The Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge Part 4: No more clever subtitles

Last month I was honored with a fourth Sunshine Blogger Award nomination, this time from animeandfanfiction, who runs an excellent site dealing with anime, manga, and games.  Thanks very much for the tag.  My answers are a bit late, but they’re here now.  As usual, here are the rules:

Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

I’ve fulfilled the first and last requirements already, so now it’s time to answer the questions:

1. If you could cosplay any anime character to a convention or just at home, who would it be?

I guess I’d have to say Phoenix Wright, because 1) it would be an easy cosplay; all I’d need to buy is some hair gel and a golden pin, and 2) we’re both lawyers, so it would work thematically.  And I’m pretty sure he was in an anime adaptation once, right?  So this works an as answer.  Though being a lawyer in Phoenix’s world is a lot more exciting that being one in ours.

2. Who is the most relatable anime/manga character to you?

Very sadly, I have to say it’s probably Nozomu Itoshiki, aka the Zetsubou-sensei in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.  This is a series about a teacher who constantly takes as negative a view of life as possible, not because he’s trying to be contrarian but because that’s just how he is.  Meanwhile, his class is full of girls who each have their own psychological quirks, and there’s a lot of weird dark comedy that ensues.  SZS does contain a lot of cultural references and language puns that I probably wouldn’t get even if I looked them up, but I can totally understand Itoshiki and his view of life, because it’s not too different from mine.  I’ve been trying to be more positive, though.  It’s not easy.

The worst possible conclusion is probably the right one.  This is a hard mindset to break.

3. Which genre do you think you’ve watched the most of this year?

I’ve completed a grand total of one current anime series so far, Cop Craft, and I’m also watching that Fate/Grand Order: Babylonia show (yeah, I’m still watching at least one anime series currently airing.)  So it’s a tie between urban sci-fi fantasy cop show and ancient battle royale (or isekai?  Does F/GO count as an isekai?  I have no idea.)

4. What seasonal animes were your favorites this year?

Again, not much I can say here, but Cop Craft was actually pretty good despite the at times extremely janky animation.  The relationship between Tilarna and Kei in that series made it worth watching.  Also the Range Murata character designs.  It is really a shame that the art in Cop Craft so often lacks detail, considering the incredible detail Murata puts into his own works.  Just a case of low budget, I guess.

An example of Murata’s work from one of his artbooks; the guy is a master.

5. How did you get into being an aniblogger?

I wouldn’t say I’m quite an aniblogger in the way animeandfanfiction, or Irina, Scott, or some of the other dedicated anime bloggers are.  But if we can lump video games in with anime, I can get into why I started this blog: it was essentially a way for me to blow off some steam and do something unrelated to my studies when I started at law school.  At the time, I really wasn’t looking for anything else from the blog but that.

Now I work full time and then some, which doesn’t afford me a whole lot of time for other pursuits, but I still stick with this because I’ll be damned if I have to lose one of the only places I have where I can be myself.  I enjoy the community we have here, and it’s nice to be able to put my writing out to others who might be interested as well as to the internet as a whole.  The idea that some guy in Burkina Faso can find my deep dive analysis of the romance element in Saya no Uta with a Google search is one I like, even if it doesn’t benefit me directly in any way.

6. Shortest or longest anime you’ve watched?

Don’t know about shortest, but the longest anime series I’ve watched, by a long shot, is Legend of the Galactic Heroes at 110 episodes.  It’s still one of my all-time favorites, a space opera/war drama story with political intrigue and romance and a lot of other stuff that you might like.  Except it’s 110 episodes long, and it was also made in the 80s and early 90s and very much looks it, so I have a hard time recommending it to some people.  If you can get past the dated look of the series and get a few episodes in, though, you might find yourself hooked.

I haven’t used this gif in five years, but finally I have another opportunity.

As an alternative, you can check out the LOGH remake currently airing.  I haven’t watched any of it, so I don’t know how it compares to the original so far, but it’s probably worth checking out too.  I’m not the type to hate something just because it’s not the original thing it was based on, so I might watch it at some point myself.

7. Best anime character husbando or waifu crush?

It’s been a long time, but I have to admit that I crushed on Misato Katsuragi, the military officer who directly supervised Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I was a few years younger than Shinji at the time I watched Eva, but even then the idea of living with an attractive older woman who sometimes just wore a towel around the place was exciting to me.  I don’t know if Misato would count as the “best” — she’s got plenty of problems and probably drinks too much — but she’s still my best, and I guess that’s what matters.

Misato: still best waifu

8. Do you have a favorite protagonist or antagonist? If so, who?

Going in to Persona yet again here, so big time spoilers for Persona 4:

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Adachi.  I don’t know if Adachi being the culprit really counts as a spoiler anymore, but it did when I played it.  I’ve heard some people suggest that his reason for shoving people into the TVs and leaving them to die was dumb, but the simplicity of his reason was exactly why it worked for me: he’s a bored, frustrated asshole who discovered a power he had and used it to amuse himself at the expense of others.  Nothing could be more human, at least if we’re talking about the negative side of human desires and impulses.  On the positive side, you have the protagonist, who made something great of himself and forged meaningful relationships with his family and friends while possessing the same power as Adachi.  Two sides of the same coin, that old thing.  Maybe that’s overused, but I like it when it’s done well, and I think Persona 4 does it well.

9. If you could change the ending of an anime you didn’t like, how would you change it?

I don’t think I’ve seen an anime series with an ending that I hated so much I’d know how to change it for the better.  I know a lot of people really hated the ending to Oreimo, but I’ve never watched that show, so I don’t have an opinion on it.  As far as games go, I did watch someone play the walking simulator Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture on Steam a couple of years ago, and the ending to that game was so bad that the streamer went on for about 15-20 minutes afterwards about how much dogshit nonsense it made the entire work into, which I remember pretty much agreeing with.  But then I wasn’t too impressed with the game otherwise, so I’m not the best judge there either.

10. What is your favorite setting of animes? For example, schools, being transported to an online game, feudal Japan, etc.

I’m very into the urban or urban fantasy setting, which is part of why I picked up Cop Craft.  Feudal Japan can be interesting too, though.  I guess it’s a bit of a stereotype for nerds to be into the Sengoku period, but it really does feature some strange stories, especially the ones about Nobunaga.  That guy was crazy.

11. If you could make one fictional being or thing in an anime real, who or what would it be? For example, Pokemon, yo kai spirits, mecha robots, etc.

I’m really not sure.  Aigis, I guess.  I still like the idea of living with a cute android girl/full-scale home security system in one.  When will engineers and technicians stop with the god damn not-even-marginally-better new smartphone versions and build something good for once?

Who else can dance and defend against aerial attacks at the same time?  No one, that’s who.

Once again, thanks for the questions!  I’ll hold off on issuing my own because I currently have one more set of questions to answer for a different blogger award, this time from Pete Davison of MoeGamer.  You can look forward to that post and my own tags sometime this weekend, probably.  Until then!

A review of Cop Craft

Let’s finally close the book on the summer 2019 anime series Cop Craft.  My weekly review posts were all extremely spoiler-laden, so if you’re looking to go into Cop Craft more or less blind, read this spoiler-free review instead to find out if you might like it enough to check it out on Funimation’s streaming service (or to find the episodes in other very obvious ways that I won’t address here.)

Tilarna will chase down and arrest all pirates

Our tale starts with Kei Matoba, a grizzled detective in San Teresa, a large American city on the Pacific coast (which I’m still positive is meant to be alternate universe San Francisco.)  San Teresa has a special status as the gateway city to a group of immigrants called Semanians from a planet connected to Earth through a mysterious wormhole gate thing that appeared out of nowhere some years back.  At the beginning of the series, Kei’s partner is killed by a corpse being controlled by Semanian magic during a sting operation gone wrong, and in the course of the investigation a new partner is assigned to him: the Semanian knight Tilarna Exedilica, a young noble lady with a haughty bearing but an honest and straightforward personality.  Kei and Tilarna clash at first, but they end up working together and even developing a strong bond as they learn to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

They also live together in an Odd Couple-style arrangement

If that sounds familiar, it might be because this is the basic setup of every buddy cop series and movie ever made.  Cop Craft was a bit different from most of the other series airing last season for just that reason — it borrows a lot from western sources, namely from American cop dramas, and throws in a whole lot of sci-fi and mixes them together.  This invited a lot of comparisons to Bright, the Netflix original movie with a somewhat similar premise that took a beating from critics in 2017.  Cop Craft is based on a light novel series that started in 2009, though, so there certainly wasn’t any inspiration from that film here.  In fact, a better comparison might be another Will Smith movie: Men In Black, only Tommy Lee Jones is 30 years younger and Will Smith is a cute sword-wielding girl from another planet where due process and defendant rights don’t exist.

Tilarna-style interrogation. I guess this alternate-universe USA doesn’t have Section 1983 protections against police misconduct.

The story of Cop Craft is decent enough — there are a few plots that start and get resolved throughout the 12-episode run that are presumably taken from writer Shoji Gatoh‘s light novel work.  These plots are contained within a larger story about the clash of cultures between Earth natives and Semanians, a clash that plays out on a small scale between Kei and Tilarna.  This both gives our protagonists more depth and raises the story’s stakes, especially in the second half of the series, which deals directly with issues relevant to real life like nativism and xenophobia.  Thankfully, Cop Craft deals with these issues in a way that’s neither preachy nor heavyhanded.  Tilarna does face discrimination while working with Kei because of her origin, but the show doesn’t treat her detractors as faceless villains — they’re all depicted as real people with real fears.  Misguided fears, to be sure, because Cop Craft has an obvious anti-xenophobic message.  But that message is effective precisely because it treats these issues as complex.

The greatest strength of Cop Craft lies in its characters, however, and specifically in the relationship between Kei and Tilarna.  Kei is the jaded old cop who’s been forced to accept corruption and the influence of money and politics in his work, and Tilarna is the young hothead who acts before she thinks but who also forces Kei to remember his old ideals.  Beyond that basic archetypal stuff, these characters are just really well-written and grow closer over the series in a believable way.

The context to this scene is pretty interesting, but I’ll let you find out about it for yourself.

There’s not much more I can say about the plot or characters without spoiling, so I’ll leave it at this: Cop Craft is worth watching just for Kei and Tilarna.  A few of the surrounding cast of characters are interesting as well, particularly the police coroner Cecil, but Kei and Tilarna are almost always at the center of the action, which is a good thing.

Speaking of action, there is action in this show and a lot of it looks lousy.  The animation in Cop Craft is wildly inconsistent, ranging from decent to awful.  If you saw the above stills and thought “wow, this show looks beautiful” — yeah, some of the still shots are detailed and nicely show off the excellent work of character designer Range Murata, but the action scenes look rough, with a lot of obvious animation shortcuts.  I don’t know much about the technical aspects of animation, but I do know what looks good to me and what doesn’t.  Most of Cop Craft looks like it was made on an extremely tight budget, with 95% of the detail reserved for the scenes where the studio obviously wanted to make Tilarna look really good.  Even some of the still shots lack detail to a distracting extent.

There’s also one episode that’s so dark you can barely make out anything.

I have to assume the studio (Millepensee, who also co-produced the widely hated 2016 adaptation of Berserk and what look like a few “cute girls doing cute things” comedies I’ve never heard of) just didn’t have the funds or time to make something that looked better. It’s a real shame — I know there are people who will avoid watching Cop Craft because of its rough animation, and I can’t blame them for that. This is a visual medium, and the visuals matter.

Still, if any of the above stuff sounds interesting to you, I recommend checking out Cop Craft, even if it is visually rough around the edges sometimes.  Look at it this way: if I told you the visuals and animation in Cop Craft were beautiful but that the characters and story were dogshit, I wouldn’t be recommending it at all.  If I want to see nice visuals and nothing else, I’ll look at my artbooks again.

We got a lot of shots of Tilarna being cute and pouty, and that’s all that really matters

And that’s about it for Cop Craft.  Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be getting a second season considering how little attention the anime series seems to have gotten.  The light novel series is still being written and published, though, so there’s always a chance.  Maybe when the isekai craze finally dies down, there will be more demand for an urban sci-fi fantasy cop show and a better studio with more resources will be able to produce it, and then I won’t have to qualify my recommendation at all.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, final episode

Are you ready for the season finale of Cop Craft?  If you aren’t, then don’t read any more of this, because that’s what I’m writing about today.

Tilarna gets some nice badass action girl shots in this episode

Summary: We rejoin our protagonists in the van they’ve been tossed into by the corrupt FBI agent Chan.  Zelada is in the front seat and puts Kei and Tilarna to sleep with a magic spell.  When they wake up, they find themselves separated: Kei beaten to a pulp and handcuffed to a chair in an interrogation room with Chan, and Tilarna bound and held captive in Zelada’s swanky penthouse.  We get a back-and-forth sort of double scene in which we learn (again) that Zelada is an asshole who wants to sow discord between Semanians and Earth natives because he hates Earth culture and its degenerate effects on Semanian society, and that Chan is an asshole who just wants to blackmail the future mayor of San Teresa to get rich.

It’s quite clear that Chan is prepared to kill Kei once he gets access to Kei’s phone to delete that photo of Marla and her husband’s assassin from last episode (as we’ll soon learn, the reporter Randall has already met that fate) and Zelada decides to kill Tilarna once he realizes he can’t convince her to join his anti-Earth-culture cause.  Kei and Tilarna are action stars, though, so of course they both fight their way out of their predicaments despite being bound.  Kei manages to beat on Chan with his hands literally tied behind his back and chokes him to death with his thighs in an impressive display of strength, then he starts fighting Zelada’s corpse army on his way upstairs to the penthouse (yes, Kei and Tilarna are in the same building, though it’s not apparent at first.)

Kei busts in and he and Tilarna have a final battle with Zelada in which each is forced to use the other’s weapon, ending in old Z getting shot by Tilarna and decapitated by Kei.  Then Kei and Tilarna head up to the rooftop and wait for police backup as they have a nice moment together.  Kei offers to delete the incriminating photo of Marla so that the xenophobic douchebag Tourte isn’t elected mayor, but Tilarna insists they turn it in.  Finally, we have a montage in which Marla gets arrested, Tourte gets sworn in as mayor, and Tilarna decides to stay in San Teresa for good, continuing her tenure as Kei’s partner.  And then the OP plays in place of the ED, which I thought was a nice touch.

Just hanging out on the roof in a shot that looks a lot like one of Range Murata’s portraits.

Analysis: Well, damn.  What’s left to be said about this finale?  It was pretty nice, got the job done, and tied up the loose ends, all while leaving the door open for a second season.  The fight scenes were interesting as well, with Kei and Tilarna having to figure out how to resist and defeat their captors while handcuffed.  The very final fight between Zelada and the protagonists was a bit confusing, though.  There was a lot of trickery going on, with Zelada turning into flying red energy to escape Kei and Tilarna’s attacks.  And apparently Zelada can deflect bullets, except when he can’t.  Maybe Kei managed to distract him by blasting that rock music that Zelada hates, even though Kei should have no reason to know that Zelada hates it because he wasn’t in the room when that was revealed.

Oh well, who gives a shit about all that?  Cop Craft might be considered an action show, but I cared a lot more about the relationship between Kei and Tilarna than about the action scenes, and this season closer provided a nice cap to that development.  I’ve said before that I thought the show was hinting at something more going on between Kei and Tilarna, and even though nothing like that is firmly established here, it’s hinted at once again with one of Tilarna’s final lines.  If you follow the light novel series, I guess you know how that’s going to proceed.  The rest of us will have to wait for a second season if it ever happens.

And I hope it does.  Cop Craft has its shortcomings, but I enjoyed it enough to want more.  Hopefully that more includes a bigger budget, because I’d love to see Tilarna flying around and swinging her blade in intense action scenes that actually look good.

As usual, the Tilarna closeups are by far the best-looking shots in the show

And with that, I’m done with my beat-by-beat review of Cop Craft.  But I’m not done with the series quite yet.  I’ll be posting a no-spoiler full season review soon, so please look forward to that.  Until then!

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 11

Things have slowed down a bit here.  Sorry about that.  A lot of work combined with life being not much fun at the moment, even less than usual.  But I’m still watching Cop Craft.

Generally a bad idea to stick your finger in Tilarna’s face

Summary: Kei and Tilarna interview Tourte, the still-living mayoral candidate, who proves himself to be exactly the kind of asshole we thought he’d be, chewing out Tilarna for being a Semanian and acting like a pompous blowhard.  Tilarna points out that San Teresa was originally Semanian land that got warped into the Pacific Ocean or something, but Tourte doesn’t care and insists that Semanians don’t fit in with Earth’s society.  Our heroes leave the interview without any leads as to who killed Mozeleemay, but with at least a vague impression that Tourte wasn’t involved.  Meanwhile, the rest of the vice squad are pursuing their own leads in the same case and manage to come up with the identity of the murderer: an ex-Marine who went AWOL during the initial war against the Semanians.

Meanwhile, riots and fighting break out between Semanian and Earth humans over the murders of Kahns and Mozeleemay.  In the middle of this chaos, my prediction from episode 10 comes true as Mozeleemay’s wife Marla steps in as a mayoral candidate in the place of her dead husband.  However, at a tense, secretive park bench meeting between Kei, Tilarna, and a reporter who showed up last episode, we see a photo of Marla with her husband’s assassin in a hotel room, implying that Marla had her husband murdered.

The lesson here is if you’re cheating on your partner with his future assassin, you should probably keep the curtains closed

Before Kei and Tilarna have too much time to be shocked by this news, they’re ambushed and arrested by a bunch of FBI agents.  Tilarna sniffs out latena and determines that all but one of the agents are corpses being controlled by magic.  And sure enough, they dump Kei and Tilarna into the back of a van where they’re greeted by none other than big bad guy Zelada, where the episode ends.

Analysis: Just getting this out of the way: I won’t complain about the animation quality anymore.  There weren’t any action scenes for them to screw up this time anyway.

There were a lot of extreme closeups of Tilarna’s face as usual, though. They really like using these shots, don’t they?

A whole lot of plot stuff happened this episode, probably because there’s only one episode left, at least as far as I’ve heard.  We still don’t know what Zelada wants with Kei and Tilarna, except perhaps to kill them, but that seems a little too straightforward.  Marla having her husband murdered certainly doesn’t come off as a surprise — as we know, she has no problem with having people killed, and putting her weak-willed husband out of the way lets her pursue power on her own terms.  The fact that Zelada captured Kei and Tilarna while meeting the reporter who turned over that evidence suggests that he has a connection to Marla as well.  We know Zelada wants to sow discord between Semanians and Earth humans, so maybe all this is just in service of that goal.

Eh, close enough

All the anti-immigration/xenophobia stuff in this arc is pretty interesting.  It’s hard to watch Cop Craft without making comparisons to the current situation, especially in my own country, where the public’s opinions now range from “open the borders” to “deport all the illegal immigrants right away.”  I’m not sure how much the plot of Cop Craft is influenced by current events, considering the fact that it’s based on a series of light novels that started in 2009, but even if there’s no direct link the issue is definitely timely.

Thankfully, Cop Craft is not approaching the subject of xenophobia in a preachy or heavy-handed way.  Tilarna and the other Semanians trying to live in San Teresa aren’t presented as mere helpless victims, and Earth natives who have problems with them aren’t presented as complete assholes who are hateful for no reason.  All these people have reasons for feeling the way they do, reasons that the show explores a bit.  Tilarna realizes as much this episode when she compares the two current mayoral candidates: Tourte, who’s an anti-Semanian zealot but seemingly an honest guy, and Marla, who publicly supports Semanian rights but who has also used murder as a political tool at least twice at this point.

Tilarna learns about American democracy this episode, which boils down to choosing which candidate you think is less of an asshole.

I can’t stand works of fiction that try to make political points by bashing them over your head with purely good protagonists who spend their off time feeding orphans and widows and ridiculously evil villains who kill kittens for fun.  Thankfully, Cop Craft is not at all like that.  Its characters come off as pretty realistic — most of them are just people trying to live their lives who are thrust into difficult situations and conflicts.  Cop Craft pretty clearly takes a stance against anti-immigration and xenophobic views (after all, the bonding between Kei and Tilarna is one of the central elements of the series, so it wouldn’t make sense otherwise) but it approaches the issue with some nuance, which I like.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy some weird fanservice this episode, though

Anyway, the writers have certainly woven a tangled web here.  I’ll be impressed if they can sort it out in one episode, and I’ll be pissed off if they fail to do so and end the season on a cliffhanger.  Especially if we end up never getting a season 2.  I don’t read light novels (nothing against them, of course, I just don’t) but if that happens, I’ll have to seek the original work out to see how the series ends.

Let’s just hope for the best.  Until next time, stay safe.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 10

After a week off, Cop Craft is back with episode 10 and the continuation of the second half of episode 9’s political assassination plot.

Also with more pouty Tilarna, we can’t go without that

Summary: Kei and Tilarna follow up on their investigation of the murder of mayoral candidate Kahns, who was shot dead by the reanimated corpse of a Semanian.  We know he was being controlled by the evil mage Zelada because Tilarna told us so last episode, but the voters don’t — all they know is that a Semanian killed him, stoking anti-Semanian sentiments among Earth natives.  To pursue their lead, the team have to question Cole Mozeleemay, one of the two remaining candidates, at his campaign headquarters.  Things start awkwardly when Mozeleemay recognizes Tilarna as the undercover officer who acted as the bait in his prostitution sting arrest.  But then his wife Marla steps out from the shadows to take over the interview, and Kei and Tilarna realize that she has her husband by the balls (in Kei’s words; for once this isn’t me just being vulgar for no reason.)

The real power player in the relationship.

Marla cuts their interview short because her husband has a campaign speech to deliver.  Kei and Tilarna are about to head back to the office when they hear gunshots coming from the auditorium, however — Mozeleemay has been shot in yet another assassination attempt.  Kei uses some fancy detective work to determine who the shooter was based on the recording of the event, and he and Tilarna chase down their suspect, who turns out to be not one of Zelada’s puppet-corpses but rather an independent actor capable of using mildey, or Semanian magic.  Unfortunately, they’re forced to kill the suspect during their fight with him.  Even worse, FBI agents show up to “take the case over”, insulting Kei and Tilarna in the process as simple city cops (yeah, it’s that tired old cop show trope.) We get a confirmation that Mozeleemay is dead.  Then Kei and Tilarna head back to the office, where Tilarna gives the vice squad a demonstration of how Semanian magic is used to transform items, showing how the assassin was able to smuggle a gun disguised as a camera into the auditorium.

We finally get an explanation of how Tilarna performs her magical girl-style costume transformations.

Finally, Kei and Tilarna hit the road again to pay a visit to Tourte, the last alive candidate in the mayoral race and an anti-Semanian zealot, and as they approach his headquarters they run into an anti-Semanian protest, which is where the episode ends.

Analysis: Cop Craft is frustrating to watch. 

There’s a lot to like in this series.  I’m a big fan of Tilarna and her relationship with Kei.  And while I didn’t mind the more lighthearted episodes this season (and I definitely didn’t mind the Tilarna fanservice we got out of it) I also like the more serious turn the show is taking with this political assassination plot.  The show is taking xenophobia, something we have plenty of in the real world, and is using it in an effective way to create tension.

Yeah, the good times are mostly over, just like I thought.

I don’t even mind all that much that the writers killed off Cole Mozeleemay.  At his core, he just seemed like a lecherous guy who wanted to use his power to bone women with impunity. I’m sure they could have done more with him if they’d wanted to, but this turn of events just builds the tension even more.  And anyway, it’s clear that his wife Marla was the real political mind between the two of them.  My big prediction for this post is that she’ll take over his campaign and use the voters’ sympathy over the murder of her husband to get elected.  That could be interesting.  I don’t know how they’ll connect this plot thread to Tilarna and Kei now that Cole is dead, though.  I guess Tilarna has figured out that Marla was probably the one behind the murder of her friend Zoey, so maybe she’ll still try to take revenge for that.

But I have to address the animation quality this episode, which was back in the toilet again.  Parts of the action scenes looked awful, and even some of the still shots lacked detail.  I’m not going to post any of the really bad screenshots this time because I don’t even want to look at them again.  If you’re curious, head over to the various anime boards on Reddit and 4chan; I’m sure they’re posting the worst of the worst and calling the show garbage.

I’m pretty sure 99% of the show’s budget went into Tilarna’s close-up shots and the fanservice scenes in episode 8.

Let me be clear: I don’t think Cop Craft is garbage just because its animation quality is wildly inconsistent.  I’d much rather watch a series with good writing and compelling characters but lousy animation than one with great production values but dogshit-level writing.  But then I imagine how this show would look with a better animation budget (or a better studio?) and it makes me sad.  It’s all the worse for the fact that I really like Range Murata’s character designs.  It feels like they’re wasted in episodes like this.

Well, at least the show is still interesting to watch.  The uneven animation quality doesn’t put me off too badly; it’s just disappointing.  Here’s hoping it improves again.  That’s all I’ve got for now, so until next time, stay safe.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 9

This week, Cop Craft gave us that swimsuit episode I was predicting, though it happened in a way I couldn’t have predicted at all.  A lot happened this episode. In fact, it’s really more like the bottom half of episode 8 and the top half of episode 9 (which also contains a little bottom half, if you know what I mean. (I’m talking about another fanservice shot of Tilarna’s butt.  Though it’s got nothing on last episode.))

They had to shove that pool scene in somewhere, so why not here

Summary: The writers apparently wanted to wrap up the “Tilarna switching minds with Kei’s cat” storyline quickly, because it gets resolved before the first half of the episode is done. Cecil and cat-Tilarna go to the dump, and cat-Tilarna leaps into a giant trash heap to sniff out the latena and find the crossbow that caused the whole situation. Cecil panics and calls Kei to tell him what’s happened, fearing the worst.  Tilarna finds the crossbow and runs after it, but she has to jump off a conveyor belt leading to a compactor before she’s ground into a paste.  The crossbow is crushed and Tilarna thinks she’s doomed to be a cat forever… but in a weird anticlimax, it turns out that the crossbow being destroyed broke its spell, and Tilarna and Kuroi’s minds are returned to their rightful owners.

Tilarna comes to in Kei’s apartment as she’s being beaten by Hellmandes, a federal customs agents I didn’t even bother to bring up in my last post. Hellmandes was bugging Kei over that missing crossbow throughout episode 8 and into this one for good reason — he’s also an artifact smuggler and is now demanding that Tilarna tell him where it is so he can sell it. Now that Tilarna is back in her own body, however, we know how that will turn out.  She beats the shit out of him, finds her sword, and is prepared to kill him before Kei shows up and stops her to place Hellmandes under arrest for smuggling.

The face you see before you die, unless you luck out and get saved at the last minute

This is where episode 8’s story ends and episode 9’s (?) begins, because we’re immediately sent to a vice squad pool party. We get a little pool/swimsuit fanservice, then Kei sees on the news that Kahns, a candidate for San Teresa mayor, has been shot by a Semanian terrorist. Zimmer sends Kei and Tilarna directly to the coroner to attend the autopsy of the now dead gunman (still in their swimsuits, despite Kei’s objections) and Tilarna smells latena on the corpse and says he was probably being controlled by Zelada, the Semanian mage they fought all the way back in episode 4.

Cecil is unimpressed by Kei and Tilarna’s attire.

On their way out of the coroner’s office, a passing cop insults Tilarna as a “damn alien” under his breath, and Kei chews him out for it in front of everyone. Kei and Tilarna have a nice emotional moment, and the episode closes with Kei predicting a lot more strife between Earth humans and Semanians, considering the fact that a Semanian shot Kahns and that one of the remaining mayoral candidates is a racist asshole who wants to ship them all off (and the other is Mozeleemay, the lecherous dickhead from episode 7.)

This was a dramatic scene, but all I could wonder was why the hell is Tilarna wearing a school swimsuit, complete with that hiragana nametag on front?  It makes absolutely no sense.  I bet Range Murata insisted on it.

Analysis: Getting the end of episode 8’s story out of the way: it really did feel anticlimactic. Turns out Cecil and Tilarna didn’t have to chase that garbage truck after all; they could have just waited for the crossbow to get crushed at the dump. Not that they knew that, of course, but it still made the story feel pointless. Or maybe the whole point of it was to justify all those scenes of Tilarna crawling around in her underwear last episode. If that’s the case, I can forgive them.

Speaking of fanservice, here’s that gratuitous butt shot I was talking about.  Pretty tame compared to episode 8.

The second half of this episode was far more interesting. The semi-disgraced Mozeleemay’s mayoral opponents are revealed — the one who seems like a halfway decent guy has been shot and is probably out of the picture, and the other is an anti-immigration zealot. This sets up an interesting situation for Kei, Tilarna, and their colleagues.  We know both of these guys are assholes, and both would probably give Tilarna a lot of problems if they won the election.

Kei and Tilarna also had a few moments that suggest something more might be going on between them at some point. Tilarna gets weirdly indignant about Kei not being angry that Hellmandes saw her half-naked, and she seems a little put out when Kei said he was “freaked out” by her crawling on him last episode when she was in cat mode. Meanwhile, Kei goes out of his way to yell at that cop who calls Tilarna an alien, then explains to Tilarna that when he calls her an alien it’s like when a gangster calls his girlfriend a “bitch” — it’s sort of a term of endearment. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m sensing some tsundere vibes coming off of both of them, though it’s a lot more obvious with Tilarna. Or maybe they’re just teasing us and nothing will happen. We’ll see.

We also get a scene of Tilarna being mad and pouty again, which is always appreciated.

That’s all I have for now.  See you next episode, and until then, stay safe.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 8

What the fuck did I just watch?

I know how this looks, but it’s not what you think

Summary: Tilarna and Kei confiscate a shipment of illicit Semanian goods.  While Tilarna inspects them to sniff out any latena that might be in there, Kei’s cat Kuroi accidentally shoots Tilarna in the arm with a miniature crossbow in the collection that somehow transfers her consciousness to Tilarna’s body and Tilarna’s to hers.  “Tilarna” wakes Kei up the next morning by crawling into bed with him and trying to lick his face much to his confusion, but the real Tilarna in cat form freaks out and stops her.

Cat-Tilarna doing her best to prevent any weirdness/misunderstandings

Kei thinks Tilarna has just come down with a weird illness and leaves her to sleep it off while taking out the trash on the way to work (the crossbow also toppled into the trash can, so now it’s out in the dumpster.)  In a panic, cat-Tilarna texts Cecil that she and Kuroi have switched minds and asks her to come over and get the crossbow out of the trash, because she needs it to return to her own body, but not to tell Kei anything.  Cecil gets the gist of what’s going on after cat-Tilarna frantically gestures for a few seconds and uses her cell phone to write out messages.  Unfortunately, when Kuroi sees Cecil, she leaps on her, accidentally knocking her out.  When Cecil awakes, the dumpster is empty.  Cecil and cat-Tilarna take off to follow the garbage truck, but not before Cecil is forced to run back inside to close the blinds because Kuroi in Tilarna form is currently roaming around Kei’s apartment half-naked.

MY ASS IS HANGING OUT OF THE WINDOW, PLEASE FUCKING CLOSE THE BLINDS

And would you believe it?  For this episode, there’s a fucking cliffhanger ending as the garbage truck passes by their car while Cecil is in Kei’s apartment, and then she drives in the opposite direction.

Analysis: It’s not much of a cliffhanger if you ask me.  There were certainly a lot of stupid coincidences that came together to cause this problem, but we know Tilarna and Kuroi are going to get back into their own bodies in the end.  Unless this is going to become a show about a cop and his cop cat partner.  Like Turner & Hooch, only Hooch is a cat.  Now that would be a shitty twist.

Meanwhile, Kuroi doesn’t seem too concerned with the body swap situation

I guess this episode, and probably the next one where Tilarna and Kuroi switch places again, are the big fanservice episodes of the season.  I have to admit I didn’t see this coming at all.  I was thinking more like a beach episode, not Tilarna crawling around like a cat in her underwear and taking a dump in a litter box (this actually happens in the episode, though the camera tastefully pans away while cat-Tilarna looks on in horror.)  I know I’ve pretty much admitted to being a weirdo who likes catgirls, but this isn’t what I had in mind.

Wait, the cat’s name is Chloe? The subtitles call her Kuroi.  Whatever, I’ll keep going with Kuroi since I’ve been using it this whole time

I don’t have much else to say this time.  I can see some people being put off by this episode, I guess.  I’m still on board, of course, but it was definitely a strange one.  If you’re still on board too, I’ll see you next episode.  Until then, stay safe, and try to avoid getting shot by a magical crossbow that can switch your mind with a cat’s mind.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 7

Last week, Cop Craft took a more comedic turn. Now the show is back to punch you in the gut, emotionally.

Not even coffee will help

Summary: We start in an expensive hotel suite full of high-class prostitutes, a group that includes an undercover Tilarna. She’s called down to see her first client, who is duly arrested by Kei and the rest of his police squad but not before he creepily paws at Tilarna, much to her dismay. The client turns out to be one Cole Mozeleemay, a prominent politician and candidate for mayor of San Teresa.  There’s a major scandal, and Mozeleemay denies everything in front of the cameras while trying to sort his situation out with the help of his scheming wife Marla.

Following the raid, Tilarna befriends one of the sex workers let out on bail, a fellow Semanian named Zoey. The pair hang out, have a montage, and bond over Zoey’s photography hobby, but Tilarna never lets on that she’s a police officer. Meanwhile, Zoey is supplying Mozeleemay with information about the brothel’s clientele in exchange for money to support her high rent and lifestyle, and the list leaks to the media with a bunch of fake names included to cloud the investigation and take pressure off of Mozeleemay.

If you make a back alley deal, always include a brown envelope full of money, it’s cooler that way

When Tilarna and Kei learn that Zoey is responsible for leaking the club’s client list, Tilarna goes to her apartment to confront her about it, but Zoey is shot by a sniper just after Tilarna reveals that she’s a cop. Zoey dies, and though she and Kei don’t have solid evidence, they know Mozeleemay is behind the murder, because her death and silence mean that he’s now protected from prosecution. Tilarna vows to take revenge for her new short-lived friend, and the episode ends.

This scene has sort of a Reservoir Dogs feel, I like it

Analysis: I suspected Cop Craft would come back with a heavy episode, and it sure did. We’ve already seen Tilarna open up to Kei and vice versa, and also to Cecil. This episode, Tilarna makes a fast friend in Zoey and loses her just as quickly, either at the moment Tilarna admits that she’s been lying to her about not being a cop or when Zoey dies.  I didn’t expect it to end the way it did, either, with Zoey’s murder, although the episode does set it up so that you can see it coming in hindsight.

Mozeleemay’s cold-blooded wife. This is a weird-looking closeup, must be the angle

I also liked the establishment of another running villain.  Or I should say pair of villains, because while Cole Mozeleemay is undoubtedly a bastard, his wife Marla is downright murderous.  Even though she doesn’t outright admit to it, it’s implied that she had Zoey killed to protect her husband’s political future.  That old Lady Macbeth character type never dies, does it?  Though in this case, she’s having to clean up her horny, cheating husband’s mess.  I expect these two will figure into the show later on, since Tilarna now has it in for Mozeleemay.

Kei and Tilarna watching Mozeleemay’s denials on TV.

More than anything, I thought this episode cemented Tilarna’s character.  She’s serious and even stubborn in her sense of duty, but she’s also ready to befriend anyone she considers worthy of her friendship and is fiercely loyal to those people.  We’ve seen her act that way with both Cecil and Kei, even if both Tilarna and Kei might be loath to admit that they consider each other friends.  That nice dynamic between the two is here as well, with Kei’s cynical attitude clashing with Tilarna’s idealism.

I also liked the bits of criminal procedure we get in this episode, with Kei and his supervisor and colleague talking about what kind of evidence they’d need to provide the prosecutor to convince a judge to sustain a case against Mozeleemay.  This also involves Tilarna, who as usual is frustrated by all the legal process that seems to protect this corrupt politician.  Of course, that same process protects potentially innocent suspects.  But this is a cop show, so of course it’s going to dump on defense attorneys and defendants.  Go watch a few episodes of Law & Order for more of that attitude.  Honestly, Cop Craft is probably a more legally accurate show than Law & Order.  Low bar to clear, but still.

This is a closeup from the same scene as above, I just really like the expression on her face — that “I can’t believe what this asshole is saying” look

It is too bad that Zoey was killed off the same episode she was introduced — I felt like the show could have done more with her.  Same goes for Vampire Lady from episode 5.  Still, I liked this episode.  Looking forward to the next episode coming soon.  As usual, stay safe.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 6

It’s back to San Teresa for another episode of Cop Craft.  A warning to car lovers: this one might be hard for you to watch.

Tilarna feels the need for speed, but it doesn’t end well

Summary:  Tilarna accidentally gets Kei’s car totaled following a chase in which they knock over a truck carrying a load of alternate universe anime Playboy and Penthouse magazines stolen from a warehouse.  Kei’s boss gets him a beautiful new sports car through a police auction but also assigns him to the case of the stolen porn magazines and orders that Tilarna learn to drive and get a license.  Tilarna meets up with Cecil, who starts to teach her the ins and outs of driving these weird doreany machines.  Meanwhile, Kei and Tilarna’s colleague Tony goes undercover as a mob guy to track down the porn thief and sets up a sting operation/ambush.  We learn the criminal of the week is a Semanian trying to smuggle Earth smut to his porn-starved brothers on his home planet, where such things don’t exist.  For some reason, he can’t just buy up a bunch of cheap back issues of Playboy and Penthouse and sell them at marked-up prices back home on a black market.  No, I don’t get it either.

Tony is by far the best undercover cop we’ve seen so far — he plays a great mob dude.

The sting goes badly, and Kei and Tilarna end up having to chase down yet another criminal who takes Tony hostage and drives away.  Kei is temporarily blinded by a gunshot that grazes his face, so Tilarna takes the wheel and drives his car into the criminal’s car at a high speed, wrecking both but somehow not killing or badly injuring anyone.  Except for Kei’s new car, which bursts into flames.  Kei is naturally upset, but by the end of the episode he forgives Tilarna.  There’s also a b-plot where Kei is trying to get Tilarna her own place so she can get the fuck out of his house and stop freeloading, but she ends up just converting one of his rooms into her bedroom without him realizing and plants her ass there, and he accepts that too, somehow.

So all’s well that ends well?  I guess?

The episode does have a kind of happy ending if you ignore all the property damage.

Analysis: The more this series gets into the Kei/Tilarna dynamic, the more I like it.  This episode, Kei really did prove himself a softie by forgiving Tilarna for wrecking two of his cars and for secretly orchestrating a fait accompli where she wouldn’t have to move out of his place.  This is maybe sort of explained by Cecil while she’s giving Tilarna her first driving lesson — Kei had a younger sister who died ten years ago, and Cecil thinks he sees some of her in Tilarna.  The dead little sister thing feels a little lazy as a way to explain why Kei was so forgiving of Tilarna’s recklessness this episode, but at least they gave us some reason for it beyond “she’s a main character and a cute girl, so he has to forgive her.”

To be fair, the episode starts with Kei driving in a psychotic manner with Tilarna in the passenger’s seat, so she really learned reckless driving from him.

There was also some development of side characters, namely Tony.  It turns out that he’s quite a pure-hearted guy who believes in true love, which makes it all the harder for him to put on a tough mob guy act and talk about women like they’re objects (also the fact that he’s gay, but that seems like more of an incidental thing in this show.)  But he’s a pro, so he does it anyway.  The angry police sergeant character Zimmer also has a nice moment in the show where he again proves that he’s a stand-up guy who’s willing to look out for his officers even while he chews them out for being reckless idiots.

The most interesting development, however, came from the stolen porn plot, in which we learn that Semanian society is not okay with such material to the extent that it doesn’t seem to exist there, or at least not above ground.  We also learn that Tilarna, despite now being an adult and also a sword-wielding death machine, is so shocked by porn that she refuses to believe her parents had sex like the people in one of the magazines they confiscated.

Tilarna discovers the horrors of print pornography

Despite everything that’s happened so far between them, though, Tilarna and Kei don’t seem to want to part ways.  Tilarna went through the trouble of setting up her own room in Kei’s house without him knowing somehow.  And while Kei made a big show of trying to get Tilarna out of his place, he folded way too quickly when she told him she was staying with him for good.  It’s not like there was ever any chance she would have moved out — there are still too many Odd Couple style jokes to use with the two of them.  And if they’re going for the romance angle they hinted at this episode, it’s easier if they already live together.

Which one is Jack Lemmon and which one is Walter Matthau?

This episode was a big tonal shift from the last one, and I expect the show will go back to being darker (hopefully not literally darker, though; I could barely see some of ep 5.)  Until next time, stay (and drive) safe.

The Seasonal Anime Draft: Cop Craft, ep 5

Cop Craft time again.

Kei and Tilarna at the office. It’s good that they included a little administrative work in the story.  Police work isn’t all magic swordfights, after all.

Summary: Our supernatural cop adventure continues as we follow Tilarna to the morgue, where she’s trying to defend Cecil from the corpse-turned-hot lady monster that killed her assistant.  Kei shows up at the last minute to help out in the fight and the monster vanishes after losing one of her arms.  Back at the office, Tilarna tells Kei that that thing was a vampire that has regenerative powers, as we learn when she later attacks and feeds on more humans around town.  Tilarna uses her magical nose to sniff out Vampire Lady (what I’m calling her now since she doesn’t get a name) at a mall where she’s holed up.  When they storm the mall, Kei gets knocked out and Tilarna ends up tied up in the vampire’s makeshift lair in a vacant shop lot.  Vampire Lady is trying to learn more about the world she’s just woken up in and questions Tilarna about it, but after Tilarna calls her a monster, she decides it’s time to feed again.

In a different context this could be quite a nice scene, but no, she’s a vampire.

Thankfully, Kei has recovered and bursts into the room with backup before Vampire Lady can kill Tilarna (or turn her or however it works.)  Tilarna warns that the vampire is invincible, but the cops fill her with bullets that seem to hurt her before she disappears and escapes again, this time into the subway.  Vampire Lady is guided by a magic light into a tunnel that leads her to a young man in a suit speaking in a familiar voice (the man doesn’t name himself, but he is definitely Zelada possessing some poor guy’s body.)  Almost-certainly-Zelada offers to help her but she bites his neck instead for some reason, killing him (but probably not killing Zelada himself; I’m sure we’ll see him again soon enough.)  Kei and Tilarna meanwhile hunt Vampire Lady down in the subway tunnels and fight her, there’s a suspenseful moment as she and Kei grapple in front of an oncoming train, and Tilarna saves Kei at the last second while Vampire Lady is run over by the train and dies, her body shattered into pieces like a broken vase.

Tilarna kicks Kei for again not thanking her for saving his life, and the episode ends.

Analysis: RIP Cecil’s shitty lazy assistant coroner.  You died before we knew anything else about you.

Also, god damn but was this episode dark.  I don’t mean in tone, though I guess it was a bit dark in tone with Tilarna almost getting her neck sucked dry by Vampire Lady.  About 80% of the episode takes place in the dark, either outside at night or in a mall after closing time, so it was sometimes hard to make out the action.  I also don’t get what happened when Tilarna grabbed Kei away from Vampire Lady before the train would have hit them both.  They were all covered in glowing light.  More magic, I guess.

I like Vampire Lady’s design, very classically vampiric-looking. But since her body shattered at the end of the episode, I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing her again.

This episode feels as close to “standard action show” as we’ve had from the series so far.  That’s not a bad thing, it just feels slightly filler-ish.  It does establish that Zelada is still around causing trouble (unless that’s some other evil wizard voiced by the same guy who voiced Zelada, which seems unlikely) and drop a few more hints that Kei has some latent magical power.  It also gives us a few more moments between Tilarna and Kei, like the one in which Tilarna tells Kei she knows a form of magic that can only be performed while naked (I think it’s supposed to be the magic Vampire Lady is using to regenerate) and then yells at Kei because she thinks he’s now picturing her naked.  Yeah, the show is going in that direction.  I’ll bet real money that there’s going to be an episode soon in which Tilarna and Kei have to go undercover to the beach and she yells at him for looking at her in her swimsuit.  Who’s taking?

Another bet: a closeup shot of Tilarna getting pissed off at Kei will be in every episode in the series.

A couple of the side characters other than Cecil are also becoming a little more prominent, especially Kei and Tilarna’s new supervisor Zimmer.  He’s sort of the stereotypical cop movie angry boss, but he also seems like the “tough but fair” type who has their backs as long as they’re in the right.  We’ll have to wait and see if he tells Kei and/or Tilarna to turn in their guns and badges at some point.  I guess Tilarna would get to keep her sword, at least, since she brought it from home.

I also look forward to learning more about Tilarna’s magic, especially that one kind where she has to be naked to use it.

Sorry, sorry! I was just kidding, I swear.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, stay safe.