Truly this has been The Year Of Anime Overindulgence. If anime was food, I’d be morbidly, corpulently obese and requiring life support. Continuing from my first list, here are my interim impressions of shows 10–18 that I’m watching during this fantastic season.
The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!: episodes 11–15 of 20 (CRUNCHYROLL, Saturdays)
The entirely avoidable traumas that struggling demon girl Jahy brings upon herself continue to trigger much hilarity. She’s such a Disaster Millennial in her tiny little (unfurnished) apartment, with her minimum wage job, her constantly grumbling stomach and terrible financial decisions. If you can’t relate to Jahy’s struggles, then you either still live with your parents or are stinking rich. Or both.
I love that although Jahy’s selfish attitude continues to soften as she starts to consider other characters’ feelings and needs, she still has a knack for conjuring utter self-defeat from the smallest of sources. It could get old, watching her predictably build herself up only to get squashed back down again, but lately the show has granted her some small but satisfying wins. Despite initial appearances, The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! is by no means a wallow in misery porn, nor does it truly rejoice in her suffering. Yes, Jahy is kind of a terrible person, but she’s getting better, dammit!
Her varied supporting cast really helps with her character development — there’s the adorable little girl Kokkoro who Jahy has a genuinely sweet friendship with, and latterly the scary magical girl has exposed some hidden depths, as her role within the show changes from antagonist to weird, clingy friend. Finally we meet the Demon Lord, who is obviously a cute little girl who seems to be mute and eternally starving.
Even the disturbingly masochistic Druj makes me laugh (uncomfortably). It seems Jahy’s relationship with her exists on a knife edge, with Jahy’s deeply ingrained need for worship, adoration and recognition always a hair’s breadth away from exposing her incompetence to her far more successful (but so far blissfully unaware) former subordinate.
I wonder if one day Jahy’s chickens will come home to roost, or whether the jokes will continue to be stretched ad infinitum? For the moment the show is still funny, though I do worry that one day it may run out of steam.
Blue Period: episodes 1–6 of ?? (NETFLIX, Saturdays)
Back when I was a kid, I used to fancy myself as something of an artist, spending much of my time drawing daft cartoon characters. As a teenager I even attended saturday classes at the local art school for several years. Eventually I realised that my strengths were not really within the world of art, mainly because I was crap. Blue Period is about a teenage artist who isn’t crap, but to me his struggles are incredibly relatable. Anyone who has tried to better themselves at expressive skills, whether that be painting, drawing, sculpture, writing, singing or dancing, will at some point have come up against seemingly insurmountable challenges, crippling self-doubt, jealousy of gifted peers, or lack of inspiration.
Blue Period covers all of these negative aspects of the creative process, but balances that with a very true-to-life examination of the positive aspects. Main character Yatoa Yaguchi is an excellent student who struggles with aimlessness and emptiness. After entering an art competition seemingly on a whim, he awakens to his own innate talent and develops a new enthusiasm for art. The scenes where he feverishly scribbles and paints his chosen subjects really capture the intensity, unpredictability and volatility of the creative process.
We follow his artistic development as he learns how much he will need to set himself apart from his incredibly talented peers to even stand a chance of gaining admission to his chosen art school. Surrounded by other budding artists, he understandably compares himself to them, fighting not just against his own self-doubts but his perception of art and the meaning of creativity. I particularly like his slightly bonkers teachers. (Have you ever met an art teacher who was entirely sane? No? Didn’t think so.)
Although it looks likely to follow a very rote Shonen (boys’ manga/anime) formula where Yaguchi must strive hard to level up his chosen skill by fighting against both his own self-perceptions and his rivals, I find this particular subject matter hits very close to home. It’s a great show, and I’m glad that Netflix are (sort-of) simulcasting it worldwide, rather than consigning it to Netflix Jail for several months as they did with shows like Beastars and Carole and Tuesday. Along with this season’s Komi Can’t Communicate, I believe this is the first time that Netflix has attempted the weekly anime model in the United States, though everywhere else got weekly Violet Evergarden back in 2018. We get episodes on a two-week delay after their Japanese broadcast, but it’s definitely better than before.
My Senpai is Annoying: episodes 1–6 of 12 (FUNIMATION, Saturdays)
24-year-old Futaba Igarashi is short, even by Japanese standards. Perpetually mistaken for a child by strangers, even in her office job her coworkers tend to talk down to her. What’s a feisty, tsundere, green-haired little gremlin to do when the towering wall of meat that is her senior coworker (and secret object of romantic affection) Harumi Takeda (the “Senpai” of the title) frequently pats her head and gives her weird complements like “if I ever have a kid, I hope they’re a lot like you?”
It’s essentially a will-they-won’t-they/odd couple comedy setup with Futaba becoming increasingly frustrated by her friendly but oblivious senpai… In the background there’s also a sweet budding romance between popular office woman Toko Sakurai and shy, spacey Sota Kazama — seemingly the only office male who hasn’t sexually harrassed her.
With gentle humour and well-realised (though fairly archetypal) characters, Senpai is a relaxing, uncomplicated and amusing workplace romance. It’s certainly not my idea of appointment viewing, but it’s diverting enough that I don’t begrudge giving 24 minutes of my time per week for it to make me smile at the funny little gremlin and her giant (not quite) boyfriend.
Mieruko-chan: episodes 1–7 of 12 (CRUNCHYROLL, Sundays)
I’ve been looking forwards to this anime ever since fellow AniTAY author Thatsmapizza recommended the manga (which I have not yet read — sorry, Pizza!). The titular Mieruko-chan (literally: “girl who sees”) is Miko Yotsuya, a teenage girl with the unfortunate “gift” of supernaturally enhanced sight — she sees undead spirits. Everywhere. In the street, at school, at home, in the bathroom… Poor girl never gets a break. This explains her perpetually exhausted expression, bags under her eyes, as she spends her entire life pretending she can’t see any of the hideous rotting abominations that surround her. Of course they’re invisible to normal mortals.
In Japanese folklore, wandering spirits like these can’t affect you unless they know you can see them, hence the spirits’ frequent monotonous groans of “you can see me, right?” The show hasn’t ever detailed what will happen if Miko ever reveals her skill to any of these ghostly horrors, but considering how utterly gross some of them are, who can blame the poor girl for feigning ignorance? Many of the spirits appear harmless, like funny little men attracted to shiny pennies under vending machines. Others are far more sinister — hulking, mishapen monstrosities who devour other spirits whole.
The first few episodes are pretty episodic, but there’s clearly some kind of overarching plot brewing in the background. Miko’s best friend Hana is a literally shining (but spiritually incognisant) girl whose aura both attracts and damages evil spirits (it seems to be fuelled by sugary sweets). New gloomy mushroom-obsessed girl Yulia also sees spirits, but only the low level ones, not the gargantuan demonic grotesques that torture Miko’s tenuous grip on sanity. Yulia’s misinterpretation of Miko’s terrified, silent denial sets up some extremely funny gags.
Mieruko-chan’s tone is extremely inconsistent, but this seems deliberate. It juxtaposes typical anime slice-of-life mundanity with creeping dread and gross-out horror. This tonal disconnect drives the entire show fantastically well, even through some of the slower moments. I do feel the timing could be tightened up a bit, as some sections do drag. There’s usually at least one entertaining “WTF just happened?” moment per episode, plus a surprising amount of pathos. Not every spirit appears to be evil.
The show certainly isn’t as dumb as it looks like it should be, despite an uncomfortable number of ill-placed, criminally horny instances of jarring fanservice that distracts from both the more mundane and horror tones the show straddles. Finally, both OP and ED are hysterically well-suited, with the opener a pop-fuelled panic attack and the ending a (literal) scream. I look forwards to every episode and cannot recommend this enough.
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2: episodes 12–18 of 23 (FUNIMATION, Sundays)
As long as you can tolerate the fact that main character Rudeus remains an off-puttingly irrepressable pervert, Mushoku Tensei remains in the running for Anime Of The Year. Seriously, this is a stunning show with gorgeous production design, beautiful art, incredibly expressive and efficient direction, atmospheric music, compelling and detailed worldbuilding, complex, layered characters and a fascinating plot. I’m struggling to decide which Isekai show I love more — this, or Re:Zero. Both shows start with extremely irritating protagonists that take a long time to improve and develop into functional human beings, though Re:Zero’s Subaru was never as misanthropic nor as disgusting as Rudeus.
Thankfully, Rudeus does show signs of personal growth, mainly through the consequences of his awful mistakes. I think I should probably give up on him becoming any less off-puttingly horny any time soon, though. At least that part of the show mostly takes a back seat to the skillful storytelling that explores very real emotions, complex family dynamics and cultural struggles. Recent episodes have featured long-delayed reunions between various sets of characters, all depicted with startling and unexpected complexities and nuances, in service to the overall themes of “everyone makes mistakes, but everyone also deserves a second chance”.
Every character has deep flaws, hidden desires, mistaken beliefs and selfish drives. That they remain so empathetic is testament to the incredible writing. So efficiently constructed is every episode that they fly by in what seems like five minutes. I want to spend more time with these characters, warts and all. I want to see them grow and develop, to overcome their struggles — both internal and external. To do so will require much of tolerance of their sins and failures, but isn’t that so like real life?
The very best fiction tells us not just about the fantasy world it depicts on the surface, but it holds up a mirror to us here in the real world, reflecting our own imperfections and inspiring us to accept and forgive those in others. Disgust is a powerful emotion, and it takes a rare story to utilise it in such a raw, prominent way. It’s normal, even expected, to feel disgust at Rudeus. The author is looking for us to look past our initial response, to the human being behind the perversion, who is trying very hard to be better. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone indeed. None of us is perfect, we all have aspects to our personality that we would feel mortally ashamed of were they to be publicly uncovered. Mushoku Tensei understands that aspect of human nature so accurately that it hurts.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train Arc: episodes 1–5 of 8 (CRUNCHYROLL, Sundays)
What, exactly, is the point of chopping up 2020’s all-conquering international megahit Demon Slayer: Mugen Train movie into itty bitty bitesize episodic chunks and delaying new material until December? Cold, filthy, capitalistic greed. There’s no creative or artistic upside to this double-dip of flame-hashira-flavoured tragedy. A common criticism of the movie was that it seemed like multiple TV episodes rammed together to make an oddly-structured movie. Unfortunately dismembering said movie into 20-minute vignettes robs the story of any consistency or build up, resulting in something that’s… boring?
Perhaps I’m biased because I saw the movie in the cinema and really enjoyed it. Now I’m just underwhelmed by this padded, inferior version. Not only does it now have (admittedly very cool) opening and ending sequences rammed into every episode, it has excruciatingly poorly animated (likely stylistically deliberate), extraneous end scenes where the characters jokingly riff on the episode’s events. That cuts down the actual story scenes to around 18 or 19 minutes per 24-minute episode, and those scenes often end at completely arbitrary, artificial points.
In terms of continuity, the Mugen Train Arc follows on directly from the end of season one, so I guess this TV version may be valuable for all three Demon Slayer fans who didn’t see the movie. It seems even more extraneous when you realise that Crunchyroll are streaming both the subbed and dubbed versions of the film at no extra cost to subscribers. Apart from episode one, which is an anime-original filler episode that introduces the eccentric Fire Hashira Rengoku, I’d advise skipping this TV arc entirely and just watching the film. Nothing worthwhile has been added. It’s incredible how much the brutal surgery performed to make Mugen Train “fit” the TV envelope utterly ruins the experience.
So Many Manly Tears — Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train Review
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Irina, the Vampire Cosmonaut: episodes 1–7 of 12 (FUNIMATION, Sundays)
Set in a version of Russia in the late 1950s at the dawn of the Space Age, Irina combines alternate history, grounded science fiction, The Right Stuff-style aeronautical training, slow-burn romance and supernatural fantasy to make a compelling anime mashup. It’s a lot like The Wings of Honneamise, but with vampires and without the ill-advised sexual assault. From what I can tell, the science and engineering is very accurate, and the fact that the main character is a vampire is mainly so the story can act as a commentary on racism. There’s no supernatural horror in this at all.
I’ll be writing about Irina in more detail in the upcoming AniTAY collab The Anime of Fall 2021 You Should Be Watching, so keep an eye out for that soon!
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Ganbare Douki-chan!: episodes 1–9 of 12 (CRUNCHYROLL, Sundays)
From the unparalleled auteur that brought you 2019’s Miru Tights comes a slightly less voyeuristic short anime. If anything, it’s surprisingly wholesome. The titular Douki-chan is a twenty-something office lady who is in love with her (strangely eye-less) male co-worker. Unfortunately they’re both extremely shy and struggle to express their feelings for one another.
Via 5-minute vignettes we witness Douki-chan’s attempts to get her co-worker’s attention, while fending off a more forward younger colleague’s advances towards the poor flustered guy. Douki-chan is extremely relatable, very human, and I really do want her to succeed and get her man. It’s a very chilled, incredibly sweet (and occasionally slightly ecchi) little show and I’d recommend shotgunning through all the available episodes, it’ll only take 45 minutes or so!
Fena Pirate Princess: episodes 9–12 COMPLETE (CRUNCHYROLL, Sundays)
UGH. What a disappointment. Another addition to the Crunchyroll Original Hall of Shame. Despite gorgeous visuals and a great OP, Fena ultimately was a complete and total waste of time. It started so well, until about halfway through it became clear the wheels of its flimsy plot were about to buckle under the weight of too many too many threads, too many characters, and not enough episodes. What I’d hoped would be a grand fantasy adventure instead devolved into a criminally stupid, vague, unsatisfying, inconclusive mess.
Main protagonist Fena was robbed of all agency by a completely bullshit binary choice in the incoherent climax, along with idiotic retcons about how “everything she had done had been planned from the beginning”. Hooray. Well done. Slow clap, writers. If I wanted to watch the adventures of a wooden puppet, I’d have stuck to Pinocchio. Fena’s supporting cast fared little better, with perhaps the most ponderous, turgid love interest in the history of anime in the form of the deeply un-empathetic Yukimaru. The rest of the “Samurai Seven”/“Goblin Knights” were nothing but simple tropes or character traits given form. The less said about the completely pointless and creepy blonde antagonist guy the better. I wish I’d never bothered watching Fena, it built up my hopes only to cruelly dash them against a wall of mediocrity.
Bonus! Tardiness Corner of Shame:
My Hero Academia Season 5: English Dub (Funimation)
Normally I’d watch MHA subbed as it is first broadcast and then watch the dub at a later date with my 10-year-old son. This time, I’d already read some portions of the manga to be adapted, and found it boring as hell. Yes, the Joint Training Battle Arc was what made me (temporarily) quit reading the manga, and I was not enthused about enduring the animated version.
With the recent release of the third MHA movie, and with Funimation finally completing their dub, I decided it was the right time to catch up on season five’s dub with my sub-hating son. Turns out that binging it over a period of a few days was definitely the best way to experience this worst season so far, mainly to get it out of the way. If I was to use a single word to describe season five it would be “setup”.
The Joint Training Battle Arc is overlong and fills twice as many episodes as it should. The Endeavor Agency arc happens earlier in the show than in the manga, mainly to make the Meta Liberation Army Arc the climax. I totally understand why they did this, but it makes the plotting and structure extremely messy, when there’s a discombobulating flashback to “two months ago, this was what the bad guys were doing…” It also makes placing the second movie into TV chronology even more difficult than it should be. (It now looks like Heroes Rising and World Heroes Mission basically happen immediately one-after-the other. It… doesn’t really work.)
Despite the wonky structure, this final segment (which doesn’t even feature any of the main characters) is exhilarating and entertaining, and succeeded in making me excited for the eventual season six. I’ve even started to read the manga again, skipping the boring volume where I got stuck before. It’s just a shame that the entire fifth season exists only to setup the next one. Twenty-five episodes of transitional material… it’s not that great.
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I doubt I’ll have enough time to catch up with any of these, but my AniTAY colleagues all seem to be enjoying Rumble Garanndoll (FUNIMATION, Mondays), The Heike Story (FUNIMATION, Wednesdays), Taisho Otome Fairy Tale (FUNIMATION, Fridays) and Shikizakura (HIDIVE, Sundays.)
As I write this, Crunchyroll has also just released the first couple of episodes of Blade Runner Black Lotus. I’m kind of interested, as the original Blade Runner is one of my favourite movies, but I’ve never got around to watching Blade Runner 2049.
Netflix will also drop the first twelve episodes of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean in December, so I’d better save time for that. Finally, as something of a closet Mark Millar fan, I might check out Netflix’s upcoming anime adaptation of Super Crooks. I read the comic about a decade ago when it was serialised in the UK newsstand mature comic anthology CLiNT. Have any other Scottish comics authors managed to wrangle an anime adaptation ever before? It may be worth watching purely for the novelty value. Hopefully it won’t be as awful as 2011’s terrible Marvel Comics anime adaptations…
See you again at the end of the season!
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