Geez. I’m breaking personal records this season. Almost 3000 words for 8 anime, and I’m supposed to watch and cover 14. Yikes. I may sound like I’m complaining here but… complaining is going to be the least of my worries when having a handful of great shows to watch week after week.
Net-juu no Susume – Episodes 1 & 2
Pause whatever you’re watching. Pick this show up. Net-juu no Susume isn’t getting the love it deserves.
I wasn’t expecting much when I first came into this show. I was under the impression that it was going to be some run-of-the-mill rom-com harem with a 30-year old NEET cutesy woman as the cover of its appeal. Boy, oh boy, I have never been so wrong.
Yes, it obviously does have those shades of a rom-com anime — which, by the way, it does perfectly — but pretenses aside Net-juu offers something radically genuine. My personal experience with MMO culture and internet identity may serve as a bias in how I appreciate this anime (more of that later), but I’m confident that I’d still love Net-juu for what it is even without drawing context from my own self.
Right off the bat, episode 1 sets the tone and foundation by introducing us to a 30-year old woman who appears to have resigned from her job. She enters her room, breathes a weary Tadaima~, and got greeted by the mechanical hum of electricity and a toy cat bobbing its head. From then on, I ditched whatever silly impressions I had and braced myself for what’s going to be a bleak time following our female lead around… only that the malaise didn’t last for too long. Cue Fruits de Mers.
With the omniscient power of technology nowadays, it becomes easier to immerse ourselves in the digital world and set aside whatever shitty ‘rl problems’ we have. This is universally true specially in the case of MMO culture whose reach now extends to convenient and easy-to-access platforms and devices. What was once suggested as a melancholic narrative immediately shifts to a comical reality in the form of Fruits de Mers, with Net-juu never skipping a beat in capturing how cute Moriko’s reaction is (and how relateable they are) when her in-game character, Hayashi, interacts with Lily and everyone else inside the game.
While the carefree mood of Moriko’s extended reality (the MMO/online side of things) is at the moment in the forefront of dictating which reality pervades which, there are instances wherein Net-juu equalizes the balance by importing real life affairs into the game, a topic which Lily warned against in episode 2. Net-juu‘s take on that big, fat question of WHO, correlative with online identity themes, is something that constantly drives me nuts specially now that the balance is slowly starting to shift the other way — to that melancholic facade Moriko unconsciously buries by immersing herself in the world of Fruits de Mers. The moment where they cross that line separating their realities is something that I’m both dreading and anticipating. If anything, the chemistry between Lily and Hayashi sets it up as if they are the perfect couple (which is half true considering that they don’t know who each other really is yet), but in hindsight Net-juu foreshadows a gray area from both Moriko and Sakurai’s personal lives.
I still have a lot to say on this topic but I’ll save that for later while the story progresses. If there’s one thing that keeps everything intact together, it’s that Net-juu portrays an amazingly lovable cast of characters which made my job of emotionally investing myself a lot easier. Even when the aesthetic shifts to a goofier look when we’re in-game, it manages to retain its function of characterizing the person behind a specific avatar, hence why even when I haven’t met the guild master outside the game yet I already have this feeling that I”ll be chummy with him. Fruits de Mers also acts as an extension in that regard, and, in a way, I guess it’s a fun way we can see individuals under a different light underlining what makes them go back time and again in playing an MMO.
- Ueda Reina is a goddess.
- I’m absolutely conflicted with Lily’s character right now. They shouldn’t allow a character to be this cute. Well, yeah, they can, but Sakurai????????
- Imo Net-juu‘s OP and ED are one of the best in their respective categories. Love that motif they’re using with mirrors and reflections — gives us a look inside Moriko’s headspace. That top-down shot of her spinning on a chair, looking up the ceiling was also fun to watch. I have a soft spot for top-down shots, you see.
- Episode 2 has some subtle character acting sakuga. That’s a welcome addition to an anime that’s already great.
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – Episodes 1 & 2
Memories just get in the way of living.
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou is a lot closer to Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou in essence than with Sora no Woto. Of course, the comfy and iyashikei vibe exudes from all three of them, yet I feel like the former two are more liberal in borrowing the philosophy behind wabi sabi and/or mujo/mono no aware.
Maybe this is because I’m more compelled to consider Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou and YKK within the post post-apocalyptic genre. In the case of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, that vague notion of nothingness, of ignorance, of bliss, whilst wandering architectonic and dilapidated futuristic cityscapes is evocative of wabi sabi’s ideal, the tea ceremony. However, what I’d like to specifically refer to is that which precedes the actual tea ceremony: a tour through the tea garden.
Their designs imbued the gardens with a sense of the surreal and beckoned the viewers to forget themselves and become immersed in the seas of gravel and the forests of moss… The solitary rock surrounded on all shores by a sea of gravel was synonymous with our own existential position, not only with regard to our fellowman but also the eternity that envelops our very being.
This kind of setting is descriptive of a post post-apocalyptic era where characters are seemingly more at ease in their surroundings. Rather than crying over spilled milk with what happened in the past, Chito and Yuuri’s quotidian adventure embraces life as it is with curious eyes. Questions such as “What is war?”, “What is paradise?” are often brought up but not in the purpose of fostering nihilism — that is exactly the opposite of what wabi sabi wants to articulate. Yuuri gave me a chuckle when she acted all cool saying memories are a bother and then proceeded to ruin Chi’s favorite book, a precious treasure from a dead civilization. I’m not exactly implying that she’s right here, but sooner or later, when they exhaust all their reserve of fuel, Chi’s books may likely become a target of argument between the two again. After all… what will be the point of holding onto the past, an era that will forever be buried under a pile or rubble and knee-deep of snow? Is it really that important that you identity yourself with what is long gone and forgotten? I don’t know, but I guess this kind of dichotomy is what makes Chito and Yuuri’s banter fun and interesting. Anyways, this is starting to become Kino levels of deep, but yeah, you get where I’m coming from.
3-gatsu no Lion Season 2 – Episode 1
Same ol’ 3-gatsu, same ol’ 3-gatsu. Yet even when everything else remains unchanged from where we left off last season, my heart swells from seeing in this episode how much Rei grew up. Heck, he even started lecturing a group of grown ups 5 minutes in!
It’s a stark contrast with how he was introduced last year: a detached, pitiable boy painted in shades of black and white. It’s quite easy to read what someone is feeling in 3-gatsu as their emotion — the harsher and pronounced it is — seep through the very fabric of its visualization. This time around, Rei’s mood and disposition is that of a cheery one emanating a colorful and blaring array of hues. As silly as it sounds, after almost a year of absence I was anxious to see how Rei was doing on his end (man, you’ll never know how much I held back reading the manga). I guess I’m just so attached and invested in his character that I’m like this guy who’s constantly worried about his little brother. Suffice to say, I’m really, really happy that Rei’s in good shape, but if anything I’m also glad to that SHAFT is still giving 3-gatsu the red carpet treatment it deserves, albeit they’re bringing a few unusual tricks up their sleeves this episode.
While we can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Rei is doing great on his own, Souya, on the other hand continues to hide behind an enigmatic veil. I know this is an obvious thing to say, but Souya may perhaps become Rei’s counterpart in the latter part of the narrative. The analogy between the saccharine Ramune and the saline mixture Souya is drinking feels somehow like a nudge nudge, wink wink that the two are polar opposites of each other. We still don’t know much about who Souya is, but I’m pretty sure his role in 3-gatsu‘s narrative is implicitly tied together with Rei’s own development.
Houseki no Kuni – Episodes 1 & 2
All right. I honestly didn’t want to start this segment with a rant, but might as well get it out of my system. Seriously, it annoys me that people are treating 3DCGI as if it’s by default a bad thing. No, it’s not bad and it’s not good either — it boils down to how it is used, similar to how we regard traditional animation. “WOW 3DCGI in Houseki no Kuni is actually great” What? So you were expecting it to be bad because muh 3DCGI? Please. “Tch 3DCGI in Houseki no Kuni is a terrible idea” Sure, that’s your opinion, but if majority are enjoying it, surely there’s something in its brand of visual style that made it the charming anime that it is now.
I’m no sakuga nerd but if there’s one criteria I loosely follow when assessing if its usage is bad or not is whether the 3DCGI sticks out. Take Kemono Friends for example. Its aesthetic has been a polarizing topic even up until now but if I were to be asked, its appearance isn’t that offensively bad as what others might say. Pause, take a screenshot, ask yourself if the image reeks of 3D models. Perhaps just by a bit, but given that Kemono Friend‘s characters are mostly static and motionless, it being a 3DCGI anime is the second thing you’ll notice. Want an example of 3DCGI being bad? Take that dog in this season’s Inuyashiki (then again I have to be a bit forgiving with it because of the narrative it entails). Want an example of 3DCGI being perfect? There’s a fight scene in Kill la Kill which was modeled in 3DCGI — I didn’t believe it was until someone told me so. The tanks in Girls und Panzer? Yes, they’re 3DCGI all throughout and sticks out, but we already have this idea at the back of our heads that tanks should move that way. The 3D background character models in Tsuki ga Kirei and Ballroom e Youkoso? Their purpose is to economically fill out empty spaces and give you a sensation that a scene is crowded — they shouldn’t even be the focus of your attention… but yeah, it does stick out from time to time.
Whatever. I’m just going to continue enjoying anime the way I’d like to. Ironically, Houseki no Kuni has one of the most animated cast of characters this season despite it being, you know, muh 3DCGI. Don’t even get me started on Phos. This gem right here deserves a gold medal for having the funniest facial expressions ever. Of course, Phos isn’t just Houseki no Kuni‘s only redeeming quality. I find the lore and technical aspects of its world rather fascinating specially with how tangible aspects of a rock becomes interspersed with high fantasy.
URAHARA – Episodes 1 & 2
While the caveat that watching an anime without subtitles enhances one’s viewing experience is generally true for literally every anime, I feel like this statement applies perfectly into that of my impression with URAHARA. URAHARA is difficult and frustrating to watch despite it sporting a snazzy look. The first two episodes aren’t exactly offensively gaudy or anything, and in fact there were glimpses here and there that it has something noteworthy going on with it. It’s just that keeping track of its quirky and unconventional cinematic style while reading the subtitles is analogous to mixing oil and water.
URAHARA is frenetic. It uses every inch of space and quadrant of the frame to flaunt its chic style, albeit this approach oftentimes yielded a claustrophobic and laborious experience. At one point, when a character speaks you obviously have to read the subtitles, but when something moves or changes in its mise en scène, your eyes has to avert its gaze from whatever you are reading into whatever shit is happening on screen. Its tendency to arbitrarily utilize panelings, pans, zooms, among other techniques while a text is displayed doesn’t help either in making the transitions from scene to scene, images to images, and dialogues to dialogues any less taxing.
Of course, this may sound like a direct criticism of URAHARA, but that isn’t really the case. I mean, after all, an anime isn’t produced while taking into consideration whether the subtitles will look good with the actual animation; or, so to say, the subtitles per se doesn’t help in making the viewing experience any less taxing, not the other way around.
If fact, I tried to watched episode 1 raw and guess what? It. was. helluva. fun. Without my attention divided into half when reading the subtitles, URAHARA‘s snazzy and playful mien comes into complete view. The actual interaction between the characters becomes easily apparent when you have full grasp of how it uses its dynamic cinematography, in service of showing the playful banter visually rather than verbally and/or textually (reading the subs). At this point on, it’s clear that the show has an awful lot of confidence with its style. The creative and unabashed approach is most likely a heads up to Ura-Harakuju’s celebrated streetwear fashion, and, well, I guess it explained why I’m getting this impression that the characters are constantly posing in front of a camera.
Needless to say… it’s still impossible for me to watch this without subtitles. Whatever. I may just rewatch an episode if time permits.
Just Because! – Episodes 1 & 2
It isn’t exactly incorrect to say that it’s reminiscent of Tsuki ga Kirei. They aren’t the same either, but Just Because! may very well follow the same formula as what the former did (no, I’m not talking about advertising LINE)… only lacking the secret ingredients that made this year’s best romance anime a resounding success.
Regardless, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. I don’t really have much to say about this other than I’m totally digging those almost-photorealistic backgrounds as well as that camera chick. Should I even mention I picked this up because of Tawawa on Monday?
Blend S – Episodes 1 & 2
Behind the suggestive pandering and fetishistic premise is a surprisingly fun romp with Blend S‘ cast of characters. It’s quite straightforward with its approach and use of character archetypes, and being straightforward is sometimes what an anime needs to hit the nail on the head. Don’t get me wrong here though. I’m not into sadism, nor little sisters, nor tsundere (I’m into Maika’s duality of being pure and sadistic though), but Blend S makes it so that even when you don’t swing that way, you’d still come to appreciate the unique taste the mixture of its flavors bring. Perhaps what makes this work is that the characters themselves aren’t exactly archetypal (with the exception of the two male staff members) since they’re acting that way with conscious agency — they do it because it’s their job, and seeing Maika struggle between her usual and sadistic persona is part of what makes her a lot more adorable.
Mahoutsukai no Yome – Episode 1 & 2
As everyone else might’ve expected, Mahoutsukai no Yome delivers a dazzling and magical spectacle these first two episodes. I’ve already talked about its OVA a bit which I feel isn’t any different with how the anime handles itself in this TV series. If anything, the only quip I have is that for some reason whatsoever, the penultimate in each of these episodes snaps immediately as if there’s a missing frame/scene in between. This was a lot more obvious in episode 2 where the bemused Chise asked Ains if he was joking about their honeymoon. She closed their vacation house’s door — seemingly a cue to roll the credits and call it a day — and then a minute and a half later she’s soaring through Iceland after being kidnapped by a dragon (I think that’s a wyvern). This quick succession of events felt kinda jarring given that the rest of the episode was perfectly paced. I don’t know. Oddly enough though I still find myself eager to know what’s going to happen next.
I’m supposed to cover Juuni Taisen, Kino no Tabi, Inuyashiki, Dies Irae (plus catching up on Ballroom e Youkoso) but… yeah, I think it’s evident from this post that I already have a lot on my plate. Anyways, not much going on for me this week — it’s anime written all over it, folks. On another note, I was reading a very interesting manga sometime ago. I’d recommend giving DaiDai a try if you’re into inceptions or anything outlandish. It has this dark and morbid undertone similar to Oyasumi Punpun, but the moe aspects keep it from being fetishistic. At one point you have this gruesome incident, yet the next pages shows an oddly serene and unperturbed view. Most of the time, however, it’s like some sort of a urreal, disjointed dream.