A review of Yuru Camp (S2)

I guess anyone following me on that cursed social platform Twitter or even just here on my site could have seen this post coming. This is actually a first for me, somehow, even after almost nine years of writing on the blog — I’ve never divided a review of an anime series into seasons like this. I wondered whether I’d even have enough to say about the second season of Yuru Camp that I hadn’t already said in my review of the first, but it turns out that Yuru Camp is a surprisingly deep well to pull from.

Or maybe that’s not so surprising. Because while Yuru Camp season 2 continues along with the central cast of girls going camping and sometimes getting into hard situations they have to dig themselves out from, it also shifts a little away from the camping advice aspect of the first season (which gave us plenty of such advice anyway, so that’s all right) and a little more towards character and relationship development. And once again, the obligatory spoiler warning, though there’s not really much plot to talk about in this season either. Might sound strange considering what I just wrote above, but you can have character development without plot development after all.

Even Outdoor Activity Club advisor Toba-sensei has a little character development, this time just getting drunk as opposed to totally wasted. It’s progress!

The second season of Yuru Camp starts more or less from where the first left off, following Rin, Nadeshiko, Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki just after their Christmas camping trip as they go back to their part-time jobs and prepare for their New Year celebrations. Of course, Rin gets some time to travel by herself, heading out on her moped to see the sights out on a scenic cape off the Pacific coast. In the meantime, the rest of the girls keep connected with her and make their own winter camping plans. While Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki head up to a mountain lake on their own, Nadeshiko thinks about following Rin’s lead and trying out a solo journey.

Nadeshiko, all excitement as usual.

Despite the relative challenges they face, the girls manage to get through their trips in one piece thanks to some help both from old and new friends. And as in the first season, the last third or so of this 13-episode run is dedicated to a group camping trip with the whole crew, driven by their teacher and advisor Miss Toba who as noted doesn’t get quite as drunk on the trip this time thanks to her extra responsibilities (and to her students actively taking the bottle from her hand and holding it away from her. Well, I know the feeling.)

I’m sober now, but even I have to admit that while a beautiful sunset is nice, a cup of sake enhances it a bit. There’s no point denying it.

Again, Yuru Camp is pretty thin on the plot and has no conflict aside from a little of the old “man vs. nature” we learned about in high school English class (or in this case “schoolgirls vs. nature”, but Rin is just as capable as any tough woodsman anyway.) But just as with the first season, this works to its benefit, because there’s just as much relaxation to be had in the second season thanks to this light slice-of-life approach.

However, there is that character development I mentioned above, and I think it’s an important part of what kept Yuru Camp fresh for me after 25 episodes. The season starts with Rin’s own backstory, when she started solo camping as a far less capable middle school student, getting advice and support from her mother, father, and most of all her outdoors expert grandfather.

And from fellow campers who are thankfully friendly and helpful.

As the season continues, Rin keeps warming up to her friends and to the general idea of camping as a group, while still cherishing her solo camping routines. As Rin gets more experience in that direction, Nadeshiko gets more in the other with her solo camping adventure, which goes surprisingly well considering how much of a novice she was when we first met her in the first episode of the first season. Rin is heartened to see Nadeshiko taking solo camping seriously, though she does worry about Nadeshiko when she stops answering her phone and even heads out to her campsite on her moped (as does Nadeshiko’s older sister, totally independently) to make sure she’s not dead or anything.

Chiaki and Ena out on the edge of a lake in January. Winter camping is rough if you’re not prepared for it.

Nadeshiko is fine, but this fear isn’t unfounded as we see in the sixth episode, in which Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki try winter camping at Cape Ohmama, which turns out to be far too cold for their gear to keep them warm. After their phone batteries die thanks to the chill, the trio end up pretty much stranded on the edge of a lake, facing the prospect of huddling all together in one tent simply to survive. Thankfully, the always wary Rin is put on alert when she hears where her friends are, knowing better than them how far temperatures drop there, and she alerts their advisor in turn, who heads out to the lake in her car.

This brings me to one of the most interesting aspects of Yuru Camp in general, and one that came up strongly in this season: the camaraderie between campers, even those who are total strangers. While out looking for ways to survive the night, Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki meet and are taken in by a woman and her father out camping in a tent with a proper stove. When Toba shows up following Rin’s call, she’s invited in as well, and they all have an impromptu dinner party out in the woods. This isn’t the only time a stranger comes along to help out one of our main characters, just as we saw in the first episode of this season with a young Rin still learning the ropes, or last season with Toba’s younger sister showing up before any of them knew each other to assist Rin and Nadeshiko with a cookout they were attempting.

It’s not exactly a reliance on the kindness of strangers, since none of the girls were exactly relying on any of these people to come along and help out. Yet they end up benefiting greatly from this sudden help. I don’t know how much of this sort of mutual support between strangers out in the wild actually happens, since as I noted in the last review I’m not a camper or an outdoors person in the slightest. I do know that I was always taught to be wary of strangers when I was a kid, since there was a non-zero chance they’d end up being kidnappers or serial killers or something similar.

You might think I’m just being unnecessarily dark here again, but this really is one aspect of Yuru Camp that I couldn’t connect with in personal terms so well just because of my upbringing. Maybe it was the time and place I grew up in — 90s suburban America was scared to death of murderers stalking the streets and grabbing kids, to the extent that we couldn’t walk down the road to a friend’s house without being secretly watched by our parents. That’s no exaggeration. So the idea of being able to get on a moped and drive for hundreds of miles alone as a teenager, or even several miles down to a lake to camp on my own — it’s unthinkable to me. Maybe that’s still another part of the appeal Yuru Camp holds for me, being able to watch these characters do things I never could have (if I’d even been inclined to in the first place, which I admit I wasn’t. But maybe I would have been if I’d had the chance? You can never really answer a what if.)

Rin and Nadeshiko seeing the sights in Nadeshiko’s old hometown before she moved inland to Yamanashi. Another theme of Yuru Camp I’ve enjoyed in general was the easy mix of old and new friends — no drama or jealousy going on here, just good vibes, which is exactly what I need. Save all that shit for another series.

In my look at the first season, I missed out on a lot of the aesthetic aspects of Yuru Camp, so I may as well mention them here. That was a major oversight, in fact, since this series looks great as you can tell from the screenshots I’ve posted. I’d never even heard of the studio C-Station before watching this anime, but they did a great job with it, really making the Japanese countryside, mountains, and seaside look beautiful. I’ll extend my praise to the character designs too — each character is distinctive with a look that fits them perfectly. I haven’t read the Yuru Camp manga at all, but I imagine that praise should go to the original artist and writer Afro.

Somehow I didn’t bring up the series’ music, either, which is an even worse mistake on my part. Yuru Camp has an excellent soundtrack, with several recurring tracks that stand out like Laid-Back Time and Solo Camp△ Recommendation (there’s that △ I’ve been avoiding all this time!) It’s all or almost all acoustic as well, perfectly fitting the outdoors feel. Though I guess you could drag some speakers into the woods with a power supply if you really felt like it. And don’t skip those opening or ending themes either, like first season’s Fuyu Biyori.

And of course there’s also just as much talk about cooking and eating food as in the first season. I almost fucking cried looking at this just because of how much I wanted it.

I wrote in that last post that watching Yuru Camp made me hate life a little less, and I still feel that way about this second season. But there’s a little sadness mixed in there as well now about possibly missing out on some good experiences myself. Maybe that’s just my general sense of bitterness and lack of gratitude talking.

And also my continued jealousy of access to those natural hot springs. I don’t want to fall into that “grass is greener on the other side” trap but it doesn’t look like any amount of “self-care” you can get where I live can compare to this. The only natural resources we have here aren’t the kind you’d want to soak in.

Well, maybe there’s still time for me to unravel all that stress and bitterness, probably in fifty years once I’m nearly dead assuming I make it that far. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for the Yuru Camp movie that’s supposed to be coming out this summer and for the third season that’s being talked about beyond that. I have no doubt they’ll both be great after watching these first two seasons.

So that’s all for Yuru Camp for now. I have no idea what’s coming up next, but whatever it is, I’ll probably somehow find a way to make it depressing too — until then!

A review of Yuru Camp (S1)

Looks like my new, “original” anime roulette post feature was more successful than I’d first hoped at finding me new stuff to watch, because just four days after landing on Yuru Camp, aka Laid-Back Camp,* I finished the first season. Granted, it was only 12 episodes long, and I still have to watch the second season (along with the upcoming movie whenever we get that) but considering how long I usually take to get through even a one-cour run of anime, this is lightning speed for me.

Maybe I tore through it so quickly because Yuru Camp was something I badly needed to watch. When its first season aired in 2018, it totally passed me by. I wasn’t watching any currently-airing anime at the time, and even if I had been, I’ve always had a bit of a bias against these pure slice-of-life shows featuring “cute girls doing x,” where x is whatever theme the show focuses on (for example, playing music in K-On!, or more usually just living their school lives.) That x in Yuru Camp is camping, which didn’t increase the odds that I’d bother checking it out — I appreciate the natural beauty of the Earth, but I prefer to do that through my monitor in 1080p. I have absolutely no interest in camping myself, so even if it featured plenty of natural beauty, a show about camping wasn’t likely to attract me.

Considering all that, I probably never would have watched Yuru Camp if VRV hadn’t recommended it to me and I hadn’t then landed on its short spinoff Room Camp in my last post. And though VRV is still kind of a piece of shit, I have to thank them, because this is a case where my biases were completely stupid. I loved this first season of Yuru Camp. You know I don’t use that word lightly either, so I’ll explain myself below (and also spoilers, I guess, but the show kind of “spoils” the ending of this season in its very first scene, where I got the above screenshot from, so it’s not as big as deal as it would normally be. This isn’t the most plot-heavy series ever anyway.)

Yuru Camp opens with Rin Shima, a dedicated solo camper heading out to a lake near Mt. Fuji on her bike. Despite still being in high school, Rin already has serious experience going out on her own on extended trips away from home, setting up camp in the woods, by rivers, and on scenic lakes and hills. Even the fact that it’s nearly winter and cold out doesn’t bother her — in fact, she prefers camping during the off-season, when she can feel truly alone in the outdoors.

As Rin approaches the campsite, she sees a pink-haired girl sleeping on a bench at a rest area nearby. She doesn’t think much of this, but after night falls and she returns to the main campsite complex to use the bathroom, she’s frightened by the same girl, who suddenly appears behind her crying for help. After a brief chase back to her tent by the lake, Rin discovers that this girl, Nadeshiko Kagamihara, is new to the area and came up to the campsite on her own bike to see Mt. Fuji up close for the first time. Since she doesn’t have any food with her, Rin shares her fire and a cup of instant ramen with Nadeshiko, who happy accepts.

I only ever ate instant ramen in a shitty dorm room, looks better eating it by Mt. Fuji. Also, the ramen we ate in college didn’t have actual beef in it. Can’t expect much from those 30 cent Maruchan Cup Noodles I guess.

Nadeshiko is eventually rescued by getting a lift from her older sister, but not before giving Rin her number so they can go camping together. Rin isn’t necessarily too hot on the idea, since she’s a dedicated solo camper, but she doesn’t seem very against the idea either. However, she still needs to warm up to that idea a bit. And before she can get that time she runs into Nadeshiko again, far sooner than she’d anticipated, when Rin notices her at school and realizes they’re classmates.

Excited by the prospect of more camping, Nadeshiko has just joined the Outdoor Activities Club or the “Outclub”, a less intense version of the school’s Hiking Club. This Outclub is also dedicated to camping, but without the kind of physical exertion required to go hiking — just nice, laid-back camping.

They’re also headquartered in an extremely cramped, narrow room and don’t have much in the way of funds because there’s only three of them including their new recruit, and good winter sleeping bags are expensive.

When Nadeshiko sees Rin at their school for the first time, she excitedly asks Rin to join the club, thinking she’d be perfect for it given her interests. But no luck: she’s a true solo camper and has no interest in joining up.

Despite this refusal, Rin establishes a friendship with Nadeshiko and starts talking with her more about camping. And on her next solo outing, when Rin tells her old friend Ena where she’s camping over text as she often does, Nadeshiko unexpectedly shows up at the same campsite with her older sister. Rin is surprised, but far from being put out by it, she welcomes Nadeshiko over.

Ena at home with her dog, working behind the scenes to get Rin out of her shell/comfort zone.

As Rin gets to know Nadeshiko better, she also gets a bit closer to Chiaki Oogaki and Aoi Inuyama, the other two members of her club, and eventually after a few more solo outings of her own during which she texts and shares photos with them, she finally caves in. Not to join the club, no — that’s still way too far for her. But she does agree to join them for an overnight Christmas campout along with their newly roped-in club advisor, the new teacher Miss Toba, who takes the opportunity to get wasted (her other name being “Miss Chug” as it’s translated in the subtitles, which is applied in probably the most favorable way possible here.)

It’s not real cocoa without rum in it

That’s all this first season of Yuru Camp has in terms of plot. It’s not much — the actual events of this 12-episode run are pretty thin and there’s no conflict at all to speak of. Unless you count Rin not really wanting to join Nadeshiko in the Outclub, and nobody’s actually bothered by that, so I don’t even count it as a conflict. In that sense, this is very much the expected slice-of-life series.

But what it does have is so good that the lack of conflict or plot or any of that other standard story stuff is made into a positive. Yuru Camp is pure relaxation and comfort, and watching it had almost a healing effect on me. It’s even placed into another category of anime, iyashikei, a term I hadn’t heard before that refers to the healing qualities of a series like this. Healing for the psyche and the soul, I guess, and if that’s the point of Yuru Camp, it worked. Normally, as I’ve said before, I don’t go for this sort of slice-of-life stuff, but there’s something special about this series in particular that made it work for me.

The characters are a big part of this appeal. Even though she loves camping and I don’t, I can extremely relate to Rin’s desire for solitude. However, her contrast with the excitable, outgoing Nadeshiko does a lot to make this show interesting. Yeah, it is the standard “opposite leads” thing (I don’t know if there’s another name for it; I never took any bullshit creative writing courses so it has a proper one for all I know) but done really well. Rin and Nadeshiko’s interactions with their other friends were also always entertaining — I especially liked Aoi’s dry responses to Chiaki and Nadeshiko’s occasionally freaking out, and especially to Toba’s crying over forgetting to bring the proper kinds of booze for their trip. There’s plenty of good comedy in those back-and-forth bits.

There’s also some nice light commentary on weird social stuff, like bringing food over for your sick friend and then being roped into making dinner for everyone when you don’t really know how to cook just because you’re a local and are supposed to know the cuisine by heart. Of course, it all works out somehow.

The fact that the series in this season focuses almost entirely on camping also helps, I think, even though I have no interest in it myself. It was easy to forget at times that it’s sort of technically another school-setting series. Not that that’s always bad; I’ve praised quite a few school setting shows here on the site myself.

But Yuru Camp is something different. Aside from a bit of time spent in the club’s cramped room at school and talk about their final exams before their Christmas excursion, almost all the show takes place out in various campgrounds or on the way to them — at a rest stop, a restaurant, or a hot springs to refresh from the road. The few hot springs scenes throughout especially make me wish I were over there to try them out, since I don’t live on a volcanic island and don’t have easy access to such a thing, and a hot shower doesn’t feel like much of a substitute.

Yuru Camp features a lot of actual camping advice as well. I don’t think I’ll ever find any of it useful myself, but it will probably help out other viewers, especially if this series motivates them to try out camping for themselves.

Another major theme of Yuru Camp I didn’t expect to find was food. This show obsesses over food — it’s almost as much of a cooking series as Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, with dishes drawn and animated in just as lovingly a fashion. And the effect in this series is about the same: it emphasizes the power of shared meals to bring people together, as it does all the members of the club, Ena, and Rin. And even the drunk as hell Toba-sensei, who at least sobers up enough during the end-of-season Christmas camping trip to praise everyone’s cooking.

Also like Today’s Menu, all the food in Yuru Camp made me hungry for dishes I couldn’t make or easily get. I’m not sure how “healing” that was exactly, but I was happy at least to see Rin, Nadeshiko and company enjoying them.

Aside from all the great-looking barbecue and hot pot stuff, they pay tribute to the American classic s’mores, which I wasn’t expecting. I might not be much of a camper, but even I’ve had a few of these over a fire when I was a kid. Also Nadeshiko is a god damn cinnamon roll, more than any other character I’ve seen, and there are a few other contenders for sure.

Aside from all the new and growing friendships going on in Yuru Camp, I liked how the series dealt with Rin’s preference for solitude in general. Ena does push her a bit to get out and bond with Nadeshiko, and then later with Chiaki and Aoi, though always in a subtle way. At the same time, it’s never stated or even implied that Rin’s solo camping is a bad thing in itself, or that it’s a sign of her self-isolation or any such thing.

This is an important distinction, and one that isn’t always made. As much as I liked and still like a series like Nagatoro, for example, the “getting the lead out of his shell” story was almost always put in the context of a budding romance with the girl pulling him out of that self-imposed solitude. That setup works for that sort of series, since it is a romance and we naturally want to see the two romantic interests interact, but I think that approach just would have annoyed me in Yuru Camp (well, maybe you could make the same argument against Nagatoro and similar series, but those have different expectations for their characters.)

Even when you’re physically far from friends, it’s possible to be close.

All of the above helped make Yuru Camp into a real healing experience for me, or at least as close as watching anime can get to comforting the soul or however you want to put it. It might also be useful to you as a bit of camping advice, or even as a travel guide if you live in or are headed to Yamanashi Prefecture, where its characters live and where most of the series’ action takes place.

That doesn’t apply to me, but I still really enjoyed Yuru Camp. I haven’t given out numerical scores for a few years now, and I won’t start again — it works well for some other excellent writers and reviewers, but for some reason it doesn’t for me. However, I’ll give this series a rating in qualitative form: watching Yuru Camp made me hate life a little less. That’s my version of an A+, for what it’s worth.

And who knows, maybe I’ll bother going outside one day.

I’m not sure what I’ll watch next, but it may well be Yuru Camp season 2. I don’t normally break up established series like this, but I’ve heard the second season has a different feel than the first. It also sounds like a third season might be on its way at some point since a film is coming out this year, so I may as well go season by season while I have the time. Whatever I happen to watch and finish next, see you next time.

 

* I’m using the Japanese title now instead because it’s fewer letters to type and I don’t have to fuck with that irritating hyphen, and also because Yuru Camp seems to be how most people here refer to it anyway. Technically there’s also a Unicode triangle △ at the end of that title representing a tent, but I’m not messing with that either.

The anime roulette: part 2

I didn’t expect to be back with the second part of this anime roulette feature so soon. But the first part was a bit of a disappointment, giving me not one series that I felt very much like continuing (aside from Sorairo Utility, but at 15 minutes including the ending it didn’t give anything else to watch.) So I felt like trying again to see if I could get more promising results. I’ve also had a few unexpected days off from work, but since I’m on constant standby, I can’t go anywhere — I’m still chained to my desk waiting for the inevitable flood of documents that will hit sooner or later. Maybe even as I write this sentence… but no, still nothing.

So thank God there’s plenty of other things to do at my desk, all involving looking at a screen just like my job does (I’m sure my eyes will give out before I reach 40; I’ve just accepted this.) The original list of anime recommendations give to me by the assholes at VRV is down from 17 to 12 following the first post in this series. Since that post, my recommendation list has been updated with some new series — it’s specifically filling up with school-setting slice of life-looking stuff now, which is annoying.

But never mind, because I won’t be adding anything new to this roulette. Not today, at least. Maybe I’ll throw in a few new series once I’ve gotten down to seven or eight left to keep things interesting. But I also don’t feel like watering down the original results with new recommendations affected by what I’ve watched in the last week. In other words, I don’t really want to watch more school slice of life series, though YuruYuri honestly looks like it might be all right. Sounds like Asobi Asobase from the description.

Anyway, there’s still enough on the roulette to not have to think about that for a while, so I’ll put the decision off to later. The rules I made up for this feature are set down in that first post, but to recap: if I land on something, I watch at least one episode of it. So more like “the rule” since there’s only one. Here’s what I’ve got to deal with now:

And as before, the full list:

CUE!
DENKI-GAI
Flying Witch
Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu
Is the Order a Rabbit?
Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House
Laid-Back Camp
Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department
ROOM CAMP
Salaryman’s Club
Servant x Service
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

Now for the first spin (or the sixth — I’ll be counting from where we left off.)

Hey, it’s Salaryman’s Club! Nice! Or not nice. I have no idea yet. This is another currently airing full-length series, but that’s all I know about it. Let’s check it out:

Spin 6: Salaryman’s Club

Trains in Japan look so much nicer than the shitty ones we have in my country. Amtrak’s not giving you three fucking bentos on your trip.

Of all the series VRV could have recommended me, “anime about badminton with an all-male cast” is about as far as possible from what I would have expected. I generally don’t watch sports anime (aside from Sorairo Utility last post, and another one I have pending that’s such an unusual case I don’t think it exactly counts as the typical sports series.) And I can’t remember the last anime I’ve watched with an all-male cast since seeing Kaiji well over a decade ago. Maybe an episode of Golgo 13, I think?

But that’s okay, because the first episode of Salaryman’s Club was pretty decent. The protagonist is one Mikoto Shiratori, a young professional badminton player who loses his spot on a big Kyoto bank’s corporate team after failing to perform up to expectations. Shiratori seems to be held back by the memory of his partner on a doubles team sustaining a terrible injury, which still causes him to sometimes freeze up while playing.

Pictured: youthful tragedy

Despite this setback, Shiratori quickly gets picked up by another team representing a drink company, where he’s hired on as a hybrid salesman/badminton player (?) He meets his new colleagues, including a guy he played badminton with in high school and Tatsuru Miyazumi, the other lead of the show and Shiratori’s doubles partner. Shiratori is dead-set against playing doubles because of his old partner’s tragic accident, however, and he has to face up against Miyazumi in a one-on-one match to prove that he can play singles instead.

The most interesting aspect of Salaryman’s Club to me was the “corporate team” setup. Here in the States some big companies do have sports clubs, but nobody outside of the company gives a shit about them. It’s just a team-building thing to do on the occasional Saturday maybe. But the badminton club in this show seems far more serious, like regular people actually watch these matches and cheer on their favorite corporate teams. Is that a thing in Japan? I guess it must be, unless this series is making up a completely fantastic sports-related situation like Keijo!!!!!!!! does (if you were wondering what the non-typical sports series I was talking about above was, it’s that.)

Otherwise, Salaryman’s Club seems like a pretty standard sort of sports anime. Protagonist is a skilled player but has issues related to past trauma, and he needs help to reach his greatest potential through teamwork and friendship. Based on just this first episode, I’d say this series is starting that story off well enough, and with some comedy mixed up to keep things light. Of course, Shiratori also has a near-magical “special skill” of foresight where his eyes glow red (this might just be an artistic flair, sure) and he can instantly tell where his opponent is about to hit the shuttlecock with the accuracy of a computer. From what I’ve seen, it’s also normal to add this kind of “special move/trait” stuff into sports anime.

All that said, I probably won’t watch more of Salaryman’s Club. I’ll just say there’s a reason I started watching Keijo!!!!!!!!, though that series does have more to it than just the obvious appeal (you’ll see what I mean if I get around to it soon.) But that appeal is honestly a big part of the otherwise limited appeal of sports-related shows to me. It’s also an appeal that a sports series full of guys just doesn’t hold for me.

I think this red-haired lady might have had one line, but that’s about it aside from Mikoto’s mom.

Maybe that’s horrifically shallow of me, but I don’t care. I also don’t care about badminton all that much — I think I played it a couple of times as a kid, but I was lousy at it, and I’ve never watched it competitively. I’m way more into tennis. However, if you’re a fan of badminton and/or good-looking anime guys, I recommend you watch Salaryman’s Club, because it seems to have some real quality to it and it’s aimed directly at you.

Now on to the next pick, let’s have a good spin:

What a title. And for the seventh time, I don’t have any idea of what to expect. This series is also currently airing, but I haven’t seen any talk about it. Is it about regular monsters, or maybe monster girls? I guess I’m about to find out.

Spin 7: Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department

Finally, after seven spins, one of VRV’s recommendations actually hits! Took it long enough. One out of seven isn’t a great record, but it’s better than zero (and sure, I liked Sorairo Utility pretty well, but again, it was just a 15-minute OVA. So maybe 1.5 out of seven, because I don’t even know if I’d want to watch a whole series about golf.)

Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department is about title character Touka Kuroitsu, a young scientist working in the R&D department of of a large corporation. Only this corporation is a front for an evil organization planning on world conquest, and Kuroitsu’s department works on developing monsters to destroy their mortal enemy, the hero of justice Divine Swordsman Blader.

Kuroitsu is smart and driven and loves her job, except when she’s forced to work overtime to meet a deadline or to cover for her genius but lazy department head. She also has to work hard to please her ultimate boss Akashic, the massively powerful leader of the corporation who’s also a small girl with a flighty personality, because that contrast seems to be common in these kinds of shows.

Sometimes you’re developing a superweapon to destroy your employer’s mortal enemy, but then your boss has different priorities.

After one episode, Miss Kuroitsu looks like much more of a workplace comedy than an action series. The workplace just happens to be an evil corporation bent on total global domination. But it doesn’t mean they don’t value diversity or the health and wellbeing of their employees. In fact, I’m positive I’ve worked at a couple of far worse places than Kuroitsu’s company. At least their second in command encourages them to take vacation days and to ask for more time on project proposals when they need it.

Communication is key in business

And hey, it looks like this series might get a little spicy in that same more comedic direction, which is fine with me. Although I’m probably not going to be thinking of the kind of Liru-looking wolf girl “Wolf Bete” Kuroitsu and her boss develop in that way, because of a reason you might see if you watch this episode.

Note: this is only happening in this guy’s very active imagination, but it also relates to a nice twist at the end of the episode.

Even though it’s currently airing, Miss Kuroitsu somehow feels like a throwback to the 2000s — maybe it’s that Liru-looking character that partly gives me that impression, or maybe it’s because the series has a bit of an older look to it. Or maybe a lower-budget look. But I’m totally fine with that as well as long as it keeps the comedy up.

I don’t have much else to say about Miss Kuroitsu, because there doesn’t really seem to be much else to it. However, it’s also the first pick I’ve landed on that I’ll definitely keep watching. It reminds me of Jahy-sama, and I liked that series a lot, so it seems like a good bet. And an extra recommendation for those who are into Super Sentai-style shows, because Miss Kuroitsu is full of that stuff. Maybe you’ll notice some references I missed.

Now for the next spin. I’m hoping to start a lucky streak here:

So I landed on ROOM CAMP. But then I noticed it’s still another series of shorts, and also that the title looked a lot like Laid-Back Camp (or Yuru Camp, if you want to be extra-weeb and use the Japanese title; they’re the same show) which is also one of the few series on this wheel that I’m at all familiar with. So I checked, and turns out it’s a spinoff of the full Laid-Back Camp series. And since that’s also on the roulette, and it would be pretty stupid to watch this without context, I decided to just watch the first episode of Laid-Back Camp instead and mark both of them off. I don’t know if this counts as a cheat, but it feels justified to me.

Spin 8: Laid-Back Camp

I know I wrote up at the top that I didn’t want more school slice of life stuff, but maybe I shouldn’t make those kinds of blanket statements about genres in the future. Because even though Laid-Back Camp looks like it might be just that, I also liked the first episode in a way I don’t have to qualify this time, so I consider this another hit. This round of spins is turning out to be a lot more successful than the last one. Maybe my karma’s improved in the last few days or something.

Rin Shima is a student living out in the countryside who makes a habit of going solo camping. While camping in the cold off-season by the shore of a lake near Mt. Fuji, Rin meets Nadeshiko Kagamihara, another girl she saw on the way to her campsite sleeping on a bench. Nadeshiko, unlike Rin, doesn’t seem to know much about camping, and it turns out she’s a new arrival to the area and got tired on her way to see Mt. Fuji, only waking up when it was pitch-black and ice-cold outside, and on top of all that missing her phone.

This show makes instant ramen look way better than the kind I’ve had

Rin takes Nadeshiko in for a while at her campsite and the two talk and bond a little over cups of ramen until Nadeshiko finally remembers her older sister’s phone number to call her for a lift. And of course, a few days later when school starts, Rin sees Nadeshiko at the entrance, because these look like the two central characters of the series (or anyway, they’re both on the cover of the manga volume I saw, which is also a good indicator.)

Laid-Back Camp might have a similar setup to other school-based slice of life shows, but two aspects set it apart from the standard kind so far for me. One of these is the fact that it’s about more than just some students hanging out and talking about whatever comes to their minds with its focus on camping as a theme. Laid-Back Camp even seems to feature some actual advice for campers (which I’ll never use myself, since I’m about as likely to go to the woods for any reason as I am to fly to the Moon.)

This advice seems more trustworthy than the survival guide stuff in Are You Lost? at least.

I also like Rin a lot so far. Any character who loves solitude this much is one I can relate to, though it does look like Rin’s solitude is about to be broken, at least sometimes. There’s a massive contrast between her and the chatty, excitable Nadeshiko, which might also make for a nice dynamic between them.

So I’m putting Laid-Back Camp in the “keep watching” list. I think I’ll save this one for those times I wake up at 2 am and can’t go back to sleep, but I’m still dazed and tired. It seems like a show for just that kind of time: watch one of these episodes, relax, then maybe return to sleep if I can. There are two seasons out so far and something like 24 or 25 episodes, so plenty to keep me going.

You might also put this show on your tablet and watch it while you’re camping for that real meta feel

And I think that’s it for this second anime roulette post. Far better results in general this time — I actually have something to watch now, though I already had plenty to watch anyway. But I was happy to discover Miss Kuroitsu and Laid-Back Camp and look forward to getting more into them. I also hope someone else can enjoy Salaryman’s Club, because it honestly seems pretty all right so far despite my stupid biases.

I also have eight series left on the wheel, and maybe I’ll add a few next time I return to this feature to get that to 10 or 12. I also reserve the right to just pull a series off of the roulette and watch it separately if I’m interested, or if someone else manages to sell me on it. I do need to figure out a better way to get recommendations, though. There’s a massive amount of anime out there, far more than anyone can probably watch in a lifetime — all the more reason to be annoyed when people generalize about it. Even my own generalization about a genre within anime were blown up in this post, as far as you can call Laid-Back Camp a “cute girls doing cute things” show. I guess it’s the same with any medium: never write a whole genre or style off completely.

The anime roulette: part 1

Look, it’s yet another stupid gimmick I came up with! Well, saying I came up with this one wouldn’t be accurate, to be honest. Even though I don’t have much interest in live-action stuff, I am subscribed to popular internet criticism/satirical comedy/etc. channel Red Letter Media, the guys most famous for making those Mr. Plinkett reviews. But my favorite episodes of theirs have always been the Wheel of the Worst, in which they stick a bunch of terrible-looking 80s/90s instructional and vanity project videos on a wooden wheel and spin it to see what they have to suffer through.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own Rich Evans to build an actual working wheel for me, and I also don’t have any friends to make jokes with about bad VHS tapes while drinking beer and being depressed about where our lives have gone. But I do have access to one of the many wheel-spinner sites that let you make your own roulette, along with a list of anime that shitass streaming service VRV has recommended to me,1 supposedly based on what I’ve watched on their service already.

Using this list, I created the below wheel of my own, though I’m interchangeably calling it a roulette to make it seem different from similar concepts. Out of the 20 “top picks for you” VRV gave me, I picked the following 17 series — the only ones I left out were Hanasaku Iroha and March comes in like a lion, since I already have both of those near the top of my to-watch list, and another series I’ve already seen the first episode of and was pretty cold on. I have absolutely no feelings about the rest of these series. Most of them I’d never even heard of before, so unlike those hack frauds at RLM I have no reason to cheat the system I’ve created (though their cheating also gave us the pure joy of Surviving Edged Weapons, so it was justified.)

The wheel I’ve made, hopefully not of the worst. Also yeah, I typo’d salaryman. It’s early right now, fuck off

Since the wheel cuts some of these titles off, here’s the full list:

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform
CUE!
DENKI-GAI
Flying Witch
Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu
I’M KODAMA KAWASHIRI
Is the Order a Rabbit?
KAGI-NADO
Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House
Laid-Back Camp
Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department
ROOM CAMP
Salaryman’s Club
Servant x Service
Slow Start
Sorairo Utility
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

The rules are simple: if I land on something, I watch at least the first episode of it. I might watch more if I like what I see, but I’ll go that far at least. So this is similar to my older “episode 1 anime roll” posts, except this time, I’m leaving the choice of series up to the algorithm and the roulette wheel I’ve generated.

Now for the first spin of the wheel:

I’ve never heard of you, Kodama Kawashiri! And why the fuck are you yelling at me? The title really is written in all caps. On to the business:

Spin 1: I’M KODAMA KAWASHIRI

I watched the first three episodes of I’m Kodama Kawashiri (all caps implied from now on) but not because I was so captivated by it — rather because it’s a short. One of the shortest shorts I’ve seen, in fact: each episode is only two and a half minutes long. Amazingly, the OP is longer than the episode itself at 1:30, leaving one single fucking minute for things to happen in the episode proper, so little time that the end credits immediately start rolling across the bottom when the OP ends. It’s hard to imagine a shorter short than this, unless someone has somehow written a show with thirty-second episodes.

So maybe it’s no surprise that there’s barely anything for me to say about Kawashiri. It’s about the titular character, a manga artist writing about her own depressing, dissolute life. We go through some of Kawashiri’s daily routines, which mainly involve working at home on her manga, eating, drinking, and sleeping.

life

Kawashiri has an unhealthy and pretty unsustainable lifestyle to say the least: all beer and greasy food, sleeping at seemingly random hours of the day. This is the kind of shit I could get away with in my 20s, but not anymore. I guess if all the fried chicken, egg rolls, and beer fuel her creativity it’s all right for a while, but you sure can’t keep it up forever.

I wish I couldn’t relate to this.

Kawashiri is still airing, and though I’m not incredibly impressed with it, I might just watch the rest considering how short it is. The OP is good, too — better than the show itself, or at least it looks like more effort went into it.

So that first pick went a lot quicker than I expected. On to the second:

What the fuck is KAGI-NADO? Another short apparently. Looks like I’ll be watching a few more series this post than I’d planned.

Spin 2: KAGI-NADO

Well shit, I have even less to say about this one. After watching the first episode of Kagi-nado (just three minutes minus the ending) I understood the title: it’s kagi as in Key, the famous tearjerker visual novel developer (Clannad, Little Busters among many others most of which were also adapted into anime form.) Kagi-nado is a short series produced by Key full of comedic references to/takes on its own works.

A universe of Key VNs, unlimited tears

The only Key VN I’ve played is Planetarian, so I got the Yumemi Hoshino and planetarium stuff at the very beginning, but the rest was totally lost on me. So I won’t be continuing Kagi-nado, since it wasn’t made for me — seems like you really have to be a serious Key fan to enjoy it. I also get the feeling that it may have spoilers for some of its VNs, but I really couldn’t say, having only played one of them. All I can say for sure is that the first episode doesn’t spoil Planetarian.

I don’t get it, but I don’t think I was meant to anyway

And now on to the third spin. Hopefully I can actually say something about the next series I land on.

Finally, a series with full-length episodes. I’ve never heard of this one either, but let’s see whether the dumbass VRV algorithm did better this time.

Spin 3: Slow Start

This recommendation list is fucked, or else I’m just landing on some unusual/outlier results. Not that Slow Start is bad — in fact, it’s pretty nice if the rest of the series is much like its first episode, in which we meet protagonist Hana Ichinose, seen above, and her friends and family. It’s just not the sort of thing I’d usually have any interest in watching.

Hana is a new student at an elite all-girls private high school that she studied like hell to get into. However, as the show’s title suggests, she had to skip a year to prepare, and so she’s starting her high school career a bit late, at 17. Since she also seems to be naturally pretty shy, Hana has to steel herself to enter this new school full of kids who already know each other, both as a stranger and under unusual circumstances. Fortunately, Hana quickly meets a few other girls who befriend her right away, all three of them with starkly different personalities. Will Hana be able to have a fun time at her new school and form strong bonds with this new friend group? (My money is on yes.)

Pictured: high school students, apparently

Slow Start so far looks like the classic sort of “cute girls doing cute things” anime. You have four girls in the main cast, absentee parents (though at least loving parents, as we see in the first few minutes of the episode), an older hot lady who takes care of the adult stuff like paying bills in their apartment (Hana’s cousin) and an also hot homeroom teacher who seems to be dead inside, or at least coming off of a hangover or something. It all feels a lot like one of those older CGDCT series from the mid-2000s, only this aired in 2018, long after that genre fell off in popularity.

When I reviewed Asobi Asobase, I mentioned that I’d initially passed it by because it looked like the standard CGDCT series. I ended up returning to it and binging the whole thing after it turned out to be a crass, absurdist comedy that I really enjoyed following the first few minutes of its first episode. Slow Start feels like that, except it’s not tricking me like Asobi Asobase did: it really is a nice, cute show about four girls living their high school student lives. Though also in classic CGDCT fashion they don’t fucking look like high school students. I know it’s the style, but still.

Being in society is not easy

I’m probably not going to watch any more of Slow Start, or at least not until I dig through a whole lot more of my anime backlog. But I don’t want to dump on the show either, because it does seem like a pretty good option for fans of the CGDCT genre. The animation is nice, the music is nice, and this first episode was relaxing to watch if nothing else. Some of Hana’s social anxieties are pretty relatable too, though she’s extremely lucky to immediately find friends who recognize her value and like her for who she is and all that nice stuff.

Well, I’ve used the word “nice” at least 9,000 times in this description, but that’s the best word I can think of to describe what I’ve seen of Slow Start. Seems like a good one to check out if you’re into the style. But I still consider it a miss on VRV’s part, since I have no fucking idea how they thought I’d be into it. Maybe it really is because I watched Asobi Asobase, but that’s about as far from this series as you can get tone-wise.

Oh well, let’s have the fourth spin:

I should probably find a new way to say “I’ve never heard of this” but I can’t think of one. On to it:

Spin 4: Sorairo Utility

Here’s something I didn’t expect to say in this post: I watched all of this series. But only because this “series” is only a 13-minute or so OVA. So consider this a review of the whole thing.

Sorairo Utility is all about three friends, all high school students (again!) playing golf. Two of them are really into it and have some talent, while our central character Minami is still getting a feel for the sport. Minami is doing her best to keep up with her friends, but she’s frustrated by her relative inexperience.

Minami’s friends encourage her the whole way through, however, and tell her just to have fun while also watching her form and her swing and all that other golf stuff. By the end of the episode, Minami is still far behind the other girls, but she’s encouraged to keep working hard at the sport she loves.

And that’s really it for Sorairo Utility. There was barely anything to it, but I liked what was there. I don’t know anything at all about golf — the closest I’ve been to playing the sport was minigolf as a kid and a drunk undergraduate and going once to a driving range; I’ve never played a proper game. But that’s okay, because Sorairo Utility seems to be more about the friendship between the three characters and the drive to improve rather than about golf itself. I guess every sports anime is like that, or at least the few I’ve seen have been.

Golf! I don’t give a shit about golf, but I didn’t mind watching anime golf for 12/13 minutes.

I don’t know if this OVA is meant as a standalone thing or as a preview for a full series, but it might be nice to check out if there’s more of it coming.

Now for the fifth and final spin for this post. Praying for good luck this time.

And finally, still another series I’ve never heard of. From the title, I’m guessing this has to be another school-setting series, maybe a coming-of-age sort of thing. Sure, that might be all right. Let’s see:

Spin 5: Akebi’s Sailor Uniform

Well, I watched the first episode of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and it is definitely some sort of coming of age/slice of life/CGDCT series. Again, I don’t know why this was recommended to me — maybe it was Asobi Asobase again, or maybe there’s a “coming of age” tag and that got stuck to me when I watched all of The Aquatope on White Sand? Otherwise, I don’t understand.

I’m also slightly put off. While this first episode definitely had some good qualities that I’ll get into, it also had a moment that weirded me the fuck out, and linked to a couple of others, I get a slight vibe about the makers (or the original manga artist more likely, since this is an adaptation.) But it’s also possible that I’m being unfair or reading too much into it. More on that later.

Protagonist Komichi Akebi is entering middle school, attending an elite all-girls’ private school (again!) that her mother attended back in the day. Komichi is from way out in the middle of nowhere, and she’s amazed that her new class will have more than ten people in it. She’s also extremely excited about getting to wear a sailor uniform to school for some reason, and her expert tailor mother is happy to sew such a uniform for her.

But in an awkward moment, when they attend the opening ceremony, Komichi and her mother see that every other student is wearing a blazer. They get special permission for Komichi to wear her mother’s custom-designed sailor uniform, but does Komichi really want to stand out from the crowd by wearing a different uniform than everyone else’s? Or will she stick to the style she likes and not worry about standing out?

It’s no small matter, not even when it comes to something as seemingly trivial as the clothes you wear.

First, all the good stuff: Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is produced by Cloverworks, a studio known for doing excellent work, and as you might expect this series looks beautiful, with a lot of detail and nice shots of those countryside landscapes. That detail extends to the characters — I don’t know if I’m the biggest fan of the character design in general, but I can see why someone would like it.

The story itself is also pretty interesting so far. I didn’t think the sailor uniform in the title would be anything more than just a representation of the main character starting at a new school and entering a new phase in her life, but the uniform itself is incorporated into that coming of age aspect of her story in a way I didn’t expect.

The show does look damn nice and I like Komichi, but there’s just too much youthful optimism here, just fucking kill me please I can’t take it

So what’s the problem? From this first episode, I get the impression that someone involved in making it — I’d guess the manga artist, though I can’t say for sure — has a thing for feet, because there are quite a few unusually lingering and very detailed shots focusing mostly on Komichi’s. At first I didn’t think much of that, but near the very end of the episode when Komichi meets her first new friend at school, early in the morning when no one else is around, she walks in on her clipping her toenails and smelling the clipper afterwards in a similarly weirdly detailed scene.

A great way to make friends: walk in on them doing something weird then hold it over them as blackmail material (but note: Komichi doesn’t do this because she isn’t an asshole — in fact she smells her own feet in the same scene, maybe to put her new friend at ease or something. I really don’t know. Is this how you make friends now?)

It’s hard to describe when you get that vibe about a work, that it might have been made for more than one reason to put it nicely. I don’t actually have any problem with this fixation in general — I’m a big fan of the artist Yom, and his Ganbare Douki-chan has some of it too, though it’s probably not as obvious if you just saw the anime adaptation. But Yom’s characters are adults, and these characters aren’t, and I feel like that makes a difference (see also the difference between a Quentin Tarantino and a Dan Schneider,2 though I think that distinction is about a million times more serious when you’re dealing with live-action work.)

There’s nothing I can put my finger on definitively, but it’s just a feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it other than weirded the fuck out, as I said before. But to be completely fair, I might be overreacting, and this is just the first episode after all. Akebi is still airing, and maybe some other people around the community much more tied into current anime will have more insight into it. In any case, as with Slow Start, I don’t know if I’d have that much interest in a show like this anyway, though it does look like it might get into emotionally heavier territory to go along with the coming of age stuff.

Aside from the whole feet thing, Akebi just reminds me of the youthful hope that I’ve completely lost and how I hate myself now. Thanks again, anime

On that strange note, that’s it for this first part of my anime roulette feature. I find most of VRV’s picks “for me” to be bizarre based on what I’ve actually watched on their platform, but maybe their algorithm is fucked up. I don’t pretend to understand how these functions work. I will be back for more at some point soon, though. Until then.

 

1 I plan to cancel my subscription very soon — I’ve been planning it ever since they dumped all the Hi-Dive shows from their catalog. I wanted to watch Takagi-san S3, but it looks like I’ll have to do it somewhere else. Lousy bastards. Anyway, since Crunchyroll and Funimation have merged, that seems like the best bet to go with now, though I’m also apprehensive about the corner Sony now seems to be getting on the anime streaming market over here. Time will tell, but I don’t trust Sony at all considering their recent track record.

2 You didn’t expect a Pink Guy video this time, did you? I promise it’s the last time, aside from this McDonald’s rap that’s a legitimately really good song.

Listening/reading log #28 (February 2022)

Time for the end-of-month post a bit late again. But what a fucking month it was. The invasion of Ukraine isn’t something I’ve commented on here or elsewhere almost at all until now, because it’s not the sort of subject I write about on a regular basis, and what can I add to this discussion anyway? But I have always used the beginning of these posts to vent on heavy matters, so: to hell with Vladimir Putin, hopefully quite literally, both for this and many other past and present crimes, not least of which is using the threat of nuclear war as a shield while he ravages a smaller neighbor.

I hope he ends up knocked off of his throne at the very least. And if he ends up suffering the same fate as a Ceaușescu, a Mussolini, or a Gaddafi, well, that would be fine too. Ideally, the man should be in the dock in The Hague, but since my country doesn’t recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court (because we have our own war criminals right here in America and God forbid they should be held to account for their own misdeeds) it’s hard for us to make that sort of argument — except right now, when a world leader openly defies international borders, human rights, and common sense.*

I don’t have a personal connection to Ukraine, but a large part of my family were refugees in the past and the effects are felt to this day, so this still feels like a personal matter. And even if I didn’t have that sort of background, I’m sure I’d feel the same, as should anyone who’s not brainwashed or heartless. Anyway, I realize none of what I’m writing here is very brave, especially since unlike many in both Ukraine and Russia I’m in no danger of being arrested or shot in the head for writing such things. But I just felt like expressing these thoughts.

If you also have the luxury to not be worried about your survival right at the moment, let’s check out some music and some excellent writing from around the communities as usual. I took a slightly different approach to my music section this time, however — I didn’t really listen to any full proper albums that I felt like writing about, but I also had some pieces of albums and a lot of single songs that either came from albums I otherwise don’t feel strongly about or that were never on albums to write about, or just a few curiosities I stumbled over, and these never fit into that typical “album review” format I use in these posts. So this is a deviation from the usual, a rough mix of songs all thrown together, but I’ll return to the regular format next month.

Various — 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Original Soundtrack — (LEUCINE)

Starting with my favorite piece out of part of a soundtrack I’ve been listening to a lot the past week. I played through 13 Sentinels on the PS4 and loved it, but it didn’t get much love over here back when it was released. Hopefully that changes when it comes out for the Switch soon, because more people need to play this game.

Part of that appeal is its soundtrack. “(LEUCINE)” and the other 13 Sentinels battle themes are amazing in how well they build tension, fitting perfectly into the giant mech vs. kaiju battles of the game’s combat sections. The softer pieces that mostly play during the adventure/investigation parts are nice as well — the soundtrack is great as a whole, but these battle themes stand out to me.

Also, if you’re confused by the album cover, I get that. It really doesn’t look like the cover to an OST for a game about giant mechs fighting kaiju monsters. Only the small robot hints at this even being a sci-fi game. But that girl on the cover does have significance to the game’s plot, and if I say any more, I’d have to get into spoilers, which I won’t. So just be sure to check out 13 Sentinels if you haven’t already. If anyone ever tries to excuse Michael Bay’s shitty Transformers movies by saying “they’re just movies about giant robots fighting, of course they’re dumb!” just know that this game fucks that excuse up completely.

Joji — Nectar Like You Do

Now this sort of song I’d normally never feature here. It’s not really my kind of music, this slow, romantic-sounding stuff. “Like You Do” is a nice one for sure, a great choice to sing under some girl’s window if you’re lovesick over her as long as you can hit those high notes. I also like the strange video that goes along with it (are those fish eggs and a chain floating around in red jello? Aside from the chain, I’m probably wrong, but no idea what else those could be.)

But though I think Joji is certainly a talented guy, that’s still not reason enough for me to feature this music. The real reason I know about Joji at all is because he’s the same guy who was making stuff like this six/seven years ago:

If you’re not familiar, this singer/composer Joji aka George Miller used to make both music and bizarre comedy videos with his friends on YouTube playing characters like the above Pink Guy. The main character in this whole thing was a disgusting misanthropic mess of a man called Filthy Frank. Joji got famous making music like the above song and also videos in which he and his buddies acted like idiots in public and baked hair and even worse things into cakes and ate them. It was either absurdist comedy or moronic depending on how you look at it (probably both really, and the people who took part would likely agree based on what I’ve heard.)

The common feeling now is that Joji was smart to retire all these characters back before comedy like this became culturally way less acceptable, and I agree — even a few of the lines in the above song wouldn’t fly today, and that’s apart from its intentionally offensive tone. The fact that he was able to make the transition from this stuff to performing songs people cry over at the bar or sing at their weddings is pretty damn amazing. Now Taylor Swift’s famous transition from country to pop music doesn’t seem so impressive.

Franz Ferdinand — Franz FerdinandThis Fire

This is one of the songs that played a whole lot when I was in high school, about ready to get out of that miserable hellhole. Good song, a lousy time in my life, but the music is still remembered fondly. This stuff brings back memories of studying for those fucking IB exams. If any other readers had to take the IB, let me know so I can send you my best wishes. And thanks to Shoot the Rookie for reminding me about this song/band over on Twitter during her song share event.

Chirinuruwowaka — Atelier Escha & Logy Vocal AlbumMilk-Colored Pass

Speaking of that song share event, one of the songs I posted on Twitter at the time was the OP theme to Atelier Escha & Logy. As much as I like Atelier, its music doesn’t always stand out to me (though it’s always at least pretty good, just not always standout amazing, you know.) But this theme is an exception. It’s just a good catchy as hell song. I also like the kind of rough vocals that match the feel of the music well.

Casiopea — Make Up City Gypsy Wind

I’m going to make a statement here that some might consider criminal: aside from their excellent debut album, I don’t care for a lot of what I’ve heard from Casiopea. I almost completely hate their second album Super Flight with all the cheesy synth tones gooped into it and the horrific vocoder nightmare of “I Love New York”, and I’m pretty cold on most of the rest of what I’ve heard, which feels like it’s sliding too much into generic doctor’s office waiting room music.

But before all the hardcore 80s fusion fans hang me, I want to say that I do like “Gypsy Wind” from their third studio album. It sounds like a tropical breeze feels, which is something I haven’t felt in an extremely long time, but I have enough of a memory of being in Hawaii once when I was a kid to connect the two.

_

Just a few days ago, the group      released this song, titled ”    “. I still don’t know what kind of weird invisible characters they’re using to make those untitled titles. I’m sure there are some typeface experts out there who already know the answer.

I’ve featured this nameless group before, and I’m always happy to see a new song out of them. This is another good one, though my favorite song of theirs is still _. I’m also a big fan of the artist who does their illustrations — just check out this horror, though not if you have a problem with creepy face paintings-within-paintings staring at characters within the larger painting and probably freaking them out as well. I’d hang this in my house if I owned one, but then I’m a fucking weirdo as you know.

xx — イワシがつちからはえてくるんだ / A Sardine Grows from the Soil

Finally, something very different from the rest. “A Sardine Grows from the Soil” is one of several songs created by the same person with the free Vocaloid-style software Utau. This person is talented as hell, or was, at least, since they’ve vanished from the internet. There’s a reason I’m not naming the creator of this song: for whatever reason, they specifically requested that everyone forget about them, while leaving permission to at least keep sharing this and several of their other songs (see also here and here, and also The Bluefin Tuna Comes Flying, which is a kind of companion piece to this one) as long as they’re uncredited.

Not sure what that’s about, but I like their work. I’m not even sure who all the characters are in these videos aside from Teto Kasane, the pink-haired girl in the center singing — she’s a sort of off-brand Vocaloid with some popularity. The lyrics are also interesting; all in Japanese, so I’m sure I’m missing some nuance, but though their meanings seem obscure they all have a pretty dark feel to them. And thanks to this guy for making a piano cover of “Sardine”. It’s pretty damn good and I’d love to learn it myself, but I don’t have four fucking hands to play it with. Feels like a Gershwin-style piano roll for the 21st century.

That’s it for the music. I hope you liked the different format. I’m out of individual songs to talk about, so next time it will be back to the full albums as promised. Now on to the featured articles:

Breath of the Wild Retrospective (Frostilyte Writes) — I’ve never been the biggest fan of Zelda, even if I can appreciate its quality. I know there are plenty of classic games I’ve missed out on. But is Breath of the Wild one of them? Though it was popular, this open-world title seems to have been a bit divisive. No matter what your feeling about it is (or even if you don’t have any, because like me you haven’t played it) you should read Frostilyte’s article on the game.

13 Sentinels Is Damn Good When the Training Wheels Come Off (Adventure Rules) — Speaking of 13 Sentinels again, from Adventure Rules, a series of insightful posts on the game. I’ll be following it, and you should too.

OneShot: Darkness, a Cat Thing, and Story-Driven Puzzles (Professional Moron) — Mr. Wapojif takes a look at OneShot, an excellent indie game that uses fourth-wall-breaking in an innovative way to tell a unique story. If you haven’t taken my word on the game yet, please read his post and then play OneShot; you won’t regret it.

Lake Review (Honest Gamer) — A review of the indie game Lake, one I hadn’t heard about before reading this post. Sounds interesting, although not without some technical problems. I can appreciate these kinds of relaxation games better these days, anyway.

Wordplay and Double Entendre in Bloodborne (Meghan Plays Games) — I haven’t played Bloodborne, but from Meghan’s post, it sounds like there’s a lot there to like — including some clever wordplay! And as someone who plays around with words, though usually with shit results, I’m all about that wordplay, especially when it’s actually done well.

The Portopia Serial Murder Case (Extra Life) — Last month, Red Metal took on an old Japanese text adventure that has had a massive impact on gaming, even though many of us (myself included) haven’t heard of it. The Portopia Serial Murder Case is a fascinating game to read about, so be sure to check out Red Metal’s review.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Nintendobound) — Even more games I haven’t played, that’s today’s theme in this section of the post. Matt has a look at the DS GTA title Chinatown Wars. I owned a DS, but apparently I missed out on this one!

Yakuza: Fighting toxicity one punch at a time. (Zanfers Gaming) — Out of the Yakuza series, I’ve still only really played Yakuza 0, but even in that game alone, I could tell that there was something special about its two leads Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kiryu in particular makes for a great role model, and not just because he can pick up a entire fucking motorcycle and beat hooligans over the head with it. This post gets down exactly why Kiryu is a man to emulate (though maybe not that motorcycle part, okay. There are probably better ways to deal with those situations in real life.)

Planetes: Fighting the Cruelty of Space (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — From Scott, a look at Planetes, one of my old favorites, though it’s not without its faults. Older anime series tend to get lost in the mix as the hot new stuff is trending, so it’s good to see classics being written about around here. I hope I’ll be doing some of that myself soon when I dig back into my anime backlog.

Anime Review #75: K-On! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Another older anime review, this time a hard look at K-On!, one of the most iconic “cute girls doing cute things” series. I passed it by when it aired after seeing a couple of episodes, though that was when the seasonal lineups were so full of these “cute girls” series that they suffered a backlash from some fans, something like isekai is getting now. It’s worth reading about K-On! at least considering how much influence it’s had — it’s likely you’ve heard at least one of the songs from the series if you’re anywhere in that weeb sphere like we are.

Top 5 Romantic Anime that End Badly! (I drink and watch anime) — It wouldn’t be an end-of-month post without featuring one of Irina’s articles, so here’s a look at romantic anime series with rough endings. I’m not into tearjerkers, and while I can take plenty of depression in my media, I don’t go for the broken romance type unless it’s incorporated into a larger story with higher stakes than that. But romance is pretty high stakes for a lot of viewers, and if you enjoy personal tragedy and heartbreak, you’ll probably be interested in Irina’s post.

My Break-Up Letter With Last Exile (In Search of Number Nine) — I haven’t seen the anime Last Exile — I only know it from the involvement of character designer/artist Range Murata, but it’s always been on that to-watch list I keep. Iniksbane has an interesting history with the show and gives some insight about what makes a favorite series and how tastes and one’s critical approach to art can change over time.

3 Years of Gaming Omnivore (Gaming Omnivore) — And finally, congrats to Gaming Ominvore on three years of writing! It takes dedication to keep that up. Here’s hoping for many more.

That’s it for the last month. Sorry about the heavy subject matter directly at the top (and in the endnote below) and also sorry for posting a Pink Guy video near the beginning. I hope you could get through whatever the fuck you’d call that to read this. Going forward, assuming humanity isn’t all annihilated or whatever it is all the foreign policy experts on Twitter think is about to happen, I’ll be watching some anime and playing Atelier Sophie 2. Be sure to check out my first look at that game if you have any interest in cute girls doing alchemy. It’s a nice escape.

 

* It’s worth mentioning that people didn’t raise such a fuss when Putin was murdering civilians in Syria in support of fellow blood-soaked tyrant Bashar al-Assad. But what can you expect. Maybe they would have if it had been reported more widely.

And though this hypocrisy absolutely annoys me, it does make sense at least that people would be a lot more nervous about a war in Europe for obvious reasons — the comparisons between Putin and you-know-who are warranted as far as his approach to propaganda goes (denial of nationality leading to the destruction of statehood: that’s straight out of that Austrian-born dictator’s instruction manual, though he wasn’t the first to do it either.)

Listening/reading log #27 (January 2022)

Well, that wasn’t the start to the new year I wanted. But work piled on as usual. Fuck all this talk about “work/life balance” and de-stressing. As far as I’m concerned, that’s seven days off, living in a villa on Capri.

But that’s not happening this year at least, so time to keep toiling and doing our best to take our minds off the fact that God cursed us for all eternity when Adam and Eve ate that fruit off that stupid fucking tree. Thanks for that (and sorry for this blasphemy — another reason I’m mostly anonymous on this site.) In the meantime, here’s more great music and great writing from around the communities.

Yellow Magic Orchestra (Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1978)

Highlights: Firecracker, Simoon, Tong Poo

For the longest time I didn’t know anything about Yellow Magic Orchestra beyond their name (which I connected in my head with Electric Light Orchestra, though I don’t think they have that much in common otherwise) and the song Kimi ni Mune Kyun, which I first heard in its Yuu Kobayashi cover version as the ending theme to the anime Maria Holic. What a damn weeb, I know. (edit: also see this Hatsune Miku cover; YMO would probably approve.)

“Kimi ni Mune Kyun” is a catchy song, but I didn’t have quite the right impression of YMO from it — I thought they were New Wave synth-pop sorts of guys, which they apparently were on their later albums. But their debut sounds very different, taking a lot more inspiration from mid-70s electronic experimenters like Kraftwerk. It’s almost entirely instrumental aside from a few vocal samples and some very distorted singing on “Simoon”, which sounds a lot like an old 40s standard filtered through 70s synths. My other favorites on the album, “Firecracker” and “Tong Poo”, are just jazzy funky instrumentals with still more electronic sound over them.

Not what you’d normally think of as big hit material, but it seems this album did pretty well. Maybe not a surprise, though, since all the members of YMO were already well-established musicians/composers before starting this project. And according to the comments under “Tong Poo”, that song was apparently played on loop in an Okinawa fish processing factory? (There’s an unexpected link with my previous post as well, nice. I still want to go to Okinawa.)

Finally, if there’s a bridge from that original mid-70s electronic music to the video game BGM of the 80s and on, it sounds to me like it starts here with YMO’s debut. There are even very short themes to computer games on the album titled as such (though I don’t know whether these were real games; maybe some actual music/game historian can clarify that.) The whole album feels very ahead of its time, maybe in part because of this connection — seems a lot of the big-time game composers were influenced by YMO and this earlier work of theirs in particular, and I can hear it. So if you’re into video game music in general, and if you read my site it’s fairly likely you are, you should really check YMO out.

Remain in Light (Talking Heads, 1980)

Highlights: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), Crosseyed and Painless, Once in a Lifetime

Okay, well I guess I’m not being too adventurous this month. Remain in Light is still another late 70s/early 80s New Wave album acknowledged by pretty much everyone as extremely important even if they’re not into the sound. And I am into the sound, so it’s one of my favorites and has been for a while.

I’ve already brought up Talking Heads once before in one of my early month-end posts when I looked at The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, one of the best live albums ever made as far as I’ve heard. But then it didn’t seem right to just skip over their studio work, since it’s also excellent and has a pretty different feel, thanks in part to the work of legendary producer/musician Brian Eno and to the several great guest musicians who played on the album including the future soon-to-be-reformed King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew (and you can hear him on Discipline, which I’ve also covered before.)

But the greatest credit goes to the four members of the band proper. Most visible and famous of these four is singer/guitarist David Byrne, the extremely nerdy-looking guy in that “Once in a Lifetime” video linked above. Byrne was and probably still is a strange guy (see his film True Stories for more insight into that weirdness, which also had a Talking Heads album attached as a sort of soundtrack — it’s not bad!) I’m not totally sure what the fuck he’s singing about on any of these songs, but Remain in Light has a paranoid atmosphere that wasn’t unusual for the band, even starting with their early work back when they were playing alongside a bunch of punk guys in NYC in the mid-70s.

I don’t have any particular comments to make about the songs themselves other than that. It’s all good. You’ve probably heard some of it before if you grew up in the US during the 90s or 00s like I did (even though Talking Heads’ more “normal” sounding mid-80s music gets way more play, “Burning Down the House” and the like.) But this album really is as great as they all say, and you should hear it too.

Now for the featured posts:

The Aquatope on White Sand: Whole-Series Review and Recommendation After The Finale (The Infinite Zenith) — Starting with an article written in December, but that I couldn’t appreciate until January when I’d finished the anime. Read Zenith’s series review and other in-depth posts for more insight into The Aquatope on White Sand, a unique anime series that I liked a lot but that a lot of other people seem to have had some problems with. What’s new with anime, anyway — one of the fun (?) aspects of this medium is how nobody can fucking agree on anything about it.

Subs or Dubs: A Futile Argument And Yet We’ll Just Keep Having It (100 Word Anime) — Speaking of aggravating arguments, here’s one of the longest-running in the western anime world. Do you only watch dubs? Then you’re a filthy pleb! Only watch subs? You’re a snobby elitist! No, you can’t just watch anime the way you prefer and acknowledge that it’s nice we have both sub and dub options more often than we used to, with higher-quality English dubs than before. You have to fight about it. But thankfully Karandi has some great points to make about this tired debate.

Anime Review #73: New Game! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — From Traditional Catholic Weeb, a review of New Game!, another anime that’s on that long watchlist I have. And that’s just my Crunchyroll watchlist mind you. This post got me interested in the series again, so it’s one of those I might actually get around to this year — I’m a fan of these professional job-setting anime series.

Newer Anime I Enjoyed in 2021 (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — A good list to reference for newer anime to check out from Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews. I’m shifting to my older backlog for a while myself, but if you’re more interested in recent anime, be sure to read this!

Donkey Kong 64 (Extra Life) — Red Metal takes on the classic Donkey Kong 64. I have some vague memories of playing this, though I never got into Donkey Kong the way I did other old platforming series like Mario and Sonic. But that makes it more interesting to read about than a game I already know inside and out, anyway. DK64 seems to be a divisive one for good reason.

Extensive Analysis of Bakemonogatari: What makes it so unique? – Hitagi Crab 1 (Convoluted Situation) — In addition to all the old and new anime series I need to get around to, I also need to continue Monogatari, a task I’ve been planning for months now. And again, speaking of divisive — I’ve seen Monogatari described by some as one of the greatest and most beautiful anime series ever made and by some others as a disgusting, self-indulgent mess. If you’ve read my reviews of each “first season” series up through Nekomonogatari Black, you know which side of that divide I fall on. It’s a nuanced series, in any case (as I got into myself with my look at Nisemonogatari a bit — protagonist Koyomi Araragi is clearly not meant to be a role model in every way, but I think a lot of people see the character in a different light than I do.)

This long and unnecessary preface is my way of directing you to Edy’s in-depth analysis of the first episode of Bakemonogatari. Check it out and see what makes this series so special. (And yeah this is another cheat on my part: this post was put up in November, but I just saw it now so I see this as a correction. I’ll try not to make a habit of it.)

Trails of Cold Steel: Great from Start to Finish (The Gamer with Glasses) — I never got into the Trails series myself, but it seems to have just as fervent fans as other JRPG series I know better like Megami Tensei. Gamer with Glasses here gives us some thoughts on the first Trails of Cold Steel.

Best Games of 2021 (Frostilyte Writes) — Unlike me, Frostilyte actually played and wrote about some games that were released in 2021, so his look at the best of the past year is worth reading. It’s also a reminder that I still need to play Huniepop.

Shoot from the Hip – Belle (Shoot the Rookie) — A look at the new film Belle from famous anime director Mamoru Hosoda. Looks like it’s my sort of thing, and I’ve heard enough about Hosoda’s work to be interested in seeing some of it, so it’s still another film to check out if I can find it on a streaming service.

All ‘Encanto’ Songs: Ranked (Jon Spencer Reviews) — Something different for my site — I don’t usually look at western animation at all, and I don’t have any plans to watch Encanto, but I’ve heard it’s a good film with a good soundtrack. So if you like animated musicals in the old Disney tradition, be sure to read Jacob’s ranking of Encanto songs. I know nobody will shut up about this Bruno guy, so I assume that song is the new “Let It Go”.

A Collection of Anime OPs/EDs I Actually Like (Volume Three) (The Visualist’s Veranda) — More my style, here’s a look at some excellent anime OPs and EDs from Visualist’s Veranda. Some great songs here, and even if it were the only one on the list, any article that talks up “Real World” from Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita deserves the unrivaled honor of a place in my month-end post.

My Blog Search Criteria are Bumming me Out (I drink and watch anime) — Finally, anyone who runs a blog will understand the feeling you get when you see your stats and wonder how the hell people are finding your work through those bizarre Google searches. Even with the very meager crumbs we get from the free stats WordPress provides, a few questionable results can slip through. Irina writes about this issue in her annual look back at her search results for 2021.

That’s it for this month. A little shorter than usual again, much too late, and again I didn’t have the kind of engagement here I’d like. But work continues to pile on top of me, and unless Mr. Biden decides to cancel my student loan debt (and I believe he won’t, and it’s debatable whether he even can — but the situation here will continue to be a horrible mess either way) I’ll have to toil harder to start repaying those again soon. But I’ll keep escaping through anime, games, and music as I always have, count on that — and I’ll keep writing here. I have a few anime series in particular I want to get to very soon, and a game that I’m nearly done with that should probably be up next for review. Until then!

A review of The Aquatope on White Sand

I didn’t want my only non-scheduled post this month to be just me complaining for 2,000 words, so here’s a proper one, the kind my site is supposedly meant for: a review. Or more like a review/analysis, since this is one of those series that it’s hard to talk about without getting into details. And there’s a lot to get into this time, which you can tell already by the length of the scroll bar on this post.

The Aquatope on White Sand (Japanese title Shiroi Suna no Aquatope) is a 24-episode anime series that aired over the summer and fall 2021 seasons. As the second series by P.A. Works that I’ve seen, it had a lot to live up to — the first was Shirobako, which is damn near the top of my list of best anime (whatever that list is, since I’ve never actually made one, but it’s near the top of the hypothetical list anyway.) P.A. Works seems generally pretty well regarded, and many other viewers had similarly high expectations going in.

Our story begins with Fuuka Miyazawa, a young idol/pop star working for an agency in Tokyo. Fuuka has just gotten pushed out of her position by management (somehow; I don’t really get how this idol stuff works but it sounds like she had a lead spot in a concert and gave it up or something like that.) She’s more or less quitting, or retiring, or graduating or something. In any case she’s not happy about the situation, and the thought of returning from Tokyo back home to her family after this failure is unbearable to her. So instead of going home, she impulsively flies to Okinawa without telling anyone.

Since Fuuka wasn’t originally planning to go to Okinawa and doesn’t know anyone there, she’s at a loss for what to actually do when she arrives. After wandering around with her rolling luggage, passing out on the beach, and nearly suffering from heat stroke, she’s picked up by local tourism department worker Karin Kudaka, who gives her some much-needed water and information about where to stay on the island. Karin just happens to be driving to a local aquarium in the course of her work, so Fuuka decides to take the chance to check it out.

And while exploring the sea life, Fuuka is suddenly thrown into a hallucination/vision of herself in the ocean with fish, dolphins, and whales swimming around her. This vision looks frightening at first but soon becomes calming to Fuuka, who seems entranced by it.

Immediately after her vision ends, she meets the other lead of the show. Kukuru Misakino is still a high schooler, but she’s taken on the enormous job of acting director of Gama Gama Aquarium in place of her grandfather. After a brief conversation with Kukuru, Fuuka makes another impulsive decision: she asks Kukuru to let her work and stay at the aquarium.

Maybe that’s what they meant in The Godfather when they said that guy sleeps with the fishes? He wasn’t dead, he was just living in an aquarium.

Kukuru is understandably confused and suspicious about this sudden request, and from a first-time visitor to the aquarium and a total stranger otherwise. But Gama Gama is short-staffed and in financial trouble as we’ll soon learn, and Kukuru seems to see something in Fuuka, so she accepts her request to work there with the understanding that she’s absolutely serious about it. But Kukuru isn’t about to let Fuuka sleep on the floor next to a fish tank either, so she brings her home to stay with her and her grandparents.

Why do his markings look like an actual tuxedo? I can accept the visions but not this

After a very shaky start, Fuuka gets the hang of being an aquarium attendant and of her new life in Okinawa generally, becoming fast friends with Kukuru and the other workers at Gama Gama. But there are dark clouds on the horizon for both our leads. Fuuka has been putting off her mother, who’s been sending her messages asking what the hell she’s thinking running away to Okinawa without telling anyone, and she’s still not sure about whether she really wants to end her idol career. And Kukuru faces the impending closure of Gama Gama, an old aquarium that’s been getting more expensive to maintain properly and suffering from lower visitor turnout. Kukuru’s grandfather, Gama Gama’s long-time director and a legend in the Okinawan aquarium world, is trying to get her to face the inevitable in his own gentle way, but she’s determined to keep the aquarium open, and Fuuka pledges her support. Will the pair be able to face their challenges, or will they have to adapt to painful realities?

Before getting into the analysis and dropping big story/ending spoilers, I’d like to gush about how damn good Aquatope looks. As I’ve said a few times before, I’m no expert when it comes to animation, but I know what looks good to me, and Aquatope does. If this series was created in part to tout Okinawa’s value as a tourism destination, it worked on me, because the landscapes it depicts are beautiful. Naturally, a ton of sea life is also featured, including a group of penguins that introduce Fuuka to aquarium attendant life properly by knocking her into a pool before she gets the hang of things around episodes 3 and 4. And again, I’m no expert — I’ve only been to aquariums a few times in my life and barely know a thing about sea life aside from the kinds I like to eat — but those all look great too, with limited but effective use of 3D animation in a few scenes.

Wish I were there

Here’s the obligatory big ass spoiler warning, effective after the next screenshot. But I never like leaving readers who want to avoid those without my general impressions, so here they are: while I felt Aquatope left a couple of loose ends hanging by the end, it more than lived up to my expectations otherwise. A lot of people have talked up the show’s relaxing qualities, and while it is relaxing to watch in parts (especially considering its slow pace and beautiful setting) and does have a strong slice-of-life element, it also takes on some serious issues around finding your way as a young professional and dealing with painful changes in life. This is a mature series, but the kind that’s not up its own ass about itself — it’s all very natural, thanks in part to the strong characters it develops and the relationships they share.

So Aquatope gets my unqualified recommendation, especially if you like anime like Shirobako, A Place Further Than the Universe, or Planetes. Even if this series doesn’t quite reach the heights those three did for me (which still isn’t an insult, because they’re among the very best) it is very much in the same vein and near the same excellent quality. And try not to let the length and slow pace of Aquatope turn you off if that seems like it might be an issue, because it’s well worth the journey. This is the sort of series where the journey is part of the reason for watching.

But prepare for some possible self-reflection.

There seems to have been some controversy over a few aspects of The Aquatope on White Sand, perhaps most of all with the direction the plot takes in the middle of the series. While it tells one continuous story through a couple of time skips, Aquatope can be divided right down the middle between two arcs, the first at Gama Gama and the second at the far newer and more technically advanced aquarium Tingarla. Because yeah, Gama Gama is truly finished even at the opening of the series. Kukuru’s grandfather knows the challenges the place faces better than anyone, and in the end Kukuru is the only one left with the will to keep the place open. She makes serious efforts to attract new visitors throughout the first half of the series, and when the aquarium is on the brink of being shut down for good, she even goes to the extreme length of locking herself in, later joined by Fuuka, who brings her food and camps out with her there when a massive storm hits and wrecks the place beyond repair.

At this point, Kukuru is forced to admit defeat, only managing to find some closure with the situation on the last day of Gama Gama’s operation when the aquarium sees a great turnout from the community. But the aquarium life continues for the whole crew even beyond the shuttering of Gama Gama, when Kukuru’s grandfather helps them get hired at Tingarla, where one of his friends/protégés is the director.

The shift from the smaller and older Gama Gama to the much larger and more modern Tingarla is a serious challenge, most of all for Kukuru, who unexpectedly ends up being hired not as an attendant but rather as a member of the aquarium’s marketing department. She’s pretty put out by this development, but after realizing she can’t easily get a transfer, she resolves to do her best working under the strict department head. Writing project proposals and reports doesn’t come naturally to Kukuru, and her clashing with a former rival among the attendants doesn’t help matters. The Gama Gama crew generally doesn’t gel all that well with the existing staff at first with a couple of exceptions, but Kukuru certainly has the worst of it.

I know the feeling, Kukuru

This shift in setting is also a shift in the story itself — a shift from the struggle of trying to preserve the old and familiar that’s falling apart to the struggle of adapting to something new and uncomfortable. I’ve read some criticism that Aquatope suffers in its second half because of this stark change.

I don’t agree at all. Yeah, Gama Gama had plenty of charm, and I imagine a lot of people were hoping for a happy ending for the old aquarium, as wrapped up as it was with Kukuru’s own identity and her sense of belonging, which she loses and has to find again when it’s shut down. But everything we see and hear in that first half of Aquatope points to Gama Gama just having too much stacked against it. It probably wouldn’t have been realistic at that point to have a miraculous turnaround (aside from that magical realism element, which more on that later.) It’s also possible to see the closure of Gama Gama as a good thing in the long run for Kukuru, forced as she is to resolve some of the personal issues she seemed to be dealing with before by going full workaholic at the aquarium when she wasn’t studying or going to school.

This was understandable considering the memories she had attached to the aquarium, including those of her long-deceased parents. Kukuru’s orphaning, her adoption by her grandparents, and the loss of an unborn sister leaving her an only child clearly put her in a rough spot that she found comfort from in her love of her work. The move to Tingarla is hard for her in part because of this shift away from the familiar, but by the end of the series Kukuru discovers she has some talent for marketing (which was evident to viewers throughout most of the show — even though her efforts to save Gama Gama failed, she threw herself into some creative marketing efforts there as well, and the closure occurred despite her best efforts to prevent it.) It’s also strongly hinted that Grandpa himself had something to do with her placement in marketing in order to prepare her for a future of aquarium management.

He never tells her what to do, but he’s always guiding her: the best kind of parenting in my opinion, and the kind I hope I’d practice if that ever happens.

This shift also forces Kukuru to understand and tone down her more stubborn aspect slightly. While that stubbornness can be a positive in some situations and to some degree, it also causes her problems, especially when that rival of hers, Chiyu, first shows up in the series as an intern at Gama Gama. Chiyu certainly does plenty to contribute to her own failure to perform well at Gama Gama, being vocally dismissive of the old aquarium. But Kukuru shares the blame: she doesn’t handle Chiyu well at all in her position as acting director, openly clashing with her over her attitude and more or less saying good riddance and fuck off when she eventually gets transferred to intern at Tingarla, where they meet again.

While Kukuru’s offense is understandable, she doesn’t deal with it in a mature way — though she knows a lot about marine life and has plenty of experience as an attendant for her age, she shows at this point that she’s not quite an adult yet. Moving to Tingarla puts her in a position where she’s no longer in control and has to put up with other people’s shit, some of whom she doesn’t know all that well, and by the end she’s figured out how to adjust pretty effectively. Even she and Chiyu become colleagues who can work together, if not exactly friends (though Chiyu’s previously unknown young son dropping into the cast seemed to have a lot to do with that, since he charms everyone else instantly. There are benefits to having kids, I guess.)

This criticism relates to another one I’ve read that I think has more to it — the story’s shift away from Fuuka. You might have told already from how much I wrote about Kukuru above, but despite Aquatope opening with Fuuka’s story and the career/life dilemma she’s dealing with, the actual protagonist of the story as far as I can tell is Kukuru. Fuuka’s conflict over what to do about facing her family and her struggles working at a completely new job in a new environment are almost entirely resolved by the middle of the first Gama Gama arc, or about one-quarter through the entire series. While there’s still a question hanging in the air about Fuuka’s eventual possible return to idol work, that’s pretty easily resolved when she decides near the end of that same arc to abandon that dream and find something else to do. Then, no big surprise, shortly after the Tingarla part of the plot starts Fuuka returns from the mainland and joins the team as an attendant — her new dream is to work with sea life.

Most of the rest of Fuuka’s story ties in with Kukuru’s struggles. Their relationship is one of the central aspects of the series, so that’s not so unnatural, but by the end of Aquatope I had the sense that this was mainly Kukuru’s story. This isn’t necessarily a fault — at best I’d say it was a bit misleading. I can see viewers having a problem with this if they weren’t big on Kukuru, though. Which I can understand somewhat at least, though I don’t count myself among them. I liked Kukuru, even when she was being a little too stubborn. Except for that one point in the second or third episode where she was being seriously unreasonable and chewing Fuuka out for screwing up her first damn day on the job, and even then she apologized for that afterward if I remember correctly.

Yeah penguins are cute and all but it’s not always fun and games with them

The only other serious criticism I’ve heard about Aquatope, and the one I credit the most, is its near-complete dropping of its pretty strong magical realist element halfway through. Fuuka isn’t the only visitor to Gama Gama who has had visions there — Kukuru knows exactly what she’s experienced the first time they meet, and Kukuru, her childhood friend/fellow aquarium worker Kai, and a few other visitors have similar visions during the first half of the series. There might have been some doubt about whether these visions were “real” or just strange hallucinations, but the show occasionally cuts to a sort of natural god/spirit hanging around the island. Kukuru and then Fuuka make offerings at a shrine every morning with the prayer “Do what’s right and everything will work out” and it’s implied that these shrines are connected with the god. And since we the viewers actually see this guy hanging around, I think it’s safe to assume the god exists in this world and that they’re connected with the visions somehow.

Near the middle of the series and the end of Gama Gama’s story, Kukuru gets desperate enough to suggest marketing the aquarium as a place where people can experience these strong and emotional visions, but she’s finally discouraged from taking this path after talking to Kai about it (who actually lies to her about not having had his own vision there, which he did — wouldn’t have done that myself but I think I get what he was going for, since Kukuru’s plan felt almost sacrilegious somehow. Though the tradition I grew up in might be stricter about such things.) Either way, it felt a bit weird for Aquatope to almost entirely drop this element in the second half. That god/spirit guy didn’t seem too upset by any of the above developments or by much of anything at all either.

But then maybe that’s the point. Fuuka and Kukuru both stick to their prayer throughout the series, anyway, and everything does work out in the end for them, though not in the way they first expect.

Okinawa seems like the “don’t worry about thing so much” type of place where life moves slowly, kind of like the Mediterranean. Just the impression I get. Also I’d love to visit this diner and hang out with Udon-chan here.

There’s one more point about Aquatope that I may have a controversial opinion about. Possibly controversial. I don’t actually know. But it’s about Kukuru and Fuuka’s relationship, so you might guess the subject. There was some talk early on in the run of Aquatope that it might involve some yuri romance between the leads. I brought it up in my first impressions post but doubted that there was very much there, and now that the series is complete, I can confirm that there really wasn’t much there at all.

At least there wasn’t from my perspective. I’ve seen a few suggest (including a writer at ANN posted on the series Wikipedia page) that Aquatope was “yuri-coded.” I’m not sure if that means it’s not straight-up yuri but has suggestions of it or something, but even that feels like a stretch. What bothers me about it isn’t the suggestion of yuri itself — as I wrote before, I didn’t care how Kukuru and Fuuka’s relationship shook out as long as it was handled well, and I think it was. But while they’re something more than just friends, I didn’t see anything romantic in their relationship. No, I see Kukuru and Fuuka’s relationship as one of those “sworn siblings” situations. Usually they’re sworn brothers you see, but no reason you can’t have sworn sisters either, even if there’s no actual blood oath or anything exchanged. Fuuka seems to be filling the place of Kukuru’s lost sister, and the two support and are attached to each other pretty closely. So that’s an intimate relationship, sure, but romantic? I guess it depends on how you define the term, but again, I didn’t see it.

Or maybe this romantic setting influenced some people’s opinions on the matter?

Hell maybe I’m the idiot dumbass here; wouldn’t be the first time. Or maybe my understanding of social ties is warped (see last post for that.) You tell me. Some people think two non-related friends who are especially intimate must have romantic feelings for each other, but that seems way too presumptuous to me. I guess you can read the relationship that way if you really want, anyway, but I need more than that. See also Reinhard and Kircheis in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, who I might have joked about when I wrote about it years ago, but eh. There’s way stronger proof for the Ishmael-Queequeg relationship in Moby-Dick, and while I’ve heard the same about Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings I can’t confirm or deny, since it’s been well over a decade since I saw the films and longer since I read the novels. Since they’re all characters, all we have to go on are what’s on the page/screen and the intent of the author. Or ignore authorial intent like my junior year English teacher said we can do, which really fucking bothers me.

But I’m not writing about this stuff anymore, since we’re starting to get into critical analysis here or whatever it’s called and I’m not smart enough to do that properly.

Who cares, let’s dress like fish

That’s all I have for The Aquatope on White Sand. It’s a very good anime series and you should watch it. It’s on Crunchyroll, which is kind of a piece of shit, but it’s the only place I know of to watch it (legally.) Tell me what you think of it and/or of my dumb opinions if you feel like it, especially the relationship stuff, because I’m curious to see how other people around here feel about that aspect of the series. Thanks as always, and until next time (probably the end-of-month post) all the best.

Listening/reading log #26 (December 2021)

Sorry for the late post again; work has been drowning me, but every time this kind of rush happens it gets easier to deal with. Maybe this is part of being a “responsible adult” like I refused to be for most of my 20s.

Anyway, how about that omicron or whatever. It’s getting tiring, isn’t it? Everyone’s already talked about how 2021 was more or less a replay of 2020, and between the virus and the first anniversary of what might have been a massive political disaster in my country that people here are now constantly on edge about (and climate change and nukes of course) the mood still feels apocalyptic. I unintentionally saw the last five minutes of the Netflix production Don’t Look Up and decided I didn’t need to see the rest, partly because something about the general tone and feel of that ending got under my skin, but also because I don’t feel like watching a movie about the end of the world even if raising awareness of our problems was the whole point of it. That’s a worthy goal, sure, but my awareness was raised well enough already.

On to the usual business, sorry. Starting with the music, two classic 60s albums this time:

Odessey and Oracle (The Zombies, 1968)

Highlights: Care of Cell 44, A Rose for Emily, Time of the Season

Damn, that misspelling in the title really gets on my nerves. I want to call it Odyssey and Oracle, but that’s not its title, and you don’t get to just correct mistakes like that. To be fair to the Zombies, the spelling of the word is a bit weird, but couldn’t they have looked it up first? Nobody had a dictionary in the studio to spellcheck?

But once I get beyond my obsession over proper spelling, it’s okay, because Odessey is a fine album. The Zombies were a British group that spent the 60s making pop-rock music with a big emphasis on vocals and keyboards, both piano and organ. The big hit was “Time of the Season”, which is one of those very classic-sounding late 60s songs you’ve definitely heard on oldies radio if you’re old enough to even remember that being a thing. It creates that trippy atmosphere perfectly, and the song is broken up by some cool extended organ solos. I’m a big fan of it even if the lyrics are a bit weird (especially that famous “what’s your name / who’s your daddy / is he rich like me?” What are you up to, guys?)

But there are other notable songs on Odessey, like the extremely depressing “A Rose for Emily” that has a nice upbeat sound to go along with the lyrics about crushing loneliness. And the extra upbeat “Care of Cell 44”, so damn upbeat that I’ve heard the first several bars in commercials — though of course they always cut the song off before you realize it’s about a guy waiting for his lady to get out of prison. And while it’s not quite up there with the other I mentioned, I also like This Will Be Our Year. Will this be our year finally? Let’s hope.

Before I finish with Odessey, though, I should note that I’ve covered one of the band members before: Rod Argent, who would start his own band called Argent after the Zombies broke up the year this album came out. Apparently Odessey as a whole was a flop at the time, which I’m sure didn’t help. Too bad, though like quite a few other deserving works it was later rediscovered, which is something to be thankful for.

Let It Bleed (The Rolling Stones, 1969)

Highlights: All of it

Okay, so maybe I’m being lazy this post. But I’ve written 25 of these already, covering about 60 or 70 albums I think, and yet until now I haven’t brought up the Rolling Stones, who are way more than deserving of at least one mention.

It’s hard to say which of the Stones’ classic albums is my favorite. There are six or seven probably that could try for that spot, musically speaking at least (more on that below) but Let it Bleed is certainly one of the highest on my list. The Stones made a lot of excellent music throughout the 60s and 70s, and though they fell off pretty badly in the 80s, they’ve been somehow active all the way up until now. Quite literally; you can see them on tour this year, though I’m not sure how advisable that would be with COVID still going. I guess Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in particular have survived so much that they’re not too worried about a pesky virus at this point.

But going back 53 years to Let It Bleed — it’s a bit hard to even bring up highlights, because I like pretty much every song on the album a lot, starting with the opening gospel-inspired Gimme Shelter and ending with the choral-inspired You Can’t Always Get What You Want. There’s a lot of country music inspiration here as well carried over from the previous year’s Beggars Banquet — see Love in Vain and Country Honk, the latter of which is better known in its less country and more rock-sounding form as a single, Honky Tonk Women. And if you’re more about blues, see Midnight Rambler. Though the Stones were from London, they got these mostly American styles down very well, though it’s also worth going back to hear the sources of their inspiration.

Maybe the real reason I chose to feature Let It Bleed instead of a different Stones album is that it means I don’t have to talk about songs that are musically great, despite their extremely uncomfortable lyrical subject (like say “Under My Thumb” on Aftermath, or “Brown Sugar” on Sticky Fingers, or “Stray Cat Blues” on Beggars Banquet — these guys would have been immediately canceled today for any one of these songs and might have had the cops called on them for the last one.) But I leave that for people who make a living off of writing about music. I don’t, so I don’t have to address this material myself, which is nice. I can at least say that Let It Bleed is a must, especially for fans of 70s hard rock, because 60s Stones is where those guys got a lot of their own inspiration from.

I’ll be a little more current with the music next post probably. I just wish people wouldn’t dismiss the lot of it as “dad rock” as I’ve heard it called — the great stuff from the era holds up and shouldn’t be thrown out as dated (though there certainly is plenty of dated music from that classic late 60s/early 70s period as well.) Or maybe “dad rock” refers to later guys like Journey and Boston now. Or hell, maybe at this point it’s Radiohead and Nirvana. I don’t have much of a point of reference myself; my childhood music was the late 90s/early 00s technically but I’m not really a big fan of that period in popular music, or not when compared to the late 60s through the early 80s and the early 90s anyway.

Now on to the featured posts this month:

Mieruko-chan (Anteiku Anime Reviews) — Mieruko-chan is a series I’d planned to watch this season, except I don’t feel like paying for more than one anime streaming service, so I couldn’t. But I have it on my list, because it seems like an interesting one. Have you wondered what your life would be like if you were the only one who could see all sorts of terrifying spirits and monsters around you? Read Will’s review for more on this comedy/horror anime.

Tawawa on Monday 2: An Anime Short Review and Reflection (The Infinite Zenith) — An exceedingly in-depth review of the second season of anime short series Tawawa on Monday. Be sure to check out Zenith’s post on it, especially if you’re a fan of exceedingly well-endowed anime girls. Maybe I should pick it up myself…

The Best Stories in Wildermyth Are Told by You (Frostilyte Writes) — Wildermyth looks like one of the most interesting games released in 2021, at least if Frostilyte’s take on it here is any indication. I won’t try to describe the game here since Frostilyte has already done a great job of it on his blog, so please check out his own look at the game there. Wildermyth is another one to add to my increasingly long list.

Shin Megami Tensei V is a Great Return to the Series (The Gamer With Glasses) — I’ve read both positive and negative opinions of the much-anticipated SMT V, but this review at The Gamer With Glasses gives me some hope that the negatives are blown a bit out of proportion (or resulted from specific expectations that were disappointed, which is always the case with these kinds of long-awaited releases.) I still don’t have a damn Switch to play it myself, but I’m hoping my tax refund this year is large enough to justify the purchase finally. Just waiting for that W2 and hoping for the best.

The Return of the Obra Dinn (Nintendobound) — And Matt brings us a review of still another game that I know I have to play at some point. I’ve heard how unique and engrossing The Return of the Obra Dinn is, and Matt’s post on the game gives me one more reason to look forward to it whenever I get around to picking it up.

New Year’s Is for Lovers (I drink and watch anime) — Irina says at the beginning of this post that she’s not much of a romantic. I’m not either, as you might know, but I can still appreciate her presentation of her favorite anime couple from Durarara!! which I shamefully haven’t watched or read. Though now I’m thinking about what it would be like to date someone without a head. I won’t rule out a dullahan, anyway — I’m not that narrowminded (or I’ve just read and played enough weird fantasy to prepare me for that extremely remote possibility.)

Urobuchi December: Fate/Zero (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Scott at Mechanical Anime Reviews dedicated the last month to the works of Gen Urobuchi. A worthy subject — Urobuchi has come up with some of the most creative and innovative stories in anime and visual novel form, including Madoka Magica and Saya no Uta. In this post, Scott takes a look at his Fate/stay night prequel Fate/Zero, an anime that some consider to be even better than the original work.

One Hour Photo (2002): One of the Finest Works of Cinema I’ve Ever Seen – Film Review (BiblioNyan) — I don’t feature live-action film reviews here too often, but here’s one that I’ve actually seen, though only when it was released 20 years ago. BiblioNyan provides insightful comments on the film One Hour Photo, in which Robin Williams showed he could act just as effectively in a tense dramatic thriller about murder as in a comedy.

Senri Kawaguchi: The Mighty Jazz and Fusion Drummer (Professional Moron) — From Mr. Wapojif, a look at young up and coming Japanese jazz/fusion drummer Senri Kawaguchi. I’ve been getting into Japanese fusion, but mostly the 70s and early 80s work — maybe it’s time to get more modern and see what Kawaguchi and her colleagues have to offer. I need to hear what the “Princess of Many Strokes” as she’s called is capable of.

And finally, thanks to Aether for the excellent answers to the questions I imposed on him a while back with the Let’s Blog Award (and also his answers to Red Metal and Alex of Alex’s Review Corner — Aether did a lot of answering questions this month.) If you want more insight into the man and the legend in his own words, you can’t do better than reading these posts.

It’s a somewhat shorter post than usual this month, but since I’ve been flooded with work and personal concerns lately, I’ve been a bit less engaged than I’d like. I also have pending anime series I’m watching that I feel I have to finish before reading anyone else’s takes on them. I don’t usually make resolutions because I don’t generally believe in all that new year new you or whatever stuff, but I have resolved to finish certain series and at least one game (and probably two) before the end of January. I have a few weeks, so I should be able to keep those. Until next time, all the best.

A review of The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

Continuing my look at a few of the recently ended summer/fall 2021 anime, here’s a complete review of the 20-episode series The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, or Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai!. I probably won’t have much more to write about it than I already wrote in my first impressions post, but considering how fucking tired I am from work and also from life in general (not much of a Christmas break for me, though I could have easily gotten one — have to bill those hours and get money though) that might be for the best. At the very least, it’s appropriate that I feel this way right now, since it makes the main character feel relatable in at least one way.

Jahy-sama, as I’ll be calling it from now on, is the story of title character and protagonist Jahy, a demon lady who was thrown into modern-day Japan after her native land, the Dark Realm, was destroyed by a magical girl who blasted the mana crystal powering it into pieces. Jahy, as the second-in-command of the Dark Realm and the right hand of the mysterious and powerful Dark Lord, has naturally taken it upon herself to restore and return to their realm by collecting the shards of the shattered mana crystal that have flown all over her new home of unnamed Japanese city.

Unfortunately, Jahy’s situation is complicated. First, because she’s lost almost all her magical power, having been left with merely a small piece of the mana shard to use, and second because along with this loss of power, she’s taken the form of a mere kid. Jahy is pissed beyond belief at her circumstances, but without her magic and without any contacts in this new world, she’s forced to camp out by a river and scrape around for any food and supplies she can get.

But then she’s discovered and taken in by a pair of sisters. The elder sister (known only as tenchou or boss/manager) just happens to own and manage a pub, while the younger, Ryou, is the landlord of a shitty slum apartment, so the two set Jahy up with both living quarters and a job as a waitress. Luckily, Jahy can use what little magical power she has left to transform back into her fully adult-looking form for at least part of each day, allowing her to work at the pub without raising concerns from the police or child welfare services.

Tenchou is genuinely the nicest fucking person on the planet

Jahy is understandably upset at being downgraded from second-in-command of the Dark Realm to a waitress living in a single-room apartment, but she’s motivated by her goal to restore her former home and to revive her boss, the Dark Lord, by using her built-in sense of magic radar to find pieces of the mana crystal Knuckles in Sonic Adventure-style. But along the way, will Jahy make friends and learn the value of true companionship?

Well, spoilers: the answer is yes. Jahy-sama, despite having plenty of demonic characters with destructive magical powers, is pretty much a lighthearted slice-of-life comedy. While Jahy is quite serious about finding those mana crystals and restoring the Dark Realm, she ends up constantly sidetracked by friends and enemies both old and new, starting with her former demon subordinate and big-time masochist Druz, who also happens to be looking for the mana crystals and doing a far better job of finding them (all while profusely apologizing for not doing a better job while begging Jahy to insult/punish her. Druz is a bit weird.)

Good reaction screenshot

Further complicating her situation, Jahy feels the need to conceal her difficulties from Druz and to try to maintain her former dignity, all while working as a waitress and living in a crap apartment. A lot of the comedy in Jahy-sama comes from seeing this haughty demon lady reduced to living the life of a minimum-wage worker, learning to scrape by like a lot of us do or have at some point in our lives. These are the relatable parts, at least to me — thankfully I don’t quite have to live like this anymore, but I know too well the crushing pressure and anxiety of having to count your money carefully, thinking about how long your next paycheck can last and how much you’ll have to tighten that belt you’re wearing. In Jahy-sama it’s all played for comedy, but it is still relatable.

I’m not here anymore, but I remember this pain. At least we always had those Cup Noodles around to eat.

I mentioned in my first impressions post that the tone and feel of Jahy-sama reminded me a lot of the Disgaea games I’ve played, and I feel that now even more having finished the show. Partly because they both prominently feature humanoid demon characters with those signature pointy ears — I don’t think he has anything to do with the series, but I can imagine someone like Jahy, Druz, or Saurva coming straight out of Takehito Harada’s sketchbook (though they came out of the original manga author Wakame Konbu’s sketchbook instead.)

But Jahy-sama also has exactly that same sort of goofy, light slapstick humor with a few emotional bits thrown in, as when Jahy realizes she’s actually making friends in the human realm. Disgaea is a little heavier on the dramatic side, but the similarities are strong enough in terms of the story, look, and general feel that I’d feel pretty safe recommending Jahy-sama to big Disgaea fans, or at least to people who are in love with the typical Disgaea style.

It gets super Disgaea-ish at parts, Jahy almost channeling Etna here.

That’s not to say Jahysama is perfect. The most obvious issue with the show is its kind of cheap-looking production. If you’re out for visual spectacle, you won’t get it here (you might instead get it in one of the other summer/fall anime series I’ll be writing about later, so you can look forward to those posts I hope.)

This wasn’t a problem for me, though. I don’t think you need a huge budget and a lot of spectacle for a series like this. I’d barely seen anything before from Silver Link, the studio that produced Jahy-sama, so I didn’t have set expectations going in anyway. But even if I had, the show kept me more than entertained enough that I could overlook the shortcuts they seem to have taken. And those complaints absolutely don’t extend to the voice acting, which is excellent. They’re all good, but Kana Hanazawa did an especially amazing job as Druz. Though I hope she got a break to rest after all the dramatic, pitiful screaming that character did.

Hearing Hanazawa scream her lungs out is more than enough reason to watch this show

The other, potentially more serious problem some viewers might have with Jahy-sama is its goofy, over-the-top vibe. The show is almost surreal in how easily its human characters accept Jahy’s strange situation, the magic of the mana crystals, and all the rest of this demonic dark lord stuff as if it’s no big deal. I can also see the antics of some of these characters getting on people’s nerves. I’m probably a huge hypocrite for being all right with an obsessive character like Druz, for example, while finding similar characters in other series a little grating.

Going back to the Disgaea comparisons, I gave a similar warning to readers looking to get into that game series, and that same warning applies here. If you find this kind of wacky slapsticky humor annoying, you’ll probably be annoyed by Jahy-sama as a whole, especially since there’s no game element to distract you from the story this time around. But again, none of this is a problem for me, since I generally like these kinds of weirdo near-surreal comedies. It might have also made a difference that I watched and kept more or less current with Jahy-sama as it aired — the show might start to feel too samey if you just binge it like a lot of people do at the end of a season.

That said, Jahy-sama is the feel-good anime of the year, or whatever it is people say

That’s all I have to say about Jahy-sama. It’s not much to say, especially about a 20-episode series, but hell, it’s just a goofy slice-of-life comedy with a bit of plot. Not terribly deep, but then that worked perfectly for me. The Jahy-sama anime is an adaptation of a still-running manga that I’ve never read, so maybe it’s better to read than to watch — it’s being officially translated into English and published in physical form, so that might be something to check out if you’re into manga.