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Doctorkev’s Spring 2022 Anime Postmortem: Netflix and HIDIVE

Darkness Peach Momo! I don’t really understand the significance of the “dark” and “light” sides in this show as neither seem any more “good” or “evil” than the other. Perhaps that’s the point!

It’s been another packed anime season, and as always, I’ve watched far too much of it to be healthy. Netflix in particular dropped a lot of shows onto its service this time, and that continued right up until the end of the season with their highly-anticipated release of Bastard!! Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy sneaking in there on June 30th.

Last time, I already covered Gen Urobuchi’s somewhat disappointing movie Bubble, you can read about it here. Similarly, I covered Tiger and Bunny Season 2 part 1 in its own article here, and season 2 of Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 here. I liked them both, despite the abundance of plastickiness in the latter. So far, Netflix have kept quiet about when we can expect the second half of Tiger and Bunny Season 2.

Spring 2022 Netflix shows:

Creepy-eyed kid and his deadbeat yet attentive neighbour.

Kotaro Lives Alone: 10 episodes COMPLETE

To reiterate what I stated in my previous article, Kotaro is not a show you should binge. It’s very good, but bloody hell is it depressing at times. As the show progresses, and we learn more about each character’s situation, it’s easy to become despairing about the state of humanity. Kotaro covers child abuse and neglect, manipulative relationships, organised crime, divorce and subsequent parental estrangement, plus the general untrustworthiness of adults. Thankfully the show leavens this heavy material with frequent life-affirming and optimistic events.

Although Kotaro lives alone without parental supervision, his concerned neighbours rally around him to give him the emotional and practical support he needs. Considering his tragic background, Kotaro has had to grow up quickly, and he speaks and acts in an exaggerated, archaic manner, partially as a way to keep adults at arms’ length. There are times when the mask slips and he acts appropriately as a confused child. Regardless of his sometimes humorous (and exasperating) misunderstandings, his neighbours never judge or deliberately berate him. Even when their own difficult situations intervene and they must leave him, other residents or characters are introduced who support him in their own, individually eccentric way.

I’ve never seen an anime quite like Kotaro. Both upsetting and funny, it’s like a dense meal with both sweet and sour flavours. Too much in one go may cause indigestion, but it’s worth returning to in small, well-seasoned portions.

That most terrifying of places for an extreme introvert — the public bath-house.

Komi Can’t Communicate Season 2: 10 of 12 episodes

Although Komi’s already completed her second run of twelve episodes in Japan, international Netflix remains on a three-week delay. Because I’m not a totally degenerate pirate, I’ve been content enough to wait for the official translations. I’d rather Netflix released these weekly like this, than saving them all up to be splurged out in one unholy eruption several months later. The episodic and lightweight Komi isn’t a show best suited to bingeing.

At its heart, Komi is about socially inept teenagers learning to deepen relationships with each other. The humour arises from just how weird some of these characters are. Some characters I find creepy and irritating. (Ren Yamai for example, who continually leers at and lusts after Komi. The fact she’s a girl doesn’t make her any less tolerable than if she were a perverted boy.) Others are extremely well-observed and remind me of classmates from when I was growing up.

The central friendship between Komi and Tadano is sweet, with romantic overtones that have barely progressed, partially because of how shy and reserved both characters are. This is based on a long-running manga that’s up to 26 volumes at the time of writing, so we can’t expect their relationship to race headlong into shameless, hardcore hand-holding just yet. Perhaps that will occur in the surely inevitable third season?

He’s either powering up for a devastating attack, or he’s extremely constipated and trying his best to force one out without rupturing his rectum.

Spriggan: 6 double-length episodes COMPLETE

Along with AniTAY podcast host Requiem, I recently reviewed the original 1998 Spriggan movie here. This new version, some 24 years later, covers the same material as the film and more, adapting the first few volumes of the manga, and rearranging the order a bit. Animated by David Production (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cells at Work and Fire Force) with a fairly heavy reliance on CGI, there’s no way that it can stand up aesthetically to the high-budget hand-drawn pyrotechnics in the movie. However, the tone is lighter and the writing has improved — it’s now possible to care about the characters, something I felt was lacking from the movie.

Teenager Yu Ominae (sometimes) attends high school, while moonlighting as a special operative for the international organisation ARCAM, investigating and either retrieving or destroying dangerous artifacts left behind by a long-dead technologically advanced civilisation. Each episode runs to a generally well-paced forty minutes, filled with action. Ongoing plot details are barely shared between installments, and recurring cast members are few. It’s very formulaic — Yu is sent to some random part of the globe to retrieve or investigate some MacGuffin or other, he fights The Bad Guys, he wins, and The MacGuffin is usually destroyed. The Dark Forbidden Secrets Man Was Never Meant To Discover remain lost to time.

The story is certainly a product of its time — very simple, requiring at most only two brain cells to follow — but it’s also a lot of fun, and I definitely prefer it to the movie, even with the at times slightly dodgy CG. (The Berserker monster thing is one of the worst CGI creations I’ve ever seen in an anime.) It does a good job adapting the 90’s manga, and despite its attempts to update its technological references, the violent, slightly irreverent tone remains exactly that of a 90’s OVA series. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Momo and Fine — a cute but somewhat dysfunctional couple. Great character design though.

Vampire in the Garden: 5 episodes COMPLETE

I finally got around to watching this today, having put it off for a while. I generally dislike vampire anime. I’m glad I found the time though, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Wit Studio (Ranking of Kings, Great Pretender and Vivy — Fluorite Eye’s Song) continue their recent winning streak (let’s pretend Bubble doesn’t exist) with this far future, post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet-esque tale. Except instead of a boy and a girl from warring families, it’s two girls but one is a vampire.

In this future, the world has been ruined by a war between human beings and vampires. Humans have retreated into a walled city defended by beams of ultraviolet light that fry the hordes of vampires that periodically attack. The vampires have a structured society not dissimilar to pre-revolution Russia, with a ruling class of decadent nobles who live lives of opulence, while the humans live strictly-controlled, joyless and militarised lives. 14-year-old human girl Momo despairs of her dark, miserable life as daughter of the human military’s female commander, and runs away. She meets Fine (pronounced Fee-nay), the rebellious vampire queen who refuses to accept her destiny as her people’s ruler.

Together, Momo and Fine attempt to escape their oppressive societies, and their neverending war, with the intention of finding an Eden-like idyllic society where humans and vampires can coexist in peace. At only five episodes long, Vampire in the Garden clips along at a brisk pace — perhaps too brisk — as sometimes the quick scene changes are more than a little discombobulating, and the story and concepts don’t always get the room to breathe that they deserve.

The visuals are stunningly beautiful, depicting a broken and desolate Eastern European landscape, snowbound and deadly. I love the character designs, especially Momo’s wide, expressive eyes, and Fine’s range of facial expressions from hope to despair, tenderness to rage. I do think the conclusion is needlessly tragic, and I’m not really sure what the ultimate message of the story is meant to be, but overall I enjoyed this a lot. Despite the fairly overt yuri overtones and Momo’s young age, I didn’t find the central relationship as creepy as it could have been. Fine does not present as a sexual predator — more a heartbroken and angry woman who latches onto a fellow tortured soul who reminds her of her previous lost love. That’s not exactly the most stable ground for a long-lasting relationship, but it makes for a compelling story.

He spends pretty much the entirety of the first couple of episodes butt naked. He seems to take after the folks in Netflix’s other show Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 in that he’s like a Ken Doll — not much going on underneath.

Bastard!! Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy: 2 of 13 episodes

I’ve only had time to watch the first couple of episodes of this very violent, cheesecake-stuffed adaptation of yet another 1990s manga. I did collect the first five or so issues of the manga, back when Viz released it as oversized floppy comics, but when they stopped distributing to Europe in the early 2000s due to rights issues, I was unable to continue. I remember thinking it was very crude, but that the artwork was great.

It certainly remains very crude. In the far future, Earth has degenerated from modern civilisation into what can only be described as a generic D&D world. In the kingdom of Meta-llicana (everything in this is named after 80s and 90s heavy metal bands), only the reincarnated wizard Dark Schneider can hope to prevail against the onslaught of evil that threatens the people. The main problem being that 1) Dark Schneider is also evil and doesn’t give a shit about anyone and 2) he’s trapped inside the body of an annoying child, and can only be summoned by a specific spell cast alongside “a virgin’s kiss”.

Main female character Yoko is entreated by her father the high priest to remain “chaste” so that she can kiss the little kid who follows her around in order to summon the evil wizard. Um… okay then. At least going by the first two episodes, this results in insane levels of violence with copious bloodletting (it’s rated for sniggering teenagers of “18 and over”) and a lot of very overt sexualisation of the hilariously well-endowed female cast. I admit I found the first episode fairly amusing, but the second episode is more of the same, and kind of dull… I’m not sure if I can stomach watching more of this incredibly peurile fantasy. Maybe if and when I’ve got nothing else to watch I might dip in and out to see if it develops anything resembling a plot.

Spring 2022 HIDIVE shows:

Although not quite as packed in terms of content, HIDIVE made up with it in terms of quality with its roster of Spring 2022 anime. Perhaps being bought up by media behemoth AMC gave them more spending money with which to compete toe-to-toe with the big boys of streaming? This is no bad thing, as the CrunchyMation/FuniRoll Dark Alliance of Anime Streaming threatens to produce a new near-monopoly that benefits no-one.

I covered HIDIVE’s very quiet release of the latest Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya movie (Licht: Nameless Girl) here. I wonder, is everyone just too ashamed to admit they watch it? Considering the earlier seasons, I can understand that, but the latest season and both movies are great! The other four HIDIVE shows I watched were almost universally fantastic though, so read my concluding thoughts on them below. Next season, HIDIVE brings us the long-awaited second season of Made in Abyss. I am both excited and terrified.

Eiko and Nanami do a little extra-curricular busking.

Ya Boy Kongming: 12 episodes COMPLETE

My life now feels empty without this strange but very fun mashup of ancient Chinese historical education, Carole and Tuesday-like musical drama and reverse isekai. Thursday evenings feel incomplete without the sounds of cheesy Hungarian pop covered by a Japanese idol group in the opener. Although the music in the show itself wasn’t overly memorable, I very much enjoyed the story of wannabe idol singer Eiko’s gradual rise to fame. The show leaves things very early in her career, so I really hope they make a further season to chart her (hopefully) meteoric rise, as contrived by her trustworthy strategist/manager, the reincarnated Zhuge Liang/Kongming.

Every episode left me grinning, despite the increased focus on drama over the comedy that was more prominent in the early half of the series. Kongming himself retreated into the shadows to do his thing, leaving Eiko and rapper friend Kabetaijin to very ably carry the show. I particularly liked Eiko’s friendly, supportive rivalry with fellow idol singer Nanami. Nanami’s struggles with artistic integrity and a controlling manager were a nice contrast to Eiko’s experience, that broadened the narrative and deepened the themes. Shout out to the excellent localisation work in regards to the rap battles — I don’t know how they did it, but HIDIVE needs to pay these translator guys a massive bonus.

Come on, kiss, you COWARDS.

I’m Quitting Heroing: 12 episodes COMPLETE

Well, this certainly improved in its last few episodes. I almost dropped this show about an immortal hero tiring of his role, as it seemed too slow and prosaic, with entire episodes focusing on good people management skills. If I wanted to learn about that, I’d attend a seminar. Thankfully, main character Leo Demonhart’s true intentions behind befriending the Demon Lord and her four generals made the final third far more emotional and compelling than I expected it would be.

SIGNIFICANT ENDING SPOILERS — SKIP IF YOU INTEND TO WATCH

Essentially becoming an extended debate on purpose, motivation, hope and optimism, the demonic characters challenged Leo’s deeply cynical and hopeless worldview. I know some viewers complained that the overly optimistic conclusion seemed like the show pulled its punches, but I fully disagree. If they had succeeded in killing Leo as he requested, it would have read as pro-suicide. Even a several-thousand-year-old human weapon can learn to grow and change, and find purpose in a simple life of friendship and serving others. I was glad of Leo’s ultimate fate, and his emotional maturation. The ending retrospectively made the entire show seem so much more worthwhile to me. I may even consider watching it again from the beginning as everything will be recontextualised.

Just a little lovers’ tiff. Momo probably got irritated by Shamiko rubbing her exposed belly a few too many times.

The Demon Girl Next Door Season 2: 12 episodes COMPLETE

What a delightful, funny and uplifting show this turned out to be. I’m so glad I (belatedly) caught up with the first season so I could watch this. It’s never going to win prizes for animation (it’s incredibly limited), but it makes up for lack of sakuga sparkle with its heartwarming humour, running gags and subtly progressing plot. It’s a comedy where the characters actually grow and change, and where seemingly throwaway gags take on increased meaning later on.

“Shadow Mistress” Shamiko the demon remains fairly ineffectual, but she succeeds when it matters. I love her weird relationship with local magical girl Momo who mostly seems to humour her friend’s delusions of superiority, although she really does seem to care about Shamiko deep down. Although there’s a definite mild yuri undercurrent (there are essentially no male characters), it’s mostly all very “friendship is magical!” and innocent. I need there to be a third season of this immediately.

Menou and Akari, fated to die?

The Executioner and Her Way of Life: 12 episodes COMPLETE

Yet more Yuri-themed soft-of-romance. There’s been a lot of that this season, and I’ve not even mentioned Birdie Wing yet. Even without the central characters’ complicated pseudo-relationship, this would be a fascinating series. The fantasy world is well-constructed, with a deep history and disconcerting-sounding lore. Add in wonky time-travel stuff to the already skewed character dynamics, and it’s one of the most compelling shows of the season.

Executioner has adapted its source light novels exceptionally well, streamlining and expanding where appropriate, with some great fight scenes and shiny eye candy. Supporting characters (unhinged murder-priestess) Momo and (scantily-clad perpetually grinning) Princess Ashuna are even more interesting than central duo (conflicted assassin) Menou and (self-lobotomising time-travelling airhead) Akari.

It’s a crime that there’s only twelve episodes of this wonderful show, covering up until the conclusion of novel volume two. With seven volumes in print in Japan (and four in English), there’s plenty of material for at least another two seasons. Executioner has set up multiple intriguing mysteries that I need to see resolved, so please please please make some more of this?

Disney+ (Eternal?) Jail:

Ushio — undisputably 2022’s best girl. Yes, even more so than My Dress-up Darling’s Marin.

Summertime Rendering: 12 of 25 episodes

Disney have still refused to announce whether this show will be broadcast worldwide or not. Australia and New Zealand can already stream it on Disney+ with English subtitles. Disney are also streaming it all around Asia in the countries with their Hotstar service. Unfortunately they employ this strategy with their licensed K-dramas too, limiting them only to specific strategic markets. There’s a real possibility we may never see Summertime Rendering legally. I hope my anxieties about this are unfounded.

It would be a crime for Disney to continue to sit on this fantastic horror-tinged show. It’s like a less goofy-looking Higurashi. The original manga already ended, so we’ve been promised a complete adaptation within 25 episodes, and we’ve now reached the halfway point. I avidly anticipate each new episode every week. The plot twists and turns relentlessly, adding new complications and disturbing events. I don’t want to spoil too much about it because it’s a show that benefits from going in blind. I can see this being a fantastic binge-watch, it’s so compulsive. Perhaps that’s why Disney is delaying its worldwide release? I’ll keep telling myself that.

That’s it for Netflix and HIDIVE (and Disney+). I’ll be back very soon to discuss Crunchyroll’s offerings for the Spring 2022 season. See you then!

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