Second Semester, Coronavirus, And Me: An Early 2020 Update
Warning: The following post may contain spoilers of various anime series. If you don't want to know what happens in any of the shows I'm talking about in here, it's best if you join me once you've watched the first few episodes of each. But then again, if you want to take that warning with a grain of salt, feel free to stay put.
With that said:
We may be only five months into 2020, but it's really been a year. Coronavirus blew in and created a pandemic, which led to several schools ending their years online and events around the world getting postponed or canceled. People have died, anime has gotten delayed, and quarantine life has gotten tedious at times. However, while Coronavirus has been inconvenient, it's good we've been following social distancing protocols and staying home unless we absolutely have to go out (grocery runs with my parents, for example). It's also given me time to watch more anime, Top Model, and Hallmark movies in the morning, so that's always a plus.
Man, and I really thought this wasn't going to be as big of a deal a week before it really hit, huh?
But enough about COVID. You're here to see what I've been up to with anime, right? Let's get started.
Today, I'm going to catch you all up on five series and two OVAs I've finished in the past four months, plus drop hints on what's to come for this blog and me in the summer. I won't be reviewing four of the anime and the OVAs, so they will be getting scores. However, I am withholding one score since the second half of the season is slated to premiere in July.
It's no secret what it is:
Haikyuu's fourth season.
Remember when I said I was going to do a review of the third season? Well...that's not happening. I did re-watch the season in two days once I got the set and had a review draft up, but school got in the way, and I don't think I'm in the best place to write it now. Regardless, we love an amazing game, we love character development, we love Satori Tendou, and we love new music. 10/10 big shock :O
So far, To The Top is delivering on all of my previous expectations and then some. Taku Kishimoto has been credited with writing the thirteen episodes that have aired thus far, and he's always had a knack at writing thought-out characters and getting to the core of why I adore this franchise so much. The Tokyo Nationals arc is also a great turning point for Hinata in terms of his gameplay. I'm really excited to see where it goes from here and in the manga, since I'm currently about 75% through the Nationals game with Nekoma and he's grown up so much. My precious baby.
Me fanboying about Hinata and this meme have gotten stale, so I'm moving on now.
Outside of seeing Kinoshita get more screentime with a full character arc incoming, it's still a lot of fun to see these characters continue to change and just have fun. The new animation style may not be as smooth as the original one, but it still holds up and shows how the characters have evolved with Furudate. The music is still amazing and holds a special place in my heart. The new pieces Yuki Hayashi and Asami Tachibana have composed slap so far, and I can't wait to hear them outside of the series...whenever that's going to be. Same goes for the second cour, but that depends on how COVID's impacted production. Leaving off at the start of the Inarizaki game was evil.
I also made sure to watch the Land vs. Sky OVAs (which Crunchyroll was able to pick up), so I'll give my quick thoughts below:
It's understandable why these two games were cut from the main anime. Since we care more about Karasuno as a team since our lead characters are on it, Nekoma's own journey may not seem as important to some viewers. I'm still happy these got animated, though, despite feeling like the production company could have green-lit another episode. Nekoma and Fukurodani's game was jammed into the first episode and didn't have as much impact as it did in the manga, but I did like the Nohebi game even though aspects of that were cut as well. If we had another episode, not as much content would have been scrapped, but Production I.G still managed to get some of the best highlights.
This was also the first thing they animated in my eyes because someone on the animation team copy-pasted Shiratorizawa's cheerleaders and didn't re-animate them. Their clothing was a different color, but I still caught it. The staff was also getting used to the new style, but like with the new season, there weren't a lot of off-model moments, and things still flowed well. Kazuyuki Okitsu made for a great Daishou, the focus on Nekoma was a nice change of pace, and the first episode produced my favorite subtitle of all time ("Lev! Stop flailing your arms around! I can't dig the damn ball!"). While this may be Haikyuu's weakest animated property, it was still a lot of fun.
This is a ray of light in BL. It's only eleven episodes, so it's an easy binge (I watched it in five days), but what this promotes for the genre is amazing. Not only do we get a healthy relationship that develops over time, but there's a lot of promise in the secondary couple that the manga and movie are going to explore. It makes me so excited to stick around. All of the four leads are developed well, too. No one is taken for granted, and I'm happy with how Yuniko Ayana adapted the manga (even though I haven't read it yet). She did a great job at hitting every comedic and emotional beat to make me really care for these characters and their journey as a band. Akihiko is my favorite design and voice-wise, but Ritsuka's tsundere aspects and awkwardness at handling his first relationship are so endearing. Haruki crushing on Akihiko while worrying those feelings could be unrequited never failed to make me laugh every time. Mafuyu may be tender and soft-spoken, but his past unravels a nice layer of complexity to his character and makes you care for him.
As for the animation, I could give all the gold stars to Lerche. There was so much time and effort put into making this series look beautiful, and it shows. The lighting, the scenery, how the buildings are drawn. The score and voice acting also knock it out of the park. You aren't prepared to hear Shogo Yano sing.
I think it's safe to say that out of the new anime I've watched this year, Given tops them, and I don't think anything's going to knock it off its pedestal. If you haven't watched this yet, I'd highly recommend it.
I first heard about this show in 2011. Well, saying "this show" might be too broad, but I knew of Hitagi Senjougahara. She was the host of an Anime's Next Top Model by one of the most prolific users in the Top Model community after Yuuko Ichihara, and I was immediately drawn to her. I saw bits of the first episode a while ago, but when I decided to watch this show on a whim during spring break, I was interested to see where it would go. After all, I had heard a lot about the series and its stylistic choices for years now.
Bakemonogatari is weird. The animation is cool, and I love how Shaft took this project on and gave it life of its own, but this is an anime that won't fit everyone's taste levels. There are a lot of puns, most of the show moves through dialogue, and some of the arcs aren't as interesting as the others. However, I still liked getting to know more about Araragi's classmates and getting a feel for the show that's built a name for itself among many viewers. It's fun, there were several great moments, and the score was amazing. It really captured the feel of the show and the franchise as a whole. The dramatic moments in Tsubasa's arc, for example, really benefited from Satoru Kosaki's work. While I'm not planning on watching the rest of the series (that's a lot of content I'm not committed to, I'm afraid), I did enjoy the time I had with this.
Shakugan no Shana's third and final season.
This was the best option for me when classes started up again after my two week spring break. I had accidentally put it off long enough and was ready to see how this show ended. Yuji turning evil? That was something I had to see play out.
Potential hot take incoming: This was my favorite season of the main show. The war between Flame Hazes and Bel Masque was a lot of fun and easy to follow, despite having too many new characters to follow with some of them getting bare bones development. I could be invested in a battle, but then the show would jump to characters or subplots I didn't care about as much, and go:
I'm also happy the love triangle was resolved, and if we got any angst, there were higher stakes. Yuji's growth is great to analyze, and I'm happy he and Shana ended up together. I'm also happy Margery and Keisaku's romantic arc got resolved, even though there's a big age gap. It was fun to see where J.C.Staff went after being away from the show for a year and half. There was more fluidity and use of lighting and color. The score also continued to have its great moments and helped glue my attention to the screen during those early mornings. Breezing through this show in a week and a half? Easy.
Outside of the new characters, I was a little disappointed in how the ending turned out. Not because Bel Masque got what they wanted (which was a surprising twist), or Yuji thinking he wasn't worthy to be with Shana after creating Xanadu because he destroyed things she cared about, but the act of Yuji and Shana leaving for Xanadu. The fact that their classmates' memories of the two will gradually fade away as time goes on? That makes me kind of sad. Yeah, the first half of Season 2 was slow because of school shenanigans, but there were some cute moments in there. Regardless, I'm glad this series finished strong, and I'm looking forward to tackling more shows like this in the future.
Never forget a minibus being used as a means of escape.
This is the weakest out of the material I watched for this post. Created by the same team behind DearS, Rozen Maiden, and Shugo Chara, I had seen this show floating around the web but wasn't fully on board to watch it until the same friend who got me into Haikyuu put Chika in her uninteractive Anime's Next Top Model cycle. Granted, he was the first boot, but his design pulled me in, and I was down to watch the anime at some point in the future.
Like Pandora Hearts, this show is aesthetic first and foremost. However, unlike Pandora Hearts, which had good moments now and then, Zombie-Loan got buried beneath its aesthetic and struggled to climb out. The story's at least semi-interesting. Each arc was good and ended well (we don't talk about the gollum girl getting shot). Parts of the characters were fine. The art style was cool in a grungy kind of way. I prefer early Hiroyuki Sawano to later Hiroyuki Sawano. But most of my praise ends there.
What really hurts this anime is the lack of character development and mediocre animation. Michiru is one of the worst anime protagonists I've seen in the fact that her power only exists as a means to give her any clout. Besides that, she doesn't do much and flounces around in the background. Chika's my favorite out of the three, but I didn't like how he treats Michiru like a subordinate. Shito's the most developed out of the three, but his development left me a little confused. Outside of that, the other characters are only given one trait and poor Koyomi's the problematic type of lesbian at night.
For a 2007 anime, the movement in Zombie-Loan is pretty stiff. Characters don't move smoothly, and frames cut away so the staff can animate less. The designs aren't that consistent between some episodes, and despite some shiny colors, the color palette makes the show rather dull. There were also a couple of times when the anime tried to be "deep," but it failed because a show like this hitting pretty serious questions while stumbling on various aspects did not work. As a whole, this was meh, and outside of Chika and the score, I'm going to forget about it in a month or two.
Now onto the separate OVA project:
This isn't a ray of light in BL, but it's quite fascinating. I first heard about this franchise through a Haikyuu fanfic which threw the characters into this scenario. A new student transfer to an all-boys school out in the mountains where the Photography Club isn't actually the Photography Club but actually a sex club? Should Yarichin go into the dumpster fire because of that?
Well, yes and no. You need to go into this anime (or the manga, which I think is a bit stronger) completely detached. Consent is brushed aside, things get really weird, and we get on-screen sex that doesn't hit the levels of Sensitive Pornograph (genitalia is censored) but does jump past other OVAs. This was supposed to get three episodes, but it's clear the last one's been pulled. So after reading the first two volumes of the manga and finishing Bakemonogatari, it was off to the yaoi racetrack!
This show has its fun moments. The love triangle between Tono, Yu, and Kyosuke is complete catnip. Ogeretsu Tanaka and the OVA writers tease there's more to Kyosuke than meets the eye, which helped keep me interested. I also liked the animation and that this got a fair budget. For GRIZZLY's first project, there was enough energy put into the episodes that brought Tanaka's style to life in a fun way. I also like the side characters and how they're not just tropes, but I have a special place in my heart for Tamura:
I'm sensing a pattern here:
That's why. Everything links back to Ryoko these days. Regardless, I like a guy who has a great design, is played well by Yuki Ono in the OVAs, and who sucks at telling his crush how he feels outside of insults.
The OVAs bring out more of the vignette style of the manga, but it doesn't work as well in an episode format. It makes scene transitions a little choppy, and I didn't feel as invested in some of the scenes. Tono is also a pretty flat lead. While his over-the-top reactions are funny at times, his personality doesn't feel like one that can grow with the story. Outside of some of the sex comedy falling flat, I think the adaptation change of bumping Jimmy's arc earlier in the OVA might not have been the best choice. He doesn't really appear in the second episode, and his and Ayato's subplot is pretty important in the manga (Tanaka gives them plenty of focus). The score is also a little flat and not memorable, but it gets the job done. Overall, this was fine. I'm more interested to see where the manga goes in the next volume, though.
For the rest of this summer, while I'm not promising there will be regular updates, you can expect me to post some new reviews. Juni Taisen, Kuroko no Basuke Season 2 (it's been 84 years), Dream Festival, and No. 6 are in my bookmarks, but I also have other anime I'd like to watch. Top Model is also on the agenda, along with more Hallmark movies and Chesapeake Shores. Since we're still in quarantine, I have some more time on my hands. Maybe I can get to that fanfic I've been planning for two years? I also have a project in the works with Luke, which I will post to this blog once we start working on it.
That covers everything. Thank you all for catching up with me! I hope everyone is safe and doing okay in this uncertain time. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and cover your coughs and sneezes. Until next time: