Monday, December 17, 2018

Helen's 12 Days of Anime 2018: Spring 2018 anime round-UP

Moving right along, my spring slate of anime might look fuller than my winter plate but actually I think they were pretty similar since I had a couple of continuing series which I didn't talk about last time. And there were a few shows which I dropped that I haven't included, like Record of the Grancrest War, thinking of doing an entire post just on my dropped shows but it feels a little petty.

Also, I've got two Netflix shows this time around, HisoMaso and A.I.C.O. and I included them both in this spring round-up for two different reasons. A.I.C.O. was an easy addition since Netflix dropped all of the episodes in a single day, worldwide, and this was the show's very first release. However, while HisoMaso wouldn't hit Netflix until this fall I actually followed the fansubs for this series during the spring (because like hell I'm passing up any series with dragons in it). I'm trying to be consistent in how I construct these posts but man, Netflix is just not making it easy for me!

Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan: On the one hand, I'm glad that this story about young women in the JSDF who pilot dragons via dressing them up as military planes and pilot them from the dragons' stomachs flew a little under the radar and didn't have the full force of The Internet judging it. Mari Okada's works tend to attract more criticism than they should in general and HisoMaso's story about relationships, love, and jealousy was one that I honestly wasn't sure was going to stick the landing until the last episode. I was perfectly fine keeping up with the show and waiting until it ended before I collected my thoughts on it but I know that plenty of people would have been trying to tear the show apart by week three or four if the show had been more widely available.

And yet, I'm also sad that not as many people saw this show! The six-month gap between when it first aired on television and when Netflix released killed a lot of interest in it I think and, with the increasing number of "Netflix originals" out there, it's just really hard to keep up with their anime. HisoMaso ended up being a really great show, one that took a complicated approach the themes of love and jealousy and I think honestly nailed it in the end. Here's to hoping it gets a "wider" release someday!

A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-: Speaking of Netflix shows that most people seem to have accidentally missed, this body-horror sci-fi adventure from BONES was the perfect show to binge with its tense pacing, appropriate number of twists, and high stakes as high school student Aiko tries to undo the catastrophe that was accidentally triggered by the experimental surgery she underwent. It honestly felt like a bit of a throwback as far as sci-fi goes, in a good way where the show had more or less one focus and kept strictly to that, and the show looked fantastic as well. As with most of the Netflix stuff I watched this year I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed for a physical media release!

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku: First off, I would like to make the obligatory "love doesn't look too hard for these nerds" joke. Narumi and Hirotaka start dating immediately, Kabakura and Hanako have been together for years, and, well Naoya isn't even a nerd so really he shouldn't even be in the same category here. Yes, Hanako and Kabakura have some really nasty, mean fights in their relationship but that's more of a "relationship issue that isn't exclusive to nerds." Also holy cow they need to talk out a number of issues, go to couples counseling or something. Those were easily my least favorite scenes in the show and they felt really tonally dissonant since the fights are basically never brought out in outside scenes afterwards.

Other than those scenes, which I can totally see being a dealbreaker for some who've been through relationships with similar fights, this was a fun, fluffy series about a couple of nerds who are able to unwind around each other. I did think it was a little funny how quickly they started "dating" (Narumi doesn't seem as thrown as she should be that yes, Hirotaka has had a massive crush on her for years and really wants this to be ACTUAL dating, even though that's not what either of them went into this relationship thinking about) but Narumi and Hirotaka seem to be on the same page for most of the story so I'm not overly bothered by this. 

Also, easily one of the catchiest OP songs this year, this show is a fun bop basically all the way around!

Megalobox: Since this is the 50th-anniversary project for Ashita no Joe/Tomorrow's Joe, an anime I'd never seen and had never been terribly interested in seeing, I initially passed this show by until I saw it getting an insane amount of good buzz online. So I checked it out and the show totally deserved all of the buzz it got! One of the beauties of sports anime is that they often get me interested in sports I previously knew nothing about* and Megalobox showed me how the appeal of boxing is that it's a fast-paced endurance sport that demands both strength and some flexibility to excel in. I don't think I'll ever be interested in watching or participating in real boxing (just not that fond of any sport which involves purposefully putting fast moving objects near faces) but I can at least understand now why so many people like boxing. The show also had a great sense of style, it was purposefully filtered to look like an older show (seriously that film grain is spot on) and Joe's world felt organically rough without being overdesigned. I'm happy that this show is getting streamed on Toonami since I think it's a good fit with that audience and hope it gains even more fans that way.

Devil's Line: I remembered hearing about this Vertical manga title before but I must've had it mixed up with another title since for years I wasn't interested (I think I was confusing it with Imperfect Girl since I first heard about both of them around the same time). Once I tried out the Devil's Line manga I was hooked but since the art isn't always the greatest I was hoping that the anime would look better so I can recommend it instead (it's not a "stylistic choice" it's "oh wow I have seen this panel as a meme about drawing hands, did the manga-ka run out of time to re-draw this?"). Sadly the anime also kinda looks wtf in parts (there's like, a sped-up fight scene in the first episode that left me triple-checking that I hadn't changed any of my settings on HiDive) and this is one of the many manga adaptations of 2018 that just careened through the source material. I understand the cuts they made and generally agree with them but, considering that some of the villains are supposed to be semi-sympathetic bunch yet we don't see their backstories, I just don't think it quite worked. Guess it's back to the manga for me!

Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card Arc: When this anime was announced I thought "geeze, this seems kinda early for it to be getting an adaptation" and "also I don't trust Clamp as far as I can throw them and there's no way I can throw four ladies any distance at all." I haven't been satisfied with anything Clamp has written in ages (seriously it might be since my high school days) and I was cynically wondering if their current series were doing so poorly that they needed to return to an old cash cow and bracing for the worst.

And lo and behold, I! WAS! RIGHT! I'm not entirely sure how much of the pacing can be blamed on the original manga vs adaptational choices but good lord, introducing the actual reason for the plot in the last or second-to-last episode is a TERRIBLE choice to make. Hell, in the very first CCS arc (the Clow Card arc) we know from the get-go that the clow cards are on the loose, Sakura needs to recapture them, and that she's ultimately gonna face a test at the end. In the second arc (the Sakura Card arc) the audience knows early on that Eriol is testing Sakura and even Sakura herself finds out part-way through that she needs to transform the cards to fully complete their transition from one master to another. 

But here, the cards have basically vanished without a reason ever truly being given (making it feel more like a re-hash of the second arc more than anything else), half the cast seems to be aware of what is going on/why it's going on but is pointedly not saying (Eriol and his group are basically avoiding everyone, Shaoran just looks pensive, and even Touya is starting to clue in on things) and it all just feels so contrived. We the audience know that this must all be connected to Sakura's new classmate (because Occam's Razor/Clamp has honestly never been very good at being subtle) but I'm still a little baffled about what is actually going on with that faction and especially how it's tied to Sakura. Keeping Sakura so far in the dark also just feels tonally different from the first two arcs and honestly a bit manipulative too. 

Clear Card Arc ends with so little resolution it's honestly surprising (especially with no announcement for a follow-up season or anything) and I really do feel like this was just adapted too soon, if it had to be made at all. Funny enough, it seems as if this anime adaptation is a sequel to the previous anime adaptations rather than the manga and I actually thought the continuity nods, such as a visit from Shaoran's anime-only cousin Meiling, were some of the best moments in the series. And it's all of that which makes me think that the initial problems lie with the manga, clearly the anime staff had no trouble tweaking things to fit into the continuity they had already created and I'm now even more baffled than when I started for how this adaptation came to exist at this time.

Libra of Nil Admirari: On the one hand I often feel a bit unsatisfied with otome-game anime adaptations in the end since I know I'm not getting the whole story (especially with character backstories) but on the other hand, I know that I would almost never have the patience to date this many guys to get to the good stuff so anime adaptations are the way to go for me! But I wonder if I would have been more invested in this story if I had been playing and making choices instead; Kuze was a really undynamic main character, the story seemed to just get flatter and flatter and I was really losing interest by the end. I do also wish it had been a bit more visually interesting, I love the styling of Taisho-era Japan but I felt like the art design was just splashing a few details onto a generic set-up before moving on. I have no idea how many of these faults come specifically from the anime adaptation or how many were also present in the VN, I just feel like this could've been better!

Tada-kun Never Falls in Love: "This title is aro appropriation" I joke, going into a show knowing full well that there is no way the allos would actually make a show where the main character doesn't fall in love. "Well, these are the same people who made Monthly Girl's Nozaki-kun so maybe I'll like the humor" I said, knowing full well that Studio Doga Kobo hasn't made a show that I've liked in ages. And the show had such a wimpy ending too, really made me feel like I had just wasted six hours of my time.

*(seriously, I can now follow baseball games pretty well thanks to Big Windup, well except for the "American vs National league" differences here in the US)