A quite reasonable season to get back into watching anime more regularly, I’d say.
As you may remember, back in January I said that I was going to be getting back into watching seasonal anime—and, supposedly, writing about anime in general a bit more. Well, I’ve done the watching part, although the writing bit’s lagged behind somewhat. Let’s rectify that imbalance a bit today!
Take One—The Real Good Stuff
We’ve got three shows that I would put in this category from the past season: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, In/Spectre, and Bofuri.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (8/10)
For all its focus on creating anime specifically, Eizouken to me is less about anime than it is about simply Doing Art. Anyone can come up with an idea—and, in fact, many of us do this on a regular basis—but the process of carrying that idea from genesis to being a completed work that can be shared with others is what separates dreamers from creators. In Eizouken, embarking on that journey is never in doubt, but arriving at the end of it is a different story. That journey, which never really ends even after something has been “finished,” is what Eizouken really engages with—and I’m working on a post on just that topic.
The other thing I found notable about Eizouken is that, to borrow Asakusa’s term, it seems to depict a rather feminist “greatest world,” in which women can be themselves—whether that’s as grubby creators, popular models with other dreams, or cunning businesswomen. There might be some debate about frictionless, fantasy worlds where sexism is more or less non-existent (rather than putting characters amidst more realistic struggles), but I think such things would have been distracting in Eizouken. Plus, in some ways, it is refreshing to just see an ideal world where women can create in freedom.
All in all, I really like Eizouken, although I did feel like it lacked emotional depth overall and could have used more of that. Mizusaki was my fav.
I actually almost didn’t watch In/Spectre because having read the manga and seen the extremely uninspiring PV, I figured the anime couldn’t really improve on the experience I already had with the characters and story. But then the first episode came out, people started buzzing, and I just had to try out an episode and be charmed by it. Having voice actors breath life into characters you already like is pretty attractive, as it turns out.
On the whole, I thought the anime adaptation was solid. The Steel Lady Nanase arc is, in my estimation, altogether too long in the manga, and that trait carried through to the anime. So while that dragged on, the more important task of capturing the energy and appeal of the characters was admirably done. I do wish the adaptation could have been more visually adventurous, but on the whole it was serviceable and added enough that I was glad to finish it despite knowing all the story beats ahead of time.
She is Maple. She contains multitudes (of absurd skills). She has a bigger brain that anyone who plays the game. She is both the wisest of the wise, and the dumbest. She is all-powerful. She is almightly. She is inevitable. She is your angel, and your worst nightmare. She is Maple, and this is her world. We’re all only living in it. Terrifying, isn’t it? How fun it is to watch a kind of dumb but also kind of smart high school student just have fun playing a very poorly designed video game?
There are a good number of reasons to like Bofuri, including an admirable number of unexpectedly well-animated battles, but ultimately I think its core charm is that Maple treats the game she’s playing as just that—a game. Her lack of care for the standard methods of playing an MMO and the way she bumbles her way around the world, picking up skills as a result of enthusiastic exploration rather intentional planning, reminds you that games are supposed to be fun. And if Maple is doing anything, she’s sure as hell having fun. Watching her engage so joyfully, so earnestly with this ridiculous game is a reward all on its own.
Take Two—The Solid Stuff
Given that nowadays I don’t really stick with things if they aren’t doing much for me, the second tier really ends up holding things I finished and enjoyed, but just didn’t enjoy as much as the other stuff.
Asteroid in Love (5/10)
Either I’m slowly growing out of the cute girls doing cute things genre, or Asteroid in Love is just a relatively middle-of-the-road version of that kind of show. You could make arguments for both, but I rather lean toward the latter option. Although Koias‘ premiere was a stunning bit of craft, with compelling lighting, fine character animation, and generally pretty compositions, all that finesse was ultimately in service of characters who, at the time, didn’t have much depth.
That same feeling was what more or less pervaded my final impressions of the show, except for the fact that the overall quality of the production never really got back to the decadent heights of the premiere. And because the characters in Koias, while possessing a certain level of unique enthusiasm for learning, lack much complexity, there wasn’t really much to really pull the show up from the base quality of just “nice enough to watch.” I don’t expect a show like this to go into full-blown drama, of course, but the best examples of the genre find a way to infuse their characters with desires, insecurities, and needs without compromising the atmosphere for safety and comfort. Koias gets the latter part right, but its lack of dynamism in the former holds it back.
Speaking of slice-of-life shows that get the balance of distinctive, interesting characters and healing atmosphere right, Heyacamp was a nice little treat to tide us over until the second season of Yurucamp△ returns to us. And, in fact, even in its three-minute format, it was a wonderful reminder of all the things its parent show does right. Perhaps one of the key elements, actually, is that Yurucamp△ is very grounded in the day-to-day life of its characters and their current experiences. There are no big, inspiring dreams for its characters to chase after; instead, they just enjoy their every day lives.
Heyacamp serves as a pretty fine example of that, basing each three-minute episode (best served all at once, in my opinion) on a larger arc of exploring the Yamanashi area allows it to focus on a singular goal: transporting Nadeshiko around to see the Outclub members’ favorite local spots. It’s very immediate, which keeps the characters mostly focused on responding to each other and to their environment. This serves the comfortable tone very well indeed, never stretching the premise beyond the what the genre is able to support.
You wouldn’t miss anything critical if you didn’t see Heyacamp, but at 36 minutes of total runtime and a few looks at delicious Japanese cuisine on offer, why wouldn’t you watch it?
Take Three—The Stuff Ongoing
And last, but not least, we come to those things that did take up some time in my anime-viewing schedule, but whose journeys are not yet over: Healin’ Good Precure, A Certain Scientific Railgun T, and Chihayafuru S3.
Healin’ Good Precure
Hey, this is a pretty good iteration of Precure! The core group of Precure girls are each good—with Hinata as the standout character (yellow bias is real). The mascots are unexpectedly full of emotion, worry, and charm, making them feel like actual characters instead of stuffed animals that talk. Plus, the show is kind of disturbingly topical given the fact that we’re living through a literal pandemic and it’s about “healing the world.” That last bit doesn’t really have anything to do with the show but like I said. This is good Precure, and I’ll keep watching it.
A Certain Scientific Railgun T
I just watch this show and feel at home. Although the pacing has gotten a little wonky as of late (episode 10 for this writing), the most important stuff that makes Railgun what it is remains—and I’m once again reminded why I have such esteem for director Tatsuyuki Nagai’s steady hand. I have an inkling that, under the guidance of a director less capable, Railgun T may have very well gone off the rails (no pun intended) in the last few episodes. Instead, his clear influence (which has been present since earlier episodes in the season glided from humorous to serious and back without effort) carries it through. Make no mistake, I’m having a grand old time with this show that is, in some ways to me, evocative of the platonic ideal of anime.
It tooks me only a few episodes of watching Chihayafuru S3 weekly for me to decide that was not the way I preferred to encounter the third season of a show that has meant so much to me over the years. Plus, I’ve read the manga for everything that’s covered in this season, so I’m not urgently in need of knowing what happens next. Rest assured, I’ll get to it in my own time.
And that brings us to the end of the season! As I said at the top, it was a good season to return to watching airing anime—and I didn’t even watch what will inevitably be my top show (Chihayafuru).
What did you guys like in winter 2020? I’m especially interested to hear about any interesting stuff you saw that I haven’t.