Looking at images from this short mini-series, you’d be forgiven for muttering “what… even is this…?” I had much the same reaction, but behind the goofy CG animation and bizarre character designs (courtesy of Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D’s Yoshitaka Amano, of all people) is a compelling and thought-provoking hard SF drama. Hell, I even think there’s a certain statuesque elegance to the characters’ elongated noses and slim, exaggerated builds. It can’t have been easy to translate Amano’s designs to workable CG models, and I think the design team deserve some kind of kudos. It’s a shame that it’s typically relatively low budget, low-frame rate anime CG, though it’s still head and shoulders above most of the rest of Netflix’s grey sludge CG anime dreck. At least this one has actual, vibrant colours.
Essentially an anime version of Among Us (itself preceded a long time ago by very similar manga and anime They Were Eleven by famed shojo mangaka Moto Hagio, one of my favourite authors), a group of replica humans are 3D-printed once their terraforming ship leaves hyperspace and enters orbit around the human race’s provisional new home. Unfortunately one crew member’s print went wrong, leaving him monstrously mutated and hunted by the rest of the crew. There’s also evidence of sabotage, so could there be a traitor on board?
Each 3D-printed crewmember is implanted with the memories of their original — as far as they are concerned there is direct continuity between their originals and themselves, it’s like they’ve awoken from sleep halfway across the galaxy when it feels to them like the previous day they were on Earth. What makes this even more interesting is that their originals are on the way to the planet at sub-light speed, scheduled to arrive in one hundred years once the terraforming process is complete. The copies’ motivation is that once their efforts are successful, they will be allowed to replicate versions of their closest loved ones to live with them on humanity’s new homeworld…
The stage is set for a twisting narrative filled with betrayals and double-crossings, secrets and lies, plus a hefty dollop of existential horror. I really enjoyed this, and after a clunky start the plot shifts into high gear and never stops. I love this kind of story, especially when mixed with high quality speculative fiction. Definitely overlook the cosmetic oddness and you’re find a rewarding, self-contained story. Also uncomfortable hints of kinky selfcest, if that’s your thing.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean: Netflix: episodes 25–38
Ten years and 190 episodes later, the incredibly bizarre animated adventures of the Joestar family’s various JoJos comes to an end… sort of. This fifth season covers Stone Ocean (originally published between 2000 and 2003), the 6th long arc of Hirohiko Araki’s long-running manga. Stone Ocean is the culmination of the story began way back in 1987 with the first arc, Phantom Blood, and effectively ends the multigenerational battle between the descendants of Jonathan Joestar and immortal vampire Dio Brando and his various minions. Of course the JoJo brand continues in manga form with a new continuity in Part 7 — Steel Ball Run (2004–2011) and Part 8 — JoJolion (2011–2021), and with a newly-announced Part 9 — The JOJOLands set to begin in February 2023, Stone Ocean isn’t really the “true” end.
I maintain that it was a crime for Netflix to release this as part of its binge model, albeit in three parts. JoJo’s works much better as a week-to-week brief burst of untempered insanity. Mainlining it all in one go is not just indigestible, it’s potentially mentally dangerous, so bonkers are the leaps of logic involved in the supernaturally-charged battles that prolonged exposure may untether one from normal conceptions of space, time and causality. Essentially, what I’m saying is that who needs mind-altering substances when Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is freely available and legal to overdose on?
Part 4 — Diamond is Unbreakable will probably always be my favourite, while part 5 — Golden Wind had its moments, but ultimately did little for me. Part 6 — Stone Ocean I think is now my second favourite arc. Jolyne Cujoh is such a fun protagonist, she has an eclectic bunch of supporting characters who are all endearingly dumb but sincere in their own ways, plus Evil Priest Father Pucci is a great antagonist. I’m not even entirely sure that his ultimate plan was even all that evil. As with all great villains, he believes he is the good guy.
As is typical with Jojo’s, the last few episodes really ramp up the stakes and tension, characters fighting with reality-defying abilities that warp and evolve story logic until it screams and begs for mercy. I defy anyone to ever predict where a JoJo’s story is going. Entertaining to the end, and with a frankly beautiful conclusion to the entire 6-arc epic, Stone Ocean proves itself to be a worthy successor to the JoJo’s name.
Housing Complex C: all 4 episodes
An Adult Swim original, when this never showed up on any of the usual streaming services, I wondered if the UK was just never going to get this four-episode horror miniseries. Then it popped up on free-to-view public service broadcasting service All4, which apparently has an exclusive contract for Adult Swim shows. I wonder if that means they’ll also get the upcoming Uzumaki (Junji Ito) show? Anyway, this means I had to watch anime with commercials. Ugh. What is this, the stone age?
Housing Complex C is a slow-burning horror, which is a problem when there are only four episodes. Set in a Japanese seaside village with its own complex history and folklore, the old folks of the titular housing complex find their lives disrupted by the arrival of a group of foreign workers. Interracial and intercultural tensions ignite conflict between the conservative old folks and the (presumably muslim) foreigners. What could have been interesting social commentary isn’t given much room to breathe, there’s almost nothing culturally specific about the incomers and their practices, and this seems a narratively cowardly move.
The main character seems to be an upbeat young girl whom everyone seems to love, but from the outset it’s clear there’s something very… not right about her living circumstances. Eventually, as is usual in this kind of horror, everything erupts shortly before the end in an orgy of violence, brutal twists and (in this case) lovecraftian horror. I enjoyed it enough for what it was, but it doesn’t hold a candle to that paragon of anime horror — Higurashi, no matter how hard it tries. For one, it isn’t even remotely scary or unsettling, and most of the plot twists are telegraphed well in advance. One to watch once and then forget.
Thanks for staying with me to the end! I’ll be back again very soon to talk about Crunchyroll’s Autumn 2022 offerings!
Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Autumn 2022 Anime Season: Netflix, HIDIVE and Disney+
It’s been a very busy season, with some incredibly high quality anime split across multiple streaming services. Last…
Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Autumn 2022 Anime Season: Crunchyroll
As 2022 crawls to a dark, cold, and wet end (at least in Scotland), what better way to keep warm in these depressing…
Disney+ and the Summertime Rendering Problem
I’ve heard disturbing rumours about the way Disney+ handles its Asian media acquisitions, mainly from my sweaty…