Today I keep on rolling rolling rolling through my lists of anime that I haven’t watched yet to find something promising. This time I ended up with a mix of complete despair and hope for humanity, leaving me pretty balanced out in my usual moderately depressive state. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So let’s get started with:
Starting with a nice and dark one, an adaptation of a manga series about two young girls who are orphaned (I think at least that’s implied) by a massive world war and are forced to search the ruins of civilization for food and other resources to survive. Chito drives their small commandeered military vehicle, while Yuuri rides in the back and takes gunning duties (though who exactly these girls might have to shoot is still a mystery.)
The dynamic between these two is interesting; they’ve clearly been together for a while and know each other well, and it’s implied that they were friends back during the war that tore humanity apart. They also have a nice contrast going, with Chito being the levelheaded, calm one and Yuuri the impulsive weirdo. The one aspect of Girls’ Last Tour that I might have to get used to is the artstyle — Chito and Yuuri are designed in this super-deformed cutesy Hidamari Sketch-looking style like you’d expect out of a light slice-of-life show like that, but everything around them is realistic-looking and drab. That contrast definitely feels intentional, but I don’t know if it works for me that well.
I’ll still probably keep watching this at some point, though. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, so when I’m in the mood for something soul-crushing again I’ll pick it back up.
Also known as Mawaru Penguindrum, but on Hi-Dive/VRV it’s just listed as Penguindrum so I guess that’s what it’s titled over here. This is one I remember being talked about a long time ago but that I never got around to watching. Two brothers Shoma and Kanba live alone with their terminally ill younger sister Himari. One day they all go to an aquarium at Himari’s request, and while there she collapses and is declared dead by emergency services.
The brothers are devastated, but they get a real shock when Himari is revived seemingly by a miracle. Somehow, the penguin hat she was wearing at the time that she bought at the gift shop contains the spirit of a penguin princess girl (this is my best guess of what she is at least) who briefly possess Himari’s body and speaks through her, telling her brothers that they have to find the Penguindrum, whatever the fuck that is. Said penguin princess is also keeping Himari alive for the time being, though she either can’t or won’t maintain her power for very long, so the clock is ticking for her. The boys have no idea where to find this Penguindrum thing, but thankfully they and their sister have help in their search in the form of three seemingly intelligent penguins, each assigned to assist one of them.
I don’t know if any of that made sense to you. It barely did to me and I just watched the thing. But as I’ve said before, I like weird stuff like this, and Penguindrum promises a lot in its first episode that I hope it can keep up. This isn’t produced by Studio SHAFT, but I get a SHAFT-y vibe from the general weirdness of the show so far, especially the trippy sequence where the brothers are first confronted by the princess, and for me that’s a good thing. I just hope the show doesn’t get bogged down in a lot of extremely heavy drama, because my tolerance for that kind of stuff isn’t that high (though it depends on how interesting it is too.) Penguindrum is looking good so far, though.
Another penguin-related anime, though none have showed up yet (aside from one stuffed penguin toy at the beginning, which was a nice touch.) I’ve only ever heard good things about this series, so it’s one that’s been on my to-watch list for a while. A Place Further Than the Universe is centered on high school student Mari, who wants to make the most of her youth but is afraid of the consequences of taking any risk at all to the point that she feels she hasn’t done anything worthwhile. That changes when she runs into Shirase, an older classmate who’s determined to go to Antarctica to find her missing explorer/author mother. Mari, sick of being afraid of taking risks, agrees to go with her.
Everything about this series is promising: the characters seem pretty compelling, and I like the course of the story so far. There’s a lot of that youthful wonder about the world that ends up being completely destroyed and replaced with bitter resignation after you become an adult (or maybe that’s just my experience?) It’s nice to see, anyway. The production is also very high-quality, as expected of Madhouse — it looks beautiful so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the show depicts Antarctica and to seeing how the story plays out in general.
Somehow I didn’t watch any of this show for over a decade after it aired, not until just last week. It’s one of the only mahjong-centered anime series I know about, the other one being Akagi, which is one of my favorites of all time (and I think that silly-looking one about former Prime Minister Koizumi playing mahjong against other world leaders might have been animated too?)
But I’m happy that I finally got around to remembering this show exists and picking it up, because it seems like a good time. And much like Akagi, it seems like mahjong itself isn’t the main point of the show, but just a template to tell a larger story about the characters playing the game. Saki is a new first-year high schooler who gets dragged into a mahjong club by her friend, despite insisting that she hates the game. When she plays a game with the club, however, she manages to maintain a score of +/-0 throughout, which is incredibly unlikely. Both the club president and top mahjong ace Nodoka realize that it’s no coincidence; from how she plays, Saki clearly has demonic skills, though for some reason she’s not using them to try to win. They try to get her to return to the club, but Saki seems reluctant. Will she give in and join, and will we discover why she hates the game so much despite being so good at it?
Of course the answer to both questions is going to be yes, since this series goes on for 25 episodes + 13 episodes of what looks like a sequel series, and Saki is the title character of both. And I’ll be continuing it for a while at least. Saki doesn’t seem that different from the typical sports anime so far, and I don’t normally go for those shows, but it might just be my stupid bias at work, because I like playing riichi mahjong (even if I am total shit at it, unlike Saki.) However, the mahjong itself might act as a barrier to entry for some watchers, because it’s a complicated game and the show doesn’t even bother explaining the basics, jumping right into the values of different yaku and han and fu and all that shit. Even Akagi did better in that regard. I was also surprised by just how many fanservice shots were in this episode — plenty of low-angle shots + skirts so short I’d question the school principal’s motives in approving them. This is one of those cases where I completely get the complaints about fanservice that I brought up a while ago.
Even so, I’ll keep watching Saki. It feels like the kind of show I can watch to unwind, even if it does look like it might have some more heavy drama later on regarding Saki’s family situation.
And now I have enough series to watch that I probably don’t need to do more of these for a while. However, I still have anime in the backlog that I intend to get to at some point, including a lot of “how the fuck haven’t you watched this” ones like Konosuba and some I know I want to watch like the new Higurashi series. Teasing Master Takagi-san is the first newly-finished one this year I’ve gotten around to writing about (and it’s very worth watching if you haven’t read that post) but I’ve got some others lined up as well that I’m partly or all the way through by now. I just haven’t been able to write anything coherent about them yet.
More game-related posts are also on their way, so don’t worry about that — I haven’t gone through a total format change here like radio stations used to do back when people listened to AM/FM radio (do you remember those days, or am I just getting old? The 90s seem so far away now.) I also plan to get done with that Megami Tensei post series soon, though maybe using a very liberal definition of the word “soon”. See you all in a while.